The first set of results from the UK's census last year were published today! The magic number of UK population is 58,789,194. The local figures show that I was born right in the middle of rather a population slump and that I probably ought to be looking for a slightly older woman. If you look at the demographic, er, graph at the top of the page, I'd like to know if you agree with me that the mauve-blue "male" bars generally look rather wider than the lilac-pink "female" bars, despite representing fewer people. I'm not sure whether this is an optical illusion or a consequence of me not tending to look at my monitor head-on. It is an assumption that the pink bars really are longer than the blue ones, but it wouldn't be unbiased reporting of the facts if they weren't.
The BBC are playing "What If?" with the Major-Currie affair affair! I'm not sure how much useful information can be gleaned by playing the revisionist alternate history game, but it tends to make for fun reading all the same. This reminds me of an old university friend, Terry Boon, whose personal web site, counterfactual, discusses such things. Terry is a sweet, hard-working, selfless bloke with a very dry sense of humour and who would almost certainly write a LiveJournal well worth reading. His only downfall is that he was quickly assigned a catchphrase based on his speech patterns. ("Quite." That's it - a single-word sentence.) Needless to say, this catchphrase was based in reality, but rather overexaggerated. Must get back in touch with him some time. I suppose there's no time like the present.
By the way, there exists a font called "ITC Jiggery Pokery", which happens to be a trademark of the International Typeface Corporation. (I've used up my quota of TM symbols for the month on the last message but one alone.) It's attractive and amusing, but not worth $21 of anyone's money. (Well, possibly a professional signwriter's money.)
Tonight's journey was out to the first meeting of the new season of the Cleveland Speakers Club. It was partly inspired by ringbark's many mentions of Toastmasters International, which has always sounded like an interesting and reputable sort of organisation, but there isn't a Toastmasters branch around here any more. Apparently there was some sort of international dispute in the early '70s and most of the British branches of Toastmasters broke off to form the Association of Speakers Clubs; the Cleveland Speakers Club was one of them and survives from then.
I found out about the Cleveland Speakers Club because it managed to get a front-page ad on the local rag (which is about 30% classifieds, 65% advertisements and 5% editorial). I dressed myself up in my best casual suit and went along to the meeting, which takes place in Middlesbrough Municipal Golf Club. There were twelve people in attendance, four new and eight familiar. (Five others were expected but sent apologies.) The club apparently prided itself on being more informal than most, but it was still structured like quite a formal business meeting, all the comments going through the chairman and so forth. The other remarkable thing was the age of attendees: of the eight who had attended in the past, the ages looked like they varied from about 50 to 65, with single outliers in the early 40s and the late 70s. The new attendees had two in their forties, one late-'30s and me. Not so good.
The theme of tonight's event was "speaking without notes"; slips of paper were distributed with titles upon and we had to improvise a four-minute speech with no aides-memoire (?) permitted. Mine was "The best day of the week for me is..." However, new members were not obliged to get up and speak and were permitted to offer an introduction of themselves as an alternative. I gave an introduction to myself and what I hoped to get from membership of the club; I got through what I had planned to say in 2'20" and thought it better to bring it to an abrupt but polite conclusion than to remain on the floor, but dried up. (If I had remembered two other things which disappeared between standing up and reaching the end of the leash, I might have made it to 2'40".)
A General Assessor then gave comments - they were polite, to the point of not being hugely helpful. I remembered school-debate techniques of projection and pacing, but I'm not sure whether I applied them properly or not. (I guess he wanted not to be at all off-putting to someone on their first night; certainly he kindly neglected to mention the fact that I had obviously fallen short in terms of quantity.) The most interesting speech of the night was "I am happy when..." given by a guy who formerly stuttered very badly but now gave other stutterrers therapy to help them conquer their fears.
I suspect I'm going to go back again next fortnight, just to see what a "normal meeting" is like. (Fewer speakers giving longer speeches, then everyone making two-minute-off-the-top-of-the-heads for fun.) Not sure if it's going to be a regular appointment in my calendar or not, though. Insufficient loquacious, avuncular metallurgy.