Rick Karnesky is a science nerd and a beer lover. So he is helping to launch Nerd Nite in Oakland, which he said is "like the Discovery Channel with beer." The motto is "Be there and be square."
During Nerd Nite, a bunch of nerds get together in a bar to hear a talk on topics such as "A Boy and his atoms;" "Ghoti spells fish (and other vagaries of the English language);" and "Kawaii -- the art of super-cute."
Those were the topics at the May 16 meeting of the San Francisco chapter, which has been so popular Karnesky and co-organizers Ian Davis and Aaron Culich reasoned an East Bay branch would be equally successful. But they expect the one on this side of the Bay to be different by drawing on UC Berkeley and the national labs nearby.
Karnesky works as a senior material scientist (a metallurgist) for one of those labs -- Sandia National Laboratories, which does research for the U.S. Energy Department but is a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin.
He also hosts "Spectrum," the science and technology show on KALX Radio. He is 30 and fits the mold of Nerd Nite, described on the website as, "an informal gathering at which nerds get together for nerdery of all sorts (well, mostly presentations and drinking). Nerds and non-nerds alike gather to meet, drink and learn something new."
"I am interested in nerdy things and super-interested in drinking," Karnesky said.
It's a very social extension of technology.
Nerd Nite has chapters in Germany, Australia, England and all over the United States. But I found out about it Wednesday night by chance during an open hack night -- the advanced-computer-geek kind of hacking, not the malevolent kind that tries to crack computer security systems.
I had stumbled into the meeting hosted by a group called Sudo Room (after the computer commands "su" and "do") thinking that I might find help working on an app development project.
Instead, because Sudo is trying to create a hacker space, the evening revolved around reaching the goal of establishing a permanent address for hackers. For now they are meeting at Tech Liminal, the closest thing to a hack space in Oakland.
"Are we following Roberts Rules of Order?" someone asked as the decision-making conversations began.
"I have an app for that," someone responded.
Geek levity -- a breath of fresh air from the other side of the tech world populated by billion-dollar startups, Facebook royalty and venture capitalists. I joke about it here, but I haven't met a fellow geek I didn't like so far or who was not welcoming.
The group Wednesday night also included a lawyer, a grant writer, an anthropologist and a sociologist from France who is writing a book about hackers. Crackers and hummus were passed around, but the bottle of chardonnay stood untouched.
Like nearly everyone else at the table, Karnesky was working on a Lagunitas New Dogtown pale ale. Bottles on the table mingled with the laptops and spare computer parts.
His particular brand of "nerdism" is science, he said, explaining why the group chose to launch Nerd Nite during the Bay Area Science Festival in October.
Plus, he added, the timing is "win-win," because Nerd Nite can tap into the extra people who will show up at the festival to unleash their inner scientist.
And beer will be part of it.
Beer seems to be as much a part of nerd chic as beards, glasses and long hair for the guys. Just search online for the proliferation of beer computer apps.
There is iBeer, advertised as "the king of all beer apps." It's a novelty program that simulates the appearance of a cold bubbly beer in your hand, built "to be the next best thing when an actual beer is nowhere to be seen."
The Beer Cloud app helps find your favorite beers in the area, pair brews with foods and offers a full description of any beer by scanning its bar code.
Then there is iBeer Pro, Beer Battery, iBrewMaster, Brewzor and Get Hoppy.
Beer is accessible; it breaks through the barriers of cultural subsets and home-brewing plugs into the DIY (do it yourself) thing, Karnesky said.
In other words, you can geek out over beer.