Friday, February 20, 2009

Geeks of a Feather

You know how certain friends get to see a side of you that others rarely do? For me, K is definitely in that category. She knows stuff about me that know one else on earth does. I honestly don't know if I have an intentionally-kept secret in our relationship. I probably didn't tell her about my last bowel movement, but if she had asked, I surely would have described the event in great detail for her.

Actually, I know I didn't tell her. It was this morning and I haven't seen or talked to her since then.

Another one of these friends, although to a lesser extent, is Hank, a frequent commenter here. With Hank I feel no need to censor my geekier side. The reason I say "to a lesser extent" is that I don't feel the need to hide my inner geek with K either, but she merely listens politely while I rattle on about brewing science, obscure livestock varieties, linguistics, and the the political climate during the Qin dynasty. Hank actually participates, something that K dreads sometimes. When Hank and I hang out the conversation usually jumps the tracks, heads out into a surrealist meadow of esoterica and leaves K wondering just what in the hell we're talking about and why we seem to find it so interesting.

Although, let's face it, my inner geek isn't really all that hidden. I just try not to rub it too hard in other people's faces. Hank, on the other hand really likes it when I rub it in his face.

As proof that I am weird and that Hank actually encourages these trains of thought, here's an excerpt from a Google chat discussion we had today. The bold portions in blue are comments and background written after the conversation. The chat is presented unedited except for format.

me: Did you know that the kinship classification system that we use is officially called Eskimo Kinship? (There is no context for this. This was my opening line. We had briefly discussed Hank's Project Euler posts over on his blog, which ended with him accusing me of being a number racist. This comment was sent more than an hour after his accusations.)

Hank
: I did not
I hereby move we begin referring to it as First Nations Kinship

me
: Wouldn't work. Three other of the main kinship systems are named after other native groups (Iroquois, Crow, and Omaha)
And that's ignoring that Hawaiian is also a kinship system but not what we consider Indians.
But Eskimos aren't Indians either.
And you would suck at trying to impersonate any of those three groups. (I apparently use a lot of dependent clauses as sentences in casual language.)

Hank
: I don't even know what a kinship classification system is, man (And he doesn't like using periods. This line would usually be considered a polite request to change the subject. However, Hank is simply indicating his intellectual inferiority (said the sad little English teacher about the Computer Engineer).

me
: It's the way a society classifies their relatives.
For example, we don't really differentiate between our father's brothers and mother's brothers.
They're all uncles. The same goes for their children, all cousins.
One of the other kinship systems considers the Father's sisters as second mothers and her children as siblings instead of cousins and the same for the mother's brothers. Only the same-sex siblings of the parents are considered aunts and uncles and their children cousins.
Another system is the exact opposite of that.

Hank: And how did these wind up with the name of various American Indan tribes? (See, I told you. He's actually asking relevant questions instead of offering monosyllabic niceties.)

me: Another system classifies only by generation. Your mom and dad's siblings are all mother and father and all first cousins are siblings. (This part was being typed before he asked his question. I'm not actually ignoring him to ramble on unaware of his presence.)

me: Probably because the guy who was the first to formally identify and publish the systems was an American and several of those cultures had good examples. The non-North American names are Dravidian and Sudanese

Hank: So none of the Chinese or European systems are still around? Or they overlapped with the ones used by the tribes?

me: They all overlapped.
Rural China often used the Iroquois system until recently
Modern western societies almost always use Eskimo like we do.
Although the Romans, Chinese and early Anglo-Saxons used the Sudanese system
That one is freakish. The Sudanese example has 8 classifications for first cousins. Each relative gets a classification based on both side (mother or father).
The really funny thing is that I learned all of this over the past hour.
And it started by clicking a link to the wikipedia article for deuterocanonical in a Slate article. (Seriously, how does K put up with this shit? I do have to say that our conversations are usually less one-sided than this, but this post was supposed to make fun of me, not him.)

Hank
: first five books of the bible

me: I think the chain of links was Deuterocanonical - Biblical Apocrypha - Bel and the Dragon - Culture Hero - Dualistic Cosmology - Moiety - Kinship. (Again, this is a timing issue from the fact this was a text chat. I don't usually ignore questions to continue my story like an autistic savant. This was, however, the exact path that led me to learning the main kinship systems used by humans. My Internet surfing often resembles my conversational style. Seemingly random, but entirely linked.)

me:
Actually, no.

Hank: Dang (Stumped twice in the same conversation? I wasn't even trying. He's actually significantly more intelligent that I am, so I take great joy in these moments even though I never try to stump him.)

me: They're the books in the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles that weren't in the original Hebrew book.
Protestants call them apocryphal. The Great Schism-mates call them the second canon. (Yes, I just made a little joke about the Great Schism.)
Books like Judith.
Which is a great A Perfect Circle song.

Hank: Isn't Wikipedia great

me: Yeah. It's dreamy.

7 comments:

Meaghan said...

Awe! You two are perfect for each other!

Julie said...

It's always nice to be around people who don't just accept but understand you.

Mickey said...

And Schism is a great Tool song, which, as you know, shares a lead singer with A Perfect Circle.

Dude, you say you're making fun of yourself, which you undoubtedly are, but you're also showing off. "Ooh, look at me, I'm Jacob, I have wide-ranging yet esoteric intellectual interests! I can regurgitate Wikipedia like nobody's business! Ooh, I'm so smart and inquisitive!"

Did that sting? I hope not too much, because your geek side is my favorite side. And you're lucky to have Hank, because any conversations I might have resembling your post take place entirely in my head.

Hank Gay said...

And now, for some Google whoring:
The Project Euler posts at Hank's blog.

sid said...

I tried reading this but ... I just couldn't

Chris said...

Sid, go back to the introductory paragraphs, before the lenghty Google chat transcript. Instead of "esoterica", accidentally read "erotica" as I did at first glance. Then, read the following paragraph, which makes multiple references to "rubbing it" in people's faces. At least that way, the whole thing is worth a giggle.

Seriously, Jacob, I too appreciate your geekiness. I think in some ways I share the geeky curiosities; I simply don't have the uncanny ability to recall random facts that you do. Therefore, a conversation like this with me would contain far less detail and become far less (yes, less) interesting.

Jacob said...

Chris, the rubbing it in portion was supposed to be a double entendre.

And part of the detail comes from the fact that I had the pages open while I was talking to him. I'm sure you could manage that much detail if you'd just read what you're talking about 5 minutes before talking about it.