February 22, 2005

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Geek Love

Revision from Dominique Cimafranca:

One of the hallmarks of the stereotypical male computer nerd is his ineptitude with members of the opposite sex. Especially those of the attractive kind. Most especially those of the attractive and intelligent kind. Just read one of the many strips of Dilbert which deals with the subject.

Cliched as the image may be, there's some truth to it nonetheless. I should know. I am a stereotypical male computer nerd.

At one point, I wished out loud to my friends that I could meet a girl that came with an instruction manual. I meant it in jest, what with women being so complex and all. But apparently, there was such a girl—and no, she was not of the inflatable kind.

In doing advocacy work for Linux, I wrote a series of articles on prominent Linux personalities in the Philippines. One of the people I featured was Sacha Chua, a programming wunderkind who was very much in touch with the pulse of geekdom. Sacha was into Linux, Emacs, and wearable computing. Certainly she made good copy, and several people posted links to that article on my web site.

I conducted the interview via email so we didn't really get to meet. Nevertheless, she came across as very intelligent, very articulate, and very personable in our email exchanges.

Sacha also maintained a wiki — a sort of a blog — where she placed all her code and her essays. One of her entries was entitled "On Love", a tongue-in-cheek how-to to on courting geek girls, particularly, Sacha Chua. Finally, a girl with an instruction manual. Was this the answer to my wish, I wondered.

Humorous as the tone was, the instruction manual was in earnest about Sacha's views on courtship. At the top of the list was intelligent conversation that would increase her stock of knowledge. Getting to know her family was also important to her. Flowers, stuffed animals, and other girly-girly stuff were a no-no. The bar was set high, but it also gave a clear indication as to what kind of person Sacha was. Was I interested? Absolutely!

Of course, I didn't start courting Sacha on the basis of that manual. Distance was a problem as I was based in the South and was travelling all over. But we did strike up a friendship facilitated by email. Through that I learned of her other interests in books, quirky movies, and puzzles.

We finally met when I moved to Manila. We would see each other from time to time. It helped greatly that we were both speakers at Linux seminars. Sacha introduced me to her wonderful family. She also brought me into her circle of friends, something I deeply appreciated because finally I met people of like minds.

I realized that we had something special when we reached that most intimate moment in a geek's life: after a dinner date, I asked her to set up computer for a demo that I was running the following day. She threw herself at the task, completing in half an hour what I knew would have taken me two hours. For a geek guy, well, that's nirvana.

Even though I know Sacha far better than before, the how-to guide still serves as a handy reference. On occasion, I take a peek at it to gauge if I'm doing things right. Not too shabby, I must say.

Then again, you know you love someone when you know when to break her rules. She was positively giddy about the Tux stuffed toy I gave her.

Some expressions of geeky love:

1) The Sacha Chua instruction manual -
http://sacha.free.net.ph/notebook/wiki/OnLove.php

2) Valentine's Day Challenge
http://sacha.free.net.ph/notebook/wiki/2005.02.14.php
http://villageidiotsavant.blogspot.com/2005/02/love-as-acm-problem.html

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