Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nerd Girls Rule

Mr. Wonderful IMed me yesterday to tell me Newsweek ran this story about chic female nerds. Apparently the media is now recognizing that it’s hot to be brainy. I love this not only because I admire intelligence (and wit, of course) more than anything in a person, but also because I am a nerd girl. I was on the yearbook staff in high school. I work for a tech company where we play Scrabble at lunch. And I’m psyched my eyes are starting to go bad because it may mean I’ll finally be able to get a pair of hip little plastic-framed glasses. Rock on dorkette sisters.

What else made me happy today?

That The Today Show ran a segment about Richard Louv’s new book on Nature Deficit Disorder. Being an avid outdoorswoman, I’ve long found it sad that kids today aren’t getting outside and experiencing the joys of hiking, camping, and simply being in nature. I would love to see Louv’s book, and the growing awareness of this issue, help facilitate change among our youth—and maybe more importantly, their parents.

And finally, I am twitterpated over the fact that The Dark Knight opens this weekend.

Last week, I bought tickets for Saturday afternoon for Mr. W and I. (The Friday night shows at the ArcLight were completely sold out!) I’m kind of surprised by how much hype there is around the movie, but I’m sure it’s all for good reason. Like the batsuit, that’s a good reason. And Christian Bale—who, by the way, I watched last night in Empire of the Sun and he was fantastic. And the dearly departed and phenomenal Heath Ledger. I’m sure it’ll be sad watching his last performance on the big screen. But I don’t think I’ll shed too many tears when I have that sculpted rubber suit counterbalancing my dismay.

I wonder if Mr. W is prepared for the sighs and “gimme some o’that”s I’ll be muttering throughout the movie. Or the fact that when we get home I’m going to ask him to paint his face with shoe polish, drape a black bed sheet around his neck and bust in through a window to attackingly save me from the evil villains of Gotham City. Of course, I will be so startled I will fall unconscious and require bat-to-mouth resuscitation.


geekhiker said...

It's such a shame. Guys go for girls in glasses but, sadly, the reverse doesn't seem to be true. *sigh*

I never read the book, but I've heard of the concept. Always made me want to run off and join the Mono Lake group that takes kids into the outdoors.

Won't see the Dark Knight this weekend as I won't be anywhere near a theater. :(

And I won't touch that last paragraph with a ten foot pole.

Jane Moneypenny said...

Oh man, I hate wearing my glasses out; I feel like the biggest nerd.

Mel Heth said...

GH and Jane - Glasses rule!!! Guys get the whole Clark Kent thing going in them and girls get the sexy librarian look. I seriously love specs and always have. I envy you two for owning pairs.

geekhiker said...

Oh, how I wish that were true. I can't wear contacts, and my prescription is near-sighted, which means the lenses have the effect of making my eyes look smaller than they are.

And how many women have you heard say "I fell for his eyes right from the start"?

Sad to say, my friend, I don't think you're in the majority on this one! :)

Big Sister said...

This nerdette blog is so timely, because I bought you a really nerdy present tonight. After I give it to you, you can take a picture and blog about it. You can have my glasses - I hate them. I'll make sure I don't pop by to say hi this weekend, after you and Mr. W see Batman. My eyes could potentially bleed.

Wow, that was awkward said...

My thoughts seem to be split evenly between:

Poor Mr. W


Lucky Mr. W

The Coconut Diaries said...

Loves me some Christian Bale but his jerk-roles freak me out a little. He does them a little too well.

I wore fake glasses I picked up from Claire's until people who actually need glasses shamed me for it. It's not like I was taking a pregnant woman to a bar. Sheesh!

Cool Glasses-Wearing Men (For GH):
Kanye West
Hugh Grant
Steve from Sex & The City
Clark Kent
Harry Potter
Napoleon Dynamite
Asian dude from "Heros"

geekhiker said...

......aaaaaaand I realized after I shut down the 'puter last night that I'd meant to type "minority".....

TheCoconutDiaries - I appreciate the list. Now I just wish they (the classes, that is) worked like that for me!

Mel Heth said...

Geekhiker - Do I need to give you another lecture on positive thinking? DO I???

Big Sister - A present? A nerdy present? Sweeeet. Mr. W loved the pin you bought us, by the way.

Wow TWA - Hahahaha I think his thoughts were similar.

CoconutDiaries - Do you know how much I love you for putting Bono at the top of that list?! (And for wearing fake glasses yourself!)

Amy Turpin said...

I've never heard of that book, but I want to get it. My brother read one that talked about the same topic a bit and mentioned that people don't say hi when they pass eachother on the street, but usually do when they cross paths along a trail. Maybe if everyone got out and did a little more hiking, the world would be a much friendlier place.

Michael C said...

Brainy and funny - I think that's what I find so attractive about Tina Fey. She's kinda the hot nerd-girl poster child woman lady, right? It's not just me that thinks that? I really hope I haven't shared too much.

Anywhoo, have a great weekend, because something tells me you will.

Mike Vandeman said...

Last Child in the Woods ––
Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,
by Richard Louv
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
November 16, 2006

In this eloquent and comprehensive work, Louv makes a convincing case for ensuring that children (and adults) maintain access to pristine natural areas, and even, when those are not available, any bit of nature that we can preserve, such as vacant lots. I agree with him 100%. Just as we never really outgrow our need for our parents (and grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.), humanity has never outgrown, and can never outgrow, our need for the companionship and mutual benefits of other species.

But what strikes me most about this book is how Louv is able, in spite of 310 pages of text, to completely ignore the two most obvious problems with his thesis: (1) We want and need to have contact with other species, but neither we nor Louv bother to ask whether they want to have contact with us! In fact, most species of wildlife obviously do not like having humans around, and can thrive only if we leave them alone! Or they are able tolerate our presence, but only within certain limits. (2) We and Louv never ask what type of contact is appropriate! He includes fishing, hunting, building "forts", farming, ranching, and all other manner of recreation. Clearly, not all contact with nature leads to someone becoming an advocate and protector of wildlife. While one kid may see a beautiful area and decide to protect it, what's to stop another from seeing it and thinking of it as a great place to build a house or create a ski resort? Developers and industrialists must come from somewhere, and they no doubt played in the woods with the future environmentalists!

It is obvious, and not a particularly new idea, that we must experience wilderness in order to appreciate it. But it is equally true, though ("conveniently") never mentioned, that we need to stay out of nature, if the wildlife that live there are to survive. I discuss this issue thoroughly in the essay, "Wildlife Need Habitat Off-Limits to Humans!", at

It should also be obvious (but apparently isn't) that how we interact with nature determines how we think about it and how we learn to treat it. Remember, children don't learn so much what we tell them, but they learn very well what they see us do. Fishing, building "forts", mountain biking, and even berry-picking teach us that nature exists for us to exploit. Luckily, my fort-building career was cut short by a bee-sting! As I was about to cut down a tree to lay a third layer of logs on my little log cabin in the woods, I took one swing at the trunk with my axe, and immediately got a painful sting (there must have been a bee-hive in the tree) and ran away as fast as I could.

On page 144 Louv quotes Rasheed Salahuddin: "Nature has been taken over by thugs who care absolutely nothing about it. We need to take nature back." Then he titles his next chapter "Where Will Future Stewards of Nature Come From?" Where indeed? While fishing may bring one into contact with natural beauty, that message can be eclipsed by the more salient one that the fish exist to pleasure and feed humans (even if we release them after we catch them). (My fishing career was also short-lived, perhaps because I spent most of the time either waiting for fish that never came, or untangling fishing line.) Mountain bikers claim that they are "nature-lovers" and are "just hikers on wheels". But if you watch one of their helmet-camera videos, it is easy to see that 99.44% of their attention must be devoted to controlling their bike, or they will crash. Children initiated into mountain biking may learn to identify a plant or two, but by far the strongest message they will receive is that the rough treatment of nature is acceptable. It's not!

On page 184 Louv recommends that kids carry cell phones. First of all, cell phones transmit on essentially the same frequency as a microwave oven, and are therefore hazardous to one's health –- especially for children, whose skulls are still relatively thin. Second, there is nothing that will spoil one's experience of nature faster than something that reminds one of the city and the "civilized" world. The last thing one wants while enjoying nature is to be reminded of the world outside. Nothing will ruin a hike or a picnic faster than hearing a radio or the ring of a cell phone, or seeing a headset, cell phone, or mountain bike. I've been enjoying nature for over 60 years, and can't remember a single time when I felt a need for any of these items.

It's clear that we humans need to reduce our impacts on wildlife, if they, and hence we, are to survive. But it is repugnant and arguably inhumane to restrict human access to nature. Therefore, we need to practice minimal-impact recreation (i.e., hiking only), and leave our technology (if we need it at all!) at home. In other words, we need to decrease the quantity of contact with nature, and increase the quality.


Ehrlich, Paul R. and Ehrlich, Anne H., Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearances of Species. New York: Random House, 1981.

Errington, Paul L., A Question of Values. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1987.

Flannery, Tim, The Eternal Frontier -- An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples. New York: Grove Press, 2001.

Foreman, Dave, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. New York: Harmony Books, 1991.

Knight, Richard L. and Kevin J. Gutzwiller, eds. Wildlife and Recreationists. Covelo, California: Island Press, 1995.

Louv, Richard, Last Child in the Woods -- Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005.

Noss, Reed F. and Allen Y. Cooperrider, Saving Nature's Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Island Press, Covelo, California, 1994.

Stone, Christopher D., Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1973.

Vandeman, Michael J.,, especially,,, and

Ward, Peter Douglas, The End of Evolution: On Mass Extinctions and the Preservation of Biodiversity. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

"The Wildlands Project", Wild Earth. Richmond, Vermont: The Cenozoic Society, 1994.

Wilson, Edward O., The Future of Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Mel Heth said...

Mike Vandeman - I am an avid hiker and I always take my cell phone as a precautionary measure. I silence it because as you say - nothing ruins a hike like the ringing of a phone. However, if I happened to hurt myself, get bitten by a snake or attacked by a mountain lion, I sure as hell would want some way to call for help. So microwave rays or not, I think it's better to be safe than sorry in this case. Thank you for sharing your viewpoints.