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.


Why Do Nerds Like Swords?

Phil South - Sword Girl
Not all nerds like swords.

But a lot of people do like swords, so this question's worth entertaining.

There are a few things specific to nerd-dom that imbue swords with a certain mystique:

power, history, fantasy, and legend.

Obviously, a sword symbolizes power (something appealing to anyone) especially the nerd who may have had multiple encounters with bullies who were bigger and stronger and more adept at using fists. But swords are far more than simple revenge fantasy fulfillment.

The earliest swords date back to the bronze age and swords can be found in almost every culture around the globe. A sword is a weapon, yes, but it also speaks volumes about the time and culture of its origin. A claymore boasts of a hard land where sheer force of will carved life out of the highlands, while a katana speaks of discipline and duty over emotion and self-interest.

A sword represents potential. Anyone can use a sword, just pick it up and swing, which makes swords universally appealing...and useful. But, mastering the full abilities of that same weapon involves years of training. A sword, like life, demands focus.

Generally speaking, swords are objects of legend, born between hell and hammer. A sword is more than a length of metal. It must be sharp enough to slice silk yet flexible enough not to shatter against steel. This is the magic of the swordsmith. And any good fantasy story--from The Odyssey to Morte de Arthur to Game of Thrones to Star Wars--hinges on a sword.

The edge of a sword balances life and death.

If none of that convinces you, keep this in mind when you wonder why your nerd friend has a sword hanging on the wall. When the zombies are breaking down your front door, a sword won't run out of bullets.


Wil Wheaton's Mixed Marriage

Wil Wheaton is in my top-ten list of living nerds. If you don't know who Wil Wheaton is, that's OK. He's a pretty cool guy who has some honest perspective on what it means to "come to terms with yourself". Sure, Wil had a starring role in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but so did Jonathan Frakes and J. F. isn't on my list of nerds at all...because he's not a nerd. Wil's nerd cred doesn't come from his acting career, but from his passions.

So, what better guy to talk about how nerds and non-nerds can find common ground?

Even better, Wil is in what he calls a mixed marriage--he's a nerd, his wife is a normal--and somehow everything still works...sometimes with a little extra explaining. I'll let Wil give you an example.

I'm sharing this video because it proves that, no matter what anyone tells you, the gap between nerd and non-nerd is pretty narrow. It's not an impediment. In fact it keeps us talking, it makes us interesting.


Nerd Specializations: Bookworm

Tim Parker - A Good Read
A book nerd is fairly easy to spot: just look for the book (or several) in her hands...and hundreds more waiting patiently for her at home. A book nerd's body might be sitting in a subway car or on a park bench, but his soul has traveled through the narrow paper gateway into other worlds and times. Hard-core book nerds will wait hours in line to get their first editions autographed by the author, not because the signature increases resale value, but because the writer's ink on the paper imbues the book with peculiar power...the woman who wrote these words spilled this ink on my book while I watched. The book nerd's ability to escape into an alternate universe can make her seem unreachable at times, but if you join her in that world you'll find that she's happy to take you on a guided tour and show you every secret it holds.


Nerd Q&A: How Much Do Looks Matter?

Performer by The Lost Gallery
Here's a question I see a lot, both from girls, boys, women and men. In some form or another it boils down to, “how much do looks matter?”

I'd love to tell you that looks don't matter, but that would be a lie, and I'm not going to lie to you. They matter. Everyone knows this is true, and anyone telling you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

(Unless the person is visually impaired, in which case you can skip down to the hygiene section.)

Looks matter to everyone, even you.

That's right. I said it, and I can hear the plaintive, “but looks don't matter to me at all!” Just stop. You're not fooling anyone.