Damian Counsell was born in Nigeria in 1968 and came to live in the UK in 1970. His father is from Lancashire, England and his mother from Freetown, Sierra Leone. He grew up in the Midlands, where he went to this comprehensive school before it was (rightly) demolished. From the rubble he selected two chips and glued one to each of his shoulders. He wore them while studying at Balliol College, Oxford and then Imperial College, London. He still wears them today doing bioinformatics at the Rosalind Franklin Centre for Genomics Research (formerly the Human Genome Mapping Project Resource Centre), at the Genome Campus near Cambridge.The Medical Research Council will close the Rosalind Franklin next year, so he would be happy to receive job offers from scientist normblog readers. Damian has written a few technical papers and is currently writing a couple of friendlier books on bioinformatics for Cambridge University Press (CUP). Interested lay readers should probably start with his Bioinformatics Frequently Asked Questions, or his guide to making the best of having to write your thesis with Microsoft Word. All his publications are or will be available to download. Damian blogs at PooterGeek.
Why do you blog? > Waves of stupidity threaten to drown anyone who thinks in a disciplined way about world affairs (Iraq), medicine (MMR vaccine), technology (software patents), and popular music (in a world where Smokey Robinson is still alive, what are Belle and Sebastian for?). I am the man on the shore, sitting on a throne, tilting his finger in the dyke of the windmill.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Meeting Maoi, a Filipino Cambridge graduate student blogger who found my blog by accident and turned out to be studying under one of my best friends in Cambridge. She is the most amazing character. Sadly, for various reasons, she doesn't blog much these days.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > I wrote some mixed pre-release reviews of three CDs on an independent record label and lost the friend who runs it.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > If people have done something foolish, say how foolish the thing they have done is, not how foolish the people who did it are. They'll take it personally either way, but the former is fair comment, the latter is actionable. Oh yes, and don't use squinty small fonts.
What are you reading at the moment? > Different Seasons by Stephen King.
What is your favourite movie? > Groundhog Day.
What is your favourite song? > I love many songs from the Tin Pan Alley era, but none of them moves me as much as 'Love and Affection' by Joan Armatrading. I suspect that my choice has been swayed by the production and arrangement of her original version so maybe I'm answering the question 'What is your favourite single?'. It puzzles me that critics dismissed the works of Cole Porter and his peers as junk when they were producing work of enduring musical and lyrical greatness, but now Radio 4's Front Row devotes airtime to the serious discussion of the output of Badly Drawn Boy.
Who is your favourite composer? > Gershwin - both of them.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I used to think there was something good about the comprehensive school system. I have seldom been more wrong in my life. Lately, the corruption and waste of the European Union is turning me from a Europhile into a Eurosceptic. Actually, it's worse than that: I want to withdraw from the EU and invade France.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > I would create one common, meritocratic market for education. I would end charitable status for fee-paying schools. I would free the universities to charge their own fees. I would set up a single, fluid system of selection and payment so that parents and students could migrate at every stage as their resources and abilities allowed, and the institutions compete for the talent rather than the other way round: 'From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs'.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > David Aaronovitch.
What would you do with the UN? > I would convert its headquarters into New York's most striking shopping mall. The murderers and thieves who rule over many of the countries represented there should be dressed in ridiculous costumes (I mean more ridiculous than their current ones) and made to stand behind a display glass. The oppressed people of their nations should then be flown into town to point at them and spend the contents of the human mannequins' Swiss bank accounts under their noses.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Specifically: Islamism. Generally: religious and political fundamentalism. Universally: stupidity.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > It gets better all the time, but there are notches in the trendline, for example during stretches of the 20th century across regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > The Universe and most of the thinking beings in it are utterly indifferent to you. Laugh long and hard at this infinitely funny fact, listen to your laughter echo in the silence without fear, and then whistle nervously.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > I have never been married or had a long-term relationship (longer than two years continuously). I'm not an easy person anyway; there's no need to bring politics into it.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > [Takes deep breath.] I find it hard not to dislike people who speak in fake Estuary accents, anyone not working on a farm or for a rescue service who drives an off-road vehicle on the road, any adult wearing a blazer out of choice, anyone under a baseball cap who is neither playing nor watching baseball, anyone willingly carrying The Daily Mail, white people who have attempted to grow dreadlocks, anyone with a mullet, anyone in a boater, anyone with an over-engineered goatee.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Shopping.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Everything. I worry about atrocities in the Sudan. I worry about democracy in Russia. I worry that my niece or my friends' children will stub their toes and suffer fleeting discomfort. I worry that my answers to this questionnaire might contain grammatical errors.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > Everything. This is one of several reasons 'My Way' is one of my least favourite songs.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Somewhere near a good university in California.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Hanging out with my oldest friends for a month in a beautiful, sunny place. None of us would be allowed to work for the duration, and all my friends' children would be cared for by a crack team of trustworthy childminders whenever we wanted to go off and have fun.
What is your most treasured possession? > I could cheat and say my health/faculties, but its probably my data: all the email I've exchanged over the years, all my friends contact details, all the scientific work I've ever done, all the appointments in my diaries and all the content of PooterGeek.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Being with friends, taking (their) photographs, making music and reading.
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > I feel lucky to have such an unusual name. For googling purposes I would change it to something even more unusual like Anselm - the name my friends Adrienne and Blaise gave to their son.
What talent would you most like to have? > I'd like to be as good a jazz pianist as Kenny Kirkland was.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Pop svengali.
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > Aston Villa.
What animal would you most like to be? > The bluebird of happiness.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > A 'permanent' academic position that really turns out to be permanent this time.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd build my own laboratory. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Ha! Mwah-ha-ha-ha!
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of previous profiles, and the links to them, can be found here.]