Friday, December 17, 2010

25.) Programming is the new literacy

...or, at least, if not programming, then the ability to fluidly adapt technologies to specific situations.  Thanks to the ubiquity of technology, tomorrow's generations will be stratified according to the depth of their understanding of technology.  Don't believe me?  Go browse the list of programming gurus who top Forbes' list of the world's richest people.

Monday, December 13, 2010

24.) Don't give the Joneses a second thought.  You haven't seen their credit history.

Friday, December 10, 2010

23.) When two people share something, let one person do the dividing, and let the other choose their portion first.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"The things you own end up owning you."
- Tyler Broden

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

22.) Live beneath your means.  Far beneath your means. 

At some point in most people's lives, they realize that their possessions have become a hinderance, rather than a comfort.

Monday, December 6, 2010

21.) Whenever a heated debate erupts over a question of "either / or," the answer is almost always "both / and."

Creation or evolution?  Did anyone ever stop to consider how insipid it would be for an omnipotent and omniscient being to create a static and unchanging race to inhabit an ever-changing world?

I personally like to think of this as the "brunch principal."

Friday, November 26, 2010


So here it is, Thanksgiving weekend, and everyone's thoughts are turned to friends and family, and the connections that make up the community of which we are each a part.

I suppose, to most people it's funny that I reduce such transcendent ideals as "family" and "community" down to their most simplistic technological analog, but it's only natural to me, spending as much time as I do thinking about networks. 

I spend so much of my time thinking of the network radiating outward from me, that it's sometimes too easy to forget that there are other type of networks that are fundamental to who and what I am. Less than a decade after the inception of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee wrote in "Weaving the Web,"
"In an extreme view, the world can be seen as only connections, nothing else. We think of a dictionary as the repository of meaning, but it defines words only in terms of other words. I liked the idea that a piece of information is really defined only by what it’s related to, and how it’s related.

There really is little else to meaning. The structure is everything. there are billions of neurons in our brains, but what are neurons? Just cells. The brain has no knowledge until connections are made between neurons. All that we know, all that we are, comes from the way our neurons are connected."
In this instance, Berners-Lee extrapolates lessons on computer networks from cellular level interactions, but I think that his wisdom applies just as readily on scales in the opposite direction. Connections, whether at a cellular, syntactical, or interpersonal define who we are. And there's nothing like a family reunion to remind you of that.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Paul Graham: What You’ll Wish You’d Known

Any high schooler will tell you, if they've been asked once, they've been asked a thousand times. “Well, what do you want to do with your life?”

One student found an answer to that question in the excellent Paul Graham essay, "What You’ll Wish You’d Known." He wrote about how the essay inspired him in an article entitled "What a High School Student Learned from Paul Graham." Below are a few of my own favorite passages from Graham's work.

“I suspect if you had the sixteen year old Shakespeare or Einstein in school with you, they’d seem impressive, but not totally unlike your other friends. Which is an uncomfortable thought. If they were just like us, then they had to work very hard to do what they did. And that’s one reason we like to believe in genius. It gives us an excuse for being lazy.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

20.) Set aside one day a year to do something that makes you feel like a little kid.

Halloween is a particularly good choice, but pretty much any day will do.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

19.) It no longer matters who originated content. It’s who disseminated it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

18.) If you're over eighteen, always have a suit ready. The world expects it.

Maybe a bit inappropriate for a G-rated blog, but it deserves to be said. Nothing about being a geek or a nerd keeps a person from becoming a sexual dynamo.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Geek Reading: Achieving Techno-Literacy

One of my all-time favorite tech writers, Kevin Kelly, published an excellent piece in New York Times Magazine entitled "Achieving Techno-Literacy." In it, Kelly discusses what he learned about technology from homeschooling his 8th grade son for a year.   It's really worth a read, but here's the meat of the piece:

Technology will change faster than we can teach it. My son studied the popular programming language C++ in his home-school year; that knowledge could be economically useless soon. The accelerating pace of technology means his eventual adult career does not exist yet. Of course it won’t be taught in school. But technological smartness can be. Here is the kind of literacy that we tried to impart:

• Every new technology will bite back. The more powerful its gifts, the more powerfully it can be abused. Look for its costs.

Friday, August 6, 2010

17.) Adventure begins with trouble.

Adventure can't be scheduled and it isn't the product of a well-laid plan executed as expected. Adventure happens when you get lost, when you have no idea what you're doing, when you're forced to rely on complete strangers to save yor ass, when all your plans are ruined, when you get caught in the rain, and when you end up in deep shit. And adventure in the spice of life, so go out and get yourself into trouble and often as possible. That's how all the best memories get made.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

16.) Practice does make perfect - deliberate practice.

According to K. Anders Ericsson, the three components of deliberate practice are setting specific goals, receiving immediate feedback, and focusing on technique over results.

Monday, August 2, 2010

15.) Don't confuse culture with character.

As the media sweeps the world along at a faster and faster pace, too many people are adopting stereotypes as public personas and using memes and sitcom lines as conversation.

Friday, July 2, 2010

14.) Ask a visionary or pioneer how they got into their field. You know what they'll say? "It's what I've wanted to do since I was a kid." There's a lesson there.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

13.) If giving the name of the city you live in, the college you attended, and the company you work for is your life story, it's time for you to get a new life.

Start by disconnecting your cable and putting the television in storage.

Friday, June 25, 2010

12.) When it comes time for a difficult conversation, always tell the hard truth first.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

David Brin's Advice to High School Graduates

Be ferocious. Be curious.
Use darts, dice, and balls to explore campus.
Good stuff.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

11.) You don't really understand something until you've taught it to someone else.

Whether it's self-defense or particle physics, if you really want to master a subject, go back and introduce someone with absolutely no experience whatsoever to the subject.

Friday, June 18, 2010

10.) Do yourself a favor. Learn to study as early in life as possible.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

9.) Be careful of any situation you have to reason through logically. If you need to work to reason out the matter, you're probably missing something that has absolutely nothing to with logic - like somebody's feelings.

Monday, June 14, 2010

8.) Avoid anything idiot-proof.

Idiots will stymie themselves regardless of what safeguards are put into place, but the streamlining that constitutes idiot-proofing removes all the little snags and customizations that might inspire a stroke of genius.  When you see "idiot-proof" read "genius-proof."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

7.) Take a break from all your electronic connections to the world once in a while. You'll be amazed at how life slows down.

Friday, May 7, 2010

“Simplicity is the key to brilliance.”
- Bruce Lee

Yes, I quoted Bruce Lee. I do it quite often. His quotations are surprisingly relevant to the world of technology.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

6.) Simplicity is the central tenant of truth, genius, and all good design.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Never memorize what you can look up in books."
- Albert Einstein

I can't pinpoint an exact source for this quote, but I love it. I can only imagine that, if he were alive today, Einstein might have said, "Never memorize what you can Google."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

5.) Be patient with your elders when they get confused by technology. My father assures me that, one day, it happens to everyone.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Little Rules of Action

Here are a few more rules I've drawn inspiration from, this time from The Power of Less by Leo Babauta. (A fairly good books of modern Zen philosophy.)

1. Don’t overthink. Too much thinking often results in getting stuck, in going in circles. Some thinking is good — it’s good to have a clear picture of where you’re going or why you’re doing this — but don’t get stuck thinking. Just do.
2. Just start. All the planning in the world will get you nowhere. You need to take that first step, no matter how small or how shaky. My rule for motivating myself to run is: Just lace up your shoes and get out the door. The rest takes care of itself.
3. Forget perfection. Perfectionism is the enemy of action. Kill it, immediately. You can’t let perfect stop you from doing. You can turn a bad draft into a good one, but you can’t turn no draft into a good draft. So get going.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hacker Ethic

As I said when I launched this blog, The Great Geek Manual is heavily inspired by a lot of better works that I grew up reading. One book that's always been an inspiration to me is Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy. Every time I re-read the book (which I do often), I never fail to be surprised by just how relevant the work remains.

In chapter two of his book, Levy spells out the general tenets or principles of the hacker ethic:

1. Access to computers—and anything which might teach you something about the way the world works—should be unlimited and total.
2. Always yield to the Hands-on Imperative!
3. All information should be free.
4. Mistrust authority—promote decentralization.
5. Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race or position.
6. You can create art and beauty on a computer.
7. Computers can change your life for the better.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true."
- Spock in "Amok Time,"written by Theodore Sturgeon.
Star Trek: The Original Series, September 15, 1967

(Yeah, I learned that lesson from Star Trek, but honestly, what did you expect from a geek?)
4.) Though it is utterly counter-intuitive, working towards something often feels better than actually achieving it.  Try to keep that in mind when the urge to rush grips you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

3.) Learn something new every single day, even if it's of absolutely no practical use.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Role Model: Albert Einstein

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."
- Albert Einstein, quoted in Personal Memoir of William Miller
Quoted in Life magazine, May 2, 1955.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. "
- Albert Einstein in a letter to Carl Seelig, March 11, 1952.
2.) The second principal of the geek creed is equally simple.  Be curious.

Don't ever be embarrassed to be curious.  The people who ask the most questions are usually the ones who end up having answers when it actually matters.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

1.) The first and most important tenant of any geek culture is simply this: Be passionate.

It doesn't even matter what it is you're passionate about.  Though "geek" is a term inextricably linked with computing, geeks come in more varieties than can be counted.  Artist or engineer, film aficionado or programmer, the common thread among geeks is a passion for something.  That might seem to be an almost all-encompassing parameter for defining a culture, until you take a moment to look around and realize - passion is in short supply these days.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Before anyone accuses me of unoriginality, let me begin this project by being quite clear on one point. I know that what I'm doing is nothing new.

Books of advice abound, and I've read many of them. I've just never seen one that specifically addresses itself to Geeks in particular, so I thought I'd try my hand at it. My hope is that writing in very tiny chunks will make my New Year's resolution of sitting down and writing something every day easier, while still producing something entertaining to others.

Before I begin, though, I want to take a second to acknowledge all my inspirations. These books have done advice before me and done it well. I highly recommend checking them out if you enjoy what I'm trying to do here.

Monday, February 1, 2010


So, my New Year's resolution this year was to put in some serious writing time. This isn't the first time I've made this resolution. Back in 2007, I reserved the domain and setup a blog, but I slowly drifted away from into compiling histories, which, it turns out, doesn't really draw the crowds. After that, it degenerated further into lists of link, which it turns out, doesn't do much for the ol' witting skills.

But this year, I'm turning over a new leaf. I've launched this new domain so that I don't fall back into old habits, and starting today, I'm going to keep my resolution.

Rather than falling back on comedy or the usual journal most bloggers keep, I'm going to write what I had in mind back when I originally registered the domain for The Great Geek Manual - a book of geek philosophies, sort of like a Life's Little Instruction Book for modern geeks.

I hope you all enjoy reading me. Feel free to chime in with opinions and suggest entries!