I just finished reading Guns of the South (tip of the hat to JayBees for the recommendation). The gist of the book is straight forward, yet odd… what if, during the Civil War, the South became equipped with a lot of AK-47s. Long story short, they would have won. Harry Turtledove chose to not focus on time travel or other delectable sci-fi tidbits; he spends the time on “YAY! The South Won! So, uh, what are you going to do about that whole slavery thing?”
While I’m certain Civil War enthusiasts would enjoy this book, it is not geared for someone with my particular disability — Nerd Attention Deficiency Disorder… or NADD. This innocuous condition reared it’s head during Guns when it became clear the book was a tome dedicated to the exploration of lifestyles during an alternative post-Civil War period. Zzzzzzzzzzz.
Now, Guns was a fine read, but, more than once, I was flipping through the pages wondering, “Ok, HOW long is this chapter?” When I neared the end of the book and it became clear that some time traveler from the future wasn’t going to appear and, using some whizbang futuristic device, join the North and South together, well, I was disappointed. Sure, I’m happy that President Lee learned his lesson and started to abolish slavery on his own, but, please, no lasers guns? Sheesh.
Folks, I’m a nerd. I need rapid fire content delivery in short, clever, punch phrases. Give me Coupland, give me Calvin’n’Hobbes, give me Asimov, give me The Watchmen. I need this type of content because I’m horribly afflicted with NADD.
If you’re still with me, it might mean you know that you already suffer from some type of NADD-related disorder. Let’s find out:
Stop reading right now and take a look at your desktop. How many things are you doing right now in addition to reading this column? Me, I’ve got a terminal session open to a chat room, I’m listening to music, I’ve got Safari open with three tabs open where I’m watching Blogshares, tinkering with a web site, and looking at weekend movie returns. Not done yet. I’ve got iChat open, ESPN.COM is downloading sports new trailers in the background, and I’ve got two notepads open where I’m capturing random thoughts for later integration into various to do lists. Oh yeah, I’m writing this column, as well.
Folks, this isn’t multi-tasking. This is advanced case of Nerd Attention Deficiency Disorder. I am unable to function at my desktop unless I’ve got, at least, five things going on at the same time. If your count came close, you’re probably afflicted, as well. Most excellent.
My mother first diagnosed me with NADD. It was the late 80s and she was bringing me dinner in my bedroom (nerd). I was merrily typing away to friends in some primitive chat room on my IBM XT (super nerd), listening to some music (probably Flock of Seagulls — nerd++), and watching Back to the Future with the sound off (neeeeerrrrrrrd). She commented, “How can you focus on anything with all this stuff going on?” I responded, “Mom, I can’t focus without all this noise.”
The presence of NADD in your life is directly related to how you’ve dealt with the media deluge of the new millennium. You’ve likely gone one of three ways:
1) You’ve checked out… you don’t own a TV and it’s unlikely you’re even reading this column.
2) You enjoy your media/content in moderation. When I asked you to count how many windows were open on your desktop you either said, “One, my browser for which to read this article” or you made yourself a note to yourself to check this AFTER completing this column. In a previous age, you were the type of person who kept their pencils very sharpened.
3) You enjoy the content fire hose. Give me tabbed browsing, tabbed instant messaging, music all the time, and TIVO TIVO TIVO. Welcome to NADD.
The presence of NADD in your friends is equally detectable. Here’s a simple test. Ask to sit down at THEIR computer and start mucking with stuff on their desktop. Move an icon here… adjust a window size there. If your friend calmly watches as you tinker away, they’re probably NADD-free, for now. However, if your friend is anxiously rubbing their forehead and/or climbing out of their skin when you move that icon 12 PIXELS TO THE RIGHT, there’s NADD in the house. BACK AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER.
I’m making NADDers sounds like obsessive power freaks and, well, we are. How else would you deal with a world where media is forced on you at every turn? You’d get very good at controlling it. Here’s more good news:
1) Folks not afflicted NADD think those who are can’t focus because, look at us, we’re all over the place. PLEASE STOP CLICKING ON THINGS — YOU ARE GIVING ME A HEADACHE. Wrong. NADDers have an amazingly ability to focus when they choose to. Granted, it’s not their natural state and, granted, it can take longer than some to get in the zone, but when we’re there, BOY HOWDY.
2) Weblogs are designed for those with NADD. The web digested into short little blurbs of information. NADD heaven. My guess would be that the population of regular webloggers is mostly NADD-afflicted. Otherwise, they’d be writing books… not paragraphs… at random times of the day… always.
3) NADD can advance your career… if you’re in the right career. Ever worked at a start-up? Ever shipped software? What are the last few weeks like? We call it the fire drill because everyone is running around like crazy people doing random, unexpected shit. NADD is the perfect disease for managing this situation. It develops the skills to sift through the colossal amount of useless noise and hear what’s relevant.
Here’s a tip: If the building you are currently in is burning to the ground, go find the person with NADD on your floor. Not only will they know where the fire escape is, they’ll probably have some helpful tips about how to avoid smoke inhalation as well likely probabilities regarding the likelihood you’ll survive. How is it this Jr. Software Engineer knows all this? Who knows, maybe he read it on a weblog two years ago. Perhaps a close virtual friend of his in New York is a fire fighter. Does it matter? He may save your life or, better yet, keep you well informed with useless facts before you are burnt to a crisp.
I’m making NADD sound like a rosy affliction. There are several downsides.
First, it’s a lot of work to figure out your personal program of digesting the world and, sorry, you are going to miss things. This will annoy you, but it will also drive you to incessantly look for the NEXT COOL THING.
Second, you’re going to sound like a know-it-all. Try not to.
Third, and lastly, you’re not going to have much patience with those who have not chosen a NADD-like life. Occasionally, you’ll attempt to impart your fractured wisdom only to throw your hands up four minutes later when it’s clear, “Jesus, they just don’t get it.” Chances are, they might’ve gotten it, you’re just afflicted with a disease where your attention span is that of a second grader. Oh well, embrace your handicap.