December 22nd, 2003
|11:58 pm - Here's to you, Mr. Rigby-Jones|
Today is zorac's 28th birthday. I'd like to be able to contrast zorac's 28th on the 22nd with leiabelle's 22nd, but she was born on the 29th. I don't blame leiabelle for being a day out, I blame zorac for being a year too young.
I shared a two-bedroom set with zorac for a year at university; accordingly, I know a great deal about him. Accordingly, this makes me uniquely well-placed to pay tribute to him on his birthday. After all, what else are former flatmates for?
Mark and I met during the first year of our courses at Keble College, Oxford. I was studying Mathematics, he was studying Mathematics and Computation, later dropping the Mathematics half. It also helped that our rooms were situated reasonably close to each other geographically. We went to at least one society together, the Invariant Society, even ending up sharing the single post of computer officer for a while. (It would be possible to get into a load of eight-year-old committee wank about that, but of neither benefit nor interest to anyone.)
Mark was the mathmo I got on with best at Keble, for we shared tastes in computers and games - a certain chairmanly card game, Laser Quest and an inglorious turn in the Oxford Guild of Assassins, as was. He took up a hot tip I offered about which room to select for second year; a slightly impractical choice in that the room had no tap or sink, but it was a large room on a cool circular staircase and - most to the point - next to a bathroom with a very rare bath as opposed to a shower. We saw each other socially a fair amount during the second year and ended up sharing a two-person flat in third year. (As I recall, we were very lucky in this, because we were both unluckily drawn in very low positions on the room ballot; only other people choosing to live out of college got us a place in college at all.)
Third year saw us share a small set with a tiny kitchen, a small bathroom, a micro-hallway and two bedrooms. Due to a confusion, I got the short fat room, coolly numbered 007, and Mark got the long thin room next door. (Easy for others to remember whose room was whose, though I was at my thinnest at that point - a positively light-heavyweight 174 lbs.) We found a division of labour which suited us; Mark cooked the dinners, I did the washing-up. Mark was a significantly better cook than I was a washer-up; the lack of an oven saw his repertoire largely limited to a small number of dishes: pasta bolognaise (excellent, especially with bacon in), curry (superb), chili con carne (brilliant), beef stew (succulent) and pseudo-shepherd's-pie (the latter proving a briefly contentious issue pertaining to the presence or absence of tomato). We didn't eat a vast quantity of vegetables over the year other than tomato and onion.
Our shopping lists were rather repetitive: lots of orange juice, chocolate, chocolate biscuits and yoghurts. The latter of these was due to a national fad of 1996-7, Sainsbury's Reward Points. There were two ways to earn reward points. The slow way was to spend money on groceries, earning one point per whole pound. The fast way was to spend money on certain bonus-point groceries, often racking up 50 or 100 bonus points at a go. Between us we earned slightly over 7,000 Reward Points - that's £7,000 worth of shopping at the old rates - for a cost of possibly a few hundred pounds. I wrote a jolly piece about it at the time. One of the happy memories of the year.
One of the other big influences of the year was the Babylon 5 sci-fi show, whose third series was being broadcast in the UK at the time. I knew that Mark was a big fan, but it was something I hadn't taken much of an interest in. Nevertheless, Mark and his friends intrigued me enough to sit through a 24-hour precis of the first three series for charity, which was entertaining. I watched it, enjoyed it and forgot about it, then woke up one morning six weeks later suddenly needing to know what happened next. (Happily, tapes of the first six episodes of series four had arrived from the USA by that point!) Incidentally, Mark, is this an older version of a familiar face?
The year next to Mark was a lot of fun, all told. A memorably great night was the big election party: maths geeks and Babylon 5 geeks joined together to eat chocolate and celebrate the fall of Tory seat after Tory seat. Mark found his first girlfriend during that year, Jo, a slightly younger mathematician who has since gone off to do exciting things within Operations Research. Jo was very pretty in a sort of "nympho innocent schoolgirl" way with a happy demeanour and creative tastes. I liked her a lot, though I didn't know her particularly well. Mark and Jo made each other happy (meant literally, not euphemistically) for a few years, but it didn't work out and they drifted apart. I'm pleased that (AFAIK) they remain friendly, at least.
Mark remained in Oxford, getting a job at the local ISP and using his excellent sysadmin skills to climb through the ranks to a senior position; the company are very lucky to retain his services and expertise. Mark owns a flat two above a chip shop which he and his family have extensively redecorated and cheered up over the years; Mark's bedroom is a library to be envious of and his hard-earned collection of electronic entertainment is similarly extensive. It's a very large flat for a single man and the years have seen him act as a very generous and gracious host offering kind hospitality. I spent a week in October 1999 at his place; we watched the whole five series of Babylon 5 and the then-four TV movies in six days - between 15 and 16 hours of canon per day for six days in a row. Quite a place to take a holiday.
We've kept in touch every few months since then; we chat on the phone from time to time and I still very much like to see Mark when I'm in the area.
Then, in September 2001, one of our conversations touched by chance on Harry Potter. Knowing Mark to be a fannish type, having discovered he had enjoyed the canon too, I mentioned the existence of fan fiction and pointed him at a number of the safe-bet novel-length stories. (Since then, I have met all but one - two? - of their authors: Barb, Lori, Cassie, Penny and Carole, Ebony, the unmet R. J. Anderson and Heidi.) My comment that Most are a good, meaty length - often more than a work-next-day evening's reading was met with a requisite Tell me about it in connection with Harry Potter and the Psychic Serpent six weeks later. I had hooked Mark on Harry Potter fanfic; a return infestation for the Babylon 5 cultural virus.
Advance to early 2002. It turned out that there were three from the HP_Psych (as was) list to discuss the Psychic Serpent series who happened to be in Oxford; as I would be there for the weekend in a board game context, the men who would become known as malachan, zorac, jiggery_pokery and Keith Fraser met in a pub to chat for a few hours. We had a Keithless second meeting a few weeks later, where the conversation stuttered a little, but the seed was sown. I missed the Chamber of Secrets meet in London, but Mark knew enough people to be hooked. 2003: MacT00bage, Puntt00bage, Nimbus - 2003 and more. The rest, as they say, is history; in fact, the rest has been history for a year and a quarter (less a day).
There have been some points when I've wondered when Mark has been satisfied with his lot in life, but he has enjoyed a great deal of success and deserved all of it due to very hard work and rare smarts. I think his 28th year will go down as having been one of his best; I am thrilled that he has found hermorrine and that the two are making each other very, very happy (again, meant literally). Mark is a thoroughly decent guy; he has proved himself to be a kind, trustworthy, reliable and generous friend. It's a pleasure to know him and I hope his 29th year on this planet is happier, healthier and more prosperous still than those which have come before. Cheers, Mr. J. Have a good one.
Also accordingly, I am in a uniquely well-placed position to... shall we say, dish the dirt upon him as an extra gift for his birthday. After all, what else are former flatmates for?
The sad fact is that there really isn't very much dirt to dish on Mark at all. I would estimate that 80% of this is due to him keeping his nose clean and 20% of this is because I am just lousy at spotting dirt to be accumulated. Nevertheless, here is what I've got. Lie back and think of England, Mark! (I dare say you'll have some tales to tell on October 23rd, should you care to tell them...)
* Mark likes putting wine away and he's rather a capable drinker. It has no effect on him. Spirits? He'll keep up with you and just gets a little more talkative. However, cider? Whoa, Nelly!
* Mark had quite a collection of Sabrina Online comics featuring the titular anthropomorphic skunk printed out and stuck up on his wall throughout the Oxford era. Perhaps this was Amiga loyalism, perhaps it's something more. Frankly this is not very good dirt, though, because (a) there's nothing wrong with Furry comics in the first place, thank you very much, (b) his public pride about this fandom extends to a number of usericons and (c) they happen to be really rather good fun anyhow. Ahem.
* The most frequently-spun disc (er, tape) on the Rigby-Jones sound system of autumn '96 was "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls. In an ironic, processed-pop-hating student fashion, of course. Deeply embarrassing now, unless you're prepared to accept the truth that it's a fine bouncealong fun song and the best one that the Spice Girls ever did. Again, not really great dirt, is it?
* For Mark's 22nd birthday, he asked for - and received - a particular toddlers' toy train. The context is critical here; this was no ordinary toy train, it was The Ickle Train as played with every week on TFI Friday. Is this dirt? Only the context can fully determine.
* * It was a little kids' toy with no educational value: dirt.
* * It was, at the time, extremely cool: not dirt.
* * It was heavily advertised on TV making Mark a mindless pop culture whore: dirt.
* * The thing is damn nifty, the way it goes over the bridge and tilts the track and everything: not dirt.
* * It was advertised on TFI Friday: dirt.
* * TFI Friday producer/host Chris Evans was genuinely seen as a credible and original personality at the time: not dirt.
* * Chris Evans is now pretty universally regarded as a talentless, tasteless ginger tosser so history has judged being influenced by him, even briefly, to be a style mistake to be lived down.
* Hence the overall conclusion must be dirt. (Again, not good quality dirt, though, even if you take one charge of a wooden bird / with purple hair / that's on a metal pole so he can't go nowhere into consideration.)
* The world has seen videos of the Star Wars Kid, Ghyslain, footage of whom twirling a home-made lightsabre around has spread all over the world. Ghyslain's only folly was to be caught, though; had the world turned another way and had a camcorder been in another place at another time, Mark and his friends at the Oxford University Babylon 5 Society might have been Ghyslain five years earlier for their precisely-staged Minbari Fighting Pike toy battles. This is neatly-avoided dirt, but it loses rather a lot of impact via the "speck in your brother's eye" principle coming from the man who organised Quidditch at Nimbus - 2003.
* Mark is famously a Rocky Horror Show fan and will quite happily dress up in fishnets to attend performances. Fully decked-up, he will perform the Timewarp at the drop of a hat; in fact, he even purchased a hat specifically so that he could drop it in order to create extra Timewarp opportunities. (Only slight exaggeration.) Certainly video footage of Mark doing the pelvic thrust exists; I would link to it, but the extreme close-ups drove me insay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ane. Dirt or not? In this day and age, the enlightened view is that burlesque is merely an imaginitive way of playing with traditional gender stereotypes and roles, rather than anything to be ashamed of. After all, Mark boogieing in the aisles has nothing on the likes of Mr. & Mrs. Neil Hamilton in similar costume on-stage - and if a respected former Conservative MP can see fit to play the role, it cannot count as dirt at Mark's fanboy lower level. Oh, hang on, this is Neil Hamilton we're talking about here. (Besides, Mark looks damn good in fishnets. Or so I've heard.)
So, all told, an extremely disappointing and unembarrassing crop of gossip about our birthday boy. If the worst crime the man has committed has been to like the Spice Girls and Chris Evans at the time of their greatest popularity, he truly has dodged the pitfalls of regrettable fashion mistakes. We must therefore conclude that Mark has very little indeed to be embarrassed about.
Unless, of course, you know otherwise... ;-)
Current Mood: HIPY PAPY BTHUTHDTH THUTHDA BT
Current Music: "Wannabe" - The Spice Girls
|Date:||December 22nd, 2003 04:12 pm (UTC)|| |
I didn't know you knew Mark before fandom, this is because I'm dense. However it was a great read and I'm now quite want to see Mark in Rocky Horror costume. Though it also scares me slightly...
I didn't know you knew Mark before fandom, this is because I'm dense.
Frankly, I'm not sure why you should've done. :-) I can hardly expect people to know my credentials as an Oxford!t00b if I keep missing the Oxford t00bages...
I'm now quite want to see Mark in Rocky Horror costume. Though it also scares me slightly...
I'm sayin' nuthin'.
|Date:||December 22nd, 2003 05:02 pm (UTC)|| |
Are there photos?
|Date:||December 22nd, 2003 05:15 pm (UTC)|| |
I sincerely hope not...
Jo was very pretty in a sort of "nympho innocent schoolgirl" way with a happy demeanour and creative tastes.
What is this?! You give a whole description and a number of sentences about the ex and I get one brief mention. Hrrrumph, I say.
At the risk of assuming an invisible smiley where it might not have been intended:
I'm very brief about this year in general and do attribute a large part of the fact that it was such a good year for Mark to your existence. Everyone who reads this who knows Mark knows you, or at least can get to know you, whereas 90% of the people who know Mark through LJ never knew Jo. :-)
Yah - the whole "Hrrrumph" thing was the tipoff to ;) there. And I figured that, but it really wouldn't have hurt if you'd emphasized how much more beautiful, smart, funny, etc etc etc I am. ;)
|Date:||December 22nd, 2003 05:24 pm (UTC)|| |
You are the prettiest! And much more fun! And [CENSORED]
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!! *blushes* You are teh bestest!
|Date:||December 22nd, 2003 05:13 pm (UTC)|| |
|(Link)|a load of eight-year-old committee wank
Ah, the wankiness of student societies. Of course, Invariants is much less wanky than, say, The Oxford Union
, for example.unluckily drawn in very low positions on the room ballot
Ah yes, I was most distressed about that at the time and plotted to drown my sorrows, but got so distracted playing Worms
that I only got through one can of Sainsbury's cheap Hooch subtitute...Sainsbury's Reward Points
Current score: 9,962 (although that's new
Reward Points which are only worth half as much)is this an older version of a familiar face?
I think it might be, yes.Advance to early 2002.
Do not pass Xmas. Do not collect any presents.The most frequently-spun disc (er, tape) on the Rigby-Jones sound system of autumn '96 was "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls.
I think that may be something of an exaggeration. Although I must thank you for not mentioning my demonstration of how to "slam your body down and wind it all around".The Ickle Train
was a class toy. Seconds of entertainment for the whole family! I'm fairly sure it has made it's way to the tip by now, but it could be lurking in a corner of the flat somewhere. As for the ickle bird, at one point I had several, but over time their hair turned white and they died of old age.Chris Evans is now pretty universally regarded as a talentless, tasteless ginger tosser
. It's hard to argue with that. "Don't Forget Your Toothbrush" was IMHO a cracking show (having Jools Holland helped), and TFI did have some good stuff in it, just not enough for the duration of its run...precisely-staged Minbari Fighting Pike toy battles
They weren't in any way staged, and the ones we actually fought with weren't toys. Says the person who was nearly knocked senseless by one.Mark looks damn good in fishnets
Um. I have never actually worn fishnets.he truly has dodged the pitfalls of regrettable fashion mistakes
My secret: total lack of fashion. You may never be 'Fashionable', but there's little risk of being 'Unfashionable'.
T00by fair, I was the source of much of the Invariant wankiness at the time. Ah well.
9,962 Nectar points? Whee! 19&frac2; thousand of them
will get you a cheapo return to Chicago with American, subject to terms and conditions. I say this: it's yoghurt time!I think it might be, yes.
The "get Neale Grant on LiveJournal" campaign starts here! At least Googling for Neale Grant LiveJournal will soon have at least one result, though that's not to say that he isn't on here somewhere, isn't using his real name and we just haven't found him yet. Ahem.
Chris Evans: the first series of Toothbrush stands up in court, the second series had its moment (the first episode, because every single episode after the first was virtually identical to it) and I suppose I can grudgingly admit he was good for about the first year or so of TFI. Not sure which event caused him to lose his mojo: (a) giving away a million quid, (b) selling the company for tens of millions or (c) shacking up with Ms. B. Piper. Trouble is, he's been responsible for such egregious shee-ayy-oot ever since that there is little joy in reliving the good moments.Is
Joe Normal as good as Joe 90? *rings bell*
The second series had the Throw Things Out Of Your Windows Game, and can henceforth never be criticised ever.
That's like saying that Winning Lines has the Wonderwall, etc.
Quite an interesting question, that. Throw Things Out Of Your Windows Game versus Wonderwall. Fight!
An interesting history indeed!
Certainly video footage of Mark doing the pelvic thrust exists
File under BM - Blackmail Material. ;-)
|Date:||December 23rd, 2003 10:33 am (UTC)|| |
Maths, Cards, Evans
That Invariant Society seems to attract a better class of speakers than Mathsoc. Ian Stewart, on whose works I loosely based my second-year minithesis, and the bloke who tries to predict football final scores. Not the regular TMQ
comment "the New York Times went 0-16 again this week, bringing the Multicoloured Lady's record to 2-1,026 since TMQ began tracking this quixotic pursuit," but proper football. Strength of sides and consistency are the main factors used, apparently. Then they run a nice multiple Monte Carlo simulation to work out the most likely score, and publish that. Of course, if they're using Excel 2003, they could end up with Manchester United 4, Wolves -1. brigbother
And, goodness, the whole Loyalty Cards phenomenon. Yes, you too can trade away information about your most personal shopping habits for a return of slightly less than 1p in the pound. Or you can swap them for Free Air Miles, at a rate of almost exactly one mile in the pound. In a stroke of genius, the whole shebang was brilliantly sent up by the
Midday With Mair
Loyalty Card. Each card bore the smiling face of host Eddie Mair (though judging by his appearance on
, it's a very similar body double), came with Free Air, and entitled the listener to hear additional MWM coverage when Wimbledon and the Olympics interrupted through the innovative Radio Top Box into which plugged the MWM Loyalty Card. This, lest we forget, was back in 1996, before the days of 5 Live News Extra, and even before audio streaming on the website. Loyalty card 693 went for a grand for Children in Need; number 909 made only slightly less for Comic Relief.
Where did Chris Evans lose it? I'd say he hit his peak early, perhaps as early as spring 96 when MFI Friday had to go on tape. After that, his work suffered from ever-increasing displays of petulance and paranoia, culminating in his attacks against the DJ in Inverness and eventual flounce-out from Radio 1. (Recommended: Simon Garfield's book
The Nation's Favourite
.) It was clearly downhill from then on. MFI lost its way, giving away two million quid of his own money in a desperate and futile attempt to buy ratings, his takeover of - and eventual sacking from - Vermin Radio, dating a woman who's barely half his age, a year out, three flop formats, and it all culminates in next year's career as a market trader.
Re: Maths, Cards, Evans
Sorry, proper response later. Knee-jerk reaction, there.
Re: Maths, Cards, Evans
The Invariant Society had extremely talented, resourceful and perseverant secretaries who booked the guests: during the two full and two half years I were there, jvvw
and <lj not-user-yet-but-surely-a-matter-of-time=
"David Wallace">. I note that the secretary after David Wallace was fivemack
, so LJ presence of Invariant secretaries is not just a three-in-a-row fad. Invariants
LJ community, anyone? Ahem. ;-)
If you look through the term card archive, we had loads of very cool people there over the years; both street-famous names like Paul Daniels
(not my time) and Jonny Ball
, tips of the hat to Chris Maslanka
and Fun And Games
' Celia Hoyles
, alongside your Roger Penrose, your Benoit Mandelbrot (who apparently gave a very long talk that nobody understood) and - if you're foreverdirt
, at least - your Dad.
We also used to do joint ventures with the Cambridge Archimedeans (usually going over to take part and lose in their Puzzles Drive, plus an alternating fixture against them at croquet) and other semi-local maths societies. One year, addedentry
and I organised an afternoon-long Oxford-wide scavenger hunt for us, Cambridge, Warwick and Southampton. Why not the Birmingham Mathsoc? Likely because we didn't know about them at the time; perhaps you didn't have a web page, or something - this list
looks far longer than I remembered it to be. Anyway, the Warwick lot were a good crowd, but they carried poor report of Ian Stewart. Apparently one of Britain's most famous mathematical journalists had rather a grudge against one of the Warwick students; ever since, Ian Stewart
has been, is and probably forever will be a bastard
. A lesson to all those who go on to become famous, there. (Can this get me done for libel?) (Probably. - Libel Ed
Loyalty cards: 1% discount is enough for me, for I'm neither proud nor private. Of course, loyalty-cardless retailers are often plain cheaper than loyalty-cardful ones (see Boots vs. Superdrug, passim). Besides, it's fun to game the system and get far more than 1% from time to time.
Chris Evans: very probably correct, but so long as he hasn't blown his wad, he probably still has more than one £107
left in the bank on which to retire gracefully and quietly at a very young age. Good luck to him, I say, so long as he keeps out of the bloody way
|Date:||December 23rd, 2003 10:03 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: Maths, Cards, Evans
And don't forget our exciting croquet matches with the Archmideans and Warwick. I thought it was particularly impressive that the year we had four teams (we made a "mathematicians who worked in Cheltenham" team too) the Invariants managed to come in dead last. *grin*
I thought we had the scavenger hunt two years running - am I hallucinating? If not, we should have; it was fun.
And a very merry birthday to Mark R-J from me as well!
Re: Maths, Cards, Evans
I had a suspicion we were the only ones who organised a scavenger hunt, but I could well be wrong. (I can remember there being one the year after addedentry
and I organised ours, with a sum-of-squares-of-scores-from-each-lette
r scoring system. That's the sort of thing I remember, see.)
I always wanted to take on all-comer maths societies at Laser Quest as well as at croquet. We'd have won that. :-)
It's all coming back to me now.....Sainsbury's Reward Points (dammit, I realise now that I forgot to make the most of them)....the Spice Girls....drinking sessions.....
Excuse me, I'm having a Proustian moment.
A La Recherche Du Keble Lodge
Let's play the Keble room name game - do join in!
First year, I was in H304, Mark was somewhere on dB8.
Second year, I was in dB602 (excellent room - loads of floor space because it's on the corner, even more space at the front window because of its weird shape - but I think they reserve it for graduates these days) and Mark was in dB103.
Third year, I was in Arco 007 and Mark was in Arco 008. Attracted a very fair share of drunk passers-by violating our door note sheet due to its proximity to the Arco entrance, but otherwise perfectly fine.
Re: A La Recherche Du Keble Lodge
Eek. Room numbers....um.
First year, I think it was P401 - top floor on the clocktower. Noisy place. Good exercise though.
Second year, I think it was Liddon 1507 or 1502 or something like that - one of the big rooms in the middle of the corridor one floor up. Nice, big and cold....
Third year, ARCO 309 (I think) - first room next to the lifts facing the trees. The annoying thing I remember about that room was that it was often too warm inside in winter, but when you opened the window to cool down, the cold air flowed down onto your desk, so you'd have frozen fingers, which as everyone knows, is not all that good for revision....
4th year decamped to Cranham St. Smelly place.
Re: A La Recherche Du Keble Lodge
My window on the corner of the Arco building (well, one of the very small number of non-rounded corners) was pretty draughty, leading to the frozen fingers you mention. I fashioned an impromptu draught-excluder from Blu-Tak.
|Date:||January 5th, 2004 03:08 pm (UTC)|| |
|(Link)|Mark found his first girlfriend during that year, Jo
Was she lost? (ba-dum tssh)
I had been wondering what happened to Jo actually (no offence to hermorrine
of course, whom I've not met).
With regard to the above argument, I am happy to say that bopeepsheep
wins hands down. ;-)