Tag Archives: Apple

Brainmuffin: The Renaissance (Polymath) Nerd

NERD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Europe had several periods of Renaissance starting in the 12th century. It is the Italian Renaissance of the 15th century with which many are familiar. During the later period, a person who had expertise in several areas of study was called a Polymath. The common term that later came to use was Renaissance Man.

Computer Nerd

Over the years my areas of study and interest has been varied. In high school, as I was too shy to ask girls out, computers became my first interest. Though we didn’t own one, I knew several people who did and my school in Maryland (Smithsburg High School) had an Apple ][, while my high school in Germany (Patch American High School) had Atari 800s. Friends had these as well as Vic 20 and Texas Instruments TI-99/4a. Through all these varied machines, I learned aspects of BASIC. I also learned a bit of PILOT and LOGO. Thousands of lines of code were written on paper and never typed in. I made my own adventure games and even a few graphics ones. Mid-way through my senior year I finally got over my nerves and asked a girl out on a date. Thus a second subject of study entered my life.

My major in college was Computer Science. One does not get much more nerd than that, do they? College  focused and channeled my analyzing skills and matured my coding practice. My interest in Math also expanded and it nearly became a minor. Learning from where various formulas that I had learned over the years derived open a new world. Math explained so much about the underpinnings of the Universe. Women remained unsolved, even after I met my wife.

My Own Beer

In the early 90s I took a job at the University of Tennessee in the Library Systems department. Though I went there to offer my skills for their various development needs, my world would soon expand into the area of homebrew beer. The first few batches were nothing to write home about, but with more practice and research, I was soon being asked questions by those who got me started. When I moved to Marion, Ohio to work for Macola Software, there too I had homebrewers who had been at it for years asking me how I did things. True, I was still using extract, but the recipes were mine and showed my talents for cooking. Over the years my expertise would expand to¬†amateur judging and all grain. I even had Charlie Papazian answer tweets and get me started as the Cincinnati Craft Beer Examiner. If you want to while away some time talking about beer, I’m all ears (and mouth).

Lift Them Weights

I was first introduced to lifting iron in 7th grade gym class. I wouldn’t get another fix for a couple more years when my dad brought a used weight set home. In 1983, the move to Germany meant they went to storage and I lifted very little. I would not start lifting seriously again until the summer of 1990.

The second foray into weight lifting slowly grew into an obsession. The first catalyst was purchasing a copy of Muscle and Fitness. Though I had little variety in equipment, the magazine had ideas I could adapt and meals gave me ideas on what to eat. Eventually, I was eating a great deal more and taking the occasional weight gainer. Weider’s magazine had information on many areas and I was an adept student.

My first gym membership came in 1994. Here I had access to lots of free weights and great machines. Over the next few years I would gain 20 pounds, mostly muscle. I hovered in the mid-190s in weight for years, but I never did get to body weight on bench press, squat and dead lift. Most of the routines I was doing were of the higher, lighter weight variety.

Time passed and we moved a few times more. Gym memberships came and went, though I did buy 200 pounds of dumbbells along the way. For much of that time, I thought there not much left to learn about weight lifting. About two years ago, I again starting reading Iron Man Magazine. The writers had changed since my last subscription and many of them were in their 40s and 50s. As joints were no longer up to heavy lifting, the routines reflected a switch to higher volume with less rest. Starting what I could at home, I rebuilt muscle and drop some weight. A membership at a new gym was soon added and my journey from 200 to 217 began.

Over the course of this year, my knowledge expanded into the area of StrongLift’s 5×5. After some prodding my a co-worker, I finally gave it a try. As I was used to lighter weights, I started low. Eventually though, I would hit body weight on dead lift, with squats closed behind. As for bench, my left shoulder needs more strengthening before that will happen. 135 pounds offers a very good workout at 5 reps and 3 sets.

Nutrition has also expanded in knowledge and I’ve dropped my body fat from 28% to 20%. The struggle becomes tougher here though and the goal is 15%. I’m collecting all the knowledge I can to get lower without sacrificing the muscle I’ve gained.

And women?

I have learned much there too and what I know I cannot share. Their quirks no longer frustrate and I’ve turned it into entertainment. Motivating people is still difficult.

Long way nerd

The journey over over 30 years has taken this nerd a long way. Yeah, I’m still dorky and those who know me don’t hesitate to remind me. I can still talk your ear off, especially about computers, programming, beer, fitness, nutrition, cars, the weather, the law of cosines, the beauty in Calculus…..


The Apple ][ changed my life (part 1)

The Apple II Computer on display at the Museum...
The Apple II Computer on display at the Museum Of The Moving Image in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As an introvert, I grew up loving books. In the summer of 1979, I moved to Fort Belvoir, Virginia from Seymour, Tennessee. My father was in the Army in the Corp of Engineers and Uncle Sam decided he should takeover managing the construction project at Blue Plains. He was attached to the Capitol Area Office of the Baltimore Engineers, so we lived at Fort Belvoir on 21st Street (yeah, the Army can really pick great street names, can’t they??).

There my brother met David Panzer. He showed us both the great library on the Fort and my passion for reading was fed in overdrive. I would check out 12 books at a time and read them in a week. I loved the Hardy Boys books and soon moved on other mystery books such as Encyclopedia Brown. It would not be long before J. R. R. Tolkein would enter my life in the form of The Hobbit.

During the second half of my sixth grade year, I took an elective on book writing. It was taught by a wife of an Army officer who had written a children’s book about living in the African bush. She taught up about form and how to submit transcripts to publishers. My vivid imagination had an outlet. Over the next few years, I wrote about space battles and far off planets. I invented military ranks and battle plans. I wrote a short story about an invasion of Washington, DC. I used real maps to determine paths and defenses. We had no television, so reading and writing was what I did. (I also played against myself in Risk, but that’s another tale.)

Before I started 8th grade, Uncle Sam decided it was time to move us again. This time we packed up and moved to Fort Ritchie, Maryland where my father became the Facilities Engineer. Our first question was naturally, “Where is Fort Ritchie?” Nestled in the Mountains of Maryland in Cascade, it was a picturesque and quiet post. The perfect place for my imagination to grow. And grow it did. The plans became more elaborate. I started to create my own alphabets. One day, it all changed.

It was near the end of my 8th grade year. I was walking through the school library when I saw some of my fellow students using a computer hooked to a television. They were making a shape move across the screen. A Realistic cassette tap recorder from Radio Shack was connected for long term storage of programs (yes, recorded to cassette tapes as noise. so old school). The computer was an Apple ][. It was magical.

I watched and tried to learn. I pestered my fellow students for the syntax to AppleSoft BASIC. I had to know more. The library had little. There were programs and skills tests in our Algebra textbook, so I tried them. Soon I could write a program for any of the skills tests, even if we had not yet covered the math behind it yet. It was a whole new world.

Where the Apple ][ would take me I would learn over the coming years.


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