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January 1st 2010
A very happy New Year to you all! And, indeed a new decade with an unspecified name. Last time round we got the 'noughties', which was pretty horrific, and we'll have to pick between the 'tens', the 'teens' and the 'tenties' for the next ten years. I think we can be united in hoping that it's not the third of those. Anyways, without further fluster, I'll get down to what you've been waiting for: that end-of-year Q&A thingy. Here goes.
1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?
Got promoted, failed an exam for the second time, understood anything about economics (don't worry, I've mostly forgotten it all again), been to a football match by myself, been to Old Trafford, seen a non-English football team play, went on a stag weekend... that's all I can think of at the mo.
2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
This year's are much the same as last year's (more prayer and study, less streaking at football matches), which demonstrates their success in 2009.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
From church, Jay & Becky and Phil & Heather both had daughters (in each pairing, the latter person had rather more to do on the day of the birth). Also William, my cousin's son, and Freya, a different cousin's daughter. Though light help me if I can remember whether Freya was 2009 or 2008. And, as usual, I'm sure there are more that I've forgotten.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
None of my closer friends or relations. But death is there every year.
5. What countries did you visit?
Wales, England... not Scotland, in 2009, I don't think. Another year where I haven't really widened my horizons, though 2010 should see my first time leaving Europe as I jet over to the States.
6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
Central heating that works! OK, I had that for most of 2009, but not since moving house around September. Also, CA3! Third time's a charm.
7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
As usual I can't remember the dates, but seeing Wolves' last match of the season, in which the League Championship trophy was paraded, will live long in the memory. You know, I've been answering this question for years, and it's only now I wonder if they're actually referring to edible dates.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Eating the UK's biggest burger! That was a great day, even if Mei thought I was drunk afterwards. My reactions were somewhat slowed, it is true.
9. What was your biggest failure?
CA3 again, I suppose. Hey, this could become a running thing!
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
A great deal of pain, though not quite sure what it was. There's even money on a kidney stone.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
I got my first vacuum cleaner, for only 15. Bagless and all. That was one hell of a purchase, and we'll not see its like again... oh, and a pi t-shirt.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
We have to hand it to the newly weds - Andy & Rachael, Jake & Amy, James & Beth - and the newly engageds - Ben & Laura, Steve & Bronwen, Ant & Becca. Top work, all. On a less personal note, Frank Skinner's columns for the Times started in 2009 and have proved excellent, particularly his writing on drunkenness. He joins Simon Barnes, Hugo Rifkind, Caitlin Moran and Daniel Finkenstein on the list of my favourite Times writers.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Anyone who watches the X Factor, David Dimbleby, footballers who insist on taking their shirts off to celebrate a goal despite knowing they'll get booked, my old landlord for daylight robbery.
14. Where did most of your money go?
As was the case last year, another deposit. Also buying the Beatles re-issues in both mono and stereo didn't come cheap.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Shoe laces. Not really.
16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Probably Sweet Child O' Mine, which I listened to a lot in my last house. No particular reason except that it's a great song.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
Ah, I have a New Year's resolution to be happier. So there that is.
ii. thinner or fatter?
This is one of the more pertinent questions here. It's hard to escape the fact that, over the last 12 months, I have become fat. I've gone up a trouser size and was recently described (by my boss) as being 6 months pregnant. Hence the bag of carrot sticks sitting next to me.
iii. richer or poorer?
Richer - even though my promotion did not come with a pay rise. I don't really care - honest, I don't - but I'm just saying.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Eating fruit and vegetables. Don't worry, this will pass, and no doubt sooner than it ought.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Eating cookies.
20. How will you be spending Christmas?
On top of a Christmas tree.
22. Did you fall in love in 2009?
I did not.
24. What was your favourite TV program?
The West Wing has dominated the latter part of this year - first I borrowed it from Rick, then I bought the box set myself. In the first couple of seasons, particularly, it is brilliant - Rob Lowe and Bradley Whitford are especially good, and Aaron Sorkin is a smashing writer. Oh, and Matthew Perry turns up in series 4. I have also loved Gavin and Stacey, the last episode of which is actually on in ten minutes' time, so I may make a hiatus before getting to the end of this.
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?
None of the books that I've read for the first time this year have blown me away. Michael J Fox's second book was good, but too political; Roger Moore's autobiography showed him to be rather immature and mercenary; The Catcher in the Rye was good, but in an Adrian Mole kind of way; Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage is brilliant but doesn't really count... actually, I'm going to say Fermat's Last Theorem. That was a very good book, even if it greatly exaggerated the importance of said theorem - Gauss was right in being unimpressed by it, I reckon. I was reading several maths-related tomes around the same time I read Fermat, of which The Music of the Primes was also superb.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I've listened to a lot of Guns 'N' Roses - or, rather, I've listened to their greatest hits a lot and not much else. There weren't really any discoveries this year, just growing in affection for artists I already knew, including the Beatles and Billy Joel.
28. What did you want and get?
Wolves into the Premiership!! Beautiful. Also, the latest Wheel of Time book (which I'm getting closer to reading, Dad, fear not).
29. What did you want and not get?
The latest Adrian Mole book. Though I only found out a month or so ago that there was one, and I expect to buy it in the next week or so using book vouchers I got for Christmas.
30. What was your favourite film of this year?
I'm better prepared for this question than I usually am, since I'm preparing a separate entry to cover 2009 films. Without wanting to step on the toes of that too much, I'll just say that The Time Traveler's Wife was my film of the year.
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old?
I'm now as old as there are hours in the day, having turned 24. James Lee's stag weekend overlapped my birthday, which meant I got to share it with some of the best folks in the world (James, Guy, Steve, Matt and Jason among them), and I also got two cakes.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A broken satisfaction-measuring kit.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Almost all my trousers got holes in them. But I've only replaced two pairs, for some reason.
34. What kept you sane?
I like how the default position here is insanity. I don't think I required anything in particular to keep me in my original position of sanity.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
This year has been all about Rachel McAdams.
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
The West Wing has got me more interested and educated in American politics; the fact that the country splits neatly into two groups who disagree about pretty much everything is quite astounding. Also, the level of corruption, as recently shown by the concessions made to Nevada in the healthcare reform, is mind-blowing.
37. Whom did you miss?
Same old, same old.
38. Who was the best new person you met?
Er... since I didn't include Diana (Yongbom's wife) from church last year, I guess I must have met her in 2009. Though maybe it was late 2008... anyways, I'm counting her. I can't really think of newly met people, as I'm in the same job, same church, same home group, same housemate... sorry, folks.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:
If you go to bed late, you'll get up late.
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
The entirety of Up the Junction by Squeeze, which is reproduced below for your delectation:

I never thought it would happen
With me and the girl from Clapham
Out on the windy common
That night I ain't forgotten
When she dealt out the rations
With some or other passions
I said "You are a lady"
"Perhaps" she said "I may be"

We moved into a basement
With thoughts of our engagement
We stayed in by the telly
Although the room was smelly
We spent our time just kissing
The Railway Arms we're missing
But loving got us hooked up
And all our time it took up

I got a job with Stanley
He said I'd come in handy
And started me on Monday
So I had a bath on Sunday
I worked eleven hours
And bought the girl some flowers
She said she'd seen a doctor
And nothing now could stop her
I worked all through the winter
The weather brought some bitter
I put away a tenner
Each week to make her better
And when the time was ready
We had to sell the telly
Late evenings by the fire
The little kicks inside her

This morning at four fifty
I took her rather nifty
Down to an incubator
Where thirty minutes later
She gave birth to a daughter
Within a year a walker
She looked just like her mother
If there could be another

And now she's two years older
Her mother's with a soldier
She left me when my drinking
Became a proper stinging
The devil came and took me
From bar to street to bookie
No more nights by the telly
No more nights nappies smelly

Alone here in the kitchen
I feel there's something missing
I beg for some forgiveness
Thought begging's not my business
And she won't write a letter
Although I always tell her
And so it's my assumption
I'm really up the junction

January 3rd 2010
Originally presented in the format of Ant's blog - click here

January 13th 2010
My apologies for misleading you last time round, if you thought you were actually reading Ant's blog. You'll be pleased to know that he's now updated it with rather more accurate details of his engagement, so allow me to direct you that way (see links page).
In Spider-man news, you may or may not have seen that Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Sam Raimi have pulled out of Spider-man 4 - while I wasn't happy when I found out, I'm not sure it's such bad news. The studio apparently wanted too much control over the script, and were pushing Raimi et al to get the film done for a deadline rather than allowing creative credibility to reign supreme: in short, they were doing exactly what they did to make Spider-man 3 such a devastating disappointment. While I maintain that, at its core, there was a good film there trying to get out, Spider-man 3 was a massive fall from Spider-man 2 - which, in my opinion, is the best superhero film ever made. Rather than seeing the legacy further damaged, it's probably best that Maguire, Dunst and Raimi leave us to remember those first two, great, films. Unless we have the trio back on their own - and particularly Raimi's - terms, there's no point.
...But, of course, the studio plans to go ahead with a fourth Spider-man film, 'rebooting' the 'franchise' (just because Casino Royale did it brilliantly doesn't mean everyone should try it) and giving us some teenage angst Spidey. It's a terrible idea. Of course, a film about Who Wants to be a Millionaire? is a pretty bad idea, and that produced the rather good Slumdog Millionaire (showing now on Channel 4), so who knows? Good luck to 'em.
In other news, if you want to be really depressed, read this particularly poignant article in the Sunday Times.

January 20th 2010
Time, I think, for a quick review of the lives and times of my University housemates:
David: has been married to Christine for two and a half years
Anthony: is engaged to be married to Becca this summer
Tom: is in a long-term relationship and shares a house with Katerina
Richard: has been going out with Michelle for a few months
Iain: was, I think, single when he headed off to China - I'm counting on you, Iain
Colin: was told, a few weeks ago, that he looked handsome wearing glasses. By his grandmother
So, there you go. I must confess that there are greater worries in my life - Wolves' consistently poor defending, the fact the I only came in third of four in the Friends 'Scene It?' trivia game last weekend, the fact that there are people out there who think Harriet Harman should run for Labour leader, my inability to pronounce the word 'minutiae' - but it makes unpleasant musing nonetheless. Perhaps if I shave and litter my conversation with reference to the work I've done in homeless shelters (er... only one evening so far, but there will be more) I'll be all set. Girls love an actuary, y'know.
In other news, if this diary has a catchphrase - and it's a big if, I grant you - it's the phrase "in other news", crowbarred in whenever I can't be bothered to think up a link between paragraphs. Hey, if you want fluency you should read, y'know, stuff that's more, well, fluent, shouldn't you? Anyways, I think I have conclusive proof that the great Matthew Perry is a devotee of this page - and here it is.
In other news (see?) I actually got to do some maths today! Well, it was still more arithmetic than maths, but I had to work out some calculations that took me a couple of hours to get right, and I got that lovely feeling of achievement when it all finally came together; a feeling that I remember well from my University days when hours spent on assignment sheets paid off. At heart, I will always be more a mathematician than an actuary.

January 22nd 2010
Before I kick off my Film Awards 2009 (catchy, no?), I have to confess that its scope is somewhat limited. While I've stolen wholesale the names of the various Academy Awards, I haven't stolen their film collection, so I'm only drawing from the nine 2009 films that I actually saw (all of 'em are represented at least once). I hope it won't spoil your fun. I've put four in each of the main categories, all in order with the winner (I'm using 'winner' in rather a loose sense - the Colin's Online Diary Film Awards, or 'Coddies', bring with them no prize) in bold. The lesser categories only have the winner and a runner up. I got tired.
I tend not to get a lot of comments on this page - it's a function of not having a lot of readers - but please feel free to let me know your views.

Best Picture
The Time Traveler's Wife - a genuinely romantic film with two excellent leads, the tone is always right whether dealing with the benefits, the annoyances or the heartbreaks of time travel. This is beautifully shot, engaging in a way the book wasn't, and blends the matter-of-fact with the extraordinary to give a view of two ordinary people tied together by something extraordinary.
Slumdog Millionaire - as it demonstrated at the Oscars, this film was a triumph from an unlikely subject matter.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - uneven at times, but with greater emotional depth than before.
Star Trek - any film that made Star Trek acceptable to watch must be regarded with awe.

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) - there was no standout winner for this one, but Patel's unmannered performance made him interesting even when he was just answering trivia questions. Not being particularly well known beforehand, he was perfect to play someone thrust into the limelight, showing a winning blend of naivety and self-confidence.
Eric Bana (The Time Traveler's Wife) - full of love and humour, but also the pain of time travel.
Chris Pine (Star Trek) - his James T. Kirk was wonderfully arrogant, and - apparently - quite Shatneresque.
Zac Efron (17 Again) - the boy actually acts pretty well, y'know.

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Rachel McAdams (The Time Traveler's Wife) - an incredible performance, showing the pure delight of Clare's love affair with Henry, the confusion of loving a man who doesn't really know you, the difficulties and torment of being a time traveller's wife and the deepness of love that transcends those same difficulties. It's a silly conceit, but McAdams played this as a love story above anything else, and it pays off.
Actually, I didn't see any other films with leading actresses, really. McAdams would have come top in any field, but she was particularly helped by being the sole contender in this one.

Best Director
Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) - his vision of three people growing up in India was superbly filmed, full of energy and often awe-inspiring. It takes a skilful director to make a book about Who Wants to be a Millionaire into a watchable film, let alone a multi-Oscar winning success. He coaxed wonderful performances out of a young cast to spectacular effect.
J. J. Abrams (Star Trek) - only a confident man takes on Star Trek, but he breathed new life into a very old franchise.
Ken Loach (Looking for Eric) - until its climax, he manages to bring social realism to what should be a ludicrous film.
Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveler's Wife) - it's a great film, so I guess he must have done something right.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Tom Feldon (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) - there can be little doubt which Harry Potter kid has grown up the best actor. Feldon's troubled Malfoy had an emotional weight and more complexity than is generally seen in the Potter films, as the character has gone from cartoon villain to inviting the audience's sympathy.
Eric Cantona (Looking for Eric) - it's not easy to play yourself, but he pulled it off without being ridiculous.
Zachary Quinto (Star Trek) - an excellent Spock, forming a great double act with Pine's Kirk.
Matthew Perry (17 Again) - well, I've got to really, haven't I?

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Helen Mirren (State of Play) - not exactly an understated performance, but hard to set an adjective to. Mirren's newspaper editor was the perfect foil for Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams; she is definitely fighting their corner but won't settle for anything less than the best. She adds an extra dimension to a film that is a notch above a thriller.
Emma Watson (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) - has the most emotional weight in the film's romantic subplots.
Jennifer Garner (The Invention of Lying) - plays her part of innocence well in an ultimately disappointing film.
Rachel McAdams (State of Play) - plays well off Russell Crowe's hard-bitten reporter.

Best Visual Effects
2012 - absolutely stunning. The film's storyline is fairly risible, and though the performances are good, they are nothing more than a sideshow to the real star: the special effects. Imagine The Day After Tomorrow but much, much better as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and more destroy most of the Earth.
Star Trek - they had to be good, and they were. Nothing to take the breath away especially, but still strong.

Best Writing - Adapted Screenplay
The Time Traveler's Wife - whereas Clare and Henry are fairly unlikeable in the book, and much of the romance is overshadowed in crudity, the film is a triumph. Critics would suggest that the characters have become more 'movie-friendly', and while this is probably true, it was a necessary move to invoke any empathy. The screenplay managed to stay relatively close to the happenings of the novel, invariably missing out only those bits which deserved to be avoided.
Slumdog Millionaire - I've not read the book, but the adaptation is spectacular.

Best Writing - Original Screenplay
Star Trek - it's stretching a point to call this an original screenplay, given the debt it owes to previous TV series and films, but almost all the films I saw in 2009 were adapted. This is an origins story that manages to entice even those who - like me - knew very little about Star Trek before. Bringing Leonard Nimoy in as an older Spock was inspired.
17 Again - it borrows from a dozen other films, but does what it does rather well.

Best Animated Feature
Up - probably. I didn't see it. In fact, I didn't see any animated films. I think I'll leave this one now.

Best Sound Editing
Oh, who cares? I'm going to bed.

January 30th 2010
I am a Christian, and this is a blog (I've grown to accept the word, even if I maintain the phrase 'online diary' where I can) so I guess that makes it a Christian blog. And I figure that a large number of Christian blogs this morning will be talking about Richard Dawkins' article in the Times yesterday, and I will be no different, though I am wary of doing so. I'm not going to direct you towards the article, since it is, to be frank, hateful and vitriolic, not to mention wrong-headed - oh, there is a kernel of truth hidden within the contempt, but then lies always speak loudest when they are tied to truth.
Dawkins claims that Christianity is chiefly concerned with sin and its atonement - as if that's a bad thing. Anyone who believes that humans don't do things that are wrong are rather odd, and the fundamental message of Christianity - that, through Jesus' death, we have the opportunity to be treated by God as though we hadn't done anything wrong, as Jesus has willingly taken the punishment in our place - is a supremely glorious one. It is the optimum of love. It is why we need not fear punishment in this life, and why Haiti's current sufferings are not - despite Pat Robertson's suggestions - God exercising His wrath. Dawkins has somehow convinced himself that such a message is 'nasty'.
I don't want to go on about this, since Dawkins is a professional Christian-baiter and I'm just rising to it - I'll admit that he makes me very angry, but anger of that kind is no use to anyone, and less than healthy to me.
So let me talk about happier things. I have used the line 'I work in modelling' before now to suggest an occupation that is rather more glamorous than coding actuarial models, but until this week it was only ever a joke (if a weak one). Well, you're now looking at the blog of a professional (and, by professional, I mean completely unpaid) model, as I am due to appear on some of AXA's internal literature. Probably. Allow me to explain: AXA is facing some budgetary constraints these days, what with the recession and all - yes, I know we're out of the recession now, but 0.1% doth not a revival make - so put out a call for AXA employees to be photographed in place of professional models. Obviously I didn't volunteer for this, but my colleague Pete entered my name and so I had little choice - apart, of course, from entering his name too, which I did. Anyhow, it wasn't quite as excruciating as I thought it might be, and I am due either to be 'man training people' or 'shoulder of man being trained'. You can probably guess which is more likely to make the cut - while I do not believe myself to be ugly, I am also no one's idea of an enticing prospect, photographically - but rest assured I'll put the results on here as soon as they come up. My mug shot, though, was probably destroyed within seconds of its being taken.

what was I listening to?
Unplugged - Bob Dylan
what was I reading?
The Audacity of Hope - Barack Obama
what was I watching?
Seabiscuit
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