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.


Superpowering Girls!

The BBC's New Doctor Makes Girls Believe they Can Be Anything
The Women's Media Center and BBC America had a question: what are the roles for women and girls in science fiction and superhero films and television? Actually, they had several questions about the visibility, inclusiveness, and representational presence--or absence--of women in the superhero genre, and what that means to the imaginations of viewers and readers.

The answers come in a series of reports that seek to expand the diversity and representation of women and girls in front of and behind the camera. The first report “SuperPowering Girls: Female Representation in the Sci-Fi/Superhero Genre” considers how the depictions of women on screen impact girls between the ages of 5 and 19.


Well, here's the obvious one: kids want to see heroes who look like them. 

But there was also a desire to see more female heroes across every demographic, even among boys.

The study found that heroic representation can impact kids' confidence and self-image, as well as influence their career choices.

Another finding: teen girls are significantly less likely than teen boys to describe themselves as confident, brave, and heard, and this is even more significant among girls of color. 

Julie Burton, president of the Women's Media Center said, “at this time of enormous, sweeping, social change, it’s important that television and film provide an abundance of roles and role models for diverse girls and young women." The research shows "that female sci-fi and superhero characters help bridge the confidence gap for girls, making them feel strong, brave, confident, inspired, positive, and motivated.”

BBC America president Sarah Barnett agrees. "If you can’t see her, you can’t be her. It’s time to expand what gets seen, and we hope this report will contribute to sparking change in the stories we see on screen.”

Fortunately one of our favorite time traveling heroes is ahead of the game and recently regenerated as a female, and 81% of the girls surveyed said that seeing a female Doctor on Doctor Who makes them feel like they can become anything they want.

You can download your own copy of the report from the WMC Reports site.


Story Time...from Space!

Astronaut Kate Rubins Reads Rosie Revere Engineer
Have you ever wanted an astronaut to read your kids a bedtime story...from orbit?

Well, you can make that happen for your children, or perhaps yourself, with the Story Time from Space project.

Part of the Global Space Education Foundation, Story Time From Space sends children’s books to the International Space Station where astronauts make videos of themselves reading to the children of Earth. The videos are archived on the Story Time From Space website in their Video Library. The astronauts also conduct educational demonstrations to go along with the books.

The books cover a range of space and science related topics, feature a diverse range of characters, and are read by different astronauts on the ISS. There's nothing quite like watching astronaut Kate Rubins floating in front of all the ISS equipment, the hum of the station's machines filling the background, as she opens a copy of Rosie Revere, Engineer. As she reads Rosie's story, you can hear the Russian's talking to Earth on the com system...not something you're likely to hear in your house.

At the moment, there are only thirteen books in the Story Time from Space project library, which is understandable, considering that the only way to get books up there is via rocket, but hopefully the project can add more with each launch.


Library Ninja

Ninja Among the Books - Ben Dalton

There was a time when ninja were the badasses of popular culture, then the market reached saturation, things took a turn, and the only people who were interested in ninja anymore were people actually practicing ninjutsu...and nerds.

Maybe ninja are cool again--there was that whole ninja pirate thing, and the Ninja Turtles seem to be hanging on--but I believe they still have some nerd cred.


Nerdism: MOTD

ASCII Talking Cow
In nerd circles, MOTD is an initialism for Message Of The Day (although it might mean Match of the Day in sports talk, so consider the context carefully).

MOTD dates back to the earliest days of computer connections when system administrators wanted to make sure all users got a message, but didn’t want to send the message to each person individually. The solution was to set up an automatically executed file that displayed a message when a user logged into the system.

A Pony by Mattbas

Usually the MOTD didn’t change much, and included things like rules for using the system and basic instructions such as what to type to get help documentation, although the MOTD might also spit out information about the user’s last login, the system uptime, or even the weather. Admins sometimes got creative with their messages, offering pearls of wisdom in the form of fortune cookies or the ubiquitous talking cow. Some MOTDs even included complex ASCII art depicting anything from dragons to flowers to portraits of musicians, or even ponies of the friendly magical variety.

In the early days you could find MOTDs on UNIX systems and dial-up BBSs--both of which are difficult, but not impossible to access as of 2018--but MOTDs can still be easily found on multiplayer games such as Call of Duty or Battlefield, and of course you can see the MOTD at the beginning of all the Nerd Manual podcasts.


Real-Life Nerds: NerdBurger Games

I lost a friend at the Southern Fried Gaming Expo (not tragically, I just misplaced him), and while I was walking around looking for him I passed this vendor's table with a few books on display. I'm telling myself, "it's just RPGs, you have enough of those already and you need to keep walking," but the title Murders and Acquisitions grabs me by the collar and turns me toward the table.

While I was a little surprised at being manhandled by an RPG manual, I'm glad it happened, because the guy at the table, Craig Campbell, was really cool and also happened to be the game designer for NerdBurger Games. I talked with Craig for far to brief a time, because I had to go find my aforementioned friend, but I picked up his business card (more on that later) so I could look him up online when I got home.

If you've never heard of NerdBurger before, you need to go visit the site. Like, now. Just stop reading this and go spend some time over there. You'll find descriptions of Craig's games, you can purchase Murders and Acquisitions as well as NerdBurger's newest title Capers--an RPG set in the roaring twenties featuring super-powered gangsters, and listen to the NerdBurger podcast, which will give you an idea of why I'm so glad I stopped and talked to Craig.

This guy is a gaming genius.

Remember that business card I mentioned? He's got the entire RPG manual for Lucky Dino-Robo-Pirates on the card. How does he do it? You'll have to get a business card from him to find out.

It's worth it. Check out NerdBurger and have some fun. 


Nerdy Competition: Congressional App Challenge

The Congressional App Challenge opened this week, and their website specifically says that earlier registrations have a better chance at winning, so go on and register today!

(This challenge is only open to middle and high school students in the US and its territories--apologies to any of my older readers or visitors from other countries who got their hopes up.)

The Congressional App Challenge (CAC) is an annual competition hosted by members of Congress meant to encourage kids to learn how to code. Not all members of Congress participate, so if you don't find your representatives on the CAC list, send them a tweet, give them a call, or write a letter.

According to the website any kind of app, in any programming language, on any platform qualifies for entry, as long as it's original (not a copy of an existing app). So if you want to program an app for an autonomous lawn sprinkler in Rust, go right ahead.

The competition offers recognition by members of Congress, prizes, and the winning apps go on display in the Capitol building in Washington, DC.

One of the coolest aspects of the CAC is its aim to bridge the gender, geographic, and racial gaps in tech by encouraging future tech innovators from a variety of backgrounds. Participant demographics for previous App Challenges surpassed all tech industry diversity metrics, so they're doing something right.

Submissions are accepted through October 15th, but the rules strongly suggest registering before September 10th, so find your representative and sign up early!


The Mr. Rogers From an Alternate Universe

You saw it here first...unless of course you subscribe to Adi Shankar's Bootleg Universe...in which case, maybe just watch it again. 

Shankar--who also made the Castlevania animated series possible, and brought us a dark sequel to the Power Rangers saga (BEFORE the 2017 movie reboot)--produced this Kenlon Clark re-imagining of an alternate Fred Rogers who spent time in Vietnam before he decided to change the face of children's television. 

This is a gritty, NSFW version of Mr. Rogers, but one who carries around a swear jar.


Project MARS Competition Now Open

Curiosity Rover - NASA
Humans are taking our first steps toward actually setting foot on Mars. When astronauts venture to the planet, what will they see? How will they feel? What will they experience? What will they do? Project Mars invites college students and early career professionals to learn about NASA’s deep space endeavors, including the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System rocket and deep space gateway concept, and create their visualization of what this expedition may look like.

Bring your interpretation of NASA’s work to send humans to Mars to life through breathtaking cinematography, amazing animations and state-of-the-art special effects. You have up to 5 minutes to tell an inspiring story about a 9-month trek to the red planet, so captivating creativity is a must! The winning short film will be selected by a team of film and graphic design industry judges including Gareth Edwards, director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Grand prize is $10,000.

Recruit brave astronauts for a daring mission, promote space tourism for the adventurous, or depict the next generation of space systems that will transport new world explorers to Mars. The sky is not the limit when you design a poster for the deep space journey, so reach out to infinity and beyond for creative ideas. The winning poster will be selected by a team of film and graphic design industry judges including Joshua Grossberg, creative director of McCann New York. First place prize is $1500.



Discover the Real Life History Behind Hogwarts

Memoir of Nicolas Flamel
The British Library collaborated with Google's Arts & Culture collection to open up their Harry Potter: a History of Magic exhibition to anyone with an Internet collection.

If you couldn't get to the British Library for their exhibition in real life, you can still see J K Rowling's handwritten notes and Jim Kay's original illustrations for the books alongside rare books on alchemy and magic from the library's special collections. Who knows, you may be able to decipher the Ripley scroll and recover the secret to the elixir of life.


Coloring in Library Books

This could be fun.

Libraries around the world have posted images from their collections, and you can use them as coloring pages. The images range from scenery to complex patterns.

There's a whole Twitter chain about it, #ColorOurCollections.

Usually coloring in the books will get you kicked out of the library, so embrace this rare opportunity.


Want to Help Develop an App for Making Friends?

Interested in an app designed to help make new friends?

Yeah, sounds like similar to most social network apps, but it's supposed to help you meet people with similar interests. 

From u/voidupdate's original Reddit post, you can link to a fairly quick Google survey asking questions about meeting new people, finding things to do, and how frustrating you think it is to schedule activities with a group, so this app may be similar to Meetup.  


The Book That CAN Hurt You

All this time I've been telling everyone that books can't hurt people, so there's no reason to get out your pitchforks and torches and run to the library to ban them.

Turns out I was wrong.

There's at least one book that could kill you (maybe there are more, I haven't checked).

The book Shadows from the Walls of Death: Facts and Inferences Prefacing a Book of Specimens of Arsenical Wall Papers by Robert Kedzie contains a collection of wallpaper samples...that are toxic. I am uncertain if reading the book could actually kill anyone, but most libraries that owned copies eventually removed them from their collections and destroyed them. So, it's a pretty rare title. The remaining copies are in special collections, and their pages are encapsulated in plastic so the arsenic can't hurt anyone.

Kind of makes those parents who storm the library and demand that Harry Potter be removed from the shelves look a little silly.

You can actually look at a digital copy of one of these books at the National Library of Medicine. As far as I know, you can't get arsenic poisoning over the Internet.