Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nerd Nite London

Two posts, as promised. :)


Sometimes you just have to embrace what you are and gather together with your common folk.

That's what was supposed to happen at Nerd Nite London.

Admittedly this was something I heard about, oddly, through work. Though not in the way you'd expect.

I read a lot of tech blogs for my job. I'm not going to delve into that further, but just accept this as truth. Anyway, one of the articles I happened to pass (and decide to read) was about how nerds can meet each other and date, since we tend to maybe be very interested in what we do and well...not socialize as much as normal people. Something something introverts, or maybe something something OCD about our jobs or hobbies or whatever. Anyway, we tend not to do a good job of meeting new people...or other general.

So the question that was put out to the author of the article (a professed nerd love doctor) was: how should nerds find each other?

The resounding answer: Nerd Nites. They're like local TED talks that are held in each city. They're organized places where people come to hear mini lectures about interesting things by local people. People who are experts in their fields or just know about a subject and want to talk about it.

I for one, love TED talks. So I was sold.

I looked it up and not surprisingly, London has Nerd Nites. If anything I would think so. They started in New York but London isn't that much of a stretch. It has 12 million people, after all. If none of them want to hear about nerdy subjects I am definitely in the wrong place.

So, I looked up the next event and bought a ticket as soon as it was available. Boom, done.

And several weeks later, I left work and went to it.

Oddly it was being held at a vintage clothing shop. I'd known this ahead of time (since the venue was announced early on and the previous two had been held in the same place) and had even investigated their website. But still it was a bit of a shock:

Not exactly what I was thinking when I was imagining nerds uniting and talking about smart things. The subjects that we were supposed to hear about that night were:
  1. Do people in different cultures experience pain in the same way?
  2. Olympics and how does it change athletics policies in schools
  3. A look into personas/alter egos and how they're used in the music industry
Fairly interesting things, though I would have gone whatever the topics had been.

Anyway I arrived ridiculously early, wanting to have time to explore the shop in detail and potentially buy gifts. I'm always on the hunt for gifts now. I think it gives me drive for shopping since I've recently decided I only need essentials for myself and I've even failed at buying those lately. Seems I'm sticking with my Finnish ways.

I arrived 45 minutes early. The vintage shop took me 15 minutes to go through. I decided to wander the streets of Shoreditch. Nothing interesting, unfortunately. All the real shops of interest (book stores, card stores, etc) were closed for the day. I noticed without fail that really all London is is a lot of pubs and restaurants. Everyone just wants to eat and drink. Really 75% of storefronts are one of the two. No wonder 50-60% of the adult population here is considered overweight. Ugh, totally on my way there. Going to scale back (okay, climbing off of my soapbox).

After my brief walk out I went back to the vintage shop. By then a bar had opened. I hadn't noticed it before because it was cleverly disguised as a cashier point before. But I guess just proves my point further: you can find a bar anywhere in London. Everything's a pub.


I ordered a cider and grabbed a solo seat. This was going to hopefully be a successful night of meeting people, but I dunno, the Brits tend to be rather antisocial. So we'd see.

As a side note observation, most beers and ciders are served room temperature, here in London. This is the British way. I was talking to someone later in the night about this and we were both disgusted (they are Aussie). Unless it's from the tap, it's not going to be cold. I've gotten used to it, but you've been warned. And unfortunately after having been spoiled by Finland, none of the ciders here are going to meet par. Oof. I am definitely jaded.

So we waited for the lectures to start. They did, about 20 minutes late. They started with a hilarious introduction about the definition of nerds. They gave both the definitions from wikipedia and another from Urban Dictionary. Let's just say the one from urban dictionary was far more kind to our kind:

A nerd (adjective: nerdy) is a person, typically described as being overly intellectual, obsessive, or socially impaired. They may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular, obscure, or non-mainstream activities, which are generally either highly technical or relating to topics of fiction or fantasy, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities.[1][2][3] Additionally, many nerds are described as being shy, quirky, and unattractive,[4] and may have difficulty participating in, or even following, sports. 


An 'individual', i.e. a person who does not conform to society's beliefs that all people should follow trends and do what their peers do. Often highly intelligent but socially rejected because of their obsession with a given subject, usually computers. Unfortunately, nerds seem to have problems breeding, to the detriment of mankind as a whole.

Clearly going to go with the Urban Dictionary definition, though I feel sad at our current state regarding breeding problems.

Anyway, the lectures were off to a start after that. Knowledge, recorded:

Pain, and cultural differences in experiencing it

This unfortunately was the least interesting of all the lectures and definitely the most general. The woman's lecture was actually not about this subject at all and more about the general differences between western and eastern perceptions of the body (the anatomy-based concept versus that which is more spiritual or mysterious). She didn't do a good job explaining the eastern side and rather just said that well...aren't you glad you're being treated by a western doctor like me? (In truth she was only a general practitioner who had been teaching general practitioners for the last several real medical experience as far as I understood).

I generally had nothing to say to this woman and quietly sipped my drink.

Olympics and its influences on school sports programs

This one amped up the interest levels a bit as it was someone's actual PhD thesis. Since the London Olympics last year this person had the theory that after the Olympics leave a country, that country goes into promoting Olympics-like sporting programs all over, including affecting school sports programs. The real question is: does this make a difference and is it worth all the money and fuss?

General conclusions from this person: absolutely not. There is a lot of money poured into changing policy to getting school programs to promote kids to play Olympic-themed competitive sports, all of this under the guise of:
  1. We (the UK) are getting fatter. Therefore we need more exercise.
  2. Competitive sports build character.
  3. We (the UK) need to win more medals and gain world prestige.
All of these are fundamentally flawed.

First, yes, Britain is definitely getting larger. 50-60% of adults are considered overweight (this is horrendous, btw...I believe they've even overcome the American rates which last I heard were steady and in the 40-50% range). But the speaker was saying that it's likely the other way around - overweightness causes lax in exercise, not that lack of exercise causes obesity. Surely exercise is necessary for a balanced lifestyle and therefore can help in maintaining a healthy weight but it's not the Olympic sports that most people are playing anyway (not adults anyway). We usually do things like commuter exercise (biking to work), running, swimming, going to the gym. And this is for a lot of reasons: we need to organize our schedules accordingly to work and family...getting people together takes time, effort, and a lot of schedule logistics. Therefore, nope, that's not a good reason to promote Olympic sports.

Second, though competitive sports do tend to build character, and all of the Prime Ministers that were studied had indeed been part of elite sports clubs in their respective private schools...studies have shown that competitive sports usually have the opposite effect for the majority of kids. Especially boys, who can have growth spurts anywhere between the ages of 11 to 16. So you put boys, even of the same age, against each other, you could have someone who is developmentally the equivalent of an adult against someone who is basically still the growth version of a child (not mentally but physically). Lots of bullying, etc ensues.

Third, the winning of medals and other things. Well, considering that the Olympic athletic team is literally 0.005% of the general population (and that is the portion that actually could participate in the Olympics, this number took into account appropriate age group - so not children or the elderly, etc)...this is very small. So much money pumped into such a small group of people. We're literally talking about a significantly less than 1% ROI here.

Anyway, there were many things in this lecture that I certainly didn't agree with but it was more interesting than the first lecture.

And then we were at the third.

Vjazzled - Personas and alter egos in the music industry

This was actually an incredibly intelligent lecture on alter egos and how they've been used both in the music and entertainment industry but also how basically, at the end of the day, you can't really say "alter ego." They're still the same person, despite expectations and how people may treat them you have it.

I won't go into the entire thing because it is quite long and very well put (so I'm not sure I could do it justice), so instead just look at the music video the artist made (called Vjazzled). Her alter ego is named Quilla Constance. Her real name is Jennifer Allen.

Note that it is somewhat risque and though it doesn't have explicitly elicit content in it, it is suggestive as such. Watch with your own care.

But also please do listen carefully to the lyrics (they might be a little hard to hear). The lyrics are what make this satire the best thing. It really is quite funny. I loled.

It is here.

Anyway, the basis of this person's lecture: alter egos have been used in the music industry to express other areas of a person's personality with a freedom of not being judged as they are as themselves (or how they are perceived normally as themselves). People tend to allow more liberties, and because of that, there has been an explosion of them in the music industry. Just think of David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust, and so many others), Lady Gaga, even Beyonce (Sasha Fierce), and Eminem (Slim Shady).

Overall I enjoyed this Nerd Nite immensely. I also made a new friend from Australia who I'll call Two. She moved here five weeks ago with her boyfriend. Just wanted to be somewhere different and this was as good a place as any. Fair enough. She's now thinking that she should get a job because she's burning through her savings (despite London being cheaper than Sydney...hard to believe). She used to do forensics back in Australia. I've now officially met someone who does CSI stuff. That is so cool.

And that was my first nerdy experience in London. Definitely going back for the next one, which is in September (they're taking a break for the summer). Those three lectures will be on:
  • Something related to the pope (I've forgotten this topic, sorry).
  • Jurassic Park lied about dinosaurs; what they were really like instead.
  • How playing video and computer games is really beneficial.
And there you have it. Nerdy nights for all! Go check out your own local chapter. I'd encourage it. :)

1 comment:

  1. Hi there, Speckled Hen - Nerd Nite directed me to your blog. I'm glad you enjoyed Vjazzled and wondering if you'd like to submit a short review of the song and video on iTunes? - 'if you haven't succumbed to this trend you should, flick the LED on you can land on my runwayyy'! Veeejazzled! ;P XX QC