A Nerd by Any Other Name…

Like all good observations this one comes from a random background story.  I was trying to write a thank-you email for a job interview and I wanted to reiterate how my “nerdy” tendencies would make me a great librarian.  I knew “nerdy” would not be an appropriate professional word, so I used the thesaurus to find a better term.  Turns out there is no better term because “nerdy” does not mean what I always thought it had.

I always thought it meant someone very intelligent and knowledgeable and simply lacking social skills.  The negative connotation always came from the fact that people were jealous of a nerd’s intellect.  According to the thesaurus, however, “nerdy” means almost the exact opposite.  It means someone/thing tasteless, foolish or imbecile, a buffoon.  The negative connotation should actually be placed in the fact that “nerdy” is something not to be taken to seriously.  I suspect the only person who may have known this was Shakespeare, for he always made The Fool his wisest character.

I only share this with you because I have always considered myself a bit of a grammar nazi and I hate when people misuse the word “ironic”.  Now I will hate when people misuse the word “nerd”.

See for yourself: NERDY in a thesaurus

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Ah, Sweet? Memories

I should be sleeping to try and kick my cold, but I have once again been distracted.  I was going to put something away and what should I come across but my old journal (I would say diary but that sounds so sixth grade!)  Naturally, I had to start reading it.  It starts a few months into my first semester at college.  It’s amazing how you tend to forget the bad things.  Which, actually, might explain why I don’t remember most of college.  Not that college was really that bad, but at the time I felt it was.  It was mainly just lonely.

In any case, I digress.  It goes on to talk about closure with the guy I loved all through high school… what I want my house to have when I grow up (I must say, I got about half of it!)  …  my whirlwind decision to run for and become Circle K District Treasurer (another chapter of my life I’d almost forgotten!)  … and of course it constantly recounts my ever persistent boy troubles (some things never change!)  But, despite all of that, is what I found next… my “List of Things to Do Before I Die”.

As far as I know, this is the first written list I have made of this type.  I chose to write about it because, while it is quite short, I have accomplished many of the things on it.  In my previous post I was somewhat despondent  at having not accomplished anything I wanted to.  Perhaps I set my goals to high?  This discovery gave me some strange sort of hope again.   So here is my earliest list…

  • live in a foreign country for at least 6 weeks
  • visit Hawaii (done in the summer of 2005 or 2006?)
  • graduate college cum laude (I actually one up-ed myself and graduated MAGNA cum laude)
  • publish a book of my poems and art
  • perform at least one line in a professional play/movie/tv show
  • get married
  • have a kid
  • learn Spanish (well I do know a good deal more than I did before…)
  • become fluent in French (judged by my attempt to write in French, I feel like I have digressed in this goal)
  • own my home (closed on my house in Feb 2009!)
  • take a road trip (depends how you define road trip…)
  • see the west coast of the U.S. (I will be doing this in less than two months and I am sooooooo excited!)
I know it probably means nothing to anyone but me, but it is always encouraging to really see all that you have accomplished, especially in such times of stagnation.

“I Pledge Allegiance…”

I recently thought of a little anecdote from my childhood that made me think about myself today.  I’m not sure why I thought of this instance recently, perhaps it is because I suddenly seem to have quite a few friends in the military (as a matter of fact, I’m leaving soon to go see one on home for leave!) or perhaps it is because of a heated discussion about equal rights that I just saw on Facebook, or perhaps it’s because it’s almost the Fourth of July.  Either way, I realized something interesting.  When I was little (three or four, I suppose) I got kicked out of preschool.  Yes, sweet little me, teacher’s pet, got told not to come back.  Why you ask?  It is because I refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance.  I refused, because they would not give me a logical explanation as to why I should.  Even toddler me had authority issues.

Adult me still has those issues as well.  People have told me if you want to travel and get paid for school, join the military.  The only problem is that I would not survive one week in the military.  Physical requirements aside (need I list my many disqualifying ailments?), my lack of ability to follow senseless orders would become a problem.  It’s not necessarily that I lack respect for authority, it’s just that I believe authority should be earned.  The people who do the best at their assigned tasks should be the ones who are promoted, not because of who they know, but because they are good enough at doing something to direct others in how to do it.  I take issues as well with people trying to boss me around when I’ve been doing my job longer than they have.  If I trained you in your job, who are you to turn around and tell me how to do said job?  Most importantly, I take issue with things that are illogical.  Damn intelligence won’t let me blindly follow people.  “Because I said so” is not an acceptable answer in my book.

All of that being said, I still do not say the Pledge of Allegiance, to this day.  Now before you start accusing me of being unpatriotic, or treacherous, or a terrorist- hear my logic against saying it.  At the same age when they teach you the Pledge, they also teach you things like not to lie.  I would be lying if I said I could always and forever provide my unwavering loyalty to a country I can’t necessarily predict the future of.  Think of all the little German children in the 1920s and 1930s pledging allegiance to their country- then being asked as adults to systematically murder millions of people.  What if I pledge allegiance now, and 20 years down the road some crazy president comes in and tells us we need to finish off all the Native Americans?  Would you hold true to your “pledge”?  Or would you turn your back on it, and fight against your country or simply flee to another one?  Either you hold true to your pledge and break your own morals, or you break your pledge to keep to your morals- which would then make the entire point of saying said pledge moot anyways.

At the end of the day, saying of few words makes you neither patriotic nor unpatriotic, it’s what’s in your heart that matters.  I still don’t see what the point of reciting it is.  Perhaps we need to spend those extra two minutes teaching kids math and reading so we do not breed a nation of imbeciles.  If someone can tell me a logical reason for how saying the Pledge of Allegiance makes you more productive/intelligent/etc.  then I will be willing to re-examine my opinion.  Until such a time, however, I choose to stick to my morals.  And I will love my country as long as it does not conflict with said morals.  And more importantly, I love all of you who continue to fight for our country so that I may continue to stick to my own morals and not those of some creepy guy thousands of miles away.

Save Game?

Ok, so I am probably reaching an all new level of geek/nerd with this, buuuutttt……

I was playing Mario Galaxy on my Wii and it was bugging me that every time you turn off the console and turn it back on again, you default to having four lives, even if you saved your game last with 18 lives.  This annoys me.  And it got me thinking; how did games back in the day save your progress? I’m talking original Nintendo and Super Nintendo.  I remember some games gave you a code to enter nest time you play.  I assume this was essentially a shortcut to cut to the part of the programming that let you start at that level.  Was this randomized? Or could someone essentially post all the codes on the internet and essentially allow you to backdoor your way into any point in the game?  A lot of games simply didn’t save progress at all.  I remember you had to just pause the console and turn off your t.v. if you had something else to do, and then un-pause it when you could resume game play.  Kids today would probably laugh at this idea! As far as I know, NES and SNES were both read-only devices and did not contain hard drives to store game data.  I think this first came with N64 and the controller memory packs.  Funny the progress we’ve seen in a mere quarter-century or so.  Anyways, this was just something that was bothering me; food for thought.

What’s in A Name? (Not Israel!)

I went to Torah Study last night and like many times before, the Twelve Tribes of Israel came up.  People were mentioning which tribe they were descended from and I was wondering how one would determine this? So I started to do some research….

It seems that the simplest was to claim a tribe is based on where you are from. The United States/North American is mostly descendants of Manasseh. Which works fine for the part of me that is Native American, but the rest only came to the United States in the past century or so.

So I tried to see who came from Italy. But there really is no tribe associated to Italy or any of southern Europe really. Perhaps this is because it was the home of the biggest Pagan empires: The Greeks and Romans.  The closest I could find was Reuben, whose descendants are from Northern France.  So they suggested that by looking into the heraldry of your name and coat of arms (this is much easier to do if you are from England, Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, by the way) that you could associate the symbols of your family heraldry to that of one of the tribes. So I started researching my name, which I’ve never really done. I’ve tried to research my direct ancestors, but never my name in general.

One article I came across said how much of the the area my family comes from (Reggio di Calabria) was actually destroyed by Mt. Etna on my birthday in 1908! Which is funny because this is shortly before my great grandparents were born and would have moved to the states!  I also learned that before that our descendants came from nearby Krotonas, Greece and settled Crotone and Cotronei, Italy (notice the similarity in the spelling!).  Cotronei would be the plural of Cotroneo, meaning everyone in that city is a Cotroneo!

But I digress.  I failed to find a picture of the Cotroneo or any similar name coat of arms anywhere online for free. So I decided to look up the Calabrese flag.  It’s a knight on horseback  killing a dragon next to a person praying.  Not very useful in relating to the tribes.  Another flag shows a crown over a sheild with four poles and two equilateral crosses all surrounded by an olive wreath.  Olive wreath shows promise.  Still another flag shows a tree, two equilateral crosses and a stone pillar- perhaps slightly more useful.  What about Napoli?  A black mustang on a yellow background- useful still.  Finally there’s the Sicilian flag featuring the trinacria (which funnily enough looks like a three legged swastika) and the head of medusa.  Fairly certain none of the tribes of Israel used a swastika.  One thing these flags all had in common is that they were on red and yellow backgrounds.

Still none of this helps. I’m pretty sure my family was straight up pagan.  Further research shows that while their are some Levite descendants in Northern Italy, most Italians are not of Israelite descent and are in fact descendants of Greeks, Canaanite and Edomites (the arch-enemy of Israel).  It is possible that through migrations and mixes of Greeks, French and Arabs that all occupied Sicily at one point I could be descended from any one of these lost tribes or none.  I could go through my mother’s genealogy, but it is such a mix (Irish, German, Native American and Bohemian) that I could still belong to any one of the tribes.  Alas, this brings us to the second option- associating oneself with whichever tribe whose characteristics you share.  This is the Israeli personality test!

So, upon some semi-extensive research and the creation of a rough little chart of positive and negative qualities, I can most relate to Reuben (emotional, empathetic, independent perfectionists), Nephtali (faithful, modest, reliable, musical, and needing a partner), or Issachar (intellectual, hard-working, lacking common sense, down to earth, pleasure seeking, know-it-alls with dominant women-folk).

So at the end of the day I really didn’t find the answer to the question I originally sought.  But I did learn that you can’t define yourself just by your name.  And I did learn some interesting things about the dispersions of ancient peoples, the migrations of peoples and the development of cultures and languages. And I also found interesting links between things like the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 signs of the zodiac or the 12 birthstones and the 12 stones of the breastplate.  I suppose anything throughout history can be tied to anything else in history or in religion or culture.  It’s all about symbolism and at the end of the day a picture is worth a thousand words.  If I knew what to do with it, I would go back to school and study symbolism, just because it is so deep and fascinating.

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