IPH general profile
Hi. If you found me via my love of multilingual puns, excellent.
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Family & education
Note: For the beginnings of my life story (it is barely started so far) see my autobiography.
I am the eldest of five children of originally middle class parents, was sent to Roman Catholic schools (including a boys-only Jesuit grammar school), and therefore confidently abandoned religion on leaving home for university, and have remained free from any religious beliefs or superstitions ever since. I ended up with a BSc degree in mathematics but at the university also studied particle physics with the honours physicists for my first year, and ancient Greek with the honours classicists (who had all passed Greek A level about 5 months earlier, whereas I had merely passed Greek O level about 5 years earlier, which gives you a clue) for my third year*.
I trained at university as a schoolteacher but, after only months at it, I abandoned teaching for Information Technology in which I worked in Manchester, southern England, Paris, Stuttgart, and northern Virginia (USA), plus a year in Brussels (mainly 1991) before work dwindled to nothing (2002..2006) and I finally retired permanently (winding up my little consultancy company) at the end of 2006 to work on my abstract paintings.
Hobbies and interests (brief)For a detailed profile of my interests see my interests profile.
My only hobby done with other people was the amateur theatre. I gave that up years ago: I had been there and done it and had no intention of doing it for money. The last thing I'd want would be to become famous or be recognized in the street. Other practical hobbies (that is, with a physical output) include DIY, gardening, model railways, electronics, playing and composing music, writing, and setting (rather than solving) crossword puzzles. Latterly, I can add creating this website, and contributing to Wikipedia and other knowledge websites (but I do not mess with “YouTube”!) and helping with the websites of a couple of good causes. An example of a job that I have done for a while, a bit like a hobby, is being webmaster of a small number of charitable sector groups of which one in the recent past (till 2010) was Opera South. My other interests (those with no particular output) are many. They include watching movies and a few other kinds of good quality TV programme, and lots of reading (of books and web pages) on all of my many interests. I read very little fiction.
I still have an interest in languages and linguistics (see Linguisticians are not all linguists) and was once pretty well fluent in French and German; I did an O level course in Russian, about 45 years ago, and was just about up to being polite in Russian and Spanish in my 40s. And of course I studied Latin and ancient Greek at school, and I also got a 2-1 final exam mark in the Greek component of a university first year honours classics degree course. Whatever Lewis Carroll, the Bellman, and the Snark thought of them, I like puns, especially bilingual or even multilingual ones, and am proud to assert “Je suis de la calembourgeoisie”.
After abandoning religion at age 18, I have maintained a position of scientific detachment about the big ontological and epistemological questions.
My position on theism is not all that far from that of Bertrand Russell with his celestial teapot, and my position about creationism and the notion called “intelligent design” is not far from that of Richard Dawkins in all his books, including the famous The Blind Watchmaker and his now even more famous 2006 book The God Delusion, although I disagree with some of the usages in the language of Dawkins, particularly on the verb “believe” when referring to the opinions and other thought processes of scientists (that is, empiricists): in my opinion, he would do much better to avoid the word unless referring to religious belief. However Prof. Dawkins is a very brave man to place himself “out there” in the current world climate of aggressive religionism, as was the late, lamented Mr Christopher Hitchens, whose book God Is Not Great is also on my shelf. I have also read related titles by Daniel Dennett and others.
* I got the equivalent of a 2-1 score in the Honours Classics Greek exam taken the same summer term as my maths finals. The fact that I did not, as it happens, get a brilliant maths degree can be put down to distractions throughout my undergraduate years more than to particular ineptitude in the subject. I was never going to be the sort of person who would spend 3 or 4 years of his life on a doctorate or even just one year a master’s in mathematics. At that time, I did’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and indeed I spent the year after getting my degree on a PGCE (postgrad secondary school teaching course) before realizing after only two terms actually teaching kids that being school teacher was definitely not what I wanted to spend my life doing.