School is the Weirdest

6753576677_55f52a446d_z

Image courtesy of Gotardo. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

While out at a Local Watering Hole with friends this weekend, there was a brief moment of discomfort when my friends realized that the folks standing nearby were a former middle school classmate and a former middle school teacher. My main reaction was one of delight: for once it wasn’t me running into someone from middle school! I am all about looking on the bright side.

The rest of the evening passed in a pleasant, uneventful way, but the run-in got me thinking about my K-12 education. Despite being a grade-a nerd, I had a perfectly pleasant time of public school. Because my memories of that time are mostly fond, it’s easy for me to forget that public education is occasionally completely bizarre. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that I spent 8 hours a day locked in a building where I had 22 minutes to eat lunch and the bathrooms were locked during that period to prevent people from having sex in them.

Which, by the way, did not ring any bells as weird during that time.

The moment that came to mind last night, however, came from high school. As a wee adolescent nerd, I was bussed over to a local science facility with others of my kind to learn about a variety of sciences for two periods a day. It was a good program, which allows for the best science teachers in the district (many of whom had been research scientists at some point) to talk to kids who actually cared about the subject. Continue reading

Advertisements

Highlights from Nerd Christmas

7956434842_3ed43029fc_z

Image courtesy of JKD Atlanta. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Labor Day weekend is nerd Christmas for the city of Atlanta. Most famously, this is because of Dragon Con, the three-day sci-fi/fantasy convention which rolls into downtown and briefly allows us to experience the fun and excitement of more than 50,000 nerds in steampunk storm trooper costumes taking over the metro area.

However, I tend to avoid Dragon Con after a particularly scarring experience as a 12-year-old left to wander through it on my own (protip: don’t let your tween wander around a convention alone; they will see bondage cosplayers, and they will be a alarmed).

Instead, while my classical nerdbros are having their day, I am busy spending hours hanging with my peeps (the book nerds, natch) at the Decatur Book Festival. It’s a two-day extravaganza of book nerds being quiet, earnest liberals together while eating popsicles and buying novelty bumper stickers from Flannery O’Conner’s estate. Continue reading

Historical Soap Operas

Babbage's difference engine.Image courtesy of Larry Johnson. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

My mother’s memorial service was this past Saturday. That is not what this blog entry is about.

Instead, I want to talk about what I’ve been reading lately. It’s a biography of Ada Lovelace with the delightful title, Bride of Science.

Ada Lovelace, for those of you who spent high school not learning about the history of science, is widely considered to be the first computer programmer in history. She worked out proto-programs for Charles Babbage‘s difference engine, which–for those of you not familiar with it–is what happens when steam punk enthusiasts build a computer. Babbage was never able to build the entire thing, though he was eventually vindicated in 1991 when some English historians built one with the advantage of modern mold casting for the parts (covered in this biography, which I read last year, and which is interesting for that alone).

As the biography points out, in her own day, Ada Lovelace was far more famous for her parentage. She was the daughter of the poet Byron, the rockstar of his day, and her parents’ separation proceedings were the basis for some of the beginnings of what looks–to the modern reader–very much like modern celebrity culture.

I picked the biography partially because I enjoy reading about scientists, particularly women scientists. More than that, though, I have a deep and abiding love for science biographies from right around the time period where Ada Lovelace lived. Because there was So Much Science happening at that time, and scientific circles were confined to a series of fairly related genteel families, there are plenty of fascinating people about whom one can read. And–the part that’s fun for me–they show up in each other’s stories. Continue reading

Parties and Nail Polish and Drinks, Oh My

It’s nearing finals week, which of course means that I spent most of the weekend the hell away from campus. Currently, campus smells of dispair and freshmen who are freaked out since they didn’t do any of the course readings. Given that the only final exam that I have is during the very last slot, a week away, this is not anything that I need. So instead I experimented with having friends and hobbies and a social life again, which was exciting.

Friday morning involved some unusual (for me) on campus time. One of my final research projects for the semester involves measuring tiny pieces of rock to learn about cognitive evolution, so I spent most of the morning in an on-campus computer lab, using very expensive software to make very accurate calculations of just how statistically insignificant my sad little undergraduate rock measures are. These are things that I am fairly certain are significant, so I got to have the always-fun experience of writing a paper conclusion that basically boiled down to, “next time, maybe don’t have undergraduates do this.” The glamour of science!

Continue reading