A very belated response to some questions asked by MesmerizedByNature
. My apologies to him for the delay, but I've been moving house and cleaning, repairing and painting another (plus wasting a lot of time being ill again). So far the move and renovations have taken more than five times longer than expected, and are still not over. It has left me very little time for DA. This journal is still somewhat unfinished, but I think I had better put it up before it becomes an historical artefact.Five things about me
I studied three languages at school: Bahasa Melayu (Malaysian dialect of Indonesian, the language more usually taught in Australian schools), Latin, and German. Despite high marks for them at the time I can barely remember a word of any of them now. This is twice as embarrassing for Malaysian as I lived in Malaya for a while, and learnt to speak it a little while there.
I was a very mediocre endurance athlete. I had a lot of endurance and self discipline, but little talent for it. I could swim, run, and cycle for stupid distances, and enjoy it. If I'd been slightly faster at all of them, or if I'd been good at any one of them I might have been a successful triathlete. Instead I just became an endorphin junky.
I spent some time over the last part of last year/early part of this year collecting cicadas. They will be used in a research project being carried out in New South Wales.
I spent a couple of weeks one summer making and repairing artificial trees in a semi-arid zone. This was part of a research project looking at the effects of tree geometry on water distribution, and consequent recruitment of understory plants. I find projects like this, and the one above, deeply fascinating.
If I keep answering these things I'm going to have to give up claiming that I don't answer these things.The questions:1. What book/literature has influenced you the most? + why/how?The Voyage of the Beagle
. Possibly the greatest Ripping Yarn/Adventure Story ever. It is a great insight into the thought processes, careful observation, and staggering breadth and depth of knowledge of the young Victorian natural historian who would in his maturity bring us On the Origin of Species
. I first read it when I was about 10 years old. Fortunately, I had an edition that translated Darwin's foray's into Greek/Latin/French/Whatever into English (being Australian I'm severely language challenged). Equally fortunately I had a helpful and supportive librarian at the local library who took the time to find references that answered my seemingly endless questions, and made me read the references for myself.
But the most important thing for me is that The Voyage of the Beagle
gave me an insight that it was possible, providing one was willing to do the necessary work, to obtain a deep understanding of the world; how it works, how it fits together. Further, that such an understanding can bring a profound and deep appreciation for the beauty of the world. And finally, that it is alright to have unanswered questions. And that finding the answers can be the best part of the adventure.
Honourable mentions to "The Shaping of Modern Thought
" by Crane Brinton, and "Sleepwalkers
" by Arthur Koestler, which were my introduction to the history of ideas. Eventually they would lead to me being comfortable with the break between faith and reason. Probably the opposite of what Koestler was hoping when he wrote "Sleepwalkers".
On the purely literary side of things just about any play by Shakespeare for the deep insight into people and for the joy of language. Yeats because he is a bleak bastard. T S Eliot, also a bleak and insightful sod (bonus points for being an anagram of toilets). Joseph Conrad -- similar reasons, but in Novel form (and without the anagram bit). And Terry Pratchett, partly for his skill, but mostly because he is fun.2. What group of animals are your favourite group?
This sort of question is really difficult for me, because I usually don't have favourite anythings. Instead there is usually a whole pile of things that I find intensely interesting. If I could stretch the definition of animal way beyond breaking point I'd say Archaea(with an honourable mention to Eubacteria). Their chemistry is so gloriously weird. They contain so many hints as to what early conditions on the Earth may have been like. And, despite them being as distantly related from us as any organisms on Earth, I love the chemical similarities between, for example, bacteriorhodopsin (a photon driven proton pump) and vertebrate visual pigments. I love the way energetics are so tight at this end of the scale, and how efficiency rules.
If I sweep up the fragments of the definition and glue them back together, restricting myself to Animalia, the choice is harder. So many wonderful expressions of the hollow sack, and its major variation, the tube with a hole at each end. The triumph of the insect body plan, and the oddness of incomplete life cycles vs metamorphosis. The glory of the cephalopod chromatophore, and resultant visual language of squid and cuttlefish. I'm kind of genetically predisposed to find things with large eyes, proportionally large heads, and small bodies appealing. And I do. Tarsiers and marmosets are almost insufferably cute. I'm also very fond of members of the cat family, and of any reptile.3. What kind of plant would you be if you had to chose? +why?news.nationalgeographic.com.au…
Norway Spruce. I'm comfortable with my own company, and don't mind being isolated. Also, I have a thing about closure. Maybe if I could successively clone myself I could hang around long enough to see how the story ends? 4. What's your favourite video game/board game etc? Pick one!
Chess. That was easy.5. Which music genre is your favourite?
Jazz, maybe. But I like a lot of different music -- 60s and 70s rock and folk and blues, a lot of classical music, some grunge (even if Radio Birdman did much of it better many years earlier), a lot of "roots" and "alternate". OTOH I find a lot of pop plain dull. And I find what I think of as "Look at me I'm wonderful" music tedious and boring. Which is why I listen to very little rap and it's derivatives.6. What have influenced/influences you the most, life or death? Elaborate?
Life. Death is too easy. It comes to us all in the end. But to live well is a challenge.7. Philanthropist or misanthrope?
I tend to be charitable, but I'm guessing that's not the usage you intend here. I find I like a lot of individual people, admire many, love a few. But en mass I find humanity short sighted, irresponsible, stupid, destructive and dangerous. As a whole I can't recommend them. Misanthrope, maybe?8. Have you ever been active in an non-profit organisation? If so, in what subject?
Hmm, lots of them. Some fitness stuff with disabled children. Amnesty International (a long time ago). I provided free PC support to various non-profit art organisations for a while, and for the staff of an organisation working on brain injuries. Helped members of a housing cooperative write grant applications. I was secretary/treasurer of a chess club for seven years. I've been volunteer labour for some scientific research projects too. 9. Soulmate, is there such a thing?
Depends on what you mean by soulmate.Tim Minchin: If I didn't have you
Your love is one in a million
(One in a million)
You couldn't buy it at any price
(Can't buy love)
But of the 9.999 hundred thousand other loves
Statistically, some of them would be equally nice
And love is made more powerful by the ongoing drama of shared experience
And the synergy of a kind of symbiotic empathy or... something
Well I feel I have "found" a soulmate. But Minchin is right. It is a state found by hard work, shared experience, knowing when to compromise and when to hold your position, when to accept the other's need to hold the line on some issue, and mutual respect. 10. Name two addictions you have/ have had!
Endorphins. Caffine.11. What do you believe in? Big question, I know! XD
Little fluffy bunnies. I'm just glad we haven't found them in the pre-cambrian.