Alan Adamson was born in Ottawa. He studied mathematics at the University of Waterloo and got a doctorate at Cal Berkeley in mathematics. After some years in the university system he left academia to become a software developer at a large multinational computer company. Since 1985 he has lived in Toronto. Currently Alan gets his primary professional challenge from representing his company to an international performance benchmarking consortium. Since 2005 he has been blogging at Silly Little Country, which is what he considers Canada often to be, as well as a wonderful place to live, and at Curling, which is all about one of the things that makes the country wonderful.
Why do you blog? > Originally it was just to replace any felt obligation to send routine letters or even emails to many family members and friends - instead just document what's up in public. I had originally been sceptical about the wisdom of this. I recall all sorts of admonitions about not making available on the internet information that could be used in hostile way. And it is true I do try to be a little careful (I won't explicitly post all that much, though you can find it out there - but I bet you cannot find what would most threaten me - and I trust this world generally), but most of this concern has faded and now it is just enjoyable to express myself on what interests me. So this is partly self-indulgence, but I also consider it a payback to all the others out there doing the same thing who have enriched my world so much these last three years (I read far more than I write). I look forward to doing a lot more of it in retirement. I also like focusing on my enthusiasms - the birds on the lake and their lives - and I know others care.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Realizing at one point that almost anywhere I might go in the world, I felt I had an acquaintance. You may not know this, Norm, but you are in fact the first case of my actually meeting one of them, and I was not originally planning to go to Manchester, but it is the same principle.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Having to sort out a commenting policy. Initially I attracted what I would call some anti-Semitic comments, though the authors would likely codify them as anti-Zionist. I was accused of denying free speech when I started modifying and denying the comments. And these were comments from people who should be close to me.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Advice I got from my co-blogger at Curling: plan to post every day somehow. I have not followed it well but, again, I am hoping to be more assiduous. In the last few months I have at times exploited the delayed posting potential of the tools to simplify this.
What are your favourite blogs? > I hate this question. I visit and scan so many any morning. But which ones consistently make me think in ways I have not or engage me? First, the major Jolie Holland fan, Chris Dillow's Stumbling and Mumbling. It is top of the list, and maybe the key is that he almost always makes me laugh, with dead serious arguments. My youngest sister's blog, Begin Each Day As If It Were on Purpose, is a great means of communication between us. I am a Baby Boomer, and she is not, so it is fascinating to get that one difference, and many others. Also, there is Doc Palmer, whom I check every day. It should also be noted that he has been fretting about the housing bubble for years. So when people say, 'Who knew?', here is a case of someone guessing right.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > John Stuart Mill. Karl Marx in his descriptive modes (although largely wrong), decidedly not the prescriptive one.
What are you reading at the moment? > David Lodge's Author, Author. A few years ago I tried this and could not read it. This time it has gone effortlessly. I still want to know what DuMaurier did wrong - it should be only a day or two more. Just so this does not seem too erudite, the next on the list is Michael Connelly's The Brass Verdict.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Ulysses. Yeah, I know the erudition and allusion are annoying, but it is such a sad sweet story of two lost souls almost really meeting. And I confess I like the erudition and allusion, as stories really just do go around and around again.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Adam's Curse'. We blew it. Heartbreaking. 'To love you in the old high way of love.'
What is your favourite movie? > I want to answer this one in an easy way but it is hard - there are so many good ones. It is still, as I think I put in many of my initial internet profiles, John Ford's The Searchers. Likely the Irish background makes me helpless against Ford's sentimentality, but this is no such movie, and I think what makes it wonderful is how Ethan is an outsider, no clear hero. And he casts John Wayne wildly against character.
Who is your favourite composer? > Really tough because the humorist Haydn is so great, the elegant Mozart is so elegant, and the amazing Beethoven is just that. I will pick Mozart, not just for the elegance, but also for his operas.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Wow! Are you kidding? Somehow in my teen days I became a major John Stuart Mill fan. Then in the midst of the Baby Boomers' 1960s enthusiasm, I think I found in my brain some empathy for the communists. This was all generational. I am back to John Stuart Mill (while recognizing that Marx offered a wonderful dissection of capitalism, but not useful policy for the future, it seems.)
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > A basic respect for human liberty. If I am doing you no specific harm, please do not bother me nor enlist the state to. In fact I would be happier if you just came over and complained. Perhaps we could cut a deal (in the mode of Coase).
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That any religion is deserving of any respect. At the same time, I have to give the Christians credit - in my atheistic childhood the worst they ever did to me was try to humiliate me and make fun of me. Yet this child was allowed to work at a job weekly, dealing with the whole community, and nobody claimed my grocery packing was unclean; in fact I got tips. I still regard Christianity as ludicrous. But I recall being treated with respect.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea. A solid argument for the modern idea of what evolution might be. Very convincing to me at the time. Of course the time has changed and so has evidence. Won't make me a creationist.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > I would ask Canadian Health Care to move to a more European model. Not the British farce, on which we model ourselves. But all my experience in Austria makes their hospital system look very good compared to ours.
What would you do with the UN? > Split off the vaguely democratic countries. Try not to subsidize the rest of them or pay any attention to their nonsense.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Right now? The tendency of the Western left to identify any resistance to the West (primarily represented by the US) as a friend.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > Incremental improvement seems to me pretty obviously possible, so there is more to come.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Don't let people convince you that you need to be as important as others want you to seem to be.
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? > Hmm. I think I might already be. OK, maybe not radically, now that she has to deal with unions.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Oh please, this is so easy - Michael Caine, but he needs to develop a Canadian accent.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Halifax, Nova Scotia.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Two weeks in Paris.
What talent would you most like to have? > Acting. I spent a lot of non-nerdy time in my nerdy teen years on this.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > I fear I would love to be a bumbling actor - the third-level part. I still have hopes. My age can help.
Who are your sporting heroes? > John Landy. Like there has never been the like. Never never.
Which teams do you support? > I assume I can pick a Curling team (see above). I am an utter fan of the Glenn Howard team.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I am not sure I would quit working, though that is a very strong temptation. I would devote a lot more attention to what events during the day are most satisfying, and start aggressively trying to increase those at the expense of others. I am pretty sure my morning walks by Lake Ontario would become much more frequent and much longer.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte (her husband is vaguely in my family tree), and Oscar Wilde. I am counting on my managerial skills to make the dinner work. I do not have full confidence.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]