Respectful Insolence

I am the über-nerd. Bow before me.

Janet, Janet, Janet.

What have you wrought? I know you’re hosting the Skeptics’ Circle next week, which gives you much cred in my book, but why this now?

Annoyed at being shut out of the hottest scienceblogger list, you decreed a nerd-off, and then everybody had to get into the act, including Nick, Chad, Janet again, Joshua, PZ, Shelley (who in reality should be automatically disqualified, having been elected the hottest scienceblogger), John Wilkins, Afarensis, Razib, and Mike Dunford. (Bora tried to deny that he is a nerd, but I detect serious nerdiness underneath that seemingly cool exterior. Bora, let your nerd flag fly!)

They’re all a bunch of rank amateurs. Orac is the real deal. And, at the risk of giving those who do not like the Respectful Insolence that is laid down here on a regular basis too much ammunition to attack me and of shocking those of my colleagues who know about this blog (not to mention the one patient that I’m aware of who knows of it as well), I’ll show you why:

1. Janet says, “My momma programs in COBOL.” Well, my daddy programs in COBOL, too, but he also learned his programming back when programming meant rewiring circuit boards.

2. I learned to program in FORTRAN. Unstructured FORTRAN. I liked it. Too bad that, 35 years later, I’ve utterly forgotten how to do it. Oh, and my wife tells me that she learned to program in FORTRAN, too.

3. I first read The Hobbit when I was around 11 and The Lord of the Rings when I was around 12. By the time I finished high school, I had read them all at least three or four times. By now, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read them, and I still often go back and read individual chapters when the mood strikes me. I’ve also read Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune multiple times, although the last time was many years ago. (Hmmm, come to think of it, maybe the old paperbacks wouldn’t disintegrate if I gave them one more spin. Best to wait until after my Surgery Boards recertification exam, though.)

4. My dorm roommate during my sophomore year had a computer terminal, the old fashioned kind that where you had to pop the phone receiver into the padded holders to hook it up to the modem. We used to use it to connect to the university mainframe and play various text-based games for hours.

5. My friends and I used to go up to North Campus (at the University of Michigan) to play Star Trek (the old ASCII game) until the very last bus ran back to Central Campus at around 1 or 2 AM.

6. I was an avid Dungeons & Dragons player from my senior year in high school until internship and residency eliminated any time I had for such pursuits. Indeed, my old high school friends used to come up to the dorm and we would drink beer and adventure until well into the night. This continued all the way through medical school, albeit with decreasing frequency.

7. in 1987, I paid money to see Gene Roddenberry speak about the then new Star Trek: The Next Generation series.

8. Sitting in my office at home are (besides my computer): an Elvis clock (complete with a pendulum made to look like his swiveling hips); a 12″ model of the Incredible Hulk; a replica two-handed sword; a Dalek-shaped cookie jar; a variety of EneMan Christmas ornaments; posable figures of Kirk, Spock, and Doctor McCoy; a Lava Lamp; a talking Yoda, complete with lightsaber to train with; several Monty Python and the Holy Grail bobbleheads; the model of Minas Tirith from the extended edition DVD of The Return of the King; a Kung Fu hamster; a telephone shaped like the starship Enterprise (not in use, but it looks cool); a foam heart, brain, and red blood cell; a posable action figure of The Road Warrior; a whole boatload of science fiction books, a whole boatload of books about World War II and the Holocaust; a candle shaped like a dragon; a bust of Willliam Shakespeare; a Darth Vader helmet; paperback SF books over 30 years old; a Gandalf action figure; two Lord of the Rings posters (although I do have to admit that I lose nerd points for the posters because my wife kindly framed them for me–just taping them to the wall would have earned considerably more nerd points); a collection of baseball caps; and several other nerdly things. I have no idea how my wife puts up with it, but it’s probably because all of my nerdiness (not to mention bad decorating taste) is concentrated in just one room and the rest of the house is pretty much hers to decorate as she sees fit (namely, tastefully).

Here are a couple of pictures:

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(Note the Lord of the Rings paraphernalia, the phone shaped like the starship Enterprise, the Dalek cookie jar, and the EneMan Christmas ornaments.)

i-077e30da553f1f1359268465128a71af-IMGP0067.JPG

Need I say more? Although I can’t resist pointing out, if you’re interested, that you can look at the titles of the books behind Kirk, Spock, and McCoy for more evidence of nerdiness.

Onward:

9. I own all five seasons of Babylon 5 on DVD.

10. I own all three original seasons of Star Trek on DVD, as well as movies 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8. (A true nerd would know why I never purchased Star Trek V. Here’s a five word hint: Row, row, row your boat.)

11. I have collected comics since 1975. In that time, I’ve collected Fantastic Four more or less continuously (OK, there were a couple of breaks when the stories started stinking big time and another for several months after they “killed off” Reed Richards) and have extended my collection back into the 1960′s. Although I don’t buy nearly as many as I used to, I still average around 4-5 titles per month, down from a height of around 10-12 titles/ month about 15-20 years ago. I no longer know how many comics I own, but it’s about eight full long boxes worth.

12. My favorite character in Fantastic Four is Reed Richards, who to some extend stimulated my interest in science.

13. In my office at work, there are pictures of Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy, an EneMan clock, and a calendar featuring old World War II fighter planes. (I can’t quite express myself at work in the same way that I can at home, for obvious reasons. I also get away with it because, thankfully, my office is off the beaten path, and I like it that way.)

14. This one’s for you, Mark: Last year, when the first season of the new Doctor Who was on CBC in Canada (which could be received in Detroit), my mom recorded it and sent it to me every few weeks. When I discovered BitTorrent this year, I got every single episode of the second season with David Tennant and returned the favor, sending her a new DVD every couple of weeks. I plan on doing the same thing for Torchwood, the Doctor Who spinoff, this fall and the third season of the new Doctor Who series next year.

15. After I successfully defended my Ph.D. thesis, my reward to myself was to go out to My Generation Records in the Cleveland area to purchase for myself the Led Zeppelin CD cube.

16. My friends and I were near the front of the line to see The Empire Strikes Back when it was released in 1980, and we did it again in 1983, when Return of the Jedi was released. We also went to see Raiders of the Lost Ark and Blade Runner the weekends they were released in 1981 and 1982, respectively. And I plan on purchasing the DVDs of the original, unaltered Star Wars trilogy next week when they are released.

17. When I get home early enough to see Jeopardy!, I frequently get the Final Jeopardy question right.

18. I blog, and I use as my pseudonym the name of a cranky, arrogant artificial intelligence from an obscure British science fiction television series that ran from the late 1970′s to the early 1980′s.

I rest my case.

But in case that’s not enough, finally, I will admit that PZ did demonstrate some pretty impressive Nerd-fu with the picture of himself that he posted. He also beat me by a small margin on the Nerd Quiz. However, believe it or not, I think I can still beat him. Doing so would, however, require going nuclear. I would be forced to scan and post one of my class pictures from junior high school from the 1970′s, complete with dorky glasses and long hair. However, I am a responsible person. Exposing the blogosphere to such an image might rend the very fabric of the space-time continuum itself, or, at the very least, the image might cause blindness in some viewers who saw it, much as the spitting snakes that Steve Irwin took on (an incident that I reminisced about in my tribute to Steve Irwin after his death) can do. At the very least, it would probably result in Google blacklisting me, causing my traffic to plummet to unmeasurable levels and the kind folks running ScienceBlogs asking why on earth they bother to waste bandwidth by continuing to host me.

Nobody would want that, least of all me.

I will have to admit that I’ve had to “overcome” some of my nerdly qualities, however, in order to interact with my patients appropriately and to do my job. If it weren’t for that, I assure you, no one here would even stand a chance against me.

Comments

  1. #1 wolfwalker
    September 7, 2006

    Orac,

    Liking Julian May is not a sign of nerdliness. (Though possibly having the whole Saga of Pliocene Exile in the SFBC hardcover versions is.)

    Reading and liking Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion partly because of its accurate portrayal of life as a mercenary soldier is a sign of nerdliness.

    Buying a full-price hardcover of a book you already have in paperback, just because you have a chance to get it autographed by the author, is a sign of nerdliness.

    Using a trip to Worldcon as an excuse to go somewhere else you’d like to go is a sign of nerdliness.

    What design is the two-handed sword? And is it just a generic sword, or is it a replica of some specific sword from TV or movie?

  2. #2 Samantha Vimes
    September 7, 2006

    The Dalek cookie jar is so cute, but so small. It must hold tiny cookies. Still, better than the usual content of a Dalek.

  3. #3 Dunc
    September 7, 2006

    Pah! Wannabe! By 12, I’d read The Silmarillion, and my first exposure to computer programming was in hex on a TI industrial controller at the age of about 9. I also cut my teeth on a 1-bit system my dad built from discrete components on the dining room table, which could be modified by reconfiguing the connections between several independant sub-modules, and was programmed in raw binary.

    And Led Zep on CD? Puh-lease! Original vinyls on a home-built turntable and valve amps, with extra points available for implementing the secret 3.18us time constant in the RIAA stage. More extra points for using period valves.

    Oh, and Blake’s 7 isn’t that obscure, really. The writings of Lord Dunsany are obscure.
    ;) ;) ;)

  4. #4 Orac
    September 7, 2006

    By 12, I’d read The Silmarillion

    Here’s the problem. The Silmarillion hadn’t been released yet when I was 12; consequently it was impossible for me to have read it at that young an age. Had it existed when I was 12, I would surely have read it right after LotR. However, in 1977 when The Silmarillion was published, I got a first edition copy the day it was released and then read it. I still have that book. (Alternatively, I could have won simply by having built a time machine to go forward a few years into the future to have gotten the book when I was still 12.)

    As for Led Zeppelin CDs, well, how do you know I don’t also have them all on the original vinyl, including In Through the Out Door with its original packaging, which included a paper bag cover that hid which of the three or four different album cover pictures you were getting?

    As for Blake’s 7, it actually is pretty obscure. Just ask people if they know what it is, even SF fans, and you’ll see what I mean. A few will know what it is, and even fewer still will be familiar with it. That’s probably because it wasn’t shown that widely in the U.S. and hasn’t, as far as I’ve been able to tell, been available on U.S. airwaves in at least a decade. Similarly, the DVDs have never been released in the U.S., and you can’t find the videos anymore.

  5. #5 Dunc
    September 7, 2006

    Dude, those smilies were there for a reason… No-one can ever win a nerd-off, because there is No True Nerd. It’s just an invitation to get meta-nerdy – ie, nerdy about the definition of nerdiness.

    Anyway, I’m a geek. But not in the carnie sense.

  6. #6 Aaron M
    September 7, 2006

    Oh holy jeebus I want a Dalek cookie jar.

  7. #7 Dunc
    September 7, 2006

    Why not aim higher and build a full-size dalek?

    http://www.dalekcity.co.uk/

    (Although their new web design seems frelled in Firefox)

  8. #8 Dawn
    September 7, 2006

    Oh, my gosh, Orac! Don’t tell me that you were one of those guys who hung around Bursley at the video games for hours on end? I thought a few of them were pretty cute, but I was too shy to talk/interrupt the intense interest in the game.

  9. #9 NJ
    September 7, 2006

    …there is No True Nerd

    Is this the No True Nerdsman fallacy?

  10. #10 Jennifer
    September 7, 2006

    But, but, but . . .

    You’re too cute to be a nerd ;)

  11. #11 Jackdog
    September 7, 2006

    Those books look like they’re from the SF book club. Are you still a member?

  12. #12 Keith Douglas
    September 7, 2006

    Dunc is right. I think we have to normalize nerdiness by one’s age or older folks are more nerdy. Of course, maybe that’s the point … that nerdiness is really a matter of being able to tell what engineers call “war stories” … hmmmmmmmmmm.

    (Do I get points for using “normalize” that way in a sentence? :))

  13. #13 Ruth
    September 7, 2006

    I was lit geek. All of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky by age 14. Grabbed the English translation of “Gulag Archipelago” at 15. (Orac-have you read “Cancer Ward”?-1950′s oncology with the fall of Stalinism). Only a nerd would read DH Lawrence at 15 and notice he uses ‘fuck’ as a noun and not a verb (and hope there were no urushiol-containing plants in the Chatterly woods). Plus LOTR and the usual sci fi.

  14. #14 Occams Edge
    September 7, 2006

    big suprise, my results

    Your nerdiness is:

    All hail the monstrous nerd. You are by far the SUPREME NERD GOD!!!

    and does anyone else have a “Revenge of the Jedi” poster?

  15. #15 Socialist Swine
    September 7, 2006

    Orac,

    You really are nerdy! I’ve always considered myself as an outlier when it comes to the bell curve of nerdiness. However, I was only with you for about the first five or six items on your list. Then you just totally blew me out of the water. I really need to work on further developing my nerdiness.

  16. #16 Twin Spectrum
    September 7, 2006

    What? No board war games? Orac, I hate to admit it…We’re the same age and if I had come across you in college, it would have been a land speed record set in the other direction. Everyone has nerd qualities. Glad to see you exhalt and embrace yours!

  17. #17 Betsy
    September 7, 2006

    But—-But—what about RED DWARF?????????

  18. #18 Dave Godfrey
    September 7, 2006

    Maybe its a British thing? In the UK Blake’s 7 is fondly remembered by people brought up in the ’70s, and was a massive influence on (British) writers like Iain M. Banks, Alastair Reynolds and China Mieville. Its also avaliable on VHS and DVD (region 2).

  19. #19 Jeff Knapp
    September 7, 2006

    OK OK. I bow before the Übernerd ORAC. However, do you listen to music like THIS? If this ain’t nerdy, I don’t know what is. (I have every single recording they ever released.)

  20. #20 TheBrummell
    September 7, 2006

    You are indeed of a very high level in the Nerd character class.

    The only way I can think of to enhance your nerdosity would be to somehow get a character based on yourself into the next Niven/Pournelle sci-fi shelf-bender. You’d probably have to take up Filk-singing to acheive that, though.

  21. #21 Graculus
    September 7, 2006

    2. I learned to program in FORTRAN. Unstructured FORTRAN.

    My first programming was Fortran 66 (WATFOR) on an 1130.

    3. I first read The Hobbit when I was around 11 and The Lord of the Rings when I was around 12.

    I was reading “East of Eden” and “The Prince”. At thirteen I tackled “Dhalgren”.. and liked it (I think that liking Delany’s “Dhalgren” actually disqualifies me from nerd status).

    We used to use it to connect to the university mainframe and play various text-based games for hours.

    I wrote text-based games.

    6. I was an avid Dungeons & Dragons player from my senior year in high school.

    I was playing D&D (first edition, natch) from my second year in HS.

    a replica two-handed sword;

    My swords aren’t replicas of any particular ones. I have 2 scramaseax, a bastard sword, a boar spear, a longbow and chainmail… for my dog.

    8. Sitting in my office at home are

    Old SF books aside; 12 feet of vinyl, several replica Books of Hours, a skull candle holder, a plushy Cthulhu, a Playmobile vulture, Captain Capacitor toy, blacklight cobra and Ghastlycrumb Tinies posters, “DOS Job Control for COBOL Programmers”, a limited edition Ral Partha Great Red Dragon and two Bridge of Sorrows (one finished), a plastic model of the Osberg ship and a painted cow’s skull. Among other rather bizarre and eclectic things. My SO calls it “the Mausoleum”.

    15. ..my reward to myself was to go out to My Generation Records in the Cleveland area to purchase for myself the Led Zeppelin CD cube.

    I bought myself the “Remains of Tom Lehrer” collection from Rhino after surviving the office move.

    Where I lose nerd points big time is my complete disdain for things Trek, Robert Jordan, and MMORPG.

    On the other hand, I am familiar with Blake’s 7, I know Latin and I use MEK instead of glue on my plastic models.

  22. #22 Orac
    September 7, 2006

    At thirteen I tackled “Dhalgren”.. and liked it (I think that liking Delany’s “Dhalgren” actually disqualifies me from nerd status).

    Amazingly, I read it in junior high. I remember reading it during homeroom. Fortunately the teacher had no clue what was in the book. Even more fortunately my parents didn’t know either.

    Even at that tender age, I thought it was pretty bad, actually, sex scenes or no sex scenes.

    Of course, I think that some of my biggest nerd points come from the fact that, not only do I like Blakes 7, but I assumed one of its characters as a pseudonym.

  23. #23 rhubarb
    September 8, 2006

    I’m only a mid-level nerd, which may account for the fact that I spurned Dhalgren but read Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron in junior high with the express intent of shocking my mother. It worked.

    Later, I taught myself to play the Blake’s 7 theme song on my cheesy Yamaha keyboard. And I wrote SF fanfiction back when ‘zines were still being mimeographed.

    Orac, I think you deserve double points for not choosing “Avon” as your nom de blog.

  24. #24 bad Jim
    September 8, 2006

    I don’t like games, and that may be why I only scored 91 on the nerd scale, but my when my father was in his cups he used to diagram functions as differential amplifier circuit diagrams on envelopes. We had an analog computer in the garage, and I’m not sure how many Osbornes (his and mine) we still have in the attic. I even have an old terminal with an EPROM reprogrammed to make it friendlier to WordStar.

    For a large part of my professional career my main tool was a reverse-engineered and idiosyncratically augmented assembler, which I was at liberty to mold nearer to my heart’s desire. I had the wherewithal to buy any of the latest factory models, but they never offered the features I craved.

    I could boast of my early retirement and fat bank account, but I’d have to admit that I’ve yet to hack my under-featured Razr phone (Verizon, CDMA-only, Bluetooth crippled) and concede a considerable falling off of nerdish audacity.

  25. #25 Graculus
    September 8, 2006

    Amazingly, I read it in junior high. I remember reading it during homeroom. Fortunately the teacher had no clue what was in the book. Even more fortunately my parents didn’t know either.

    Heh. My parents opened the book once. “Well, that’s interesting.”

    You are now another data point in the so far complete negative correlation between Star Trek fandom and “Dhalgren”. ;-)

  26. #26 Deacon Barry
    September 8, 2006

    Hobbit – age 9
    LOTR – age 11 in four days on a caravan holiday in Scarborough.
    Watched Blake’s Seven when it first aired on BBC1.
    Read Macchiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ at secondary school. There was actually a copy in the school library, and I was the first person to read it since 1935! They also had ‘Erewhon’ and ‘Erewhon revisited’. I missed out a bit on the computer revolution, which explains my ‘lightly nerdish’ score of 59%.

  27. #27 Daniel Morgan
    September 9, 2006

    My. Sweet. Lord.

    You won. I’m voting for you.

  28. #28 Pi Guy
    September 9, 2006

    I scored a 99 on the Nerd Test (http://www.piguy3point14.blogspot.com/), I’m a
    Trekkie, read LOTR at least 6 times, own my own slide rule and still carry a graphic calculator everywhere and I can’t even begin to compete with this.

    All Hail!

  29. #29 Kim
    September 10, 2006

    Wow, I scored a 70 on the nerd test, absolutely love Star Trek, have every robot novel written by Isaac Asimov, a Roomba robot vacuum that I actually talk baby talk to and think the best movie ever made was A.I.

    I now bow in humble servitude to your highly esteemable nerdiness.

    I hear nerds are supposed to make the best lovers…I’m not making that up! I really did read it!

    In Nerd Monthly…..

  30. #30 King Aardvark
    September 11, 2006

    Wow, supreme nerd god indeed.

    All you need now is to build your own mediaeval trebuchet in your backyard (or prove that you really want to, but lack the manual labour skills to do so).