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The Geek Dad Interview



Most Neatoramanauts know all about Ken Denmead's Geek Dad blog over on Wired.com. But did you know Ken has a book coming out? Yep, in just a couple days you'll be able to curl up with a pantload of geeky projects perfect for you and your kids.  Some are ripped right from the posts you've come to love on the blog, but most are brand-spankin' new. Ever think about flying a kite at night, rigged with lights? Or making a comic strip out of Lego pieces? Or constructing a fortress – out of cake?

Those are just some of the cool projects you'll discover in the Geek Dad book, an easy to read,  adroitly written craft book. And because Ken is himself a Neatoramanaut, he's been kind enough to give us three, no more, no less, four we did not get, neither two, five is right out. But three, being the third number, is the number of books we have to give away in our contest! (We'll leave the contest open until the book is officially published on May 4th!)
Want to win a copy? Here's what you need to do:

1. Read the interview below!

2. Click the link at the end of the interview and answer the question you find waiting for you.

3.  E-mail me the answer to the question (e-mail address found on the linked page).

4. That's it! We'll pick three random winners and send out your very own copies!

Enough rat-a-tat! On with the interview...

DI: Toward the front of the book, there’s a lot of discussion about the very word geek, how it has morphed over time, and the variations and various subsets. It got me thinking: When I was in high school, I was a band geek and a computer geek. Yet I also scored an extra part in Revenge of the Nerds 2, so some people called me a big ‘ol nerd. Yet I also infamously scored two points for the other team in a basketball game, so I fit right in with the dweebs who were picked last in gym. My question to you is this: Can a person be a geek, a nerd, and a dweeb? Is it like astrology where I’m really a geek dad (for those who don’t know, I have a toddler), but have a nerd rising? Shine some light, if you would…

KD: The point I make in the book is that the difference between geek and nerd if self-awareness about the anti-social nature of obsession over a hobby or pursuit. Obviously real people are far more complex that the labels that get broadly applied to them, and it's perfectly realistic that you could be an overall geek (aware of your nerdish tendencies, but able to either embrace them with vim, or mitigate them through careful behavior), and yet be more nerdish or dweebish in certain circumstances or when pursuing specific hobbies.

DI: At what point in YOUR life did you come to the conclusion that you were a geek? Certainly before daddom, I’d imagine? Or…

KD: Oh, in high school certainly. I was a music geek, theater geek, I played D&D at lunch with my friends from AP Physics, and wrote science fiction stories during free periods.

DI: In the book you talk about how more and more females are categorizing themselves as geeks—that it’s obviously not just for a label for dudes anymore. Did you wind up finding a fem-geek to settle down with and, if so, would that make your kids über-geeks? Or do two geeks cancel each other out and produce jocks and politicians?

KD: My wife is a total geek, with a strong passion for science fiction movies and TV shows, and we love traveling to conventions now and buying each other show props. We've been very careful not to push our tendencies on the kids, though - and luckily they are absorbing them instead. Actually, our older son, who played baseball and basketball, but also loves D&D and video games, called himself a "gock" - half geek, half jock.

DI: The sub-head of the book is “Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share” – and some of the projects that stand out to me, the ones I can’t wait to try with my son, are: Build a Binary Calendar, Portable Electronic Flash Cards, Fly a Kite at Night, and Model Building with a Cake. Of course, some of these projects you already wrote up on the blog, but many were new for the book. Are there one or two in particular that you really enjoyed creating and writing about?

KD: Flying the video camera on a string of balloons was great to do because there was science and engineering required to sort it out; figuring out the volume of helium needed to provide sufficient lift for the camera package and then devising the best way to string them together.

DI: If you could have lunch with any geek dad from history, who would it be?

KD: That's a tough question. My first instinct would be J.R.R. Tolkien, because he started the rich creations of Middle Earth as something for his kids. But he probably wouldn't have considered himself a geek (indeed, at the time the word would have been an insult). So I'd settle on Gene Roddenberry. His influence on geek culture cannot be understated.

DI: Of some of the more famous fictional geek dad-figures, who was cooler? Or who would you rather spend time with? Dr. Emmett Brown or Dr. Newton Crosby?

KD: Naw, give me Doctor Quest, Reed Richards, or Mr. Incredible!

DI: Of all the geek-gadgets you own, which one would you take to the proverbial desert island if you only could take one?

KD: Assuming (as any good geek would have to), that there was free power and wi-fi available on this desert island, my iPad!

DI: What’s the worst thing about being a geek?

KD: Being socially outcast; really, having to live in an environment where no one "gets" you.

DI: Your day job is in civil engineering. What’s a typical day for you?

KD: In broad brush-strokes, just like anyone else. Up early, help get the kids ready for school, and head to work (stop and get coffee on the way). Work, work, work - sad to say, civil engineering isn't as glamorous as everything thinks! Pick up the kids from school, get home, and do family stuff. And all in there, keep an eye on the blog.

DI: It’s 2120—is geek still in our vernacular? What’s the future hold for the geek as AI becomes more and more sophisticated in the future?

KD: By the evolved definition of the word I like to use, absolutely. Geeks aren't just about technology. Of course, techie geeks will still be with us, because technology is driving our culture more these days than ever before, and the people who are obsessive about the creation and use of technology will always be needed. Just, by then, the geeks will be moving planets around.

DI: Let’s not even look down the road that far, what’s Ken Denmead doing 25 years from now?

KD: Semi-retired, overseeing the GeekDad media empire and working part-time at Disneyworld.

DI: Other than the blog, are you working on anything now you want to tell us about?

KD: There's always the hope that the book will do well enough to spawn another. I'm involved in the development of a NPR radio show for dads that will hopefully get picked up. And we want to keep building GeekDad as a property. The great thing is that new opportunities pop up when you least expect them!

DI: Will there be any book signings or speaking engagements? Where can people find you after the book comes out?

KD: There certainly will, and I'm keeping track of all that kind of thing on the website we've built for the book: www.geekdadbook.com. I'm always lurking on Twitter, as well (@fitzwillie).

DI: Lastly, anything you wish I’d asked?

KD: "What's the airspeed of an unladen swallow?"

N.B. - Please do NOT leave answers to our contest question in the comments below. We will delete your comment. Thanks for understanding! However, we DO want you to send us your answer, the details of which can be found, along with the contest question, right here! Good luck to one and all.

Special thanks to Ken, who jammed on turning around the Q&A within 24 hours so we could present the interview/give-a-way in a timely manner. As Crush, dad-turlte said so eloquently to his son Squirt in the Pixar film Finding Nemo: You SO totally rock dude!

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