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Musings

The Parallel Theory…

21 Dec 2012 by Illana Graff

Have you ever watched that episode of The Big Bang Theory where the guys are playing “Mystic Warlords of Ka’a” – a fantasy card game where “Warlord beats Troll, Troll beats Elf, Elf beats Water Sprite, and basically everything beats Enchanted Bunny“, unless, as Howard noted, “you have the Carrot of Power”. It had me in absolute stitches, I nearly fell off the couch and it got me thinking about an afternoon here at my office where the guys eagerly gathered for a round of “Magic: the Gathering”. Curiously I watched these grown men engrossed in a battle between the “Planeswalkers”, mighty wizards who employ spells, items and the creatures depicted on their “magic” cards to defeat opponents. And then it dawned on me, I was living an episode of The Big Bang Theory!!!

The Show

The Big Bang Theory is an American sitcom centred on five main characters –Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter, two physicists, Howard Wolowitz, an aerospace engineer, Rajesh Koothrappali, an astrophysicist, and Penny, a waitress and aspiring actress. The show focuses predominantly on science and physics in particular; the guys banter frequently about scientific theories and are also avid sci-fi and comic book fans. Penny, is a waitress who epitomises the “dumb blonde” persona, however what she lacks in advanced education she makes up for in personality, common sense, and a remarkable knowledge of pop culture.

The Characters

The guys are all extremely intelligent, highly accomplished, and mostly lack any social skills or dress sense.

Howard, an aerospace engineer, fancies himself as quite the “ladies” man sporting loud vintage, 60’s style outfits and collectible belt buckles; is referred to fondly by Raj as the “human chicken wing” on account of his skinny frame. Raj, Howard’s best friend, is an Indian astrophysicist with an intense dislike for Indian food and a social anxiety disorder that renders him mute in front of members of the opposite sex, unless under the influence of alcohol, or when he thinks he’s under the influence of alcohol.

Leonard is an experimental physicist, roommate and best friend to Sheldon Cooper, and on/off boyfriend to Penny; the mild-mannered “Captain Kirk” of the group. He tries desperately to be “ordinary” and fails miserably at shaking his nerd status – Star Wars hygiene products and a Battlestar Galactica Colonial warrior’s flight suit being among his collectibles.

Finally, Sheldon Cooper B.S., M.S., M.A., Ph.D., Sc.D., a theoretical physicist, and my favourite character in the show. He’s overtly intellectual and exhibits an ethereal understanding of humour and sarcasm. He identifies strongly with Star Trek’s “Dr. Spock” and in one episode is given a used napkin signed by Leonard Nemoy (a.k.a. Dr. Spock) which prompted him to state “I possess the DNA of Leonard Nimoy?!”

KRS super heroes

The Parallel

You might be asking yourselves right about now, why it is I am telling you about this show….well, let me start off by saying that I am an enormous fan (just in case you hadn’t noticed by now). It embodies my humour, trains of thought and as an outgoing woman, knowledgeable in all things popular, and blonde, I often find myself drawing parallels between this show and my current working environment. My colleagues however are not scientists, I am not a waitress and our field isn’t physics; our science is Information Technology. They all speak geek here (possibly “Klingon” too), they game, wear superhero tshirts and debate development driven design theories. Star Wars, the original 3, recommended viewing material with a side serving of Star Trek thrown in for good measure.

I haven’t exactly found a single colleague who epitomises all of the show’s personalities in one, but rather as a collective. These tablet-toting Jedi’s often display traits synonymous with the characters in the show, “selective mutism”, for example, the inability to speak to women unless under the influence of alcohol, being one of them. I recall a Friday afternoon drinks session at the office where a developer I see often but talk to rarely (and I mean rarely), suddenly exploded into a flurry of boisterous rhetoric with me. I realised only after asking him how much he had had to drink, to which he replied 3 brandy-cokes, that this was my parallel with the character Raj and his inability to speak to the fairer sex unless uninhibited.

Low-cut sneakers, jeans and themed T-shirts adorned with superhero logos are standard uniform in my office; Superman, Yoda and Spiderman clear frontrunners in ‘save-the-world’ couture. I thankfully haven’t seen any Klingon communicators, Batman or Flash belt buckles around, favoured most by the character Howard; however what my guys lack in fashion sense here they certainly make up for in gadgetry.

KRS super heroes

The Protagonist

Penny is an aspiring actress working as a waitress at the Cheesecake factory, and hails from a small town in Nebraska. She possesses an inherent practicality when addressing issues the guys try to solve through complicated scientific means. I on the other hand, am not an aspiring actress, have lived around the world and on occasion have been known to carry many an accent, don a superhero outfit, and dispense pearls of wisdom on subjects quite far removed from the techie world I work in. I speak geek when required, read code and can banter about the sciences with the best of them. What I do share with Penny though is her common sense and caring nature.

Sitting among these cyber wizards day in and day out, watching code transform into stupendous technological marvels, I often find myself drawing that parallel between Penny’s relationship with her guys, and mine. They’re as accomplished, and seamlessly manage Agile implementations, new development and challenging clients’ all-the-while bringing to the fore their unique senses of humour, adorable idiosyncrasies and beautiful minds.

Darth Vader once said of young Luke “The Force is strong with this one.” – No truer a saying when it comes to my guys. Domain-driven development, practical integration architecture and logical coding their weapons of choice as they consistently provide innovative, cutting-edge software design packages. Working in a technology-agnostic development house brings with it the opportunity to get creative, to reach for the Cloud, to go where no app has gone before.

“Live long and prosper!”

The Big Bang Theory is most certainly iconic and its characters almost legendary – it’s pseudo nerd heaven. I await each new episode with relish all-the-while embracing the parallel that in my office, not two doors away sits a Sheldon or a Howard in a superhero T-shirt ready and waiting, to astound the techie world.

Season’s Greetings to one and all! Keep an eye out for the next rendition of the Parallel Theory: Techies vs Zombies – Post Apocalypse Gaming.

About the Author:
Illana Graff is a Business Analyst, Technical Writer and Blog Editor at KRS. When she isn’t watching The Big Bang Theory she can most certainly be found on an adventure somewhere in her 4×4.

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