About the Manual

The Nerd Manual is meant to be both a useful resource for nerds and a guide for the people involved with nerds. If you're a nerd you can find information here that will help you improve your life and perhaps better understand yourself. If you're close friends with, dating, or married to a nerd, I want to give you insight into things nerds do that a lot of people have difficulty understanding.

I hope to avoid offending anyone--either nerd or non-nerd--but please understand that the manual will get into some sensitive topics, stray into contentious territories, and even use stereotypes to illustrate points. It's OK to disagree with something, but keep your comments civil.


So Excited I Can Barely Contain Myself

I've had a browser tab open to the solar eclipse page for so long that I've had to move it twice when I changed computers. You can guess how excited I am.

You can find out more directly from NASA, or if you're a teacher take a look at Starnet Libraries for classroom ideas. 


Nerd Q&A: How do I Accomplish This?

Krystal Tubbs - Study
This isn't exactly a nerd-specific question, but I think it's worth answering if it helps someone meet their goals in life.

 I am 15 and I want to become a nerd and just focus on excelling at school, working out, and learning computer science. How can I accomplish this?

First off, the things you say you want to accomplish will not make you a nerd. You might consider them nerdy, but they are very good things to focus on that will help you do better in high school and later in college if you choose to go there.

You should also include making a few new friends and spending time with them. If you focus on computer science and working out, I think you might make some friends in the process, so that's sort of included in the plan, just remember that it should be one of your overall goals.

Here’s how you can make this happen:

1. Desire it. You’ve expressed your desire, so you can cross this off the list. Congratulations!

2. Make a 4 or 5 year goal list. (Make the goals real things such as making better grades, not becoming Batman.) In your case this might include specific things like:
  • raise my GPA to a 3.5, 
  • make one friend who is more physically fit than I am, 
  • make one friend who is better at computer science than I am, 
  • distance myself from Phil who always talks me into smoking with him, 
  • be able to program mobile apps, 
  • crush the 100 burpee challenge. 
Write it all down on paper and put it somewhere you can see it every day. For a multi-year goal you should have specific things to show you made it, and your list should have a lot of things on it. You will accomplish some of the things early. That’s great, cross them off the list so you’ll be able to see that you’re progressing.

3. Set objectives that you can meet in a shorter time frame and will get you closer to your goal. This is where you look at your list and figure out how to make each thing happen:
  • I want to raise my GPA, so I have to make 5 As and 1 B each term this year (or whatever your school curriculum works out to). 
  • I want to crush the 100 burpee challenge, so I need to take a body conditioning class. 
  • I want to make friends with one person who is more physically fit than I am…wait…I can do that in the body conditioning class, etc.
4. This is the hardest part. For each objective you must actually do the thing you decide will get you there. You will be sorely tempted to do one more day of stupid shit than start on your objective, or to give up at the first sign of difficulty or the first setback. You know what? It’s fine if you give in to temptation. That’s your choice. But you won’t accomplish what you want if you give in. Think of it as “present you” being a friend to “future you”. Present you can be a crappy friend who never shows up on time, lies, and steals crap. Or present you can be a great friend who gives future you things to make him stronger, smarter, and better prepared for a healthy life with a well-paying job.

5. As you complete objectives, cross them off your list and make new ones that are closer to your long-term goals. As you complete long-term goals, make new ones.

6. Evaluate your progress each year. Start now, not on January 1. See where you’ve accomplished a lot. See where you can work harder. Perhaps you will need to commit more time and energy to some objectives than others. Figure out where you’re not as strong so you can make yourself stronger there.

That’s it.

You might think that writing stuff down isn’t the same as accomplishing what you want, or that it’s lame, or that it won’t work, but what have you got to lose? Get some paper and a pen right now and start writing out some goals and figuring out how to reach them. Make sure to include one goal you can make a small start on right now, even if it’s reading an extra chapter for homework tonight or finding out how to sign up for Body Conditioning tomorrow.

What are you waiting for? Get started!


Get Involved: Comment on the FCC Net Neutrality Proposal

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has pushed through the "Restoring Internet Freedom" proposal. The name sounds great, right? Let's keep the Internet free!

Actually, the entire proposal is designed to revoke net neutrality regulations, which means your Internet access can then be legally manipulated by Internet providers.

One example of what could happen without net neutrality regulations: the cable company that provides your Internet access can cripple the bandwidth on your Netflix or YouTube streaming if those companies don't pay extra to ensure they have the same download speeds as Comcast's own content.

Currently, regulations ensure that equal access is given to all consumers and providers, regardless of how much money they have. The RIF proposal gives providers carte blanche to restrict or promote access, and the proposal suggests removing the regulatory body set up to handle complaints about companies that unfairly restrict Internet access.

Every US citizen can comment on the proposal, the comments become part of the public record, and the FCC has to review every comment. If the public makes a big enough fuss, the FCC can't ignore what we want and has no recourse but to keep net neutrality in place.

When net neutrality was first being established, public commenters were so active that the website crashed. The FCC expects “significant public engagement and a high volume of filings” but it would be a huge statement about our desire to keep the Internet open to everyone if we crashed the system again.

Techcrunch has an excellent guide to making comments on proposal 17-108, so take a look and follow the steps.

It's easy, except for the part where you read the proposal, which is pretty long, but please read it because it should infuriate you to see how the FCC makes vague and hypothetical statements about how net neutrality might hurt businesses, but insists on concrete research-based evidence to support any claims as to how corporations could impinge on consumers' rights.

Get in there, browse the proposal, use the paragraph numbers to make a specific point, leave a thoughtful comment, and don't let them ignore us.


Real Life Nerds: UPDATE--Protecting Public Data From Big Brother

Data scientists, archivists and librarians are still hard at work preserving government research and information that they fear could be lost or removed under the Donald Trump administration.

I'm not trying to make a political statement here, but I have to point out that within hours of President Trump's inauguration all mentions of climate change were removed from the White House website, and since then climate data has disappeared from other government sites.

You can read about the roots of this data preservation movement in our previous post.

The movement has grown, and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative--an international network of academics and non-profits addressing potential threats to federal environmental and energy policy, and to the scientific research infrastructure--has been formed to protect the public's right to know, maintain the United States' standing as a scientific leader, ensure corporate accountability, and maintain environmental protection.

To further their agenda, the group created an extension that can be added to the Google Chrome web browser that allows users to nominate data sets for archiving. Preserved data sets are downloaded to DataRefuge, where the information is available to the public.

Justin Schell, director of Shapiro Design Lab at the University of Michigan, points out that collecting the data is only the first step. Everything must be verified, organized, properly described, and put into an accessible format. In some cases the people collecting data find multiple copies of the same information, and sometimes the information doesn't agree with other versions, which means the data preservationists have to contact scientists and academics knowledgeable about the data to verify it.

If you'd like to take part in the data preservation movement,  you can contribute to DataRefuge in a variety of ways:

Fill out their survey if you use climate data for your own work, so DataRefuge can prioritize efforts to save valuable and vulnerable data.

If you see data on the web that needs to be preserved, check the Internet Archive to find out if it's being archived. The Internet Archive offers a guide to 6 ways to preserve information in the Wayback Machine--If You See Something, Save Something.

Help spread the word if you're good at writing or using social media. Let other people know about DataRefuge and the importance of climate and environmental data on our everyday lives.

Get involved with the Libraries+ Network if you're in a library. The Libraries+ Network works to create a sustainable, systematic, and programmatic way to archive federal data.

Even if you don't think climate data is vital, the data preservation movement encompasses other government resources such as the CDC, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Education, so there's going to be something in this archive that's important to everyone.