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February 14th, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

As I get ready for the next week at MWC in Barcelona, here's my list of 25 random things. I often wonder if these are really an attempt at crowdsourced social engineering, so if you're planning on using this information to get into my bank account, I suggest you look carefully at the 25th fact on my list.

1. My family has been on Jersey for at least the last thousand years. I will have been living in England for 25 years this September.

2. My only industrial injury is a scar on my left arm where I once dropped a hefty piece of test gear.

3. I am unaccountably fascinating to rodents. Mice stare at me. I've got witnesses, too.

4. I used to climb limestone sea cliffs for fun. Even when the tide came in.

5. There's a portion of my career I describe as "designing exotic weapons for the military". I have the published papers to prove it.

6. I became a journalist because someone knew I wrote fanzine articles.

7. marypcb and I met in a Usenet newsgroup. We lived less than a mile apart at the time.

8. I used to wind inductors out of copper central heating pipe and make coax out of scaffolding poles. That's what you get for working with HF radios at 30KW...

9. I have possibly the only car in London with an In-N-Out Burger bumper sticker.

10. People think I only use Windows, but I actually have three different Apple Macintosh machines of different vintages that I regularly use.

11. I used to do track work on a Welsh narrow gauge railway. Blackberry bushes are not my friends.

12. There are two different fossils on my desk - a fish and some coral.

13. Several of my book reviews from SFX have been used for pull quotes, in the US and the UK. Unfortunately they don't have my name on them.

14. When we were children my cousins wanted long curly hair. Amazingly they are still talking to me when it turned out that I'm the only one in my family with long curly hair.

15. According to the Dopplr Raumzeitgeist I am on average as fast as a squirrel.

16. During the Dinner Party Wars in my student days I cooked lobster thermidor. From scratch. With fresh lobsters. I ruined the big saucepan, too.

17. I don't have a Wikipedia page about me. Not that I want one.

18. My office soundtrack is currently a Seattle rock and alternative radio station. I quite like hearing the breakfast show over lunch.

19. I have seen 9 different Cirque De Soleil shows, including all but one of the fixed shows in Las Vegas. That's only because it's just opened.

20. While I haven't broken the bank at a casino, I am infinitely ahead of the odds.

21. My mailbox currently contains over 6GB of messages. It's probably a good idea that I run our own mail server.

22. I have three visas in my passport. Only one of them is valid. One of the others I can't read.

23. After planning to have an LPth birthday party for several years, I singularly failed to actually hold one.

24. I have played over 150 games of FreeCell on this PC without a single loss. I take it as a challenge that there is only one game of FreeCell that can't come out.

25. None of these facts can be used to social engineer my passwords.

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Flat Beachings

Male elephant seals are ungainly creatures.

In the water their heads bob up and down as they swim through the waves, weightless in the buoyant ocean. On land, however, they're laden down with blubber and make a slow stately progress up the beaches, noses flapping in the breeze, pausing when it all gets just too much.

Flat Beachings

Piedras Blancas, California
January 2009

Making the Call

Under normal circumstances it's hard to see the utility of the bull elephant seal's exorbitant nose. It flaps and wobbles as the seal makes its way around the beach. There's a certain comedy value, to be sure, but it's only when you see two bulls facing off that the real power of the nose comes to the fore.

It's a built-in resonant chamber.

The bull raises its head and opens its mouth. The nose covers the upper jaw. Then he bellows.

As the call echoes through his nose, it's like listening to some ancient Victorian plumbing come up to speed, gurgling and roaring across the sands.

Resonant Cavity

The females and the pups just sleep on.

Piedras Blancas, California
January 2009