Be there and be square
by Anita LeBlanc
From the June, 2014 issue
A standing-room-only crowd of geeks, grad students, and geezers are enjoying libations and soft bar lights, but, unlike other nights at Live, the people are waiting to get their eureka on at Nerd Nite Ann Arbor. Three volunteer speakers will educate and entertain us. Rock, trees, and "T-Paine" are the topics.
The first presenter, sideburn-sporting music writer Mark Deming, ambles on stage to share the story of why the 1970 Goose Lake International Music Festival didn't make Woodstock status (hindrances included Michigan's then-governor, the local citizens, and inadvertently, its creator). After a ten-minute break so that the audience can get drink refills and chat, Ben Connor Barrie, a former high school teacher and current PhD student in forest ecology, makes his appearance.
Connor Barrie, who looks like Lyle Lovett's ginger younger cousin, says his presentation will give us the ability to impress others with our newfound tree identification skills. After he and his wife disperse twigs and branches to the crowd, he launches into a popular version of "Name That Tree." Next, anthropology instructor Michael Leonard tells us about T-Paine--not the rapper T-Pain, but Thomas Paine, whose skills as an author made and then destroyed his status as a founding father. At first the many details are fascinating--who knew that the author of "Common Sense" was a girdle maker and tax collector? But Leonard, who is writing a book on Paine, senses that his passion for his subject has surpassed his alloted time and our attention. He apologizes but can't resist offering a few tidbits before he wraps up.
Some in the crowd linger to examine the microscope, the music-making Monotron and Otamatone, and other geek goodies that production librarian Mariah Cherem has brought from the evening's sponsor, the Ann Arbor District Library. (Cherem, now one of the event's organizers, says the library will also sponsor the June event, once again making it possible for NNA2 to waive its usual five-dollar cover.)
Software developer Amber Conville, one of the founders,
says she had no doubt that Nerd Nite Ann Arbor would be a success. It's now one of the more than seventy-five and growing Nerd Nites around the globe. Anna Seekatz, who presented "Fecal Matters: The Ins and Outs of Fecal Transplants" to Ann Arborites last July, has since given a repeat performance at a Nerd Nite weekend at the Smithsonian, appearing along with other brainiacs, obsessives, and techies, Star Trek's George Takei among them.
Proudly position your pocket protector and attend with others of your ilk on June 19. For a hot summer night, there are few things cooler than Nerd Nite.
[Originally published in June, 2014.]