Rethinking Being British

I’ve been getting really big into history recently. 

It started off with Ancient Rome, and then extended its tendrils further and further into the evolution of Europe, thanks in no small part to my reading of ‘Death of Kings’ by Bernard Cornwell. I also recently read the first book in that series (Saxon Stories), ‘The Last Kingdom’, which was amazing, and I would urge anyone who’s even remotely interested in the period, or just good writing to read it.

After that I’ve delved into whatever I can scour from ask historians on reddit, to the British History Podcast, and I have to say that it’s really made me think about my country in a different light.

It helps, I suppose, that I’ve been volunteering in the Nottingham Natural History Museum at Wollaton Hall for these last few months. It’s hard not to be inspired walking up to a tudor mansion on a regular basis. That, and sorting the remains of dead creatures from millions of years before humans even thought to stack two stones together. 

In a way, I’m closer now than ever to understanding how some people can be proud of their country, though I doubt I’ll ever understand fully. I’m not proud that Britain has such an extensive and fascinating history, just as I’m not proud that there was life there for millions of years before humans that also were not me. I do however, find it extremely interesting, and, if I’m being honest, it’s hard not to feel a tinge of connectedness to it all.

I’m not proud to be British, but perhaps my feelings of attachment to its heritage are the closest thing I’m ever going to get to that.

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No Oversight

Have you ever had one of those moments when you’ve been taught something in, say a school that you know to be untrue? It worries me when these events occur because we rely on these sorts of institutions to provide us with the service of education, and when we put that trust into it, most of us expect the same level of oversight that we used to expect in journalism (something that’s also been draining away in recent years, unfortunately).

Most mistakes are thankfully minor, although the lamarckian view of evolution does seem to bounce around a lot in the biology textbooks. Perhaps because some people think that it’s easier to explain a giraffe’s neck stretching because of physical strain than the truth of it, or perhaps some people who are tasked with writing very general textbooks don’t know enough about every field to do a great job in each one.

But then they probably shouldn’t be doing it.

And I’d argue that the truth is easier to explain, mainly because you can actually see it in nature, and it makes more sense.

These publications are many steps above what’s happening to some television stations at the moment. In that case, I’d like to propose that once your channel is filled with a certain percentage of bullshit you have to change your name from say… history, or… national geographic… you have to rename yourself, because otherwise it’s just misleading. I suppose there aren’t enough synonyms for crap to rename all of them so we might have to move into the territory of other defamatory words. Look out for the new arsehole channel for arseholes; where nothing is true and everything is permitted. Wait, I’m thinking of something else that’s actually good.

Backbone

In my quest to get myself onto my bike before rush hour, here it is, the blog that won’t require research that I’m doing today! If you want to hear me try to interpret last year’s lectures in a way that’s both goofy and informative head down to teen skepchick later where I’ll be struggling to make my history of vertebrates series get to an actual spinal cord before it reaches its halfway point, and although I’ve only done one so far you don’t really have much to catch up with, I was basically talking about abiogenesis.

Why wordpress thinks I’m going to need to use the word ‘parthenogenesis’ and not ‘abiogenesis’ is beyond me but I suppose there’s probably someone, somewhere doing a blog about asexual reproduction.

But really the history of life and similar stories are a big part of what makes me excited about science. Perhaps I’m less of an enthusiast and more of a sniffling nerd but I’ll take either, besides the sniffles part, I don’t want that to be a hallmark of my presence.

For all those who don’t know actually, you might be interested to know that ourselves (the vertebrates) and starfish all develop arseholes where most animals develop mouths, just to let you know where you stand. You could make a ‘talking our of your ass’ joke here but that’s just too easy, perhaps I’ll save it for another day and wait for the stream of awkward silence as I wait for one person to guiltily smirk at the remark.

I do get a little shocked sometimes at how physically repulsed I am by some invertebrates. I don’t know what it is about locusts and their ilk that makes my skin crawl but I suspect that there was never a point in our evolutionary past where we had to look at those harbingers of famine and go ‘awwwwwwwww’.

One day perhaps, I’ll be able to look at their wiggling mouthparts and appreciate them as much as I appreciate bears, lampreys and mice.

maybe.

Fossil Time!

I realise that posting these at nine AM isn’t going to do me any favours but screw it, there’s a slot in my schedule and I’ll be damned if I don’t grab it with both hands and take it.

Okay, maybe it’s ten AM now but I think that my point still stands, if one was ever made that is.

I’m going to the natural history museum today. The one in London, not New York, that one’s the museum of natural history and I can’t afford to go there. Hopefully one day I will, I want to stars at the dinosaurs and the blue whale model and maybe run into Neil Tyson.

We can all have dreams I suppose.

Time to wait in the always oversized queue for the dinosaurs section, hopefully we’ll get in this year. Going to the nhm was one of the defining experiences of my childhood, one of those things that really fuelled my obsessions and made me drool with glee. This happened again in London when my brother got Pokemon blue. Those however, are two completely unrelated incidents, besides the London thing I mean.

Who knows whether I’ll actually get to do the courses offered there that I’m currently eyeing up? All I know is that I adore the place.

Behind Closed Doors…

Okay, it’s blog time again.

I was actually considering doing a post as a video today but that can wait until another time, after all, I don’t really know where my video camera’s gone and the quality isn’t too brilliant. Maybe tomorrow I can jump on it and give my little space on the internet a little more variety than it holds at the moment.

Does it ever bother you that there are certain places hidden to the public?

I know that keeping secrets in any respect is something that pisses most people off but I’m not talking about government documents or whatever military tests they were doing in area 51 that they were more than happy to let people think were aliens.

No, I want to get into the hidden parts of the natural history museum.

Now I hear you cry; ‘Eddy, that’s really nerdy.’

And to that I would say yes. Yes it is.

But I never proclaimed to be one of the popular kids so let’s get on with this shall we?

There’s a lot of interesting stuff just out of our grasp there, and I want in, I also hear there’s a gym at the back but that’s beside the point really, I just want to be able to see all of it and gorm unashamedly at the wonder of the fossils and other goodies that lie behind closed doors.

Yes, yes it’s very nerdy.

You know I had quite the fascination with the unknown anyway, but when you realise that behind most locked doors there’s just a mop and bucket you kind of lose interest in the mysteries that lead to janitorial equipment.

In my house in fact, there’s a door that leads to nowhere, and I’m not talking about some sort of void or wormhole, no, it’s just bricked up on the other side because there’s a shower there.

Mystery solved!