January 5th 2008
Today: My New Year is like a bad joke (5)
Place of birth is not easily moved (6)
Yesterday, a rather beautiful redhead was walking in front of me when she tripped, and I grabbed her as she was falling off ther kerb (she claims I saved her life) - she looked a bit unsettled, so I sat her down and bought her a hot chocolate, and we talked for about three hours. OK, none of that was true, but Simon did this thing on his blog the other day where he collected the first line he'd written for each month of the year... I figured that, if I did the same thing for this year, I wanted a good beginning. Anyways, let's slip back into the medium we call 'truth'. Christmas was spent with my lovely family back in Zummerzet, and followed more or less traditional lines - carol singing with Paddy Ashdown again, don't you know - which was grand. Although Mum is still getting over the traditional muddy Boxing Day walk, methinks, and Dad must be stung by losing Pokemon Monopoly to his niece (yes, I know. It should be Pokemonopoly). Anyways, before New Year I travelled with Rich, Ant (whose birthday was recent, so happy birthday to him) & Tom to Dave & Christine's place in Liverpool. Road trip! That was all good, and I generously allowed Dave to beat me at Fifa occasionally. In fact, we played a fair few games: Fifa, Tekken, Apples to Apples, Rapidough, Kingdoms, bowling... all good. Well, I sucked at bowling, but never mind. D&C ensured we'd cleared out before 2008, so I saw in the new year at Rich's place, which was also excellent - and involved plenty more games, including my worst game of Scrabble in a while (in which I grabbed second place on the final round with a lucky shot at 'afeared') and a rather better one ('leching' and 'motorist' among the points). And now I'm back in Bristol, and spent the evening watching Rain Man, having decided I was too tired to study productively. I'll get some work in tomorrow morning. Or afternoon. Possibly even both. Anyways, I've got a few thoughts in my head about topics to cover in the coming days and weeks, but now is not the time, so I shall wish you all a Happy New Year and say good night.
January 7th 2008
Today: Not even rum (3)
My New Year is like a bad joke (5)
The word 'genius' is overused nowadays, don't you think? Most notably when some Johnny at the BBC 'responding to mass public criticism' department used the word to describe Catherine Tate. Tate is many things, but genius she is not - I, myself, would have preferred the marginally less ringing endorsement 'relatively talented'. Or perhaps 'relatively untalented', as they can come to much the same thing. For real genius, you either have to go to chocolate biscuits (thank you Tom) or moments like this evening, when the last bites of my dinner coincided almost exactly with Scrubs finishing. That is solid gold genius. In other news, I've directed you occasionally over to Simon's literary blog, and you've probably realised by now that it's wildly more popular than the page you're currently reading. Hell, most of my friends never read this thing, whereas he's got famous readers the length and breadth of the home counties. Even though this predated his by years. Anyway, enough bitterness - this is a depository for congratulations, since his literary reviews have led him to being quoted on the back of a book by some lass called Angela Young. Impressive stuff! Even if the phrase he's supposed to have said ("If you like Maggie O'Farrell, you'll love Angela Young") doesn't appear anywhere in the review he gave. In fact, he didn't even hint it. Maybe it was authorised by his press department. Anyways, when he's publishing his own mutli-million selling novels, I hope to get quoted on the back of 'em. "Nice book" or something similarly literary. Anyways, I want to briefly (before today becomes tomorrow) mention delivery - which I've been meaning to do for a while, and keep forgetting. There are some actors whose delivery can make even rubbish jokes seem hilarious funny: I'm thinking principally of Matthew Perry here. But then there are actors whose delivery is so good that they can even make things that aren't jokes hilariously funny - John C. McGinley, or - on a good day - Rowan Atkinson. Sadly, though, comedy is really filled with people whose delivery makes funny jokes sound awful... think David Schwimmer in later series of Friends. Or anyone on BBC3. Outside the field of comedy, there are some lines or phrases (not many that I've come across - though I reckon I wrote one myself once) that are so moving, you can say 'em any old way and you'll get goosebumps. Then there are others which are brilliant, but I know there are hidden depths that only the great actors can really explore, and speaking them myself leaves them hollow - here, the best example I can think of is Juliet's "My only love sprung from my only hate". Epic stuff, as Jimmy Lee would say. 11.59pm now, so to keep within the limits of the day, I shall say good bye.
January 12th 2008
Today: Strong man who was distressed? (6)
Not even rum (3)
I know it's a few days overdue, and I still haven't worked out if meme is said to rhyme with dream, or as in me-me (which seems to fit the egotistical nature of the beast), but here goes for 2007:
1. What did you do in 2007 that you'd never done before?
Where to start? Started work, graduated, bought an umbrella, slept on a futon, left home properly, ushered at a wedding, paid taxes, drank beer...
2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
According to last year's quiz, I swore to avenge myself on Ant's sister. Well, she's been in China all year, so I guess she wins. I've already broken this year's resolution more times than I care to think about - but as an advance notice, I plan to give up tea for Lent.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Jenny from QRBC, definitely. And possibly some others (it's difficult - for me, at least - to remember what was 2007 and what was before).
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Grandad died last year.
5. What countries did you visit?
England... yeah, England. Oh, and Wales, at Houseparty.
6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?
Just a note that I achieved last year's aim of 'a salary' - this year, it's a harder call. I guess I like some of the things back that I lost in 2007.
7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Graduation (not that I remember the date), Dave & Chris's wedding (Aug 4th), moving to Bristol (Aug 30th), starting work (Sep 3rd). All pretty momentous.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Nabbing that first class degree I'd been after for the last three(ish) years. Getting a job with AXA, after a pretty long and not especially fun process (which, I guess, could have been worse).
9. What was your biggest failure?
I'm gonna avoid most of the depressing questions, I think - what's the point? I guess getting 62.8% in Galois Theory was annoying, and I still don't understand where I lost 30 marks on Intro to Topology. But that's all academic.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yes - but then, I also enjoyed recovery from a problem I'd been having for over a year (praise the Lord!). No serious illness to report.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
All of us who graduated this time round - especially Richard. I was very glad to be there with him when he read his results. Oh, and Phil did well not to lose the rings at his brother's wedding. He also made a hilarious best man's speech.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
The cast of Spider-Man 3. What a disappointment that was.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Tax! This isn't true, but I want to gripe. I guess the answer is still rent, although I'm spending a fair bit on DVDs still. And bought more ties last year than ever before, by a massive, massive margin.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Three 'really's? It's the old mix of graduation and the Lake wedding. I was also very excited by going back to CU Houseparty, which was a definite highlight of the year.
16. What song will always remind you of 2007?
Maybe 'Long Road Out of Eden', the title track from the Eagles' latest album (that's if I can remember the release date in years to come). It was a good album from one of the great bands - check out their greatest hits, if you haven't done so already.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
Sadder. Well, what did you expect?
ii. thinner or fatter?
A bit fatter, I think. Not many more years of being able to eat what I like without consequence... therefore I should enjoy it while I can!
iii. richer or poorer?
Richer, now I actually have a job.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Winning the lottery. Seeing Powly (it's been well over two years, for goodness' sake!)
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Me: "Of what do you wish you'd done less?" Rich: "Of what do you wish you'd done fewer?"
20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Carol singing with Paddy Ashdown, if the last two years are anything to go by.
22. Did you fall in love in 2007?
Yet again, I did not. Nor did anyone fall in love with me. But I did see some good love films.
24. What was your favourite TV program?
I've definitely been getting more into Top Gear - Matt & I arrange church around it - and am still enjoying Scrubs. Also revisited Red Dwarf, and appreciated The Office more than I ever have before.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No. Hate is stupid.
26. What was the best book you read?
It seems I didn't say 'The Bible' last year, which was a mistake. So 'The Bible'. A Christmas Carol was surprisingly good (after the horror of Hard Times)... I'm always really rubbish at remembering which books I've read. There was one about Lucy Hampton that I recommend - but it's not actually been published yet. Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword was excellent, the last Harry Potter hooked me as much as the others have, A Mathematician's Apology was intriguing but under-developed, Watching the English was very enjoyable... that'll do for now.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I realised how great Cliff was as a singer - never revolutionary in his music, but brilliant nonetheless.
28. What did you want and get?
A job, a first class degree... a new sandwich toaster. And a snowman called Wilbur.
29. What did you want and not get?
A decent Spider-Man 3, any of my friends to move to Bristol.
30. What was your favourite film of this year?
Stardust was very enjoyable, Amazing Grace was brilliant - and I think it was 2007 that I first saw the fantastic Rocky. Of those, Rocky and Amazing Grace are among my all-time favourite films. The worst film was undoubtedly Sunshine.
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old?
I turned 22 and watched Ocean's 13.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Adopting a polar bear. No, wait, I did that... I'm not feeling in a very self-analytical mood, so I'm gonna pass on this one.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?
Shirt & tie, with suit jacket where possible. Trousers if the occasion demands.
34. What kept you sane?
Who says I kept sane? Or me?
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Neve Campbell, perhaps. Churchill: The Hollywood Years reminded me just how cute she is. I've gone off Carla Bonner since she and Max split up (who says I can tell the difference between real life and TV? See previous answer). It wouldn't be me if I didn't put in a word for Kirsten Dunst, out of loyalty as much as anything else.
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
I've thought a fair bit about Tony Blair, actually, and his legacy. While this was kinda true before, I took a far more active interest in his latter months.
37. Who did you miss?
Tony Blair. Oh, and more or less everyone I've ever cared about.
38. Who was the best new person you met?
The guys on the team at work - Dave, Lou and Mark - are great people with whom to work. People like Kate, Ben, Anna and Yung-Bum (that must be spelled wrong, I apologise) at church, and I hope to meet many more in the next few months.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007:
There is freedom in surrender. Being vulnerable with other people is great, so long as you love and trust them. Jesus Christ has chosen me, and if He's done that, who can argue? Still learning that last one.
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
You know, I feel pretty good, but that ain't sayin' much. I could feel a whole lot better.
Brownsville Girl - Bob Dylan
I occasionally wonder whether people who've read my diary entries ever come back and manage to read the second-in-the-same-day entries, like this one. Maybe this is the place I can bury things so that people who read my diary frequently enough to hit the gap between first and second items, but not keenly enough to check back, don't find out about them. Alternatively, if there's stuff I don't want people to read, I could just not write it. Anyways, I like Kirsten Dunst as much as the next man - a mild understatement - but even I have to wonder whether Bring It On really deserved 3 sequels (Bring It On Again, Bring It On: All Or Nothing and Bring It On: In It To Win It). None of which, by the way, featured Ms Dunst, whose abilites are rather too developed nowadays for her to appear in straight-to-video cheerleading flicks. In other news, I'm not going to pretend to be an expert in American (or, indeed, any other kind of) politics, but I've been reading about Obama vs Clinton in recent weeks with some interest. The big news last week, amid caucuses (surely cauci? Apparently not) and primaries - I have little idea what these are - was that Hillary almost cried at one point, and thus won swathes of women's votes. This has led sundry commentators to muse on sexism, with the theory that female politicians can/can't cry, whereas their male counterparts can't/can (delete according to whom you read, and when). But I guess, for me, two bigger things arose from this: firstly, who are these voters who change their mind based on such minor things? This applies in the UK too, where Gordon Brown or David Cameron can move massively in opinion polls based on where they go on holiday, what tie they're wearing, how often they smile... good grief. If you're gonna vote, people, at least pretend you're not vacuous buffoons. The second thing I noticed was the question Hillary was asked before she almost cried: "How do you manage to stay so upbeat and wonderful?" Come on! Can you imagine this question being asked in the UK (except on Richard & Judy)? It's so sycophantic, it's quite astonishingly unpolitical, it's mawkish... I don't wish to offend my American readership - yes, I have American readership - but it really does spell out a difference between our two nations. Another difference being that we'd never make three sequels to a cheerleading romcom. Oh, and it turns out the woman who asked the question ended up voting for Obama.
January 18th 2008
Today: Policemen get soap ordered (7)
Strong man who was distressed? (6)
Time for a discourse on the primes, I feel. I'm not going to spend time here explaining why they're so darn beautiful (mmm... 67) or the fascinating history of mathematical investigation into number theory, which to me is the most interesting and beautiful aspect of maths. Or, indeed, pretty much anything else in the sphere of academia. Nope, I'm going to bypass all that, and go for the definition of prime, which I'm pretty sure you don't know. No, you think you do - you think it's a number that can only be divided by itself and one. Some of the more confident among you are thinking (like a lass who wrote into the Times recently) that some confusion around the phrase 'itself and one' is the reason that 1 isn't a prime. But that's all complete and utter garbage, I'm afraid. Let's start from scratch. And please read this - it will change your life for the better!
The natural numbers are 1,2,3,4... and so on (sometimes 0 is included too, but don't worry about that).
A unit is any number that divides 1. This means that 1 is a multiple of it. So, of the natural numbers, only 1 is a unit. If we were looking at all the whole numbers ('integers'), instead of just the positive ones, -1 is also a unit.
The definition of a prime includes the fact that it isn't a unit. So 1 definitely isn't a prime, ever.
The rest of the definition of a prime, p, is as follows: if p divides ab, then p divides a or b (or both). Remember, 'p divides ab' means that ab is a multiple of p - and I'm using 'ab' to mean 'a times b'.
So, an example: 6 divides 9x4 (= 6x6), but 6 doesn't divide 9 or 4 - hence is not a prime.
The definition you thought you knew - which, concisely, is that you cannot write p = ab where a and b are both non-units - is in fact the definition of an 'irreducible'. And, indeed, if you just take the whole numbers, all irreducibles are primes, and vice versa, which is why the definition is what is normally taught.
But (and this is where you might get a bit lost if you're not mathematically inclined), what about if we take a different field, say Z[(-5)^1/2]. You might be wondering what on earth this is - it is all the numbers that can be written in the form a + ((-5)^(1/2))b where a and b are integers. Oh, and (-5)^(1/2) is a convoluted way of writing 'the square root of minus five', which you needn't worry too much about (but you can refer to my mention of imaginary numbers back in 2004 sometime, if you wish).
OK, so we have our field - now (1+(-5)^(1/2))x(1-(-5)^(1/2)) = 6 = 2x3, so we have the case that 2 is an irreducible (take my word for this) but it isn't prime, since it divides (1+(-5)^(1/2))x(1-(-5)^(1/2)) but doesn't divide (1+(-5)^(1/2)) or (1-(-5)^(1/2)).
If you understood that, then congrats - not only should you consider studying number theory in more depth, but you're also very good at working out laborious typed nonsense that would be much simpler written down. Anyways, there you have it: the correct definition of a prime, and the fact that 2 isn't always a prime. It depends on the field.
One last fact for you: the things that you have erroneously been calling 'prime numbers' all your life are better labelled the 'rational primes'. I'm not sure I've fully got across how interesting this stuff is, but I promise you: of all the modules I did at Uni, Algebraic Number Theory ranks somewhere very near the top, and quite possibly the highest, in terms of how fascinating it is.
January 24th 2008
Today: Claude, for one, is raised a simpleton (5)
Policemen get soap ordered (7)
Every now and then I write an entry that gets people talking, and last time's musings on the primes got messages from most of the usual suspects - Rob said it was interesting, Mum said she read most of it, and Ant (or 'Ameise' as we call him now) insinuated rather that I am not going to make it as a pedagogue. Speaking of which, Dad and I were trying to work out the etymology of 'pedagogue', and one of his outstanding set of reference books provided the answer - it derives from the slave who accompanied a lad to school in the olden days, and was beaten in his place for any wrongdoing. So there you go. I thought it might derive from 'ped' meaning 'foot' and 'agog' meaning 'to be amazed'. Or, as Dad summarised, 'amazing feet'. I know Ant harbours some desires to teach, so only he can decide whether he'd rather be beaten for a kid's misdemeanours, or have amazing feet. Anyways, Sam has told me in no uncertain terms (and quite accurately) that I am tired and should go to bed. So I will, and you'll have to wait before reading my thoughts on Severus Snape. Oh, and today's crossword clue came from the Times, so is rather more difficult than most - but I think Simon should be able to solve it.
January 26th 2008
Today: Almost following a trend (5,1,7)
Claude, for one, is raised a simpleton (5)
Last night at the Shrubbery was the second house party of my time here - ostensibly in celebration of Sam's birthday, which was a couple of weeks ago. Now, regular readers will know that dancing, alcohol and loud music aren't necessarily my scene, but I had a good time, and recognised a fair few people from the hip-hop party all those months ago. The theme this time round was rather more suited to my wardrobe, being as it was a geek or chic party (one lass clearly misread the invite, and came dressed as a sheep) - I thought short and easy (y'know, as opposed to long and hard) about which half of the description to embrace, and ended up as a geek. After spending twenty minutes trying to tie my bow-tie (having found various websites with diagrams, one of which presciently including the warning "I'm not convinced you can learn to tie a bow tie from a diagram--it didn't work for me") I gave up and went for my maths tie. Which isn't that geeky... OK, it's quite horribly geeky, but I like it a lot - as does my mother, who bought it for me. Anyways, completing the illusion with my regular glasses, a regular shirt, a jumper I'd last worn in earnest three days beforehand, and socks'n'sandals (I also tucked my jeans into my socks, which I'm not sure anyone noticed), I felt I was geeked up enough to par-tay. If found that I was not alone in preferring geek to chic, as well over half went with the former (though not two guys who decided that the invitation entitled them to cross-dress... seems like clutching at any reason to me. But when you look as good as Mike does in a blonde wig, why not?). Anyways, I leave you with a picture of me, Katie and James (who surpassed himself in costume). The jury is out whether I look like a geek, but I've realised that those glasses really do make me look gay. You decide!
January 29th 2008
Today: Composer and criminal paroled to a young man's place (8,3)
Almost following a trend (5,1,7)
Answer: after a fashion
The Oscars are around the corner - well, the nominations have been announced, at least - and this puts me in a film mood. Actually, I've only seen one of the films that's been nominated at this year's Academy Awards, and that was Pirates of the Caribbean III, which has had make-up and visual effects thrown in its direction. All in all, not a vintage year for me, filmwise, so I thought I'd try and redress the balance a little by telling you my all-time favourite supporting actors, which might sound arbitrary, but it's what I've been thinking of. In fact, I was going to go the whole hog and give my all-time Oscar noms for best actress, supporting actress, actor, director... maybe I will later. But as far as supporting actors goes, here's your lot (oh, and it's not in order, particularly):
Albert Finney - Amazing Grace
Morgan Freeman - The Shawshank Redemption
Christopher Lloyd - Back to the Future
Jack Nicholson - The Departed
Harrison Ford - Star Wars
Robin Williams - Good Will Hunting
So there you go. Of those, Robin Williams only came to me as I was scanning my DVD collection for people I'd forgotten to mention - and, in fact, he's the only one who actually won the thing for real for the role listed above. Indeed, he's the only one who was nominated. I can't help but feel I've forgotten someone there... I'll update it if I remember. Having looked at the actual list on Wikipedia, I see that I own the films for which a further 17 actors were nominated - including 4 wins. Curious.
Well, I expected to be out at a church thing this evening, but when I got there, it seemed pretty empty... this stirred vague memories of Mike saying it would be at his house that evening, but I wasn't confident enough to stride up and knock on his door. Anyways, it was part 3/3, and I'd not been able to go to the first two, so perhaps it's for the best. Well, it looks like I now have a spare evening, so I'm going to extend my Oscar-themed entry, by going as whole hog as I know how. I've tried to go for five in each category (but didn't want to kick out any of my supporting actors, so I've just repeated them from above - and left out a supporting actress. Because I ran out).
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Tom Hanks - Forrest Gump
James Stewart - Harvey
Gregory Peck - To Kill A Mockingbird
Sylvester Stallone - Rocky
Jim Carrey - The Truman Show
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Keira Knightley - Pride and Prejudice
Kirsten Dunst - Crazy\Beautiful
Claire Danes - Romeo + Juliet
Reese Witherspoon - Walk the Line
Gwyneth Paltrow - Shakespeare in Love
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Albert Finney - Amazing Grace
Morgan Freeman - The Shawshank Redemption
Christopher Lloyd - Back to the Future
Jack Nicholson - The Departed
Harrison Ford - Star Wars
Robin Williams - Good Will Hunting
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Jennifer Connelly - A Beautiful Mind
Romola Garai - Amazing Grace
Mary Badham - To Kill A Mockingbird
Robin Wright - Forrest Gump