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March 1st 2011
Saturday - or, as the Germans put it, Samstag or Sonnabend - marked the first anniversary of my time in this house, living with Matt. I marked the occasion by wishing Matt a happy anniversary (inadvertently sparking rumours that we were getting engaged), and Wolves marked the occasion by beating Blackpool 4-0, our biggest ever Premier League win. I'm going to be heading up to Molineux with Ben to see Wolves vs Spurs this Sunday, and I'm in confident mood. I'll keep you posted.
Something else I promised I'd keep you posted about was my endeavour to read only books I hadn't previously read this year. So far this has taken me to 'The Complete Yes Minister' (Anthony Jay & Jonathan Lynn), the second volume of Michael Palin's diaries, a graphic novel (as comic books are known these days) called 'Kill Shakespeare', and some Terry Pratchett - I'm currently on the second of seven books from the Discworld series that Rick has lent me. I've never read any Pratchett before, apart from a short story in a collection that also included Robert Jordan's New Spring, but I'm quite enjoying him at the moment. The style of humour isn't completely my bag - too often it relies on the arbitrary in a way that veers far too close to Douglas Adams - but the frequent anthropomorphism is good fun, and the tale rolls along fairly merrily. I think that I would have enjoyed Pratchett more had I come to his work a decade ago.
In other book news, next on my to-read list (after Pratchett) is Anne McCaffrey, and I also have R. D. Blackmore, Jane Austen, Sebastian Faulks, Stephen Donaldson, C. S. Lewis... I won't run out any time soon.
Oh, and happy St. David's Day, everyone.

On this day in 2006... I've dropped a few things down the toilet in my time. The lid off an air-freshener, once, and most of a toilet roll another time... but yesterday, I topped them all and went for my mobile phone.

March 2nd 2011
It's not often that actuaries make the news, but we (and by 'we' I mean 'they' - I ain't qualified yet) are in the headlines (and by 'headlines' I mean 'second or third paragraphs') today, after the European Court of Justice's controversial decision to ban gender discrimination in insurance pricing. You can read all about it in a Times leading article, unless you haven't paid your money, in which case you'll just have to take my word for it. To quote that article, though: "The ECJ has treated the calibrations made by highly trained actuaries in the business of assessing risk as a block-headed piece of ideology."
Most reportage on this seems to be revolving around the fact that motor insurers will no longer be able to charge higher premiums for young men than for young women, but the bigger story, I reckon, is annuities.
An annuity is a simple beast, in which you give the insurance company (Friends Provident, say, to pull an example out of the ether) a wad of cash, and the insurance company pays you a certain amount monthly until you die. There are a few complexities that can be added in, but that's the basic system, and your monthly payment is carefully calculated so that the insurer expects to make a bit of profit. Hey, we've got to eat. As you can see, the key thing the insurer needs to worry about is how long you're going to live - if you keep going for years longer than they expect, you'll keep getting paid long after your original wad of cash (not, by the way, a technical term) has run out. If you die earlier than expected, the insurer laughs all the way to the bank (in a caring manner, of course).
In case you hadn't heard, women live longer than men, so gender plays an important part in deciding how much to pay out for annuities, with men generally getting paid more each month. But not any more. This ridiculous ruling means that men and women have to be treated identically, even though they're not the same. On average, in fact, the ruling means that women will get more for their money than men will, by virtue of being paid the same amount for a longer time, which is surely unfair. Is that what the ECJ want to achieve?
Some have suggested that insurers will respond by simply making people worse off (in this example, that would mean lowering men's annuity payments and keeping women's the same), but I'd say that a far more likely approach would be to find a middle ground somewhere, albeit nearer the lower value than the higher one. Well, I'm not planning to retire for a few years yet, so I'm not going to be penalised any time soon - and, indeed, I'll be able to get cheaper life assurance in the meantime, should I desire it. My beef is professional rather than personal. Actually, it's not even professional: surely it requires only common sense, rather than actuarial qualifications, to see the absurdity? I have never been anti-Europe, but the ECJ seem to be trying hard to change my mind.

On this day in 2004... A few days ago, it was very icy, so the powers that be poured Evesham High's consignment of grit for this year on the steps up to our library, meaning that we didn't slip, but also meaning that the library carpet has been replaced by a gravel flooring, and that many pupils lost their shoes, socks - and in one case, leg - in the grit.

March 7th 2011
You know that I regard the day wasted if I haven't directed you towards another blog to read (note: 'another' not 'an alternative'), and so it gives me great pleasure to tell you about Jimmy Lee's new online presence. You'll be getting in on the ground floor, here (that's 'first floor' for my American readership. I've got to admit that yours makes more sense on this one) since he's only one entry in. Check him out at jamesalee.wordpress.com, and note that his blog is called Dangerously Articulate, a name you may recognise from the radio show that he and I used to co-host. On that occasion we were desperate for a name, and I had the idea that we should each say a word and put them together to form the show's name. I came up with 'inarticulate' and he came up with 'bonanza', if memory serves, but we re-jigged it slightly to incorporate a reference to Dangerous Iain. Anyways, I'm pretty sure I've told you that story before, and it has little to do with the blog itself (where James also endeavours to explain the name, telling a slightly different but equally true story). Go, visit it, and learn from his wisdomous ways & cheery beard.
In other news, I went to see Wolves vs Spurs yesterday with my good friend Ben, and was rewarded with an exhilarating 3-3 draw that was filled with action aplenty. A grand day out, and it is the latest in an exciting run of games I've been to see - the last few I've been to have finished 3-3, 2-4, 3-2, 3-1, 2-3, 3-0 (I don't think I've missed any out). After suffering a run of 0-0s a few years ago, I now tend to expect excitement at any game I show up for.
As well as the game itself, there were touching scenes beforehand in which both sets of fans commemorated the late Dean Richards, who died just over a week ago aged only 36. He was a fine defender for Wolves, and almost certainly played the first time I ever saw them (28th October 1995 - I haven't managed to confirm the line-ups online), before moving on to Southampton and then Spurs. A very sad occasion, but one which brought football fans of different persuasions together in unity, for a while at least.

On this day in 2009... I don't think Dad has quite got over the fact that I spent £11 on a towel a couple of months ago. In fact, although I regard it as one of the best decisions of my life (just below giving mango chutney a try, and changing the channels when High School Musical came on), it makes me feel a little faint at times.

March 12th 2011
I have been part of a home group (or, perhaps, 'house group'. I am unable to distinguish) at Cairns Road for about three years now, and a fine home group it is too. Don't worry, erstswhile 10.25ers (and, by my estimate, representatives of both Rootes M-P and Jack Martin 10.25 groups tune in to this page on occasion), I'm not saying it's better than what we had. Our time was special. Remember the 'mixes' of drinks? And that time Tim called me ugly? Glory days indeed. Anyways, I digress. The reason I mention home group today is that I was put in mind recently of something we did in 2008 on a 'weekend away' (for reasons I forget we didn't manage the 'away' part of that phrase, and stayed in Bristol throughout): on the Sunday we split into pairs and had a go at writing a psalm.
This was approached from various different angles by the different pairs, and everyone produced something that was, to use a term that I believe is in common usage on theological campuses, stonking. As a passing note to 25th century historians who come across this text; 'stonking' is a good thing. Anyways, in my pair we decided to set ours in the workplace, and mimic the form of those psalms that begin with lots of complaining and bemoaning, but change the tone to praise with the realisation of God's beneficence. I've had a fairly hectic week or two at work, which is probably why our effort has been nudging its way into my thinking, and I thought I might as well share it with y'all. Co-authored, by the way - and I'm sure he won't mind me crediting him - by Mr Pop Thy Collar.

7 oíclock: the alarm bell sounds
I fall out of bed and collapse to the ground
It doesnít feel like a time for prayer
I hate Monday mornings, this just isnít fairÖ
The traffic is murder, my computer wonít start
A downward trend on the daily sales chart
Clients are stroppy, the managementís stressed
Patience and fullness are put to the test
Iím surrounded by colleagues, but feel all alone
So I think of my God and the grace that Heís shown
The king of the workplace, the author of rest
I look at my tie and know that Iím dressed
In the armour of God with a truth-buckled belt
Iím never abandoned, despite what Iíve felt
For you are the Creator; the Lord of all time
Your workings are perfect, your plan is sublime
You are so holy, white hot to the core
No wonder that Moses, face down on the floor
Worshipped in fear - you call us the same
To live and to work in the power of your name.

On this day in 2004... In the words of Heather Small, what have you done today to make you feel proud? Since our bus wasn't running, due to the snow, I made a snowman, which makes me feel proud.

March 18th 2011
The weekend arrives, and with it the traditional lack of work. Happy days. Except, of course, for revision, though this will be broken up by birthday celebrations (Anna's, not mine) and Sunday will see me heading up to the Big Smoke for a tutorial and much catching up with capital friends.
Anyways, after a gruelling week at work there's nothing I like better than to eat pizza and watch Comic Relief on BBC1. Which meant that today fit my desires rather more neatly than the standard Friday. Actually, Red Nose Day this year has alerted me to the fact that I'm old, and don't recognise half of the celebrities who are ushered onto stage. The Wanted, for example. I'd come across them because they advertise milk on the side of buses (yes, really), but I wasn't entirely sure who they were, and I certainly wouldn't recognise any of them. From the sounds of their song - the official Comic Relief single, I believe - they're the kind of plastic boy band that I thought had died out at least five years ago. But good on them, I suppose, for spending some of their presumably short shelf-life advocating a good cause for us all. The unrecognisable folk and roll-call of annoying presenters aside, there has been some great stuff this year - Outnumbered has been the highlight so far, followed by a somewhat risque Doctor Who snippet. Oh, and our Prime Minister has made an appearance.
Anyways, let me do as the rest do, and nudge you towards donation. They really do some amazing work, and you can be part of it. Go to rednoseday.com.

On this day in 2006... Yesterday, as well as being St. Patrick's Day, saw my first quiz appearance for some time under a name other than Ricky and the Red Stripes - at Norton School myself, my brother and my father entered as (after much deliberation) the Three Twins.

March 26th 2011
I spent the early part of this week in London, having the excitement of an ST1 tutorial (get busy livin' or get busy dyin', I always say). As I have mentioned before, I would never want to live in London, but it's a great place to visit, especially to meet up with old friends. In and around the tutorial (well, just around it, really) I met up with Tom, Jason, Ahmad, James, Rob and James, and relived the glory days. When I see folk from Uni, I often wonder whether I made the right decision in not doing a Masters. At the time I was confident that it was right (and was also confident that I'd be less sure about that in the future), so I guess I should trust to my thoughts then. It's all water under the bridge now, anyway, and - as Neil Emblen once disproved - you can never go back.
What do you mean, you haven't heard of Neil Emblen? He was a 'utility player' for Wolves from 1994-1997, then had a brief spell at Crystal Palace before rejoining Wolves from 1998-2001. He's currently player-manager a Waitakere United, Wikipedia tells me. My allusions are wasted here.
Speaking of Wolves players, it is my great pleasure to tell you that the England squad features its first Wolves player since Steve Bull, with the call-up of Matt Jarvis. Forgive me if that doesn't excite you as much as it does me - but since the majority of my Wolves-supporting life has involved fixtures against the likes of Stockport, Grimsby and Swindon, an England call-up is an astonishing change of pace.
In Comic Relief news, I wrote last week's entry before seeing the absolute highlight of the evening - indeed, one of the highlights of television - which was Smithy's sketch. See below.

On this day in 2004... It took me an extraordinarily long time to work out that yes, Ben actually does put sausages in the fridge.

what was I listening to?
Eyes Open - Snow Patrol
what was I reading?
The Light Fantastic - Terry Pratchett
what was I watching?
All the President's Men
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