On Versatility

I should start off by thanking CherishtheScientist  for kindly nominating me for a Versatile Blogger award (see the emblem).

The Veraatile Blooger Award

I hadn’t heard of these before, but I’m honoured – so many thanks. I find myself still thinking I’m the new kid on the block, so it feels very flattering to be accepted as a ‘professional’ blogger by such a nomination. However, I realise it is 18 months now since I entered the fray, so it is probably my lurking Impostor Syndrome self that means I still feel surprised when anyone takes my blogging seriously.

Anyhow, having been informed of the honour, I turned to the website to find out what this meant. The rules are given below:

1)      Nominate 15 fellow bloggers

2)      Inform the Bloggers of their nomination

3)      Share 7 random things about yourself

4)      Thank the blogger who nominated you

5)      Post the award badge.

I’ve already completed rules 4 and 5, but before I complete the other 3, let me just put in a caveat about this process. When I was a child there was a postcard-writing chainmail that occasionally came my way. If I remember its rules correctly, you were meant to write out (and I mean write, in longhand, indeed in painfully childish longhand, since this was long before computers were in every child’s bedroom and typewriters still belonged in the office) the form letter and send to 7 friends. In the form letter you yourself received was a list of 7 names: you entered your own name at the bottom of this list and removed the top name and sent this first child a postcard, ideally I think of your own home town. The story/letter went that if you participated in due course you would receive some massive number of postcards. If you didn’t maintain the chain you were promised lots of bad luck, a modern day gypsy’s curse I suppose. As a young and gullible child, I of course did my bit – and never received a single postcard back. I have no idea if similar email versions exist now, though I have no recollection of being aware of my children receiving anything similar by snailmail or email. It isn’t quite equivalent to the typical email scams of today, where money rather than postcards are the primary aim; indeed it seems to me rather sweet, but it certainly didn’t result in a deluge of postcards for me and probably not for most participants.

I don’t think the Versatile Blogger award fits into a  similar category, although it is of course entirely possible that those bloggers I myself nominate will not thank me if they feel obliged to write anything themselves, but as my own nominator said to me, it is of course optional. It seems to me it is a nice way to disseminate those blogs one likes to read, particularly as I don’t myself exhibit a blogroll of blogs I read on my site. So here goes with my nominations (and brief reasons). I will state at the outset that I don’t read a huge number of blogs, due to time more than anything else, so (short of nominating all my fellow Occam’s Typewriters bloggers to boost the numbers) the list is a little short and in no particular order.  But I will start with a couple of my colleagues on the OT site, because I really enjoy their posts, albeit I may offend the others!

1No Comment by Steve Caplan.  An interesting look at academic life and nature on the other side of the Atlantic, plus an interesting and male take on misogynism, sexism etc.

2 Mind the Gap by Jenny Rohn.  A thoughtful and very personal account of life as an early career researcher, with the horrors and joys of lab life very much to the fore, as well as a more political and gendered dimension.

3 Bishopblog by Dorothy Bishop. Full-on writing about many of the ills of academia and its characters, as well as more technical stuff on autism, dyslexia, bad science etc.

4 Soft Machines by Richard Jones. This was the first (and for a long time the only) blog I ever read – and later the first on which I ever commented. Written by a long time collaborator and friend, it has been primarily a blog on nanotechnology, albeit increasingly it has become an erudite deconstruction of our government’s policies, or rather lack thereof.

5 Some Beans by Ian Hopkinson. Another blog written by a previous Cambridge collaborator, although this one went over to the dark side and now works for industry. His blog is a random collection of political outpourings, book reviews, history of science and many other things beside.

6 A Don’s Life by Mary Beard . Mary is a near contemporary of mine as an undergraduate (but she was at Newnham College and I was at Girton). If you compare her interview  on Desert Island Discs with mine, it will become apparent there are some similarities in our upbringing too; we even sit on a committee together now in Cambridge, but as a classicist her take on things is different from most of the science writers I read. She is, as her strapline says, a ‘wickedly subversive commentator’ and has many forthright things to say on academia, her colleagues and much else.

7 Whewell’s Ghost is written by a collective covering the history and philosophy of science. Reading this tends to make me feel I had a neglected education in this field and have a lot of ground to make up.

8 FSP by Female Science Professor. A wonderful – and amazingly frequent – blog on academic life by an anonymous female professor in the US. It is very much with a US twist, so not all her blogs readily translate to the UK, but she seems to have seen it all and still retained her sense of humour.

To complete the final ‘rule’ I need to tell you 7 random things about myself, but I don’t intend to give away too many of my darkest secrets. My blog probably reveals enough. So, here are 7 things that probably you won’t find very interesting to round this post off.

1 I was born in London

2 I am allergic to seafood and salmon (a useful fact if you ever plan on inviting me to dinner).

3I once trained as a volunteer suicide counsellor.

4 I used to play the viola.

5 I went to an all girls’ grammar school.

6 I climbed my first Munro in my 40’s.

7 When a child I hated the fact my first name was so odd.

I’m not sure that my blog is particularly versatile, although I try not to focus too strongly on one theme in successive posts, but I will reiterate how much I have enjoyed the freedom to write in a different voice   from my standard scientist’s one. If you like, I hope I write like a human being on my blog which, I’m sure, many of the public would undoubtedly agree, is not the same thing as a scientist!

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