The Dreaded Blog Tag Game: Six Random Self Absorptions Edition

So Abel Pharmboy does me the honor (sic) of tagging me with this meme:

1. Link to the person who tagged you….check*

2. Post the rules on your blog….check

3. Write six random things about yourself….see below

4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them….heh, heh, heh.

5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog….oh, they’ll know.

6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up….got that, Abel?

Before I get to dealing with number 3, I have got to lay down my marker on the altitude bragging competition going on between Abel and Dr. Isis.  Now I can’t claim more than 12,000 ft under my own power — but when I was working on this film I made repeated rapid transitions from 8,400 ft. to 16,700, and on one occasion, a little more.  (I’d like to say 17k, but I was  probably a hundred feet or so short).

This was  up in the high Atacama Desert, very close to the point where Bolivia, Argentina and Chile come together.  I was there filming precision cosmologist Tony Readhead use his Cosmic Background Imager to measure CMB to finer resolution than had previously been achieved.  It was high enough, and we weren’t doing the kind of proper acclimatization needed to work at those altitudes unaided, so we walked around with little bottles of oxygen, taking hits of the good stuff at a regular, measured rate.

Let me tell you, folks: until you have seen the southern sky at night — on a moonless night — with the Milky Way like Broadway across the sky and the Magellenic Clouds creating a density of light and pattern that no northern view will ever hold, right after a great big hit of oxygen to get your eyes in focus….you haven’t seen the stars.

That won’t impress my old friend David Breashears, any, but I sure do like making astronomy films, and time at altitude is a big reason why.

Onto the six random things:

1. I was born at Alta Bates Hospital, thus making me that rara avis, a true native of Berkeley, CA.  Much about my world view is perhaps thus explained.  (Bonus fact:  Alta Bates is named for its founder, a nurse, and it retains a tradition of great and nurturing nurse-driven care, much appreciated during by the Levenson family during my mother’s last illness.  She had hoped to die at home, but the hospital did the best they could to make her feel comfort, from moving her bed to catch the sunset over the bay to politely ignoring our smuggling in her beloved golden retriever, Fanny.)

2.   I used to be able to read while riding in a car, which resulted in my memorizing virtually all of Walter Brooks Freddy the Pig series.

3.  I met Louis Leakey in 1972, in the last summer of his life.  He and my Uncle, a British soldier turned farmer, had known each other in Kenya, and Dr. Leakey had come to recuperate from some heart trouble in a village near the farm.  He came to tea and held court for a couple of hours.  I was fourteen, bored and sulky, but he evoked questions, and I found myself in my first real conversation with a working scientist.  It was a transformational event — mostly I recall how he described his questions, and how each one raised and addressed led him to another.  This, I thought was cool.  (Also–most of what he talked about was contemporary biological anthropology, not the paleo-sort for which he was famous.  That too, I thought was cool, the fact that he didn’t confine himself to ploughing the same furrow over and over again.)  (Bonus note — Jane Goodall’s mum was keeping Leakey company, so I got to meet her thirty six  years before I met Jane herself).

4.  Echoing Abel, I too have taken money from a pharmaceutical company, Smith Kline Beecham, happily agreeing to act as the “before” poster child in a before and after campaign for the Hepatitis A vaccine, having had a ruinous bout of that illness following a film shoot in Mexico.  I had no pangs of conscience in taking money for what I would have done for free:  encouraging everyone to get vaccinated against Hep A and now, in a combination vaccine, B.  With the new vaccines (now not so new, I guess) there is no reason anyone should suffer what I went through, not to mention the worse prospect of a B infection — so don’t be stupid folks; go get the jabs.

5.  I drive a convertible.  In New England.  In winter.  It is a matter of principle that the top go down at least once in every month.

6.  When my son decided to name our new pet Tikka, I immediately told him that the animal’s full name would henceforth be “Kitten Tikka Masala.”

So now, who to tag?

Lovable Liberal:  you’re up.

How could one pass up the opportunity to learn a half dozen “facts” about Jen-Luc Picard?

Elizabeth Pisani — and not just because her book and her blog has perhaps the best name ever.

Carl Zimmer, nicely settled in to his new digs at, and not just because I am reading with pleasure right now his Soul Made Flesh.

Eric Roston, because it is always good to remind folks that without carbon, life itself would be improbable.  (You have to of a certain age to get the reference…)

Unlike the five above, I’ve never met or corresponded with Cosma Shalizi, but his blog is a consistent joy.  I tend to check it about once a month and read up on all that I’ve missed — like this astonishingly wonderful antidote to my monomaniacal election obsession.  Don’t know how he’ll take to being tagged by a stranger, (not well, I’d guess) but, worth a shot.

Image:  François Lemoyne, “Narcissus,” 1688.  Source:  The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202.

Explore posts in the same categories: blogospheric tail chasing, Self-aggrandizement, Uncategorized

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4 Comments on “The Dreaded Blog Tag Game: Six Random Self Absorptions Edition”

  1. I was waiting with baited breath to see what classic image you would associate with this post. If you ever need a pharmacologist to accompany you on a future film project, give me a holler – I’m absolutely useless but I’d be a really enthusiastic gofer.

    Your first point about night sky in the Atacama Desert resonated with me and my lucky experiences in the nowhere land halfway between Denver and Albuquerque – probably not the same, but at least 150 miles away from significant light. Also, my National Geographic met me in the mailbox today with the cover story, The End of Light. You don’t know what we’ve lost until you go somewhere that lacks light pollution.

    Thanks for responding – lovely reading.

  2. {{{{Gasp}}}} Didi you just mention Dr. Isis on your blog? Seriously, I am a twitter!!!!!

  3. bill Says:

    Bated, Abel, bated. “Baited” means you’ve been snarfing the pilchards again.

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