"And then this fungus just took root in my leg and I could not get rid of it!"
This was my first time at an interdisciplinary meeting and I was really starting to see the benefits. And possible my dinner for a second time.
I was at a scientist-writer workshop held at Chicheley Hall; an 18th century house that looks as if it has been stolen from a Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice remake. Apparently, I was not the first person to have this thought, since the house was actually used for the London interiors during the BBC television production. Since 2007, Chicheley Hall has been owned by the Royal Society, which hosts scientific meetings to justify its ownership and weddings to justify its price tag.
As Grade I listed property, the building is amazingly elegant and beautiful. Also as a Grade I listed property, its rooms are charming and idiosyncratic. My bedroom in the main house has a huge wooden door through which you can step to be confronted with...
... the room's amenities.
Namely, a toilet, a sink and a bathtub that is so deliciously large that bathing feels disconcertingly like lying in a coffin. You have to walk through this essential plumbing to enter the bedroom. Mercifully, there is a bolt inside the door to ensure privacy even from the Hall's staff in possession of keys. This is a necessary precaution required for everyone to continue to enjoy mental health.
Over dinner, I met my fellow workshop attendees. As we admired the dining area, someone remarked that it was a scene set for a murder. I was to remember this later when I took a bath.
Our topic of conversation flowed from homicides to our relative research interests. Opposite me was an ex-astrophysicist, who had left the field after concluding all string theorists were motherless scumbags. She had moved onto a fellowship in science policy and drawn equal conclusions about her new work group. At this point, she was informed she was perfectly trained for a career in climate change and was promptly hired by NASA.
At the other end of the table, a researcher was describing how he used strong magnetic fields to probe the functionality of the brain. For his first class demonstration, he explained how he'd hook himself up to the magnets and make his right arm involuntarily move.
And there was the environmental biologist who used to study seagulls before one began to recognise the guy who messed with the eggs. This particular fowl began a campaign consisting of perfectly executed excrement ejections into the earhole. After this was successfully performed on multiple occasions, the researcher realised he could study everything he was truly interested in using plant leaves.
Then there was the guy who built bat-suits for caving on Mars.
His actual job was the study of cave ecosystems and cave detection on Earth. However, he was also working with SETI to develop equipment that might be used for similar caving expeditions on another planet.
"We really want a Batman-like suit," he explained. "Something equipped with ropes and lines that can extend to help you get around."
I started to feel like my job sucked.
"... and then I was swimming through this cave ..."
Seriously. I sit at a desk and look at a computer monitor. OK SO SURE, a virtual universe sounds cool, but really it's a bunch of computer code that will likely die in a horror of segmentation faults.
"... then I smacked my knee into a rock and cut it open..."
A bunch of segmentation faults that has never done that.
".... and even though I was trained in first aid, this fungus just took root in my leg and I could not get rid of it!"
Know what? We're keeping the galaxies.