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.


Nerdism: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Stan Lee by Gage Skidmore
Here's a phrase that was considered cliché when William Lamb used it way back in 1817.

So why is it so popular with nerds in the 21st century?

To start off, in 1962 Stan Lee (that dude to the right) used a variation of this phrase in the very first Spiderman comic book. You see, Spiderman didn't start off as a hero. When he discovered that he had super powers, Peter Parker wanted to use them to make money. He actually had the chance to stop a burglar, but chose not to because it wasn't his job. Later, that same robber killed Peter's uncle Ben, who was Peter's surrogate father. Talk about learning your moral lessons the hard way. Stan Lee adds the narrative note, "with great power there must also come--great responsibility," burning the words into nerd consciousness.  

Over the years, the phrase has been tightened up, but the idea remains the same.

Of course, like any good cliché it's also true. It's been used by political leaders for centuries to give careful consideration before handing the reins of power to a single entity who could cause significant problems with their new found strength. This idea resonates with nerds who often discovered themselves at the mercy of people who were bigger, better coordinated, or more popular.

Generally speaking, it's not a bad mantra. Consider it the next time you hold someone's fate in your hands, whether it's approving a developing nation's trade agreement or letting that guy change into your lane on the highway.


Nerd Q&A: How do I Impress a Popular Girl (or Guy)?

This is a real-life question from Quora. I've heard it a lot in various forms, and even asked it myself, so I think it's worth answering.

Elijah asked, "how can a nerd like me impress some popular girl without making a fool out of myself?"

There are lots of good answers about talking and listening, which are perfectly valid, but if you're a nerd you should approach this systematically.


Nerd Entertainment: Movies

Forsaken Fotos - Lonely Movie
Most nerds love movies of all kinds, and while there are a few genres that appeal to them more than others, many nerds will happily sit through a chick-flick or bromance just because they like watching movies. However, certain types of movies are more appealing to nerds, and you might wonder why.


Nerd Q&A: How do I Date if I'm Awkward?

"According to advice, I'm supposed to at least be interesting, a good listener, or adventurous or something. Seems like a tall order."
(The original question also mentioned "I'm average looking", but I don't that's particularly relevant since by definition average puts you on the same level as most people, so you're not at a disadvantage in the looks department.)

This isn't actually a particularly tall order, but dating does take a little bit of effort, even for people who are socially skilled.


Nerd Specializations: Tech Nerd

Andrew Filer - The Physics Lab
You're not likely to find a tech nerd shopping for a PC in Best Buy, although he might be there to make fun of the Geek Squad. Tech nerds buy their high-end gear online or get it free in exchange for reviews on their blogs. Or they build it themselves. Some tech nerds naturally gravitate toward computer hacking, which doesn't mean they are criminals, it simply means they know their way around computer networks the way some people know their way around the mall. Your tech nerd is the go-to guy for help when your computer gets stuck rebooting itself, she can perform miracles on your grandmother's wireless connection, and can build a custom PC chassis themed around your favorite TV show. Tech nerds hold our future in their hands, but they often get lost in their projects and may have to be reminded to take a break and go outside and play once in a while.


Real-Life Nerds: When Nerds Get Their Hands on the Past

Andy2 from The Warhol
The Carnegie Mellon Museum has a marvelous documentary series called The Invisible Photograph, parts of which are ostensibly geared toward photographers and archivists--who many people would consider highly qualified nerds in their own right--and when the archival nerds in front of the camera run into problems they can't solve they tap into their own nerd networks and call in reinforcements. Teams of nerds from different fields converge on outdated computer equipment, decaying floppy disks, and decades-old analogue tape recorders to rescue data from time's gaping maw.

This article isn't really part of the Nerd Manual's "how to" aesthetic, but it gives you a taste of how real-life nerds leverage their passions into careers and how sometimes the only thing keeping our collective long-term memory from succumbing to entropy is a nerd with a home-made hardware emulator. Everyone should be glad that there are people out there who are passionate about weird things.

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