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Review: Being Geek

The Software Developer’s Career Handbook
by: Micahel Lopp

I grew up with two sisters and a brother. My brother inherited all the geek genes. At an early age he loved video games, took apart computers and learned computer code. I tell him I have resorted to pedicures using my husband’s dremmel and my brother recites the rotation per second statistics without opening the instruction manual.

From there, I married a Geek. He thinks far more logically than I ever will and his most common expression is, “What were you thinking/” to which I can only reply, “Thinking? Do you see what I did?! Obviously I WASN’T Thinking!”

Hubby came from California. Not the California where we think of the Valley Girl and really kewl dude surfers, nope from the Bay Area. You know, Silicon Valley. And guess what, he was part of the whole techno-rage lovingly referred to as the dot com movement.

Michael Lopp, author of Being Geek: The Software Developer’s Career Handbook (published by O’Reilly), introduced me to a whole new side of Being Geek. I’ve lived with them. I’ve rolled my eyes so far back at them that I could see another universe in the back of my head.

I love Lopp’s opening on page 165. It’s the start of a chapter called, “The Nerd Handbook”.  In the third paragraph down on the page Lopp writes:

 ” The following chapter is not for you; it’s for them. My hope is that you will look up from this book and see them sitting there on the couch. They have questions about you. They don’t know how you can sit at the computer for five hours straight. They find you funny, but they don’t know where that funny comes from.” 

Okay, let’s be honest here. I spewed Pepsi Max onto the pages. I couldn’t help myself. When I read it all the GEEKs I’ve met through my life entered my brain at once…my brother, my husband, they guy at work who hated his job and told me he had some big name degree but no experience (social skills are an issue for some geeks), my friend the geek IT guy who in an instant deciphered a code one of my employees’ lat husband had written–it was binary code–WHO knows that?!

On page 195 Lopp goes into the details of what it means to live on the outskirts of a forest of Redwood Trees. He presents the issue of fallen trees, complete with pictures of chainsaws. The title of the Chapter is “The Foamy Rules for Rapid Tools”. I found myself laughing. I can hear my geeky dad hollering, “Stop trying to force it” as a child I felt it was within reason that the square could fit inside the circle. It can’t happen, Folks!

I love Lopp’s humor as he sums up the photographs with:

“the Lesson again: the correct tool is going to make you exponentially more productive.”

From there the chapter just continues to crack me up:

“…This is an obvious list of tools, and there’s nothing here that you haven’t heard before. The news is that you need to care. You need to be able to explain in great detail why using green-colored text on a black background is THE ONLY WAY TO CODE. You need to be a zealot about your tools, and zealotry starts with fit.”

This book appeals to me. I’ve never been a geek…when Encarta came out and my dad showed me a clip of Hitler on video, I replied, “I didn’t know Hitler spoke German!”. He looked at me and I went on to say, “How would I have known that in my text books it said, “Hitler gave a speech and said, (the speech was written in my textbook in ENGLISH, hello!?) See, no mistaking me for a geek.

The wit Lopp uses to tell forty stories to help Geeks everywhere make a social stand are great. He gives instructions to help decide what you’re worth, with “The Business”; Determine the nature of the miracle your CEO wants, with “The Impossible”; Give effective presentations, with “How Not to Throw Up”; Handle liars and people with devious agendas, with “Managing Werewolves” and Realize when you should be looking for a new gig, with “The Itch.”

Since I’m not included in BEING GEEK, it’s hard for me to say if this book is suppose to be funny. I thought it was. I also thought it was inspiring and enlightened me on some behavioral situations I have been trying to ignore within my geek squad social group.

There’s good information in Being Geek. I’m putting some of it to use–the rest? I”m saving that to torture those born genetically different than I–GEEKS!

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