kate and pansy
think about taking over the world
but instead decide to take another drink
Friday, July 17, 2009

I enjoyed it. It was light, fluffy and surprisingly poignant. And I am very curious how the book club feel about it. Nugent explores the feeling of being socially adrift and how nerds attempt to create a social system that works and makes sense. I, not surprisingly, very much understood this sense that social rules and who was popular and who was liked made no sense to me. I remember feeling very much isolated and the strong desire to find a community of like-minded souls. And this book left me with the question, is this how everyone feels? Or is it just the way nerds feel? Or do nerds feel it more acutely? Or perhaps, nerds take agency and try to make a new, better society, with their rules and their hierarchies and secretly don’t understand why people don’t join with them in their utopia.

Why was it poignant? I loved the bits about Nugent’s nerd-past. And I think in exploring his past, he comes back to my central question of why do nerds pick their order and is their sense of social dissonance universal? I think I am a bit like Nugent, very self-absorbed and seeing things from my own perspective. He assumes that people are nerds for the same reasons he was. That they played d&d for his reasons. When he goes back and talks to his friend, he realises that isn’t so. The nerdish pursuits and the nerd community was serving different functions for his friends. In some ways the little community of social rejects provided its own escape for kids who had a whole lot of confusion and instability in their lives. That he didn’t have this same need becomes apparent when he takes the opportunity to shed his nerdom and hang with the cool crowd. I can fully understand why he did that. His motives make complete sense. But his actions had a horrible cost. It wasn’t enough that he betrayed the people who were there for him in the lean years but that he had to falsely accuse another and sever that person’s connection to the nerd world too (which suddenly reminds me of a story in werewolf comic—they walk by night—but that is an aside too far). He is judas and I am glad he feels the guilt even now.

posted at 2:41 AM
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

After a couple of attempts, I realised I need to have two posts about the book. The first will be a complete navel-gazing recitation of my historical nerdiness. The second and probably much more on subject post will look at the book and some of the questions it has left me with. That I am genuinely looking for answers to.

I like to think of nerdiness as a continuum. And while I most certainly know nerdier people (I knew undergrads I knew who would plan their evening meal so that it wouldn’t interfere with watching reruns of Star Trek where the game was to name the episode before the opening titles came up and then discuss how the teleplay differed from the novelisation of the episode), it would be wrong for me to deny my past.

I was raised by a NASA engineer who used to bring home films of clear air turbulence experiments and have the whole family watch.

When I was 11, I read Shakespeare. Two years later, I organised my friends into digested productions of Macbeth. I am not sure I have ever really solved how to stage the scene where Macduff walks in with Macbeth’s head tucked under his arm (though my was I impressed when I saw how the Reduced Shakespeare Company solved that problem).

In 1979, I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons. Last year, on a visit to my brother, I was reunited with my original boxed basic set, my advanced d&d player’s guide and monster’s manual and my set of dice. I think the twenty-sided is currently sitting on the tv. I was saddened by the news of Gary Gygax’s death.

The first computer language I learned to programme in was Fortran Four. I was working for NASA as a SHARP(summer hire apprentice research programme) on the X-29 forward swept wing project. My mentor tried to convince me that when I went to university I should major in maths because a) it was a great way to meet guys and b) it was a ‘mickey mouse’ major.

Did I mention I was a mathlete? That the first boy I kissed (Farley Stewart who went on to do computer science at UCSD—where they wrote Pascal) was the captain of the mathlete team. We both played in the same dungeon. I was also on the mock trials team, captain of the Academic Decatholon, four years in marching band, student representative on the school board, hated by the general school population and a geek pin-up. I’ve dated a lot of nerds. They like that I read science fiction. And I had breasts.

I may also have written fanfic, been involved in on-line role playing games based on a popular fantasy series, been a regular at the Renn Faire, considered joining the SCA, started blogging over five years ago and have a picture of myself with the crew of DS-9. I have, however, never been to a star trek convention or ComiCon or GenCon even if I have looked up the dates and times for one or more of those events.

I’d like to leave the subject of geek music untouched.

All in all, I fully expect to have a different experience in reading this book than other people. But go on, surprise me.

posted at 5:02 AM
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Just like the state of nature, nasty, brutish and short...I was always fond of the nickname 'Craxi'...Sometimes I cook, sometimes I tend bar, sometimes I even knit. Mostly I try not to read the plethora of government publications that cross my desk and write one page summaries.
favorite food: lobster. ben and jerry's ice cream
favorite show: CSI
favorite drink: grey goose vodka (with ice, it doesn't need anything else)
age: far older than I like to admit/contemplate

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