GofaDM’s Weekly Heroes

I have observed, while listening to the radio, how useful recurring “features” or “spots” can be to the creativity-strapped presenter (or producer).  These allow new content to be generated on a regular basis with far less effort than creating something original would require.  You may be surprised that it has taken me so long to steal (sorry, adapt) this idea for GofaDM.

In a further act of homage, I have noticed that Twitter has something called “Follow Fridays”: apparently not a question to which the answer is clearly “Saturdays”.  I believe this is intended to give users of Twitter the opportunity to recommend other users to their coterie of followers.  This activity is indicated through use of the hashtag #FF – which frankly, in a better-run universe, would be mine and earning me a decent income by now.

So, taking these two observations – and in lieu of a protracted court case with Twitter over its use of an important part of my family name – I have created GofaDM’s first recurring feature: Weekly Heroes (please try and imagine a fanfare and/or drum roll as you are reading).  Well, I say “recurring” but for the time being it is a “one-off” but with an intent to recur (however, this statement should not be used to impute any warranty, express or implied).

Now, if I’m honest, I don’t really have heroes in the established sense, so instead this “feature” will offer an excuse to gather together vague recommendations and/or gobbets (goujons?) of approbation that I am too lazy to develop into a proper post.  This first outing will be even more of a cheat, as I have a backlog of “heroes” to clear.

OK, I think that should have managed your expectations downwards to a sufficient degree that I feel able to continue into the main body of the feature.

My first hero is Helen Castor.  She has presented a number of entertaining and informative BBC4 series on the Middle Ages – curiously, history does seem to be an acceptable place for women to appear on television.  She also had a small cameo in the “DVD Extras” which preceded the live broadcast of the RSC production of Richard II to my local cinema – actually, I wonder if it would be more accurate to say that these extras are in lieu of a programme?  However, it is for her use of the C-bomb, entirely unbleeped, on BBC4 that she came to the jury’s attention.  She was quoting from an historical source, but even so I wasn’t entirely convinced I hadn’t misheard or just imagined it – but I have subsequently been able to confirm the bomb was indeed dropped.  We, the audience, were actually treated like proper adults – and even I, a maiden aunt-in-training as earlier established, was merely surprised and impressed.

My second hero is Michael Brooks: author of 13 Things that Don’t Make Sense.  The book is really quite interesting, but he is a hero for the final paragraph.  This paragraph provides the best reason for why humans do science (and why they should continue to) that I have ever read.  I’d recommend the whole book, but if you are very short of time you could read the end first – and with no need to worry about spoilers!

Today’s final hero is Nate Silver, author of many a forecast and The Signal and the Noise.  As a professional prognosticator, I found the book really fascinating – though at times it does assume rather more knowledge of baseball or poker than I can muster (or was willing to DuckDuckGo).  It helps to confirm things I had previously suspected and gave me new ways of thinking about how I do my job.

By the way, I do realise that many will find it “sad” that I read things related to my work for pleasure: I like to think it shows I am lucky enough to do something which interests me (despite my occasional railing against “the man”) and thus contributes to my generally sunny disposish.  Anyway, if you thought that was “sad”, I probably shouldn’t tell you of the power station spotting fun that can be had on a rail journey on either of the east or west coast mainlines.  On my last journey back from Glasgow, by the time we reached the Midlands, I had the pensioner couple sharing my table pointing out Rugeley B to me as they had seen it first.  I like to think they are continuing with this new hobby – but then self-delusion has been a close friend for many years.

Leaving that digression (though in this blog, talking about myself is never truly a digression) and returning to Mr Silver, it is for his chapter on climate change that the academy has recognised him this week.  Wonderfully lucid and perfectly living up to the title of the book by separating the signal (arising from the scientific community) from the noise (arising from the scientific community, media, politicians, vested interests and the frankly barking).  It should be required reading, and requires no knowledge of American sports derived from rounders!