Science and books

I am in some science books. They’ll never make the bestseller lists because they are horribly expensive books, but as a contributor I sometimes got a free one.

My favourite is a non-serious article called ‘Science and the Simulated Organism’ but that’s a story for another day.

It has long been an ambition of mine to produce science books in non-jargon language at an affordable price. Maybe Leg Iron Books will one day achieve that. Books students can read and not say ‘What the blistering fuck does that mean?’ on every second page. That could be fun and useful too.

It used to happen. I still have a copy of A.E. Lehninger’s ‘Biochemistry’ which is probably woefully out of date now but which was invaluable in getting me through the first year of university.

Ah, university, three years I’ll never recall in detail and some of the flashbacks still make me wince. And yet… I learned enough to pass with a good degree and impressed a few professors enough to get me invited on to a PhD course. Oh I didn’t apply for that. It only recently occurred to me that I have very limited experience in applying for any job. The ones I applied for, I mostly didn’t get. Most of them just happened. A phone call, ‘are you interested in this?’ sort of thing. I did begin to wonder if someone was trying to keep me out of the way.

I applied for the janitor job. Well, I called in about the job at 4 pm and was employed at 7 pm. Boss later told me she wasn’t sure I’d be up to it and gave me a chance. Today she sent more texts asking me to come back. I am tempted to put on the uniform for one day and go in, just to see the looks on the staff faces.

Universities are not what they were, some say. Yes, they are, although they are worse now. We had the dopey dicks in charge of the student’s union when I was there (1978-1981) and they insisted we buy life membership to the student union. I didn’t. The bars in there were cheap but so damn humourless we rarely used them. The Cardiff dockside bars were much more fun – back then, before they yuppiefied the whole derelict area.

Universities were always loaded with Leftie idealists and they’d get involved in committees and running the student’s union rather than doing proper student things like drinking and smoking and learning stuff with the remaining brain cells. They never grasped the simple equation that we ‘normal’ students managed to get real degrees in real subjects even though we had destroyed at least 50% of our thinking capacity with strong drink. They, on the other hand, managed to scrape a third in elementary witchcraft and daytime TV while abstaining from anything that could harm what little brain they possessed. Which, on the face of it, was probably a wise decision.

Basically, only idiots join committees and committees should be nothing more than a gateway drug into the secure psych ward or at least the remedial class or perhaps a bag and reservoir thing….

What Frank describes was starting to happen when I was in university. The useless and the downright dangerous-in-a-lab morons were pushed out of the way. Not fired, the union wouldn’t allow it, but shunted upward into admin and manager roles. The dopes were put in charge.

In those days it didn’t matter too much. Nobody took any notice of them anyway. Later though, they took control of the money and then things got very screwed up indeed. Research priorities changed. You couldn’t research for the sake of it any more, there had to be a profit motive.

Then the profit motive took over and it didn’t matter what the results really were, the conclusions had to fit the funder’s declared interests. That’s where we are now. The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Get the right result or next year, you’re teaching HND tractor control.

The Leftie Loonies leave university with a determination to make the world a dark, sad and miserable place. I left university with a 2:1 Hons in microbiology and John Otway’s autograph on a copy of DK50/80. And a hangover. And a job as a research assistant working on oil spill degrading bacteria, that later morphed into a PhD on something entirely different.

You know what? In nearly 57 years, I have never been on any kind of march or picket line for anything.

I don’t believe the world owes me anything.

Neither does the world.

11 thoughts on “Science and books

  1. I always quite liked the For Beginners series (google “for beginners books”), finding the explanations clear and easy. I think they’re good for hooking the interest of a lay student, or a great starting point for someone whose interest is already hooked, but has no idea where to go next.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great read. Prolly one of the least bitter, bitter sounding whathaveyou’s that I’ve read anywhere in a while.

    At least, I can see someone reading your whathaveyou, and interpreting it as being bitter. Some bitter old neverwas who never made it to the top, so they dropped out and developed severe mouse problems. Some would even go so far as the label that chain of events as karma. Maybe it’s time for a better mouse trap. You seem to have some willing volunteers. Or at least, involuntary volunteers. Voluntary is so…subjective.

    Q: What’s the usefulness of a better mousetrap over “the long haul?”
    A: Yeah…I’m thinking that these mazes that everyone is so intrigued in/with? Yep…there’s no such thing as “inactive participation” as far as I can tell.

    Energy seeks the path of least resistance. What exactly energy/an energy considers the path of least resistance? Welp, that’s a horse of a different color, ain’t it? Especially when you have to bounce back and forth with the singular/plural and/or singularities/pluralities.

    Thanks for the read. ❤
    Keep rockin.

    ^Pink Floyd – One Slip – A Momentary Lapse Of Reason^

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m incapable of bitterness 😉

      When I left, I set up on my own as a rogue scientist. The last few years have been poor but it’s firing up again – I have to prepare project costs for some new work this week.

      In fact, the more they mess up the universities, the better I’m likely to do in my own business!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I was aware of the loony lefties at my uni, but didn’t really get what they were about and never joined in, but they were really good at making me feel guilty about not joining in. They were about to ‘change the world’ and I was refusing to take part! How dare I ignore something so important! How could I have been so…boring? My then love interest, coolly socialist, coasted to a 2:1 on the back of lots of drinking, student marches and other ‘right on’ activist stuff, while I struggled to get something a bit more mediocre, with lots of stress and sheer sweat. That really pissed me off. They didn’t really do any work, at all, and yet got better grades than me. How did they do that??? I did wonder whether it was because they were good at spouting the expected leftie drivel, which pleased those marking the papers…

    And THEN, and THEN, if that wasn’t enough, I went and worked for another uni, but still managed to keep apart from the leftie activism, which did my career no end of good. Not. Interesting how the ‘right on’ sort got promotion, whereas my boring sort always got passed over…

    Bitter? Me? Nah….


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Having left school at 16 with a quite magnificent two and a half ‘O’ levels (I really wasted a good grammar school education), I never had the experience of university politics. But I was very much into the idea of idealistic socialism, as long as it involved smoking lots of dope and screwing lots of willing nubile hippies. I really liked that aspect of it.

    My education started after I left school, and hit a steep learning curve as I travelled (which was the reason I left school when I did – I wanted to see the world). And for a few years, living in itinerant and trans-national semi-communes, I would say I was probably a bit of a lefty, although I didn’t think about politics per se. I think it was the access to pretty girls that pulled me that way more than anything. But, (to quote a favourite quip I read somewhere) ‘I used to be a socialist, but then I got mugged by reality’.

    Not being qualified to do anything, eventually I realised that the only way I was going to make a living (apart from labouring) was to either turn to a life of crime (profitable, but with a lot of downsides, not least ending up in prison), or working for myself. So I chose the latter, and that’s what I’ve done for most of my life, one way or another. Last time I had a ‘job’ was in the early 80s. And of course, my attitudes (politically) were shaped by my experience of real life. I mean the way life is, as opposed to how we’d like it to be in an ideal world. And what all these snowflakes don’t seem to realise is that this is the real world, and tearing down statues of Cecil Rhodes, refusing to listen to opinions you don’t like and banning the greatest philosophers of our time from the curriculum isn’t going to change anything – it’s just going to make them more ignorant. And less capable of coping with reality.

    I really don’t know where I’m going with this. Blame it on the (now empty) bottle of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo (Spelling? I don’t have the bottle in front of me – it’s in the bin). I think what I’m trying to say is that the lefty, socialist politics are the preserve of those who have never really grown up, and who still live in a bubble of idealism where reality doesn’t exist. They haven’t yet cottoned on to the fact that the imperative for survival is hard-wired into all of us, and socialism just doesn’t figure in that particular circuit.

    I’m going to post this, despite the fact that tomorrow I’ll think “Why the fuck did I post such a load of drivel on a public site? It doesn’t even make any sense.” Blame the wine, and the couple of beers, and the few shots of Tsipouro I had earlier. And the postprandial Metaxa 7* I have next to me now.

    I will.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Using terms like ‘postprandial’ is impressive for someone with two and a half O levels 🙂

      I have an O level in metalwork and a CSE in biology (yes really) and sometimes that’s all I tell people. It’s a true, if rather incomplete CV.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heh! Coincidentally, one of my two ‘O’ levels was in metalwork / technical drawing. The other was English language, and the half (I never really considered it a proper ‘O’ level) was for oral English, something which had been recently introduced. Basically I only passed those ‘O’ levels which required no studying at all but just came naturally to me. All my energies during my tenure at school were devoted to bucking the system, and none whatsoever to studying. Stupid really, when I look back on it. However, it hasn’t stopped me from having a very varied and interesting life, and I never had to rely on the state to support me, so it could be worse, I guess.

        Liked by 1 person

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