The Frontal Cortex

Who is the Dorkiest?

So I was out to dinner recently with some friends and the conversation eventually degenerated into a dork competition. The rules of the game are simple (and extremely dorky). Each person confesses the single dorkiest thing about them. The winner gets a beer. Competing entries ranged from a friend who had pictures of western blots on her cell phone (second place) to someone who kept the Sigma molecular biology catalog next to his toilet (honorable mention). Needless to say, I won the competition. My winning entry was my iPod, which had playlists named for various neurotransmitters. For example, my GABA playlist was full of melancholy slow songs (everything from Blood on the Tracks to Cat Power) while my acetylcholine playlist was stocked with up-tempo music, from R. Kelly to Beck. My dopamine playlist was reserved for those few tracks I can listen to over and over again. (These are the tracks that I’m addicted to…) Of course, you could easily argue that I only won the dork competition because nobody at the table had a good science tattoo.

Now it’s your turn. What is the single dorkiest thing that you do?


  1. #1 margot
    December 8, 2007

    I also take home biotech catalogs and browse them. (better than looking at clothing catalogs.) i personally think that is dorkier than gaba playlists, although thats a good idea too.

  2. #2 cicada
    December 8, 2007

    Crap. I have neurotransmitter playlists too! And I thought I was so creative. . . sigh.

  3. #3 max
    December 8, 2007

    I have very particular ways of doing simple things that, being an AI student, I mentally refer to as algorithms. For example, algorithm for eating many types of sandwich (exceptions include grilled cheese):

    EAT crusts
    EAT inwards in a circular pattern, forcing deliciousness of sandwich inward
    FINISH sandwich by eating massive, delicious bite in middle

    I have not yet performed amortized analysis on my Life Algorithms.

  4. #4 Leisureguy
    December 8, 2007

    That reminds me of the game in one of the novels in David Lodge’s academic trilogy (Changing Places; Small World; Nice Work). I forget the name of the game, but the rules are simple: name the best-known work you’ve never read. You get one point for each other person present who has in fact read the work. It’s the plotspring for an excruciatingly funny dinner.

  5. #5 peggy
    December 8, 2007

    Your post got me wondering about what dork means exactly, and then about the origins. Here is what I’ve found so far:

    Dork is a term of abuse favored by American youngsters, designating the target as quirky, awkward, eccentric, socially inept or simply of lower status. Similar epithets include nerd and geek and the Australian colloquialism of dag which has the added feature of being seen as affable or amusing. Originally a vulgar term for “penis,” the word Dork is often used without any awareness of this sense, as evidenced by its use in the syndicated family cartoon strips Garfield for February 10, 2007 and Big Nate (in the form “dorkus”) for January 13, 2007.

  6. #6 Sarah
    December 8, 2007

    I think peggy wins.

  7. #7 Coturnix
    December 8, 2007

    Do serotonin tunes make you happy and melatonin tunes make you sleepy? And every playlist except ADH makes you pee in your pants?

  8. #8 peggy
    December 8, 2007

    To Sarah,
    Only if you don’t have to have one to be one.

  9. #9 alice
    December 8, 2007

    I read David Hume for fun.

  10. #10 alice
    December 9, 2007

    and I watch CSPAN.

  11. #11 Andrea Grant
    December 9, 2007

    Alphabetized spices? Periodic table shower curtain? Knitting moebeius strips? But then, we already know I’m in the game because one of my tattoos is IN that flickr album.

    When I earned my BS in Physics, each department got to select one student as its ‘honored graduate’ for the year. Mine chose me, leading to much amusement about how to term such an unwieldy honor. We finally settled on ‘Chief Nerd’.

  12. #12 Tina Rhea
    December 9, 2007

    This can’t be a real “dorkiest” contest because the prize is a beer instead of, say, a little solar doodad for the dashboard of your Prius (or in my case Honda Insight) or a gift certificate to

    If I read “Crime and Punishment” for fun, does that make me a literature dork? We had a Greek Verb Chart in one of the bathroom stalls in our dorm. It’s a big chart.

    Now I have to go rename my playlists, muttering, “I shoulda thought of that….”

  13. #13 pelican
    December 9, 2007

    I have a necklace made of an antique scrabble tile with a letter from my name. I thought that in-and-of itself was fairly dorky.

    But then, one of my students asked me if my necklace was in honor of my favorite element. As an aside, I am not a chemist and I don’t teach chemistry, but I guess I just look like I might have a favorite element? I noted that this student clearly couldn’t see the atomic weight would have been incorrect, if in fact my scrabble necklace was honoring the possible favored element. I realized that I would totally wear periodic table based necklaces if I came across them. I would wear them with my silk-screened neuron t-shirt.

  14. #14 Mary
    December 10, 2007

    I am writing a novel in which the hero tries to pick up a girl at a bar by singing to her. He sings the names of all the books of the New Testament in order. The girl responds by reciting the full roster of the English monarchy since 1066. This wouldn’t be terribly dorky except (a) it really happened and (b) I married the guy.

  15. #15 Helia
    December 10, 2007

    Mary, did this take place in Ireland? I bet your husband is British…
    Your entry will prompt a new category: ‘dorky but romantic’ (also a possibility: ‘cheesy but effective’)

  16. #16 Mary
    December 11, 2007

    He’s half-British! And, as you may now guess, the genders in the novel are reversed: in real life, he is the good English boy who knows his kings and I, alas, am the lapsed Southern Baptist…

  17. #17 Helia
    December 11, 2007

    Had to be. Those wonderfully romantic and cultured (not in the petri dish sense but in the educated, well-read, interested-in-and-knowledgeable-about-the-world sense of the word) British men…the love odds are always in their favor. Maybe Jonah should write a post about genetics and romance.

  18. #18 Joe
    December 11, 2007

    I arrange my books in my bookcase in alphabetical order by author. For this, my family calls me a nerd. Does this also make me a dork?

  19. #19 Michelle
    December 12, 2007

    We named our cats Thymus and Thalamus.

  20. #20 amybuilds
    December 13, 2007

    I have an Einstein action figure sitting in a green Porsche Boxter on my writing desk. The scales are different so Einstein has to stand with one foot in each of the front seats. When I have writer’s block I like to drive him around my office.

    Now that I reread this – it doesn’t sound dorky so much as off kilter.

    I never win contests.

  21. #21 Rachel
    December 15, 2007

    My husband and I have a dog named Link…from Legands of Zelda. He’s 6 months old and quite the hyper link.

  22. #22 Connie Carpenter Macko
    December 22, 2007

    It is my fondest wish to have a collection of pocket protectors…. sadder – I have not yet begun it for lack of access to them. Also, I sort my M&M’s prior to eating them (that last bit it probably just odd.)

  23. #23 ges
    December 31, 2007

    i personally think that is dorkier than gaba playlists

  24. #24 modman
    January 16, 2008

    I practiced kanji instead of going skiing last week

  25. #25 Bruce
    January 17, 2008

    Occasionally I recite to myself the list of the 28 prepositions that govern the accusative case in Latin……

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