As an undergrad, I majored in medieval studies (because it allowed me to dabble all across the humanities, as long as the courses were set in the right thousand years) and minored in computer science (which let me pursue some math and more linguistics, as well as fun with AI). Studying what people thought about the weather in the Middle Ages as part of my York degree was what led me to the discovery that there was such a field as history of science.
I am obstinate about committing to a discipline, and this was how it all manifested. I am a historian, and happily so, but I use large quantities of art historical and literary material in my work, and I get to study the development of all the sciences along the way. In a way, I ended up pursuing this route as a way of letting me do all of it, all the time.
Why the Middle Ages in particular? I can give you fuzzy answers. It's a time period of my very own, which no one else in my family works on. (My father specializes in the Renaissance; my mother's done work in the Renaissance up through modern art history.) It's the inspiration for a whole lot of fantasy literature, to which I was drawn at an early age. And then, when I got to college, there was no better way to be an interdisciplinary dabbler.
Were you as into Playmobil as a child as you are now? Do you think some of the small pieces are too dangerous for small children?
I discovered Playmobil while doing my MA in York. What lured me in was the Magic Forest series which came out that year, prominently displayed in a toy store window. The Magic Forest series included such wonders as an alchemy lab, the headless horseman, and dwarves and unicorns. After some initial encouragement from darkling_dreams, it became a habit.
Playmobil produces a series for younger users, as the main series involves some fairly miniscule parts. Wrist cuffs are maybe a third of a cm. Baby hedgehogs are maybe half a cm at their longest. Clearly, this is a hobby better suited for those of a more advanced age than 5.
What is your favourite thing in London that you've identified since moving here this time?
The tides of the Thames. I've never been gotten to know a river as well before, never lived with it as such a frequent feature of my life. The degree of difference between some of its more extreme tides is extraordinary. I love it when my walk to the grocery store is temporarily blocked by the drawbridge being open, letting boats in and out of the marina on to the water. It's still a major artery for traffic and tourism. The Docklands wouldn't be so well-developed without the Thames Barrier (which I'd still like to go be a tourist at). The Thames and its ocean tides are what made London the city that it is, what tied it to the rest of the world, how ships made it to the Americas and everywhere else from here. Furthermore, it seems especially appropriate that when I was small, the Fleet was my London river; now I'm bigger, and I've moved on to the Thames.
You're stuck in a lift with Heston Blumenthal, Ann Widdecombe and a secret bar of Cadbury's milk chocolate in your handbag. What happens next?
I'm not sure I'd recognize Blumenthal or Widdecombe if I saw them. But I'd certainly recognize a bar of Cadbury's milk chocolate in the event of a close encounter. Given the likelihood of my ignorance, I'd probably completely waste the opportunity and do something really dull like say, "Sixth floor, please" to whomever was near the buttons. Reminds me, I haven't had a Flake bar in ages.
What is the worst meal you've ever had?
Whatever it was, I have thankfully repressed it. However the most woeful dish may have been the time in my teens when I didn't like my own birthday cake. All that nice chocolate was contaminated by alcoholic flavors which did not appeal. My parents were delighted to have more of my birthday cake, even if it was wasted on me at the time.
In keeping with the spirit of the meme, feel free to ask me for five interview questions in turn.