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:


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


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.


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.