When Virginia Traweek stumbles across an interesting, obscure book — on topics ranging from current events to algebra II — she devours it like a proper nerd.
Then she tracks down the author.
“There’s a trick to it,” she says. “I send them an email and point out the specific things I liked about the book. Then I ask politely if they’ll come on the podcast.”
The Disney Streets resident and her friends, Leland Flynn and Nick Sainz, have recorded more than 100 episodes of “Nerd Absurd” from a makeshift studio inside Sainz’s family printing shop in Northwest Dallas. The hobby has made them “negative amounts of money,” but it gives them an excuse to Skype with their favorite authors and thinkers from around the country.
“I just want to talk to people who are interesting,” Traweek says.
Recent guests have included former FBI negotiator Gary Noesner, who wrote “Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator” and author Alfie Kohn, who discussed his book “The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting.”
Their audience is minimal, comprising 40-50 people within the Dallas Makerspace community where Traweek, Sainz and Flynn met and began the podcast in 2011. It started as “us having a discussion with ourselves and hoping others find it interesting,” Flynn says.
As the podcast title suggests, topics tend toward the nerdy — mostly academic subjects outside the radar of mainstream media consumers.
“It doesn’t jump to the front page of Reddit,” Sainz says.
Aside from interviewing guests, the group discusses social issues and current events (gender roles, the Ebola outbreak, the Comcast/Netflix deal, electric cars, etc.) as well as some offbeat topics like becoming a homeowner, the best ways to handle embarrassing situations and the important differences between a nerd and a geek. But guests make for the most interesting conversations. A show featuring best-selling author James Altucher drew about 14,000 listeners.
Traweek plans to bring on more guests. Right now, she hopes to get John M. Barry, who authored “The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History,” and she’s looking for the partner of a now deceased author who wrote the out-of-print math book “Whole Craft of a Number,” back in the 1970s. Traweek ran across the book online and says it explains the applications of algebra to laypeople.
A favorite and repeat guest is David Lankes, a Syracuse University professor known as a “library visionary.” Traweek, Sainz and Flynn geek out when Lankes talks about the future of libraries — no, they aren’t dying; they simply need to evolve as places that help the public access and share information.
You could say that “Nerd Absurd” has a similar mission.
When not recording at least once a week, Sainz is a graphic designer, Flynn has an IT business, and Traweek writes and speaks about senior housing.
“We can go about our lives and still have this window into another world,” Traweek says.
Find “Nerd Absurd” on iTunes or listen to podcasts at nerdabsurd.com.
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