The (Sarah Palin)* Geekset Recursion Hypothesis

*I am informed by those who should know that there are two sure-fire ways to draw attention to a blog: (1) Develop a reputation for concise, topical and well-reasoned analysis; or (2) Mention Sarah Palin in the title of the post.
Option 1 sounds like a lot of work, so I’m going with Option 2.

The (Sarah Palin) Geekset Recursion Hypothesis, hereinafter referred to as the (SP)GRH except when I forget or if I need to boost the word count, may be stated as follows:

In any set of geeks there is contained a subset whom the rest consider geeks.

In this context, “geek” is a term of art, roughly equivalent to wonk, enthusiast, die-hard or any of a wide range of -heads: Deadheads (followers of the Grateful Dead), Parrotheads (devoted fans of Jimmy Buffett), Ditto-heads (disciples of Rush Limbaugh), and so on. Whether the appellation is pejorative is a function of the Relative Degree of Exclusivity, as we shall see.

For example, there is a vast collection of people in the world. For the purposes of this illustration, let’s restrict the definition of “people” to humans (sorry, cetaceans, nonhuman hominids and the three most self-aware of my neighbor’s eleven cats), and call that the Master Set. No, on second thought, that smacks of eugenics — by which I mean the discredited theory espousing the inherent superiority of the genetically “pure,” as opposed to Eugenics, who are fanatic, non-alumni supporters of the University of Oregon athletic teams. Let’s just call it Set Zero.

Within Set Zero, there is a subset (Set One) of people who own computers; within Set One is a group of people (Set Two) who go on the internet at least occasionally; Set Three is comprised of people who use email.

At this point, three subsets from Set Zero, we have crossed the Geek Threshhold into the outskirts of Geekdom, which brings us to:

(SP)GRH Corollary 1: Geekiness is relative.

In fact, geekdom is measured in Relative Degrees of Exclusivity (DegEx). Note: While the actual Geek Threshhold is a fungible border, usually located at a remove of between plus-two and plus-three Relative Degrees of Exclusivity from the beholder, it will never be farther than DegEx+3.

To someone who doesn’t own a computer (Set Zero), a person who regularly communicates via email (Set Three, at a distance of DegEx+3) might reasonably be considered a “computer geek.” Note that a member of Set Two, at-least-occasional-Internet-users, may not necessarily consider an email user (Set Three, DegEx+1) a geek, but they might apply the term to members of Set Four (DegEx+2), people with Facebook accounts, and definitely to Set Five (DegEx+3), habitual Facebook posters, to say nothing of Set Six (DegEx+4), avid players of Farmville.

Another example, somewhat closer to home: Define Set Zero as readers of this blog post. Set One could consist of readers who remember learning about sets from the inside covers of elementary school math books, and Set Two contains those whose eyes didn’t immediately glaze over upon reading the word “recursion.”

Set Three, then, might be everyone who is annoyed by my slipshod use of set theory terminology. Alternatively, Set Three could consist of all those members of Set Two who believe the only redeeming feature of this post is its use of the words slipshod, fungible and (if I can work it in) fortnight. Either way, no one closer than DegEx-2 (i.e., members of Sets Zero or One, but not Two) is likely to dispute the statement that everyone in Set Three — either one — is a geek. Whether that’s good or bad — where it falls on the Epithet/Encomium Continuum — is determined according to the following table:

A geek with…

DegEx Value treated with…
“He does what, now?”
Benevolent Condescension
“I’m sure her friends call her a geek, but….”
“Definite geek potential there.”
Fellowship and Good Cheer
“Yeah, he’s a geek.”
Respectful Admiration
“A geek’s geek.”
“Now, that’s a geek!”
“Jeez, what a geek.”

The (SP)GRH can be a useful tool for determining your own and assigning others’ place on the social pecking order, but please note that it is, at present, purely hypothetical. Research, involving computer simulations as well as field work among known geek populations (e.g., Reality TV viewers and Triathlon Clubs), is ongoing, but definitive results will take time.

At least a fortnight.

Not Exactly Hamlet

Some people swore that the house was haunted.

“You shouldn’t swear,” said Mopsy.

“What?” Flopsy heaved a box onto the stack inside the doorway.

“You shouldn’t swear,” said Mopsy. “Mommy wouldn’t like it.”

“I didn’t swear,” said Flopsy. “I didn’t say anything! Are you going to help me with these boxes?”

Mopsy followed his brother to the porch of the two-story Craftsman.

“Nuh-uh, I didn’t,” said Mopsy. “I’m staying right here in the entryway until you apologize.”

“Apologize? For what?”

“For swearing! Apologize, or I’m telling Mommy.”

“Mommy’s not here, Mopsy,” said Flopsy, gently. He stepped back into the entryway and put his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Look at me, Mopsy. Look at me. Are you looking at me?”

“There’s only you and me here, right?” said Mopsy.

“That’s right, little brother, it’s just you and me now.”

“Then it must have been you who swore!”

Flopsy sighed. “Look, Mopsy,” he said, “we need to get the rest of these boxes inside before it starts to rain. This is Oregon, remember? It rains here.”

“Here? In the entryway?”

“No, in Oregon. In Salem. C’mon, help me.”

Mopsy stayed where he was.

“You’re darn right, I stayed where I was,” he said. “Why did we buy this house if it rains inside? What would Mommy say?”

“She’d say, ‘Get out there and help your brother, you red turtle!'”

“I’m not a red turtle! You take that back!”

“Okay, I take it back. You’re not a red turtle.”

“No, the box! Take it back! How can I help you if you’ve brought everything in already?”

“Oh…kay, I’ll take it back,” said Flopsy.

He carried the last box back outside and set it down in the carport.

“There,” he said. “Are you happy now?”

“Yay!” said Mopsy, clapping his many, many hands.

“Hurry up, Mopsy, it’s going to rain.”

“Not in here, it isn’t!”

“It is out here. Come on!”

“And anyway, I only have two. It just looks like more ’cause I move them back and forth so fast when I clap. See?”

Mopsy clapped his hands and it started raining heavily.

“What did I tell you?” yelled Flopsy, grabbing the box and sprinting back inside.

“Did I do that?” asked Mopsy, staring at the ceiling in wonder.

“Do what?” As he closed the door, Flopsy jostled the box tower, which swayed threateningly.

“Don’t you do it!” cried Mopsy. “We don’t take kindly to threats around these parts.”

“Do what?” repeated Flopsy. He steadied the boxes and turned to Mopsy, who was staring at the ceiling and shaking his fist, not simultaneously but alternating between the two actions in rapid succession.

“What would Mommy say?” asked Mopsy, staring at his fist and shaking.

“‘Drink your milk,'” said Flopsy. He looked up. “Did you do that?”

“Whoever says I did is either a liar or, or…that other thing, that little harp thingy that Cupid plays. What’s that called?”


“Yes, dear?”

“Why did you write, ‘Some people swore that the house was haunted’ on the ceiling in blood?”

“That’s not blood, it’s catsup,” said Mopsy. “Mommy doesn’t like it when I write on the ceiling in blood.”

“Mopsy, I need you to listen to me,” said Flopsy. “Are you listening?”

Mopsy stopped singing.

“I wasn’t singing,” he said, tunelessly. “That was the narrator.”

“We have a narrator?” said Flopsy. “We have a narrator. Well. That changes everything.”

Silently, Mopsy began to weep.

“See? You can’t even hear that, can you? I love my narrator,” sobbed Mopsy. “I’m naming him Jerome.”

Nothing was ever the same again after that.