Thursday, January 6, 2011

Nerd Fail

My not-so-big confession about living with an MIT alum is that I am always conflicted between teasing him for being such a nerd and fighting feelings of inferiority for not being a nerd on nearly the same level. Example:
Perhaps you remember the story about my iPod blaster breaking ~5 seconds after I plugged it into the 240W outlet. Whoops. After telling Marvin of this sadness, he took it from me and told me that he’d fix it. A few weeks later, I saw parts of it lying on his bed. It looked impressive. I asked him how it was going.

“Oh yeah…I’m not sure I’m going to be able to fix this…I think my ammeter might be broken.”

External response: “You brought an ammeter with you from the US? …

Internal response: “That’s so cool! I can’t believe he has such confidence about fixing this! I can’t believe he thought ahead to bring an ammeter to Rwanda! I totally wish I thought it was fun to play with ammeters – then I might have similarly been heavily recruited by Goldman to work on their electronic trading systems! Marvin’s so cool!”

External response cont’d: … Nerd.”

Sometimes it’s too difficult for me to hide my jealousy or, rather, my competing nerdiness. Such as when Marvin starts discussing Macros and I can’t hold back: I just want to learn how to use them, so I start peppering him with questions while the rest of the staff, who got lost at “open Excel”, put their headphones back on.

Most recently, Marvin made a comment about the keyboard set-up that he uses: it’s designed to be more efficient than the standard QWERTY keyboard.

Here’s my moment of nerdiness: I HATE QWERTY keyboards! …and most other people don’t know what they are… (They’re standard keyboards that have “QWERTY” in the left of the top row…look down.) Talk about stupid inefficiencies and conforming to industry standards – did you know that QWERTY keyboards were PURPOSELY MADE TO BE INEFFICIENT? And yet here we are in the age of technology and efficiency…still using the damned things. Literally, they were designed to slow down typists by placing frequently used letters in awkward locations because typists were typing too quickly and kept on jamming up the type-writers. (On that topic…I also hate using 2 spaces between sentences, because that practice was initiated for the same reason.)

Back to the office…

So when Marvin mentioned his more efficient way of typing, I was quite ecstatic…even though this was obviously another example of how my JV nerdiness (knowledge of how inefficient QWERTY keyboards are) compares with his Varsity nerdiness (installing a more efficient keyboard on his computer to address the inefficiencies of the QWERTY keyboard). While everybody else passed us the judging looks that are usually associated with our conversations about decision trees and HTML script (check out – my newest pride is the “Our Model” section), I scrambled over to Marvin’s workspace (consists of 4 computers) to learn how to download this magical keyboard onto my computer.

Oversight: Despite being designed to be inherently more efficient, my new keyboard (the “Dvorak” – as compared to Marvin’s “Colemak” keyboard, which is designed to be more efficient for programmers who use symbol keys more frequently) forces me to write at about 10wpm because surprise-surprise I haven’t been using it for 10 years and don’t naturally know where the keys are. (Although it is a little fun to guess, based on how frequently the letter is used, where it should be on the keyboard – especially given that I didn’t re-label the keys when I made the switch.) Compare this with trying to pick up a new language, whose grammar rules make more sense than the crazy rules in English, in a day – expecting it to be natural because the language is supposedly easier. Yeah…I’m pretty stupid.

I struggled through one night of typing lessons, a few painful g-chat conversations, and one page of the 25 page Annual Report before giving up, giving in, and making the switch back to QWERTY.

Today, Marvin asked me how my Dvorak was going.

“Yeah…” I told him, “…I’m back to QWERTY…It was just kind of hard to make the switch when I had so much work to do.”

“Oh,” he said, “yeah…well I did do it while working 90+ hours a week at Goldman, but I guess I understand.”

Obviously, there was only one response for me to fall back on at this point: “Nerd.”

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