Friday, December 02, 2011


Friday Fragments

Lego League is in the home stretch. TB’s team has its big competition soon, so it’s ramping up the practice schedule. The team meets in the coach’s garage, in which he has a massive robot obstacle course where his car should be. The team consists of a half dozen boys, all around ten or eleven years old.

The boys spend the first hour and a half or so actually working on the obstacle course, and the last half hour shooting each other with improvised lego weaponry. By the time I come to pick up TB, the geek-chaos is impressive.

Just walking into the garage, the “we will never get dates” vibe is palpable. There’s no rule against girls, but they aren’t exactly breaking the door down. Part of me wants to shelter TB against diving too deeply into geek culture, for fear of the social cost he’ll pay soon, but part of me is proud that he’s so un-self-conscious about it. He just really enjoys building stuff, and really enjoys being around other kids who build stuff, too.

He gets much more excited about Lego League than about basketball. I enjoy that more than I probably should.

Here’s hoping that junior high schools now are more geek-friendly than they were in my time...


Meanwhile, The Girl marches proudly to her own drummer, too.

A few days ago she went to her friend Jason’s house (not his real name). Jason is a sweet, but very energetic, seven year old boy. Since TG play-wrestles with TB, she can rough and tumble when she wants to, but Jason’s Mom didn’t know that. So when Jason and TG started rough-and-tumbling, Jason’s Mom interrupted them to scold Jason for wrestling with a girl. As Jason stood there, sheepishly listening to his mother’s scoldings, TG flying-tackled him from the side.

I think she’ll be fine.


Although Spotify markets itself as a music app, it works really well with comedy albums. I’ve gone through about a half dozen of them in the last couple of weeks, during drives to statewide meetings. After a serious discussion of important policy stuff, there’s something therapeutic about listening to Amy Schumer or Patton Oswalt in the car on the way home.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, I heard someone actually say this:

“I don’t want to just stand here and thank everyone for their hard work. I just want to thank everyone for their hard work.”

Words to live by...

Too bad there aren't girls in your robotics club. :) I'm running an all-girls club myself (because the school is all girls). It's a hoot. My experience at both public and private schools is that they are more tolerant of geeks than they were in my day. They've recognized the success of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. They may not give you too hard of a time anymore, but they're not sending you tons of invitations. It's a solid subculture. He'll be fine.
From all we've heard about The Boy, he'll probably be the kid in school that everyone is friends with. Good for him. The Girl cracks me up.
I was a major high school geek on my robotics team. When I recently showed up at my 10-year reunion, all the "cool" guys were lining up to meet my wife. So clearly, he'll turn out fine ;-)

Nerds have it so much easier now than in our day; I realized this when I noticed that book stores were piling the vampire chick lit next to the comics :-)
Again, love the Friday posts.

The Lego discussion reminded me of the Snap Circuits toy I read about at the Instapundit, which sounds like the grad school version of Lego. Don't have any first hand experience, but it sounds intriguing and seems appropriate.
As a geek myself, and fully immersed in geek culture at the college level (as computer science faculty), my biggest suggestions would be to let the geeks be geeks, but cut off any behavior that is intolerant towards others. Specifically, shut down any misogyny. It might be pretty low-level with geeks compared to some other groups (like jocks), but it's there, and pervasive, and runs girls out of geeky fields. Computer science could use more females, but they often leave the field for social reasons, and I suspect that the geek males have no real clue they are chasing the women out.
@Edmund: I just bought my nephew the Snap Circuits Jr. Kit for Christmas. He's a Lego fan, so I think it will go over well.

In a few years, I hope TB keeps an eye out for geek girls. Some male geeks can be pretty clueless about women -- sometimes it's like they want a rule set for social interaction, and they can get bitter and misogynistic after a few years. A geek guy who is comfortable being himself, and who is open to the idea of hanging out with she-geeks, can usually do *very* well in the romance department.
It's not that male geeks want a ruleset for social interaction -- it's that they don't want the struggle of deciphering one.

It's not like "Keep your body functional and clean, then be on the lookout for members of your preferred gender who like people who are like you" is a tough ruleset.
Buying into the geek world (and this is done by boys both with and without any real interest in science) is frequently a way to avoid the pressure to date when they're not mature enough to handle that. It's actually a very adaptive thing to do --
"He just really enjoys building stuff, and really enjoys being around other kids who build stuff, too."
Awesome! These are exactly the traits that make someone a good engineer/entrepreneur, interesting person, and valuable contributor in all sorts of environments. Please don't feel the need to "shelter" him from this culture!
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