13 April, 2010
Recalibrating compass again
Back in February 2004, I completed the 'Political Compass' assessment of my political views. I repeated the exercise in January 2005, then largely forgot about it until the URL was circulated by one of my colleagues this morning, and I tried it again.
First time, my position was -2.50, -4.87, which became -4.62, -3.90 within the year. Today it's -5.38, -4.46, a further unexpected drift to the economic left (independent of social 'left'), towards collectivism (pro- state economic intervention). However, as I said last time, that may reflect my support of state provision for those in need, without being remotely in favour of state regulation of individuals' actions. I still feel the state should exist to serve individuals, never the reverse.
30 September, 2008
Yay! Meme time!
A quick questionnaire discovered via Calephetos:
1. The phone rings; who do you want it to be?
At work, I rather hope it doesn't ring at all!
At home: H, of course.
2. When shopping at the grocery store, do you return your cart?
Of course: I need to reclaim the £1 deposit.
3. In a social setting, are you more of a talker or a listener?
Definitely a listener.
4. Do you take compliments well?
Graciously? I doubt it; compliments make me uncomfortable, and I don't quite know how I'm expected to respond.
5. Do you play Sudoku?
I tried once, but gave up after about three minutes, repelled by the utter pointlessness of it. Life's too short for mere time-fillers.
6. If abandoned alone in the wilderness, would you survive?
I like to think I'd manage on common-sense and resilience, but would struggle with anything requiring specific knowledge, such as discriminating between the nutritious snails and the toxic ones.
7. Do you like to ride horses?
Possibly. I learned to ride in my very early teens, but the circumstances weren't great, and I never really recovered my confidence after falling from a bolting horse. I'd be willing to have another go, on a more compliant horse, but I like the fact that a bike doesn't get the deciding vote in any dispute about direction or speed.
8. Did you ever go to camp as a kid?
Strangely enough, I've never been tempted to go camping in the guise of a young goat.
Yes, I attended scout camp a couple of times as a child. Loathed it. Really loathed it.
That's to 'camp', with the associated 'people-I-wouldn't-otherwise-know' and organised activities; camping, in attractive locations with friends, is amongst my favourite activities.
9. What was your favourite game as a kid?
Butting other goats and chewing thistles?
I don't recall my favourite childhood game; probably something embarrassingly militaristic.
10. If a sexy person was pursuing you, but you knew he/she was married, would you go for it?
Nope. Out of the question.
11. Could you date someone with different religious beliefs than you?
I have absolutely no problem tolerating the religious beliefs of acquaintances, even of friends, but I can't deny I secretly think less of them for it. I think it'd be too much of a barrier to an intimate relationship.
12. Do any songs make you cry?
Some. Peter Gabriel's 'I Grieve' and Marillion's 'Memory Of Water' are two.
13. Are you continuing your education?
In the trite sense that life is always a learning experience, yes.
More formally, there's not much further to continue than a PhD, and I don't have the remotest interest in gaining qualifications more directly related to my job.
14. Do you know how to shoot a gun?
I think so; I only tried once. No-one died.
15. If your house was on fire, what would be the first thing you grabbed?
My computer, I think, or at least backup discs.
16. How often do you read books?
Rarely more than twice.
17. Do you think more about the past, present or future?
I don't think I dwell on any one more than the others.
18. What is your favourite children's book?
Possibly 'Futuretrack 5', by Robert Westall.
19. What colour are your eyes?
20. How tall are you?
21. Where is your dream house located?
I don't dream of houses.
22. Do you have a secret fetish?
23. Have you tried sushi?
Of course. S'okay. I don't have a fetish for it.
24. Have you ever taken pictures in a photo booth?
Er... yes, I do have a passport.
25. When was the last time you were at Olive Garden?
Never heard of it.
26. When was the last time you were at church?
I visited Lancaster Cathedral, High Street Chapel and Thurnham catholic Church as part of the national Heritage Open Days a couple of weekends ago, but remember: I'm atheist. They're interesting buildings, but just buildings. I havent been 'at church' in decades.
27. Where was the furthest place you travelled today?
Just to work and back.
Oh, and to the sorting office to collect a package which had been too large for my letterbox. And the rucksack I happened to have with me today, unfortunately.
28. What was your favourite job?
Maybe some of the fieldwork I did during my PhD, on projects other than my own. Steering a Zodiac (inflatable boat) above 'dry' stone walls in the deeply flooded Ribble Valley was memorable.
29. Do you like mustard?
30. Do you prefer to sleep or eat?
Sleep. I don't get enough of either.
31. Do you look like your mum or dad?
I have my father's eyes, nose and crooked smile, but the overall configuration is recognisibly my mother's. Apart from the beard.
32. How long does it take you in the shower?
Five minutes or so? I've never timed myself (I don't have a waterproof clock).
33. Can you do the splits?
No. Not even in the shower.
34. What movie do you want to see right now?
I've been getting an urge to revisit 'Avalon', but I need to watch and return the rented DVD of 'Twelve Angry Men' first, in order to get and watch another before 3 October.
35. If you could fast forward your life, would you?
**** no! Rewind would be good, but never, ever fast-forward!
36. What did you do for New Year's?
I was at my sister's in Barnstaple, so we went out to watch
drunk people in minimal clothing the fireworks.
37. Do you think The Grudge was scary?
I might watch 'Ju-on' some time, but the idea of an American remake really doesn't appeal.
38. Could you relate to a character in Mean Girls?
39. Do you own a camera phone?
Nope. I have a phone, and I have a camera.
40. Do you have an "ex box" with pics and letters from past lovers?
41. Was your mum a cheerleader?
Maybe cheerleading is a core aspect of American culture, but in the UK that's a particularly random question.
No. Of course not.
42. What's the last letter of your middle name?
43. Do you like your middle name?
S'better than my first.
44. How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
45. Do you like care bears?
I haven't knowingly encountered one.
46. What do you buy at the movies?
A ticket. Cinema-going is about the film: just the film. Not carbonated sugar, nor vegetable fat.
47. Do you know how to play poker?
48. Do you wear your seatbelt?
It's rather compusory in the UK.
49. What do you wear to sleep?
Like Calephetos, a full-length taffeta ballgown and knee-high latex boots. Isn't that a coincidence?
<sigh> Pajama shorts.
50. Anything big ever happen in your home town?
The Welsh name translates as 'Village of the Pigs'. There has to be a story in there somewhere.
51. How many meals do you eat a day?
On a weekday, three, but on a weekend day, two or fewer.
52. Is your tongue pierced?
53. Do you like funny or serious people better?
Hmm. If I have to choose: serious.
54. Ever been to L.A.?
55. Did you eat a cookie today?
No. Nor a biscuit.
56. Do you steal or pay for your music downloads?
I'm pretty rabid about music theft, so on the rare occasions I download it's always from authorised sources.
57. Do you hate chocolate?
I don't hate. Except taxi drivers and spammers (and illegal downloaders, since you ask), perhaps. Chocolate's okay.
58. What do you and your parents fight about the most?
I don't engage in arguments with my parents any more.
59. Are you a gullible person?
So people tell me.
60. Do you need a boyfriend/girlfriend to be happy?
I don't think so. I was unhappy when I was alone in the 90s, but not because I was alone. I certainly don't need constant company – it's great to know she's at the end of a phone, but you know H. lives ~2,000km from me, right?
61. If you could have any job what would it be?
Writer/photographer/sculptor, if this uncharacteristically career-minded dream came with the requisite skills.
62. Are you easy to get along with?
Heh. Only for brief intervals.
63. What is your favourite time of day?
Sounds pretentious, but probably around midnight, when the day's weariness somehow vanishes and I'm at maximum alertness. Whether I want to go to bed or not....
There's also a set of 25 'what the hell' questions, but I really can't be bothered with fantasies of celebrity-orientated consumerism.
25 July, 2008
What Kind of Dungeons & Dragons Character Would You Be?
It's been quite a while since I completed a LiveJournal-style 'What bra am I?' * meme questionnaire. It's even more unexpected to have discovered one via Sal who, in his defence, observes that it's rather more substantial than the usual 3-5 questions (there are 129), and hence more substantive. Maybe.
Apparently, my survey responses translate to:
True Neutral Elf Wizard/Sorcerer
True Neutral- A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.
Elves are known for their poetry, song, and magical arts, but when danger threatens they show great skill with weapons and strategy. Elves can live to be over 700 years old and, by human standards, are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. Elves are slim and stand 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. They have no facial or body hair, prefer comfortable clothes, and possess unearthly grace. Many others races find them hauntingly beautiful.
Um. I'm 6'1", bearded, and 'hauntingly beautiful'
would be something of a stretch. Anyway:
- Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.
Sorcerers- Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.
The detailed results support the 'True Neutral' alignment assessment, with a slight bias towards Chaotic & Evil; hardly unexpected in a system which equates 'Good' with 'community-minded'.
Lawful Good (12)
Neutral Good (13)
Chaotic Good (13)
Lawful Neutral (17)
True Neutral (18)
Chaotic Neutral (18)
Lawful Evil (14)
Neutral Evil (15)
Chaotic Evil (15)
Law & Chaos:
Good & Evil:
is marginal: 'Elf'
by one point more than 'Human'
(14 & 13 respectively), though with 'Half-Elf'
close behind (11). Not 'Dwarf'
(8, 8 & 6), and definitely not 'Half-Orc'
Character class is pretty unambiguous, certainly in terms of what I wouldn't be.
I wonder what the minimum scores for 'Monk'
For the record, when I played D&D in my teens (and it was 'Basic' D&D, not AD&D, so several of these alignment combinations, playable races and character classes are unfamiliar), I did tend to play Elves, though not particularly as magic-users.
*: Either you'll get the reference, or you won't. Either way, I can't help you. ;)
25 June, 2008
SFX Top 100 Fantasy/SF Authors, pt.2
This is part 2 of the 'SFX Top 100 Fantasy/SF Authors' meme; I've already listed the 67 authors rated amongst the most popular in the UK but which are unfamiliar to me or whose 'work' I strongly dislike. That leaves 33 authors worthy of comment, which is still quite a few; certainly more than would prove an indifference or downright dislike of the sci-fi or fantasy genres.
100. James Herbert
Meh. The few books I've read were okay, in a lightweight 'airport reading' kind of way.
94. Ken MacLeod
My favourite socialist-in-space, though if you're tempted to buy his 'The Human Front' novella as an inexpensive sample of his writing, don't.
91. Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Amongst my favourite sci-fi authors; I provided a few comments on his books whilst reviewing 'Stamping Butterflies' in 2005.
80. Joe Haldeman
It's compulsory to read 'The Forever War', right?
78. George Orwell
The name of this website is a subtle hint as to whether 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' influenced my world-view....
72. Susanna Clarke
'Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell' was excellent, not least for the conceit of setting the authorial voice in the 19th Century, but 'The Ladies of Grace Adieu' was stran... er, oddly unsatisfying.
I was surprised to see Clarke rated so strongly as a 'fantasy' novelist, though I suppose elves are a rather major aspect of her fictional world.
71. Stanisław Lem
I'm only familiar with 'Solaris', and wouldn't have managed it without the film (the other film is not bad, by the way), but it's stayed with me.
49. H.P. Lovecraft
Interesting ideas and massively influential – cyclopean, even – but very few of the individual stories are actually any good: most are turgid and formulaic, even if one credits him with defining the formula.
48. Mervyn Peake
If I hadn't lived with his granddaughter at university, I doubt I'd have attempted 'Gormenghast', and I still haven't got very far: his use of language is stunning, but that doesn't make it particularly readable.
47. Jules Verne
Wonderful stories, and surprisingly readable.
46. Alastair Reynolds
At first, I had mixed feelings about his books, even dismissing 'Revelation Space', but somehow they won me over, and I appreciate the hard sci-fi hidden inside the space opera settings. 'Chasm City' might be my favourite of the six I've read, and I'm quite pleased to have two more of his novels in my 'to read' pile.
45. Neal Stephenson
I don't consistently have a single favourite author, but Stephenson might well qualify, from the exhilarating (if overly-expositional) 'Snow Crash' to the elaborate 'Baroque Cycle'.
44. Clive Barker
I haven't read many of his stories, but the iconic puzzle box and Cenobites of 'The Hellbound Heart' are wonderful creations.
39. Michael Moorcock
Seminal, though I tend to favour such 'non-genre' novels as 'Mother London'.
37. Alan Moore
I'm only familiar with his 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' graphic novels and (without knowing who'd written them), his 2000AD strips, but they're impressive.
29. Anne McCaffrey
I read a few of her books in my teens and assume I enjoyed them (though plainly not enough to remember whether I did) but, without wishing to criticise, I don't think books about dragons would grab me nowadays.
27. William Gibson
Excellent. I just wish he was more prolific! If I had to choose one favourite, it'd be 'Idoru'.
25. CS Lewis
I enjoyed his Narnia books as a child (without being aware of the christian subtext), but haven't re-read them within the past couple of decades.
23. John Wyndham
Probably my first exposure to post-apocalyptic fiction and the idea that the best sci-fi is about believable people reacting reasonably to extraordinary situations, not just cyphers inexplicably destroying shiny spaceships.
Curiously, I remember that 'The Chrysalids' was once amongst my favourite books, but now have negligible memories of the content. I'll have to dig out my copy.
20. Stephen King
I don't associate King with the sci-fi or fantasy genres, but I quite like his rambling style and characterisation. Though it's been a few years since I read any of his books, I recall 'The Stand' as a highlight.
18. Arthur C. Clarke
Again, I encountered several of Clarke's books in my teens but haven't felt a need to revisit any.
16. J.K. Rowling
Entertaining but curiously unmemorable – hardly challenging or thought-provoking.
14. Frank Herbert
'Dune' was wonderful; few authors realise a world and culture so thoroughly. The sequels were... challenging, but intermittently good.
13. Peter F. Hamilton
'Mindstar Rising' was... okay. I understand it was his first (successful) novel, so I might try something from later in his career, to see if his writing really developed.
11. Ursula K. LeGuin
I've read one of the Hainish novels, but I forget which, and didn't feel any urge to explore others.
10. Robert Rankin
I read 'The Antipope' a long time ago (1992?). I didn't rate it at all: too much like a Douglas Adams imitation, and I don't particularly like Adams' writing.
9. H.G. Wells
Another author whose writing I discovered when I was too young to appreciate it, and to which I've yet to return, but I can hardly fail to be aware of his work via its influences on others. [And that was a truly horrible sentence.]
8. Philip K. Dick
Unsurprisingly, I know his work best via numerous film adaptations, so have greater awareness of his excellent ideas than his own prose. I remember reading 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'; I preferred 'Blade Runner', but that's hardly a fair comparison.
7. Iain M. Banks
Highly recommended. Excellent ideas, a well-rounded culture (called the Culture) and very well written.
Favourite? Probably 'Excession'.
4. Douglas Adams
I liked 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy', but thought the few substantial jokes were wearing thin by 'The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe' and I haven't liked any of his other books, partly because they seemed to lack coherence and partly because they were so appallingly middle-class English.
3. Neil Gaiman
Mr. G. is everywhere (as reflected by his holding the top two places in a Google search for simply 'Neil'), but I favour his novels (especially 'American Gods' and my first ever exposure to his work, well before I knew his name, 'Neverwhere'), the 'The Sandman' graphic novel and his near-daily blog.
2. J.R.R. Tolkien
Hmm. I love the content of 'Lord Of The Rings', to the extent that I loathe the films, but on re-reading, I'm increasingly finding Tolkien's prose style rather cringeworthy.
1. Terry Pratchett
I'm very glad to see Pratchett at no.1, not only because I enjoy his writing tremendously but because his work epitomises what I want from the very best sci-fi or fantasy: realistic people acting realistically in a realistic setting. I don't particularly like the earliest Discworld books, but novels like 'The Fifth Elephant' are far more substantive and stereotype-subverting; one genuinely cares about Sam Vimes.
25 June, 2008
SFX Top 100 Fantasy/SF Authors, pt.1
According to Neil Gaiman, the latest mass-meme is to copy the 'Top 100 Fantasy/SF Authors' list from SFX magazine and comment on each.
A few clarifications/caveats:
- SFX is a British magazine, so describes popularity here. It's not long since the no.1 author was barely published in the USA.
- The list is of favourite authors, not 'best', by whatever criteria 'best' might be judged. Unashamedly, it's a popularity contest.
- I wouldn't classify myself as a 'fantasy/sci-fi' fan (a fact which surprises people who know about my Golden Demon wins!).
The latter point means that a third of the names on the list mean absolutely nothing to me and though I'd heard of a quarter, I've never read anything by them. Of the remaining 42 authors, I've encountered but forgotten work by five authors and utterly detest the 'work' of four others, which definitely contributed to the reason
I'm not a fan of general sci-fi and, particularly, fantasy fiction.
I'll simply list those 67 authors in this entry, then comment on the remaining 33 in the next entry
Totally unfamiliar; encountering the name for the first time
99. Gwyneth Jones
98. Sara Douglass
93. Olaf Stapledon
92. Michael Marshall Smith
90. Christopher Priest
88. Scott Lynch
87. David Weber
86. M. John Harrison
85. Jacqueline Carey
83. Theodore Sturgeon
82. J.V. Jones
81. Joe Abercrombie
79. Simon Clark
76. Charles de Lint
69. Alfred Bester
68. Katherine Kerr
64. Richard Matheson
63. Dan Simmons
62. Elizabeth Haydon
60. Richard Morgan
58. Jennifer Fallon
57. Mercedes Lackey
56. C.J. Cherryh
54. Jasper Fforde
53. Octavia Butler
50. Sherri S. Tepper
43. Jim Butcher
42. Tad Williams
40. Trudi Canavan
31. Lois McMaster Bujold
28. Steven Erikson
26. Guy Gavriel Kay
5. George R.R. Martin
No, I've never even heard of eight of the 'top 50', even one of the 'top ten'.
Name rings a bell, but never encountered
97. Charles Stross
96. Terry Goodkind
95. Brian W. Aldiss
89. Jonathan Carroll
84. Kim Stanley Robinson
77. Samuel R. Delaney
75. Julian May
73. Robert Silverberg
70. Larry Niven
67. Jack Vance
65. Marion Zimmer Bradley
59. Stephen Baxter
55. Harlan Ellison
41. Kurt Vonnegut
36. Orson Scott Card
34. Gene Wolfe
33. China Mieville
30. Roger Zelazny
24. Diana Wynne Jones
22. Philip Pullman
21. Robin Hobb
17. Robert Jordan
15. Robert Heinlein
12. David Gemmell
6. Isaac Asimov
Likewise, I've never knowingly read anything by 24% of the 'top 50'.
Read once; don't really remember
74. Edgar Rice Burroughs
66. Harry Harrison
52. J.G. Ballard
51. Robert E. Howard
19. Ray Bradbury
Reasons I dislike fantasy fiction - utter, infuriating dross
61. Terry Brooks
38. David Eddings
35. Stephen Donaldson
32. Raymond E. Feist
Which leaves 33 for the next entry.
21 May, 2008
Excuses and prompts to ramble
**** me – Sal's completed a meme questionnaire. That's unexpected.
I suppose I'd better partake, though I don't have the time, disposable intellectual capacity or, well, writing ability to match Sal's efforts.
1. Last film you saw in a cinema?
Annoyingly, I don't recall. The last I remember seeing at The Dukes was 'There Will Be Blood' at the end of March. It was okay, but J. had overinflated my expectations.
2. What book are you [re]reading?
I mentioned 'The Brothel in Rosenstrasse' a few (er, twenty) days ago, but opportunities to read have been scarcer than anticipated, and it's not the sort of book one can appreciate in grabbed moments before bed, so I'm still only 30-40 pages in.
3. Favourite board game?
I don't think I ever especially liked board games. It's probably an association with circumstances: when I was a child, games only came out in times of extreme boredom or excruciatingly polite family gatherings. Plus my sister tended to be a bad loser.
4. Favourite magazine?
None offline, and I cherrypick online articles rather than frequenting particular websites.
5. Favourite smells?
Tarmac springs to mind.
6. Favourite sounds?
Er... H's laugh?
The silence of open moorland, which is never quite silent.
7. Worst feeling in the world?
Dunno, and to be honest, I'm already feeling slightly stressed/emotionally fragile today so don't want to give it great thought.
8. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up?
What do I need to accomplish today, and why didn't I manage it yesterday, or the day before, or the...?
9. Favourite fast food place?
Hodgson's fish & chip shop, I suppose, though that's almost as much for its proximity to my house (~2 mins by bike) as the food; I prefer Arnside Chippy, but that's something like an hour away.
10. Future child’s name?
I don't plan to have children, but I could imagine naming a girl 'Rhiannon'.
11. Finish this statement. “If I had lot of money I’d….?
Buy a new house. Travel. Perhaps buy a car. Beyond those I don't aspire to own things.
If we're talking about serious money, I'd cheerfully leave my job, but I recoil from the idea of a 'life of leisure' .
12. Do you sleep with a stuffed animal?
My childhood teddy sits on a chest of drawers across the room.
13. Storms - cool or scary?
Very, very cool (and Sal inadvertently & tangentially stumbled upon one reason why I say that).
14. Favourite drink?
Tea (just 'tea', with a little milk & sugar; no need for named varieties), Coke (specifically Coca-Cola, never any other brand) or orange juice.
I don't drink alcohol.
15. Finish this statement, “If I had the time I would….”?
Finish this stateme....
16. Do you eat the stems on broccoli?
Now you mention it, no. I've no idea why. Must try harder.
17. If you could dye your hair any color, what would be your choice?
Nah; only in my most pretentious daydreams.
18. Name all the different cities/towns you’ve lived in?
Including villages but not places I stayed for less than a month at a time, that'd be Northop Hall, Tananger, Stavanger, Aberystwyth, Galgate and Lancaster.
19. Favourite sports to watch?
My stock flippant response is "women's beach volleyball" (bounce, bounce... ahem) but slightly more seriously: none, as I have no interest in sports.
I cycle, but that's for commuting and visiting beautiful countryside, not for the exercise, and I don't feel inclined to watch races.
20. One nice thing about the person who sent this to you?
He didn't exactly 'send' this to me, but Sal can write.
21. What’s under your bed?
A bed (a spare single mattress). And under that bed... dust.
22. Would you like to be born as yourself again?
How would that work? If I was reborn now, it'd have to be to different parents and therefore with different genes, and every formative of my life would be different. I couldn't be the same 'me'.
Born again to the same parents in the same hospital on the same date, i.e. would I like to repeat my life? Do I get foreknowledge of life events? If so, no, I don't think so. There are decisions I'd make differently, but the big obstacle is my tendency to prevaricate about boring essentials: if I knew I'd be alive and healthy past the age of 33, there'd be less impetus to make the most of the foregoing years.
I can't find the blog entry in which I mentioned it, but when I was young, my mother told me I'd die at the age of 33: I presume she'd read some crappy 'calculate your death date' article. That may seem childish now but I was a child, and took it to heart: it really was a motivator to stay physically & mentally active, to keep pushing and make the most of my time. Thankfully, I haven't quite shaken off that attitude by the age of 36, though it does mean I have an inability to relax for long.
23. Morning person, or night owl?
My normal answer would be 'night owl', and during my PhD, with no formalised working hours, I did shift to a near-nocturnal lifestyle. Nowadays, with an office job and advancing age, I've had to force myself to go to bed earlier (though insomnia renders that academic).
However, in recent weeks, I've been going to bed tired at 01:00 and slept, and woken naturally at 07:30. It's quite a novelty.
24. Over easy, or sunny side up?
I don't eat eggs as eggs, only as ingredients in cakes, etc.
25. Favourite place to relax?
I love my bed.
26. Favourite pie?
What? Who cares?
Steak & kidney can be tasty if high-quality ingredients are used. Unfortunately, that's uncommon.
27. Favourite ice cream flavour?
<Yawn>. This is the sort of vacuousness which gives meme questionnaires a bad reputation.
Okay, okay: mint choc-chip, though I'm fairly indifferent to ice cream.
28. Of all the people you tagged this to, who’s most likely to respond first?
27 April, 2008
Spring music meme
A quick music meme, discovered via Tim:
List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs.
It seems it's not necessary to comment on each song, but an unelaborated list seems rather pointless, so I will.
Even if "shaping your spring" wasn't LiveJournal-ist pretention from which I recoil, it wouldn't be accurate. I've been listening to a lot of music recently, but largely to discover new music rather than using music I already own to accompany activities or affect my mood. Hence, I haven't been exactly obsessed with many songs. A few (well, seven, obviously) which stand out from the past couple of weeks are:
Emilie Autumn – Misery Loves Company
Goth techno-pop (self-described as 'Victoriandustrial'), is an interesting idea, and Ms Autumn is an excellent vocalist & violinist, but having explored online samples, ordered two recent albums then played more samples whilst waiting, I suspect her earlier (2003) material is more my thing (less repetitive lyrics, for one thing). The 'Opheliac' album will either grow on me a lot or drop out of my awareness rapidly (that seems obvious, but I mean it's not the sort of thing I could imagine liking casually), but I keep returning to this track, probably for the vocal rhythms.
Pagan's Mind – Hallo Spaceboy
The rest of the 'God's Equation' album is unlistenable, but there's something about this Bowie cover; I can honestly say it's a drastic improvement on the original.
Imogen Heap – Speeding Cars
I picked up the 'Goodnight And Go' single from eBay for £1 last week, and have been playing this 'b'-side repeatedly – in contrast to the crappy prog-metal I've been trying to offer a fair chance, this is bliss.
Frost* – Here Is The News
I don't know whether this ELO cover has made it onto an album; I heard it on an archived Rogue's Galley podcast. I don't normally do upbeat 'happy' music, but this got through somehow, perhaps for the same reasons as 'Speeding Cars'.
BTW, the asterisk is part of the band name, not one of my footnote identifiers.
3 – Wake Pig
Another from Frans' weekly podcast and like 'Here Is The News', a track I haven't bought on CD yet: I'm playing it to decide whether I want to hear more from the band which supported Porcupine Tree in N.America last year. I'm not sure about Joey Eppard's voice in this context though, oddly, I knew immediately that I liked his solo material.
Porcupine Tree – The Rest Will Flow
The remixing & remastering of the 'Lightbulb Sun' reissue seems to insert the freshness of a brand new album. This is the track which seems most enhanced – I hadn't particularly noticed it on the 2000 edition.
Nina Simone – Feeling Good
Not Muse's cover version. I bought all Muse's studio albums last year in a fit of enthusiasm which wore off very rapidly; I can no longer bear more than handful of tracks. Definitely mere shallow entertainment, not saying much.
Anyway: I heard the definitive 1965 rendition on A's .mp3 player returning from the Lakes a couple of hours ago, and it just seemed to fit the moment.
26 December, 2007
Just as I complete one meme questionnaire, I see that Krys has made another available.
Oh, go on, then.
[Note: completed at my mother's house in Wales, rather than at home in Lancaster, which will affect my responses.]
1. Do you hate your last boyfriend/girlfriend?
No. H. is both my current and previous gf. It's complicated.
2. When was the last time you took a nap?
9 December, the day after I'd cycled 37 km between 00:30 & 02;00, itself after a week of insomnia. I try to avoid napping during the day, but sometimes I'm so tired or run down.
3. Do you only drink bottled water?
I never drink bottled water.
4. How are you feeling?
5. Who was the last person you texted before you fell asleep last night?
6. Who was the last person to send you a MySpace message?
... The last person was Jackie, in June.
7. What was on your mind most today?
8. Have you dated people who were not good for you?
Not seriously bad for me.
9. How will you spend your next birthday?
That's eleven months away!
10. What's your current problem?
That I can't think of an answer to this question (ooh! circular logic!).
11. Do you like to snowboard?
Never had the opportunity. Nor the inclination, now you mention it.
12. Do you believe everyone deserves a second chance?
I don't believe in the concept of 'deserving'.
13. What instant messaging service do you use?
Never used IM.
14. Would you believe your ex if they said they still loved you?
15. What's your most hated food?
Eggs, as eggs – no problem with egg as an ingredient of other foods.
16. What's your favourite colour?
17. Would you date your best friend?
That'd be weird.
18. Who was your favourite teacher in middle school?
If US 'middle school' equates to UK 'junior school', none. Didn't like junior school.
19. What colour is your hair?
20. How old are your siblings?
K's 32 for one more week.
21. What do you want most right now?
A cup of tea. I'm easily pleased.
22. What is a major pet peeve of yours?
I don't have a cup of tea.
23. What are you doing tonight?
Making a cup of tea.
24. Is your MySpace display name from a song?
Not one I know.
25. Are you happy at the moment?
No more or less so than in Q.4.
26. Do you have a wood floor or carpet in your bedroom?
At home, the roughly-painted floorboards are strategically covered by two rugs. The bedroom I'm occupying this week has a fitted carpet.
27. Do you have a hidden stash of candy somewhere?
I don't particularly like sweets, and have no reason to hide them anyway.
28. Do you have over 100 CDs?
More like over 1,000.
29. What are you wearing right now?
Police trousers (baton pocket and all), pants and a Porcupine Tree T-shirt. All black, of course. No boots or socks.
30. Is your phone right beside you?
No, next door, I think.
31. Who are you texting?
I'm not. I'm typing this. Obviously.
32. Done anything you regret?
I'm thirtysomething. What do you think?
33. Ever trip over your own feet?
It's been known.
34. favourite colour ink pen to use?
35. Do you wish someone would call you?
Now? Not really.
36. Ever kissed a brown eyed and brown haired person?
37. Can you see a phone right now?
No. I think I'll live.
38. What are you listening to right now?
The Pineapple Thief – 'What We Have Sown' and frankly, getting really bored of it.
39. Where is it coming from?
The pixies enslaved within my iPod are teasing it out of the æther.
40. Last thing you ate?
Prawn & lettuce sandwiches and an individual jelly (US: jello).
41. Song stuck in your head?
I tend to avoid music that might infect me with an earworm.
42. Do you dance while getting ready for whatever?
No. I might fall over.
43. What are you wearing right now?
A scarlet ballgown or the items I already specified in Q.29. You decide.
44. Who was your last text from?
Probably my mother.
45. What does it say?
Something like 'why are you two hours late?'.
46. Have you ever made out on an aeroplane?
No, but I have in an airport.
47. Are you currently pregnant/have you recently gotten someone pregnant?
Given gestation periods, I think I'd know by now if I had. Unless it was an elephant, of course.
48. What are you thinking about right now?
49. What scent are you wearing right now?
50. Ever thought you were going to get married?
What, accidentally? No.
51. Last person you loved?
Same one as now. See Q.1.
52. Last person who told you they loved you?
53. Favourite time of the day?
Depends on the day.
54. Biggest regret?
Not having a profound and/or witty answer to questions like that.
55. Do you want children?
56. Last person you called when you were drunk/high?
57. Ever driven when you were drunk/high?
No, but I did ride my bike home from pubs a few times in the 1990s.
58. Last time you had butterflies in your stomach?
I tend to be either fine or rigid with all-consuming fear; I rarely experience mild intermediary stuff like 'butterflies'.
59. What was your last alcoholic beverage?
I don't remember; that was at least 15 months ago.
60. How is your mood today?
Much as in Q.4 and Q.25, but with slight irritation at having to repeat myself.
61. Where was your last vacation at?
That's appalling grammar.
London, anyway, if a single day counts. Before that, Wien.
62. Do you have close friends?
I'd like to think so.
63. Do you like anyone?
64. What's the largest age difference between yourself and someone you have hooked up with/ dated?
No more than a couple of years.
65. When was the last time you cried?
Friday, whilst reading details of of the Lockerbie bombing on its 19th anniversary. Things like that always upset me, even though I had no personal involvement.
66. What is one thing you miss about your past?
Big question, which I can't readily answer, neither seriously nor flippantly.
67. What is one thing you've learned about life?
Meme questionnaires take longer to complete than one thinks initially.
68. Is anyone jealous of you?
I'd be surprised.
69. Has a friend ever used you?
I can't think of an occasion, and I'm likely to remember. That largely depends on one's definition of 'friend' – acquaintances have, but I've regarded few acquaintances as friends.
70. What was the last movie you watched?
'Monsters, Inc.' Pretty good.
71. How many things in your past do you regret?
Seven. Oh, and the thing with the suspender belt. But we don't talk about that.
72. What is something that you want to do within the next week?
Weather permitting, I'd like to take my camera for a walk along the Atlantic coast of Devon.
73. Who was the last person you hugged?
I'm not sure. Either my mother or H.; it was a few months ago, anyway.
74. Have you ever wanted someone but you knew you couldn't be with them?
Yes, I'm human.
75. Is there anyone you are excited to see soon?
I'm not sure exactly when it'll be, but I'm looking forward to seeing H.
76. Has one of your friends ever stabbed you in the back?
77. Do you have more friends that are girls or boys?
Girls. Well, women.
78. How long have you had MySpace?
That sounds like 'how long have you had running water?'. It's not that big a deal.
Nineteen months, anyway.
79. Has anyone ever talked about you behind your back?
Would I know?
80. Have you ever cried yourself to sleep?
26 December, 2007
In case of emergency, break seal
I've had a meme questionnaire hanging around to complete when I had little substantial to say and limited opportunity to use the time more productively. Plus, I find these things somewhat therapeutic, for some reason.
[Note: completed at my mother's house in Wales, rather than at home in Lancaster, which will affect my responses.]
I've translated the questions into English, omitting four. Americans and those with the remotest interest in celebrities' private lives might prefer an earlier version of the questions.
1. Where were you for New Year 2007?
2. How did you get the idea for your MySpace name?
I only use MySpace to funnel visitors to this, my main site, so using a derivative of 'Ministry of Information' is obvious.
3. What are you listening to right now?
The Pineapple Thief – 'What We Have Sown'.
4. Has the death of a celebrity ever made you cry?
Of course not.
5. Do you live in a zoo?
Sorry; can't think of a smart answer. No.
6. What did you do this morning?
Woke later than usual (08:45ish), read in bed for a while ('Quicksilver', by Neal Stephenson), had breakfast, then went for a walk to Ewloe Castle.
7. What does your mother do for a living?
She retired a few years ago. One could say she cooks & cleans for my sister....
8. Where do you work?
At a remarkably prestigious University ('remarkably' because I don't particularly rate it, personally).
9. What are your favourite smells?
Fresh bread, perhaps. Fresh tarmac?
10. What are the last two digits of your phone number?
I hadn't noticed until you asked, but it's a number of significance to my family, which has been recurring throughout my life.
11. What was the last concert you attended?
Porcupine Tree (w. Anathema) at the Manchester Academy, 8 December. This one.
12. Who was with you?
I went alone, and didn't meet anyone I knew.
13. What was the last movie you watched?
'Million Dollar Baby', for the second time. Knowing the twist, it didn't have the same impact as first time.
14. What do you dislike at the moment?
Pressure to do things communally, such as watch trashy TV simply so my mother feels we're doing something together.
15. What do you crave right now?
My bike and, well, H.
16. Did you dream last night?
I don't remember doing so.
17. What was the last TV show you watched?
Perhaps the final episode of 'Heroes' (series 1), a fortnight ago.
18. What is your favourite piece of jewelry?
I don't have any myself, but K. has attractive dolphin-shaped earrings and I like A's bracelet/ring.
19. Name someone on your MySpace Top 8 who is just like you?
They're all bands, so it doesn't really apply.
20. Who is your best friend of the opposite sex?
Not counting H., A.
21. Who last IM’d you?
I've never used IM. I think someone sent me a PM in a discussion forum within the last month, but I forget who.
22. Are you on any medication?
Nope. Just tea.
23. What side of the bed do you sleep on?
At home, the right (as seen from the foot of the bed), but I'm sleeping in a single bed this week.
24. What colour shirt are you wearing?
25. What colour is your razor?
I don't own a razor, but I think my beard trimmer is black & grey.
26. What is your favourite frozen treat?
Er, a photogenic frozen waterfall? I don't really do frozen confectionery, if that's what's meant.
27. How many tattoos/piercings do you have?
Still none. Is that question compulsory when compiling meme questionnaires?
28. What are your favourite stores?
Amazon, I suppose. I don't even remember the last time I visited a high-street shop, apart from accompanying H., when I wasn't exactly choosing the destinations.
29. Are you thirsty right now?
No, I have a mug of tea right here. [slurp]
30. Can you imagine yourself ever getting married?
31. Who’s someone you haven’t seen in a while and miss?
32. What did you do last night?
Failed to watch 'Garden State' on DVD (too much 'bad language' and insufficient plot development for my mother – within the first ten minutes), so wrote a blog entry instead.
33. Do you care what people think about you?
34. Have you ever done something to instigate trouble?
I don't think so; it's not in my nature.
35. Do you like your nose?
I suppose so. That's lucky, as it's rather substantial.
36. What colour is your room?
At home... I don't remember. I think 'my room' i.e. the 'back office' (spare bedroom) where I spend most time is painted peach-ish, but that was done by the previous owner and I feel no urgency to redecorate.
The room I'm in right now was properly 'my room' throughout my childhood, though now it's a combined computer room and conservatory (try not to think about the moisture implications). One wall is glass (a sliding door), one is mirrored (hiding wardrobes) and two are... hmm, that's a nasty yellow.
37. When was the last time you worked out?
I don't, though rapidly cycling to and from work might count.
38. Do you like pedicures?
Never had one. I doubt it.
39. Where do you live?
'Home' is Lancaster, UK.
40. Are you an aggressive driver?
I suspect that comes with familiarity, and I drive very, very rarely, so I'm pretty cautious.
41. Who is your cell phone carrier?
Not a clue. It's 'pay-as-you-go', so I don't receive bills, and I've only topped it up once since 2004, so I don't have reason to know. 'V' seems familiar: Virgin? Vodaphone?
42. What is the thing you’d most want to change about yourself?
I suppose I'd like to be more casually intimate with friends.
43. What colour is your car?
I don't have a car. My bike is dark grey.
44. What do you smell like right now?
Like, right now? I don't think I smell of anything: I don't wear any form of scent and I haven't been exercising since I last showered.
45. What is your favourite colour?
46. Do you like mustard?
47. What do you tell yourself when times get hard?
"This too will pass."
48. Would you ever sky dive?
I doubt I could muster the absolute confidence in the equipment.
49. What do you sleep on?
On? Er, a mattress, on a bed. Weird question.
50. Have you ever bid for something on eBay?
At least 200 items.
51. Do you enjoy giving hugs?
Yes, immensely, but see Q.42.
52. Would you consider yourself to be fashionable?
Routinely, not remotely, but I'm less unfashionable amongst certain groups of people or if I make an effort.
53. Do you own a digital camera?
Yes, though I'm planning to upgrade to a proper DSLR soon.
54. What celebrities have you been compared to?
Er... my father compares himself to Tom Cruise (similar nose – he's right), and I look a bit like my father.
55. What does your 19th text message say?
I don't keep many received text messages, and certainly don't have nineteen archived.
56. How ’bout your 30th?
I'm not sure if I've even received that many.
57. Who did you hang out with last night?
58. What are you doing this Saturday?
I'll be in Devon visiting K., but I don't know what we'll do. Depends on the weather.
10 October, 2007
Calephetos reports that the following are currently the 106 books most often marked as 'unread' by LibraryThing users.
Meme rules: indicate those you've read in bold, those you started but couldn't finish in italics, and underline those on your to-read list. Add an asterisk (*) to those you've read more than once, or strikethrough those you couldn't stand.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell*
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Life of Pi: a novel
The Name of the Rose
Pride and Prejudice
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian: a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible: a novel
Angels & Demons
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
The Amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
The Sound and the Fury
Angela's Ashes: A Memoir
The God of Small Things
A People's History of the United States: 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: a Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an Inquiry into Values
The Three Musketeers
I've read 34 (10 more than once), failed to read four and plan to read four. Of those, I disliked three, coincidentally all by Jane Austen. I think I've read four more, but have no recollection of their content, so they plainly don't count.
It's strange that Volumes 1 and 2 of Neal Stephenson's 'The Baroque Cycle' are on the list, but not Volume 3 – did people read the end but not the beginning and middle, or didn't they bother with the third after failing to read the earlier two? Either way, I think they were mistaken: it has a very slow start and demands concentration, but by the end it's wonderful.
21 September, 2007
'Can you believe it?'
Meme time. It's been a while. This questionnaire is via Proggrl:
What is the story behind your couch?
A nasty crack in the wall, which I try not to think about. It wasn't there when I bought the place, unless the vendor had simply papered over it. I suspect I might need to do the same.
What do you use your kitchen table for most?
Accumulating card and paper for recycling. I also tend to keep a 24-can box of Coke there, too.
Do you make your bed?
No. I only have an undersheet, duvet and pillow, so there isn't much to tidy, but a while ago I read that a bed retaining one's body heat and moisture offers optimum conditions for mites, etc., so I deliberately throw back the duvet until I return from work.
How did you spend Sunday night?
I don't remember. I may have watched a film.
Beer? Wine? Liquor? What's your poison?
I don't drink alcohol. I favour tea, Coke or orange juice instead.
What happened to your first love?
First childhood crush? Dunno. I think my mother told me B. has lost both her parents (they lived a couple of streets from my mother).
First 'real' love? She's in Warszawa.
How do you get your laundry done?
Slowly. I have an annoying habit of forgetting to remove clean clothes from the washing machine for several days, before drying them on a rack in the bedroom (I don't have a dryer, nor a washing line).
Coffee... want or need?
Neither. I don't especially like coffee, and I used to be mildly allergic to it. Tea's great.
Are you over ramen noodles?
I'm not entirely sure what they are. If they're what I think, I suppose I am.
What is your guilty pleasure movie?
I can't think of one.
How do you justify using your credit cards?
Purchase protection means a credit card can be a good idea sometimes.
I don't have to justify purchases to myself, if that's what the question means. I don't feel a need for guilty indulgences.
How do you feel about Harry Potter?
Like Proggrl, I don't.
What do you look for in 'the one'?
Trustworthiness, I suppose.
What newspaper do you read?
I haven't bought a newspaper for years (not counting expensive DVD packaging which I discarded unread), but I do read the local free paper each week and cherrypick articles from the Guardian website each weekday. I tend to avoid political commentary and opinion pieces, though; I certainly wouldn't class myself as a natural 'Guardian reader', with the middle-class 'socialism-lite' complacency the label implies.
What is the mantra you use to get through the rough days?
I was going to say I don't do 'mantras', but I suppose I remind myself that "this too will pass".
How do you "pick up" at bars?
I'd find that excruciatingly embarrassing.
How many one-night stands have you had?
No comment. Okay: low single figures.
Do you remember your dreams?
Some. Whilst dreaming them, too: the dreams I remember tend to be lucid.
Do you want kids?
No, I'm not really drawn to goats.
When do you want to get married?
I don't. Thankfully, H. agrees that we have nothing to prove to society.
What is your magic number?
Six, and numbers containing six, particularly 16. Seriously. A disproportionate number of life events, good and bad, have occurred on days containing that number, even including the death of my maternal grandfather on the sixteenth, exactly six months before I was born at 06:30 on the sixteenth.
Where is that special someone right now?
Right now is 22:21, Warszawa time, so it's likely H. is out with friends.
Do you have a will?
Um. No. Well reminded.
What was the best day of your life?
I'm hoping it's ahead of me!
Is it harder to be rejected or to reject someone else?
[Pause for careful thought.]
I don't mean to be evasive – it's a good question – but it does depend.
Who's your favorite person?
Too reductive! I'd need to know the context.
What are you listening to?
Porcupine Tree: 'Nil Recurring'. I'll post a longer review soon, but in short, it's mostly excellent. I'm unsure about one track of the four.
What's the last thing you drank?
A decent cup of tea.
Have you been on a date in the past week?
Not in the past week.
Where are you going on your next vacation?
Not sure. Maybe Norway, to visit my father.
Have you ever thrown up from working out?
Are most of the friends in your life new or old?
Fairly old; I've known most of them for over a decade.
Have you ever gotten so wasted you didn't know what was going on?
'Fraid so. Not since my mid-twenties, and not often; even less frequently as a result of alcohol.
Do you like pulpy orange juice?
It's okay. It tends not to have as intense a flavour as, er, non-pulpy, which I prefer.
Are you touchy-feely?
Very much not, though I sometimes wish I was more casually intimate with close friends.
Do you prefer the tanning bed or the sun?
Nether, really, as I have no wish for tanned skin. For the sake of argument, I'll choose 'the sun', as that means being out in the open air, doing things (never sunbathing – appalling waste of time).
What are your biggest pet peeves?
Read the blog!
Fundamentally, it probably all amounts to collectivist invasion of privacy.
Do you consider yourself bi-polar?
What? That's a serious psychiatric condition, not a fad to opt into by self-diagnosis!
No, I haven't been diagnosed as bipolar by a qualified professional. Like most people, I experience periods of productivity and cheerfulness, balanced by (sub-clinical, nowadays) depression.
What's something your friends make fun of you for?
You'd have to ask them.
What's your worst personality flaw?
Would you ever parachute off of a plane?
In English that's "out of a plane", and probably not. I doubt I could muster absolute trust that the equipment would work.
Have you ever ridden an elephant?
Only plastic or glassfibre ones on children's rides.
Are you Irish in any way?
Have you ever been to a nude beach?
Have you ever drank Jack Daniels?
I don't think so.
What are you saving your money up for right now?
I'm not. Well, I suppose I am saving to make overpayments on my mortgage, but not actively. Generally, I'm in the fortunate position of not wanting items beyond my immediate means.
What was the last gift card you received?
Gift card? Do you mean a gift token i.e. a prepaid voucher to be used with a particular retailer? I don't remember; it must have been at least a decade ago.
If you mean greetings cards, it may have been from my mother, on the occasion of my last birthday. She's pretty much the only person I know who cannot grasp the fact that shiny folded cardboard is meaningless to me.
Does the number of people a person's slept with affect your opinion?
Depends on the circumstances. Promiscuity might, as I find the concept slightly alien, but one of my best friends has had a fairly large number of medium-term relationships over the years, and I think no less (or more) of her for that.
Have you ever gone to a party where you were the only sober person?
Er... I don't drink, remember?
What do you do when you spot a bug in your house?
Spiders are welcome to stay (except large ones in my bedroom!). Beetles are gently evicted, as are bees and individual ants. Flies are evicted if they'll go readily, but I don't risk them corrupting food or laying eggs in the plant pots, so I've killed a few. Wasps die – no hesitation.
Where's your cellphone?
Probably in my bedside table, turned off until next time I specifically need it.
Who are you talking to?
I'm not. I'm typing this, obviously.
Who are you crushing on?
Sorry? I've never encountered that form of words – sounds like a rather specialist fetish.
I presume I know what you mean, though, and the answer is that I don't think I have a crush on anyone at present.
Ever had sex in a graveyard?
Ever had sex in a church?
No. That sounds like breaking a 'taboo' merely for effect. Churches are not holy to me (an atheist) but nor do I feel a need to make some sort of protest. Therefore, there'd be no particular frisson in it.
Ever tried the 'Bloody Mary' trick in the bathroom?
Never heard of it.
Ever played strip poker?
Ooh; a very long time ago. I can't have been more than 14 or 15.
Ever played video games?
Ever played pool?
Very badly. Not even amusingly badly.
Do you love weapons?
Ever killed someone?
[Backing away carefully.] No.
Ever been arrested?
Briefly. It was resolved very quickly, and there were no formal consequences.
Do you watch 'Jackass'?
I once watched about a minute, whilst bewilderment turned to horror then distaste. Not my thing.
3 June, 2007
Forty (38) assorted questions
A quick 40-question, er, questionnaire discovered, as nearly-always, via Neil. So quick, in fact, that there are only 38 questions.
1. When you're home alone, do you still close the door when you go to the bathroom?
2. If you have to go grocery shopping, would you rather go alone or with someone?
Going to the supermarket with someone who has a car is useful, but I prefer to doing the actual shopping alone. I tend to concentrate rather intensely, and shop very quickly – I don't need assistance with purchasing decisions.
3. It's your best friend's birthday, do you buy them a gift even though they didn't buy you one for yours?
Definitely. It's a gift, not a reciprocal debt.
4. You win the lottery. Lump sum or small payments over a period of time?
Whichever has greater financial efficiency (bank interest vs. tax). Lump sum, I suppose, though I'd simply put it in my own bank account and draw an income. I certainly wouldn't spend it all at once, if that's what's meant.
5. Do you like your music loud or at a reasonable level?
Reasonable. At home, I like to listen to the music, to appreciate it, not merely experience the sensation. Intellectual over (literally) visceral. That said, loud music is great in a concert setting, so long as it isn't distorted.
6. Are you a beach person or a snowy mountain person?
Mountain. I don't have the ability to lounge on a beach, but love to explore mountains with my camera.
7. When do you brush your teeth?
Morning and night.
8. Can you watch scary movies alone?
Yes, though I don't deliberately seek 'scary' films. I don't derive pleasure from being scared.
9. Soft bed or firm?
No question: firm.
10. Would you rather stay home all day, or be out and about with some friends?
Out with friends, though don't mind the alternative.
11. What's one of your worst memories?
I'd rather not dwell on the negative; I do too much of that instinctively.
12. Do you like to keep the peace or be confrontational?
The former, but I have absolutely no qualms about saying one thing to avoid pointless conflict then doing something entirely different. I feel no urge to display dominance within a group, as I don't seek to be a group member.
13. Are you more likely to be with a large group of people or a few close friends?
The latter. A small number of people genuinely matter to me, but I struggle to sustain interest in acquaintances.
14. What are your plans for October?
I'm not sure. That's the start of the academic year, so I'll have work and College expectations to address, though I'm rather inclined to take some leave before the weather breaks.
15. If money were not a problem, where would you like to live?
Lancaster and Warszawa and SW Norway and Manchester, though if I'm dreaming of a house in a metropolitan centre with access to arts events, I suppose London would make more sense than Manchester.
16. Are you close to your Mum and Dad?
Not really. I get on fairly well with my mother whilst we're together, but she's not foremost in my thoughts whilst we're apart and she frequently annoys me. I get on with my father but I haven't seen him since 2002 and we don't speak more than 2-3 times each year, so there's a strange intimacy between people who don't really know one another. I think I see a lot of myself in him, but it could be projection.
17. What is one fear that you can't seem to overcome?
I can't think of any; it'd have to be something abstract like 'failure'. Maybe loss of dignity.
18. Are you good at maths?
Not remotely. If presented with anything more than very basic arithmetic, I have a tendency to freeze and not even try to work out the answer.
I was going to say I remember next to nothing of geometry or algebra, but I used both in cartography. Similarly, I've used statistics a lot in the context of geographical research. I suppose I'm not too bad at formulating problems for a calculator or computer – just don't expect me to do it in my head.
19. Do you kiss on a first date?
Heh. It's been a l-o-n-g time since I experienced a first date. Hypothetically, I doubt it.
20. Is there anyone that you regret ever meeting?
Yes. My PhD supervisors.
21. Rate your life on a scale from 1 to 10.
Seven? Ask that at an emotionally-naked, insomniac 03:00, and I might have a different opinion.
22. Would you rather have roommates or live alone?
Definitely, without equivocation or hesitation, alone.
23. Do you like any of your friends a little more than just a friend?
Hmm. Do I love any of my friends? Yes. Do I find any of my friends sexually attractive? Yes. Would I wish to have a non-platonic relationship with any of them? No. They're my friends. It'd be wrong.
24. Do you like to drive?
No. I can drive, but I don't enjoy it at all.
25. Do you hate anyone at the moment?
26. Do you give money to homeless people when they ask?
27. A weekend in Las Vegas or Miami?
28. When you go to the store, do you have a list or just buy random things?
Somewhere between the two. I don't have a written or even planned list, but I know when I reach a particular aisle or shelf whether I need the contents. I don't browse, and I rarely buy on a whim.
29. What do you wear to sleep in?
Shorts, if anything.
30. You have 3 months left to live, what do you do?
Verify the prognosis. Travel.
31. You're having a bad day, what's one thing can make your day better?
A cup of tea tends to help.
32. Tanning beds?
Eh? What about them? They have no relevance to my life. Does that answer the question, whatever it was?
33. Is there anything you would change about your body if you could?
I'd like greater upper-body strength, without having to specifically exercise in order to achieve and maintain it.
34. You wake up in an unfamiliar place, what is your first reaction?
Depends on the context. So long as I feel safe, I don't have a problem waking in a hotel or a friend's house.
35. Is there anything that you should be doing right now?
36. If there was a way to know when and how you're going to die, would you want that information?
Not when. It'd affect the rest of my life. If my death was a long way away, I'd prevaricate now and regret it later. If my death was imminent, whatever was left would be wasted in panic and despair.
If knowledge of how I'd die could allow me to avoid it, I'd want to know.
37. What is your favourite breakfast food?
A full British cooked breakfast (without the egg) is good occasionally, but I couldn't eat one every day, never mind prepare one every day.
38. It's 4am, and your phone is ringing, who would it be?
Not sure, but it'd be an emergency, so I'd definitely answer. I don't know anyone who'd ring to casually pass the time of day (er, night) nor anyone foolish enough to use a phone whilst drunk.
27 May, 2007
The idea of this meme, discovered via Tim, is to list one's ten most played artists, then answer random questions about each one. For most people, 'most played' would be a statistic derived from iTunes or similar, but my Creative Zen doesn't collect such data (nor would I particularly want it to, except when completing trivia such as this), so like Tim's, the following list is a bit of a guess.
It's also partly a reflection of the number of tracks in the library – I choose to listen to, say, Imogen Heap rather more frequently than Jethro Tull, but my player contains 1 CD by the former and 21 by the latter, so if I hit 'Random', Tull is presented more often.
1. Porcupine Tree
3. Peter Gabriel
4. Pink Floyd
5. Bass Communion
6. Sigur Rós
8. Jethro Tull
1. What was the first song you ever heard by 6?
Probably 'Viðrar Vel Til Loftárása', which is still a favourite.
2. What is your favorite album of 2?
'Brave'. No, 'Marbles'. No, 'Brave'.
3. What is your favorite lyric that 5 has sung?
Heh. Bass Communion is a dark-ambient project: instrumental-only, if one doesn't count the sampled EVP voices on the Andrew Liles 'reconstruction' of 'Ghosts On Magnetic Tape'.
4. How many times have you seen 4 live?
Never, though I've seen videos.
I have mixed feelings about that. I would have loved to see 'The Wall' live, but I don't think I'd have enjoyed stadium-sized concerts.
I certainly wouldn't be interested in seeing Roger Waters solo, David Gilmour solo, or a reformed Pink Floyd unless they had an album of brand new music to promote. No, 'On An Island' doesn't count; I don't need 'easy listening' music just yet, thanks.
5. What is your favourite song by 7?
Hmm. Not easy. Maybe 'Fake Plastic Trees'.
6. What is a good memory you have involving the music of 10?
Involving the music? There's one I'm not telling you about....
The concert at The Cavern, Liverpool in 2001 is a good memory. Oddly enough, the one concert I've attended which I no longer remember clearly was by Fish, too, in 2004 – stupidly, I drank too much.
7. Is there a song of 3 that makes you sad?
8. How did you get into 3?
Via Genesis. Obvious answer.
9. What was the first song you heard by 1?
I don't remember. I must have liked it!
10. What is your favorite song by 4?
'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' is my all-time favourite piece of music, by any artist in any genre.
11. How many times have you seen 9 live?
None, yet. I've seen a DVD.
12. What is a good memory you have involving 2?
Again, several which are too personal to share.
The first few seconds of hearing the band play 'Bridge/Living With The Big Lie' live was a thrill I'll remember.
13. Is there a song of 8 that makes you sad?
I can't think of any. Well, apart from the entire contents of 'J-Tull.Com', which made me realise the band were has-beens (that doesn't diminish my respect for the 1971-95 albums!).
14. What is your favorite album of 5?
'Bass Communion II'.
15. What is your favorite lyric that 3 has sung?
No particular phrases stand out as extra special.
16. What is your favorite song of 1?
17. What is your favorite song of 10?
Maybe 'The Company'.
18. How many times have you seen 8 live?
Once. It was more than enough.
It's funny: I was familiar with the band's music for a surprisingly long time – a matter of years – before I saw video footage or even still images of a Tull concert. The stage show didn't remotely match the preconception I'd derived from the music, and not in a good way.
I was largely prepared for that by the time I saw them in Manchester in 1995, but it was worse: a 47-year-old Anderson visibly strained to reproduce the stage act of an energetic 30-year-old (I mean himself c.1978), which was, well, embarrassing. It was also the loudest concert I've ever attended.
19. What is your favorite album of 1?
20. What is a great memory you have considering 9?
I've only known about them for less than three years, but I do favourably recall the day I bought 'Alternative 4', for reasons unrelated to the music.
21. What was the first song you heard by 8?
'Strange Avenues'. Again, it's still a favourite.
20 April, 2007
1. Where is your pet right now?
That's not a term of affection I use, but Helen is in Warszawa. I don't have a cat, dog, armadillo, etc.
2. Last time you kissed someone?
3. Name five things you did last night:
4. Last time you consumed alcohol?
- Bought milk on my way home from work.
- Listened to Porcupine Tree's wonderful new album, 'Fear of a Blank Planet'.
- Updated the Jethro Tull Tour History, as the first setlist of the South American tour had arrived.
- Forgot to cook a meal until too late; just toasted a few currant buns instead.
- Watched 'ER'.
I don't remember. The middle of last year?
5. What colour phone do you have?
<blank look> I have no idea. I think my landline is white/cream, and my mobile is probably dark grey. My work phone is, er, pale grey (I can see that, if I move the box file covering it).
7. Where do your best friends live?
8. How many kids do you have?
None. Nor human children.
9. What outfit do you have on at this exact moment?
Porcupine Tree 'Arriving Somewhere...' T-shirt, combats and para boots. All black, of course.
10. What color are your eyes?
Brown. I'm told they're getting darker as I age. Is that possible?
12. When was the last time you drank a martini?
I don't think I ever have.
13. Did you do any chores today?
Not yet – I rolled out of bed into the shower, onto my bike and to work. Somewhere in there I had breakfast and put on some clothes, but there wasn't time to wash dishes, etc.
14. What are you doing tomorrow?
Depends on the weather. There's a good chance I'll be writing a review of tonight's Porcupine Tree concert at some point, but I wouldn't waste clear, sunny weather, and will probably go for a bike ride.
15. Do you know someone who likes you?
Don't make me paranoid. I have good friends. I choose to believe they like me too.
16. Have you ever had a friend named "Fred, Frank, or Felipe"?
I work with a Fred and a Frank, who seem okay, though the former is rather extrovert and demonstrative, so I find him a bit tiring. I've never knowingly met a Felipe.
18. What color is your hair?
20. Have you ever said "I Love You" and not meant it?
No. Really. I've declined to say it in instances when it'd have been expected, and it's caused conflict, but still, no.
21. Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
22. What is the closest green object to you?
Hmm. A plastic in-tray, the London School of Economics' undergraduate prospectus and a bottle of washing-up liquid are equidistant from me.
23. Have you ever been teased really bad?
Yes. I survived, but I wouldn't choose to repeat it. That may partly explain my... reserve in the company of others.
24. Do you still have feelings for anyone from your past?
To some extent. I wouldn't have thought of it unless you'd asked.
25. Did you enjoy your last kiss?
No. Unhappy circumstances, and I've never liked kissing anyway. Dunno why. Any psychologists in the audience?
26. Do you believe in ghosts?
28. Best friend?
What about her?
30. When was the last time you were interested in someone?
I'm always fascinated by people. I just have to consciously stop myself regarding them as sociological specimens....
31. Have you eaten popcorn in the past 48 hours?
Not in the past 48 days, nor 96. I may have eaten a handful at my mother's in December.
32. Do you miss someone right now?
33. Do you believe the statement 'bigger is always better'?
35. Do you have a 'friend with benefits'?
That's a very contentious point. Helen & I are very independent people, and I don't really see us ever living together. Certain mutual acquaintances (jokingly?) accuse us of being mere '****-buddies', but that's totally wrong.
36. What is one thing you've learned about life?
Not to look for life lessons. Just live.
37. What's your favorite color?
Black, then jade green.
38. Are you jealous of anyone?
Genuinely not. Occasionally envious, I suppose, but I never wish I had something instead of someone else.
39. Ever fell down the steps?
Never a full flight, but I hospitalised myself by falling across the stairs a few years ago.
40. What does your mother call you?
Eh? She uses my name. What else would she use?
Oh; a term of affection? You haven't met my mother, have you?
41.What does your best friend call you?
Again, my name.
42. What does you hair look like right now?
Dunno. I've taken it out of its ponytail to dry, so it's probably messy.
43. Has a friendship ever turned into something more?
Yes. I've never gone into a relationship thinking it would be a 'relationship'.
44. Has anyone told you that they like you more than a friend?
I don't think anyone has ever said that.
45. What have you eaten today?
Crunchy Nut cornflakes.
46. Is your hair naturally curly or straight?
48. Who was the last person you drove with?
Not sure. Maybe my mother.
49. What are you looking forward to?
Porcupine Tree are playing in Preston about nine hours from now!
50. How are you today?
Pretty good, thanks.
1 April, 2007
This meme questionnaire, discovered via Calephetos, is an opportunity to elaborate on an aspect of my belief system: I don't like the Green party.
Environmentalism is a religion like any other, pushing its morality just as much as evangelist christianity. I consider all evangelism offensive, and no less when it's non-theistic: I react badly when I'm told to act in a certain way not for any sensible reason but because it's the 'right' thing.
So why do the cultists consider me a fellow-traveller, and presume I'm indoctrinated? Perhaps because my lifestyle isn't actually far from their regime; the fundamental difference is that I act rationally, not 'ethically'.
A. Copy the list below to your own blog and:
- Bold the actions you are already taking
- Underline the actions you plan to start taking
- Italicise the actions that don't apply to you
B. Add one (or more) suggested action(s) of your own.
C. Leave a comment here, so the originator can track the meme and copy your suggested action(s) back to the master list.
- Replace standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs.
All but the desk lamps.
- Choose energy efficient appliances
Those I bought myself, yes, but I inherited my cooker, fridge and freezer.
- Wash clothes in cold(er) water
- Turn the thermostat of your hot water tank down to 50°C (125°F)
I'm pretty sure it's lower.
- Install a programmable thermostat (or turn the heat down over night and when you're out of the house)
The thermostat came with the boiler, so I can't claim credit, but I don't recall living in a house which didn't have one. I couldn't imagine living in always-on heat – it'd be awful.
- Register with the [Canadian Marketing Association's] Do Not Contact Service to reduce the amount of junk mail delivered to your house.
Well, the UK equivalent, the Mailing Preference Service (MPS). Also the Royal Mail's underpublicised opt-out facility: the MPS only covers junk mail addressed to named individuals, so it's necessary to decline unaddressed junk separately. Don't overlook it!
- Eat less meat (particularly feedlot beef)
Not a chance. I eat meat daily, and animal welfare is not remotely a priority for me (barring deliberate cruelty).
- Walk, bike, carpool or take public transit as often as possible
I walk to locations within ~2 km, cycle anywhere within ~25 km, and travel longer distances by train. I don't own a car.
- Make sure you know what can be recycled in your area, and try to recycle as much household waste as possible
Yes, but the local council fails to accept major categories of recycleable waste, so I'm obliged to discard rather more than if I lived elsewhere. I get round that to some extent via my purchasing decisions – not buying in the first place is better than buying then recycling.
- Compost using an outdoor compost bin or an indoor vermicomposter
I don't have a garden, nor a yard large enough for a composting bin.
- Clean or replace filters on your furnace and air conditioner
- Buy local, organic or fair trade food where possible
If the food I want is produced locally, and is available where I shop anyway (supermarkets), I'll buy it. However, I wouldn't shop elsewhere to specifically seek-out local produce, and I buy local goods solely to reduce food miles, not to artificially support local producers.
I would never knowingly buy organic (pointless excuse to inflate prices) and never Fairtrade (appalling tokenist slacktivism).
- Reduce air travel
Not a chance. International travel is far too important to me. As my other responses demonstrate, I make reasonable efforts at sustainability, but I'm damned if I'm going to curtail my lifestyle 'for the planet'.
- Wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket
I go one better: I use a boiler which only heats as much water as is needed, when it's needed. Why maintain a larger quantity of water at an elevated temperature, just in case it's wanted?
- Use a clothesline instead of a dryer whenever possible
I don't have either; I dry clothes on an indoor rack.
- Plant a tree
I was a conservation volunteer in my teens (when I was considering a career in forestry), so it's safe to say I've done my share....
- Buy fresh foods instead of frozen (Frozen food uses 10 times more energy to produce)
I buy frozen peas and chopped tomatoes in cans, but otherwise everything is fresh. And unpackaged – if buying, say, a red pepper, I put a red pepper in my shopping basket, protected by its own skin. No bag is required.
- Keep your car tuned up and your tires inflated to their optimal pressure
- Use biodegradable dishwashing liquid, laundry soap powder, etc.
I can't say this affects my purchasing decisions, though I think the ones I buy anyway qualify.
- Drink tap water (filtered if necessary) rather than buying bottled water
I've never understood the desire for bottled water, except if travelling in areas where the local water quality is in doubt. No, London doesn't count.
- Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth
- Unplug seldom-used appliances and chargers for phones, cameras, etc., when you're not using them
I hadn't realised there were people who did otherwise.
- Plug air leaks and drafts around doors and windows with weatherstripping
That's a problem in this house. The back door is warped, so the air gaps are a bit too big for standard remediation. I need a new door and doorstep. There are also airbricks in the front and back walls (one each), which allow an appreciable draught, but I cook & heat using gas, so can't block off the necessary ventilation.
- Switch from disposable to reusable products: food and beverage containers, cups, plates, writing pens, razors, diapers, towels, shopping bags, etc.
- Consider garage sales, Freecycle, eBay, or borrowing from friends/family before buying a new tool or appliance
Hmm. Maybe. Depends what it is. I'd be concerned about the safety, reliability and remaining lifespan of some items, and would be more inclined to buy new.
- Reuse bathwater, maybe to flush the loo, water the garden, etc.
It's an interesting idea, but frankly water isn't that scarce in NW England. I suppose it'd be marginally better to reuse water than to use fresh, treated drinking water, but that's a bit too marginal for me. Besides, I very rarely take baths; I shower.
- Make sure your roof is well-insulated.
It was when I bought the house, but if it hadn't been, that's something I'd have done.
- Always wear a jumper/sweater and socks indoors unless it's warm enough outdoors to go without both.
Well, yes, obviously. That is obvious, isn't it?
And my extra:
Consider your needs, not merely your wants. I'm not saying 'renounce material possessions', but don't accumulate things too casually, on a whim.
30 March, 2007
Title says it all. Should be quick to complete.
1. Where is your cell phone?
2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend?
3. Your hair?
4. Your mother?
5. Your father?
6. Your favorite thing?
7. Your dream last night?
8. Your favorite drink?
9.Your dream car?
10. The room you're in?
11. Your ex?
12. Your fears?
13. Where do you want to be in 10 years?
14. Who did you hang out with yesterday?
15. What you're not?
17. One of your wish list items?
18. Where you grew up?
19. The last thing you did?
20. What are you wearing?
21. Your TV?
22. Your pet?
23. Your computer?
24. Your life?
25. Your mood?
28. Your car?
29. Your work?
30. Your summer?
31. Like someone?
32. Your favorite colour?
33. When is the last time you laughed?
34. Last time you cried?
21 March, 2007
Roll yer own
Here's a meme questionnaire generated 'randomly' by answering twenty questions from the YouThink.com database. Answer the same questions, or generate your own set.
1. Do you think the Bible is repulsive?
Repulsive? No, not at all. It has no especial message to me as an atheist, but I don't hate it. That'd be perverse.
2. Does your jaw click when you chew?
No. A's does, which can be disconcerting. I'd imagine it to be infuriating to hear it inside one's own skull, but I suppose one would become accustomed to it, especially if it had happened since childhood.
3. Have you ever seen an adult throwing a temper tantrum?
An ex-landlord habitually punched through doors (a rage later sublimated into chopping wood, something I've tried myself), but I don't recall seeing a full-on, petulant tantrum.
4. Do you like sinks that rest above the countertop?
Do I seem like someone who'd remotely care?
I suppose they'd be slightly more awkward to keep clean, so I suppose I'd have to say 'no'.
5. With the rise in popularity of the BNP do you fear that Britain is becoming a fascist state?
I think the BNP is a distracting side-issue; it's the encroachment of mainstream 'big government' into the lives of individuals that I fear. I was about to say that's something which fascists could exploit, but I don't honestly think that'd really happen.
6. Are you a master of disguise?
Of course, said the small grey penguin, projecting his voice from three rooms away.
More seriously, I don't think my exterior appearence is a true representation of the inner 'me'.
7. Do you eat meat everyday?
No, I eat meat every day. Learn how to use the word 'everyday'.
8. Would you like to visit Pakistan?
It's not high on my (metaphorical) list of priorities, but not because of any political or personal safety reasons. I just prefer cooler climates. If given the opportunity, though, I'd like to visit.
Answering the loaded question between the lines: I'd be appreciably less reluctant to visit Pakistan than the USA under the current regime.
9. Can love preclude trust?
That's an odd question. I really can't see how it could, or even why the question would arise. I even wonder whether 'preclude' was really the word the questioner meant.
Answering for myself, I don't think love could survive a loss of trust.
10. Do you not find negative poll questions unnecessarily complicated?
I do find that questions phrased in the negative can be unnecessarily complicated, and are often worth rephrasing.
11. Do you always think of the perfect comeback 20 minutes after you have left the scene?
No. Whether through luck or personality, I rarely find myself in 'scenes', and I tend not to dwell on them.
I do love the French phrase for this phenomenon, though: 'l'esprit de l'escalier': 'staircase wit'.
12. If you had to endure 7 minutes of excruciating pain for a chance to not experience pain for the rest of your life, would you take it?
My initial thought was yes, but on reflection pain has an important purpose and I wouldn't want to lose a vital indication of damage to my body.
If there was some way of eliminating chronic, purposeless pain, I suspect I'd take it.
Oh, and I'm not a gambler: I'd consider the proposition in order to definitely eliminate pain, not for a chance to eliminate pain.
13. Do you ever order a glass of Pepsi or Coke with a wedge of lemon or lime in it?
No, never, though it sometimes comes that way anyway.
14. Do you think that everyone looks better with a little bit of a suntan?
No! Not remotely. Then again, I think everyone looks better in black clothing.
15. Which tells you more about an individual's personality: The movies they watch or the music they listen to?
I'd question whether either offers a particularly penetrating insight, but if I had to choose one, it'd be music.
16. Do you express yourself better verbally or in writing?
Definitely in writing, though I have a suspicion that maintaining this website has improved my ability to formulate an argument, which extends to spoken conversations.
17. Are many of the booklets that come with your CDs missing?
Not one, so far as I'm aware. What does that say about my personality?
18. Do you think it's ironic to sell alcoholic drinks at gas stations?
No, that's paradox, not irony. The two concepts are often confused.
I have no idea whether British service stations sell alcohol; I suspect not.
19. Do you think it’s as bad for a grown man to live with his father as it for a grown man to live with his mother?
Strangely enough, no, not at all. I wonder why. I certainly do think, on a visceral, unexplored level, that there is something 'wrong' about a man being too emotionally and domestically close to his mother. Maybe that's a personal thing, reflecting my own relationships with my parents.
20. Atheists and agnostics: do you say bless you after someone sneezes?
Of course not. Even for theists it's an empty social ritual. Why acknowledge a sneeze at all?
11 March, 2007
This massive meme questionnaire is via Calephetos. It's so long that I was soon reduced to single-word answers, but if I remembered answering a question before, I've linked back.
1.1: What is your full name: NRT (100 Things No.1)
1.2: Date of birth: Early 1970s.
1.3: Male or female: Hang on; I'll check... [WHAT THE...!?] Okay: male.
1.4: Astrological sign: Scorpio (sun, moon & ascendent). (100 Things No.38)
1.5: Nicknames: None I'd wish to publicise.
1.6: Occupation: Web... hmm... editor?
1.7: Height: 6'1" plus boots.
1.8: Hair color: Mid-brown.
1.9: Eye color: Dark brown.
1.10: Where were you born: Chester, England, UK but ~3-4 km from the Welsh border, which I crossed straight from the maternity ward. I'm not English. (Q.21)
1.11: Where do you reside now: Lancaster, UK.
1.12: Age: Mid-thirties
1.13: Screen names: Consistently related to this site's name, except for those activities I wouldn't want linked to this site.
1.14: Why those names?: See above.
1.15: Pets: Not at present. (Q.29)
1.16: Number of candles you blew out on your last birthday cake: I don't recall having a birthday cake.
1.17: Piercings: None.
1.18: Tattoos: None.
1.19: Shoe size: 9-10.
1.20: Righty or lefty: Sinister, though dextrous with scissors.
1.21: Wearing: Black 'Firefox' T-shirt, black police trousers, para boots.
1.22: Hearing: Distant traffic. It's surprisingly quiet. Too damn quiet....
1.23: Feeling: Okay, thanks.
1.24: Eating/drinking: Not at present.
Guys/Girls/Love/Kissing/And Other Stuff
2.1: Have you ever been in love: Yes.
2.2: How many people have you said 'I love you' to: A very few.
2.3: How many people have you been in REAL love with: About the same number.
2.4: How many people have you kissed: A very, very few.
2.5: Have you ever kissed someone of the same sex: I don't think so.
2.6: How many people have you dated: Not many.
2.7: What do you look for in a girl: I don't; I'm not so calculating as to evaluate people like that. The question makes it sound like choosing a chicken from a supermarket chill cabinet (firm breast, good thighs, yellowish puckered skin, etc.), whereas I'm just not browsing.
2.8: What do you look for in a guy: I'm even less likely to think in those terms!
2.9: What's the first thing you notice about the opposite sex: Height? (Q.33)
2.10: What type of girl do you usually go for: There's no 'usually'.
2.11: Do you have a crush right now: No.
2.12: If so, who is it: Still no.
2.13: Do you believe in love at first sight: No. Lust, certainly.
2.14: Do you remember your first love: Yes.
2.15: Who is the first person you kissed: Anna R.
2.16: Do you believe in fate: No.
2.17: Do you believe in soul mates: No.
2.18: If so do you believe you'll ever find yours: See previous.
3.1: How many siblings do you have: One.
3.2: What are your siblings' names: No comment.
3.3: What are your parents' names: No comment. Online security, yeah?
3.4: How many siblings does your mother have: Three.
3.5: How many siblings does your father have: Two; one other died.
3.6: Where are your parents from: Merseyside, but their families weren't. (Q.47)
3.7: Is your family close: No. That's my immediate family; I have no contact whatsoever with my extended family. (100 Things No.8-10)
3.8: Does your family get together for holidays: I see my mother and sister each December.
3.9: Do you have a drunk uncle: He died, of causes directly related to alcoholism.
3.10: Any medical problems run through your family: Bad circulation (I'm not affected), the Cystic Fibrosis gene (though no-one in my family has the condition itself).
3.11: Does someone in your family wear a toupee: Neither I nor my father do, and I have no knowledge of (or interest in) members of my extended family.
3.12: Do you have any nieces or nephews: No. I can't imagine my sister having children.
3.13: Are your parents divorced: Yes.
3.14: Do you have step-parents: No, though my mother has a partner and my father has remarried. 'Step-parent' is just the wrong concept.
3.15: Has your family ever disowned another member of your family: One member disowned another, yes.
4.1: What song do you swear was written about you or your life: Jethro Tull's 'Sparrow On The Schoolyard Wall' was a little too penetrating, and spurred a change, but that was 16 years ago. Otherwise, none.
4.2: What's the most embarrassing CD you own: If I think the music is meretricious or I just plain like it, why would I be embarrassed? Conversely if I was embarrassed by a CD, it follows that I wouldn't enjoy it, and would get rid of it.
4.3: What's the best CD you own: 'Stupid Dream' (Porcupine Tree, 1999).
4.4: What song do you absolutely hate: I don't. If I dislike something, I just ignore it.
4.5: Do you sing in the shower: No.
4.6: What song reminds you of that special someone: Several, and none. There's no 'our song', anyway.
5.1: Colour: Black. Duh.
5.2: Food: Seafood. (Q.20)
5.3: Song: Porcupine Tree's 'Even Less' or Pink Floyd's 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond Pt. 1-5'.
5.4: TV Programme: Maybe 'ER' (Q.1), maybe 'Doctor Who', but I wouldn't say I'm an especial fan of any TV programmes. (Q.46)
5.5: School subject: Geography, probably. It could have been English, if the teachers had been better.
5.6: Animal: Human. Okay; domestic cat. (Q.19)
5.7: Outfit: Helen has this shiny black... <ahem>. I'm happiest in a black T-shirt, combats & boots.
5.8: Radio station: I don't listen to the radio at all.
5.9: Movie: Perhaps 'Trois Couleurs: Bleu'.
5.10: Cartoon: None.
5.11: Actor: No fixed favourite.
5.12: Actress: Likewise. I don't think I'd watch a film primarily because of an actor/actress.
5.13: Crisp: Salt & Vinegar. (Q.40)
5.14: Alcoholic drink: None. (100 Things No.52)
5.15: Soft drink: Coke. That's specifically Coca Cola, not other colas. (Q.26)
5.16: Holiday: Do you mean public holiday (none) or vacation (the next/most recent one)?
5.17: Perfume/cologne: Myself, none. Can't stand male fragrances. I quite like Helen's chosen perfume (Dior). (Q.33)
5.18: Pizza topping: Ham & pineapple? Whatever.
5.19: Jelly flavour: I don't even remember the last time I ate jelly (US: jello). Raspberry?
5.20: Sandwich meat: Chicken? All these food-related responses are rather arbitrary, and they're very trivial issues to me.
5.21: Card game: None. Never liked cards.
5.22: Video game: What's the difference between a video game and a computer game? If it means arcade machines, none.
5.23: Book: No single favourite. I don't 'comfort read'.
5.24: Computer game: None, really, though I've been mildly diverted by various versions of 'Sim City', 'The Sims', 'Resident Evil' and 'Tomb Raider', over the years
5.25: Number: Sixty-three.
5.26: Cereal: Crunchy Nut Cornflakes
5.27: Comedian: Maybe Eddie Izzard.
5.28: Dessert: I'm not a desserts person. Perhaps something chocolatey.
5.29: Disney character: None. I don't recall liking Disney cartoons even as a child.
5.30: Clothing store: Does Afflecks Palace count?
5.31: Pastime: Taking my camera for bike rides.
5.32: Teacher: I left school seventeen years ago....
5.33: Childhood toy: No one toy springs to mind. (Q.35)
5.34: Fairground game/ride: None. Never liked fairs. (100 Things No.42)
5.35: Chocolate bar: Dairy milk chocolate i.e. solid UK-style chocolate, not some nasty chocolate-coated sickly sweetness. (No.23)
5.36: Magazine: 'White Dwarf', by default, as I rarely read others. Runners-up would be 'Classic Rock' and 'Record Collector', though I don't think I've ever read more than specific articles from either.
5.37: Salad dressing: Thousand Island? Who cares? (Q.23)
5.38: Thing to do on the weekend: Walking, cycling, photography, visiting friends, watching films,... lots of things!
5.39: Hot drink: Tea,
5.40: Season: Spring or Autumn, though the others have attractions too.
5.41: Sport to watch: Female beach volleyball. What? More seriously: none.
5.42: Person to talk to online: I'm not quite sure whether I understand the question: with whom do I most enjoy exchanging e-mails? I suppose that'd be H & A.
Your Bedroom/Sleeping Habits
6.1: What color are your sheets: I think the current set is green.
6.2: What color are your bedroom walls: Purple, I think.
6.3: Do you have posters on your wall: Framed, yes.
6.4: If so of what: If this means my bedroom, there's a framed poster of Waterhouse's 'Hylas And The Nymphs'. On other walls.
6.5: Do you have a TV in your bedroom: Yes, but it's stored there, not plugged in.
6.6: How many pillows are on your bed: Two.
6.7: What do you normally sleep in: The bed.
6.8: Describe your favorite pair of pyjamas: Oh; I see. I wear shorts.
6.9: What size bed do you have: I've forgotten the difference between double and king-size. One of them, anyway.
6.10: Do you have a waterbed/bunkbed/daybed: No.
6.11: Do you have your own phone line in your bedroom: No, the connection is downstairs.
6.12: Describe the last nightmare you had: The few dreams I remember tend to be lucid (100 Things No.90), so aren't nightmares (I'd be odd if I could control my dreams yet didn't tweak them in a favourable manner!).
6.13: Do you sleep with stuffed animals: My childhood teddy is on a chest of drawers across the room. On top of that stored TV, in fact.
6.14: Any unusual sleeping positions: Not so far as I'm told.
6.15: Do you have to share your bedroom with a sibling: In a sense. My old bedroom at my mother's house was remodelled as a computer room/conservatory (don't think about that too hard) with a sofabed, so if I'm ever there whilst my sister isn't, I use her old bedroom (which still is a bedroom) instead.
6.16: Do you snore: I'm told I do occasionally, especially if I've been in a smoky environment.
6.17: How about drool: If so, it vanishes before I wake, so I presume not.
6.18: Do you have an alarm clock in your room: I routinely use two, but wake a few minutes before either anyway.
6.19: What color is the carpet in your room: Bedroom? Tatty white floorboards.
6.20: What's under your bed: A bed. Yes, really; I keep a spare single mattress there. (Q.43)
This or that (no neither or boths)
7.1: Loser/wannabe: ¿Que?
7.2: Doughnuts/bagels: A doughnut. Just one at a time.
7.3: Day/night: Must choose one, eh? If forced: night.
7.4: Heaven/Hell: Atheist.
7.5: Make love/have sex: Sex. Usually.
7.6: Coffee/tea: Tea.
7.7: Hamburgers/hotdogs: Hamburgers if fresh, hot dogs if in Norway.
7.8: Rap/rock: Rock.
7.9: Silver/gold: Silver, definitely.
7.10: McDonalds/Taco Bell: McDonalds is unpleasant but occasionally useful if desperate in an unfamiliar city. I've never encountered Taco Bell.
7.11: Sweet/sour: Sour.
7.12: Punk/emo: Punk. I wouldn't recognise 'emo'.
7.13: Hot/cold: Cold.
7.14: Winter/Summer: Summer. (Q.26)
7.15: Spring/Autumn: Spring.
7.16: Operas/plays: Plays.
7.17: Read/watch TV: Read.
7.18: CDs/tapes: CDs.
7.19: DVDs/VHS: DVDs.
7.20: Old/new: New.
7.21: Shorts/skirts: As the wearer, shorts. As the observer, skirts.
7.22: Pink/red: Neithe... if I must choose: red.
7.23: Coloured pictures/black and white photos: Colour.
7.24: Meat/vegetables: Meat.
7.25: Mexican food/chinese food: Chinese.
7.26: Scary movies/comedies: Scary, by default. My sense of humour seems incompatible with most people's idea of 'comedy'.
7.27: Bikinis/one piece bathing suits: As a viewer, obviously... er... dunno. Depends.
7.28: Dogs/cats: Cats.
7.29: Water/land: Water. (Q.47)
7.30: Sugar/spice: Spice.
7.31: Black/white: Black.
7.32: Passionate kiss/peck: Peck.
7.33: WWE wrestling/real wrestling: Don't care.
7.34: Back rub/foot massage: Back rub. Oh yes....
7.35: Pens/pencils: Pens, I think.
Have You Ever....
8.1: Mooned anyone: No.
8.2: Been on a diet: Ha! No. If I did, it'd be to gain weight.
8.3: Been to a foreign country: Numerous times.
8.4: Broken a bone: Yes. (100 Things No.23-4)
8.5: Swallowed a tooth/cap/filling: Yes.
8.6: Sworn at a teacher: I think so, but not in a hostile manner, if that makes sense.
8.7: Talked to a Blurty/LiveJournal/Blogger member via emails or instant messages: Yes.
8.8: Got in a fight: Yes, though only one since school. (Q.10)
8.9: Dated a teacher: No.
8.10: Laughed so hard you peed your pants: No.
8.11: Thought about killing your enemy: Never had that much of an enemy.
8.12: Gone skinny dipping: A few times.
8.13: Met another Blurty/LifeJournal/Blogger member in the flesh: Only (that's 'solely', not 'merely') Calephetos.
8.14: Told a little white lie: No. Not counting that one.
8.15: Told a secret you swore not to tell: No. Never. Never would. No joke: for me, secrets are absolute.
8.16: Stolen anything: Yes. See Layer 7, 'Shoplifted'.
8.17: Misused a swear word and it sounded absolutely stupid: Probably.
8.18: Been on TV: Possibly. Cameras were present when I visited Rockefeller Plaza, NYC on presidential election night 2004, so I might have been in the background.
8.19: Been on the radio: No.
8.20: Been in a mosh pit: Briefly.
8.21: Been to a concert: Several.
8.22: Dated one of your best friends: No.
8.23: Loved someone so much it makes you cry: Yes.
8.24: Deceived somebody close to you: Yes.
8.25: Broken the law: Yes.
8.26: Been to a rodeo: Never knowingly been withing a few thousand kilometres of a rodeo.
8.27: Been on a talk show: No.
8.28: Been on a game show: **** no.
8.29: Been on an aeroplane: Frequently.
8.30: Ridden in a fire engine: No.
8.31: Come close to dying: I've been in dangerous situations occasionally. Who hasn't?
8.32: Cheated on a girlfriend: No.
8.33: Given someone a piggy back ride: Yes.
8.34: Terrorised a babysitter: I don't think I was still being babysat at an age when I might have tested the boundaries.
8.35: Made a mud pie: I'm not sure what that is.
8.36: Had a dream that you're falling off a cliff: Not that I remember.
8.37: Snuck out of the house at night: Sneaked. And yes. (Q.11)
8.38: Been so drunk you don't remember your name: Only if I was so drunk I forget the forgetting.
8.39: Had an eating disorder: Nothing worthy of the name. I can comfortably go without food for extended periods, but it's just a lack of appetite or preoccupation rather than something deliberate.
8.40: Felt like you didn't belong: Often.
8.41: Felt like the 3rd wheel: Occasionally.
8.42: Smoked: Have done.
8.43: Been arrested: Briefly; was dearrested fairly promptly.
8.44: Gone to camp: Yes. (Q.30)
8.45: Won a bet: I'm not a betting man.
8.46: Written a love letter: I try to forget.
8.47: Gone out of your way to be with the one you love: Is ~1,500 km far enough out of my way?
8.48: Written a love poem: No.
8.49: Kissed in the rain: Yes.
8.50: Slow danced with someone you love: I'd just be embarrassed.
8.51: Participated in an orgy: Ha! No.
8.52: Faked an orgasm: Not especially easy when male.
8.53: Stolen a kiss: No.
8.54: Asked a friend for relationship advice: No.
8.55: Had a friend steal your girlfriend: No!
8.56: Watched the sunset/rise with someone you love: Yes.
8.57: Gotten a speeding ticket: No. I very rarely drive, and have a zero-tolerance attitude to speeding.
8.58: Done jail time: No.
8.59: Had to wear a uniform to work: Not really. One employer gave out polo shirts, but they weren't required. Another asked staff to wear black trousers and company-provided T-shirts, but they weren't specifically staff T-shirts. I think the idea was to give a visual impression that an empty shop actually had a few customers.
8.60: Won a trophy: Ahem. Several: nine Golden Demons, a silver, a bronze and the Demon Slayer Sword. (100 Things No.56-8)
8.61: Thrown up in public: I don't think so. Not in public.
8.62: Bowled a perfect game: Never bowled; no inclination to try.
8.63: Failed/got held back: The only context in the UK education system in which that could happen is by marginally failing one's first year at University, with mitigation. It's not possible in the school system.
8.64: Got perfect attendance in grade school: I'm not entirely sure what grade school entails. I didn't miss many full days of primary (4-10) or compulsory secondary (11-16) school, but I did evade certain sessions (sports, mainly) from ~15-18. (Q.18)
8.65: Roasted pumpkin seeds: No.
8.66: Taken ballet/karate lessons: My mother sent me to judo lessons for a couple of weeks. Another misjudgement.
8.67: Attempted suicide: No way!
8.68: Cut yourself: Not deliberately.
9.1: Did you play with Barbies/G.I. Joes: That's Action Man in the UK, and yes.
9.2: Did you own Treasure Trolls: That's the first time I've encountered the phrase.
9.3: Did you watch Beverly Hills 90210: Not even once, though I have at least heard of it.
9.4: Did you play Simon Says: The traditional children's game? Yes. I somehow get the impression the question refers to something specific, proprietory and TV-related; in which case, no.
9.5: Did you watch Fraggle Rock: Yes, but I only remember the Doozers.
9.6: Did you wet the bed: no.
9.7: Did you believe there were monsters in your closet or under your bed: No. Actually, now I think of it, I did think of being attacked by entities outside the bed, below the level of the mattress, but never actually under the bed.
9.8: Did you wear the underwear with the days of the week on them: Er, no.
9.9: Were you shy: More than averagely.
9.10: Were you spoiled: I wouldn't say so....
9.11: Were you abused: Not remotely.
9.12: Did you go to the circus: I vaguely remember one occasion.
9.13: Did you go to the zoo: At least annually until my mid-teens, when my sister objected. I like zoos.
9.14: Were you in a car accident: Only very minor. (Q.37)
9.15: Did you build snowmen: Yes.
9.16: Did you cry when you scraped your knee: Probably, but I get the impression I did so less than most – I remember other children who were distinctly prone to tears, and my mother's scorn. It wasn't encouraged, anyway.
9.17: Were your older cousins mean to you: No. I was one of the oldest, anyway, and the oldest boy apart from a cousin in Canada.
9.18: Did you think slinkies were cool: Yes, especially as my paternal grandparents lived in an upstairs flat with a huge (to a small child) flight of stairs.
9.19: Did you think the Ninja Turtles really lived in the sewer: They were a bit after my time....
9.20: Were you afraid of the dark: I insisted on a night light until well into my teens, which is odd, as I prefer darkness at home now.
9.21: Did you have slumber parties: No. I think that's a girl thing anyway.
9.22: Did you have New Kids on the Block sheets, pillows, pajamas, sleeping bag: Er, no. I was far too old, and entirely uninterested in teen bands.
9.23: Did you tease your hair out like Tiffany: I very vaguely remember Tiffany (I think), but not her hair.
9.24: Did you believe in the Easter Bunny/Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy: We didn't have the easter Bunny in the UK in the 1970s (I don't think we do now, either), and certainly not as something to 'believe in'. I did believe in Father christmas ('Santa Claus' was a foreign term, too), and the Tooth Fairy, I suppose, without really think about it.
I really can't be bothered with these, but will republish the questions for the next person:
10.1: If you could meet god, what would you say? What would he/she say? Would you go for coffee afterwards?
10.2: Since Monday is so terrible, which day of the week would you prefer to start on?
10.3: You are God. Hi. What's the first thing you do? What's the second?
10.4: If you could, would you? If not, why not?
10.5: Did the chicken cross the road? If so, why?
10.6: Who should direct the movie of your life? Would you go and see it?
10.7: Where will it all end?
10.8: What is the meaning of life? Answers equalling 42 will be disqualified for reasons of lack of originality.
10.9: Aliens land in your back garden, who according to all known laws of sci-fi, speak English rather well, if with a slight accent. Where do you take them for dinner, why, and what will you talk about on the way back?
10.10: if a = 16, and q = 4, how many times did you read this survey thinking "what the **** is this?" and wondering what the author might be taking? what am i taking? what are you taking?
27 January, 2007
A to Z of me
Here's a (rather long) meme questionnaire discovered via Calephetos (someone other than Neil, for once).
THE LETTER A:
Are you available?
What is your age?
What annoys you?
THE LETTER B:
Do you live in a big house?
I'd like somewhere slightly larger, or perhaps better laid-out. I need more storage space, but not actual everyday living space.
When is your birthday?
They seem to occur annually.
Who is your best friend?
I don't think it's fair or strictly accurate to limit that to one person, but if we don't count Helen, A.
THE LETTER C:
What's your favorite candy?
I'm not a sweets sort of person. Maybe UK-style milk chocolate.
Who's your crush?
It's a secret.
When was the last time you cried?
I don't remember. I got pretty close on Tuesday, watching 'Mar Adentro'. Excellent film.
THE LETTER D:
Do you daydream?
What's your favorite kind of dog?
Maybe an Airedale (I owned one in my teens) or an intelligent Border Collie, but I prefer cats, really.
What's your favorite day of the week?
Saturday, because, as I said, it's not a working day, but also because I don't have to go to work the following day either.
THE LETTER E:
How do you like your eggs?
In cakes, pancakes or otherwise undetectable as eggs. Don't like eggs.
Have you ever been in the emergency room?
No, because that's the terminology of an entirely different continent. I've been to A&E, aka Casualty, a few times.
What's the easiest thing ever to do?
Weird question. Emit heat?
THE LETTER F:
Have you ever flown in a plane?
On every available opportunity, and I don't have the remotest intention of stopping.
Do you use fly swatters?
No, spiders or rolled-up newspapers.
Have you ever used a foghorn?
Eh? I wouldn't have thought many people have. At least in the UK, they're not exactly available to the public.
THE LETTER G:
Do you chew gum?
No, never. Horrible habit.
Are you a giver or a taker?
Do you like gummy candies?
I have no idea. If they're what the name implies, no.
THE LETTER H:
How are you?
What's your height?
What colour is your hair?
THE LETTER I:
What's your favourite ice cream?
Stock answer: mint choc chip. I'm not a big fan of ice cream. I could say 'not vanilla', but that might be understood.
Have you ever ice skated?
Yes, though not recently.
Would you live in an igloo?
Depends on the network connection.
THE LETTER J:
What's your favourite jelly bean?
The type that's actually a chocolate digestive. I suppose 'jelly beans' must be sold in the UK nowadays, but I don't recall seeing them.
Have you ever heard a really hilarious joke?
Presumably, but I don't remember it.
Do you wear jewellery?
I used to wear an Anorankh, but not any more.
THE LETTER K:
Who do you want to kill?
Do you want kids?
No, nor human children.
Where did you have kindergarten?
I went to nursery school in my home village, but was too old for kindergarten when we moved to Norway. Since returning, I haven't lived anywhere where the word 'kindergarten' has been used. Besides, one might attend a nursery school, but few would have one.
THE LETTER L:
Are you laid back?
It might seem that way.
Do you lie?
Heh. Do you believe me?
I do tend to answer direct questions honestly, though ambiguity is useful.
Have you ever been to London?
A few times.
THE LETTER M:
What's your favourite movie?
I always used to say 'Brazil', but I've seen a lot of other good films in the last couple of years. Perhaps 'Three Colours: Blue'.
Do you still watch Disney movies?
What type of music you listen to?
No single type. Anything thought-provoking, requiring one to listen. I definitely don't use music as background or for comfort, and can't bear anything formulaic. Overall, I like progressive music (emphatically not 'prog'), but more specifically that ranges from death metal to dark ambient. Oh, and as that implies, I favour downbeat music. Happy music merely annoys me.
THE LETTER N:
Do you have a nickname?
Only one person (not me!) uses it nowadays. I do have online identities, of course.
Do you prefer night over day?
I suppose so, though both have favourable aspects.
THE LETTER O:
What's your one wish?
Nothing springs to mind. To avoid dying?
Are you an only child?
Do you wish this was over?
It is starting to drag on a little....
THE LETTER P:
What one fear are you most paranoid about?
I don't think fear and paranoia are necessarily associated.
I don't have an answer to the question, either.
Do you love the colour pink?
Are you a perfectionist?
By nature, yes, but it's impractical and I'm no longer bothered by second-best for work purposes. Not for my own purposes, though.
THE LETTER Q:
Are you quick to judge people?
I tend to form an initial impression, but I think I'm open to additional data.
Do you wish you were a Queen?
Like Calephetos, I don't think I'd suit 8" hot pink vinyl thighboots (though I don't entirely agree that she wouldn't. ;) ).
Have you ever rode a quad?
No, but I have ridden one. Past participle, not past tense, please.
THE LETTER R:
Do you think you're always right?
Far from it!
Do you watch reality TV
No, not even in some sort of masochistic horror.
What's a good reason to cry?
That's a deep question, which would require more thinking time than I can spare.
Do you prefer sun or rain?
Sun, in moderation.
Do you like snow?
Unless I have to travel in it.
What's your favourite season?
Spring, maybe autumn, but I don't dislike the others.
THE LETTER T:
What time is it?
What time did you wake up?
When was the last time you slept in a tent?
Some time in 2005, I think; perhaps even 2004.
THE LETTER U:
Do you own an umbrella?
Can you ride a unicycle?
Never tried. I suspect I could.
Have you ever said someone was ugly?
I don't think so, and I'm likely to remember.
THE LETTER V:
What's the worst veggie?
Whichever evangelist attempts to challenge my omnivorous diet.
Worst vegetable? The humble parsnip.
Where do you want to go on vacation?
Iceland, though I have more immediate plans to visit Venezia, Warszawa and maybe Amsterdam.
Where was your last family vacation to?
Family holiday? I don't remember. Probably North-west Wales in the early 1990s.
THE LETTER W:
What's your worst habit?
Where do you live?
Who's your hero?
I don't have any.
THE LETTER X:
Have you ever had an x-ray?
Have you seen the x-games?
Never heard of them.
Do you own a xylophone?
Oh, very funny. No, I don't own a xylophone. Are you about to ask about my zither?
THE LETTER Y:
Do you like the colour yellow?
Not especially. A rich buttercup yellow can be attractive in some contexts.
What year were you born in?
What's one thing you yearn for?
I don't think in such terms.
THE LETTER Z:
What's your zodiac sign?
Scorpio (sun, moon & ascendant).
Do you believe in the zodiac?
To quote myself: "empirically, I believe the three birth signs (not just sun sign) do reflect general character, but daily horoscopes are superstition".
What's your favorite zoo animal?
I'm choosing to interpret that as 'favourite non-domestic animal'; in which case I'd select something like a leopard or panther, or perhaps a wolf. I wouldn't wish zoo captivity on any of them (not that I inherently disapprove of zoos).
24 January, 2007
Just in time, a meme
Yet another meme discovered via Neil.
Anyone care to explain the title?
1. Elaborate on your default icon.
Favicon? It's the Ministry of Information logo; 'M' and 'I' in dark green overlaid by a white 'of'.
Avatar? Same again: the Ministry logo.
2. What’s your current relationship status?
Monogamous heterosexual distance relationship, which puts me in a weird limbo between 'single' and 'couple'.
3. Ever have a near-death experience?
4. Name an obvious quality you have.
Of course silence is a quality.
5. What’s the name of the song that’s stuck in your head right now?
None. I rarely listen to 'catchy' music, so I'm spared the irritation of such earworms.
6. Name a celebrity you would marry.
I wouldn't marry.
7. Who will cut and paste this first?
Dunno. I don't think of memes as chains of specific people.
8. Has anyone ever said you look like a celebrity?
My father once accused me of resembling Tom Cruise, though he's said the same about himself. The three of us could be said to have similar noses.
9. Do you wear a watch?
No, though I'm rarely far from a clock, whether on a wall, PC, bike computer or mobile phone.
10. Do you have anything pierced?
Why is this one of the most frequently asked questions in meme questionnaires?
To repeat: I wouldn't want piercings myself (I recoil from the idea of the process itself), but I do like some other people's piercings, particularly multiple piercings in the same ear.
11. Do you have any tattoos?
Another oddly common question....
I don't have any; I couldn't imagine wanting such a permanent decoration.
12. Do you like pain?
What? No, that's not one of my fetishes.
13. Do you like to shop?
Not for myself.
14. What was the last thing you paid for with cash?
Lunch was a bean wrap with an annoying tomato sauce; annoying in that I'm now wearing it.
15. What was the last thing you paid for with your credit card?
Hmm. My Amazon account is configured to draw from my credit card, so the last purchase would have been... <checks account>... the Gaudí 2007 wall calendar.
I don't carry my credit card, so I don't use it for 'real world' payments.
16. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?
Either Helen or my mother, yesterday evening; I forget which of them rang last.
17. What is on your desktop background?
Nothing. It's blank black.
18. What is the background on your cell phone?
None. I don't think it even supports backgrounds.
19. What was the last movie you watched?
'Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles' ('A Very Long Engagement'), for the second time.
20. What was the last book you read?
The last book I completed was 'A Fool's Alphabet', by Sebastian Faulks, almost a fortnight ago. Some individual paragraphs were excellent, but I was less impressed by the overall book.
I'm currently reading 'The God Delusion', by Richard Dawkins. I wouldn't have chosen to obtain a copy (here's why), but a colleague has lent it to me, and will want to discuss it, so I'd better give it a try.
12 January, 2007
A nerd/geek meme
Discovered via Neil, this could be brief....
1. Did you not only sigh the biggest sigh of relief ever once you saw that Apple had introduced the iPhone, but you also thought it was totally the coolest phone ever?
I have no interest in the thing. I use my phone to talk to people beyond shouting range, to convey text messages, as a clock, and occasionally as a torch. I don't need it to play video or music (I've disabled even the default ringtone) nor take photographs, and I don't have the vaguest interest in its appearence.
That said, I do like the idea of the iPhone Shuffle.
2. Do you ever miss a front page story on Digg.com?
I've only visited the site after seeing it in my referrer logs. I wouldn't even recognise the front page.
3. When you get bored, do you browse the upcoming stories on Digg.com?
I haven't become a regular reader since answering the previous question.
4. When it comes to your personal web space…
a. Do you have your own REAL website (not blogger/geocities/etc…)?
Yes, you're visiting it (unless you're reading via RSS).
b. Do you actually know how to edit the code for it?
The (x)html, css and Movable Type code, yes. I have limited knowledge of perl and php.
5. Have you ever installed a different OS on a portable/gaming device that it was not meant for?
I've never owned a portable/gaming device, nor have I been asked to configure someone else's.
6. Do you have more than one monitor hooked up to your main computer?
No, but I'm seriously planning to do so.
7. Is the only time you use your printer to print out Google Maps?
I don't own a printer. At work, I tend to print e-mails for my boss (don't ask) and train times for myself, but my job is pretty much paperless, apart from post-it notes.
8. If you don't already have a water cooled CPU, do you leave the side cover off to help keep the temps down?
I did with my previous PC, as it had a specific problem, but not my 'new' one. Besides, the ambient temperature in that room is ordinarily around 15°C, which helps.
9. Do you somewhat wish you were living in Taiwan just for the technology (e.g. free wifi everywhere)?
No, I can't say that had ever occurred to me.
10. If you cant get rid of a virus or fix a serious problem after a few hours, do you just say f#@% it and format the HD?
I'm immensely pleased to say that's never been necessary, but I'm pretty sure I'd manage.
11. Do you totally wish you could afford a really nice Mac?
I don't anticipate ever buying any Apple product whatsoever. 'Nice' is not a characteristic I seek in consumer electronics, and I intensely dislike the Apple aesthetic.
12. Did you tell your broadband ISP to take their cable modem and shove it and go buy your own (a real one!)?
I don't have broadband at home.
13. Every now and then, do you attempt to hack your neighbours’ wifi connection just for fun?
I don't have wifi.
14. Do you keep spare hard drives around for testing out other OS’s or just for whatever?
No, and have far better things to do than play with OSes.
15. Can you install ATI drivers into linux?
I understand each word in that sentence, but not the overall question.
16. Do you sometimes wish you could just change the channel and start browsing the web on your TV, being able to view it at a decent resolution with good picture quality? (I ask this assuming some of you with laptops have hooked it to the TV and gawked at the horrible image).
Oh, get a ****ing life.
28 December, 2006
A is for...
A quick one via Neil
A is for Age:
B is for Beer of choice:
None; I don't drink. If I absolutely had to choose one, some variety of 'real ale' would be acceptable for the first mouthful or so, though I could really do without the rest of the pint.
C is for Career:
That's putting it a little strongly. I'm employed as a web designer/editor.
D is for favourite Drink:
Tea; one sugar and a little milk.
E is for Essential item you use everyday:
Bed? Door handle? Computer?
F is for Favourite song at the moment:
‘Your Troubles Are Over’, from 'Home' (The Gathering, 2006). A real discovery, made less than a month ago.
G is for favourite Game:
I'm not a games sort of person.
H is for Home town:
Home is Lancaster, though I didn't grow up there.
I is for Instruments you play:
Only the CD player, though just as a violinist can scrape some noise out of a viola, I can also coax coherent sounds out of a mp3 player.
J is for favourite Juice:
K is for Kids:
No, thanks. Nor human children.
L is for Last kiss:
About forty seconds ago.
M is for marriage:
N is for full Name:
N*** R*** T***. Paranoid or not, I choose to avoid publishing my full name.
O is for Overnight hospital stays:
A couple as a child, a couple more in my early twenties then a couple more in early 2003.
P is for phobias:
I don't like hypodermic needles and elevators, but I cope with both, so they're not exactly phobias. Ask me again if I ever need an injection in a lift.
Q is for quote:
I don't really think in such terms; I have limited recall of precise phrases and certainly don't live by the maxims of others.
I doubt I could improve on: "Another cup of tea, dear?" (which is actually a quote). Very penetrating, very profound.
R is for biggest Regret:
The stock answer would be having taken 'A' Level Chemistry rather than English, but that would have taken my life down a different route and, all things considered, I don't exactly dislike the one I'm on now.
S is for sports:
Cycling, hillwalking, swimming. Nothing pointlessly competitive, nor anything involving teams.
T is for Time you wake up:
Around 08:00, almost every day. I don't have an ability to lie-in, and oversleeping somehow makes me lethargic for the rest of the day.
U is for colour of underwear:
Heh. The probability of black today is greater than normal (no, I'm not going to explain).
V is for Vegetable you love:
I beg your pardon?
W is for Worst Habit:
X is for X-rays you’ve had:
In the past decade or so I must have had 3-4 dental x-rays plus 2-3 of my right hand.
Y is for Yummy food you make:
My generic curry is okay.
Z is for zodiac sign:
Scorpio – sun, moon & ascendent.
24 December, 2006
Top 250, III
In February 2004, I participated in the 'top 250 films' meme, which involved copying the list of the IMDb's top 250 films and highlighting those I'd actually seen. Almost two years later, I repeated the exercise last December. Time to do so again. Note that the top 250 changes rapidly and the following list is today's (24/12/06), quite different to those of February 2004 and December 2005.
In Feb. '04, I'd seen 102 of the 250, and 109 of the updated list in 2005. At the end of 2006, it's 129/250 (over half, at last), which can be divided as 70 from the top 100 and 59 from the remaining 150.
As one would expect, the lower rankings are more volatile than the 'core' top 100 which changes little year-to-year. Of the 2004 and 2005 lists, I've now seen 68 (17 more) and 69 (10 more) of their top 100s, but 70 (21 more) and 67 (17 more) of their lower ranges; overall, that's 138/250 and 136/250 respectively.
As I said in 2004, a list of films others rate highly is of limited relevance to me, but I do respect the opinions of others and treat the list as at least a guide to my future viewing, so I've added as many as possible of my omissions from the top hundred to my Amazon Rental list. A year after discovering that Amazon didn't offer several highly-rated films for rental, I'm glad to say that's changed, and all but the Chaplin ones are now in my queue.
I suspect I might reconsider doing that, as it means I'll be renting films I don't expect to enjoy (e.g. 'It's a Wonderful Life', 'Singin' In The Rain' and 'Some Like It Hot'), simply to tick them off a list, which strikes me as pointless. It's about enjoying films and broadening my knowledge, not engaging in trainspotter-type completism.
19 December, 2006
A spark of festivity
Surprisingly enough, I discovered this meme questionnaire via Neil (though I see Tim completed a version too). It relates to the 'seasonal holiday', so I might get bored halfway through and struggle to contain my irritation until the end. Fun, fun, fun.
1. Egg nog or hot chocolate?
Hot chocolate. The very thought of the alternative turns my stomach.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
They're wrapped, typically at 01:00 on the day. I may do something different this year.
3. Coloured lights or white on tree/house?
I don't have any housebling myself, but white is far more stylish than a tacky jumble of colours.
4. Do you hang mistletoe?
5. When do you put your decorations up?
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
I don't object to the standard turkey dinner, though my mother and I disagree on vegetable cooking times.
7. Favourite holiday memory as a child?
No specific one springs to mind. I did enjoy childhood christmas mornings, getting tremendously excited and sleeping very little. That thought reminds me that the afternoons tended to be spent with my father's extended family. It's no coincidence that I haven't seen any of them in well over a decade.
I also happily remember covering my dog with the discarded wrapping paper.
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I'm not sure how old I was – about ten? – but it was in the pedestrian cut-through between The Groves and The Ridgeway, Northop Hall, Clwyd. Yes, I very clearly recall my world collapsing. It wasn't because I no longer believed in Father christmas, but because my parents had lied to me. It sounds overblown, but that loss of absolute trust was a genuinely life-changing moment.
9. Do you open a gift on christmas Eve?
No. I remember being allowed to open one at about 04:00 on christmas morning as a child. My parents left presents in our bedrooms, not under the tree, so if I woke early – and I always did – they were right there, so tempting but untouchable.
10. How do you decorate your christmas tree?
Much as I like the idea of black trees, I don't have one myself.
11. Snow, love it or dread it?
Mixed feelings. I like looking at it, and if I'm out for a walk, but on the daily commute it's just a hazard.
Anyway; snow is somewhat rare in late December in North East Wales, so isn't really relevant to this questionnaire.
12. Do you know how to ice skate?
The basics, yes.
13. Do you remember your favourite gift?
I don't remember one single all-time favourite gift, but my favourite from last year was a replacement hip. Yes, really. My sister, an orthopaedic surgeon, gave me a (used) metal femur head/neck.
14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you?
Fighting back my natural cynicism for a moment: seeing my mother and sister does matter to me. Nowadays the period around 24-26 December is just about the only time our schedules can be relied upon to coincide.
Seeing Helen is kind of important to me too, but that's after the traditional 'festival', and I do see her at other times of year!
15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
christmas pudding, I suppose. Very important: it absolutely must be dry. No cream, brandy butter or other appalling adulterations, thanks.
16. What is your favourite holiday tradition?
I can't think of one. Seeing in the New Year at the top of Moel Famau probably counts, but I don't do that every year, and won't be doing so this time.
17. What tops your tree?
I said I don't have a tree!
18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
Definitely giving. I'm afraid I tend to find receiving to be a depressing experience, during which I discover that friends and family know me even less than I'd thought.
19. Favourite christmas song?
20. Favourite flavour of candy canes?
That's not part of the UK seasonal tradition, but if a 'candy cane' is what I think it is, peppermint sounds most appealing.
6 November, 2006
Grr. Neil's posted another meme questionnaire, so I'd better complete it. It's not as if these things are optional, after all.
1. Explain what ended your last relationship?
Miscommunication and perceived lack of commitment.
2. When was the last time you shaved?
2000, and I mean the year, not 8 pm.
I do trim my beard, roughly weekly. That's trimmed roughly, weekly.
3. What were you doing this morning at 8 am?
Either I was putting a bag of rubbish out for collection or I was in the shower.
4. What were you doing 15 minutes ago?
Adding a '2007' page to the Jethro Tull Tour History, following the announcement that the remnants of the band are to tour again in the Spring. The amendment was a fairly onerous task, as it's a static site, maintained manually.
5. Are you any good at math?
And no, not remotely. Barely numerate, really.
6. Your prom night? what about?
Didn't exist. That tradition isn't practiced in the UK, or wasn't when I was of the appropriate age.
7. Do you have any famous ancestors?
Not to my knowledge.
8. Have you had to take a loan out for school?
School-level education is state-funded in the UK, and schoolchildren tend to live with their parents.
If by 'school' you mean university, no. The Student Loans system was introduced just after I graduated, and I subsisted on a standard overdraft whilst a postgrad.
9. Do you know the words to the song on your MySpace profile?
I neither have nor wish to have a song on my MySpace profile. I only have a MySpace account as a means of attracting potential traffic to this main site.
10. Last thing received in the mail?
A gas bill, I think.
11. How many different beverages have you had today?
Different? Two: orange juice and tea. Lots of tea.
12. Do you ever leave messages on people’s answering machine?
Er, yes. What do other people use them for?
13. Who did you lose your CONCERT virginity to?
I don't remember.
14. Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach?
As I've mentioned, I dislike my name, and have issues with the concept of a named self, so that'd be a 'no'.
15. What’s the most painful dental procedure you’ve had?
A dentist fumbled an extraction when I was seven; he gave me insufficient anaesthetic and broke the tooth. My father pulled the dentist off me when the screams got too bad....
My father also promised to buy me something as a reward/compensation. I asked for a Fisher Price playset (I don't remember which). I'm still waiting.
16. What is out your back door?
An entire scary world.
More immediately, a large evergreen bush which has rather outgrown its space.
17. Any plans for Friday night?
Ordinarily, no, but I'm almost certain I'll be in Manchester this Friday, for the Opeth concert.
18. Do you like what the ocean does to your hair?
I don't have a problem with it.
19. Have you ever received one of those big tins of 3 different popcorns?
I have never heard of "those big tins of 3 different popcorns". This is a rather US-centric questionnaire, isn't it?
20. Have you ever been to a planetarium?
On a number of occasions.
21. Do you re-use towels after you shower?
No, I either bury them or sell them on eBay.
22. Some things you are excited about?
23. What is your favorite flavor of jelly?
That's 'jello' to Americans, not seedless fruit preserve (which is 'jam' in the UK).
24. Describe your keychain(s)?
I have five keys on a plain ring. No fob.
25. Where do you keep your change?
My front right trouser pocket.
26. When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group of people?
Twenty or so: about a fortnight ago, at a College management meeting.
Two hundred or so: in the mid-Nineties, at a geomorphology conference.
27. What kind of winter coat do you own?
An ankle-length (which wasn't easy to find considering I'm 6'1" ) charcoal wool overcoat and two walking jackets.
28. What was the weather like on your graduation day?
That was over thirteen years ago... I'm almost certain it was dry and sunny.
29. Do you sleep with the door to your room open or closed?
Open, except on cold nights.
1 November, 2006
I found this questionnaire at Zuly's Zu, though I'm not sure how I got there!
1. How old do you wish you were?
Perhaps 25, if I could be that age now i.e. in my current lifestyle. I wouldn't remotely like to relive my actual experience of being 25; that was an awful period in my life.
2. Where were you when 9/11 happened?
At work. I was watching live coverage of the first impact on the WTC, then thought to be a terrible accident, when the second plane hit. It happened right in front of my eyes, thousands of miles away.
3. What do you do when vending machines steal your money?
I don't recall the last time I used a vending machine – they're avoidably expensive. I don't think I've ever lost money to one.
4. Do you consider yourself kind?
5. If you had to get a tattoo, where and what would it be?
I don't want a tattoo myself, though some other people have tattoos I like.
6. If you could be fluent in any other language what would it be?
7. Do you know your neighbours?
Not at all.
8. What do you consider a vacation?
Exploring an interesting foreign city during the day, then 'having an early night' with Helen.
9. Do you follow your horoscope?
Short answer: no.
Longer answer: no.
10. Would you move for the person you loved?
Ha! I haven't yet! (Helen lives in Warszawa.)
11. Are you touchy feely?
Not really. Physical contact makes me uncomfortable unless I know the other person especially well. I sometimes wish I was more relaxed around people; I do appreciate casual intimacy amongst friends.
12. Do you believe that opposites attract?
I believe they can.
13. Dream job?
Whatever supports my lifestyle outside work. I'm not motivated by paid employment.
14. Favorite channels?
I watch little TV and don't have any particular channel preference, but I suppose I watch BBC4, Channel Four and FilmFour most often.
15. Favorite place to go on a weekend?
See Q.8. More routinely, anywhere photogenic within 25 miles (cycling distance) of Lancaster.
16. Showers or bath?
Showers. I only have a bath to relax, and rarely choose to relax!
17. Do you paint your nails?
18. Do you trust people easily?
It would be a gross understatement if I said 'no'.
19. What are your phobias?
Hypodermic needles and lifts (elevators), though I can tolerate both when I absolutely have to. Both at the same time might be a problem, though....
20. Do you want kids?
No, I'm not especially fond of goats.
I have no wish to have human children, either.
21. Do you keep a handwritten journal?
I have a computer. Why handwrite anything?
22. Where would you rather be right now?
Lots of places, though I'm not desperately dissatisfied with my current situation.
23. What makes you feel warm and safe?
Bed, except if I'm awake and worrying at 04:00.
24. Heavy or light sleep?
Light if I'm not secure about my surroundings, but probably heavy otherwise.
25. Are you paranoid?
Who says I am?
I do have a slight tendency, diminishing as I've aged.
26. Are you impatient?
How many more questions are there?
I'm more-than-averagely patient with tasks that interest me or I accept as necessary, but if something isn't important to me, I bore easily.
27. Who can you relate to?
Unhappy people. Not that I'm unhappy now, but I have been. Sorry, but you did ask.
28. How do you feel about interracial couples?
Precisely the same way as single-race couples. Race isn't relevant.
29. Have you been burned by love?
30. What's your life motto?
31. What's your main ringtone on your mobile?
32. What were you doing at midnight last night?
Just about to go to bed, I think.
33. Who was your last text message from?
I don't remember, and don't have my phone with me.
34. Whose bed did you sleep in last night?
Mine, all mine.
35. What color shirt are you wearing?
Black. Of course.
36. Most recent movie you watched?
'Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain'. Having watched the associated interview with Jean-Pierre Jeunet (director) I discovered the Anglicised title 'Amélie' is just plain wrong.
37. Name five things you have on you at all times?
Clothes, keys, cash, debit etc. cards, and my phone or bike computer (i.e. something with a clock).
38. What color are your bed sheets?
Blac.... Actually, I only own a black pillowcase (a joke gift, it's snakeskin-textured PVC. Horrible thing). I think my current duvet cover is green.
39. How much cash do you have on you right now?
40. What is your favorite part of chicken?
41. What's your favorite town / city?
Lancaster. Manchester and Berlin are pretty good, too. Warszawa isn't.
42. I cant wait ‘til...
I don't wish my life away. Now matters.
43. What did you have for dinner last night?
I think it was a handful of peanuts.
44. How tall are you barefoot?
6'1" (1.83 m)
45. Have you ever smoked crack?
46. Do you own a gun?
Only a water pistol which totally fails to intimidate the local cats.
47. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
Orange juice before work, tea later in the day.
48. What is your secret weapon to lure in the opposite sex?
It's so much of a secret that I haven't even told myself.
49. Do you have A.D.D.?
Huh? What was the question again?
I have an ability to sustain focus, though I recoil from obsession.
50. What time did you wake up today?
~07:15 GMT. My body is still on BST.
51. Current worry?
Work-related & boring.
52. Current hate?
Dawdling cyclists oblivious to their surroundings. If you can't ride at the speed of other traffic, get the **** out of the way of cyclists (and indeed other road users) who can.
53. Favorite place to be?
54. Where would you like to travel?
55. Where do you think you'll be in 10 years?
I don't anticipate major changes.
56. Last thing you ate?
A chicken tortilla-thing. Nothing special.
57. What songs do you sing in the shower?
58. Last person that made you laugh?
Oddly enough, me. I was closing comments on August's blog entries (an anti-sp*m measure) and read a few. Though I say it myself, a couple were amusing.
59. Worst injury you've ever had?
I fell ~2 m (vertically) onto my knee, causing temporary exquisite pain and permanent nerve damage.
60. Does someone have a crush on you?
The odds aren't good, but let's face it, the goods are odd.
61. What is your favorite candy?
I'm not a sweets person. Dairy milk chocolate, perhaps.
26 October, 2006
A new meme questionnaire, via Neil (as usual!):
1. When showering, do you start the water and then get in, or get in then start the water?
My boiler heats water as required, rather than maintaining a tank of preheated water. If I turned on even just the hot tap, the shower would run totally cold for the first 30 seconds or so. I prefer not to be under it at that time.
2. Do you read the labels on your shampoo bottle?
In the shop, yes. There are nasty chemicals in some shampoos; sodium lauryl sulphate springs to mind.
3. Do you moan in the shower like the people on the Herbal Essences commercial?
4. Have you ever showered with someone of the opposite sex?
Yep. Salt Ayre swimming pool has mixed showering facilities.
Okay; to answer the real question: yes.
5. Have you ever been forced to shower with one of your siblings?
No, but only because my parents didn't have a shower when my sister & I were of pre-school age.
6. Have you ever brushed your teeth in the shower?
Not that I remember, but I could imagine doing so.
7. Have you ever dropped your soap on your foot?
Again, it's possible but unmemorable.
8. How old do you look?
Thirtysomething, but I think it'd be fair to say I don't look as thirtysomething as I am.
9. How old do you act?
In many respects, I've had the demeanour of a fifty-year-old since I was about eight. In general, I probably act my age.
10. What’s the last song you sang?
'A Smart Kid' (Porcupine Tree). Unsuccessfully, since the remnants of a cough mean my voice is unreliable at present.
11. Have you recently become a member of anything?
Nope. It's not really in my nature.
12. What are your plans for the weekend?
Not sure. I'm hoping to be in Lancaster for a party, but my mother may need a little urgent tech support.
13. Do you kiss with your eyes open or closed?
14. What's the sexiest thing about Condoleezza Rice?
Er.... I genuinely can't think of anything.
15. Does anything on your body itch right now?
Not until you mentioned it; thanks. I can feel my ponytail against my neck.
16. Who’s the sexiest famous woman alive?
I'd be lying if claimed indifference or total ignorance, but I am near-oblivious to 'celeb-culture'.
Er... okay; Irène Jacob, though I haven't seen her in a film more recent than 1994. Not mainstream (Hollywood) -famous enough? Jennifer Connolly.
17. Who’s the sexiest famous man alive?
I suppose there's something about Rufus Sewell.
18. Does every family have a crazy uncle?
Dunno. I haven't met every family.
I had an alcoholic uncle with mood-swings, but I think calling him 'crazy' would have been somewhat dismissive.
19. Have you ever smuggled something into America?
Nothing federally illegal, though perhaps in certain states.
20. Does playing the guitar make a girl/guy more attractive?
I don't think it's relevant.
21. Do you live in a city with a good sports team?
No idea, and less interest. So far as I can tell from cursory glances at the back page of the local free paper, probably not.
22. Have you ever finished off the popcorn and ate the junk from the bottom of the bag?
The fragments of corn, you mean? How is that 'junk', or indeed materially different to the rest of the popcorn?
23. Have you ever had sex in a tent?
24. What about in a boat?
25. Have you ever dated a Goth?
A better question would be whether I've ever dated a non-Goth....
26. Would you rather receive amazing oral sex or have amazing sex?
Can the latter preclude the former?
27. Can you fix your own car?
I don't own a car.
28. Would you want to kill George W Bush yourself if you were guaranteed to get away with it?
I certainly feel the world would be a better place without the man, but I have no wish to remove him myself.
29. Should guys wear pink?
There's no 'should' or 'should not' about it. Everyone should have the right to express an individual choice. My own choice wouldn't include pink clothes.
29 July, 2006
Here we go again. This one's via Neil, though he omitted one question which I found via Dave.
What is your salad dressing of choice?
Er, vinaigrette? Whatever.
What is your favourite fast food restaurant?
No national or multinational chains. Hodgsons' fish & chips are pretty good.
What is your favourite sit down restaurant?
Probably the Sultan of Lancaster. There have been other restaurants I've liked more, but they keep closing.
On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant?
What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of?
Crunchy nut corn flakes (and I do).
Name three foods you detest above all others.
Eggs (boiled, fried, scrambled, etc.), Norwegian fiskepudding, blancmange. It's the textures.
What is your favourite dish to order in a Chinese restaurant?
Sweet & sour chicken, I suppose. My mother and I are the only people I know who like Chinese food, so I rarely get to visit such restaurants.
What are your pizza toppings of choice?
Ham & pineapple? I'm not especially bothered.
What do you like to put on your toast?
Don't like toast.
What is your favourite type of gum?
Number of contacts in your mobile phone?
Four, though there's a mobile and a landline number for each of those.
Number of contacts in your email address book?
Twenty-one. I only store those I use regularly. Does anyone really use an e-mail address book nowadays?
What is your wallpaper on your computer?
None: plain black.
What is your screensaver on your computer?
Are there naked pictures saved on your computer?
Yes, but artistic, not pr0n. Honest.
How many land line phones do you have in your house?
Two, but one is inaccessible behind furniture. It's only there so that I can hear it ring if I'm downstairs, and I answer the upstairs extension.
How many televisions are in your house?
Two, since you mention it, but one is in storage. My new PC has a TV card, apparently, but I haven't bothered to try it.
What kitchen appliance do you use the least?
For some reason I bought a pizza cutter two years ago, but haven't eaten a pizza at home for at least five years.
What is the format of the radio station you listen to the most?
I don't listen to the radio.
How many sex toys do you own that require batteries?
None that require batteries....
What do you consider to be your best physical attribute?
Define 'best'. I have above-average strength in my legs and good aerobic fitness. I couldn't comment on my most attractive physical attribute.
Are you right handed or left handed?
Sinister, though dextrous with scissors.
Do you like your smile?
Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
Only teeth. I've had metal inserted (dental and orthopedic).
Would you like to?
What? Only if it was medically necessary.
Do you prefer to read when you go to the bathroom?
Which of your five senses do you think is keenest?
Possibly hearing or, with the assistance of glasses, sight.
When was the last time you had a cavity?
Twenty-four hours ago, almost to the minute! I visited my dentist today.
What is the heaviest item you lift regularly?
Helen weighs about 60 kg. ;)
Have you ever been knocked unconscious?
I don't think so. Perhaps when very young. I have a scar in my hairline, but no idea how it was caused.
If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
No. Without being morbid, I try to live as if I don't have much time left. If I knew my death date, I'd lose an essential sense of urgency and waste time.
If you could change your first name, what would you change it to?
There's a blog post in that subject, but in short, I feel a disconnection between me, the essential entity, and my name, the external signifier. In practice it means I don't think of myself as having a name, and that it's merely a convenience for others. I don't like or use it myself, but wouldn't want a different one.
That mightn't make sense to others; I've obviously thought about it a lot (too much?) but not to the point of articulating it.
How do you express your artistic side?
I'm a graphic designer and sculptor.
What color do you think you look best in?
Black. Of course.
How long do you think you could last in a medium security prison?
Milliseconds. That's a scary thought.
Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake?
Probably, but I don't remember a specific occasion.
If we weren’t bound by society’s conventions, do you have a relative you would make a pass at?
I have no contact with relatives beyond my parents and sister, so that's a 'no'.
How often do you go to church?
You have to be ****ing joking.
Actually, I do visit churches in foreign cities, for their architectural/cultural significance. They have absolutely no religious meaning to me.
Have you ever saved someone’s life?
Not knowingly, but everything's interconnected (man).
Has someone ever saved yours?
Would you walk naked for a half mile down a public street for $100,000?
Depends on the street. Not in the UK.
Would you kiss a member of the same sex for $100? Just a kiss?
I don't see why not.
Would you have sex with a member of the same sex for $10,000?
If Helen would be okay with that, and solely for the money.
Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000?
Would you never blog again for $50,000?
How would you know? I'd close this blog for $50,000, but would simply open another under a different name. I certainly wouldn't feel bound by any promises!
Would you pose naked in a magazine for $250,000?
If I couldn't be identified.
Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000?
That's the second consecutive meme to mention 'hot sauce'. What is it? Is there a specific substance with that specific name, or do you just mean any spicy liquid accompaniment to food?
To answer the question: yes, but I'd take the money then deliberately vomit.
Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000?
Would you shave your head and get your entire body waxed for $5,000?
Body, yes, but head, no. I'm particularly attached to my head hair, and it didn't get this long overnight. Perhaps for more money.
Would you give up watching television for a year for $25,000?
Yes, cheerfully, though I'd want to watch DVDs and videos, and wouldn't hesitate to have friends/family record the few TV programmes I do watch ordinarily.
12 July, 2006
The remaining questions
I didn't notice at the time, but the meme questionnaire I completed yesterday omitted several questions. Having found all but one of the missing questions, I'll answer them now.
4. Is there anything pink within 10 feet of you?
The University of Manchester's postgrad prospectus (my office has an archive of other HE institutions' prospectuses).
11. Are you hot?
Depends who you ask. Ahem.
I'm not excessively warm at present, thanks.
13. Do you wash your car or let the car wash do it?
I haven't bought a car since yesterday.
16. Have you bought any clothing items in the last week?
17. When is the last time you ran?
Yesterday, ostensibly because I was late for a meeting, but really because I just felt like it.
25. Last play you saw?
I don't remember. It was several years ago. Possibly Brecht's 'The Threepenny Opera'.
26. Still missing.
29. Next trip you are going to take?
Berlin, at the end of next week.
34. Are you due sometime this year for a doctor's visit?
I'm not undergoing ongoing treatment and don't have routine checkups, so no.
36. Who are your friends?
That's a big question, with the potential to upset anyone I might accidentally omit.
39. Do you collect anything?
No. I'm a bit uncomfortable about such forms of obsessive behaviour.
40. Who is the biggest gossiper you know?
I couldn't possibly comment.
41. Last time you got stopped by a cop or pulled over?
Probably 7-8 years ago at a cycling protest. Ironically, I was overtly acting as an impartial observer, not a participant, though the officers I was photographing might have disagreed.
11 July, 2006
Not-lame random questions
Discovered via Jackie, this is a bit USA-centric and LiveJournalist, but make the most of it; these meme questionnaires are as close as I get to revealing personal information on t' web. Visit the 'Memes' category archive for several more sets of questions.
1. Where were you 3 hours ago?
Here at my desk, though I have been out to a meeting and for lunch in the intervening period.
2. What is your boyfriends/girlfriends name?
3. Have you ever eaten a crayon?
Not that I remember.
5. When is the last time you went to the mall?
I suppose Manchester's Arndale Centre qualifies as a 'mall', so: January, accompanying H. to the sales.
6. Are you wearing socks right now?
Yes. Just one pair, as I'm wearing my walking boots; I wear two pairs with para boots.
7. Do you have a car worth over $2,000?
I've never owned a car.
8. When was the last time you drove out of town?
Mid-2003, in a hired van.
9. Have you been to the movies in the last five days?
Not to the cinema, but I have watched three DVDs: 'Audition', 'Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust', and 'Final Fantasy VII'. That's in both chronological order and ascending order of preference.
10. What was the last thing you had to drink?
A cup of tea. In fact...
... right; where was I?
12. What are you wearing right now?
Marillion t-shirt (black), cycle leggings (black), pants (er, purple), socks (black & grey), boots (dark brown).
14. Last food that you ate?
An onion bhaji. Yum.
15. Where were you last week at this time?
Here at work, presumably at my desk.
18. What's the last sporting event you watched?
No idea. It wasn't this year, anyway.
19. What is your favorite animal?
Humans. Also domestic cats, and wolves interest me.
20. What is your dream vacation?
Iceland with H. and a self-driving car.
21. Last person's house you were in?
Mine; before that, A & A's, yesterday evening.
22. How old are your parents?
Sixty-four and sixty-seven.
23. Have you been in love?
24. Do you miss anyone right now?
27.What are your plans for tonight?
Fairly mundane: I need to continue sorting through the contents of my old PC's hard drive (I'm not transfering all the junk to my new machine), I need to cook and eat (dunno what, yet), I need (and want) to ring Helen, I ought to ring my mother, and I need to read about Berlin, as I'll be there next week. I might also watch a DVD.
28. Who is the last person you sent a myspace message to?
Fish, or his web person, anyway.
30. Ever go to camp?
Yes. I loathed it. Having forced me to attend is another barrier between my mother and I. Yes, decades later.
Actually, I'm not sure I understand the question. If it means an event or place called 'camp', the foregoing paragraph applies. If it's asking whether I've ever been camping: yes, numerous times with friends, and I enjoy it.
31. Were you an honor roll student in school?
A what? I'm from the UK, where the education system doesn't feature the concept and where we can spell 'honour'. If it's a 'top of the class' or 'pupil of the month' sort of thing, definitely not. One would need to respect the system in order to play its petty games.
32. What do you want to know about the future?
Whatever would help me avoid death.
33. Are you wearing any perfume or cologne?
No, never. Except transfered from H., but let's not get into that one!
35. Where is/are your best friend(s)?
Within three miles, so far as I know.
37. Do you have a tan?
Head and limbs. I took my shirt off whilst cycling or reading outdoors in the recent hot weather, but that merely reduced the transparent blueness.
38. What are you listening to right now?
Riverside's 'Voices In My Head' EP. The new material is pretty good, the live tracks are okay, and the video... Piotr K., put your shirt back on, man!
42. Have you ever drank your soda from a straw?
Eh? Have I ever consumed a carbonated beverage through a plastic tube? Of course, though not in recent years.
43. What does your last text message say?
I can't provide the exact wording, as I don't routinely carry my mobile phone, but the message tells my mother I was sitting in the park, reading, on 1 July. She was having a bad day, helping my irritable (and only) sister move house, so any information about the outside world was welcome, apparently.
44. Do you like hot sauce?
I enjoy several spiced sauces, but if 'hot sauce' is a specific variety, I'm not aware of it.
45.When was the last time you took a shower?
46. Do you need to do laundry?
Well reminded. That's something else I'll do this evening.
47. What is your heritage?
How far back? My father's family was probably Norwegian (and he moved back) and my mother's family was Scottish, but my parents themselves were born in Merseyside.
48. Are you someone's best friend?
Unfortunately, I doubt it.
49. What's on the radio?
Not a clue. I never listen to the radio.
50. What do you think of the person who took this survey before?
Jackie seems okay. ;) Great hair! She's ranked no.4 of 22 (and counting) MySpace Friends, which must mean something.
[Update 12/07/06: Hang on – there are several questions missing! I've found all but one of the missing ones, and have answered them in a separate entry.]
24 May, 2006
I haven't completed a meme questionnaire for a while, so here's one 'borrowed' from Glittermouse.
1. What curse word do you use the most?
For some reason, I rarely feel an urge to use 'curse words'. When I do, in company who don't mind swearing, bizarrely I favour 'f*ck', but the drastically milder 'bugger' or 'bollocks' in private.
2. Do you own an iPod?
How dare you! I have a 20GB Creative Zen.
3. Who on your Myspace "Top 8" do you talk to the most?
Top 8? I think I've visited two (count 'em) MySpace sites, 2-3 times each.
4. What time is your alarm clock set for?
Eight, but that's insurance, and I'm usually awake by 07:30.
5. What color is your room?
Bedroom? Dunno. Purplish, I think.
Right now I'm at work, and my office is deeply magnolia.
6. Flip flops or sneakers?
Shiny black boots.
Oh, okay; if I absolutely had to, trainers, aka 'sneakers' in the colonies.
7. Would you rather take the picture or be in the picture?
Definitely take the picture.
8. What was the last movie you watched?
Oddly, I don't remember. I'm sure I watched something on TV on Sunday... no, it's gone.
The last I saw on DVD was 'Dancing At The Blue Iguana', which succeeded in separating nudity from titillation, and managed to say something substantial about an environment (a LA strip club) and its occupants (the dancers). It was based on improvisation workshops, and I think some of the subplots made more sense to the performers, who had done months of research, than to the audience, who didn't have access to specific references. That flaw aside, it was fairly good, but no classic.
9. Do any of your friends have children?
Yes, one. Izzy is gorgeous, but doesn't seem to have set a trend.
10. Has anyone ever called you lazy?
A primary school teacher, and my mother.
11. Do you ever take medication to help you fall asleep faster?
No, never. My sister routinely takes sleeping pills, but that'd be totally against my nature.
12. What CD is currently in your CD player?
'Speak For Yourself' (Imogen Heap, 2005). However, I almost always listen to music via my mp3 player nowadays.
13. Do you prefer regular or chocolate milk?
Regular. Chocolate is good occasionally, but I drink ice-cold full-fat milk every day.
14. Has anyone told you a secret this week?
I can't tell you.
15. Have you ever given someone a hickey?
16. Who was the last person to call you?
A colleague in Estates, about eGif metadata.
17. Do you think people talk about you behind your back?
I'm afraid my self-image is such that I question whether many people would be sufficiently interested to do so.
18. Did you watch cartoons as a child?
Some. Not as a matter of routine.
19. How many siblings do you have?
20. Are you shy around the opposite sex?
21. What movie do you know every line to?
None. I don't have a memory for exact lines, lyrics, etc.
22. Do you own any band t-shirts?
Several: Porcupine Tree, Marillion, Fish, Steve Hackett, Jethro Tull. Generally, the graphic design comes first, not the band, with one exception: I don't wear the Tull ones any more.
23. What is your favorite salad dressing?
What? Thousand Island, I suppose.
24. Do you read for fun?
25. Do you cry a lot?
26.Who was the last person to text message you?
Maybe A, probably exactly a month ago. Remember, I don't routinely carry a mobile phone.
27. Do you have a desktop computer or a laptop?
Desktop, both at work and at home.
28. Are you currently wanting any piercings or tattoo?
29. What is the weather like?
It's a bit like the interaction between thermal factors, air pressure and atmospheric moisture content, but not quite.
30. Would you ever date someone covered in tattoos?
It's unlikely, but not inconceivable.
31. Is sex before marriage wrong?
Don't be stupid. If anything's 'wrong', it's marriage.
32. When was the last time you slept on the floor?
March, though an explanation would be too revealing for this blog!
33. How many hours of sleep do you need to function?
Eight is optimal, but I routinely function on six, and on 3-4 for a few days each month.
34. Are you in love or lust?
I think one needs a little of both!
35. Are your days full and fast-paced?
I more than fill my days. I find it very difficult to switch off.
36. Do you pay attention to calories on the back of packages?
Not at all, though I am aware of fat content and additives.
37. How old will you be turning on your next birthday?
38. Are you picky about spelling and grammar?
About my own, certainly, and I'm secretly judgemental of others', but I don't correct people.
39. Have you ever been to Six Flags?
Considering I had to look it up on Google, I think that's a 'no'.
40. Do you get along better with the same or opposite sex?
Opposite, but that's a generalisation.
41. Do you like Cottage Cheese?
It's okay. I don't remember the last time I ate any.
42. Do you sleep on your side, tummy, or back?
Side, I think.
43. Have you ever bid for something on eBay?
44. Do you enjoy giving hugs?
Very much so, but there are very few people with whom I have such a physical relationship.
45) What song did you last sing out loud?
'Run' (Snow Patrol, 'Final Straw', 2004).
46) What is your favorite TV show?
'ER', though it's not what it was.
'Doctor Who'. I didn't think it would become a favourite, but it is.
'Lost' is still fairly compelling, but the plot development really needs to accelerate, as my patience isn't infinite.
47) Which celebrity dead or alive would you want to have lunch with?
That's not an especially appealing idea. I don't have heroes, and doubt I'd have much meaningful to say to favourite musicians; even less to favourite actors.
48) Last time you had butterflies in your stomach?
Monday morning. For some reason I wasn't looking-forward to work this week.
49) What one thing do you wish you had?
I'm not a 'things' person. Maybe a bigger house, fully-maintained by someone else.
50) Favorite lyrics?
That varies almost daily. I can't think of any right now.
21 March, 2006
The oracle says...
A slightly different variety of music meme questionnaire, via Calephetos:
Put your iTunes/Winamp/WMP (in my case, Creative Zen) on shuffle and use the song title as the answer to the question.
Considering my taste in music, this could be good, or could go terribly wrong....
1. How does the world see you? – Inner Silence (Anathema 'Alternative 4')
Maybe I look placid....
2. Will I have a happy life? – Velvet Green (Jethro Tull 'Songs From The Wood')
"Never a care: with your legs in the air, loving." Ha!
3. What do my friends think of me? – The Outsider (A Perfect Circle, 'Thirteenth Step')
I suppose I can't deny the title, but the lyrics (attention-seeking via suicide) don't fit.
4. Do people secretly lust after me? – Strip The Soul (Porcupine Tree, 'In Absentia')
I'm not sure how to take that.
5. How can I make myself happy? – Easy There, Steady Now (Richard Thompson, 'Mirror Blue')
Good advice, RT.
6. What should I do with my life? – Reformat Spiders (Bass Communion, 'BC III')
7. Will I ever have children? – Wind Up (Jethro Tull, 'Aqualung')
I couldn't have put it better. I didn't choose any of these answers, honest.
8. What is some good advice for me? – Get Back In The Car (Chroma Key, 'You Go Now')
9. How will I be remembered? – Beware of Darkness (Spock's Beard, 'Beware Of Darkness')
10. What's my signature dancing song? – Avalon (Sigur Rós, 'Ágaetis Byrjun')
It's a drone 'n' bass dirge. Nice strings, but I can't imagine moving to it at all.
11. What's my current themesong? – The Last Will And Testament Of Emma Peel (I.E.M., 'IEM')
Yep; suitably bleak, but not ostentatiously depressive.
12. What do others think is my current themesong? – The Company (Fish, 'Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors')
Now that's accurate.
13. What shall they play at my funeral? – Please Come Back (John Wesley, 'Shiver')
Not an option, I'm afraid. Hopefully.
14. What type of women do I like? – Hourglass (Liquid Tension Experiment, 'Liquid Tension Experiment 2')
What can I say? Actually, it's not true.
15. How's my love life? – The Moon Touches Your Shoulder (Porcupine Tree, 'Coma Divine')
"Springtime is over...", eh? "Sway in the cloud blur/And light up the sky" is a bit more optimistic.
17 March, 2006
Yay! Meme time!
One via Neil:
1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was behind you?
Novel question, boring answer: the bathroom door.
2. How much cash did you spend yesterday?
3. What's a word that rhymes with mist?
4. Favorite planet, which you would live on, if you could?
Not so good a question. The Earth.
5. Who is the LAST person you kissed?
Must have been Helen.
6. What is your favorite ring on your phone?
I don't have a ringtone enabled. If I did, it'd be the Nokia default.
7. What is the last band shirt you wore?
I'm wearing a Blackfield shirt right now.
8. What do you think of yourself?
Not too bad at present, but don't ask that sort of question at 3 am.
9. Name the brand of your shoes you're currently wearing?
Whichever contractor provides the German military with para boots.
10. Night light or pitch black?
11. What do you think about the (previous) person who took this?
Neil seems okay. Our political views differ sometimes, but rarely conflict.
12. What were you doing at midnight last night?
Reading about Cartmel Priory.
13. What did your last text message say that you received?
The most recent was from Helen., in January, and was private. Before that: Alizon wished me a happy New Year.
14. Where is the nearest Valero?
Beyond my awareness – I've never heard of it, and can't be bothered to check Google.
15. What's something that you say a lot?
It annoys me that I've been using 'just' rather a lot recently.
16. Who told you they loved you last?
Probably my mother.
17. Last furry thing you touched?
Gus the cat.
18. How many drugs have you done in the past 3 days?
Just caffeine, but a fair amount of it.
19. Favourite age you have been so far?
Difficult. Twenty was good, and my thirties are going well. Definitely not my teens, nor my twenties. That's generalising – there were highlights throughout.
20. Your worst enemy?
21. What is your current desktop picture?
None. Blank black, with no desktop icons.
22. What was the last thing you said to someone?
"Thanks", to the security guard who opened the door for me.
23. How do you like your eggs?
Unrecognisable, within cakes or pancakes, but not as eggs alone.
24. Do you like someone?
No, I'm a full-on sociopath. Of course I like someone. What kind of a question was that?
25. The last song you listened to?
'Haffsól', from Sigur Rós's 'Von'.
19 February, 2006
Have you ever...?
Another 'Have you ever...?' meme questionnaire, this time via Calephetos.
Sorry to stereotype, but it is a bit 'LiveJournalist', and I found myself answering several questions with recollections of my late teens/early twenties.
1. Taken a picture naked? Good start.... Taken whilst naked: yes, as it happens. Had taken whilst naked: not to my knowledge! Well, not since I was a new-born baby, anyway.
2. Painted your room? I think so, but it was in my mother's house, and I only had nominal input into the colour (white with a hint of green).
3. Kissed a member of the same sex? Nope.
4. Drove a car? Driven, not 'drove'. Yes, anyway. Not within at least the last five years, though.
5. Danced in front of your mirror? The odds of that ever happening are less than negligible.
6. Had/Have a crush? Yep.
7. Been dumped? Ooh, about 15 years ago, and it was fairly trivial anyway, in hindsight. I have dumped, which was probably one of the most stupid things I've ever done.
8. Stolen money from a friend? No.
9. Got into a car with people you just met? Frequently: when I started at Lancaster University, the hitching scheme was still in action, so I got into cars with strangers on a daily basis, just to travel into town.
10. Been in a fist fight? A few times at school (I still have a scarred lip) and once at University.
11. Snuck out of your house? Not my own – why would I need to? I frequently sneaked (not 'snuck', FFS) out of shared houses, for reasons which seem downright bizarre now, and out of my mother's for reasons that still seem entirely justified.
12. Had feelings for someone who didn't have them back? Yes.
13. Been arrested? Sort-of. It was a misunderstanding, and I wasn't charged.
14. Made out with a stranger? Not really, and a long, long time ago.
15. Met up with a member of the opposite sex somewhere? That can't be as innocuous as it seems. Taking it at face value: yes, of course.
16. Left your house without telling your parents? Er, daily. I don't live within 100 miles of my parents.
17. Had a crush on your neighbour? Nope, never.
18. Ditched school to do something more fun? Too right! I was ****ing good at it, too, and no-one ever noticed.
19. Slept in a bed with a member of the same sex? Yes. It was all very pragmatic.
20. Seen someone die? Yes. I don't want to elaborate on that.
21. Been on a plane? Yes, frequently.
22. Kissed a picture? Eh?
23. Slept in until 3? Only if I hadn't got to bed until 09:00-ish. I've never slept that late after a normal night's sleep.
24. Love someone or miss someone right now? Yes.
25. Laid on your back and watched cloud shapes go by? Yes.
26. Made a snow angel? That's not my sort of thing.
27. Played dress up? Surprisingly, yes.
28. Cheated while playing a game? Routinely.
29. Been lonely? Yes.
30. Fallen asleep at work/school? Yes.
31. Been to a club? Yes. I've occasionally enjoyed it, too.
32. Felt an earthquake? Yes, but only the trivial type we occasionally experience in the UK.
33. Touched a snake? Yes, a few times.
34. Ran a red light? I don't think so. If I ever have, I must have been unaware of it, and still am.
35. Been suspended from school? No.
36. Had detention? Yes. I don't remember why.
37. Been in a car accident? Yes. My mother ran her car into the back of another, at least 20 years ago. No-one was hurt. I've been knocked off my bike twice.
38. Hated the way you look? Ha! Yes.
39. Witnessed a crime? Several times; most drug-related, but a couple of assaults, too.
40. Pole danced? I've danced in Poland.
41. Been lost? Yes. Usually in utterly familiar locations, such my own office building.
42. Been to the opposite side of the country? I'm on the west coast of mainland Britain. I've visited the east and south coasts once each, but never the north coast. I've been to the top of Ben Nevis, and underground in the Yorkshire Dales. I've never been to Northern Ireland.
43. Felt like dying? Have I been suicidal? No!
44. Cried yourself to sleep? Yes.
46. Sang karaoke? No way!
47. Done something you told yourself you wouldn't? Yes. I can't think of a specific example, offhand.
48. Laughed until something you were drinking came out your nose? No.
49. Caught a snowflake on your tongue? Never felt the urge.
50. Kissed in the rain? Yes.
51. Sang in the shower? I don't think so.
52. Made out in a park? Yes.
53. Had a dream that you married someone? My dreams aren't that improbable.
54. Glued your hand to something? Several times, including to itself.
56. Gone to school partially naked? Weird question. No.
57. Been a cheerleader? Er... that's not a fetish I've ever been tempted to consider.
58. Sat on a roof top? Yes.
59. Brushed your teeth? Twice daily.
60. Been too scared to watch scary movies alone? There are a few psychological horror films I don't wish to see. Watching alone or with someone wouldn't make a difference to me.
61. Played chicken? Only as a child. Not with anything dangerous, like cars.
62. Been pushed into a pool with all your clothes on? Not that I remember, though I'm comfortable around water, so it wouldn't be that much of a big deal.
63. Been told you're hot by a complete stranger? Yes, though sarcasm and alcohol may well have been involved.
64. Broken a bone? Yes. My left little finger (it still locks) and my right ring finger, in separate incidents. The latter required the insertion of a metal plate.
65. Been easily amused? Daily, by things no-one else finds amusing.
66. Laughed so hard you cried? Very occasionally.
67. Mooned/flashed someone? Only Helen, which probably doesn't count.
68. Cheated on a test? Yes. If I don't respect society's petty rituals, I feel no obligation to play by their rules.
69. Forgotten someone's name? Frequently. I usually need to be told someone's name three times before it sticks.
70. Slept naked? Regularly.
71. Gone skinny dipping in a pool? Not in a pool.
73. Blacked out from drinking? Once, in my first year at University: after six pints of Guinness and 1-2 bottles of strong cider, I woke up in an adventure playground.
74. Played a prank on someone? I don't think so. I don't really like practical jokes.
75. Gone to a late night movie? I don't think so.
76. Made love to anything not human? What? No!
77. Failed a class? That's not really an aspect of the UK education system. I only just scraped through 'A' Level Chemistry, and cheerfully forgot it all moments after the exams.
78. Choked on something you're not supposed to eat? I don't think so.
79. Played an instrument for more than 10 hours? I don't play a musical instrument at all.
80. Cheated on a girl/boyfriend? No.
81. Celebrated the fourth of July? Why the **** would I even acknowledge some other country's holiday?
82. Thrown strange objects? Probably. Nothing in particular springs to mind.
83. Felt like killing someone? Yes.
84. Felt like running away? Yes. Especially during my PhD.
85. Ran away? No.
86. Done drugs? Yes.
87. Had detention and not attend it? No.
89. Made a parent cry? Yes. Not deliberately, but I don't regret it, either.
90. Cried over someone? Yes.
91. Owned more than 5 sharpies? A sharpie is a marker pen, right? If so, yes. So what?
93. Had/have a dog? Yes, an Airedale terrier, during my teens.
95. Owned an instrument? Andy bought me a guitar, but I haven't learned to play it, and I have a suspicion I physically couldn't, as I don't have full, conscious control of my left little finger.
96. Been in a band? No.
97. Drank 25 sodas in a day? 'Sodas' are fizzy soft drinks, right? No. That many Cokes would probably kill me. [Apparently not.]
98. Broken a CD? Yes.
99. Shot a gun? I vaguely remember firing a rifle, but I can't remember where (Norway, maybe?) or when.
100. Had feelings for one of your best/good friends? Yes. Almost by definition, I love my close friends.
24 January, 2006
I found the following questionnaire via Siobhan, whose disdain for memes is only exceeded by the comprehensiveness of her responses. ;)
Personally, I like meme questionnaires. They can focus the mind on topics one mightn't otherwise think of addressing, and occasionally reveal more that might actually interest people than one's usual self-absorbed rants*.
Four jobs I’ve had in my life
Four movies I can watch over and over
- Agricultural labourer.
My first paid employment, aged 14. My mother returned from the local farm shop one day and told me I had a job. I was livid – even at that age I felt it should have been my decision. I was paid £1.40 per day to spend weekends in a cold, muddy field, picking potatoes, and my mother took a slice of my wages 'for my upkeep'. I suppose she was trying to instill something in me. Other than resentment, I mean.
- Horticultural labourer.
Over the summer between GCSEs and 'A' Levels, I worked at a horticultural college, harvesting tomatoes and cucumbers, potting pelargonia and sweating whilst steam-sterilising soil in a glasshouse in direct July sunlight. Actually, I enjoyed it; easy, but moderately interesting.
- Service station attendant.
My mother decided I should be working whilst at sixth form, so, like the potato picking, announced she'd found me a job at the local garage. It wasn't too bad, and I could read whilst there were no customers, but the smell of diesel still turns my stomach and yes, I still hold a grudge against my mother.
- Warehouse worker.
Between 'A' Levels and university, and each summer vacation whilst at university, I worked for the purchasing consortium which supplied Clwyd, Wirral and Manx council premises (and a few in Lancashire) with consumables: everything from pens to toilet rolls. I was a picker most years, taking trolleys into a huge warehouse to collect everything a particular school had ordered, then transferring the goods to freight cages for collection by lorries. Some orders were quite intricate, and recipients loved to complain about errors, so it wasn't exactly a mindless job. A 'highlight' of my first summer there was moving the entire premises several miles to a new warehouse, whilst keeping orders flowing. It was... educational, and a life experience I wouldn't wish to have missed.
Not easy, merely because I don't really watch films repeatedly. Once is usually enough, twice if I'm particularly impressed, three times for favourites. Four times would be exceptional. The idea of some obsessive watching 'Star Wars' more than a hundred times slightly unsettles me. Incidentally, I feel the same way about books: there aren't any to which I return regularly.Four places I have lived
If we're talking about viewings over several years, I suppose I'd watch:
Four TV shows I love to watch
- North-East Wales, UK – for eighteen of my first nineteen years
- Stavanger, Norway – my father's home city, and mine too for that year not spent in NE Wales!
Apart from that full year, I've also spent holidays there since the 1970s, 2-3 weeks at a time.
- Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, UK – whilst at University.
I did regard it as living in Aber; I'd certainly emotionally 'left home' (i.e. my mother's) by then.
- Lancaster, UK – now!
They're the only series I'd make a point of watching, apart from one-off programmes. I'm not especially a TV person.
Four places I have been on vacation
Within the past 15 months:
Four of my favourite dishes
- Barcelona, Catalunya (Spain).
- New York City, USA.
- Prague, Czech Republic.
- Warszawa, Poland.
Four websites I visit daily
- Garlic giant prawns. Most seafood, really.
- Pancakes, with sugar and lemon.
- Chicken karahi.
- Roast beef & Yorkshire pudding.
I tend to keep other regulars to weekdays-only; I spend too much time online during the week (for work, obviously!), so tend not to use the internet that
much at home.
Four places I would rather be right now
- Hebnes, Norway – I haven't seen my father for a long time.
- Truro, Cornwall, UK – I'd quite like to visit that picturesque part of the UK whilst my sister is living there, but it's such a long way from Lancaster when one doesn't have a car.
- Warszawa, Poland – I have mixed feelings about the city (though I was more impressed by the 'touristy' stuff I saw in October than the 'everyday life' stuff I'd seen on previous occasions), but, well, Helen lives there.
- Reykjavik, Iceland – I simply want to visit Iceland!
*: Er, perhaps I ought to have written that in the first person – I was talking about my
self-absorbed ranting, not accusing Siobhan of doing so!
28 December, 2005
Here's another meme questionnaire, which seems to avoid most of the usual questions. I'm afraid I don't recall where I found it, at least a month ago.
1. Nervous habits
I probably clean my glasses and tighten their arms more than necessary. Displacement activity.
2. Are you double jointed
As a child I used to be able to bend each thumb back to touch its corresponding forearm.
3. Can you roll your tongue
Into the usual 'u'.
4. Can you raise one eyebrow at a time
I do that routinely with my left eyebrow, but the right requires conscious effort.
5. Can you blow spit bubbles
I don't think so, and I'm not about to try!
6. Can you cross your eyes
Yes. Usually as an expression of derision.
No; don't like the idea.
No, though as I've mentioned before, I like some other people's, especially multiple piercings of the same ear.
9. Do you make your bed daily
I use a mattress cover, pillow and duvet, so there's not much to make! I read somewhere that it's best to leave the duvet thrown back during the day, to avoid storing body heat in it and the mattress, which favours dust mites.
10. Which shoe goes on first
I don't know.
11. Speaking of shoes, have you ever thrown one at anyone?
That'd be out-of-character.
12. On the average, how much money do you carry
Up to £20 in notes, £5 in coins, and a debit card.
13. What jewelry do you wear 24/7
None. I don't wear a watch, either.
14. Favourite piece of clothing
Helen has a black l... oh, my clothing, you mean? I suppose it'd have to be my boots.
15. Do you twirl your spaghetti or cut it
16. Have you ever eaten Spam
Not that I recall.
17. Do you use extra salt on your food
Never at home, but occasionally at my mother's and occasionally on a baked potato at work.
18. How many cereals in your cabinet
One: Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes. I buy 750g boxes, so they don't fit in a cupboard.
19. What's your favourite beverage
Tea (a little milk, one sugar, thanks) or Coke (specifically Coca-Cola, never any other brand).
20. What's your favourite fast food restaurant
None of the national/multinational franchises. I buy fish & chips every fortnight or so, and my local is deservedly a multiple award-winner. Incidentally, a notice on the wall there claims that there are eight fish & chip shops for every McDonalds in the UK.
21. Do you cook
A little; nothing ambitious. I don't buy pre-prepared meals, if that's what's meant, though I do use curry pastes to supplement fresh ingredients.
22. How often do you brush your teeth
Twice daily, more if I feel the need.
23. Hair drying method
Towel and air-dry.
24. Have you ever coloured/highlighted your hair
I was persuaded to experiment once, and once by accident.
25. Do you swear
**** yes! Probably less than most, and only in certain company.
26. Do you ever spit
Never. I find spitting disgusting and utterly incomprehensible.
Wolves interest me. More pragmatically: the domestic cat.
Giant prawns, lightly cooked in garlic. Good ones are very rare in the UK.
Not easy to answer. Perhaps May, when the weather is reliably good and the countryside is pretty.
Saturday – not a working day (well, paid employment, I mean – it's certainly not some mythical 'day of rest', which I'd consider a waste).
I suspect this means TV series; in which case: none.
32. Shoe brand
Whichever semi-anonymous company makes boots for the German armed forces! I also like the look of New Rocks, though I'd be unlikely to wear them myself.
33. Subject in school
Er, that was over half my life ago! Geography, I suppose.
Black, of course, followed by jade green then purple/blue.
None. I have no interest whatsoever in team games, and feel no urge to compete against others in individual sports. I swim and cycle, if they count as 'sports'.
36. TV shows
'ER'. 'Lost' is pretty good, though I can imagine it becoming stale.
37. Thing to do in the spring
Cycling, photography, international travel.
38. Thing to do in the summer
The same as in Spring, though with slightly different locations/subjects!
39. Thing to do in the autumn
40. Thing to do in the winter
And again. I don't think I do anything specifically seasonal.
In and Around
41. In the CD player
'How Strange, Innocence' (Explosions In The Sky, 2000 (reissued 2005)). S'okay, but not as good as the subsequent 'real' albums.
42. Person you talk most on the phone with
Helen. And 'person with whom you talk on the phone most frequently' would be slightly better.
'The Confusion' (Neal Stephenson, 2005). As with 'Quicksilver', the first of the 'Baroque Cycle', the dense historical references aren't entirely holding my attention. I still strongly prefer his earlier, overtly cyberpunk novels.
44. Do you regularly check yourself out in store windows/mirrors
45. What color is your bedroom
Er, I don't know, and I'm currently a hundred miles away from home. Pale blue?
46. Do you use an alarm clock
Yes, though I tend to wake at about the same time every day anyway (including typical weekends – that's my time, and I'm not going to waste it in bed!).
47. Window seat or aisle
Window, especially in planes. On trains, I'm less bothered, as I tend to read.
48. What's your sleeping position
On my side, I think.
49. Even in hot weather do you use a blanket
This autumn/winter, I've used a second (single) duvet over my normal (double) one, but I kick it off in all but the coldest weather.
50. Do you snore
I'm told I have been known to, though not routinely.
51. Do you sleepwalk
I have a vague (second-hand) memory of having done so once, when a child.
52. Do you talk in your sleep
53. Do you sleep with stuffed animals
Not in the bed, though I do happen to have my childhood teddy watching from across the room.
54. How about with the light on
I rarely use lights around the house when I'm up (nor at work, for that matter), so definitely not whilst sleeping! Oddly enough, I did insist on a nightlight when I was a child, until well into my teens.
55. Do you fall asleep with the TV or radio on
My TV is downstairs; I have fallen asleep in front of it one or twice. I don't listen to the radio, at all.
56. Last interesting person you met
Define 'met'. I shared conversations with two people this month, both of whom I already knew well enough to say "hello", but got to know them a little better for the first time.
17 December, 2005
Top 250, II
In February 2004, I participated in the 'top 250 films' meme, which involved copying the list of the IMDb's top 250 films (as voted by users) and highlighting those one has actually seen. Almost two years later, I might as well repeat the exercise. Rather than reuse the same list from 22 months ago, the following is based on today's:
In Feb. '04, I'd seen 102 of the 250. Now it's 109, but to restate: I used the Feb. '04 list then, and the Dec. '05 list now. Different films have entered the list, at the expense of others. Using the 2004 list, I've seen 17 more of those films than I had then, but ten that I had seen are no longer in the top 250. There seems to have been greater volatility in the lower rankings, as one would expect, so I've actually seen no more in the range 101-250 than in 2004. That obviously means I've seen seven more top-100 films (59 of them).
I've added several of the omissions to my Amazon Rental queue, but a surprising number of highly-rated films are unavailable i.e. not included in the rental scheme. Maybe that's deliberate, and Amazon wish to force people to buy the big-name classics.
However, other gaps in my viewing are likely to remain. For example, 'Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King' is at no.4, but I have no interest in seeing it, and films like 'It's a Wonderful Life', 'Singin' In The Rain' or 'Some Like It Hot' really aren't my thing.
[Update: the exercise was repeated again in 2006.]
1 December, 2005
Ten to one
Yet another meme (there seem to have been a lot recently), via Neil. Unlike the average LiveJournalist, I can count, so I hunted for a version with the correct number of questions.
1. First best friend: Nicky [Something]. He left the area before we even started primary school, so I last saw him when I was 3-4.
2. First screen name: The first I remember was 'esb3nrt'. 'Esb' denoted a research student in Environmental Science, '3' was a random number (why?) and 'nrt' is my name (technically, my initials).
3. First pet: Copper the hamster, when I was far to young for the responsibility. It died, by starvation, according to my mother, who made me feel awful. I still blame her. Seriously.
4. First piercing: None. I like other people's piercings (esp. multiple ear piercings), but recoil from the idea of having one myself. Somewhat Freudian?
5. First crush: Becky [Something]. At primary school. I haven't seen her since we went to different secondary schools at the age of 11.
6. First CD: No idea. First tape and first LP, yes, but CD: not a clue.
7. First love: Helen. And the second, years later. It's complicated.
8. First computer: I'm not sure of the full spec, but it was a 468 running Win3.11, bought in ~1994.
9. First car: I've never owned a car.
10. First stuffed animal: My grandmother apparently bought me a teddy when I was born (actually, I suspect that story is slightly garbled. Must ask my mother). He's no longer in my bed, but he is in my bedroom.
1. Last alcoholic beverage: A pint of Blond Witch, 18 Nov. Not bad, but I don't feel a need for another in the near future.
2. Last vehicle ride: I cycled back to campus four hours ago. Last car ride: 20 Nov., back from Whernside.
3. Last movie seen: 'Citizen Kane'. Regularly voted 'the best film ever'. I wouldn't rate it that highly, and the 1941 dialogue was a bit grating, but I can easily see why it's considered important and influential.
4. Last phone call: Received: a cold-caller wanting to publish the Uni. prospectus. Made: H, last night.
5. Last CD played: 'Play' (Moby, 1999), whilst repairing a puncture last night (twice – don't ask). Each time I hear it, I wonder why it's been so long since the last time. I prefer some of the remixes and B-Sides, though.
6. Last bubble bath: I may have had a bubble bath this year, probably after a long bike ride, but I don't recall exactly when.
7. Last time you ate: About 13:00, which is anomalously early for a weekday lunch.
8. Last time you cried: Recently there was a BBC2 documentary about the first day of the First World War battle of the Somme; images of vast war cemeteries always affect me.
9. Last time you danced alone in your room: I don't remember.
Eight 'Have You Evers'
1. Have you ever dated one of your best friends? Yes.
2. Have you ever been arrested? Sort-of. I wasn't charged, and it wasn't officially recorded.
3. Have you ever skinny dipped? Yes.
4. Have you ever been on TV? Possibly. TV cameras have been present in places I've been. I've never specifically been filmed for TV.
5. Have you ever kissed someone, and then regretted it? Yes. Thanks for reminding me....
6. Have you ever had a sex dream about someone you knew? Yes, of course.
7. Have you ever cheated? If this is related to the foregoing two questions, definitely not. More generally, yes, if I've been able to justify to myself that society's petty rituals don't deserve to be honoured.
8. Have you ever ridden in an ambulance? No.
Seven Things You're Wearing
1. Fleece (grey-green).
2. 'Fish' T-shirt (black).
3. Trousers (black)
4. Pants (er... blue)
5. Socks (purple)
6. Left boot (black)
7. Right boot (black)
And that's everything - no watch, jewellery, etc.
Six Things You've Done Today
1. Eaten breakfast at home (not usual).
2. Cycled to work, collected a few papers, then straight on to a 'log cabin' at a nearby golf course, for an 'away day' meeting (just 09:30-13:30, with lunch provided).
3. Justified my existence.
4. Updated a few web pages, answered a few e-mails.
5. Drunk tea.
6. Completed this questionnaire.
Five Favourite Things In No Order
1. Certainly not a 'thing', but: Helen.
2. My bike.
3. My camera.
5. Er... I'm not really a 'things' person!
1. eat or drink? Eat.
2. blonde or brunette? Brunette.
3. pink or black? Black. Of course.
4. rain or shine? Shine.
Three People You Can Tell Almost Anything
3. There isn't a third.
Two Things You Want To Do Before You Die
1. Achieve immortality.
2. Cheat death.
One Thing You Regret
1. Taking Chemistry to 'A' Level, rather than English. The next decade of my life would have been rather different.
30 November, 2005
SF book meme
Via Tim, a simple premise: take the Guardian's list of the top 20 'geek' novels written in English since 1932, and indicate which you've read.
1. The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Yes, though I've always thought it extremely overrated, and I thought Adams ran out of worthwhile material after the first sequel. More recently, I've come to associate it with stereotypically smug middle class, middle English sensibilities.
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
Yes, and I found it suitably powerful.
3. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
I think I was a bit too young to appreciate this when I read it in my mid-teens. Must try it again.
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip Dick
I read this quite recently (within the last five years, anyway), and was underimpressed, considering it turned into 'Blade Runner'.
5. Neuromancer – William Gibson
Yes. As Tim said, it features one of the best opening lines of any book (one of only 2-3 I've memorised), and is a really good novel. I've always found the Villa Straylight section less than compelling, though. Dunno why.
6. Dune – Frank Herbert
Yes. Excellent. For creating an entire world and coherent society, I rate Herbert at least as highly as Tolkien.
Has anyone else noticed that the first, third and fifth Dune novels are better (whatever that means) than the second, fourth and sixth?
7. I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
No. I did see the recent film, which was okay, considering I didn't expect much. I could appreciate a few thought-provoking concepts beneath the special effects, and if they were true to the book, it looks worth reading.
8. Foundation – Isaac Asimov
No. Never heard of it.
9. The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett
I've read all the Discworld books (and several of Pratchett's others), up to 'Going Postal', usually within a month of each paperback having been released i.e. I've liked them since the mid-Eighties, but not enough to rush out and buy in hardback.
Apart from 'Monstrous Regiment', 'The Colour Of Magic' and 'The Light Fantastic' are my least favourites. The coherence and characterisation of the setting and characters didn't seem to become properly established until later books (there's more about that here), so the first two seem a bit inconsistent and lightweight by comparison.
10. Microserfs – Douglas Coupland
Yes, and I reviewed it almost two years ago.
11. Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
Yes! One of my favourite books, not only because of the first couple of pages (see the fourth paragraph here).
12. Watchmen – Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
No, but I intend to.
13. Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
A little slow, but worth it. I'm afraid 'Quicksilver' failed to hold my attention to the same (limited) extent, and 'The Confusion' has been in my 'to read' pile since I bought it several months ago.
14. Consider Phlebas – Iain M Banks
Yes. Not my favourite Banks SF novel (that'd be 'Excession'), but still good.
15. Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert Heinlein
I was going to say 'no', but the synopsis at Amazon seems familiar. I suspect I did read it in my teens, and have simply forgotten.
16. The Man in the High Castle – Philip K Dick
No. I don't recognise that title.
17. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Yes. Excellent, and reviewed here.
18. The Diamond Age – Neal Stephenson
Yes. Another of my favourite books. I'd love to see Stephenson continue this story (the narrative is certainly wide open for that), but I suspect his interests have moved on from the overtly cyberpunk genre.
19. The Illuminatus! Trilogy – Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
Yes. It contains a couple of interesting ideas, but they were conveyed better in the 'Principia Discordia', and I really didn't rate the writing style.
20. Trouble with Lichen - John Wyndham
Never heard of it!
28 November, 2005
Another music meme
It's been a while since I last completed a music-related meme questionnaire, so here's one discovered via Neil.
1. Of all the bands/artists in your cd/record collection, which one do you own the most albums by?
That'd have to be Jethro Tull, with about 30 official albums/box sets and over 200 unofficial (concert) recordings. I can't say I've listened to many within the last couple of years, though.
2. What was the last song you listened to?
'Growing Up' – Peter Gabriel ('Up', 2002)
3. What's in your record/cd player right now?
In the PC: an unofficial recording of Sigur Rós at Edinburgh Corn Exchange on 10/11/05. Stunning rendition of Hafssól!
In the player downstairs: 'Urban Hymns' (The Verve, 1997). I've always liked 'Bitter Sweet Symphony', but the rest of the album is rather better than I remembered, and since I borrowed Helen's copy last month, I've been playing it frequently.
4. What song would you say sums you up?
I don't think in those terms.
5. What's your favorite local band?
The Ugly Jug Band, a two-man (and far more instruments) jugband who don't take it remotely serious enough. ;)
6. What was the last show you attended?
Not counting The Ugly Jug Band, and free public performances attended in Prague and Warsaw, it's been quite a while since I went to a 'proper' concert. It may even have been Marillion in July 2004. I was out of the country for the Porcupine Tree concert in Manchester in April this year, and I couldn't get to the recent Sigur Rós concert in Liverpool.
7. What was the greatest show you've ever been to?
Porcupine Tree, Manchester Academy 2, 05/03/03. Great concert, excellent sound quality, no video projections/annoying lights, and an unobtrusive audience.
8. What's the worst band you've ever seen in concert?
I've seen some dire bands as part of shared-bill shows e.g. charity concerts at the Gregson, or the old Worldbeat and WOMAD Morecambe festivals, and I've yet to see a support band I've rated (no! John Wesley was excellent supporting Fish at the Cavern, Liverpool on 6/12/01).
Worst headline act? Jethro Tull, Manchester Apollo, 21/9/95. Extremely loud (the loudest concert I've attended), but dull. That was the last time I saw them, and by 'last' I mean probably 'final'.
9. What band do you love musically but hate the members of?
'Love' and 'hate' are excessively strong terms.
Not counting the post-1995 material and performances, I like the music of Jethro Tull, but I'm not sure I'd like Ian Anderson outside that context.
10. What show are you looking forward to?
I really must sort out travel/accommodation and a ticket to the Porcupine Tree concert in Manchester on 8 December.
11. What is your favorite band shirt?
I like several band T-shirts, so that's difficult to answer. Probably Porcupine Tree's 'Deadwing' cover image shirt.
12. What musician would you like to hang out with for a day?
I suspect I'd be a bit overawed by any artist whose work I particularly like! If I could get past that, and if I had something meaningful to talk about, Steven Wilson.
13. What musician would you like to be in love with for a day?
Sorry; can't be bothered with this question.
14. Metal question: Jeans and Leather vs. Cracker Jack clothes?
I wouldn't recognise the latter, and dislike jeans, so it'd have to be only leather, if the very idea wasn't ridiculous!
15. Sabbath or solo Ozzy?
Neither. No interest whatsoever.
16. Commodores or solo Lionel Ritchie?
Likewise. No interest.
17. Punk rock, hip hop or heavy metal?
Oh, metal, definitely, though I only like a few bands, not the genre as a whole and certainly not the mainstream teen-orientated varieties.
18. Doesn't Primus suck?
Dunno. The name means nothing to me.
19. Name 4 flawless albums:
20. Did you know that filling out this survey makes you a music geek?
- 'Wish You Were Here' (Pink Floyd, 1975).
- 'Stupid Dream' (Porcupine Tree, 1999) ('flawless' could be a bit of a stretch). Incidentally, wait for the 2006 reissue rather than spend literally hundreds of pounds on a copy from eBay!
- 'Bass Communion II' (Bass Communion, 1999).
- 'The Piano Concerto/MGV' (Michael Nyman, 1994).
Wouldn't a geeky survey involve more detailed, obscurer questions?
21. What was the greatest decade for music?
Ah, the topic of a thousand dead-end online debates. There's no such thing. 'Greatest' implies objective, measurable superiority. Much of my favourite music is from the 1990s/current decade.
22. How many music-related videos/dvds do you own?
Not many (under ten), and more than I need. As I've mentioned before, I rarely find/make time to watch concert recordings.
23. Do you like Journey?
Again, the name means nothing to me. Could be a song, a band or a variety of sound insulation, for all I know.
24. Don't try to pretend you don't!
25. What is your favorite movie soundtrack?
I'm rarely conscious of music during films; when I first saw '28 Days Later', I didn't even notice the Godspeed You Black Emperor material, and I particularly like their music. I suppose Peter Gabriel's contribution to 'Birdy' was an exception.
26. What was your last musical 'phase' before you wised up?
I haven't listened to much folk-rock this decade. More recently, I've started to wonder how I could ever have listened to the Flower Kings.
27. What's the crappiest CD/record/etc. you've ever bought?
I don't remember, so it probably wasn't anything spectacularly awful. Not counting albums I genuinely liked at the time but which I've subsequently outgrown (fifteen years ago, I had several Iron Maiden albums), Ian Anderson's 'The Secret Language Of Birds' would probably feature prominently on the list. I've never rated that one, from the first time I heard it.
28. Do you prefer vinyl or CDs?
Definitely CDs. I have no patience with the view that vinyl is inherently 'better'. In theory, analogue technology could capture more of the original sound than 16- to 20-bit digital, but I simply don't believe the difference is detectable by the human ear. I think emotional attachment to the old technology generates an imaginary sense that vinyl's superior. A preference is absolutely fine, of course, but opinion is too often expressed as fact.
6 November, 2005
Following Neil with blind and unquestioning faith, I've completed this 'Which religion is the right one for you?' quiz, and confirmed the obvious conclusion:
You are... an atheist, though you probably already knew this. Also, you probably have several people praying daily for your soul. Instead of simply being 'nonreligious', atheists strongly believe in the lack of existence of a higher being, or god.
A score of 92% for atheism is fairly clear; I'm certainly not agnostic (42%).
Satanism is in second place, but that simply reflects my belief that individuals are more important than collectives (not at any cost), rather than anything more specifically 'satanic'.
Paganism is at 54%; it depends what the quiz author understands by that, and also what the percentages mean. I suspect 50% indicates neutrality (which is my actual view of theist religions: respectful indifference. I only find evangelists actively offensive).
Buddhism – 50%
Islam – 46%
Judaism – 42%
christianity – 13%
Hinduism – 4%
I think this order is an artefact of the questioner's bias rather than a true balance. A disproportionate number questions seemed overtly judaeo-christian, and I doubt the other belief systems were adequately described.
27 October, 2005
How smart are you?
The BBC has been running a series of quizzes, based on the UK National Curriculum. I don't know what level of exam they're supposed to represent, but here are my results.
English: 20/20. Sorry to be smug, but that's no surprise.
Maths: 12/20. I suspect one was expected to use a calculator, but I didn't. I think I'd have achieved 15/20 if I had, but five questions totally defeated me – I didn't even know where to begin. What's a factor?
Physics: 6/10. The few calculations required weren't a problem, but I just don't know the units and terminology. I ceased studying Physics at the age of 14, well over half my life ago!
French: 5/12. Knew one, guessed one, worked three out, didn't know six, and couldn't have been expected to know one (Parisian geography). Since I haven't used French since scraping a 'B' at GCSE over 17 years ago, that was surprisingly successful.
Geography: 12/14. One foolish error was cancelled-out by one guess (location of Burkina Faso), and I simply didn't know the location of the River Niger. Apart from those 'Where's [X]?' questions, I had no problems, but this was my degree specialism....
History: 9/12. I simply didn't know the other three.
How did you do?
Biology: 9/12. My 'A' level knowledge is a bit weak!]
18 August, 2005
What’s on your Start Menu?
A quick Windows-only meme, via Neil (again):
In WinXP, Windows lists your most frequently/recently used programs on the left-hand side (assuming you’re using the new-style start menu).
I don't use that style, but I've just switched for a quick look (and switched straight back), and can report that mine shows:
- Paint Shop Pro 7 - my preferred image browser. Having selected images in PSP, I process them in Photoshop. I don't like Photoshop's own browser.
- Adobe Reader 6 - I don't remember it, but I must have looked at a .pdf file today.
- Character Map
And that's it. Actually, this is a very flawed exercise. My most frequently used packages aren't listed, as they're on my Quicklaunch Bar:
- Allaire Homesite 4.5.1 - yes, the pre-Macromedia version; my web editor.
- Photoshop 7 - as mentioned.
- Firefox 1.0.4 - haven't got round to upgrading at work.
- MS Outlook 2003 - it's compulsory on University computers, okay?
- WinAmp 5.02 - used less, now that I have my Creative Zen mp3 player.
- Windows Explorer - I still think of it as File Manager, and use it as such - no 'My Computer' or 'My Documents' rubbish; straight to the directory structure.
It might be worth mentioning that of the 'recently used' packages listed, only the Character Map was accessed via the Start Menu, as the others have shortcut keys mapped. I generally only see the Start Menu once per day, when turning the computer off.
I don't use desktop icons, either. When the active windows are minimised, my desktop is plain black (no wallpaper).
15 August, 2005
A reminiscing meme, via Neil:
When was the last time you…
- …ate a takeaway meal?
Over a week ago. Fish & chips.
- … got drunk?
I don't remember. I don't think it was in 2005.
- … ate meat?
Last night. Chicken and ham.
- … ate in a restaurant?
June; the 19th, I think. It was in Prague.
- … ate at McDonalds?
June; Prague again. It was foul, but convenient.
- … watched a movie?
Saturday: 'Rollerball' (the original; I've yet to find a single favourable review of the remake, the presence of Rebecca Romijn-Stamos notwithstanding). It was pretty good.
- … rented a video/DVD?
'Rollerball' was rented. I receive several per month from Amazon's DVD Rental by Post service. The most recent to arrive was 'Romeo Is Bleeding', but I haven't watched it yet.
- … gave money to charity?
Last week, I think; whenever the Direct Debit to Cancer Research left my bank account, anyway.
- … spent a lot of money?
Moving my mortgage was alarmingly expensive, though most of the charges seem to have been added to the debt. I would have prefered to pay them immediately, but the company would have charged me even more for that privilege.
I spent over £100 on my bike (new chain & chain ring, new helmet, new bike computer) within half an hour a couple of weeks ago, which wasn't a vast amount of money, but seemed more tangible, somehow.
- … wore clean underwear?
- … bought some new clothes?
The beginning of June. It was an 'Individual-I' t-shirt, which I haven't worn often – it's a bit too political for work.
- … read a book?
Surprisingly, a few weeks ago. I think it was 'Excession', my favourite of Iain M. Banks' 'Culture' novels.
- … read a newspaper?
I was going to say 'years ago', as I dislike the mass-media and wouldn't ordinarily read a national newspaper, but I do read the local free paper, 'The Citizen', each week.
- … went skinny-dipping?
It must have been 2003.
- … went bungee-jumping?
- …went to another country?
16 June: Prague, the Czech Republic.
- … lied to someone?
About 15 minutes ago. I let someone think her project would receive my attention imminently, whereas I knew that was improbable.
- … betrayed a friend?
Apart from (reluctantly) participating in a conversation about a colleague behind her back, I can't recall knowingly betraying a friend.
- … snogged someone of the opposite sex?
- … snogged someone of the same sex?
Hasn't happened, and I don't expect it ever would. I'm just not even bi-curious.
- … met a celebrity?
Depends on the definition of 'celebrity'. I had a rather stilted conversation with Lady Bonington, the Chancellor's wife, a few months ago. I also had an e-mail conversation with a moderately well-known musician a couple of weeks ago, but his celebrity just wasn't an issue (though it must have been, if I feel it'd be betraying a confidence to mention his name).
- … smoked a cigarette?
(Hmm... who reads this...?) I have smoked a cigarette.
- … took drugs?
Apart from the socially-acceptable ones, not within the last few years.
- … went to the library?
Literally, last week, but that's only because ISS ('tech support') occupies the top floor of the University Library. I last visited a library on a library-related matter in the late Nineties.
- … stole something?
I don't remember, and that answer isn't just to avoid incriminating myself!
- … played Solitaire?
I don't remember. Probably this year.
- … watched TV?
Last Wednesday: the opening episodes of 'Lost'. It looks promising.
- … made a difficult decision you didn’t regret?
I don't remember. Walking away from my PhD was definitely the biggest, but that was at the end of 1999.
7 May, 2005
You think it's a new meme
This isn't so much a new meme, as a new source of meme questions. Anyway; the instructions are:
- Go to YouThink.com.
- Cut-and-paste the first twenty questions it offers into your blog.
- No skipping, unless a question is entirely irrelevant (e.g. about a TV programme not shown in your country).
- Answer the questions, preferably with more than 'yes' or 'no'.
- Do you think while you sleep?
Not knowingly, but sometimes a situation will run through my mind as a dream, and the 'simulation' can provide an approach I hadn't considered, or even a solution usable 'for real'.
- Is the concept of 'the elect' contradictory to the evangelical message of christians?
I really couldn't care less.
- Would you rather have your name misspelled on your tombstone or have them erect the proper spelling over the wrong grave?
I think I'd rather the person be remembered properly than the meat be labeled correctly for the brief period of its decomposition.
- Are you going to dress up for Halloween this year?
Firstly, I dislike 'jokey' dressing-up, and secondly, Hallowe'en (Samhain – the Celtic New Year) is a genuine religious festival – not of a religion I practice, but still not something to trivialise.
- Do you feel appreciated for what you do in your life?
Not really, but I don't seek the approval of others. One exception is that the title on my office door, 'Web Assistant' implies I'm a variety of admin assistant (i.e. junior secretarial staff), whereas as a 'web designer/editor' (a more accurate title) my pay and responsibilities are on the same level as lecturers.
- Do you keep a first-aid kit in your car?
I don't own a car in which to store a first-aid kit.
- Do you cherish your first kiss, or would you rather forget?
Best forgotten. I only remember it as excrutiatingly embarrassing.
- When you are in a particularly irritable mood, does it affect your conduct on the internet as well as in real life?
I'm afraid so, but why would there be a difference? The internet is a communications medium like any other.
- Do you ever have dreams about pets you've owned?
I think I have done, and now the memory has been triggered, probably will do so again soon.
- Do you prefer lace or satin lingerie?
Satin, though that's not an insider's opinion.
- If you were a famous musician/singer, do you think you would get sick of performing the same songs all the time?
I'd probably like the opportunity to perfect something with repetition, but I'd react with horror at the idea of having to do that indefinitely. Quite simply, I wouldn't do it. As a listener, I don't particularly like bands which recycle the same setlist tour after tour, such as post-1995 Jethro Tull, and prefer those which don't rely on their back catalogue, like Porcupine Tree or Marillion.
- Do you own more than one cell phone?
I barely own one! I have a mobile phone, but I only carry it when I know I'm going to need it.
- Do you own an expensive watch?
I do own a watch (worth less than £30), but don't wear it, and no longer carry it. There's a clock on my PC, another on my bike computer, and another on my mobile phone, so I usually have access to the time. I also have an emergency piece of paper [mp3].
- Do you always try to do what's right, so you don't get any bad karma?
Unlike my mother, I don't believe in karma. I don't believe anything is 'fated' to happen, and it makes even less sense that fate could be influenced by past behaviour.
- Is it better to do a job you hate for a lot of money or one you love for less?
Difficult. I don't define myself by my job; it's merely a means to support my life away from the office. However, I wouldn't say money would motivate me to do a job I'd hate.
The other alternative actually was presented to me, some years ago. I had the opportunity to become a trainee sculptor, though it would have meant a significant pay cut, at least in the medium term. As I've mentioned occasionally, I sculpt anyway, so this would have involved being paid to turn a hobby into a job. That was the main reason I declined the offer: I didn't want something enjoyable and rewarding to become a chore.
- Should colleges and universities aim for multicultural student bodies?
So long as there are no absolute obstacles to multiculturalism occurring naturally, I don't think they should actively aim for it nor avoid it.
- When you become angry, does your vision blur?
In moments of extreme rage, yes. That's only happened 7-8 times in my life, and I'm pleased to say it's never been directed at a person.
- Is the majority of your work day spent on the telephone?
I work in web-based publishing, so e-mail is used drastically more than the phone. If my office phone rings (infrequently), it's more likely to be J ringing for a chat than it being something work-related.
- If you were going to draw the moon, would you draw it as a full moon or a crescent?
A crescent. A full moon is just a whitish circle, so the association between geometric shape and object can be unclear. A crescent moon has a stronger place in cultural shorthand.
- If you were dating someone a lot taller/shorter than you, would it affect the relationship?
Height is a characteristic I find attractive, so it's marginally less likely that I'd date someone a lot shorter, but it's not inconceivable. Assuming it happened, I think height would have effects, but not necessarily problems. Height affects perception, both of the outside world and of the power balance between individuals (which needn't imply negative connotations!).
6 March, 2005
I haven't mentioned (yet) that I bought a personal mp3 player a couple of weeks ago – a 20Gb Creative Zen Touch, emphatically not an iPod! I'll probably comment further once I'm more used to it, but in the mean time, a fairly common meme is now open to me; it's a blog cliché, but so what? Think of it as a snapshot insight into my personal taste.
The rules (summarised from Ed Bott's version):
Set your player to 'random shuffle' through all stored tracks.
State the first ten tracks it provides – no skipping of embarrassing ones, though a second song by an artist already mentioned can be skipped.
- Explosions In The Sky - The Moon Is Down (Those Who Tell The Truth...)
- Marillion - Angelina (Marbles, Disc 2)
- Michael Nyman - The Infinite Complexities Of christmas (The Very Best Of Michel Nyman - Film Music 1980-2001, Disc 2)
- Fish - Mr 1470 (Suits)
- No-Man - Bleed (Heaven Taste)
- Pink Floyd - Empty Spaces (The Wall, Disc 1)
- Sheryl Crow - Leaving Las Vegas (Tuesday Night Music Club)
- Fairport Convention - Big Three Medley (In Real Time)
- h - Better Dreams (Ice Cream Genius)
- Porcupine Tree - Bornlivedieintro (Coma Divine, Disc 1)
Hmm. That is a sample of what's in my player, undeniably, but I'm not sure what it really says about my listening habits. For this exercise, there's no skipping, but had I been listening for real I would have pressed that button at least four times, skipping tracks I do like, but only in certain moods. Let's try another ten:
- Pineapple Thief - Punish Yourself (Abducting The Unicorn)
- Chroma Key - S.O.S. (Dead Air For Radios)
- Jethro Tull - Elegy (Stormwatch)
- Marillion - Marbles III (Marbles, Disc 2)
- Pink Floyd - A New Machine, Pt.2 (A Momentary Lapse Of Reason)
- Bass Communion - Aquiescence (Atmospherics)
- REM - Nightswimming (Automatic For The People)
- Peter Gabriel - Humdrum (PG1)
- Roger Waters - Late Home Tonight, Pt.2 (Amused To Death)
- Tim Bowness/Peter Chilvers - California, Norfolk (California, Norfolk)
That's better – ten tracks I would choose to play.
[As prompted by Neil]
20 February, 2005
Which authors by whom have you read more than ten books?
No, that makes no grammatical sense.
Which authors have you read more than ten books by?
No, that's wrong, too.
Name those authors of whose books you have read more than ten.
That's better. Not great, but better.
Here are mine, in alphabetical order. It's as arbitrary as any other technique.
Actually, no. That skews things far too much towards prolific authors - it's only asking about authors who have written more than ten books, whereas some of my favourite authors have only written one or two. Hence, with apologies to the founder of the meme, I'm revising it to five. I've also restricted it to those on my bookshelves at present - I haven't mentioned those I read as a child, nor those in storage and therefore I haven't seen for over a decade.
Iain Banks (both with and without the 'M.')
Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Links are to my favourite book by each author.
That's dominated by sci-fi authors, but says more about the genre and my approach to it than reflecting my true reading habits. I've certainly read more 'non-genre' books than 'genre', but fewer than five by each author.
8 February, 2005
This meme, discovered via Neil's World isn't an entirely new one. I completed a very similar version last May (as did Neil), so I'll refer the reader back to my earlier answers to some questions. Scholars of meme propagation ;) might be interested by the degree and nature of the changes - some questions are identical, whereas others, particularly those even vaguely risqué, have evolved. A couple seem to have been imported from other memes, too.
- What time did you get up this morning?
08:00, maybe five past. I woke up at least two hours later, at work.
- Diamonds or pearls?
I don't particularly like either, but like pearls a little less. I associate them with stereotypical staid, middle-class, older women.
- What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
- What is your favourite TV show?
'ER', as I mentioned here. I don't watch much TV.
- What did you have for breakfast?
A toffee flapjack, at about 10:30. I missed 'proper' breakfast, but needed something before swimming at 12:00.
- What is your middle name?
Richard. S'okay; better than my first name, anyway, but at least in writing, I prefer just 'NRT'.
- What is your favorite cuisine?
I'll interpret that as national cuisine, and say Indian, though others are good too.
- What foods do you dislike?
This resembles Q.11, here.
I don't eat eggs (scrambled, fried, poached, etc.), though egg is fine as an ingredient, such as in pancakes, one of my favourite foods.
I dislike anything with a 'slimy' texture, such as custard.
- What is your favourite crisp/chip flavour?
Was Q.40. My opinion hasn't changed: 'Sea salt and balsamic vinegar' Kettle Chips.
- What is your favourite CD at the moment?
Anathema: 'Alternative 4'. Yes, I finally found an Anathema album I really like!
- What kind of vehicle do you drive?
A Dawes Discovery 301 bicycle.
- Favourite sandwich?
I don't know why this should be any more trivial than the other questions, but I can't help thinking that life's too short to have a favourite sandwich.
- What characteristics do you despise?
- Favourite item of clothing?
- If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go?
Q.4, here. Straight answer: Iceland.
- What colour is your bathroom?
Er... green? I'd have to look, which illustrates the level of my interest. Oddly enough, I am interested in friends' houses, and enjoy helping with building/decorating tasks; I just don't care about my own surroundings.
- What colour pants are you wearing?
This was no.2 last time, though that questionnaire was less ambiguous in asking about underwear ;) The answer's black, anyway.
- Where would you retire to?
I haven't given it a thought. At present, I can't imagine retiring to anywhere, i.e. leaving Lancaster.
- Favourite time of the day?
That varies according to specific events. In general, late evening, 21:00-00:00.
- What was your most memorable birthday?
I don't remember!
- Where were you born?
Chester, England, UK, though that's within 3-4 km (~1 mile) of the Welsh border, which I crossed straight from the maternity ward. I'm not English.
- What’s the last thing you ate?
Was Q.5 here, but I have eaten since then!
Last thing: about half a loaf of fresh white bread and 'butter' (Clover). I dislike mass-produced, sliced bread, but a fresh farmhouse loaf (from Sainsbury's...) - yum.
- If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Was Q.6 here. My answer is the same: black.
- Favorite flower?
Was Q.42, and I still don't like flowers.
- What fabric detergent do you use?
Sainsbury's own brand, I think. Whatever's on offer, really. If you've read much of this blog, I doubt you'd see me as a brand loyalty type of person!
- Coke or Pepsi?
This was the first item in 'level four', here. My answer is still as decisive: Coke, never Pepsi, which I think has a 'chemical' flavour.
- Do you wish on stars?
- What is your shoe size?
43-45 European, which is around 9½ UK. I wear German para boots, so the UK system is less relevant to me.
- Do you have any pets?
No, but I regularly cat-sit for others, and if I ever get round to replacing my back door, I'll get a catflap, and a cat to go with it.
- Last person you talked to on the phone?
Was Q.8, and the answer is the same: Helen, though it was a different conversation - I have used the phone a few times since last May....
- What did you want to be when you were little?
- What are you meant to be doing now?
It's 21:25, so I suppose I ought to think about an evening meal.
- What do you first notice about someone?
Was Q.9, referring specifically to the opposite gender. I still don't have a definitive answer; height, perhaps?
Was Q.18. No new siblings since then!
- What was your favourite toy as a child?
That changed with age, of course, but included Lego, Action Man and Britains animals/figurines. Apparently I was fascinated by the latter from a very early age, and there's an obvious parallel with the fact that I sculpt and paint comparable miniatures ('toy soldiers') nowadays.
Perhaps things have changed, but when I played with Lego in the Seventies (I remember the introduction of minifigs!), it was 'Lego' - used as a single collective noun or as an adjective - and the units were 'bricks'. They weren't 'legos', as I increasingly see them called in American websites. Don't mess with my childhood!
Actually, a quick Google search for "lego or legos" (with the quotes) shows that I'm correct: the product is LEGO (officially, capitalised) and the company is adamant that they are 'bricks' or 'pieces'.
- Summer or winter?
Was Q.26. Still summer, still for the same reasons.
- Hugs or kisses?
Was Q.27. Still definitely hugs.
- Chocolate or vanilla?
Was Q.28. Still chocolate.
- Who is most likely to respond?
Was Q.30. This and the subsequent question reveal the meme's prehistory, when it used e-mail as a vector. As such, it's less relevant in a blog.
- Who is least likely to respond?
Was Q.31. Still irrelevant.
- Living arrangements?
Was Q.32. No change since May.
- When was the last time you cried?
Depends what that means. In January, I found the news reports of the tsunami devastation to be very affecting. More recently I found Elgar's 'Enigma Variations' particularly emotive.
If the question is referring to personal unhappiness, it's been a while, thankfully. Probably November.
- What is under your bed?
A spare mattress. No large cardboard boxes.
That reminds me that I lent them to J & Fi when they moved house a few months ago, and they weren't returned... ah well; I won't need them in the near future, and can always obtain more.
- How many countries have you visited?
Nine: UK (England, Wales and Scotland aren't sovereign nations), Spain, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France, Eire, Poland, USA. I can't really count the Netherlands, though Schiphol airport is fairly familiar.
- In how many cities have you lived?
Specifically cities, two: Lancaster, UK and Stavanger, Norway.
Extending that to towns and villages, four: Northop Hall, Stavanger, Aberystwyth and Lancaster.
- Favourite movie of all time?
'Brazil'. It's probably a fair representation of my world view. ;)
- Mountains or beach?
This question is open to multiple interpretations. If it's asking whether I'd prefer a holiday sunbathing in a beach resort or walking in mountains, unhesitatingly the latter.
If it's asking which environment I inherently prefer, and I absolutely had to choose one, it'd be mountains, though I love the sea too.
- The current friend you have known the longest?
Not counting Helen, probably Harriet, who I first met in 1993 or 94.
It would be James, my 'evil twin' (same PhD fieldwork site; same age, to the day; both left-handed), but now I think of it, I haven't seen him for a year or so.
- Full names of your potential kids?
That's not going to happen, so I won't bother speculating.
- Usual bedtime?
Around 00:30, recently.
11 January, 2005
What did I say?
Here's a new, ultimately pointless though mildly amusing meme seen via Neil's World. Republish the first sentence of the first posting you made each month in 2004, as an overview (more like a random sampling) of your preoccupations over the year. Okay:
I arrived back in Lancaster last night after a week away.
This is a useful resource for planning search engine submissions, highlighting the incestuous heirarchy of search engines: which are top-priority for optimisation and direct submission, and which will receive results from others, making direct submission unnecessary.
Not an easy Monday, and I'm as drained as on a Thursday or Friday!
The immigration minister, Beverley Hughes has resigned over the scandal of fraudulent immigration applications from Romania and Bulgaria.
Lancaster's free local newspaper, The Citizen (no website) reports that a ground floor flat in Morecambe was raided by drugs squad officers last week.
This is an unexpected, though not entirely bizarre, crossover between two of my favourite bands: Harry Waters, eldest son of His Rogness, has joined the Ozric Tentacles for their UK and USA tours, replacing Seaweed on keyboards.
When Microsoft itself advises users to switch away from Internet Explorer in favour of Mozilla Firefox, it's to be hoped people will take the hint.
According to statistics reported by the BBC, I work in "the best place to look for love in England and Wales".
Regular readers of the blog might have caught occasional offhand mentions of a rather good band called Blackfield.
For a mere $10 million, one can buy a 230' long, eight-ton 'sky gem'.
I'm back, though since I've managed only about six hours sleep in the last sixty, don't expect anything too substantial for a couple of days!
I'm still finding BlogExplosion worthwhile, but one feature I haven't used much is the blog rating facility.
7 January, 2005
Prompted by Neil, I've repeated the Political Compass assessment, which I first attempted almost a year ago. Then, my rating was -2.50, -4.87, whereas today's was -4.62, -3.90. This is bound to have been influenced by international politics, so I'm particularly surprised that I've shifted significantly towards collectivism (pro- state economic intervention) and slightly towards social authoritarianism, though still primarily a social libertarian.
That didn't seem intuitive, but I think I can reconcile myself with the idea that I support state provision for those in need, without being in favour of state regulation of individuals' actions. As I've said before, I feel the state should exist to serve individuals, never the reverse.
31 December, 2004
50 things to eat
A while ago, the BBC invited suggestions for the "top 50 things everyone should try a bite of in their lifetime". Here are the results. I've eaten all except those in bold, and would be happy to eat those too, given an opportunity. I've added a few comments, so I hope this entry isn't as pointless an exercise as it might seem initially.
1. Fresh fish. I'd like to eat this more often, but most varieties are too expensive for my level of confidence in my cooking ability i.e. I'm scared of ruining a meal I'd particularly enjoy.
2. Lobster. Yum!
3. Steak. The CJD crisis in the British beef industry didn't dissuade me from eating steaks, as the risk was largely – apparently – limited to nerve tissue and processed foods (cheap burgers, etc.) which might indiscriminately contain it.
4. Thai food. Lancaster used to have an excellent Thai restaurant, Som Siam, offering especially good fishcakes as a starter. Unfortunately, I haven't seen it open within the last year or so.
5. Chinese food. Of the people in Lancaster I'd choose to accompany to a restaurant, I seem to be the only one who likes Chinese food, so I eat it rarely. I do cook it myself, at home, but it's not quite the same.
6. Ice cream. I dislike wafer, so avoid ice cream cones, but ice cream itself is okay.
7. Pizza. I suppose there's no inherent reason to consider a pizza to be junk food, but that's the usual context, and I rarely eat one.
8. Crab. The white, fibrous leg meat is delicious; the dark red body meat is less pleasant.
9. Curry. I'm not sure what's meant by 'curry', but I do enjoy Indian cuisine.
10. Prawns. The variety of prawns commonly available in the UK are from Iceland: small, 'peeled', frozen (possibly multiple times in their route from sea to stomach), and little more than softly-textured carriers of salty water. Not worth the money, and I rarely eat them. Prawns as typically available on the quayside in Stavanger, Norway (my father's home city), are barely comparable: larger, whole (i.e. unshelled), fresh (perhaps frozen once) and delicious. Since I was about ten, whenever daily life became stressful, I was able to think that some time within the following year, I'd be in Stavanger, sitting on a mooring bollard (what's the correct term?) throwing empty prawn shells into Vågen (the guest harbour) as I worked my way through a ~500g bag. On reflection, I've only actually done that 3-4 times, but a buffet/salad featuring a large bowl of unshelled prawns has been a feature of pretty much every trip to Norway since 1978.
11. Moreton Bay Bugs – a variety of Australian lobster. Since I love lobster and prawns (garlic giant prawns are my all-time favourite food, mainly for the texture), I'm fairly sure I'd like these.
12. Clam chowder.
13. Barbecues. That's a rather vague category, but yes, on the whole I like barbecued food.
14. Pancakes. My absolute favourite meal as a child, and still one I like. Yes, as served in my mother's house, pancakes are a meal in themselves. She cooks them one at a time; I have just enough time to collect one from the kitchen, sprinkle sugar and lemon juice onto it, roll it into a tube, sprinkle more sugar and lemon on top and eat it with a knife & fork before another is brought through, then another, then another. I've typically managed eight before surrendering, slightly nauseous. As a child, it was one of the few ways my mother could feed me egg (which I still don't eat, except in pancakes and cakes – never just as a fried, boiled, poached or scrambled egg).
16. Mussels. Whenever available, I tend to choose these as a first course in restaurants.
18. Lamb. I like lamb in the context of a traditional roast dinner, but rarely in Indian meals, stir-fries, etc. Somehow the texture doesn't quite work.
19. Cream tea. I like scones, though I can't eat more than one or two at a sitting – there's something starchy about them. I like strawberry jam (though, as an aside, I don't like to encounter a fragment of whole berry), which, incidentally, is the equivalent of US 'conserve' (with seeds & pieces of the fruit), not 'jelly' (seedless & homogeneous). I like cream, in extreme moderation. However, the traditional cream tea consists of scones with jam and clotted cream, the very thought of which puts me off.
21. Oysters. I know I've eaten them at least once, but don't recall it.
23. Chocolate. I could happily eat a little chocolate each day, but only block-type chocolate, not chocolate -coated 'candy bars'. I favour Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate, which European connoisseurs mightn't even define as chocolate at all. I don't like many other manufacturers' milk chocolates, which do tend to taste of vegetable fat, but nor do I like high-cocoa 'plain' or 'black' chocolate. This obviously means I don't buy 'fair trade' chocolate, but that is only because I don't really like the taste, not because of an animosity to the idea itself (unlike organic produce, which I never knowingly buy).
24. Sandwiches. How vague is that?
25. Greek food. I'm not familiar with the full range of Greek cuisine, as I've only encountered elements of stereotypical 'international Greek' food.
26. Burgers. Hamburgers can be excellent, though I've yet to experience a decent one in a fast food restaurant. I'd always thought that food from a UK branch of, say, McDonalds was probably an inadequate imitation of that from a US branch, but when I was in New York in October, I was disappointed to find the burgers are identically awful.
27. Mexican food.
29. American diner breakfast
30. Salmon. In some parts of the world, I understand this is a luxury, but here in the UK, and especially in Norway, it's more-or-less a staple item.
32. Guinea pig. What?
34. Sushi. Only fresh – never bother with pre-prepared, from a supermarket or similar.
35. Paella. One of my earlier memories of 'foreign food' was of paella made from dehydrated prawns, vegetables and MSG added to ordinary boiled rice. Real paella was a pleasant surprise!
40. Australian meat pie. So far as I know, this is the same sort of pie as we have in the UK. Writing this has reminded me that I haven't had a steak & kidney pie for years. I'll probably buy one next week....
41. Mango. I've never really liked mango, and find mango juice nothing special. On reflection, I suspect I've never eaten a ripe mango – they've always been rather hard.
42. Durian fruit. I'd like to try this, as Malay friends have mentioned it, but their descriptions haven't always been favourable.
45. Roast beef. A proper roast beef dinner, with Yorkshire pudding, can't be beaten, but done badly, there's little more disappointing.
47. Jerk chicken/pork. I've only eaten the version I've cooked myself, using store-bought marinades, so I'm not sure whether I can claim to have experienced the real thing.
48. Haggis. Scrupulously avoiding any thought of what it actually is, haggis is reasonably pleasant.
49. Caviar. This may be the only item on the list that I don't even wish to try – why eat fish eggs?
50. Cornish pasty. I can buy something bearing the name from the baker a couple of minutes from my office, but it's rare to find a real pasty – there's more to one than meat, carrot and potato in a fold of pastry.
29 December, 2004
Meme of many layers
This meme, seen at Neil's World, has been awaiting a response for over a month.
As always, requests for further details are welcomed.
Birthdate: Ever heard of online security or ID theft?
Current Location: Northop Hall, a village 4 miles north-east of Mold (Sir Fflint, Cymru (Wales), UK) and 7 miles east of Chester (Cheshire, England, UK), UK.
Eye Color: Brown.
Hair Color: Dark brown.
Height: Over 6'.
Righty or Lefty: Mostly left.
Zodiac Sign: Scorpio (sun, moon & ascendant).
Your heritage: Not English.
The shoes you wore today: Size 10 shiny German para boots, as always.
Your weakness: Insomnia and the resulting lethargy compound limited time-management ability, so I don't achieve as much with my days as I'd like, so I remain mentally active until late, so I can't sleep.
Your fears: Death. Alzheimers.
Your perfect pizza: The last time I ate a pizza was at least 18 months ago. Just for the sake of argument, I'll say ham & pineapple.
Goal you’d like to achieve: I can't think of anything in particular, and I'm trying to avoid trite responses.
Your most overused phrase on AIM: It would be "How the **** did I get here?", since I have no interest in instant messaging. Extending the question to general conversation, I overuse "Excellent". It even annoys me.
Your first waking thoughts: Firstly: is it a work day? Secondly (whether it is or isn't), I plan the day, half-knowing the plan is unlikely to survive more than an hour.
Your best physical feature: Not for me to say, really! I keep my legs fairly fit.
Your most missed memory: I can't avoid pedantry here: if I've lost a memory, how can I miss it? If that isn't what's meant, I'm afraid I don't understand the question.
Pepsi or Coke: Coke. No question.
McDonald’s or Burger King: Ugh. Neither. If I absolutely had to, Burger King.
Single or group dates: Single.
Adidas or Nike: I couldn't care less. They don't make para boots.
Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Never tried the former, nor heard of the latter.
Chocolate or vanilla: Chocolate, if we're talking about ice cream. Otherwise, I don't object to vanilla, though it's not my preference.
Cappuccino or coffee: Tea, please.
Cuss: Depends who I'm with. On the whole, no.
Sing: Only in private, badly.
Take a shower every day: Not always.
Do you think you’ve been in love: Yes.
Want to go to college: 1: University, not ****ing 'college'. 2: Twenty-four years of full-time education, ten of which were at University, were enough.
Liked high school: Not particularly.
Want to get married: Emphatically not. Why seek the approval of society?
Believe in yourself: That varies.
Get motion sickness: Only in cars/buses, only if I read or on particularly winding roads.
Think you’re attractive: No.
Think you’re a health freak: I swim 1.25 km, three times each week, and cycle 11.25 km per day to and from work, plus an extra ~48km at the weekend if the weather is suitable for photography. Beyond that, no.
Get along with your parent(s): Er, basically.
Like thunderstorms: Very much so.
Play an instrument: No, I love music, but as a listener.
In the past month…
Drunk alcohol: Yes.
Done a drug: Caffeine.
Made out: Not entirely sure of the definition, but whatever it means, not within the last month.
Gone on a date: If those in long-term relationships can be said to 'date'... no, that was more than a month ago.
Gone to the mall: N.American youth culture is alien to me. I've been shopping, yes.
Eaten an entire box of Oreos: A box of what?
Eaten sushi: Strictly speaking, no, but pickled herrings and cockles are almost sushi.
Been on stage: No.
Been dumped: No!
Gone skating: No, but we did watch the skaters at Rockefeller Plaza, NYC, two months ago.
Made homemade cookies: A little more than a month ago, and I was aiming for rock buns.
Dyed your hair: No.
Stolen anything: No.
Played a game that required removal of clothing: Yes. Mine, too.
If so, was it mixed company: To clarify that: yes, in the presence of a person of the opposite gender, but no, not in a group of people.
Been trashed or extremely intoxicated: Er... once or twice!
Been caught 'doing something': I don't understand the question.
Been called a tease: As a joke, yes. It's not a general trait.
Been beaten up: When I was eighteen my lip was split in a fight and required stitches, but otherwise, no.
Shoplifted: When I was very young, the local hardware shop provided rows of drawers containing loose nails, screws, nuts, etc., from which customers served themselves. On one occasion I accompanied my father to the shop, and I served myself. My father was mortified to find me sitting in the garden later, sorting a little bag of nails into neat piles. It's not as if I understood what I was doing.
Changed who you were to fit in: Everyone does to some extent, but on the whole, I've probably done that less than most. I know I don't fit in, anyway!
Age you hope to be married: Not applicable. The only difference between a long-term partner and a wife is social approval, about which I don't give a ****.
Numbers and names of children: Not applicable. I don't want children.
Describe your dream wedding: I said no wedding!
How do you want to die: Ideally: not at all. More realistically: fit and mentally alert, at a very great age.
Where you want to go to college: The 'layer eight' questions rather overlap earlier ones, don't they? Again: here in the UK, a college is a lesser institution than a university; having spent the entire 1990s as a student at the latter, and now working in one, I'd hardly be likely to become a student of the former.
What do you want to be when you grow up: I've made it past thirty without 'growing up'; the concept doesn't really grab me. I have no particular aspirations to a specific career path, if that's what you mean.
What country would you most like to visit: Iceland.
Number of drugs taken illegally: Four.
Number of people I could trust with my life: Discounting the obvious answer, that I implicitly trust the driver of any vehicle in which I travel, I'm not sure. There are a number of people whose intention I'd trust, but I might doubt their ability to influence a situation e.g. whether a sleight person could lift my weight.
Number of CDs that I own: Easily 1,000.
Number of piercings: None. There's probably something deeply Freudian in the fact I couldn't conceive of having even an ear pierced. I do like some other people's piercings, though; there is something sexy about multiple piercings in the same ear.
Number of tattoos: None. I dislike their permanence.
Number of times my name has appeared in the newspaper?: It's in single figures, but probably approaching ten. Winning awards for sculpting/painting brought low-level renown amongst a small subset of the population, so I've also appeared in specialist magazines more frequently.
Number of scars on my body: Lots. I heal rapidly, but scar easily. About five are reasonably prominent.
Number of things in my past that I regret: 'A few', but not 'a lot'.
10 December, 2004
This meme, traced back to Shut Up Dude (which says it's older) returns to the purest form of blog: a literal log of where the owner has been on the web.
The instructions are simple. Type the letter 'a' into your browser's address bar, and note the first page suggested by autocomplete. Repeat for the full alphabet.
This is the result for my work PC:
A: The web site of poet and Jethro Tull archivist A.B. Jackson.
C: Count Your Sheep - an excellent web comic, one of the first calls on my daily browsing rounds.
D: An item on the University's news site, which is hosted on our Domino server.
E: Eigenradio - something I've been meaning to mention here anyway.
Eigenradio makes its optimal music by analyzing in real time dozens of radio stations at once. When our bank of computers has heard enough music, it will go to work on making more just like it.
Some odd, some quite good, in the opinion of someone who likes ambient drones.
F: The University's new Freedom Of Information site. Not one of my designs - my involvement was simply linking to it from the University home page!
G: The GloThong, as mentioned a couple of days ago. I almost resent this stuff cluttering up my address bar cache....
H: Someone's Haloscan comments form - I have no idea whose.
I: A German estate agent (US: real-estate agent) site. Don't ask.
J: The latest MT Blacklist, er, blacklist.
K: Knit your own womb. Go on, you know you want to. Don't forget to pose the fallopian tubes.
L: Unsurprisingly, virtually all the 'L's in the cache are pages hosted on University servers. The most recent is the 'Business & Industry' home page, which, incidentally, is one of mine.
M: Similarly, most 'M's are pages at this very website. You're already here, so I'll mention the first non-Ministry URL, which is the home page of Thunderbird, Mozilla's e-mail client, just released as v.1.0.
I won't recommend it just yet - I use a beta version of Thunderbird at home, and don't rate it especially highly. Hopefully, the completed release will fill in the annoying gaps, making this a credible replacement for MS Outlook. It's rather contentious to say that I don't regard the Thunderbird beta as superior to the undeniably dire Outlook.
Time permitting, I'll upgrade to v.1.0 this weekend, and might mention it in the blog next week.
N: Ha! Neil's version of this same meme!
O: The 'Mind Hacks' page in the O'Reilly catalogue. I don't see myself buying the book.
P: The official Porcupine Tree site.
Q: I considered installing the Qute theme for Firefox. I didn't.
If anyone cares, I use 'SomeOrbitYellow' instead.
R: A 'what's on' site for the Rhine-Neckar region, Germany.
S: The Multiple Browsers Window Injection Vulnerability Test at Secunia.com.
Everyone knows about this, right? It's a phishing scam, to which all browsers are vulnerable (not just IE, for once). The only security solution is vigilance. Vigilance and scepticism. No-one expects....
T: El Reg, which, incidentally, has an article about that previous item.
U: User Friendly, another good web comic.
V: Victorinox, the Swiss army knife company. I'm hoping to receive one as a gift in a couple of weeks.
W: Wapsi Square - yet another web comic. As with User Friendly, it probably won't make sense in isolation - they need to be read as daily serials, unlike, say, Dilbert, which is self-contained each day.
X: Yes, there is an 'X': Doh, The Humanity! ("Broken web pages, but in a funny way").
Y: I don't seem to have visited any 'Y's. Evidently Yahoo! Groups don't have URLs beginning with a 'Y'.
Z: I downloaded the updated (5.5.062.004) ZoneAlarm (the market-leading firewall, and free) a couple of days ago.
Quick tip for existing ZoneAlarm users: the previous version (5.5.062) caused problems for some people, preventing access to certain bank and e-commerce sites. The bug fix is only applied if you load this version as a clean install rather than an upgrade of your existing installation.
12 November, 2004
Dina has randomly sampled numerous e-mail 'getting to know you' surveys, and compiled a new blog meme. It's been a while since I participated in one of these, so:
1. What is your favourite colour?
Black, then jade green, then blue-with-a-hint-of-purple.
2. Tell me about a talent or skill you possess, which I've not yet witnessed or discovered.
Though I still haven't found a reason to elaborate on it in the blog, I sculpt and paint 'toy soldiers' (human figures at a scale of 28mm:1.83m (1":6')), I've won international competitions for it for over a decade, and have sculpted semi-professionally.
3. What was your favourite subject in school? (I think this means primarily elementary school, when you were a child, but if you had a favourite subject in secondary or university you can tell me about that, too!)
I don't remember distinct subjects at primary school, other than recalling that there were distinct subjects.
At secondary school, I suppose Geography was my favourite. I'm still grateful to Paul Ellis and his colleagues for inspiring an interest which sustained me to PhD level (then fell flat, but that wasn't their fault). If it hadn't been for the teachers, English (Lit. & Lang.) might have been more enjoyable. As it happens, I thrived on my extra-curricular interest despite Mike Antrobus et al.
At University, my favourite aspects of my Physical Geography degree were cartography/photogrammetry (learning non-computerised techniques even then on the cusp of obsolescence, unfortunately) and Upland Geomorphology.
At my second University, my sole and least favourite subject was Upland Geomorphology :(
4. What is one place to which you've never been, but you'd like to visit, someday? (Locally or abroad)
I'd like to tour Iceland, please.
5. Are you a morning person or a night person?
Definitely a night person, partly because I dislike bright daylight.
6. Are you left-handed or right-handed?
Sinister for writing, but dextrous for scissors, eating utensils and my PC's mouse.
7. Did astronauts really land on the moon, or was it all a hoax?
They did. Conspiracy theories tend to be the inventions of sad people pretending to be cleverer than they really are. At least that's what the nice gentlemen in black suits and mirror shades tell me.
8. What's in your pocket? (Or if there's nothing in your pocket at present, what sorts of things are most often in your pockets?)
- My watch - I carry one for the rare times I'm away from both my PC and bike (which have clocks), but dislike chunky, male wrist watches.
- My cards - debit card, University Library card, University Sports Centre card, Dukes cinema card, British Waterways permit to cycle on canal towpaths.
I usually carry a small penknife, too, but lost it a couple of months ago. I think K. plans to replace it in December.
9. In 10 years, you see yourself... (Finish that any way you desire.)
Pessimistically, right here. Might have to work on avoiding that.
10. There's a power outage, and you don't have a generator. This means no electronics - no computer, no telly, no videos, no stereo and no electric heat or electric kettle - what do you do to keep warm, content and entertained?
Bed and a book. I love my bed, despite my insomnia.
11. What's one thing you cannot bring yourself to eat?
Custard, and anything of a similar slimy texture.
18 October, 2004
I tend to avoid these meme questionnaires, or rather, I idly complete some, but rarely bother to post them here. This one, well, is no different: Which File Extension Are You?
You are .html
You are versatile and improving, but you do have your limits.
When you work with amateurs it can get quite ugly.
Very true (though I tend to use .htm) ;)
16 August, 2004
Ooh; a music meme!
The following are the answers at the time of writing - if you were to ask again tomorrow, I might answer differently.
First Record Bought:
Adam & the Ants 'Kings Of The Wild Frontier' (1980). The dual drum kits sounded great to my 9-year-old ears.
While I was at University there were numerous occasions when I happened to be in a room where a band was playing, but the first time I specifically went to see a named band was probably Jethro Tull in Zaragoza, Spain, 5/4/92. However, I didn't start to go out of my way to attend concerts until seeing Hawkwind here in Lancaster, 13/10/95.
Favourite Music Movie:
Pink Floyd: 'The Wall'.
Favourite Music Book:
'Nick Drake: The Biography' (Patrick Humphries, 1998), though that's by default, as I don't recall having read any other music-related books.
Until 1999, Ian Anderson. I can get as much enjoyment from reading his Jethro Tull lyrics as from hearing the songs themselves. However, I dislike the direction he's taken in recent years.
Favourite Record Label:
Inside Out, especially for their beyond-the-call-of-duty packaging. They also happen to be the record label/distributor of several of my favourite bands, which helps!
I don't regularly read any music magazines. I occasionally buy 'Record Collector' (perhaps once per year), for specific features.
Roger Waters or Dave Pegg.
Favourite Album Cover:
Favourite Teen Idol:
In my teens, I had no interest in music. At 32, I don't have much interest in 'teen idols'.
Artist Who Broke Your Heart:
I wasn't pleased when Ian Anderson 'mellowed'.
Artist You Will Always Believe In:
I'm not a loyal 'fan' of any artist - if a band ceases to interest me, I won't vainly cling to inferior remnants. At present, I like Steven Wilson's various projects (Porcupine Tree, Bass Communion, etc.), but it's possible his evolving interests could diverge from mine.
Singer Who Makes Your Skin Crawl:
Singer Who Makes You Swoon:
Er.... Sandy Denny had a remarkable voice. I like Alanis Morissette's and Cerys Matthews' accents, if not necessarily their material. But 'swoon'? No singer has that extreme an effect on me.
Album You Will Always Defend:
I rarely feel inclined to argue matters of personal taste. If you don't like OSI's 'Office of Strategic Influence', that doesn't detract from my enjoyment.
Album You Own That No One Else Does:
I presume that doesn't mean literally! I doubt many copies of Karmakanic's 'Entering the Spectra' were sold. Given a second chance, I wouldn't have bought it either.
Classic Album You Own but Don't Like:
Led Zeppelin 'IV'. I tried, but Led Zep does nothing for me.
Artist You're Supposed to Like but Don't:
Since I like Jethro Tull (1971-95), Genesis (1970-75) and Pink Floyd (1969-94), it's often presumed I also like Yes, Gentle Giant, ELP and similar art/'prog' rock. I DON'T.
Song You Can't Stand by an Artist You Like:
Most maudlin Fish ballads! To pick one semi-randomly: 'Say It With Flowers', from the otherwise excellent 'Sunsets On Empire'.
Band That Should Break Up:
Jethro Tull. Seriously.
Band That Should Re-form:
Shania Twain's 'Come On Over' was surprisingly good.
Favourite Music DVD:
For reasons I can't really explain, I rarely find/make time to watch music DVDs. Roger Waters 'In The Flesh - Live' is pretty good. Does 'Koyaanisqatsi' count as a music DVD?
Concert You Wish You'd Seen:
Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'.
I can't think of any; I don't dream of collaborations and 'what ifs'.
16 May, 2004
This time it's fifty questions
Neil has posted another meme. Sort-of; it's the type that circulates by e-mail, so some of the questions only really apply to that medium.
1. Full name:
[CENSORED - I don't reveal this in public], though I don't use it when avoidable. I just don't like it, and always prefer 'NRT', except in speech, 'cos that'd seem pitifully pretentious.
Neil is a Neil R****** too, but we're not the same person, honest, even if we've never been seen in the same room at the same time. Anyway, I'm over a decade older than Neil, so have prior claim.
2. What colour underwear are you wearing?
Straight to the point, eh? Since you ask, black.
3. What are you listening to right now?
Fish 'Yang' (1995); just the 'up' tracks, not the ballads.
Hang on; this is too good, and I can't concentrate on the questions. Back in a minute.
NP: Bass Communion: 'Bass Communion I' (1998). Also excellent, but ambient, so less distracting. Well, overtly; it might affect my mood, and hence answers.
4. Are your legs crossed?
Just my ankles.
5. What was the last thing you ate?
Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.
6. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be?
7. How is the weather right now?
It's a bit under the weather, but thanks you for asking.
8. Last person you talked to on the phone?
9. First thing you notice about the opposite sex?
That's a surprisingly good question. I really don't know, but will consider it over the next few days. Assuming it refers to the first thing I notice visually, I suspect it's clothes, which is a bit shallow - what about the person in them? Not a comfortable thought. Then again, if we're talking about the first instant impression, that's inherently shallow.
10. Do you like the person who sent you this?
See what I mean? An artifact of the e-mail meme. Neil didn't send me the questions, but he seems okay ;) I agree with a majority of the stated opinions at his blog, anyway.
11. How are you today?
12. Favourite non-alcoholic drink?
Ice-cold, full-fat milk.
13. Favourite alcoholic drink:
That varies. Right now, none. No, I'm not hung over, I'm just going through a phase of not liking alcohol. I'll say white wine; perhaps 'real' bitter.
14. Favourite sports:
None. I cycle, but I don't regard that as a sport, it's a mode of travel.
15. Hair colour:
Mid/dark brown. Boring question!
16. Eye colour:
17. Do you wear contacts?
I'm very uneasy about the very idea if putting a lens actually on the surface of my eye, so I wear glasses, just for distance viewing. At present, I wear glasses for a tiny fraction of a typical day, so don't need the 'always on' vision correction provided by contact lenses. Glasses are inconvenient too, so perhaps I'll try contacts if my vision deteriorates to requiring more continuous correction.
K, an orthopedic surgeon, lives 253 miles (408 km) away in Taunton. Her job and location mean I tend to only see her annually.
19. Favourite month:
I don't have a favourite, so any answer would be arbitrary.
20. Favourite food:
Sea food: prawns, cockles, mussels, crab, lobster. Garlic prawns are a particular favourite, particularly for their firm texture, but the prawns available in the UK tend to be too small and insufficiently fresh.
21. Last movie you watched:
'Cube' (1996), on DVD last night. Though the central premise was excellent and execution very good, such a claustrophobic setting required very strong human elements (credible, three-dimensional characters acted particularly well, with good dialogue), which weren't quite there. I'd still recommend it.
22. Favourite day of the year:
Again, I don't have a favourite. Certainly not my birthday or socially-determined festivals.
23. Saturday or Sunday?
Saturday. It's difficult to say why. When I think of childhood Sundays, I have a few unhappy memories, but that doesn't really affect me now. Nowadays, I wake on a Saturday with a mass of plans for the weekend, whereas I wake on a Sunday with less than half of Saturday's plans even started.
24. Are you too shy to ask someone out?
25. Do you like Marmite?
Not even the thought of it.
26. Summer or winter?
Both have advantages. Summer probably edges ahead, as I can paint in natural light, tend to see friends more on walks and whilst camping, and it's pleasant to read in the park. If the question had allowed, I'd have said spring, maybe autumn, but both ahead of summer or winter.
27. Hugs or kisses?
Definitely hugs. There's probably some deep psychological reason I've yet to resolve, but I don't like kissing. I find hugs affirming and immensely comforting, whereas kisses make me very uncomfortable.
28. Chocolate or vanilla?
29. Do you want your friends to write back?
Another e-mail question, which doesn't really apply here. Comments are welcome, as are trackbacks to other peoples' (ooh; where does that apostrophe go?) answers.
30. Who is most likely to respond?
31. Who is least likely to respond?
32. Living arrangements:
I own my home, a small terraced house. I occupy it alone. That was phrased carefully: in an age of phones, e-mail and web-based communication, it's not so accurate to say "I live alone".
33. What books are you reading?
I read the first two books of Ken MacLeod's 'Engines Of Light' trilogy separately, soon after their paperback releases (i.e. a year apart), but now I'm reading the trilogy back-to-back; I finished re-reading 'Dark Light' in the park yesterday, and will return to start 'Engine City' (for the first time) later this afternoon.
34. What did you do last night?
After returning from the park at 19:00 (see previous question), I redesigned the Ministry's favicon and responded to a couple of e-mails, then took slight exception to a posting at the official Porcupine Tree discussion forum, and wrote a long rebuttal which caused me to delay watching 'Cube' until an hour or so later than I'd planned. I was in bed by about 01:00. No, food wasn't part of this sequence, but that's usual.
35. Did you wake up before your alarm went off this morning?
About six hours beforehand, yes. I was sleeping with the window open when a taxi-load of neighbours returned from a night out. It seems there'd been a row, and this group had stormed off - without a door key. Hence, they sat on doorsteps and ranted for at least half an hour before another taxi-load arrived, and they took the re-energised argument indoors.
To more directly answer the question, when the alarm went off I was asleep, and hit the 'snooze' button twice before waking properly ten minutes later.
36. Question missing.
I don't remember the foregoing questions, but I do have a vague memory of completing an e-mail questionnaire which omitted three questions; have I done this whole exercise before? If so, it must have been a few years ago.
37. Question missing.
38. What inspires you?
I find some artwork and graphic design inspiring; the whole look of 'The Matrix' had a greater impact on me than the film itself. I also find the photography and digital editing of Lasse Hoile to be directly inspiring.
I don't find people, their actions or words particularly inspiring, but one has to remember that there's both positive and negative inspiration, and the actions taken by some activist or politician might shape my opinions; I just can't think of any cases when that's been towards the person's standpoint.
39. Question missing
40. Favourite crisps:
'Sea salt and balsamic vinegar' Kettle Chips. They're more like the crispy bits in a bag of chips (US: fries) than ordinary salt & vinegar crisps, which I consider to taste of, well, salt & vinegar flavouring, which is a flavour of its own. Kettle Chips are also contain drastically less fat than ordinary mass-produced crisps: 27.5% (3.2% saturates) versus 33.0% (14.0%) in Walkers salt & vinegar crisps.
41. Favourite car:
A & A's! I'm always grateful for a lift, so it would be disingenuous to disdain cars outright. However, I don't have the vaguest interest in different models of cars.
42. Favourite flowers:
None. I don't like flowers.
43. How many keys on your key ring?
Four. I need keys to my front door, office door and bike lock on a daily basis, but since a key snapped off in my front door lock, I've added A & A's house key (used for occasional cat-feeding) to my key ring, as four keys together are less vulnerable to bending (and hence weakening) in my pocket.
44. Can you juggle?
Objects, no. My life, not really.
45. Favourite day of the week:
Saturday, as it's not a work day, and has the prospect of another non-work day to follow. Hmm... that's repeating my answer to Q.23, more conclusively.
46. Red or white wine:
White, though I like red too.
47. What did you do for your last birthday?
I really don't remember. Pub?
48. Do you own a donor card?
Own, but not carry. I have a Damien Hurst donor card, which I bought from the Tate Liverpool. When I die, I donate my body to art. Note to executors: the card is a joke.
49. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
I don't do thought for at least a further ninety minutes.
50. What are you doing once this is finished?
We could go and get a drink, if you'd like.
7 May, 2004
The Friday Five is officially dead, only a few weeks after I started participating (coincidentally!). I was going to proceed by completing past questions from the archive, but that has been removed too.
It was a good project, raising topics I mightn't otherwise have considered, so I'll probably look for an alternative.
5 May, 2004
Guess the song
Found at Kalyr.com:
1. Grab the nearest CD.
2. Put it in your CD Player (or start your mp3 player, iTunes, etc.).
3. Skip to song 3 (or load the 3rd song in your 3rd playlist).
4. Post the first verse in your journal along with these instructions. Don’t name the band, nor the album title.
"I'm so bored with you
It didn't take long
I hear all about you
Every day of the month
You sounded so in control of it
On Radio 1
But I don't believe you
And though they all seem to
And though they all scream for you
And though they all dream of you"
Anyone recognise it?
As is customary, Tim cited the blog where he discovered the meme, which had done the same. For no particular reason, I traced it back for a further ten generations (i.e. 13 including Kalyr.com) to a 15 April posting at freakshow.twoday.net, which doesn't seem to mention a prior source, though since it's in German, I might be missing something.
30 April, 2004
Not only are there no new 'Friday Five' questions this week, the archive of previous questions has been disabled, so I can't complete those either.
16 April, 2004
Friday Five (16 April)
Last Friday, 9 April, no new questions had been posted when I checked, so I completed a set from the archive. When I checked this week, a set of questions for 9 March had appeared; they must have gone up late. However, there were no new questions for this Friday, 16 April!
I was tempted to complete the 9 April questions a week late, but they're not particularly inspiring, so it's back to the archive, to the nearest date to 16 April in 2002: 19 April. As will become apparent, this is going to be short ;)
1. What's your favorite TV show and why?
'ER'. I watch for the interaction of the characters, for the human elements more than the plot itself.
A few years ago, I was pretty stressed and life wasn't fun. 'ER' represented a scheduled break, an opportunity to step outside my own concerns for an hour. I think I appreciated the opportunity rather more than the programme content itself. Thankfully, my situation has improved, so 'ER' is less important to me.
2. Who is your favorite television star?
I'm barely aware of TV stars, as I watch so little TV. I make a point of watching 'ER', and if there's a good film being shown, I'll either watch then or video it for a more convenient time, but otherwise I simply have better ways to spend time. I tend to watch whilst eating my evening meal, but often couldn't tell you what I'd watched even half an hour later.
I make a point of not visiting certain people on certain evenings, as I know they'll be watching TV. Some will switch off or set the video, but I don't like to knowingly disrupt peoples time. Others will leave the TV on, and I'll spend an evening as I could have done at home - and wouldn't have chosen to.
That's a protracted way of saying I don't watch enough TV to have a favourite star. I didn't even question the concept of TV 'stardom', either.
3. What was your favorite TV show as a child?
As a young child, 'Play School' (and yes, over a quarter of a century later, I do remember it). A little later, I remember liking Johnny Ball's various popular science series. After the age of about eight, I don't recall my TV habits.
4. What show do you think should have been cancelled by now?
Most of them! Most comedy programmes, in particular. The vast majority appeal to a sense of humour I don't share, seemingly focussing on ridiculing the character defects of others. I find David Brent of 'The Office' or Alan Partridge pitiable, not laughable. Such humour also reinforces social cohesion, which I don't support: the desire to conform and to shun those who don't.
5. What new show do you hope escapes the axe this season?
Of the very few new programmes I've seen within the last 3-4 months, I wouldn't make a point of watching any future series.
11 April, 2004
A new meme, seen at Neil's World:
1: Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says:
"Most tags define and affect a discrete region of your document. The region begins..."
'HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide, 5th Ed.'
Boring answer, but that's the nearest book!
2: Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?
The curtain. A yellow bit.
3: What is the last thing you watched on TV?
'The Tailor Of Panama' (1999). Nothing special, but I was tired.
4: WITHOUT LOOKING, guess what the time is:
5: Now look at the clock; what is the actual time?
13:51. Not bad!
6: With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
If I listen carefully, I can hear two clocks ticking, but they're almost drowned out by Marillion 'Marbles' disc 1, specifically 'Ocean Cloud', which is currently my favourite track of the new album.
7: When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
About two hours ago, I made the 2-min cycle ride to feed Jack & Millie, A. & A's cats, for the last time in a while, as A. & A. return from Scotland this evening.
8: Before you came to this website, what did you look at?
I saved these questions to disc, and am answering in my web editor (HomeSite) rather than via a website. I don't remember which site I viewed before Neil's (apart from the blogroll of my own site, where you're reading this!).
Before I came to the computer, I looked at the dishes.
9: What are you wearing?
Black 'Porcupine Tree' T-shirt, black combat trousers, black German para boots. You don't want to know about underwear - do you?
If it's more exciting: I'm wearing shiny black leather... boots.
10: Did you dream last night?
I don't remember doing so.
11: When did you last laugh?
Earlier today when I read a BBC report, reproduced by Neil Gaiman (a Mini driver) about a Belgian driver having received a speeding ticket for driving his Mini at Mach 3 (3,380 kmh / 2,100 mph).
12: What is on the walls of the room you are in?
On the walls.... Horrible textured wallpaper painted peach, plus, anti-clockwise from the door:
- A framed print of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's 'Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice', my favourite painting in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
- A cheap wall clock (though it looks okay) from Ikea.
- A cork notice board, almost covered by postcards, two photos, a cinema schedule and some notes I made comparing Marx and Foucault. Really.
- Two calendars on the same nail. I have the Ted Naismith 'Lord Of The Rings' (nothing to do with the films!) calendar, and the Marillion calendar. Each month I choose which picture I prefer. This month, Marillion won, so covers the LOTR one.
13: Seen anything weird lately?
Not that I can think of, which is itself weird.
14: What do you think of this quiz?
Pretty good. Random, but interesting, and it provokes decent answers.
15: What is the last film you saw?
See Q.3. Before that: 'Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back' (2002). Nowhere near as good as 'Dogma' (1999), which is what made me watch it, though the PVC catsuits were a slight compensation. Ahem.
16: If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?
Ooh, the first clichéd question. Dunno. Having money is not something I think about. Flippant answer: first I'd buy a can of Coke, inwardly complaining that individual cans are needlessly expensive compared to buying a pack of 24 every few weeks. The first 'big' thing I'd probably buy would be a larger house.
17: Tell me something about you that I don’t know.
Last night I discovered four lumps in my forearm. Yes, I'm concerned. I'm seeing a surgeon (my sister) this afternoon anyway, so I'll definitely mention it to her. I'm (obviously) hoping they're just lypomas - fatty subcutaneous deposits.
18: If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?
This is difficult - I'm struggling to think of something that doesn't sound trite or pretentious, and failing. How about: I'd have everyone take environmental damage seriously, with the consequent radical changes to daily lifestyles, transport policies and industrial practices. If it's part of the same fantasy deal, I'd wipe away the damage that has already been done.
19: Do you like to dance?
No. Just: no.
20: George Bush: is he a power-crazy nutcase or some one who is finally doing something that has needed to be done for years?
I regard the man as a personal risk to my wellbeing. Extremely dangerous, and I can't condemn him enough. I don't have the vaguest interest in US party politics, but anyone, Republican, Democrat or whatever, would be preferable to Bush.
21: Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?
Rhiannon. It's not something I've overtly considered, as I don't want children, but that'd be a good one - distinctive, attractive, but not something she'd be teased about.
22: Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?
That's more of a struggle, for some reason. Something Celtic or Slavic, nothing stereotypically English, and emphatically nothing biblical, on principle.
23: Would you ever consider living abroad?
Hypothetically, yes. As a teenager, I wanted to live in Norway after completing my path through the education system, but I was still at university at the age of 29, when I had no money to re-establish myself and had already settled in Lancaster. I've also acknowledged that the draw of Norway was partly that it was somewhere to escape everyday concerns about relationships, my PhD, etc. - I was escaping from, not going to, and that's not a sustainable reason to move.
On the one occasion the subject seriously arose, when I was between jobs and moving to live with Helen in Warszawa, Poland was a real option, I decided not to, partly because I didn't like the city sufficiently to consider it a potential home (fine to visit, just not to live and work) and I had too much invested in Lancaster as my home; even more so now that I've bought a house.
9 April, 2004
Friday Five (9 April)
No 'Friday Five' again for the third consecutive week - has the meme's home site died? Again, I've decided to use an earlier set of questions from the archive: 12 April, 2002:
1. What is your favorite restaurant and why?
I like Ikys, an Indian restaurant in Lancaster, as the food is generally (though not always) good (also inexpensive), the staff are friendly (though there was a spectactularly inept and rude waitress for a while, it was always fun to see what she'd do or say) and most importantly I tend to go there for spur-of-the-moment meals with friends.
The Water Witch is a pub by the canal in Lancaster, serving real ales and restaurant-quality food produced by a professional chef. The portions are good too. However, the last couple of times I've visited, the service has been stunningly slow - something like two hours from arrival to receiving the main course.
2. What fast food restaurant are you partial to?
I buy fish & chips once every fortnight or so, and take them home. If the question refers to McDonalds or similar: none. The food is foul, and there's the cultural imperialism thing. Okay; in an emergency (no food in the house at ~22:00, or in a strange city and hungry) I'd consider going to KFC.
3. What are your standards and rules for tipping?
If the meal and service are particularly good, I'll tip the socially-acceptable ~10%, and recommend the restaurant to others.
If the meal and service are adequate, I'll also tip ~10%, but won't go back or send friends.
If the meal is poor but the service is adequate, I'll still tip - it's not the serving staff's fault.
If the service is bad, independent of the quality of the food, I won't tip, irrespective of whether others in the group do.
So I almost always leave a tip, but it certainly isn't automatic.
Non-UK readers might need to be reminded that tipping is not a major part of UK culture: taxi drivers and waiters receive tips, but that's it.
4. Do you usually order an appetizer and/or dessert?
I'll usually have a starter if others in the group do, as it's no fun to sit and watch others eat, but I'd rarely choose to have soup or whatever just for the sake of it. If something on the menu grabs my attention, that's different - Thai fishcakes from Som Siam restaurant in Lancaster are better than the main courses, and that's no criticism of the main courses.
I don't remember the last time I ordered a dessert. If the main course is any good, I'll already be full, and I like very few of the desserts in the typical restaurant repertoire, so the only likely option tends to be some excessively sweet varient of chocolate fudge cake, which isn't the way I'd choose to end a rich meal.
5. What do you usually order to drink at a restaurant?
Typically water, occasionally a pint of bitter bought whilst waiting for a table and taken through. If the group decide to buy wine together, that's fine.
That's tap water - I wouldn't dream of drinking bottled water. Do you know that 'Evian' spelled backwards is 'naïve'? Tap water is clean, and I've never noticed any taste to it, so I'm damned if I'm going to pay a premium for pretension.
2 April, 2004
Friday Five (2 April)
For the second consecutive week, there's no 'official' Friday Five, so I might as well complete an older one, from before I started this blog. The following was the Friday Five for 5 April, 2002, as close to two years ago as is available.
1. What are the first things that you do in the morning to start your day?
Hit the alarm clock, hit it again five minutes later. Rise, wash, dress, check e-mail. Sometimes have breakfast, typically whilst watching BBC Breakfast News for the weather forecast. Leave for work by bike.
This all takes anything from five to twenty minutes.
2. What are the last things that you do at night before going to bed?
Switch off lights & PC, drink ½ - ¾ pint of full-fat milk, read in bed for 10-30 mins, switch off light. Fail to sleep.
3. What daily routine have you recently added to your day?
I've recently started checking overnight receipts of e-mails to two of my accounts directly on the server, so I can delete spam without having to download it. I then check the remaining, less-spammed accounts as normal, downloading the messages. A boring answer, but that's the nature of routine.
Otherwise, my morning routine hasn't changed for several months. On a working morning, I'm insufficiently awake for novelty.
4. What routine do you wish you could get rid of?
Eating. Food preparation and cleaning up afterwards take up too much thought and time.
5. What's the one thing that makes you feel like something is missing if you don't do it some point within your day?
Check my e-mail! Getting dressed is also fairly important.
19 March, 2004
Friday Five (19 March)
The questions are a bit less inspiring than in previous weeks, but here goes anyway.
1. ...owned a restaurant, what kind of food would you serve?
Seafood. Not a particularly thrilling answer, but honest. I simply like seafood, and my absolute favourite food is garlic prawns - it's the meaty texture.
2. ...owned a small store, what kind of merchandise would you sell?
This isn't something I've ever considered, and I'm struggling to answer. Probably books or CDs.
3. ...wrote a book, what genre would it be?
If it had to be a specific genre, probably sci-fi, but I don't have the right background (or sufficient interest) in physics or technology to do a proper job, and I'd write more about people; general contemporary fiction, of mixed or no specific genre, would be more likely. I certainly wouldn't conform to genre stereotypes, and wouldn't hesitate to kill off leading characters.
4. ...ran a school, what would you teach?
Tolerance of others, but in a strictly secular setting, reserving no place whatsoever for religion other than as an academic discipline.
If I was running a school, that'd probably preclude actually teaching too, but if that's what the question meant: English.
5. ...recorded an album, what kind of music would be on it?
Progressive hard rock - complex, adult (no, not 'sexually explicit', I mean 'mature'), but not as pretentious as that sounds!. Guitar led, with lyrics that at least make sense. It certainly wouldn't be mellow or uplifting, and wouldn't exactly register on the pop charts.
12 March, 2004
Friday Five (12 March)
1. What was the last song you heard?
- Purely by coincidence, it was my favourite song, the long (13.55) version of 'Even Less' (Porcupine Tree), on 'Recordings' (2001). Listen to the standard (7.11) version from 'Stupid Dream' (1999), as a fairly high-quality (and full-length) sample at the band's website.
2. What were the last two movies you saw?
- 'Plunkett & Macleane' (1999), as recorded from TV last Sunday. Rather disappointing; a lot more could have been made of the concept, setting and actors.
- 'Enemy At The Gates' (2001), on DVD. An excellent film, very well executed and with a remarkably well-chosen cast. Also noteworthy is a particularly poignant (though not graphic) sex scene. Stereotypes sometimes take precedence over accuracy, and self-styled film 'connoisseurs' probably wouldn't approve simply because it's a mainstream Hollywood production, but I liked it.
At a cinema? I forget. There hasn't been a recent release that's interested me in months. I think 'Matrix: Revolutions' was the last I saw, in November.
3. What were the last three things you purchased?
- Lunch was a baked potato with cheese, and a cold onion bhaji. Yum.
Not counting yesterday's lunch, the one before that, the one before that, etc., nor the mundane weekly groceries, my previous two purchases were:
- 'Ghosts On Magnetic Tape' (Bass Communion, 2004) which, though it arrived yesterday, I haven't yet had a chance to play in full.
- 'The Human Front' (2001), by Ken Macleod. I haven't read this yet, but as soon as it arrived from Amazon, I was annoyed. They advertise it as a 208-page paperback, without the slightest hint that it's really two novellas, from entirely unrelated authors, in one volume. The Macleod portion accounts for 90 pages.
4. What four things do you need to do this weekend?
- A priority is to buy a kettle (electric, cordless). My current one has started leaking, so if I forget to empty it after each use, the work surface floods.
- I really must respond to a few e-mails I've been postponing because they'll require fairly lengthy replies.
- The usual housework and washing arises each weekend. Wouldn't it be great if it was possible to make one extra-special effort to clean and tidy everything once and for all, and never have to think of it again?
- Sunday is Fiona's birthday; I believe a pub lunch is planned.
5. Who are the last five people you talked to?
- Alex, Assistant Senior Tutor of Bowland College, regarding updates to the College website (I won't offer a link, as I'm a little embarrassed by the amount of work I need to devote to it!)
- Helena, the University's e-Journals Assistant (i.e. maintainer of the University's presence on the websites of other organisations), who shares an office with me. Topic: seamed stockings.
- Ruth, the Vice-Chancellor's Projects Officer, regarding revisions to the website I've just more-or-less finished for the VC.
- A checkout staff member at the Spar shop on campus, after I'd absent-mindedly paid for a pint of milk with my office keys rather than a more usual currency.
- My mother, yesterday evening, just to talk.
5 March, 2004
Friday Five (5 March)
1. ...your first grade teacher's name?
Mrs. McLaughlin. I'm not sure of the spelling. I have a clear memory of the first day and isolated events from that year, which is rather impressive considering it was 27 years ago. One of my strongest impressions was of a near-unbearable cacophony of voices; there can't have been more than 20-30 children and two adults in the room.
2. ...your favorite Saturday morning cartoon?
Not really applicable; I wasn't much of a TV watcher even as a child.
3. ...the name of your very first best friend?
Jason Roberts. I lived at no.2, he was at no.8, and we were at primary school together. I went to live in Norway for a year at the age of 7-8; on my return, I no longer fitted into the social network of local children, and my friendship with Jason didn't really survive. We went to different secondary schools, and at some point his family moved to another house (still within the village, but I didn't see him around any more). My last memory of Jason is of an overweight 17 year-old, not particularly a thug but a hanger-on of thugs.
4. ...your favorite breakfast cereal?
I don't remember having a consistent favourite. Rice Crispies (with a 'C'; 'Rice Krispies' is the US name), Frosties and Weetabix were okay. Coco Pops were a rare treat.
5. ...your favorite thing to do after school?
In the context of the other questions, I presume this means while I was at primary school. I don't have a clue what I did with the evenings of school days at that age.
21 February, 2004
The '100 Things About Me' meme has been particularly persistent amongst bloggers, circulating since at least 2001. It's an interesting exercise, which I recommend to others, but it's not as easy as it seems!
1. I dislike my given name, and never use it myself.
2. I do respond to it.
3. I was nearly named Robin.
4. I'm male, but not excessively so.
5. Most of my close friends are female.
6. I'm not a particularly social person, but people fascinate me.
7. The number six, and variants thereof (16, 60, etc.) keep recurring in the significant events of my life and family history.
8. As an institution, family is unimportant to me.
9. I do value my mother, sister and father tremendously, but as individuals, not socially-defined roles.
10. I've had no contact with other relatives for over a decade.
11. My self-belief is like diamond: extremely hard, but brittle.
12. Beneath lies... well, not someone I like.
13. I dislike bright light.
14. I wouldn't choose to live in a hot climate. 15°C is my ideal temperature.
15. I regard myself as British, then Welsh, then European. I'm not English!
16. I haven't had a haircut since 1991, though I have had the ends tidied occasionally.
17. I always tie it back in a ponytail, which reaches halfway down my back.
18. I like long hair, on males and females.
19. I have a beard, not because I like them but because remaining clean shaven is avoidable hassle.
20. I don't wear a watch.
21. I wear glasses, but only to pick out details over 20m away. It wouldn't be legal, but I could drive without them.
22. No-one else who wears my glasses notices any effect at all.
23. I have a metal plate and four screws in my right hand, after breaking a finger in 2003.
24. My left little finger sometimes locks; another old break.
25. I have a scar on my forehead, in the hairline. I don't really know how it got there.
26. I heal very rapidly, but scar. Now I think of it, that's physically and mentally.
27. In 1996, I climbed the highest mountain in each of Wales, England & Scotland, in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, as I'm a carrier of the gene.
28. I'm 6'1" (1.85m) and ~11st (~70kg, or ~154lb).
29. I have powerful legs but negligible upper-body strength i.e. a cycle-commuter with a desk job.
30. Least favourite body part: my chest.
31. I find it easier to think of 'least favourites' than 'favourites'.
32. My 'favourites' change continually.
33. My favourite words are 'schadenfreude' and 'cruft' - but ask again tomorrow.
34. I wear black. Usually only black.
35. Some characteristics of 'goth' apply to me; more don't.
36. I'm a deeply private person. I'm deliberately underplaying/omitting quite major things from this list.
37. I am an ISTP, borderline ISTJ.
38. I'm Scorpio - sun, moon and ascendant. Really Scorpio.
39. Empirically, I believe the three birth signs (not just sun sign) do reflect general character, but daily horoscopes are superstition.
40. I easily get mildly car sick, but never air- or seasick.
41. Accelerating down a runway (in a plane...) is one of my favourite experiences.
42. I have never been on a roller coaster; never wish to.
43. I'm uncomfortable in lifts (elevators) - scared of being trapped. I'll always take the stairs.
44. My favourite colour, after black, is jade green.
45. I dislike the colour orange.
46. I can't even bear the thought of eating eggs (fried, scrambled, boiled, etc.), but have no problem with egg in cakes, pancakes, and an omelette probably wouldn't turn my stomach.
47. I don't keep to regular mealtimes, but 10:00, 14:00 and 21:00 would be typical.
48. I like spicy food, but not pointlessly hot.
49. I rarely drink coffee, and only black; within an hour I can smell it in my skin.
50. I drink too much tea.
51. Coke, never Pepsi or other brands.
52. I don't drink alcohol. I dislike intoxication and hangovers, and there's no alcoholic drink I really like.
53. I prefer photorealism to impressionism.
54. Not even I can read my 'joined up' handwriting, unless I use all-capitals.
55. I painted 28mm fantasy & sci-fi miniatures ('toy soldiers') for over twenty years.
56. I was a finalist in international competitions (the Golden Demon awards) 1988-2002.
57. I won 'best of category' every year 1993-2001 - that's nine Golden Demons, one Silver, one Bronze.
58. In 1996 I won outright - the Demon Slayer Sword.
59. I also sculpt the miniatures, and have done so professionally, freelance.
60. I have no interest in the associated RPGs or wargames, at least not since school.
61. I enjoy some sci-fi films & books, mainly cyberpunk. Few sci-fi TV series, though.
62. I don't like many 'fantasy' novels, and no 'fantasy' films (I'm talking about LOTR...).
63. I enjoyed university so much I went straight on to a PhD. Big mistake.
64. I'm a scientist by education and artist by inclination, so in practice I fall somewhere between the two.
65. I am a web designer/administrator for a top-ten UK university.
66. Before that, I designed forty commercial websites in eleven months.
67. Before that, I taught myself html.
68. I have no directly-relevant formal qualifications for my job.
69. I designed and maintain the Jethro Tull Tour History, but that's just a sideline - I'm no 'train spotter'.
70. The first album I bought was 'Kings Of The Wild Frontier' by Adam And The Ants, on tape, in 1980 (aged nine).
71. The second was 'Live After Death', by Iron Maiden, on LP, in about 1987.
72. Until 1990, I had little interest in music.
73. Now I have at least 1000 CDs.
74. Jethro Tull is not my favourite band.
75. I'm not materialistic. Books and CDs, maybe, but that's words & music. I don't care about cars, etc.
76. I have had a driving licence for almost 15 years, but no car.
77. I cycle everywhere within 10 miles, and use the train to go further, unless with car-owning friends or in a rented van.
78. I'm a cyclist, but not a cycling activist. I want equality, not special treatment.
79. I keep my house tidy, but mainly by not using much of it.
80. I own my own house. I don't want to.
81. For eighteen of my first nineteen years I lived in the same house.
82. I've had eight more permanent addresses since then.
83. I live in Lancaster, UK; Helen lives in Warszawa, Poland. We manage.
84. No marriage, no children, no thanks.
85. My life is compartmentalised: home/work/Helen/friends/mother/sister/father, with little overlap.
86. I can walk in high heels. (Eh?)
87. Team sports bore me. I can respect the skills, but why move balls from place to place?
88. I struggle to remember precise details from books I've read even recently.
89. I am bad at anagrams, including Scrabble. I think in words, not letters.
90. Of the dreams I remember, almost all are lucid.
91. I watch very little TV.
92. I don't dance.
93. I have no heroes.
94. Lace doesn't do it for me.
95. PVC does.
96. I intensely dislike whistling.
97. Intolerance annoys me. That's not political correctness, just common decency.
98. My tolerance of others might (often correctly) be interpreted as indifference.
99. I'm a cat person.
100. I like dogs, but can't respect their unconditional loyalty.
20 February, 2004
The first time I've participated, so here goes:
When was the last time you...
1. ...went to the doctor?
I last saw my GP some time in April 2003, but my orthopedic consultant every month or so until May, when the metalwork in my hand finally settled down.
2. ...went to the dentist?
Over five years ago, I think. I was told I needed all four wisdom teeth removed, even though I'd had no problems with them (and still haven't). It would have meant surgery under general anaesthetic, and since my sister is a surgeon, I know that general anaesthetic is never routine (to be avoided unless essential), so I just never went back.
It really would be advisable for me to have a dentist, but finding one in Lancaster is near-impossible. I must make the effort, though.
3. ...filled your gas tank?
I filled the tank of a hire van on, ooh, 11 August, 2003, on the way back from moving a load of furniture from my mother's home to my new house. Otherwise I don't have a tank to fill - never owned (or wanted) a car.
4. ...got enough sleep?
I don't remember! About a month ago, probably.
5. ...backed up your computer?
At work: last night; it's automatic.
At home: er, never. Until very recently I had a faulty CD-R burner which couldn't produce data discs, so I couldn't really back up more than the absolute vitals, onto floppies. I really must do a proper backup, asap.
14 February, 2004
Top 250 films
Okay; I'm participating in another meme. This is the one where people copy the list of the IMDb's top 250 films (as voted by users) and highlight those they've actually seen. Using today's list, here goes:
102 out of 250.
I'm not entirely sure what this says; a list of films others rate highly is of limited relevance to me. That said, I certainly respect the opinions of others (I just reserve the right to ignore them...) and this exercise is likely to inform my future choices of rental videos.
[Update: the exercise was repeated in 2005, in 2006, and again in 2007.]
10 February, 2004
Which counties have you visited?
Though I immediately felt it necessary to clean up the default image, I've just found a utility which plots those counties one has visited in Scotland, Wales and England. I've visited those in light green. These are the counties where I've actually stopped at least long enough to eat, not counting motorway services (which are a kind of no-man's land), nor counties I've merely driven through.
What does your map look like?
2 February, 2004
This might be superior to the usual 'what bra are you?' type of blog 'tests', or it might just be a more elaborate version of the same. You decide.
The Political Compass test asks whether one agrees/disagrees with a series of propositions about the nation and the world, the economy, personal social values, wider society, religion, and sex.
On a graph of 'Economic Left/Right' (Communism at one extreme, Neo-Liberalism at the other, or collective management versus free market) on the x-axis against Social Libertarian/Authoritarian (aka Anarchism/Fascism) on the y-axis, I score -2.50, -4.87 which makes me comparable to the Dalai Lama, as a libertarian on the economic left. Apparently. However, the missing z-axis is more important in my case: degree to which the individual cares about wider society i.e. degree to which the x and y- axes are even relevant. I'd achieve a negative position on that one, too.
Incidentally, as the site's FAQ takes care to mention, the term 'Liberal' does not refer to the commonly-understood US political definition:
"In the United States, 'liberals' are understood to believe in leftish economic programmes such as welfare and publicly funded medical care, while also holding liberal social views on matters such as law and order, peace, sexuality, women's rights etc. The two don't necessarily go together."
This is important for anyone judging me by my scores, as my views on, say, gender politics bear no relation to my views on, say, social provision.
Likewise, the terms 'left' and 'right' could be misunderstood:
"Once you accept that left and right are merely measures of economic position, the 'extreme right' refers to extremely liberal economics that may be practised by social authoritarians or social libertarians. Similarly, the 'extreme left' identifies a strong degree of state economic control, which may also be accompanied by liberal or authoritarian social policies."
That could be phrased better, but essentially means that views on economic matters are independent of social values. The same economic solution might be achived by either extreme of social dogma, and two people sharing the same social ideals might feel very differently about the role of economics in achieving those ideals. A blanket definition of 'left' or 'right' is inadequate.
15 December, 2003
What colour are you?
Okay, it's a 'personality-as-colour' test, the stuff of a thousand blogs, but this isn't as crude as the majority, using '... a lot more math' to select one of 140 possible outcomes, based on hue (how one thinks), saturation (how much one does about it), and lightness (the effect one thinks it has). I'm not entirely sure of its (pseudo-)scientific basis; the attribution of hue in particular seems arbitrary, but I was certainly surprised by my result.
I'm 'seagreen' (#2E8B57) i.e. pretty much the colour of the Ministry website - I couldn't have faked that if I'd tried!
Your dominant hues are cyan and green. Although you definately strive to be logical you care about people and know there's a time and place for thinking emotionally. Your head rules most things but your heart rules others, and getting them to meet in the middle takes a lot of your energy some days.
Your saturation level is higher than average - You know what you want, but sometimes know not to tell everyone. You value accomplishments and know you can get the job done, so don't be afraid to run out and make things happen.
Your outlook on life can be bright or dark, depending on the situation. You are flexible and see things objectively.
I'd go along with that, on the whole.
[Update 24/05/06: I've repaired the broken link, and taken the test again. The result was the same.]
21 November, 2003
Bloginality: the ISTP personality
My Bloginality (Myers-Briggs-Jung Type, derived from a very short test) is ISTP, corresponding to a SP personality, which is part of Jung's Artisans (Sensation Seeking) type; more specifically the Crafters or Mechanics.
Having read a bit more, via the links on the ISTP page, it seems broadly accurate, though not ideal.