Tag Archives: nerds

You don’t have to love what I love, but not all differences are merely opinions

"I respect people who get nerdy as fuck about something they love."
“I respect people who get nerdy as fuck about something they love.”
I’m a nerd, and an old one at that. So, for instance, I watched Star Trek: the Original Series when it was on prime time television back in 1966 (I was in kindergarten and first grade, but I watched them!). And I have a giant collection of classic Doctor Who episodes in our disk library. And every time my family moved to a new town during my childhood, I quickly found, checked out, and read every book by Heinlein, Bradbury, Le Guin, and Asimov I could find in the school and public library. And so on, and so on. But I also happen to love watching my favorite football team play. And I love finding science fiction and fantasy authors whose worlds don’t erase queer people, women, people of color, and don’t replicate the patriarchal white imperialism that much of the scf fi I grew up on assumed to be normal.

I don’t think that I should impose my faves on other people. I will enthuse about things I love so emphatically that it sometimes comes across that way, and I am sorry to anyone that has felt that I was pressuring them to like everything I like or dismissing their difference of opinion.

At least I’m not as bad as some people. One of my friends was recently scolded for using the phrase “sportsball.” The person doing the scolding said that sportsball was a derogatory term that implies that people who like sports are bad. To say I was flabbergasted would be an understatement.

I’m a football fan (specifically most often the Seahawks) and I use the phrase “sportsball” all the time. Sometimes I use it when the topic under discussion is a sport that I am less well informed about, such as professional Soccer or Basketball. Sometimes I use it because I know that I am talking to people who do not like sports, and I am attempting to signal that I understand they might not find the topic as interesting as I do. And sometimes I use it to communicate the fact that I know it is an entertainment and a luxury and not of real importance to the life and well-being of 99% of the planet.

For someone to leap to the conclusion that “sportsball” is a derogatory term is laughable, at best. I, certainly would never disparage someone simply for being a fan of one or more sports. Unless that person is a fan of the New England Patriots, or the Dallas Cowboys, or the Philadelphia Eagles—because those fans are just not right in the head. To be fair, plenty of them think the same thing about Seahawks fans, but that’s one of the weird things in sports culture, at least the portions of it I’ve been involved in—we trash talk each other’s teams all the time.

I have a very old friend who is a big fan of the Arizona Cardinals, and he teases me by calling my team the Sea Chickens all the time. And I have been known to make the comment that his team’s mascot should be a possum, because they play dead at home and get killed on the road. There’s also one of my sisters-in-law who is a big Kansas City fan, and before the last divisional re-org, our teams had to play each other twice a year, so we have been known to taunt one another whenever the other’s team loses.

But those are people I know, and we know that just because we’re super enthusiastic about our faves, that doesn’t mean we’re talking about something that really matters in the big scheme of things.

That isn’t true of all forms of criticism, though. It’s one thing, for instance, if I say that I really enjoyed reading the science fiction of Robert Heinlein when I was younger. Or how much I learned from reading the non-fiction of Isaac Asimov (and also loved his sci fi work). It’s quite another if I tell other people they must like those writers or else. Particularly if they are offended by Asimov’s personal sexual misconduct, or Heinlein’s sometimes rampant jingoism (and his weird attempts to not be racist or sexist that come across very differently today).

I don’t deal well with certain types of scary movies. I have nightmares, they crank up my anxieties, and sometimes I get physically ill. I have friends who can’t watch really violent shows for similar reasons. Certain shows sometimes hit some of my other buttons—characters who remind me of my abusive father, for instance. Worse, situations that remind me of specific beatings. So there are some shows and even some stories, that I get partway through and have to put aside. There are a couple of authors whose work I refuse to read any longer because they are overly fond of certain tropes/actions/plot devices that have a similar effect on me as those aforementioned scary movies. My approach to all of these things I dislike is to not buy them, not read them, or not watch them. I don’t tell other people they are bad people if they partake of those things.

“We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”
(click to embiggen)
However, there are other books I don’t read or shows I don’t watch because the stories themselves promote and revel in various kinds of bigotry or oppression. There is at least one author who took that beyond the fiction to write op-ed pieces in various publications calling for laws to oppress certain categories of people (women and queers, mostly), who fundraised for organizations who actively sought that oppression, and who even in some of the op-ed pieces explicitly encouraged the bullying of children who appeared to be queer, and wrote justifications for gay bashing. For those kinds of things, I can’t just stand by quietly. I speak. I write critiques. I encourage people not to spend money on those things. And, yes, I do think less of the people who read those works.

That’s different than referring to something one doesn’t enjoy as much as other people by an intentional misnomer.

And don’t get me started about separating the art from the artist. Scroll back up a few paragraphs where I explain that I love work by certain people who were less than exemplary in all aspects of their lives.

The thing is, it’s okay if you don’t love the stuff I love. As long as what I love isn’t causing harm to you or others, or encouraging harm of any kind to you or other people, I think I should be able to enjoy it, and you can ignore it, and we can be friends. And if I happen to say I don’t like something you love, that isn’t an attack on you. Even when my critique is emphatic, I’m commenting on it, not you.

But I think the Weird Al said it best:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Confessions of a nerd

I had taken this test before, but recently found a link to it and took it again:

I am nerdier than 73% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to take the Nerd Test, get geeky images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!

I was struck by how dated some of the questions were, then I found the Nerd Test 2.0 on the same site and took it, and it was a bit better:

NerdTests.com says I'm a Cool Nerd God.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get geeky images and jokes, and talk to others on the nerd forum!

But still terribly dated. For instance, the second test mentions owning computers with more than a gig of memory. Really? Smart phones have that much memory, now. Therefore, all sorts of non-nerds own at least one computing-type device that falls into that category. I get that when the test was written, that threshold was a big deal, but what sort of nerd doesn’t think about how quickly technology becomes obsolete, and therefore would try to design a test so that it could still be relevant in a year or three?

In the sketch, four Yorkshiremen tell ever more ludicrous tales of how poor and disadvantaged they were as children, then another insists that was luxury compared to theirs...
In the sketch, four Yorkshiremen tell ever more ludicrous tales of how poor and disadvantaged they were as children, then another insists that was luxury compared to theirs… (click to embiggen)
The tests also mention owning computers with less than 512K of memory, which would imply that one owned a computer some years ago when home computers were less ubiquitous. But my first thought when reading the question was, “512K? Luxury!” (And yes, I am alluding to the old Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen sketch)

Seriously, the first computer I ever owned only had 1K of memory… and no persistent storage.

But I have nerdy/geek friends who weren’t even alive in 1983 when the Timex Sinclair was a thing, so using it (or even the 512K range) as a means to measure one’s nerdiness smacks more of ageism than actual nerdiness. It’s true that I have sometimes bragged about the fact that the only programming class I ever took involved writing our programs with punch cards. Hey! Fortran was cutting edge at one time!

But most of my point about that is: my whole adult life I have made a living in the computer industry and at different times my job has included coding or scripting (which aren’t the same thing, but they both involve algorithmic thinking), but I’ve done it all without taking formal classes in any of the languages that I have ever been required to use on the job. I’m not really bragging about how early I got into computers, because that is simply a product of how old I am. Since I had no control over when I would be born, that’s out of my control. I usually bring it up to say that the important thing about any skill is your ability to learn new stuff as you go and don’t be afraid to try something just because you’ve never done it before.

While things like a Nerd Test can be fun, there’s an awful lot of gatekeeping implied in many (most) of the questions (and we’ve had more than enough gatekeeping going on around here!). That doesn’t even get into the whole conflation of nerd and geek and dork!

I’m a nerd. I get really enthusiastic and pedantic about the things I love. And a lot of those things have to do with math, science, technology, science fiction, and fantasy. But you can be nerdy about words, or knitting, or art supplies, or bow hunting, or vintage cars, or—well, anything! One of my friends has been nerding out the last year or so on cocktail making, for instance. I have friends who nerd-out about cellos. It’s all good, and we don’t need to keep score.

I’m attending NorWesCon this weekend. We skipped the last couple of years, and I’ve really missed it. I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time hanging out with many different kinds of nerds, and being a big ol’ nerd myself.

It’ll be fun!

Mirror, mirror…

Can with a TV remote.
Obviously not actually me, as there is only one remote in the picture…
Several years ago I was reading about the new shows coming out the next season, and one, The Big Bang Theory, sounded like exactly the sort of show that I would hate. So I didn’t make any attempt to watch any episodes. Not very long after the season started, I heard from a few different acquaintances that it was not a good show. The specific comments were that it made fun of nerds by portraying them in completely exaggerated, stereotypical, and unrealistic ways. So I continued to ignore it for all of the first season.

And then another nerdy/geek/fannish friend happened to mention, midway through the second season, that he was strangely addicted to the show. I mentioned the reasons I had assumed I wouldn’t like it, and he said, “Oh, me too!” Then he explained how his wife (a person who has been even more immersed in fannish culture than either her hubby or me) had watched the first season on Netflix. “I tried to ignore, and work on stuff on my computer. But it kept making me laugh… and it usually made me laugh because the characters acted exactly like some of our friends.”

Continue reading Mirror, mirror…

Not the cool one

I love The Big Bang Theory. I didn’t expect to. In fact, when I read about the show before it first aired, I was convinced that not only would it be horrible, but that it would obviously be a collection of low-brow humor built around making fun of nerds.

And since I’m a nerd, freak, and a geek from way back, I just didn’t see the point.

Then a pair of friends—both nerds—told me how funny it was. As one said, “Yes, the humor is at the expense of the nerds, but it’s things that are true about nerds. Not only do I know people exactly like them, many times I’ve been the people just like them.”

As I watched it, I’ve had one realization over and over. Every time I start thinking that while I am nerdy, of the four central characters, I’m more like Leonard (the least socially awkward one), Sheldon (the über-est nerd) will do something that is exactly like me. Or I will say something that I realize would be totally in character for Sheldon to say.

For instance, today a friend made a comment on Twitter about President’s Day, and before I knew what I was doing, I had replied to point out that the official Federal holiday is called “Washington’s Birthday Observance.” President’s Day is a completely unofficial name adopted mostly by advertising people. Explaining that to someone is something I could easily see Sheldon doing on the show. Having dipped my toes into Sheldon-land, I might as well leap on in.

I’m old enough that I remember when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed by Congress (it was signed into law during the summer of 1968—between my first and second grades—though it didn’t go into effect until January of ’71). I have quite distinct memories of teachers explaining, after the law was passed, how Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday would no longer be observed as separate holidays, but that a Monday between them would be the new holiday.

Except not one fact in that sentence was true.

Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12, has never been observed as a Federal holiday. Some states at various times have observed it, but as far as I have been able to tell, none of the states I lived in as a child was one of them. I could digress for a bit about how there are no national holidays, and why states are free to ignore federal holidays, and why a Lincoln’s birthday is controversial in some states, but let’s leave that for another day.

Washington’s Birthday, February 22, was observed as a holiday only in the District of Columbia beginning in 1879. It wasn’t until 1885 that an act of Congress declared it a holiday to be observed at all federal agencies and offices throughout the states and territories.

In the 1950s some citizens started lobbying to have March 4, the original Inauguration Day, declared a federal Presidents’ Day holiday to honor the office of the presidency. A bill to name both Lincoln’s Birthday and this March 4 Presidents’ Day as federal holidays in addition to the existing Washington’s Birthday got stalled in Congress in part because some felt that three federal holidays in such close proximity was too much.

By the time the Uniform Monday Holiday bill was introduced, the first draft did specify that the third Monday in February would be observed as Washington and Lincoln Day, but that draft never got out of committee. The bill that was actually passed named the third Monday in February Washington’s Birthday Observance. Lincoln’s Birthday wasn’t included or mentioned.

A couple of states do officially observe a Presidents’ Day, but neither does so in February. Massachusetts recognizes May 29 (John F. Kennedy’s birthday) as Presidents’ Day in honor of the four men from Massachusetts who have served as president thus far: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge, and JFK. New Mexico observes a Presidents’ Day to honor all who have served as President, but the holiday is designated as the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Most of the rest of the states recognize the third Monday in February as Washington’s Birthday. In Virginia the official name is George Washington Day. In Alabama, the official name is Washington and Jefferson Day, in honor of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In Arkansas the official name is George Washington and Daisy Gatson Bates Day, to honor both Washington and Daisy Bates, a civil rights activist.

Currently, only three states officially recognize Lincoln’s Birthday as a holiday: Illinois, Connecticut, and Missouri. All three observe it on the 12th, no matter what day of the week that date falls on.

So the next time someone calls it Presidents’ Day, you’re prepared to set them straight.

Because neither Sheldon nor I can be everywhere.