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Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share

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Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Avery (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592405525
  • ISBN-13: 27
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • #198 in Fatherhood (Books)

About the Author Ken Denmead is the Publisher and Editor-at-Large of A professional civil engineer, he lives near San Francisco with
his wife and two sons, who are both geeks-in-training. Read more Excerpt. ©
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. IntroductionAbout Being a Geek
and a DadOnce upon a time, the word geek was used to describe
circusperformers. Then it evolved as a pejorative to describeawkward, skinny
kids who got routinely thrown intoschool lockers by the high school football
team. But these days, geekhas reinvented itself. This is the era of the geek.
And geeks arecool. There is some interchangeability between geek and nerd.
Theyboth generally describe someone of restricted social ability whofinds
enjoyment in pursuits outside the mainstream—pursuits likecomputers, role-
playing games (RPGs), science fiction and fantasyliterature and movies,
science and engineering, and so on—you getthe idea. But there is a key
difference between the geek and thenerd. One renowned geek dad (and honorary
GeekDad), Wil Wheaton,describes it pretty simply: A geek is a self-aware nerd.
It makes a lotof sense to me—I think geeks had those social issues growing
upand liked all those things that weren’t part of the popular culturein
school, but we came to understand our nature and, in a veryKübler-Ross kind of
way, moved past the self-limiting aspects ofnerdhood to a state of acceptance,
and even enjoyment, of our placein the universe. Which, in a funny way, helped
us take care of someof those social issues, because a lot of us ended up
actually gettingmarried and having kids (which totally rocks!). I think part
of the current ascendancy of geeks in general, andGeekDads specifically, is
that there are a lot more geeky womenthan people realize, and some of us geeky
guys were smart enoughto recognize our own kind and attempt to mate and
perpetuate thesubspecies. But before I get too far along, let me point out
something important:Geeks aren’t just about the computers and the D&D and
thepassion for anime and comic books. There’s a whole lot more outthere that
people get passionate about, even mildly obsessive about,that can qualify them
as geeks. If you’re so passionate about somethingthat you’re not just good at
it but can lose yourself doing it forlong periods of time (often to your
social detriment), you may be ageek. If you carry encyclopedic knowledge about
a topic and willjoyfully use it to act as the pedant whenever the subject is
beingdiscussed, you may be a geek. If you have a room in your house devotedto
a hobby that other family members avoid talking about,you may indeed be a
geek. I’m not talking about “experts” or“professionals”—I’m talking about the
real deal. Here are some examples: So, what are the factors that make up the
geek? I’d like to positthat the geek is a combination of common personality
factors thatwe see in all sorts of people. Indeed, these factors taken aloneor
only in pairs may lead to less desirable characters. See, for example,the Venn
diagram below (talk about geeky!), where I’ve describedthe possible
combinations of key personality factors thatmake up the geek, and its
associated stereotypes: Knowledgeability,Obsessiveness, and Social Skills.
Knowledgeability represents having significant stored informationwith easy
recall. That knowledge may be broad and relativelyshallow—the know-it-all—or
itmay cover only a few topics butbe deep and profound—the expert/problem
solver. Obsessiveness is a person’sability to lose himself in somethinghe has
a passion for. Commonsymptoms include losingtrack of time while coding
HTML/CSS or staying up until four finish Portal because you hadto earn
watching the final credits(and hearing that awesome JonathanCoulton song).
Social Skills can mean a lot ofthings, not all of which are aboutbeing
“popular,” which geeks and nerds always feel they neverwere in their formative
years. But geeks do at least have enoughpresence and personality to form
lasting relationships, which helpsdifferentiate them. So first, it’s easy to
tag all the stand-alones: Dorks are the peoplewho are obsessive without the
introspection to recognize it in themselvesor how it could affect others.
Dweebs know everything butcan’t apply or express themselves. Goobers are good-
natured butlazy idiots—no one minds them, but they aren’t much use. It starts
to get interesting when you begin combining the traits.The classic nerd has
knowledge/intelligence AND the obsessive naturethat produces results. You
can’t expect them to carry on conversationsthat won’t lose a non-nerd
audience—they would talkyour ear off about something as nerdy as the exciting
application ofquantum theory on the flow of mold over a piece of cheese, but
setthem to work on a project without distraction, and you’ll be able tomine
the results for pure gold (especially if it has to do with Worldof Warcraft
and, you know, gold mining). The twit—well, I suppose there are other names
for this person,probably a lot of regional variations—but the twit combines
obsessivenessand social skills into a double-edged sword. This could bethat
sales guy who can talk up a storm but who really doesn’t knowsquat, or it
could be the diligent hard worker everyone likes butwho really just doesn’t
get it. And then there’s the gadfly. He’s smart and he gets invited toparties,
but he’s lazy. Or worse, he’s intellectually smart but emotionallyignorant,
and doesn’t care. He’s the one most likely to bethe pedant in any gathering,
and he probably uses people to get thework done he finds beneath him. Of
course those are extremes, and there are perfectly lovely,functional people
who fall into those categories; but they’re not theones we’re here to talk
about. In the sweet spot, right there in themiddle, is the tripartite synergy
that creates the geek. The mixtureof knowledge (about comic books, particle
physics, or the works ofMozart), obsessiveness (they’ll sit in front of a
computer or a workbenchfor hours perfecting, building, or playing anything),
and socialskills (they actually get together with people for pen-and-paperRPGs
or get in line with a bunch of friends to see the midnightshowing of the next
Star Trek movie), that makes a well-rounded,self-sustaining person of affable
oddity. Now maybe weigh it just slightly toward the social skill set, andyou
have someone who can actually get a date, find a mate, get married,and
procreate. That, in a nutshell, is how a GeekDad comesinto being. The
conditions need to continue to be favorable—isthere support at home for
ongoing geekiness? Will infecting thechild(ren) be allowed? How many times
will the wife feign a chucklewhen you lift your little tyke and in a deep
voice intone, “Luke, Iam your father” (knowing it’s a misquote) before it gets
old? Howmany jokes about containment breaches will be tolerated at
diaperchangingtime? It helps immeasurably when your mate is a geek, too (but
that’sanother book). I’ve been lucky enough to have that situation in
mymarriage. In fact, not only have my little quirks been tolerated, butsome of
them have actually been encouraged. And in return, I encourageback. I mean,
how many men can say their wives wanted atrip to a science fiction convention
for their anniversary? I’m onelucky man. But the best part is getting to share
with my kids, share thegeeky things that informed my childhood and continue to
informmy existence: Star Wars, Star Trek, math, science, reading,
writing,music, computers and video games, movies and television. I can’ttell
you the joy of having my kids get into Doctor Who and comicbooks and Lord of
the Rings, and then talking with them about theimportant aspects of the
stories and watching them just soak it up.I lived through the school years as
a breed apart (though I hadgood friends who were geeks, too), so it makes me
feel great to beable to inform and guide my kids through the social aspects,
andthe occasional challenges, of growing up as a geek. All parents wantto
protect their kids, but I like to think the best protection I canoffer them is
to help them understand what will happen, why, andhow to best deal with it. I
want them to know that different isn’tbad, and that being intelligent and
inquisitive is something to beproud of. Indeed, that’s what being a GeekDad
really means for me. For allour personality quirks and interests in pursuits
that are outside themainstream (or at least interests more technical than is
usually palatablefor the mainstream), we’re all about understanding, and
communicating,and connecting with others by sharing what we loveand helping
others to grok it as well. Of course there’s a biologicalimperative to have
kids and raise them to survive and thrive, butwe want them to be happy,
too—whatever happiness may mean tothem. I’ll encourage my kids to love what I
do, but I won’t force it onthem, and when they want to try something
different, I’m happy tolet them just as long as they come at it like a geek:
They should beknowledgeable about it, be a little obsessive about it, and get
alongwith the other people who are doing it. That’s what all the greatestgeeks
do. Geeky Projects for Dads and Kids to ShareMost “parenting” books aren’t
about things you can do with yourkids. Most are about things to do to your
kids, tricks and tactics fortweaking their behavior in some desired manner
usually at oddswith what kids really want: to play, and spend real quality
timewith you. I’m not saying all those books are bad. Some of them do try
toreinforce the idea of spending quality time (though I’d really like tofind a
new phrase to replace quality time) with your kids. This bookhas the same goal
of those others: to help you share time with yourkids in their formative years
in constructive, educational ways,without making that time seem as if it’s
supposed to be constructiveor educational (not always easy). The difference
here is thatfrom a geek’s perspective, constructive and educational may
notmean what all those other books think it means. Here’s what makesour
approach different: – Geeks like games that require a fantastic imagination. –
Geeks love science and knowing how things work. Experimentation is the best
way to learn those things. If things go“boom” in the process, all the better.
– Geeks love finding interesting, „ creative solutions for problemsthat could
be solved in a more mundane fashion. – Geeks love to play, but in playing, to
build and learn aswell. There is a plethora of projects included here about an
eclecticarray of subjects, from board games to electronics, crafts to
coding.But I’m not here to tell you exactly what to do. The instructions
aremeant give you a structure to start your adventure with your kids.Each of
these projects will allow for extensive customization andpersonalization.
Indeed, what I have in my workshop and availableat the hardware store in my
town may be rather different from whatyou have. So I expect you to improvise,
adapt, and even (quitelikely) improve on these projects. Project InformationAt
the start of each project, you’ll see a table with summary informationto give
you an idea what to expect from it, and there aresome symbols not unlike what
you see in a restaurant or hotel reviewto explain cost and difficulty. Here’s
a legend to explain theirmeaning. One thing you’ll notice as you go through
the projects in thisbook is that they are not long, costly, or overly
difficult and involvedprojects that take too much work before paying off in
thefun department. If you and your kid have the kind of patience andgeeky
determination to spend days/weeks/months on a project,then let me suggest you
take up painting Warhammer armies ormapping the visible sky in your area with
a telescope you builtfrom scratch. It’s not that I don’t have respect for
folks that do that kind ofthing! On the contrary, they are the epitome of
geekhood, and I amnot worthy to clean their brushes or polish their lenses. I
just don’thave that kind of time or energy. I want to do something fun withmy
kids NOW (or at least in the few minutes to couple of hours ittakes to
complete any project in this book). So you’ll find that themost important
common features all these projects have is that theyare accessible,
affordable, and truly buildable for just about anyonewith an ounce of geek in
them. Okay, it’s time. Go get your kid(s) and get started! Read more










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