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I grew up a cat person. I was (and to a certain extent, still am) terrified of barking dogs. And then Ben, possibly the most lovely black labrador ever, and undoubtedly one of my more favourite members of the family won me over. Now I'm probably a 50/50 split.

~~~~

The main reason I'm posting again so soon is that I've just heard that an old friend has been selected as an Olympic torch-bearer. So very happy for her.
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Absolutely 0. I know it begins with a 3 and has many, many more digits after the decimal place. If I use it, and I do, it tends to be as π in equations. Oddly enough my inability to memorise random numbers doesn't actually cause me any problems.
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Timothy Dalton. I brook no argument on the subject.

(Okay, not entirely true, I give some leeway for Sean Connery as an answer.)

~~~~

Fencing

I went to the MOFT (or the Merseyside Open, but I prefer to call it the MOFT) at the weekend. My fencing was not great, I finished one outside the top 16 again, but I enjoyed myself and I did some things reasonably well. My distance is still off, but more of that later.

The two things I love most about the MOFT are that it always runs on time, and they pay the referees so there are always enough referees and they are good referees. It's one of the few competitions I can go to where I know my success and failure will be entirely due to my fencing, not due to external conditions like the state of the hall or the ability of the referee.

Actually, this ought to be where I put in my usual plug for the MOFT. If you can only go to 1 competition in the year, go to the MOFT. It has a good mix of fencers, because some of the Scots come down and the Midlands and Londoners come up, and, because it's on their selection list, some Irish fencers come across. Add to that that the local uni have a large chunk of international students, it means you get a nice mix of fencers, including some you're not likely to fence anywhere else.

It also has 2 rounds of pools and no cut so you're guaranteed an elimination match.

They also have jelly babies, and have expanded to include chocolate eclairs.

All this for the princely sum of £15.

Anyway, back to the fencing. My first pool had a good Scot, a sneaky left-hander (even by the sneaky standards of those wrong handed types ;) ) and two sabreurs giving it a go. One of them, E, had got 3rd place in the sabre the day before and then fallen out of a taxi, and the other had been conned into doing the foil by her captain. Her captain is a mean, horrible person, because she's only a beginner sabbie, and we all beat her. Anyway, I beat E and the other sabreur and lost my other two matches 4-5. Not bad.

My second pool had E and the good Scot again, with a different left-hander, this one being violent rather than sneaky, and V, a Louth beginner. I beat E, and V, and lose my other matches 2-5. Not as good, but hey-ho, and I beat a Louthie (see many, many previous fencing posts for the back-story there).

At the end of the two pools, I'm ranked 15th. I get E, again, in my knockout. Sneaky, US-trained, has been fencing since 1991, sabreur with decent footwork that she is, she finally beats me, and soundly. E gives me some advice on my distance, which I plan on putting into us, which is sadly the same advice that one of the coaches at Birmingham has been giving me. In my defence, I've gone from being a whole foot's length to close to being half a foot's length too close. Hopefully I will be able to ameliorate it further in time for the Nottingham in 2 weeks time, where E is also fencing. The Notts also has 2 rounds of pools and a guaranteed DE, and is also on my list of favourite competitions.

Other, non-me related stuff:

The Israeli national stripes are lovely, it's a Star of David with one point lengthened so it looks like a sword.

A Canadian epeeist was desperately doing a one-man job to explode the myth that all Canadians are nice. Every single point against him was being argued. AT EPEE! Actually, the male epeeists in general were misbehaving in a manner unbecoming even sabreurs. It's epee, guys, if there's a light, there's a point. The problem with epee is that it attracts rules lawyers, so rather than the foil and sabre arguments of 'ref, could you phrase that please' with it's deliberate undercurrent of 'if you think about it, you'll see you're wrong', it's all 'as you can tell by rule 34 subsection 1, he didn't salute the judges and therefore should lose'.*

More seriously, they did all seem to be complaining about phantom lights and bad refereeing so either they really got the short end of the stick or male epeeists are whiners. I know what I am going with, especially as the female epeeists reported no such problems.

On the fun side, I accidentally clouted the referee for my first pool with my sword, but thankfully he forgave me. Fencing left-handers is a dangerous business. The ref for the second batch of pools was a French young Jude Law look-a-like, apparently, not only are the French better fencers, their refs are eye candy.

But yes, lots of fun was had by all.

*That's not rule 34 section 1, by the way, r34 s1 is the one about progression counting as priority in foil. I have had many arguments about the application of that damn rule.
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A temporary break in me talking about the skating.

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Can I have a 'meh' option? I mean, I don't mind Valentine's Day, mostly because I enjoy watching my friends desperately try to think of something to do for their signif. others. I never said I was nice.

I don't really understand people who are bothered by it, but then again, I am solitary by nature, so I may well be missing something important on the ability to understand front.

~~~~

On to RL - while, as far as I know, none of you are in the Yukon, if you are and happen to see a slightly dazed looking chap with a West Country accent and his equally lovely wife, please look after them. Long story short, a friend of mine has just got an archaeology/historical buildings job in the Yukon. I'm v. happy for him, if a little worried that he'll get frostbite.

~~~~

Sad to hear of David Kelly's death - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-17020494
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At the moment a downright disturbing mix of
and Mari's Wedding - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiJ-xc37bYE
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The Giants, just for Justin Tuck. Reasoning here - http://blog.firstbook.org/2012/02/03/justin-tuck-champion-of-literacy/
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Biology. And just a bit. I'm really regretting not having studied harder at maths right now.

It's not directly within the scope of the question, but I do think the US (and possibly other places but the UK, US and Austrian systems are the ones I know most about) thing of making students do things outside of their immediate area in the first couple of years and then specialising later on strikes me as being a very good thing. Ex-colleague P (who is Danish) was always amazed that I'd stop doing anything first language related at 16 because he thought you lost out on a lot that way.

~~~~

Dear Self,

You know that Mystique-centric mostly gen fic, where Frostie gets the first chapter to herself? Yes, that one. Can you make sure Magneto doesn't it take over, because he appears to be doing that to my (somewhat) jaundiced eyes.

~~~~

The next question on the book meme is tricky, because it's ' A book everyone hated but you liked' and my friends, both online and offline, have a wide taste in books, and two obvious answers for books everyone hated, 1) Dan Brown and 2) Twilight, won't do because

1) you can't stand the one Dan Brown book you tried to read either

and

2) you haven't read the Twilight books because vampire romance isn't your thing so it's unfair to use them.

So I could do with some suggestions for hated books.

~~~~
Interesting snippets:

From Eurosport's article on the top 10 parent and child sporting combos (http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/world-of-sport/top-10-parent-child-sporting-combos-172959290.html):

>>Cesare and Paulo Maldini

Cesare Maldini was a mainstay in the Milan defence for 12 seasons and captained Milan to the European Cup title in 1963. He also represented Italy at the 1962 and 1966 World Cups and went on to manage the national team from 1996 to 1998 too.

His son Paolo went on to become an even better player and matched his father's achievement of captaining Milan to a European Cup in 2003 — one of five European titles he won in his career. He played over 900 games for Milan and won 126 Italy caps. His number three shirt has been retired but it will be bequeathed to one of his sons if one makes the club's senior side.<<

Italics mine. It's not just that Paolo played more than 900 games for Milan, it's not just that that included a ridiculous number of trophies, or the silly number of games he played for Italy or the number of finals that included, it's not even that they retired his shirt, which is not something they tend to do in Italy (the only other player I can think of who had his shirt number retired is Maradonna's Napoli no. 10), it's that they've made it a heritable relic, up their with crowns and the like.

~~~~

The Argentine response to 'The Iron Lady' appears to be oddly similar to the one found amongst lefties in the UK - http://movies.uk.msn.com/news/argentine-film-buffs-pan-iron-lady
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Opinion has been known to vary between Scary Spice and Nick Cave.

I don't see the similarity myself.

~~~~

A fuller description of my misadventures (and the fun I had) in Sheffield will be forthcoming once I sit down and write it.

Instead, and I am aware it's not as much fun, have a rant about the whole business of trying to buy a property.

Hi, my name's Red, and I'm the idiot who is trying to buy a property of my own, on the principle that rents in Birmingham are ridiculous*. As I'm single, I am looking for a flat. Now, I'm aware that on cruises and in hotels, being single makes my existence an expensive luxury, but I didn't realise the same went for housing, because all the flats I'm looking at have something called a service charge attached. Something which, in the ones I've looked at ranges from £600 a year to £1200 a year, which, okay, is less than my rent but when you add it onto a mortgage, the council tax (which also runs to ~ £1200 a year), the electricity bill, the water bill, the internet bill, the life insurance premium for the policy you have to take out if you want a mortgage and little tiny things like food and clothing, definitely adds to your basic cost of the house. Add to that that a number of flats are just over the £100,000 stamp duty threashold, so if I buy them after March the Government's stamp duty relief will no longer apply to them so there'd be stamp duty to add to the cost as well.

The really annoying thing though is that there are 2 bedroom houses and flats that are cheaper or the same price as the 1 bedroom ones and the estate agents keep suggesting these because I could 'rent the other bedroom out'. Now, this would be fine and dandy if I wasn't presently glorying in having my own space quite so much. I have spent the past 7 years living with people who are not my family, but who I've known before they moved in so I didn't have to worry about turning up in filthy jammies at 2 in the afternoon. Right now I can wander about wearing nothing and not having to worry about when I do my washing up so long as it gets done. It's a little bit of bliss, and a little bit that I do not wish to give up at this time.

Also, one of the PhD students would want to move in, and that's just a little bit ... odd.

The other reason is that I feel I'd be taking away the space from people, say a family, who need the extra bedroom.

* those of you reading this in Cambridge, London or Oxford are allowed to laugh at me at this point. They're nowhere near as bad as yours and yet I am still complaining.

~~~~

Impact:

It's a terrible thing when Bubba Ray is the best thing about a show, but once again, he is.

The Kazarian and Daniels vs AJ thing appears to be being dragged out by TNA, although I think Twig will enjoy the promo.

The Knockouts and the X-division were the best matches as per usual.

~~~~

Attack of the Incredibly Belated Book Meme - Day 27 - The most surprising plot twist or ending

Don't worry, I shan't spoil anything.

As a reader of detective novels, I read a lot of things with twists. I've discovered I like them more when they're, well not signposted, but not totally out of the blue. Little Mrs. Fairfax, the eighty-year old postmistress, turning out to be the ravening axe murderer is taking it a bit far (although I suppose she works in customer services so one wouldn't blame her), but her poisoning awkward customers with arsenic in the envelope gum I could live with.

Too many writers try for shocking twists, except, if you've got the opening chapters and only one character isn't occasionally being suspicious, your readers know he or she is going to be the murderer. We're not stupid. There was a book I read at Christmas where I guessed the murderer within the first three chapters. This isn't intended as a boast, I think everyone would for that very reason. Admittedly, it was a first time author, and, since there's now a whole series of these books, I'm assuming they got better.

I'm more forgiving if I'm actually enjoying the book, and to me, the sign of a good twist ending is when I'm willing to read the book again, even without the surprise factor. For example, I know the twist for 'Murder On The Orient Express' before I'd ever read it, but it's still the Christie I re-read the most.

The Other Days )
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I'm a rat, and so is my mother. Which is one of the more glorious sentences I will ever type ;)

~~~~

In politics, I bring you a BBC article - "Economic gap between UK cities 'widening'" - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16672239 Because yes, once again, we're all in it together, provided we're in the South East of England.

~~~~

In the football, the Arsenal fans calling for Wenger's head are idiots, and I'm enjoying the torment of the Real Madrid fans by and because of Mourinho. Ah Real, you may be able to beat Barcelona, but only by destroying yourself.

~~~~

Saw yet another part of Alexander (the film) last night. I continue to be amused that every different version of the Alexander mythos (including that peddled by various eminent historians) has an utterly different version of 'when things went sour'.
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My guess would be around 189.
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Not at the moment, but it's getting worryingly icy.

~~~~

Book Meme - Day 24 - A book that you wish more people would've read

I'm a lot less pushy about books than I am about most things. I think it's because literature is the one artform where you provide the motive force to carry on through it. That orchestra is going to keep playing no matter what, the film will keep projecting, but if you don't want to carry on, the book stops.

The Other Days )
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Orange juice or apple juice and coffee. Admittedly by the end of it, you'll be violently acidic, but at least you're functional for the duration of the cold.

~~~~

No book meme as I'm still pondering my answers.
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Utterly selfishly, I'd like to know why my &^*^&^ing protein doesn't express more. I could understand why it would express insoluble protein, but nope, it's very little of that either.
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Hello Gladiator.

And the Alistair Sim version of A Christmas Carol. And the Muppet version. Basically, a good version of A Christmas Carol will make me cry.

~~~~

I have no idea who to cheer for in the snooker. I think it's come to something when the last person left in that I actively cheer for was Neil Robertson.

I think I'll probably cheer for Mark Allen, because he's brash and chippy and so very right about Barry Hearn. Of course this will cause rucktions with the family. This, however, is nothing new - I was the Hendry fan in a family full of Jimmy White fans.

The best thing about the later stages of competitions nowadays is that I get Stephen Hendry on commentary. I mean, I'd rather him still be in and winning things, but it is greatly soothing to my ears after Willie Thorne. I mean I like Terry Griffiths and Dennis Taylor but I keep turning the sound off to avoid Thorne.

~~~~

Re: EU / Eurozone mess - other than the more I read, the more Cameron sounds like that *^(^^ing person at every committee meeting who chooses to drone on about something that is only tangential to the agenda, I'm mostly annoyed by the British press (with the usual exceptions) and how skewed they are. If you take them as the baseline, I'm a raving Europhile, when I'm pro-EU with reservations at most.

~~~~

Football:

Those new statues at Arsenal look nothing like the people they're supposed to be.

Dear John Motson, McAleny and Makalele shouldn't sound the same. I keep looking up and wondering why one of my favourite players is suddenly playing for Everton.

Dear Steve Claridge, as long as Craig Bellamy, Robbie Fowler, Robbie Savage and Joey Barton exist, you can't say that British players aren't wind-up merchants.

A happy-making story, kind of, Rochdale 'keeper collides with one of his own players and gets knocked spark out. The Sheffield United player nearby immediately put him into the recovery position - http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/16130981.stm And this is why everyone should learn first aid.

~~~~

Book Meme - Day 21 - Favourite Childhood Book

In an answer which I believe may explain a lot about me, or at least the pub quizzes, I'd like to say the Oxford Children's Encyclopaedia. Someone, probably my Mum, bought me a set when I was ~4/5 and it's 9 books contained all the knowledge in the world.

It's killer app, as it were, were the little 'see also' boxes at the bottom of every article. I got stuck in wiki loops years before Wikipedia even existed. I remember one time I sat down to read it from A-Z. I hadn't even reached as far as the end of the 'An...'s before I got distracted.

The Other Days )
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Heidelbeere, which I have seen variously translated as blueberry, bilberry, huckleberry and whortleberry. My inability to find it in the UK is probably not helped by this. On the other hand, in Poland, where I could speak precisely 0 words of the language, I found it with no problem. This is why Britain is a godforsaken country.

~~~~

Book Meme - Day 19 - Favorite book turned into a movie

I'm taking this to mean, what film do I think has made the best job of adapting a novel to the screen. Films rules out the BBC Narnia adaptations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chronicles_of_Narnia_(TV_serial)) which is a shame, because they're probably the most honest and faithful attempt of anything on such a large scale. Also, they're awesome and magical and wonderful.

This leaves me with one other obvious option, the Ronald Coleman version - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prisoner_of_Zenda_(1937_film) Other than being brilliant on it's own merits, including one of the best sword-fights ever committed to film, and having a ridiculously fantastic cast and Douglas Fairbanks jr in his pomp as Rupert of Hentzau Photobucket, it does a bang up job of adapting the book. The beginning of the book is slow, slooooow going while the film cuts right to the chase without losing any of the important details. It's brilliantly done.

The Other Days )
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The only debt I have is my *^*^&(^ing student loans, whose amount appears to vary with the phases of the moon in between the interest being charged and my repayments.

~~~~

Covert Affairs continues to be a never mind the plot, love the character interactions show. But the character bits are so good. Spoilers for episode 3 )

~~~~

Book meme - Day 17 - Favorite quote from your favourite book

Less quote, more motto.

'All for one, and one for all'.

It remains the only piece of writing I'd ever have tattooed on me.

The Other Days )
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Cheating, utterly cheating and going with my dear, beloved Three Musketeers. An off day, obviously, as I am not capable of fighting against the Cardinal's Guards, although I'd totally be up for a fencing lesson.

Partly I just want to know what it was like to be one of them for a day.

~~~~

That answer may somewhat give away my answer to this.
Book Meme - Day 14 - Favourite book by your favourite writer

Because, although, yes, I have read 'The Count of Monte Cristo' more often, that's because I own that, while The Three Musketeers at home is my Mum's copy, it's still my favourite.

I think it's mostly the characters who are grand and large and fantastical, while being utterly human with flaws and graces. They're so horribly real, wonderfully real.

It's also an interesting book as from the start, it's made quite clear that heroic != good, good != kind, and that it's possible to be just as brave as our heroes and still oppose them (see Rochefort).

The structure is also quite clever because there is no villain (I do wish various adaptations would remember it, the Gene Kelly one certainly did). Yes, the Cardinal opposes the Musketeers, but that's just because he happens to oppose the King. And you know, it's quite clear he's actually a better ruler than the King.

Everyone gets a character, from one shot minor characters, to the servants (why yes, it's a grand adventure with servants with emotions and drives of their own), to the antagonists. It's such a wonderfully immersive experience.

Then you have the ending, the most gloriously bittersweet ending, where the four inseparables part because that's what life does, nothing lasts forever.

I love this book.

The Other Days )

All of this makes me quite sad to have missed the new Musketeer movie in the cinema, although I have been informed that, with the honourable exception of the sword fights, it's ever so very terrible. Except I still want to watch it, if only for Porthos (Ray Stevenson!!) or because they appear to actually be giving Aramis face time.
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It's a toss up between the PhD and the black belt. I think that was one of the reasons I felt so lost after finishing my BSc, 'cause university degrees are built into being the ultimate thing, and yet it was so much less difficult than getting a black belt. The PhD meanwhile ran it close. I think it's because my brain works while the body, not so much. Even the viva is only a little more scary than the grading.

~~~~

Edit: Oops, forgot this, borrowed from [livejournal.com profile] evilgmbethy Name a fandom I participate in/have participated in and I'll list my three most unpopular opinions about it.
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I'm a hoarder (I really can't help it), so, you know, most things get kept, particularly newspapers. When it comes to things I particularly and definitely collect include stamps (pretty, pretty stamps) because I'm lucky enough that my Mum has friends all over the world and lots of places have astonishingly pretty stamps and because one of my Mum's penfriends does to and they have a sort of exchange going on. I also collect coins, a habit I picked up from my Opa. Not valuable coins, just ones with pretty designs. At the minute I'm focused on the 2012 Olympic design 50ps. I have, unfortunately, dragged my mother into the madness because she drags Colin in and he likes investigating things. So I'm a magpie, my Mum's interested and Colin likes to put things in order. We're a terrible 3-headed collecting hydra.

~~~~

TNA spoilers )

~~~~

Ah the Numbers episode I haven't seen but wanted to. The one where Edgerton is a murder suspect. Spoilers )

~~~~

I'm going through my yearly WIP sorting, and I'm doing some serious pruning and shoving of things into the 'never going to be finished' folder. One WIP though, an AU, has gone so far OOC that I'm thinking of reworking it and turning it into an original fic and seeing if I can sell it on. Not entirely sure where to, mind, although that can wait until I've finished writing it.
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There can be only one answer.

Take it away, Elvis.

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