July 3rd, 2011

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Geek Points

So today I was scrolling through my Facebook stuff, and my friend Craig R. Wyant -- who hooked up with me on the naturalist side of things rather than spirituality, said this about the new Greenhaven website:

"You have really put a lot of work into your new website.  It is very elegant."

Of course that made me frisk around the room.  I had to ask if he meant that in the geek sense of 'concise and usable' or the everyday sense of 'visually appealing and graceful' and he said both.

Someone actually gave me a geek-specific compliment on my webcrafting.  I don't think I was ever expecting that, since my manipulation of cyberspace is far more analog than it is digital.  It is what I was aiming  for, in terms of creating a good website; I know the parameters that geeks admire in a well-crafted site.  I just didn't expect to get close enough, with my level of computer skill, for anyone to hand out what's a rather high level of praise for technical as well as aesthetic merit.  But I am utterly thrilled.  I have scored geek points.  I am happy now.  *happydance*

Thinking about this, and about our recent discussion of "Nerds and Geeks," it occurs to me that there are some terms which are earned in one way or another.  I think of "geek" not just as a descriptive but as a performative.  For me it's in the category of things I won't claim personally, but will accept if someone else chooses to describe me that way, because I consider it to be a social-acclaim term and I consider myself to be on the fringes of it.  It'd be kind of presumptuous of me to lay claim to that when I can't code, for instance.  Now it's not as far into social-acclaim as, say, "computer wizard," but it does lean in that direction. 

So then I'm inclined to look for things that are characteristic of such a term or role, and mentally award points when they occur, which pushes a given example closer to the core of the term, as the example moves through semantic space and crosses boundaries among different definitions.  Building a website earns geek points.  That's a straightforward task.  But having someone else describe it as "elegant" is worth more -- it's an outside assessment, and it uses a term with register-specific connotations.  ("Elegant" in geek register implies some combination of efficient, concise, logical, high-performance, user-friendly, bug-free, technically ept, and attractive.)  I am most sensitive to these things in areas where I inhabit a border zone.  If the identity is solidly demonstrated already, outside assessment is minor or irrelevant; if the identity is in flux, mixed, or tentative then multiple perspectives help map its current position and are much more valuable.

It is an example of the collective effect of language.  You are what you define yourself to be; but you also are what others describe you to be.  Another aspect is that you are what you do.  Personal stance, social role, performance.  All of us define ourselves as we move through the world, shaping ourselves to fit through it and bending it around us as we go along.  Some of the shapes are obvious and solid.  But others are smoke and fire, their shapes emerging only through our actions and interactions.

Cool.
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Fireflies in Flight

I found this cool article about fireflies.  I had not known that their larvae are predators, eating snails (good) and earthworms (not so good).  They are a lively part o the ecosystem.

Here at Fieldhaven we have a lot of fireflies, representing several different species.  I enjoy seeing them in the evenings as I'm wrapping up my yardwork.  They crawl out from under leaves and float into the air.  They begin flashing low to the ground or grass.  As the night progresses, they drift higher.  An hour or two after dusk, they are up in the treetops, a beautiful sight.  They are most fond of our prairie garden and will also drift over the mowed patches of lawn from surrounding greenery.  I have fun watching them.

So far I have observed...

Fireflies like:
grass between ankle and knee height
damp mud or mulch for moisture
open space dotted with bushes or tall weeds
open space edged by trees or bushes
mixed species of grasses and weeds/wildflowers
organic or wild areas with low chemical load
soft breezes and warm humid evenings
shady or dark spaces

Fireflies dislike:
grass cut to the ground, or over waist height
barren dirt or gravel
tall, dense brush or forest
lawn or field with just one species of grass or crop
areas doused with pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals
high wind or rain storms
dead calm, chilly temperatures, or very dry air
too much competing light

Further reading:
Firefly Facts
Firefly (Lightning Bug)
How to Attract Fireflies on eHow
How to Attract Fireflies to Your Backyard
Images of Fireflies