Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Geek Wednesday: Harry Potter, Geek Like Me

Put down that Red Bull, geek! Try an Acai extreme instead. Whether you're a Senator doing an all-nighter or a Harry Potter geek who will need some juice to get you through the weekend ahead, you'll need to remember the basics:

  • Sleep during the day on Friday. If you have a job, so much the better. Bring a pillow to work and take an afternoon snooze under your desk. You can also nap while in line at the bookshop—bring a folding chair or sleeping bag.

  • Five minute breaks every hour while reading. All right, two. If you feel yourself fading, chug some of that acai stuff, or simply perform the Vigilimens charm (page 641, Charms for Geeks, by Flavius Wozniak).

  • Take Monday off. You'll be finished with the book by then, but you'll need a day to recover and come to grips with the Potterless reality of it all. I'm doing it.

  • Leave the PC off till Tuesday. You won't want to go online right away—the nargles take over the WiFi networks every time a new HP book comes out, everyone knows that. Instead, remind yourself that Harry still lives inside your own geek self:

  • Harry: Geek Like Me

    Movie 5 is out, Book 7 is just days away, and game 5 is out (and being lambasted by the gaming press, which hates games that don't spread blood all over your screen). It's Potter mania, and we're in another grip of it. What does it all mean to geeks? Here's what Harry has in common with you, geeks. There's plenty, and the glasses are just the beginning of it.

    DOM: it's only a Dept. Of Mysteries until you understand structural isomorphism. Then it's just the Document Object Model again.

    The Dark Lord can read your mind, but fortunately lacks write permissions.

    You can tell time and direction like a magician; you can write in languages that 99% of humans can't fathom. To them, it's all runes and glyphs. Your friends are all outcasts like yourself, bug-eyed nuts who read InfoWorld upside down. Your skin has a faintly jaundiced look (the fluorescent tan), as if you'd been hit with one too many Stupefy spells; yet you're strangely healthy and clear-thinking.

    You know stuff that nobody gives you credit for and that most people think is useless; yet when someone's PC breaks down, who do they call? You're a walking Room of Requirement when it comes to that, and like Harry, this is when you can score with the ladies. Even the Muggle women are interested in you then.

    That veil of death in the Dept. of Mysteries was what color? You guessed it: blue. BVOD.

    You know that Jobs would have called his new feature in Leopard the Time Turner, except that HG Wells is public domain and J.K. Rowling is expensive.

    Every spell you cast can be copied and adapted by anyone with the skill to do it. Harry, too, abides by the GPL: magic is all open source. You'd never buy an iPhone: it doesn't come with a wand.

    Red Bull is made by Snape: "brews fame, bottles glory, puts a stopper in death." You don't own an owl; you are one.

    That Patil girl is in Ravenclaw now, but before that she dropped out of IIT. You know the Triwizard maze, and you know how easily it turns upside down: it was your screensaver in Win95, the one with the rat (Peter Pettigrew?). That Sphinx at the end of it spouts algorithms.

    Palindromes and anagrams, whether they come from Tom Riddle or a bigass mirror from your past: normal features of your world. You talk to paintings (in PS, anyway) and get answers; you walk through doors that no one else sees; you shoot fireworks with no flame (in Flash); you can remember the password to the common room from three years ago, or else could hack your way by the Fat Lady. If staircases stayed in one place, that's when you'd be puzzled.

    You once owned a horcrux: it was made by Packard-Bell. Memory, you are sure, is never truly random; only evil is.

    Take a close look at your forehead someday when you're doing your monthly shave. That mark--has it always been there? Or did Gates or Ballmer leave it on you? Just a thought.

    Look at your PC: it's as big and medieval as the Monster Book of Monsters or a pewter cauldron with a half-melted bottom, but it's got a ton of information on it and you would feel as if you were being shot through the death veil at the Dept. of Mysteries if you had to give it up.

    Slytherin = Redmond
    Ravenclaw = Cupertino
    Hufflepuff = Wherever BeOS was made
    Gryffindor = Tuxville

    You know all about divination: the I Ching can tell the future because it's 64-bit. Voldemort's power and Rowling's income double every 24 months. Moore's law. But you know it can't go on forever.

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