Hello and welcome to whatever this is. I’ve put up a more permanent, useful and comprehensive introduction to me and my life here but in order to get things going, I’m reproducing my entry for the 25 Random Things About You which was the Facebook meme-du-jour for early 2009. I’ve made one or two edits to bring the list up-to-date or just because I felt like it.
1. I can only think of three people I know who – all things considered – might be cleverer than me.
2. I spent 2-3 years teaching myself close-up magic and have a trunk full of books, DVDs, props and gimmicks at the foot of my bed. I haven’t opened that trunk in years. You might consider that time wasted. I consider that a life lived to its fullest (but then everything happens for a rationalisation).
3. I was the editor-in-chief of online satirical netzine The Brains Trust from 2000 to 2002. In its structure, commenting on articles, profiles of contributors and so on, it accurately predicted the modern-day blog. However, someone nicked the domain name off us and now we only have the pages on the Wayback Machine as an archive.
4. I love arguments and I love to win them, but being *right* is much more important to me than you being wrong, so if you *do* prove me wrong, I will switch sides instantly (and then go and find other people who used to believe as I did in order to point out how stupid they’ve been).
5. At university, I quickly fell in with a crowd who thought that the people heading for a job with Accenture were all wankers. They probably were, but if I’d fallen in with the Accenture crowd *first*, I probably wouldn’t be up to my eyeballs in debt today.
6. As a child I was a very picky eater. Thus I wanted to cook for myself when I first left home, and thus I discovered that – hey – food tastes good when you cook it right. A few years ago I began trying to whittle down the list of things I don’t like. I’m now left with most shellfish, some fish (especially salmon and tinned tuna), sweet cream (i.e. in cakes rather than in savory sauces) and scrambled eggs. Pretty much everything else I can stand, even if I don’t seek it out.
7. 25 items is a lot, isn’t it?
8. I can’t be trusted to buy my own clothes. Apparently.
9. I have been looking forward to middle age since I was about 11. Playing bridge, wearing slippers, complaining about young people, are all my idea of a good time. I’d smoke a pipe if I wasn’t worried about oral cancer.
10. Cigars don’t give you oral cancer do they?
11. I buy all the official Doctor Who DVDs as soon as they come out, and have probably seen almost all of the extant episodes. (I don’t know about The Keys of Marinus, The Sensorites, The Ark and I know I haven’t seen the last two episodes of The Ambassadors of Death). I was a Doctor Who fan when it was cool, when it was uncool and now when it’s cool again. I’m very loyal.
12. Microsoft, Apple and Google all make excellent products and I use whichever is the most convenient for me and suitable for the purpose. At present this means Windows 7, Outlook 2010 (for email and RSS feeds), Chrome as my browser of choice, Windows Live Mesh for document syncing and an iPhone 3GS (now jailbroken so I can have multi-tasking).
13. I watch almost no home-grown TV except Doctor Who, but watch a lot of US series regularly, thanks to the miracle of the Internet. These include: Damages, Battlestar Galactica, The Office, 30Rock, House, Scrubs, 24, Mythbusters, Mad Men.
14. Never use a word you couldn’t define to a bright 10-year-old if asked to do so. Some jargon is there for precision and some simply for obfuscation. It’s important to know the difference, and very important to know the difference if the jargon is coming out of *your* mouth.
15. Obfuscate: to make something you are saying harder to understand.
16. Emoticons are ugly, a shortcut for lazy writers, childish and profoundly irritating. They are also, from time to time, essential.
17. I continually use the word “mental” as a noun in a way that I hope those listening understand is ironic. It is, of course, childish and insulting whether or not it is ironic, but it’s also funny – to me at any rate. If you don’t agree it’s probably because you are a mental and so can’t be trusted on this subject a) due to an inherent conflict of interest and b) due to the fact that YOU ARE A MENTAL.
18. I listen to lots of podcasts and almost no music on my iPhone. Top picks: The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, Collings and Herrin, The Perfect Ten, TEDTalks, TWIT, and Skeptoid. If you want to know the peculiar kind of music I listen to, watch me join the conformist ranks again with my iPod Shuffle post following hot-on-the-heels of this one.
19. 25 items really *is* a lot, isn’t it??
20. I hand-code HTML and write PHP code for our website and others. I also design Spontaneity Shop publicity with QuarkXPress and PhotoShop. I know, I know – hot, right?
21. Once you know how to do something right (even if “right” is merely convential), why would you then do it wrong? If you don’t know whether or not you are doing something right, why haven’t you bothered to find out? I know, I know – smokin’ hot, right? Right!
22. Has anyone actually bothered to read down this far? Reminds me of the story about the software company which put a promise in its EULA (the agreement you click “okay” to when you install the software) that it would give $1000 to the first person who read down that far in the EULA. It took years before they eventually had to fork over the dough.
23. Nearly there now. Okay, let’s clear this one up. You should say “Tom and I” if you would naturally say “I” without Tom there: “Tom and I are going to watch Doctor Who all evening” -> “I am going to watch Doctor Who all evening”. You should say “me and Tom” if you would naturally say “me” without Tom there: “Give the toy sonic screwdrivers to me and Tom.” -> “Give the toy sonic screwdrivers to me.” It’s not totally unreasonable to use the “wrong” pronoun if it sounds better or more natural in the specific context, but there is NO JUSTIFICATION AT ALL for using “myself” because you don’t know whether “I” or “me” is correct or just because you want to avoid the implication that you and I are actually interacting in some way. “When myself gets the proposal from yourself, then myself and Katie will look at it and myself will get back to yourself. Okay?” No it is not fucking okay. Learn to speak English.
24. M*A*S*H is almost certainly the best sitcom ever broadcast. Not only was it astoundingly funny, well-plotted, heartfelt – when appropriate!, true-to-life no matter what, and brilliantly acted – every new castmember introduced succeeded *more* brilliantly than the person they replaced. Also worthy of note: Frasier, Fawlty Towers, Father Ted, and (coming up on the inside) 30Rock.
25. “Bookkeeper” is the only word in the English language with three consecutive double letters.