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[TW: injury, etc]

The "seven things most people don't know about me" meme. All these are about my childhood, because I think people probably know enough about what I've done as an adult.

1) As a toddler, I almost fell off the side of a container ship in dry dock. I was climbing the steps up to the ship, with my father holding my hand, and I managed to slip. Apparently I swung out over the abyss, with my father clinging desperately to my hand, and he remembers how his palms began to sweat with fear and he thought he'd lose me. I have no conscious memory of this, but it may explain my terror of heights.

2) Years later, my dad was in hospital, and someone bought me a newspaper-making kit to keep me occupied. There were various pieces of paper to cut out with headlines and so on. They gave you a few mastheads saying things like "The Chronicle" and "The Daily News", but I decided to call my paper The Thurman Times´╗┐, and it lasted for about ten years in one form or another as a family magazine.

3) At the age of about six I made up a game where our house was a town and all the rooms were streets. This involved naming every room with a street name. For some strange reason everyone still remembers all these room names, especially my own room which is universally known as Moon Drive.

4) I also used to have the habit, which lasted well into my teens of drawing a stylised steamboat in the top right corner of my work. (I think the boat motif came from reading Swallows and Amazons, though of course those were sailboats.) The reference to Jacob's symbol in BCL is partly based on this. Also, those who have the second edition of Not Ordinarily Borrowable (with the dragon on the cover) may notice the same steamboat logo at the top left of the cover.

5) Various things were a terror to me at one time or another. In particular, when I was ten and my grandmother died she left us a framed print of a famous painting, and my parents hung it on the landing outside my room. I was already afraid of the dark, and the painting was a new terror: I would run as fast as I could into my room so I wouldn't see it, and shut my eyes when I opened the door. The worst of it was that I wasn't allowed to sleep with the light on, but there was a light at the other end of the landing, so to avoid the darkness I had to sleep with my door as wide open as possible, and lying there in bed I could see the painting's eyes through the crack between the door and the frame. Horrifying.

6) When I was five I went out into the garden to help build a path. All my life I've preferred to be barefoot,My mother held my hand and and I was that day as well. But it's never wise to carry housebricks about when you're barefoot, especially if you're five and might drop them on your toe. I did. Even worse than the pain was the horrendous hour at the doctor's where they cut open my toe under local anaesthetic in order to "get the poison out", as they told me. The anaesthetic presumably didn't work too well, because I could feel it, and my God it hurt. I squeezed my mother's hand as tightly as I could and tried not to cry out.

7) For about a month, when I was seven-ish, I had three pet balloons. I'd brought them home from a party or something, and I drew faces on them and gave them names. And I went everywhere with them, and I used to read them bedtime stories. I remember my parents were slightly concerned.
marnanel: (Default)
Apparently, March is question month. If you'd like to ask me a question, I'll do my best to answer, either truthfully or not. I reserve the right to answer in private or a filtered post if I think that's fitting, and any lies will be bolded. Comments to this post are screened.

Since replying to comments means unscreening them, I'll reply in a separate post later today unless you say in your comment that I can unscreen.

Census meme

Mar. 8th, 2011 11:50 am
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In 2011 I am living in a small town outside Philadelphia.

In 2001 I was living in The Yellow House in Arbury in Cambridge.

In 1991 I was living in my parents' house in Letchworth Garden City.

In 1981 I was living in my parents' house in Letchworth Garden City.

People who are older than me have more interesting things to write for this meme.
marnanel: (Default)
If I looked on your bed right now, what would I find?
Some pillows, a duvet, and probably Mrs Squirrel.

Do you go to the bathroom with the door open or closed?
How would I go to anywhere with the door closed?

Read more... )

Which is the best Spice Girl?
Stephen Fry.

Do you know what time it is?
No: I have clocks to work that out for me.
marnanel: (Default)
[ profile] regyt asks why the world doesn't have a meme where everyone leaves screened comments with what they want to say to to the poster but haven't yet for whatever reason.

I agree! Share with me, and I'll share with you. Leave a comment; I'm screening all comments, so if you'd like a private reply, please leave me an email to contact you at. Otherwise, let me know if you care if it gets unscreened, since I can't respond here without unscreening the comment.

Towns meme

Dec. 30th, 2010 11:28 am
marnanel: (Default)
List the towns or cities where you spent at least a night away from home during 2010. Mark with a star if you had multiple non-consecutive stays.

  • Cambridge* (July, October) — \o/ \o/ \o/
  • Dublin (November) — a beautiful and friendly city, and I'd love to visit again
  • Durham (July) — a happy town with happy people
  • The Hague (July to August) — learned things, wrote a sonnet
  • Letchworth (October) — visiting my parents
  • [ Surprisingly, no Helsinki trip this year. ]
marnanel: (Default)
You know how sometimes people on your friendslist post about stuff going on in their life, and all of a sudden you think "Wait a minute? Since when were they working THERE? Since when were they dating HIM/HER? Since when???" And then you wonder how you could have missed all that seemingly pretty standard information, but somehow you feel too ashamed to ask for clarification because it seems like info you should already know? It happens to all of us sometimes.

Well, here is some completely irrelevant information about me. Copy it to your own journal if you like, delete my answers, and substitute your own.

1. What toys did you take to bed with you when you were a kid?

A teddy called David, a squirrel called Mrs Squirrel, and a cat called Joanna. I wish I knew where Mrs Squirrel is now. Here is a picture of me with David.

2. What is your favourite colour?

Orange, then black, then green.

3. What was your first experience of computers?

When I was about five, my parents took me along to a computer course they were attending at Hitchin Technical College, for which I will be forever grateful.  A short while later, my headmaster bought a BBC Micro for the entire school, and invited me up to his office.  "I've noticed", he said, "that your handwriting is the worst in the school.  This computer has a thing in it called a wordprocessor that might help you."

4. When you were a kid, who did you want to win the Boat Race?

Cambridge, honestly!  It was because they lost about a dozen times in a row and I always cheer for the underdog.

5. What was the title of your first book?

"The Squirrel Army".  I was about seven.  It was the first of a series of four.  I'm sure my mother still has them.

6. What was your favourite Christmas present ever?

This thing.  I spent hours solving all the levels.  You had to solve ten addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division problems in four different levels within a certain time limit.  I loved it.

7. What clubs did you join as a kid?

The Puffin Club; Mensa; the National Association of Gifted Children; the Vegetarian Society.

8. What was your favourite part of Christmas?

I was asked this by a teacher once, and after some thought I said it was Boxing Day, because you had plenty of time to look at all the things people had given you.  She stared at me and said "That's rather boring."
marnanel: (Default)
I can't promise to give five good questions to everyone who comments, though.

1. Who would win in a fight, Delirium of the Endless or Cthulhu?

This is one of those "irresistible force meets immovable object" questions. But thinking over it carefully, I reckon it would go something like this:

2. How would you explain copyright/copyleft and the open source movement to a slightly slow 16-year-old?

That's a great question.  I think I will actually try to write something up as a good explanation aimed at middle-school kids.  But a good start on the answer was already made by Chumbawamba:

The Boy Bands Have Won, and All The Copyists and The Tribute Bands and The TV Talent Show Producers Have Won, If We Allow Our Culture To Be Shaped By Mimicry, Whether From Lack Of Ideas Or From Exaggerated Respect. You Should Never Try To Freeze Culture. What You Can Do Is Recycle That Culture. Take Your Older Brother’s Hand-Me-Down Jacket and Re-Style It, Re-Fashion It to the Point Where It Becomes Your Own. But Don’t Just Regurgitate Creative History, Or Hold Art And Music And Literature As Fixed, Untouchable And Kept Under Glass. The People Who Try To ‘Guard’ Any Particular Form Of Music Are, Like The Copyists And Manufactured Bands, Doing It The Worst Disservice, Because The Only Thing That You Can Do To Music That Will Damage It Is Not Change It, Not Make It Your Own. Because Then It Dies, Then It’s Over, Then It’s Done, and The Boy Bands Have Won.

3. Which was your favourite Narnia book?

"Dawn Treader", because of all the wonderful geography and the living stars.  It's followed closely by "The Magician's Nephew", but that's not surprising:  I realised many years ago that most story books hold my interest insofar as they are similar to the works of E. Nesbit, and "Nephew" is almost entirely ripped off from "The Story of the Amulet".

4. Are there any recurring themes in your writing?

Both personal autonomy and Cambridge University Library tend to crop up over and over.

5. When will Joule be back up? (Sorry, sorry!)

Well, I need to wind back the database to the old format.  Then I need to decide whether we're going to host it; we possibly will, but someone else has also quite generously offered us space, so maybe it'll go there instead.  The weekend's coming up, which would seem to be a good time to put in the last few hours on it.  I know a lot of people are being very patient.

marnanel: (Default)
Leave a comment on this post. If I've ever dreamed about you, I will tell you about the dream. Otherwise I will make up what a dream with you in it might have been like. You can guess which it was.
marnanel: (Default)
( ) Gone on a blind date

I've never really dated.

(x) Gave blood

I used to do this all the time. I can't now for two reasons.

( ) Skipped school

I don't think I ever did this.

( ) Watched someone die

I've always been somewhere else when people I knew died.

teal deer )
(x) Ridden a Subway

Gee up, I want a veggie delight.

( ) Been to your High School Reunion

I don't think there was one, I'm in the wrong country, and I don't want to go anyway.
marnanel: (Default)
Go on, what would I never say?
marnanel: (Default)
Meme: Leave a comment asking me for my top five things in a certain category.  (I will answer anything that doesn't involve breaking confidences, but perhaps not in public posts.)
marnanel: (Default)
I've got a giant cardboard box, what could we make out of it?
One of my siblings, when they were a toddler, had a giant cardboard box and called it "Harold the Fishing Boat".  When it was taken away, they complained that it had been their favourite friend.

Do you hang your clothes in your closet, all facing in the same direction?
No.  I keep them in drawers.

Why would the F.B.I. be after you?
I hope they're not: it would be very inconvenient for everyday life.

Apart from a car license, do you have a license for anything else?
I don't have a "car licence".  I don't actually have a licence for anything.

The new law is: Everyone must have a word tattooed on their forehead, what's yours going to be?
"Civil disobedience".

Are you any different than you were a year ago?
I hope so.

Everybody has a little "what" in them? million Hows, two million Wheres, and seven million Whys.

Are you a talker or are you a listener?
I am a talker.  Telnet to me!

What do you shake?

What is the one thing you know is true?

What do you do when you sit out on your deck or porch alone?
Walk around twiddling pipecleaners and designing systems.

What would make it a better day where you are right now?
Nothing, it's night.

Okay, bored of this, and I have other things to do.  May do some more later.  (Fin's answers are here.)
marnanel: (Default)
Life: It's been a busy few days, and I should have been blogging every evening in order to keep up.  (But I didn't, because I was busy.)  I've been packing and getting ready for GCDS and trying to finish off some things before I leave.  I did find time to go swimming with Rio one evening, and yesterday we all went to the fair.  I won a fluffy penguin playing darts.  (I was playing darts, not the penguin.)  Thanks to Alex for the photo on the right.

The future of Metacity: It is fairly clear that Metacity will be replaced by its fork Mutter in the near future: Mutter is effectively Metacity 3.  Although I have some loose ends to tie up in Metacity, it doesn't seem worth continuing hacking on Metacity 2 when the life is in the other fork.  In addition, there are over five hundred bugs open against Metacity, more than I (as the only active maintainer) can humanly deal with.  Mutter has far more contributors and the bugs will be far more easily dealt with.

CADT: However, this raises a problem.  I can't just close the bugs because there's a new version: that would be repeating the GNOME 2.0 mistake which jwz called "cascade of attention-deficit teenagers".  Therefore I will have to go through several hundred bugs and decide whether they are reproducible with Mutter, and if so reassign them.  This will be a long and dreary job, and if anyone wants to help out I'd be happy to assign them a block.

Nargery: There is also a discussion about whether windows should be able to indicate to compositing managers that they are still working on drawing a window, to save the compositor diving in and drawing the existing pixmap, which may be uninitialised garbage.  Some people question whether compositor-specific hints belong in the EWMH at all, or whether they belong in some separate spec.

Meme: Someone is asking "What was your first word?" Mine was "gone." My grandfather used to play a game with me when I was a baby. He would take an object, like a building block, and then hide it and say "Gone".

marnanel: (Default)
Are there any words you can't stand the sound of?
No, not really.  I think each word has its own special beauty and is useful in its own place.  I don't have the revulsion to words like moist that some people claim to have.  Even a word like phthisis (presumably the source of "phtheezles" in Christopher Robin), though a name for a horrible thing, has its own strange beauty as a word.

If you are a colour, which colour are you?
Orange on some days, black on others.

What is your comfort food?
Hm.  In this country, gummy bears and milk chocolate.  In England, probably jelly babies, pickled onions, licorice allsorts, softgrain bread, and milk chocolate.
Do you consider yourself comfortable in your own skin?
Not really.  I tend to think it's rather ugly skin, covered with plaque as it is.  But a friend of mine took some pictures of it to show me it could be beautiful, and sometimes I look at them in order to remember.
Tell me something true.
The Scottish parliament has the legal ability under the Scotland Act to raise or lower income tax by 3%.  This is theoretically called the Tartan Tax, but the power has never been used.  (I'm not sure whether this is the sort of thing you were looking for.)

Five words

Jun. 24th, 2009 11:58 pm
marnanel: (Default)
A meme from kjpepper and justkimu.  They gave me five words that they associate with me and asked me to talk about them.

hair: I always used to wear my hair fairly long even as a kid, but I last had my hair properly cut in January 2000.  I like the feel of my hair; it's one of the things I actually rather like about my body.  But perhaps if I ever start going bald I may shave it all off like Stuart Davis.

English: Do you mean the nationality or the language?  I love playing with the language.  As for the nationality, I met a deaf person a while ago and realised that they were the first person I'd met in six years who didn't immediately pigeonhole me because of the island on which I was born (so of course I tried to tell them anyway).

Fin: Not just my life partner, but also my inspiration.

messy: Interesting choice of word.  I could probably make money selling books on how messiness should be accepted as a way of life and a challenge, the way people do for change.

poly: I love many people.  Apparently this is not the default and needs a label.

England: already had this one.  I was born there, I love going back, I miss it very much.

livejournal: I have had one since fairly early on (I was one of the first 50,000) and for only the second time in my life, keeping a diary has since become part of my self.  (And it's been a privilege to play a small part in LJ culture.)

tree(s): trees are important to the planet because they refresh the air, and to me because they have the same effect on my mind.  And they are just as important to people I love, which makes them doubly and trebly important to me.

naps: why did you include that?  I don't take naps.

language: a lifelong obsession of mine, in very many ways.

test: test?!

You should feel free to give me five words to talk about, or ask for five words of your own.


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