Give thanks the high-tech way: Seven things a geek can do on Thanksgiving
Sure, Thanksgiving is about family and togetherness; but it's also about what you make of it. And that can be anything from your own special brand of geeky cooking prowess to ... pilgrim robots? In a world where pilgrim robots exist, we're pretty sure there's room for the geekiest of Thanksgivings. Read on to learn how to do this holiday right.
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Do you feel like cooking is a mysterious art, a literally messy process (all those creams! all those stains! sauces slathered all over everything!) that's world's apart from the clean, comforting world of computer code or electronic wiring? Well, maybe you've just got the wrong attitude. Michael Chu's invaluable Cooking for Engineers site breaks recipes and food planning down in language a geek can understand.
Of course, not all geeks have felt that cooking represented a challenge. If you were on Usenet in the heady pre-Web days, you almost certainly encountered this legendary turkey recipe. You'll enjoy Thanksgiving dinner and enjoy nostalgia of the days of when you surfed newsgroups via your BBS.
Eat like an astronaut
Were you one of those kids who drank Tang, because that's what the Gemini astronauts enjoyed during their missions? Well, you can give a go at eating the same Thanksgiving dinner the astronauts on the ISS enjoyed last year -- assuming, that is, you like your turkey, green beans, candied yams, cranapple "dessert," cornbread stuffing freeze-dried. But at least 2008's astronauts got a Thanksgiving meal: for the crew currently in space, this Thursday's meal will be just like any other day's. Raise a glass of Tang in their honor.
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Geek out with some old friends
Thanksgiving weekend is a traditional one for high school reunions, and for good reason: many people end up coming back to the town where they grew up. Of course, many of us are a little hesitant to spend any more time with the entire student body of our high school than necessary, but the day after Thanksgiving is as good a time as any to have your own alternate reunion, reliving the fun parts of your high school days -- D&D, anyone? -- while talking about the torment in a "we can laugh about it now" kind of way.
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Learn how football works
I'm not going to lie to you: if you're part of a typical American family, some flavor of football will be on TV for much of the weekend. Many geeks have resisted the allure of the sport just on general principles, but if you don't want to ignore your family entirely, you might want to learn the basics. This excellent thread on geekculture.com breaks down the rules of the game quite nicely.
Thanksgiving is right around the time that the question of who will be college football championship heats up. With dozens of teams in the NCAA's top level and no playoff system, do you know how the two finalists are selected? Math! Lots and lost of math! Master the devilish formulae and you will have definitely have something of interest to contribute.
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Surf the Internet
OK, we'll admit it: there will be times when you'll run out of things to say to your family and you'll just need to sneak off and catch up on your Internet reading. But what if your hosts don't have a wireless network set up for you to hook into? Be prepared by travelling with your own wireless access point! Make a few discreet inquiries about passwords and you'll soon be able to get on line in short bursts whenever you sneak off to "use the bathroom." Are your hosts still living in a terrible world of dial-up? Scour used electronics sites for Apple's classic Airport base station, which had a built-in dial-up modem and even worked with AOL.
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While "Black Friday" shopping may have started with bargains on clothes and housewares, it now has a strong gadget and electronic component as well. If you're not suffering from a tryptophan hangover, you might want to camp outside your local mall or Best Buy in search of bargains on everything from iPods to big-screen TVs. Just stay calm and don't get hurt or hurt anybody else, OK? Digital Trends and ZDNet have excellent Black Friday buyers guides; and the Christian Science Monitor, with typical thoroughness, analyzes the various deals from Best Buy.
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Actually be thankful
As much fun as it is to be a little out of the mainstream, there really is something nice about Thanksgiving's stated purpose: to give thanks for the things we have. This collection of things to be thankful for from Wired's Geek Dad should remind you that being a geek in 2009 is a pretty sweet deal.