liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
[personal profile] liv
[personal profile] jjhunter was the first to give me a prompt and offered the really clever suggestion of Take a fibonacci sequence of your DW profile interests... and tell us something about each corresponding interest... not commonly known. Which gives me a lovely random grab-bag of a post, and also reminds me that I haven't really updated my interests list in most of a decade, but never mind.

1. academia

The first career ambition I remember ever expressing was that I was going to be a maths professor. I think I was maybe 5 or 6, and what I really meant was that I hoped to get paid for being good at maths. I had a dim idea that teaching was involved, but this is fairly equivalent to six-year-olds who like dancing and say they want to be ballerinas. I've not continuously wanted to be an academic since then, but for the majority of the ensuing 30 years, yes.

1 redux. academia

Here's a depressing thing that not many people outside academia know about UK universities: we are being forced to work with the UKBA to implement ever more intrusive monitoring of non-EU students. It's got to the point where the Medical School is having to install sensors that sample the collagen in students' skin and match unique patterns of the protein, in every single GP practice or other healthcare environment where they may spend a couple of hours doing work experience. We're not allowed to use signatures because they could be forged, or fingerprints because they can't be accurately enough matched to a unique individual. And if a student misses more than two teaching activities in a row we have to report them to the immigration authorities and they could lose their visa and right to study and reside in the UK. It's gone beyond anything a satirist could imagine.

My university and many others are protesting, of course, but we don't really have any power to refuse to carry out these checks, because universities that don't comply can be investigated and potentially closed down for admitting illegal immigrants as fake students to help them sneak into the country. And yes, this has really happened to established, reputable universities, though in all cases I know so far their right to award degrees has been reinstated after an investigation.

2. Alice Cooper

The only interesting thing I know about Alice Cooper is the same thing that anyone who knows anything at all about Alice Cooper knows, so I shall recount it in the form of a personal anecdote. I was part of a regular table-top RP group in college, and we were chatting OOC one of our games nights, and I joked about awarding someone the Alice Cooper Master of Tautology award (named after such immortal lyrics as you back-stabbed me in the back and your lips are venomous poison). Someone objected that it ought to be the Mistress of Tautology, and I said, no, Alice Cooper is male, his stage name was chosen by a Ouija board. At which point the other gamers were very surprised that someone as apparently conventional and vanilla as I was would know that kind of trivia about Alice Cooper.

3. alphabets

I am not sure I have anything very useful to say about alphabets. It's possible that some people reading don't know all the cool words for variant alphabets. An abjad is an alphabet of consonants only, and an abugida is an alphabet where each distinct mark represents a combination of a vowel and a consonant, but not necessarily a full syllable.

5. AS Byatt

AS Byatt is Margaret Drabble's sister. She really can't stand JK Rowling's writing. She's most famous for writing Possession (which is way way way better than film), but the reason she's in my interests list is because I passionately love her Frederica Potter quartet, The virgin in the garden, Still life, Babel tower and A whistling woman, particularly the third.

8. BBC computers

BBC microcomputers were one of the first, not the very first, but a fairly early example of computers that you could just buy off the shelf and have as household items. We inherited one from my slightly older and somewhat geekier cousin some time in the mid 80s. It was a super fancy model that had a whole 32 kilobytes of RAM. Mainly we played games, which we had to load from tape, and had a very strict system of turn-taking.

Generally it was reckoned that BBCs were more powerful than many competitor brands for programming, but on the whole less good for games. Anyway, we had the chance to play with programming in BBC BASIC, a mixture of typing stuff in from computer magazines and inventing our own programs. My dad had a schoolfriend who had been into computers from very early on, and he was an excellent teacher; I remember clearly the feeling of power and delight that came from understanding the principles of programming enough to learn more for myself by a mixture of experimenting and reading. For a while my next oldest brother and I attended a slightly weird "computer club" where we learned more advanced programming, mainly writing text adventures, from two somewhat disreputable men in a basement room covered in graffiti and smelling of cigarettes.

13. biochemistry

Biochemistry is related to my professional field, and I have a Masters degree in it, so I know really quite a lot of not commonly known information about it. Let's have some random historical trivia. The first enzyme to be chemically characterized was urease in 1926. This was within a generation of first showing conclusively that isolated biochemicals can catalyse reactions in a purely chemical way, without needing intact living cells. Urea itself, the substrate of urease, was the first biochemical to be artificially synthesized from indisputably inorganic chemicals. This was demonstrated about 100 years before the discovery of urease, and people argue about which date marks the beginning of biochemistry as a discipline :-)

21. Chaim Potok

Chaim Potok is most famous, which isn't really very famous at all, for writing The Chosen. Basically he writes about religious American Jews during the second half of the twentieth century. My favourite of his books and the reason he's in my interests list is The book of lights which is partly about Kabbalah and partly about the atomic bomb and entirely about really interesting character development and exploration of philosophical issues. I keep trying to recommend it to people but I am still not really sure how well it works for a non-Jewish reader.

34. Dundee

Dundee has a life-size bronze statue of Desperate Dan in the town centre. This is because the title of the old children's comic book The Dandy, where Desperate Dan is a recurring character, was originally a pun on the name of the town, Dandy -> Dundee. Also, I lived in Dundee from 2001 to 2005, while I was studying for my PhD.

55. Joni Mitchell

I don't think I really know anything about Joni Mitchell except that I like some of her music. Sorry, meme.

89. Reform Judaism

Serious fact about Reform Judaism: it's the denomination I belong to, so I can tell you quite a lot about it if you want to know. Random trivia about Reform Judaism: the UK Reform rabbinical training college is the Leo Baeck College, R' Leo Baeck himself being a refugee from Germany who helped to rebuild intellectual Jewish life in the UK after the war. The motto of the Leo Baeck College is: kamatz katan l'olam, which means [obscure fact about correct pronunciation of Hebrew vowels] forever!

[January Journal masterlist; there's still quite a few spaces so do feel free to add some more prompts even if you didn't get to it in December! Or indeed to make a second request if you're already in the list.]
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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