Growing up geek
Thinkgeek had a contest on Twitter today: tweet your geekiest childhood memory, win a $25 gift certificate. I wasn’t one of the winners, but it did get me thinking about how most of my childhood was pretty geeky. When I was really little, I was kind of at the geek mercy of my parents–particularly my dad. I was dressed up in a Starfleet uniform for my first and second Halloweens. For my first, my dad wanted to put Vulcan ears on me, but my mom said ‘no way.’ When I was four, my parents took me to a midnight screening of Ghostbusters II. Afterwards, I wanted to watch the first Ghostbusters again. Since my dad had to stay up to work on something for school (he was finishing up his degree in electrical engineering), he put the movie on, and I stayed up to watch it while he worked. I’m pretty sure it was that halloween that I dressed up as a Ghostbuster. My mom made the jumpsuit, which was bad-freaking-ass (my younger sister and brother were both able to re-use the costume–it was quality), my dad found a cheap, plastic proton pack at a toy store, and proceeded to install LEDs to make it blink, light up and look very much like the ones in the movie. The only thing that he didn’t get around to that he wanted to was turning the business end of the pack into a flashlight or making it make an actual cool sound rather than the godawful mechanical grinding “shooting” noise that it was manufactured to make. I maintained the proton pack nicely, but it didn’t survive my younger siblings. I’m not sure which of them was ultimately responsible for its demise. The costume is still very much intact, though.
To be perfectly honest, if I thought about it long enough, I could probably write a book full of my geeky childhood memories. I say this because the more I think about it, the more I ultimately think of. I used to watch reruns of the original Batman TV series (the one with Adam West) with my dad, as well as Star Trek (both TOS reruns and TNG in its original airing). Some Saturdays when I was really little, like 2 or 3, after watching Batman in the morning, we’d play “Batman and Robin.” Red pajamas, green slippers and a yellow blanket transformed me into the Boy Wonder (never mind that I’m a girl…I was adament that a girl could be Robin just as well as a boy could). Strangely, I don’t remember what transformed my dad into Batman. A dark blue blanket, perhaps.
When I was a little older, in the third grade, my project on the solar system was Star Trek-themed. I introduced my presentation with the theme from TNG. In some less traditionally geeky realms, though still decidely geeky, I wrote a short story when I was 7 that was a fairly transparent allegory about the 1992 presidential election. For my entire childhood, I had an extreme fascination with meteorology. I loved thunderstorms. I would watch the Weather Channel for hours on end–this was when the Weather Channel was decidedly less slick and definitely more technical. I could explain the effects of fronts and knew what isobars were by the age of 5. The summer before I started the fifth grade, I picked up a new meteorological hobby–hurricane tracking. I had a world map on the wall of my bedroom that I charted the courses of every storm I could get regular updates on. I used the “Tropical Update” on the Weather Channel and whatever information I could get from NOAA through Gopher. I had a huge three-ring binder full of printouts of data and satellite pictures, as well as handwritten notes. I continued this hobby with varying degrees of seriousness throughout high school. Advances in technology, getting regular access to the internet, and finally getting a computer all my own made getting and keeping data a lot easier, eventually eliminating my need for binders full of printouts.
As I got older, my geekiness jumped around–interests in nuclear energy, music, nutrition, religion, history, programming and politics all made their appearances. Some stuck around, some didn’t, but all of them expanded my knowledge and contributed to larger interests and usefulness. I taught myself HTML at age 12 and volunteered my time as a system administrator for a local swim team (they have to keep records somehow) when I was in high school. I ran a karaoke booth out of my own vast music collection at an elementary school fall festival for 6 years. I used the original Napster. I got banned from the original Napster. I figured out how the ban worked, worked around it, and used Napster until it died. I wrote an extensive paper on the history of American politcal parties for a history class. It was total overkill for the assignment, and I knew it, but I couldn’t stop. It was fascinating. I went to math competitions. I went to literary competitions. Both were a total blast.
These are just a few snapshots from my geeky childhood. There is so much more. Perhaps I will post a part two one day.