Nerd Nite 9: Down Home

Nerd Nite 9: Down Home will happen on Wed. Sept. 12 at Pachamama’s in the Blue Room. This event, co-sponsored by Lawrence Public Library and KU Libraries, is part of Read Across Lawrence, so it is focused on Daniel Woodrell’s novel Winter’s Bone.

Capacity is 60ish. Presentations at 8PM with doors opening sometime between 7 and 7:30 after the presenters have a chance to practice.

Facebook event is here, if you are so inclined.

We’ll also review the results of last month’s nerd survey and some exciting announcements about the future of Nerd Nite-Lawrence.


Behaving Bad: The Dirty South (mostly) in Literature, or Grit Lit by Susan Brown and Sean Barker

Susan Brown (Lawrence Public Library) and Sean Barker (KU Libraries) will share their evangelical fervor for “grit lit”—a variant of (typically) Southern literature that focuses on the lives of often marginalized figures in rural areas. These works are usually exceedingly raw depictions of life that can also be deliberately humorous. Authors discussed will include Daniel Woodrell (author of Read Across Lawrence 2012 selection Winter’s Bone), Tom Franklin, Larry Brown, Ron Rash, Harry Crews, Charles Portis, Donald Ray Pollock, Dorothy Allison, and genre progenitors like William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, and Flannery O’Connor. Tangential topics may include, but are not limited to, bourbon drinking, squirrel hunting, snake handling, and deep-seated family feuds.

Susan Brown took her first library job for beer money.  As Marketing Director at Lawrence Public Library, a decent portion of her paycheck still goes that way.  Living in Lawrence as a graduate of Virginia Tech and UNC, she understands the proper order of things – you’ll find a large Hokie Bird decal on her minivan, a smaller Jayhawk, and not a Tarheel in sight.  As a librarian, she has been shushed more than she has ever shushed and if you see her around LPL, she’ll always stop and chat – her favorite topics include southern writers, crime fiction, venison recipes, and the proper way to prepare a mint julep.

Sean Barker is a serious man who earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Art History at the University of Kansas. He learned to read for pleasure after leaving a doctoral program, though he still feels compelled to read the classics. Independent music and film are other obsessions. He works at KU Libraries as the dean’s assistant.

The chemistry and biology of meth by Bryan Smith

An overview of methamphetamine from the perspective of someone who works on making new legal drugs for a living.  We’ll discuss how meth is made, why meth labs are so dangerous, how meth works in the brain, why it’s so addictive and how it causes short term and long term side effects.

Bryan’s first foray into science involved a chemistry set he received at age seven. He has lived to 34, despite the temptation to consume whatever potions he concocted. Bryan earned a PhD in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and now works on discovering new cancer drugs at a local pharmaceutical company. He enjoys Breaking Bad marathons, spending time with his wife and three children, and living in Lawrence even though the traffic is terrible.

Picking and Plucking: A short history (and demonstration) of the fiddle and the banjo by James Brown

James Brown will provide a suitably twangy and squeaky musical backdrop on his banjo and fiddle.  He will talk a bit about the history of both instruments, and then demonstrate some of the various possibilities of playing mountain melodies in standard and non-standard tunings.  He’ll provide the pickin’, the grinnin’ is up to you.

James Brown holds dual-nerd status in both medieval German literature and mountain music.  His German nerdiness resulted in his current position in KU’s German Department. His passion for mountain music started at summer camp in the Appalachian mountains, where he fell in love with the banjo. James comes from a long line of country people who engaged in farming, cabinet making, and other mountain enterprises.  He himself apprenticed for five years after college as a violin maker and restorer.  If you insist on making a hilarious joke about his name, be prepared to buy him a beer afterwards.

Nerd Nite – Lawrence: how are we doing?

survey is now closed. we’ll have the results at the next Nerd Nite-Lawrence on Sept. 12!


Nerd Nite 8: Smarts and Crafts

. . . and we’re back!

After taking a little break for July, Nerd Nite – Lawrence is back and ready to get all artsy on Aug 8.

We’re at Pachamama’s and, as always, capacity is 60ish until the chairs run out.

We start at 8:00. We’ll open the doors between 7 and 7:30 after all the presenters have a chance to practice. Then you get to eatin’ and boozin’.


We are All Makers by Derick Schweppe

The success of humans can be directly correlated with our unique ability to make things. What we sometimes forget is that everyone has the ability to be creators through making: inventing tools, building structures, and creating works of art. However, since the industrial revolution people have slowly lost connection with the art of making things and the knowledge of how things are made. Now a new crop of affordable and relatively easy to use tools and services are allowing people to get back in touch with their inner makers, and create objects to rival what’s churning out of the industrial machine.

Since Derick was young he has always been a tinkerer and dreamer. He used to fill sketchbooks with designs for flying cars and submarines. Although he may have disassembled more than he created he turned his love of tinkering into a degree in Industrial Design from KU. From there he learned how things were made in the real world both in small and mass quantities locally and overseas. He is using this knowledge to make old things new again, teach Design students at KU, and discover exactly what a person working in their garage with a limited budget can make.

A Great Unveiling: Quantum Mechanics, Society, and Art by Emily Pabst

The development of quantum mechanics was hugely transformative.  It sank the unsinkable classical mechanics, rewrote scientific cosmology, birthed the atom bomb, and altered how all manner of people understand and experience foundational concepts such as time, space, energy, existence, and reality.  Art, alongside quantum mechanics, has become a powerful vehicle for exploring this new world and its baffling dimensions.

Emily enjoys caves, limericks, water slides, art that upsets your brain, buying used cars, and being angered by sea creatures.  She is good at offering to retrieve items from the top shelf; she is not so good at actually retrieving them.  Emily is very appreciative of her loving family and friends.  Without them, life would be way less fun.

Success is a mind game: finding creative flow by Karen Matheis

Based on a need to settle into her work when painting, Karen has developed a series of steps and strategies for finding the creative mode using data found in scientific studies.  Examples include performance time frames and the role of choice in the creative process.

Painter Karen Matheis is the writer of Larryville Artists, a blog about the art and literature scene in Lawrence, Her art can be found at

July vacation

even the nerdiest of nerds needs a break once in a while, so we have decided to cancel the July Nerd Nite-Lawrence.

BUT, we are already getting everything lined up for a full and exciting fall schedule.

see you in August!


Nerd Nite 7: drinking tea, data and Dianes!

Nerd Nite 7 will be a special Thursday edition on June 14, 2012.

Check back here soon for more information on speakers!

See you at Pachamama’s (8th and New Hampshire). Doors 7:30ish, presentations 8:00.


Camellia sinensis: Beverage or Spiritual Ideal? Stories of ceremony, meditation and espionage
by Alyssa Koestner

From the meditative properties and transcendental power of tea to the culture effects of tea ceremonies and cultural events.  Tea, not only a beverage, but a “living archaeology” that we are blessed to experience over millennia. Let’s all share a moment of wakeful tranquility connected through tea.

Alyssa Koestner was raised by a woman who loves tea, who was raised by a woman who despises tea (how?!) bouncing between Colorado, Texas and California. Ending up in Lawrence, Kansas in August of 2010 (moved here because of love). Alyssa graduated from UC Irvine in 2010 with a Bachelors in History (focusing on American agriculture); and minors in Medical Anthropology and Archaeology.

Information Nation: Data in the U.S.A.
by Travis Weller

This will be a broad, overview of information and data in the US: who has it, who wants it and why it matters. It will be a wide ranging exploration that bounces from corporate data mining to warrant-less GPS tracking to government information. And, like all things nerdy should be, it will be super “meta.” You come to an event to get information about information!

Travis is a proud Kansan who simultaneously challenges and reinforces the stereotypes about that state. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, enjoys front-porch-sitting, bike-riding and putting his hands in the dirt.

Williams and Keaton: Two Dianes to Help Us through those Urgent Moments
by Rebecca Evanhoe

Diane Williams, author of experimental fiction, and Diane Keaton, famous actress, were both
born in 1946 in the United States of America. And the parallels don’t stop there. Each woman
captures a similar spirit in their respective art fields, yielding work that is hilarious, sometimes
fumbling, heart-breaking, and enthralling.

Rebecca’s exploration of these two women began as two separate obsessions that merged into
one ever-expanding Mega Obsession. Both Dianes express/portray moments of urgency—small
or large points in life where everything seems most dangerous, most arousing, most absurd,
most exquisitely boring, most enchanting, most disgusting, most joyful. We’ll look at moments
of urgency in the art of each Diane through some of DW’s short fiction, and some of DK’s less
credited work, including her epically under-rated L’Oreal make-up commercials.

Rebecca is most famous in Lawrence for having once worn basketball shorts in public (as an
adult). She has a B.A. in chemistry from KU and lived happily in Lawrence for 10 years. She
currently lives in Gainesville, FL, and is working toward an MFA in fiction at the University of

Nerd Nite 6: Press It! Hack It! GIF It! Bop It!

Nerd Nite 6: Press It! Hack It! GIF It! Bop It! will be on Wednesday, May 9.

we are in the Star Bar at Pachamama’s (8th and New Hampshire) so seating is about 60 people, get there early.

doors at 7:30 (or whenever all the speakers have practiced) and presentations at 8:00

Your finals are no excuse to miss it. Serious. Consider it studying.

Do Hackers Dream of Electric Beeps? by Nathan Pickett

Nathan, who once had a song penned about him wherein he was described as a communist train robber, is a recently-knighted (ok, hooded) master of arts in Russian area studies, but he doesn’t let those ex-pinkoes hamper his having a good time (or his being interested in other things). He’s pretty sure his dad had a pocket protector on when he was born and he’s always had a computer within reach. While other kids in school were experimenting with drugs, booze, and sex, Nate was experimenting with programming code, open-source operating systems, and DIY projects (much to the chagrin of his parents’ bank account when things went horribly, horribly wrong). His favorite baseball team is the Dodgers, pretends that he knows the mandolin, and his reddit karma’s literally in the thousands. As in the one thousands. If that’s got you all hot and bothered, too bad, because he got married a couple years ago to a total babe. He’d be more than willing to high-5 you in consolation however.

Vinyl Nerds & Collector Scum: Record variants & the obsessive collectors who chase them by Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek is a self-described “rock star journalist,” which is strange, considering he’s married with two kids and three cats. This is just further proof that you can’t trust anyone online. In addition to his day job at Great Harvest Bread, Nick can be found bitching about pop cultute on the Internet at his blog, Rock Star Journalist, as well as the Pitch’s Wayward Blog and Scene-Stealers.

A Long GIFs journey Into Phones by Robert Kent Schulte

Robert Kent Schulte (born August 08, 1984), better known by his stage name Robocopter, or twitter handle @beer_attack, is an American rapper, record producer, actor, and entrepreneur. When he’s not creating beats that go ham harder than FARMLAND™ he’s booking shows for The Bottleneck or making GIFs.

Nerd Nite 5: goats, gardens and growing coffee

a special green themed Nerd Nite – Lawrence for April!

we are in the Star Bar, so seating is about 60 people, get there early.

doors at 7:30 (or whenever all the speakers have practiced) and presentations at 8:00


“Politics of Community Gardens” by Aimee Polson

As one of the most successful government sponsored grassroots movements in the country, community or allotment gardens have been promoted in the United States since before the Industrial Revolution.  We will talk about the historical and cultural shifts in community gardens in the US and the different ways that community gardens and gardening can be used as a political tool for social action and change. We’ll also talk about how nothing ever changes.

Since graduating from K-State with a degree in community planning/horticultural therapy, Aimee has   embarked on a slow as molasses effort to spread the gospel of human/plant interaction.  Michael Ableman made her do it.

“More than a Hill of Beans: Coffee and Why it’s a BIG Deal” by Katy Wade

Before that coffee was in your cup it was on a tiny bush.  Then someone grew it, picked it, washed it, dried it, packaged it, shipped it and roasted it. It was a lot of work. Every year, 17 billion pounds of coffee are grown in almost 80 countries around the world, making coffee the second most traded commodity in the world. We will explore behind the scenes of the massive coffee industry from a first hand account of life on a coffee farm, and why coffee farmers drink NesCafe.

Katy Wade was raised in Abilene, Kansas by honest, Folger’s-drinking Americans. She has a B.A. from KU in Latin American Studies and Anthropology, which she uses only to fuel her life-long delusion that she is Indiana Jones. In 2009, after 6 years of making coffee behind counters, she packed her bag, bought a machete and headed to Guatemala, where she spent 7 months living in coffee-growing communities harvesting and processing coffee. She makes cocktails for a living, which she likes very much. Other things she likes are riding bikes, reading blogs, cooking dinner and adventuring. She takes her coffee black.

“Sheep go to Heaven, Goats Go to Hell” by Jen Humphrey

One of the earliest animals to be domesticated, goats have occupied a continual presence in the arts, mythology, religion, agriculture, sex, and science. They also have a mistaken reputation for eating cans and embodying the spirit of the devil. But look beyond, and you’ll discover an animal that is an alternative to herbicides, a lawn mowing machine, and the number-one source of meat in the world (just not in Kansas — at least, not yet). In this presentation, Jen will demystify a few aspects of goats: the difference between goats and sheep, why a dairy goat is not a meat goat, and random goat trivia, from bellweathers to bock beer.

Four years ago, Jen Humphrey and her partner, Jessica Pierson, gave up what they called they called the latte life to move to the country and start raising goats and vegetables. Forty-some goats, 90 chickens and an acre or two later, Jen continues to strive to keep the goats out of the vegetable plots while balancing work as the communications director at the KU Natural History Museum.


Nerd Nite 4: raw fish, wooden rockets, and brackets

Nerd Nite – Lawrence will be March 13 at Pachamama’s Star Bar (8th and New Hampshire).

Doors at 7:30, Speakers at 8:00

Room capacity is 60 people!


Notes from the Native American Space Agency (NASA):  Building the Fastest Wooden Rocket in the World

by Lucas Miller

Students at Haskell Indian Nations University are currently building the world’s fastest wooden rocket for entry into the First Nations Tribal College High Power Rocketry contest in Milwaukee, WI.  We are utilizing traditional techniques to create state-of-the-art technology.  The rocket will be made from vertical grain Sitka spruce and animal glue, making it one of the most eco-friendly rockets ever made, and possibly the fastest all-wooden aircraft ever constructed.  Simulations indicate that the “Arrow of Knowledge” will go from zero to near Mach 1 in a matter of seconds and travel over a mile into the sky.  This project is funded by the National Science Foundation as part of a Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics (STEM) workforce development initiative.

Lucas Miller serves as the Co-PI/Co-PD on the NSF-TCUP grant at Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU), where he developed the High Power Rocketry progam.  He has been a grant sponsored faculty member at HINU for nine years.  He received a B.S. in Physics and an M.A. in Mathematics from the University of Kansas.  Lucas has been launching rockets since the 6th grade, has worked with data from nearly every interplanetary satellite in and out of the solar system, and has an interest in all things space

Sushi in America: Mostly Misconceptions, Some Out-right Lies

by Elwood Schaad

An examination of the American Sushi industry: it’s history, the cuisine itself, and the tricks it plays to get Americans to eat raw fish.

Elwood is a nerd about many things, but professionally he is a nerd about food. Starting at Wa Restaurant, he has spent over ten years in fine dining, with five of those spent working in sushi restaurants. When not serving tables at Pachamama’s, he enjoys playing any kind of game and daydreaming about food.

I Feel The Need, The Need for Seeds: An Exploration of “The Bracket”

by Laura Watkins and Kevin Baker

True statement: March Madness is the absolute best sporting event known to man. However, in recent years the actual games have been overshadowed by the rising popularity of “The Bracket.” We will discuss a brief history of the immense hype of Bracketology, an overview of the Selection Committee’s seeding process, and lots of “insider tips” on how you can win your NCAA tournament office pool*.
Laura works at an ad agency in Kansas City. Kevin is getting his Masters at UMKC in German History. Laura and Kevin live in Mission with two dogs (Lennie Briscoe and Hazel) and a cat (Wink). They share a love for Game of Thrones, beer and Toni Braxton. And, like many fellow KU graduates, they are both obsessed with Kansas basketball.

Nerd Nite 3: lights, camera, nerds.

Nerd Nite 3: lights, camera, nerds will take place on Feb. 15 at the Star Bar at Pachamama’s.

Doors at 7:30, Speakers at 8:00

Room capacity is 50 people!


A Century of Film or: We’ve Spent One Hundred Years Collectively Sitting in Front of Screens Getting Stupider (And Smarter, and Stranger, and Inspired)

by Justin Runge

If black and white movies seem strange to a majority of Millenials, the films of the silent era might as well be the work of sentient, self-aware robo-dinosaurs. Thing is, entertainment hasn’t changed much since the advent of the moving image: before millions tuned in to watch a Kardashian get a pedicure, people crowded into dark rooms to watch French people walk home from work, and Thomas Edison was charging a nickel for twenty seconds of cockfighting before anyone ever uploaded a cute cat video to YouTube—even Eadweard Muybridge’s Horse in Motion could be considered the prototypical animated GIF. And while pre-Talkies share much with modern flicks, they also have identities all their own—weird, racy, trashy, lavish, outlandish, and dreamlike ones. Silent film and its orbiting incarnations deserve to be enjoyed, appreciated, and nerdily obsessed over because they exactly are—and totally aren’t—like anything else playing at your multiplex or on your iPad.

Justin Runge holds a bachelor’s in English and theatre from Nebraska Wesleyan University, and a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Alabama, where he augmented his education with courses in film and work in video production. A lifelong film fan, he saw his first silent, Erich von Stroheim’s Greed, at ten years old, and his passion hasn’t ebbed: last March, he proposed to his girlfriend during a screening of Frank Borzage’s 7th Heaven at the Topeka Silent Film Festival.

Dressing for Debauchery:  The Costumes and Masks of Mardi Gras

by Alison Heryer

Mardi Gras has long been an opportunity for people to let loose and costumes and masks often provide revelers with the perfect disguise.  Learn the history behind some of this eccentric attire and get tips on what to wear for your upcoming Fat Tuesday festivities.

Alison Heryer teaches at Kansas City Art Institute and designs costumes for theatre, film, and print.  Her interests include masks, spectacle, site-specific performance and making fancy doughnuts with her husband, Jason.

There and Back Again: The Adaptive History of Cabaret

by Adam Lott

Adam will discussing Cabaret, in all it’s many iterations and all the contradictions and similarities therein.

Adam Lott was born in Nebraska, but has lived in Kansas his whole life. He hardly ever drinks, and he never lies.  You can trust him implicitly, love him unconditionally and let him into your life without fear or reservation.  He also owns a cat.

Nerd Nite 2: truck stops, scotch and spirits

Nerd Nite 2: truck stops, scotch and spirits is coming up on January 10 at Pachamama’s.


Caffeine, Public Showers, and Howling Wolf T-Shirts: Exploring America’s Truck Stops by Stephanie Day

Truck stops have captivated the imagination of casual motorists since their inception during the early 20th century in the US. However, these 24-hour dens of diesel fuel and stale coffee play a much more tangible role in the lives of long-haul truck drivers. This presentation explores the attitudes, perceptions, and relationships these truckers have in regards to the American truck stop.

Bio: Hailing from Youngstown, Ohio, Stephanie Day is a PhD student in the Department of Geography at KU, as well as a daughter of a former trucker. Her interests include American cities, particularly in the Rust Belt, perceptions of place, and snuggling up with her dog, Penny.

 An Introduction to Scotch Whisky by Kevin Freese

A Scotch whisky enthusiast will explain the basics; how its made, what it is and other nerdy Scotch facts.

Bio: Kevin is currently a credit analyst at US Bank on Mass St. Originally from upstate New York, he lives in Lawrence with his wife Emily who currently attends KU. Kevin has been exposed to the world of scotch for over a decade and has been sharing his passion since college when he gave a presentation on scotch and religion.

Let’s Get (meta)Physical!: How to dip your toes in the Neoarchaic Revival without getting wet by Nick Ray

2012 has been touted as the end of times by zealots; and it is, of sorts.  Moreover it is a marked beginning: a collective resurgence and embrace of ancient understanding. Learn how to effectively balance self, spirit and pseudo-science without being “Neu Age” and safely explore the nuances of your humanity.

Bio: Nick Ray is by profession an optician who facilitates clarity in people’s lives by the way of fashion and function.  He also seeks clarity on the Great Mystery through his fervent consumption of literature and media relating to the occult, consciousness studies, and the current paradigm shift.  Besides practicing kundalini yoga Nick fills his spare time traipsing alongside the Kaw with his canine companion, Sonny Boy.