September 7, 2006

On the Nerd-Off

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at September 7, 2006 6:31 PM

Many of the science bloggers are competing over the question of who among them is the biggest nerd, apparently starting with this post. I'm going to stay out of this one, since I've been tapering down my nerdy activities somewhat over the last few years in a (possibly misguided) effort to pass for "normal". Besides, there's no way I could compete with entries like Rob Knop's.

On the other hand, being a nerd is more of an attitude than it is a particular subculture, and this is not so easily escaped by diversifying one's interests—I may listen to hipster music (by coincidence!) but my meticulously maintained iTunes library with detailed tagging and multilayered Smart Playlists gives away my nerdish tendencies.

I suspect, however, that my nerd level peaked that time I wore a Starfleet uniform to a Renaissance fair.

Tags: Life

Knop's list IS impressive, but I was able to leave him a smart-aleck remark from a nerd with both acting and Japanese Culture roots...

Of all that Star Trek know-how, he misspelled George Takei's name. The confusion probably originates from the pronunciation of it, which sounds like it should be "Takai". But as he said at William Shatner's roast: "Bill, my name is Tahk-AY. Not Tahk-EYE, as you've been pronouncing it for the last thirty years!"

Posted by: Josh | September 7, 2006 6:46 PM

Sadly I can't top Rob Knop (although quite a few of the items on there are extremely familiar), but I am proud of my nerdiness and in no way do I want to become more "normal." I greatly prefer being Lorentzian.

Although perhaps my "best" story of how nerdy I really am (and maybe a major foreshadowing) was in 7th grade when two of us were going to write a fantasy game in basic, needed a likeness of a girl to be the princess to be rescued, and asked for her number so we could discuss that with her over the phone. Man, am I a winner. (And I don't think I have told this story since 8th grade... I don't usually remember it, but for some reason I'm recalling it now. I knew her better, so the task was assigned to me. I did get a number for a friend's where she was supposedly staying that weekend, some person nearby [presumably the one who lived there] complained very loudly about her giving me this number. I actually did end up calling but I didn't reach her there, so I don't know if it was a "real" number, but this is somebody I had talked to a reasonable amount all year (both before and after) and who made it a point to give me chocolate the next year (when she visited campus after transferring schools), so I'm ok with how things turned out.

And the game never went beyond an extremely pixelated princess which looked more like a very coarse-grained "fractal" (by which I really mean a blob) than anything else.

Seattle is pretty cool, by the way. It reminds me somewhat of Portland. It's a very liberal city. Awesome!

Posted by: Mason | September 7, 2006 7:09 PM

The roast was fanastic.

Seattle? Portland? Sounds like a good first-order approximation. North and rainy.

Posted by: Lemming | September 7, 2006 7:26 PM

Both are very nice cities (and both are very liberal). I forgot my camera. Damn. There was a large statue of a troll under a bridge, nice water scenery, and in incredible view of Mt. Rainier while the plane was descending.

I am apparently missing the rainy season (famous last words), though you're correct that it's very long. Seattle has much more rain than Portland. It's not clear which one is more liberal, but Seattle has a university that is a much better fit for me.

By the way, a U Dub grad student was telling a story that ended with a famous applied mathematician (with a New York-ese accent) turning around to the class and exclaming, "Uniform convergence is for school girls!" Dude! (I'll provide context later.)

Posted by: Mason | September 7, 2006 10:38 PM

I will note that it's not a kind of nerd self-loathing that has driven me to become less nerdy, but rather a desire to broaden my horizons and be able to relate to a wider range of people I meet. Not that nerds are inherently insular as individuals but nerd subcultures can be that way sometimes.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | September 8, 2006 4:22 PM

Broadening one's horizons may or may not change where one is on the nerdiness axis.

I have tons of interests---certainly many more than when I was an undergrad (it's amazing what happens with free time and several years of growth)---but I'd consider many of them (including that in artsy movies) to be closely correlated to nerdiness in certain (perhaps even many) respects.

By the way, did I ever mention that your inferiority complex is much better than mine? :)

Posted by: Mason | September 8, 2006 5:11 PM

I used to be a alpha nerd/geek but i think over time my nerdity has descreased... That said i am hapoy with my marginaly balanced life :) And i am still a c++ programer with a degree from RPI that must count for something.

Posted by: shellock | September 9, 2006 8:58 AM

Yeah, it means you had to put up with Troy, New York for a few years. I've been there. That city is awful. Why would anybody want to put a good school there? It just makes no sense and punishes lots of people who presumably don't deserve such punishment. :)

Posted by: Mason | September 9, 2006 4:29 PM

And shellock don't forget Geeklove! That has to count for something too...

I guess I count for a nerd/geek. Though when comparing against my coworkers I tend to forget that. We've got a geeky bunch @my company. I also have lots of normal non-geek interests.

Posted by: Sharon | September 10, 2006 9:41 AM

True married a fellow geek does increase my geekyness quota. As did the GeekLove Gettaway car from the wedding.

Posted by: shellock | September 11, 2006 10:30 AM

Here the nerd/geek distinction comes into play--it's geeky to get married to a fellow geek, but the true nerd never marries.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | September 11, 2006 1:00 PM

Really? The way I use the terminology, at least, it would be nerdy to marry a fellow nerd, but to be a geek is a a completely orthogonal concept.

Posted by: Lemming | September 11, 2006 1:26 PM

Yeah, this looks like a definitional problem. Having just read the Wikipedia entry on the subject (from the Cosmic Variance post that I am about to link on the main page) it seems that the distinction exists but isn't as well-defined as I thought. Anyway, I had in mind that "nerd" connotes a kind of introversion and intellectual absorption that is less compatible with marriage (and probably had in mind Newton as an archetypal nerd), while "geek" due to its circus origins suggests more belonging to a community of like-minded eccentrics. But nailing down strict definitions for these terms is probably a hopeless task...

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | September 11, 2006 1:47 PM

I have found that depending on the group you one groups nerd is another groups geek. In highschool i was a Nerd by NCHS defination. In college i was a geek by RPI convention. In both cases I have a 90% Nerdity Test.

Posted by: shellock | September 11, 2006 2:42 PM

I prefer the appellation nerd to geek, but that's because I grew up with the idea that a nerd was a geek who happened to also be smart. Until Caltech, I had always heard this stuff used against me in a derogatory context, and it took college to become comfortable with who I am (and to find other people like me).

Posted by: Mason | September 11, 2006 7:15 PM
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