About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.


I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.

2017-11-29

Nerdy and Geeky Gifts Guide - Winter 2017 Edition

Maybe you’re into Christmas, Hanukkah, Hogswatch, or some other holiday.

Maybe you refuse to acknowledge holidays.

Doesn't matter. You know why? Because December is a big month for gift giving, so deal with it.

While you're passing around gift baskets, you ought to do right by your nerdy friends. Sure, you could spring for a Loot Crate subscription, an Enterpise-shaped pizza cutter, or a even a Nintendo Switch (which would certainly be welcome in my house), but those are the gifts you’ll find on any lame “Top 53 Geek Gifts” list thrown together by a news outlet where the nearest thing they've got to a nerd is the reporter who once watched part of Ghostbusters by mistake when he walked into the wrong theater.

You’re here because you want to show that you’ve dug deeper than Buzzfeed and the Dallas Morning Herald.

You're here because you want to show you care!

Hold onto your hats because here it is: the extra thoughtful, Nerdy and Geeky Gifts Guide for 2017. Winter Edition!

2017-11-22

Don't Let the FCC Board Block Your Access to YouTube

Once again, it's time to tell the US government that they have to stop Internet providers from charging you extra to watch the news, play a video game, or Facetime with your grandmother.

Net neutrality rules are currently part of federal law, and they prevent service providers like AT&T, Time-Warner, Charter, Verizon, or Comcast from charging extra for easy access to an Internet service such as YouTube, email, Facetime, Steam, or perhaps a news service they disagree with.

Unfortunately, the FCC chair Ajit Pai publicly announced his plan to slash net neutrality rules, flagrantly ignoring over 22 million previous public comments on net neutrality, and now he has called for a vote to allow Internet providers like Comcast, Verizon, and Charter to block apps, slow down websites, and charge fees to control what you see and do online.

The FCC board votes December 14th.

But if Congress gets enough calls, emails, letters and tweets, they can stop the FCC. They have blocked FCC votes before.

All you have to do is contact your representative.

To make this easy, there's an automated phone system that will connect you with your representative's office.

And if you don't want to give out your phone number, I hear you. Click over to GovTrack and put in your zip code to find out how to Tweet, email, write, or phone your reps.

Want to do something physical? You can attend a local protest on December 7th. The current FCC chairman was a Verizon attorney before taking that position, which sounds an awful lot like a conflict of interest. You can join the protests outside Verizon retail stores across the U.S. to show that you support net neutrality.

If you do nothing, you can't complain when your video streams continuously buffer, but if we all voice our opinion, the government can't ignore us.

EDIT: Here's a timely follow up--an open letter from New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to the FCC regarding its refusal to cooperate in a state fraud investigation concerning public commentary on the repeal of net neutrality. 

2017-10-14

Nerd Rated: Songs About Spider-Man

You need more than dual Ludwig Silver Sparkle kicks to swing like a spider, man.

Welcome to "Nerd Rated", a new segment where I rate things of allegedly nerdy stature.

This article tackles songs that claim to be about Spider-Man.

Here’s how this works:
I’m including songs that suggest a connection to Spider-Man, either in the title or the lyrics, and unlike some Internet outlets I’m not including TV show or movie theme songs because, come on, that’s just lazy.

Oh, and I’m not embedding from Youtube because the videos will probably be deleted for copyright infringement, so all links go to Spotify.

Each song gets a short review explaining what it’s about and why you might want to listen to (or avoid) it. Each song also gets three ratings. Replay value is totally subjective. Heroic stature is based on how well the song captures the comic book hero mythos, but in some cases a song can score higher if it has other heroic elements. Nerd cred is basically a measure of how nerdy the song is, and may count nerdy elements beyond the comic book such as making references to trigonometry or Tolkien.

2017-08-25

Nerdism: Headcanon

No, this isn't about a gun installed in your skull.

Headcanon was originally a term similar to fanon that is used in fanfiction circles to refer to the way a person views a character’s backstory. It originates from the term “canon” meaning a collection of formally approved materials and facts within a fictional universe established by the original creator or subsequent creators who have been given authority to add to that universe. The term was firest used in literature to refer to Sherlock Holmes stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle, and it is currently used to establish a continuity between characters and events within fiction that encompasses multiple books, movies, games, or other media.

Headcanon takes this concept away from the approved universe, but still applies continuity to the creative process, so that a writer (artist, director, etc.) who has not been sanctioned by the original creator of the materials can adhere to a character’s motivations and fictional life, thus maintaining the audience’s suspension of disbelief.

Basically, headcanon means that a story follows the rules already officially established, even if the story’s creator is just a fan.

The term has come into heavier use with the popularity of Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Star Trek, and other media with a significant number of characters and events that need to be tracked so that plot holes don’t inadvertently develop. Even official creators use the term. Often fans will ask creators and writers questions, such as if a certain character is actually pretending to be evil, or if a particular location was actually known by another name in a previous part of the story. If these questions can’t be answered “in canon” by referring to existing material, a creator might say that the answer is yes or no according to her headcanon, meaning that she operates according to rules she has set in her head, even though they have not been officially established at that point.

Nerds take an official creator’s headcanon seriously, because it can provide clues to where a story is going, or where it may have come from, allowing us to adjust our own headcanon to fit. We tend to speculate about the meaning of even minute details in our favorite books and movies, and while referring to headcanon doesn’t carry as much weight as referring to an actual passage from a book or scene in a movie, it’s still more reliable than sheer speculation.

It’s likely that you have your own chronology of events and imagined character backstories for books, movies, or games, and even if you weren’t aware it existed until today, now you have a name for it.

2017-07-30

So Much Classic Sci Fi, So Little Time: Galaxy 1950-1976 Free Online

Galaxy Science Fiction was one of the defining publications for mid-20th century science fiction, and it printed stories from sci-fi greats like Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and one of my favorites Harry Harrison.

Galaxy eschewed pulp elements and took a somewhat more mature approach to the genre than contemporary magazines like Astounding Science Fiction, focusing on stories that incorporated plausible science and addressed current social issues. 

There are now 355 issues of Galaxy Science Fiction available for free at the Internet Archive and this series contains an early version of Fahrenheit 451 called "The Fireman" and Heinlein’s "The Puppet Masters". The collection ranges from 1950 to 1976, and while it's not quite every issue of the magazine, there's plenty of material to keep you entertained for a long time.