So Occam’s Typewriter is a year old. Where does the time go…?
(No answers involving quantum theory, please. Or homeopathy. And especially not invoking both).
When someone pointed out a week or two back that we were approaching our first anniversary as an independent blogging network, there was talk about whether we should all put up thematic posts celebrating the landmark. Various ideas of what thematic shape these might take were kicked around, including a “Digested Read’ pastiche after the fashion of a well-known column in the Guardian newspaper.
I suppose it probably reflects how busy we all are – I have the impression that pretty much all of the decreasing number of people who are actually still employed in anything to do with science are busier than ever this year – that this has not come to pass. And you will also note that I have nearly failed completely to post up anything anniversarial (until now).
Which makes me late (no change there).
And also having seemingly contrived to miss a critical piece of information (no change there either), since until yesterday evening I had still been under the mistaken impression we were going to do that “Digested Read’ thing.
Oh well. Perhaps it’s just me. Indeed, perhaps I may have a special taste, out of all the OT bloggers, for things digested/digestive. The fifteen kilos (fifteen on a good day) that I’ve ‘acquired’ since my days in graduate school a quarter of a century ago might bear that out. As also might the fact that I once published a paper in the evocatively named Gut, the only scientific journal I can ever recall starring in the ‘missing words’ feature on the TV Show Have I Got News For You.
And… I’ve certainly spent a fair bit of my scientific career working on cells derived from bits of the GI tract, including salivary glands (Yep, part of the GI tract. Who knew?), the exocrine and endocrine pancreas, and even the small intestine.
By the way, as a tribute to my OT colleague, the noted Celebrity Nutritionist Cromercrox, I should point out that many of these papers involve release of calcium from intracellular stores. No, really.
Anyway, Digested Read it is. For better or for worse. For richer, for poorer (And no prizes for guessing which, if you pick a scientific career).
So without more ado, I give you:
The digested read:
‘Not ranting – honestly’ by Austin Elliott
I feel old. And grumpy. And grumpily old. And I write about… this and that. Including being old and grumpy.
Though not really about science. That would be a busman’s holiday. I dislike travelling on buses. Too slow. And smelly. Even if they Go To The Station.
So I’ve blogged about… stuff. Blogs are a collection of one’s personal likes, dislikes, and ephemera, after all. Though I don’t write about anything all that often. And when I do it often gets left unfinished. There is a folder somewhere on the computer full of drafts that never made it into posts.
So you can think of this blog as a kind of online public-access attic.
Like all bloggers, I am an egotist in denial, and often end up writing about myself. I was born into a scientific family – at least, my father is a scientist – and I’ve sometimes wondered what I would be if science, and academia, hadn’t therefore been something I was aware existed as a career. Journalist? (Almost certainly too pressured) Author? (Probably not pressured enough, and requiring self-motivation). Professional chess player? Definitely wasn’t good enough. My mother thinks I should have been a lawyer. Though I’d probably be a science teacher in a school somewhere, and arguably even more mid-life-crisis-ridden than now.
Sometimes I write about scientific history, or about science policy. Science seems to have been rather less complicated a hundred years ago… or rather, the life of a scientist was rather less complicated, as there were a lot less scientists, and they didn’t have to spend all their time chasing money. Instead, they probably spent the time doing actual science. With their own hands, yet. Even middle-aged full Professors. Not that I’ll ever be one of those.
If you go back a century ago, scientists also didn’t have the temptations of blogs, or Twitter, to help them procrastinate and avoid proper work. Or computers either, for that matter, though computers can be tools for progress, as well as (like in my hands) tools for procrastinating. One of the great AV Hill’s descendants told me that she suspected AV would have thought Twitter ‘rather trivial and time wasting’. But added ‘[AV] would have loved the internet and modern day computing.’
‘Laughter is the best detergent of nonsense’
Now, just the other day on Twitter one of my blogging acquaintances posted something where a homeopath told us in complete seriousness that ‘sunlight destroys homeopathic remedies’. So sunlight appears to be a detergent of nonsense as well. Useful stuff, UV radiation. And it kills Vampires too. Though I haven’t heard if it works on biochemists… Or on people who invent idiotic abbreviations… or stupid words that end in -omics.
Where was I?
Oh yes. For some reason I get rather hot under the collar (though actually I don’t wear anything with a collar – no point in being an academic if you have to dress like a bank teller) about people like homeopaths, and chiropractors, and HIV-is-not-the-cause-of-AIDS obsessives, and anti-vaccine types, and all the other Unreality Enthusiasts.
Whether this recurring railing at Unreality is a consequence of being a middle-aged nerd of rather underwhelming success scientifically-speaking… well, perhaps. But on the subject, apart from quoting AV, I also tend to quote one of the best things Richard Dawkins ever said, which is:
“There is a real world, we live in it, true and false things can be said about it, science is how we find out about it, and it really matters.”
Which will do for me.
Finally – in order to reduce the borderline-high blood pressure that comes of a combination of getting annoyed, drinking beer, and sedentary middle age, I have taken up a new hobby in the year since OT launched. Or rather – I’ve taken up an old hobby again, since I have started playing chess again, some 30+ years after quitting.
So far I play about as well as I did when I was 15 years old. Which is a lesson of some kind.
The digested digested read:
Oh bugger – forgot to post anything. Again. Though it would only have been grumbling about nothing much, anyway.