Originally Published: Friday, 11 May 2001 Author: Kristina Pfaff-Harris
Published to: opinion_articles/opinion Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Kristina in Space: The Sexiest Geek Alive

On a fine spring day after a good bout of coding, what better activity is there than entering the Sexiest Geek Alive Contest? Linux.com staffer Kristina Pfaff-Harris puts it all on the line in the name of Linux.com.

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I had finally managed to make a Perl CGI that would generate DynAPI drag-and-drop layer code on the fly from values in a MySQL database, and generate a PDF file that looked like the image on the screen. Moreover, it worked under Linux (Netscape and Mozilla), Microsoft Windows (Netscape and IE), and even Mac (Netscape and IE). I was feeling dead sexy, so when I saw a notice on one of my mailing lists about SexiestGeekAlive.com and their "Brains, not Beauty" contest, I figured I'd enter as a contestant.

"What's that," you say, "Sexiest Geek Alive?" If you didn't hear about last year's contest, you must have been too busy coding. SGA 2000 was covered on several major US news and talk shows, and this year's contest was written up in USA Today as well as other publications. From what I understand, the "Sexiest Geek Alive" contest started last year as a backlash against the lack of geek representation in People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" contest. Awhile back, the frivolity of that contest was also shown when the online poll pointed to "Hank, the Angry Drunken Dwarf" as the winner, thanks to Howard Stern and a massive number of Net heads. In protest against this shameful neglect of the geek community by People Magazine, Geek and Guru decided to hold their own contest, and "Sexiest Geek Alive" was born. The winner of last year's contest was a male, Tony Northrup. This year, a fellow mailing list member informed me that the contest was now co-ed, and urged women to apply in the hopes that together, we could improve the representation of women in geekdom.

Oh, I didn't figure I'd get in. After all, the previous month's winner was PhD Computer Science professor Ellen Spertus. Last year's overall winner was a guy. I'm not either one of those things -- just a gal who fiddles around with Perl code, and sometimes gets things working. Still, I had to try, for the honor of geek women everywhere! (Can't let the men have all the glory, after all.) Besides, I mused, "Geek" is a lucky word for me ever since I was one of the winners of RedHat's "GeekWorld" contest back in 1999, and got an all-expense paid trip to a beach house with five other geeks and a wireless T-1 all to ourselves. Sweet.

I went to the site, began the registration by filling out personal data, and was informed that I'd have to take a test in the areas of Science and Mathematics, Computers, Nerd Culture, Sci-fi and Gaming with (gasp!) some essay questions.

I almost quit there. As I mentioned, I was up against who knew how many PhD's and 31337 haX0rz. There were over 16,000 entrants last year: it was a bit intimidating. While I pondered whether or not to pit my own geekly might (such as it is) against these frightening contenders, I had an epiphany: if I failed, no one would ever know. Thus charged with the courage that only anonymity can bring, I clicked my way to the first step. Bring on the test!

After answering questions about protons, optics, Star Trek, Slashdot, Eric S. Raymond, and TCP/IP I was ready for the essay questions covering various technical and personal topics. At last, it was finished. The page presented me with a score, adding curtly, "Don't call us, we'll call you." "Oh well," I thought, "it was worth a try," and trudged away to once more review my draggable layers under different operating systems to boost my self-esteem. I may not be the best of the geeks, I told myself, but at least I'll always have this to remember, that for one brief shining moment, I made something that looked the same under Netscape, Mozilla, and IE.

I thought no more about it until last week, when I received a letter congratulating me on being considered as a finalist for the April part of the contest. Oh frabjous day! I was almost in! I must have really wowed them with my essay on packet analysis. I carefully composed my answers to these new questions, such as age ("somewhere between 30 and death -- do I really have to say? On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog, and all that eh?") and education (Master's degree, Linguistics, for those who care about such things). I almost reconsidered once I got to the photo part, but kept repeating "Brains, not Beauty, Brains, not Beauty" as a mantra, and managed to send it in.

At last came the awaited announcement: I had been chosen! I, along with four guys and two other women, was in the running for April. I brought up the page to check out the competition -- very tough. Even allowing for the sexist assumption that most of the voters would tend to be men, and thus would likely not vote for men, I have Karen and Angie to contend with. Both of them look like serious competition on all fronts: looks, accomplishments, and attitude.

As for the men, there's Kelly, who according to his profile, once "stopped having sex ... right in the middle of it all" because he thought of a "clever proof" and he just had to write it down. Is that, or is that not, geek? Then there's Tim with his "gorgeous redheaded girlfriend," Gregory with his "wicked coding skills", and Ramin, whose site is "BadApple.net" (read The Rants -- need I say more?). How am I supposed to compete with that? How could anyone?

In the end, it doesn't really matter. Someone will win, they'll have their fifteen minutes of fame, and the world will keep turning, leaving it all behind. The contest is fun, not earth-shaking, but it does have one important component. Unlike other "pageants," this is based on the premise that intelligence and knowledge are sexy: you make it to the web page only on the basis of your test scores and your essays. It's knowledge and attitude that get you in, not your smiling face or tight abs. Sure, the pictures may influence the outcome, but the point is that geeks can be just as sexy as non-geeks, and the stereotype of the drooling neanderthal at a keyboard is just that: a stereotype, true for some, not true for all, and of no importance when measuring success. As far as I'm concerned, anything that breaks down any stereotype is okay by me.

<subliminal message>Kristina needs your help.</subliminal message>

Of course, I wouldn't want to unfairly influence the outcome, but when you go to SexiestGeekAlive.com and cast your vote, remember that a "Vote for Kristina is a Vote for Linux.com". Vote for your favorite candidate, be they male, female, or other. Vote for Kelly, Tim, Gregory, Angie, Karen, or Ramin. Rock the vote, my friends: Let's show the world that geek is sexy, and brains beat beauty. After all, as they say, "It's an honor just to be nominated." <subliminal message>Kristina is your friend.</subliminal message>

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must get back to my code (such as it is), then go and install Macromedia Flash on my dad's Linux box.





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