December 22, 2006

Playing Five Things You Didn't Know About Me Meme

Eszter Hargittai tags me with the chain letter, err, "Five Things You Didn't Know About Me Meme". OK, I'll play:

1. When I was a senior in high school (Bronx High School Of Science), I placed eighth in the nation in the Westinghouse National Science Talent Search (that was probably the high point of my failed ambition to become a mathematical physicist). There's even a picture of me with the other winners in an old Discover magazine (I almost had an opportunity to tell off then Vice-President Bush, but it didn't materialize).

2. I've never shaved my beard or moustache. I've trimmed an errant strand or two with scissors, but nothing more. When people occasionally ask how long it took to grow my beard, I answer "All my adult life". It's not for a religious reason. But ever since it began to grow, I've always thought it a positive feature, and never wanted to remove it. I may change that one day, but so far not.

3. I have a metal rod in my right leg, repairing an injury from a car accident. This gives me the minor pseudopower of being a metal-detector-detector. It really can set off airport security. So I always know when the screeners have metal detectors on high, as opposed to lesser threat levels. So far, I've never had more than minor delays, but it can be annoying when traveling or going into high-security buildings.

4. I spent some months using a wheelchair as part of recovering from the above-mentioned injury. One really does get treated differently when in that position.

5. I've never taken a formal class in computer programming (my degrees are Math and Physics). I went into programming because it was job that was far more congenial than other options, e.g. substitute teaching (no offense meant). It both allows one to sleep late, and not wear a tie, two critical conditions for me. The occupation description I use, "Consulting Programmer", is a nod to Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective.

Now I have to not break the chain, err, find five other people, who I presume haven't already played. Given that this is a holiday weekend, let's make this some love for linklorn:
Karen Coyle, Elisabeth Riba, Dave Rogers, Matthew Skala, Michael Zimmer.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in misc | on December 22, 2006 05:47 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I thought you were a lawyer. Seriously, I could have sworn from your past writings that you were law.

Posted by: Shelley at December 22, 2006 06:55 PM

Nope. In fact, I often disclaim I'm not a lawyer.
I've done several things in the law/policy field - been an expert-witness, worked on a few briefs, testified in the DMCA exemptions proceedings, etc. In the depths of the tech recession, I considered going into law and becoming a lawyer, and looked at various programs. But I eventually decided not to change careers, for many reasons. I've thought of writing about that.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at December 22, 2006 07:19 PM

Thanks for playing! I had hoped I would learn something about you and I did. That's cool about Discover magazine, do you have a copy? You should scan it in for us if you do. Regarding #4, I would be curious to hear more about this, that is, how exactly did people treat you differently and how did you feel about all that?

Posted by: eszter at December 22, 2006 09:09 PM

Yes, I still have the magazine somewhere. Though I'm privately proud of the achievement, I don't mention it much, as nowadays it's faded glories.

Regarding being in a wheelchair, it can be viewed as a part of your "identity" in a way that can be out of proportion to the affected person. I wasn't taking notes at the time, but some people were patronizing, a few had more of a problem than I did, and of course some were helpful. For me, the negative behaviors were just part of the hassle of dealing with a broken leg, and subsumed into all the issues from being injured.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at December 23, 2006 11:49 AM

How do you convince airport screener that you have a rod in your leg rather than a bomb or a weapon hidden on your person?

Posted by: wondering at December 23, 2006 03:19 PM

It's really easy in practice. They move the handheld detector "wand" over my leg, and it goes off, and they can see and feel that there's nothing else there except my leg. I have a document about it too.

Remember, thousands of people pass through an airport each day, and some of them will have metal implants from injuries (e.g. hip replacement). It's a common false-positive for the screener.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at December 23, 2006 03:28 PM

FYI, I'm not ignoring the tag; I've written up four of the five things... but it's on my currently dead hard drive, so following the chain will have to wait until my machine is functional again...

Posted by: Lis Riba at December 29, 2006 09:02 AM

A pity you missed the opportunity to speak your piece to Bush Sr., but so it goes.

While not exactly as useful as "10 Things You Didn't Know About Censorware," I did enjoy your list.

Posted by: Laura at January 5, 2007 05:33 PM