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The Weakest of Geeks

A writer listens in on the new Santa Cruz Tech MeetUp and finds he's not half the geek he thought he was.

By Curtis Cartier

I'M A GEEK. Not the useful kind that can build a website or de-frag a hard drive, but the worthless kind that can quote passages from Lord of the Rings and kill a level 70 demon lord on World of Warcraft. So when I showed up last Wednesday at the Santa Cruz New Tech MeetUp, a monthly gathering of tech-savvy entrepreneurs and IT specialists, it became quickly apparent that my inner geek was severely outgunned.

About 100 well-dressed, smart phone-wielding men and women--but mostly men--were on hand responsibly sampling the beer and wine from the bar at the Dream Inn, munching on appetizers and showing off their latest iPhone applications, web service beta sites and pocket-protecting sportswear. The meeting, besides providing the attendees with a killer beachfront vista from the hotel's Aquarius Restaurant, allowed a handful of them time to present their latest technological endeavors to their peers. Michael Cerda, a wisecracking program designer, was first at the mic and used the time to unveil "CC Betty, the virtual email assistant."

"By today's standards, email is the worst thing ever," he said. "What Betty does is when you send an email and CC her on it, she organizes the email into a user interface. It's kind of like email injected with a bunch of steroids."

After Cerda wrapped up his presentation, Adam Blum, a tall, rail-thin programmer, took over with his spiel on, a web program that allows users to easily create applications that work on all the major smart phones. Peppering his speech with words I didn't know and jokes I didn't get, Blum left me longing for the comfort of my Star Wars pajamas and happy when Robert Acker, the next presenter, took over.

"Aha Mobile is a user interface made for going 65 miles per hour," said Acker, who had developed a car-oriented GPS iPhone application meant to be slightly safer for drivers to look at when they should be concentrating on the road.

The final two presentations were a blur of newspeak, but included ZoomPool--a cross between eHarmony and Craigslist's rideshare feature--and World Flix, an online philanthropy propagation service. By the time it was all over, my status as a bona fide geek had been shattered. And though I had no clearer idea what a "raw data registry" was, I felt confident that there are lots of folks right here in Santa Cruz that do know. And I'm sure before long I'll be forking over portions of my miniscule paycheck to use their newfangled contraptions.

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