Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster

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Catching up

So many things I want to talk about, but I want to clear up matters that I've started discussing in the past before I move ahead with new things.

1. Before Christmas, I issued a pernickety yes-and-no poll. Here are the results. Bear in mind the standard disclaimers: small sample, self-selecting sample, unrepresentative sample, barely better than nothing, just a bit of fun.

Do you consider yourself to have many Friends? 18 Yes, 19 No. Those saying "Yes" had a mean of 136 Friends, those saying "No" had a mean of 84 Friends. It's instructive to split the 37 voters into 18 members and 19 non-members of the Harry Potter LiveJournal fandom, where I have arbitrarily chosen a dividing constraint of "has at least 4 Friends who are Friends of fandomdirectory"; there are some interesting border cases, but to specify further would be to contravene the promised confidentiality.

Among the 18 HP LJ fans, the 6 who claimed to have many Friends averaged 205 (mean 205, median 210) and the 12 who claimed not to have many Friends averaged 97; among the 19 non-HP LJ fans, the 12 who claimed to have many Friends averaged 102 and the 7 who claimed not to have many Friends averaged 62. I think it's clear to conclude that HP LJ fans are influenced in their judgement of "many" by a small number of very well-known fans who have more than half a thousand Friends and that 100 Friends is as reasonable a boundary between "many" and "not many" as any.

Do you regard yourself as generally open about the identity of your worst fear? 20 Yes, 17 No. Among the 20 ladies who took the poll, 13 said Yes and 7 said No; among the 17 gentlemen who took the poll, 7 said Yes and 10 said No. Evidently I am among the cluckier and squawkier gender. I cannot remember how you would test whether this represents a significant difference between the two genders or not, but my gut feeling that is that that result is not likely to be particularly significant.

Do you consider at least 5% of your Friends to be the people you would like to be yourself? 23 Yes, 14 No.

Ignoring practicalities and existing partnerships, in a series of unrelated one-shot thought experiments, would you like to try to form a romantic relationship with more than 10% of your Friends? 13 Yes, 24 No.

Have you ever had a mental image of a Friend and not been able to immediately recall their username, on more than two occasions? Again, 13 Yes, 24 No.

Without breaching confidentiality, we can draw up some pairwise comparison tables:

                 Worst     Like to     Romance    Forgotten
                 Fear      be 5%+      10%+ of   3+ Friends'
                 Open?    of Friends?  Friends?   usernames?

               YES  NO     YES  NO     YES  NO     YES  NO
            Y|           |           |           |           |
            E|     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
            S|   8 | 10  |  12 |  6  |   7 | 11  |   9 |  9  |
  Many       | ----+---- | ----+---- | ----+---- | ----+---- | 
Friends?    N|  13 |  6  |  11 |  8  |   6 | 13  |   4 | 15  |
            O|     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
             |           |           |           |           |
            Y|           |           |           | 
            E|     |     |     |     |     |     | 
 Forgotten  S|   7 |  6  |   9 |  4  |   8 |  5  | 
3+ Friends'  | ----+---- | ----+---- | ----+---- | 
 usernames? N|  14 | 10  |  14 | 10  |   5 | 19  | 
            O|     |     |     |     |     |     | 
             |           |           |           | 
            Y|           |           | 
            E|     |     |     |     | 
  Romance   S|   7 |  6  |  11 |  2  |
  10%+ of    | ----+---- | ----+---- |
  Friends?  N|  14 | 10  |  12 | 12  |
            O|     |     |     |     |
             |           |           |
            Y|           |
            E|     |     |
 Like to    S|  12 | 11  |
 be 5%+      | ----+---- | 
of Friends? N|   9 |  5  |
            O|     |     |
             |           |

Again, I've forgotten quite how you test these things for significance (which is a shame - this was the area of mathematics I used to enjoy most) but I have identified three particularly interesting, if currently weakly-held, conclusions:

a) People who do consider themselves to have many Friends are almost four times as likely to have had a mental image of a Friend and not been able to immediately recall their username, on more than two occasions than those who haven't. There is perhaps some merit in the theory that you know you have many Friends when you can't remember immediately who they all are.

b) The properties of having "had a mental image of a Friend and not been able to immediately recall their username, on more than two occasions" and "Ignoring practicalities and existing partnerships, in a series of unrelated one-shot thought experiments, would you like to try to form a romantic relationship with more than 10% of your Friends" appear to have a notable positive correlation to me, with 27 matches and only 10 non-matches. If the two questions were independent, we would expect the numbers to be more like 4 / 9 / 9 / 15 than 8 / 5 / 5 / 19.

c) The figure for people who "Ignoring practicalities and existing partnerships, in a series of unrelated one-shot thought experiments, would like to try to form a romantic relationship with more than 10% of your Friends" but who do not "consider at least 5% of your Friends to be the people you would like to be yourself" is remarkably small - 2 where we might have expected 5.

(Bear in mind the standard disclaimers once more: small sample, self-selecting sample, unrepresentative sample, barely better than nothing, just a bit of fun.)

2. Here's a run-down of the selections in El Gordo as discussed, which will be something to keep me interested over the whole year. Remember the scoring: a sole correct entrant scores 60, two correct entrants score 30 each, three correct 20 each and so on. If all ten ever agreed correctly, each would win 6 points. My selections are in bold. The games hobby categories only have nine entrants, which is deliberate. Some notable omissions explicitly illustrated.

1. Zine Poll: Ode 3 The Sprouts of Wrath 3 For Whom The Die Rolls 2 The Blue Nose Special 1 The first three are the past three years' winners. A winner outside them would be a 10%-chance shock.
2. Australian Open Women's Tennis: Clijsters 6 Henin-Hardenne 3 Williams S. 1 Williams V. 0 Capriati 0
3. OxCon Settlers: Welbourne 2 Parish 1 Goble 1 Beaumont 1 Percik 1 Duncan 1 Stretch 1 Williams 1 Welbourne, Stretch, Goble and Williams look strong but the others are plausible contenders except "Chris Duncan" which we suspect to be a misremembered name. Chetan Radia is also in with a shout; Tanya Fox has won the English Championship in the past but is unlikely to come down from Edinburgh; the Hortons were regularly on the podium but seem to be in retirement. The Field has a 40% chance against those not mentioned.
4. Six Nations runners-up: England 4 France 3 Wales 2 Ireland 1 Ireland seems to have been the value pick here.
5. Democratic candidate: Dean 7 Gore 2 Kerry 1 One of the Al Gore nominators lives in NY. Whoops. John Kerry is apparently a value pick - "Still, I reckon John Kerry has to be at least 1/7 as likely to win as Dean, so I’m not giving up yet."
6. Snooker WC: O'Sullivan 3 Higgins 3 Hendry 2 Williams 1 Hunter 1 Stevens 0 The GM notes "A very open category, with any of the top 6 very capable of winning. We agreed, guessing 5 of those 6, although the omission of newly crowned UK champion Matthew Stevens is a surprise. Chris will be feeling very pleased to be the only one going for defending champion and world number one Mark Williams." I am. The Field has a 20% chance against the six.
7. Serie A: AC Milan 4 Juventus 2 Lazio 2 Inter Milan 1 Roma 1 An informed late change! The GM notes "there are still five teams in realistic contention. Chris makes another plum prediction to find himself the only person with his money on Roma, currently six points clear, while the other nine of us spread over the other four contenders."
8. FA Cup: Chelsea 5 Arsenal 1 Man Utd. 1 Newcastle 1 Fulham 1 Tottenham 1
9. Labour seats at Euro elections: twenty-seven 3 twenty-four 3 twenty-two 2 twenty-six 1 twenty-five 1 GM sez: "Chris tries to change his orders - but too late - but claims that there are 6 seats fewer this time. Is this true? If so I think even the most pessimistic prediction of 22 is too high, as Labour will surely lose a goodly number of seats."
10. UK men's croquet champion: Bamford 4 Trimmer 2 Maugham 1 Kirby 1 Gibbons 1 Parish 1 GM: "Interesting to note that four of us have gone for Reg Bamford - a sound enough prediction, but he is only the second ranked player in the UK, and given that I pointed you to the ranking list I would have expected a few of you to go for the number one ranked player, Robert Fulford. Were you all trying to be clever by going for the number two, or was it the fact that I have previously written about Reg in these pages?"
11. Euro 2004 winners: France 4 England 2 Netherlands 1 Spain 1 Italy 1 Sweden 1 Uh-oh.
12. Stanley Cup Ice Hockey: Detroit Redwings 3 New Jersey Devils 3 Vancouver Canucks 2 Colorado Avalanche 1 Toronto Otnorot 1
13. Henman elimination: R4 (last 16) 3 R3 (last 32) 2 R5 (last 8) 2 Winner 2 R6 (last 4) 1
14. World Diplomacy Champion: Clouet 2 Dennehy 1 Tullett 1 Day 1 Bouton 1 Perez 1 Wightman 1 Harris 1 5 UK players, 4 from Europe, 0 from ROW. The Field has about a 75% chance against The Eight named, so this one is very random.
15. Manorcon Croquet: Parish 4 Haytack 2 McGowan 1 Duke 1 "A Dutchman" 1 McGowan has beaten Nick Parish in the past, and Gary Duke is a credible player who cannot be discounted on Manorcon's famously bumpy, skill-levelling lawns.
16. Olympic Men's 100m: Brown 3 Collins 3 Greene 1 Lewis-Francis 1 Williams 1 Aliu 1 IAAF World Rankings bulletin: "The men’s 100m was probably one of the best races in Abuja at the All Africa Games last week, posting some world class times at the end of the season [...] World championship finalist Deji Aliu won in 9.95. the third fastest time of the year, a new personal best that moved Aliu up two places to fourth in the 100m Event Ranking." So I picked him. Watch the US trials with interest.
17. County Cricket: Surrey 6 Lancs 2 Sussex 1 Leics 1 The GM entered Leics and noted this was a typo on his part for Lancs; Leics are in Division 2. Whoops. Full marks for honesty for letting the typo stand, though.
18. Formula 1 runner-up: Schumacher, M. 7 Schumacher, R. 1 Raikkonen 1 Montoya 1 GM: "I find this hard to believe, but an astonishing 7 out of 10 of you think that Michael Schumacher will come second. Either it's wishful thinking, you didn't read the question properly or you just don't know any drivers other than Schuey. Or to put it another way, if I had chosen the category of Formula One winner, how many would still have chosen Schumacher M.? Back in the real world, only one prediction each for Raikkonen and Montoya leaves Chris and me in pole position (so to speak)." I am hopeful here.
19. Tour de France: Armstrong 5 Ullrich 4 Vinokourov 1 I picked Vinokourov because he came third last year and I half-suspect Ullrich is crocked. "Armstrong is unsurprisingly a big favourite to become the first man ever to win six Tours, with four of us hoping against hope that Jan Ullrich can stop him and Chris proving he knows more about cycling than I do by choosing someone I've never heard of."
20. Rugby League Super League: Wigan 4 Leeds 3 Bradford 2 St. Helens 1
21. FTSE 100 at 30/9/04 +/- 50: one each for 3750 4150 4200 4650 4680 4685 4720 4747 5073 6500.
22. US PGA golf: Mickelson 3 Singh 2 Els 2 Woods 1 Rose 1 Garcia 1 The GM notes that the solitary Woods prediction may be the best one in the whole game, but the Field must have a better than 50% chance against the six named.
23. Base rate at 31/12/04: 4.50% 5 4.25% 2 4.75% 1 5.00% 1 3.00% 1 Interesting pairwise comparisons between 21 and 23; the game's bull predicted 6500 and 5% respectively, the game's bear predicted a "slumptastic" 3750 and 3%. Points for consistency.
24. Petrol prices at 31/12/04 +/- 2p: one each for 77.9 79.9 79.9 80.9 81.0 81.9 82.0 83.4 83.9 86.9
25. Issue of Turbo at 31/12/04: sixty-six 4 sixty-seven 2 sixty-five 2 sixty 1

All told, I'm hopeful. Probably a game that could benefit from more than ten players, though, or more than one vote per player, as someone could really sneak it with a lucky 60 here and there.

3. You've probably seen the "2003 in review" list of questions going around. (Loads of people have done it, but mostly friends-locked, so finding public examples to point to is tricky.) I'm hugely impressed by those who do it; it asks a lot of very large, very deep questions for which I cannot dash off quick answers. Let's just take one example:
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
iii. richer or poorer? - Compared to 14th December 2002, for which numbers are far more readily available, I am £100.39 better off in savings and current accounts, but owe £2,013.74 more to the credit card company. (I would like to note that I have spent nothing on my credit card since 21st July.) On the other hand, I estimate that my investments from 2000 and 2001 are about £1,200 more valuable; however, this represents money that I am not prepared to touch and probably won't touch before 2007 to 2010, depending upon how the market recovers. (Suffice to say: FTSE tracker ISA purchased when the FTSE 100 was over 6000; its current level of 4500 represents an 18-month high. Ah well. Four consecutive years of 10% growth should do the trick. That's not much to ask, is it?)

In conclusion, my relatively-low-interest credit card is kicking my backside, mostly for the reason that I subscribe to a credit card unemployment protector which I am unable to use but feel rather too scared to cancel. (Yes, this is screamingly irrational and also rather expensive, adding something like another 9.5% to the APR.) The next time I get a regular income which I feel I can quote to a credit card company, I shall move from my current credit card to a different one to get a six month interest holiday, quoting my new regular rate of pay and presumably getting a rather lower credit limit than the one I have currently. I will think again about taking a similar protector in the future.

ii. thinner or fatter? - My weight now is between 189 and 195 pounds, depending on how I stand on the scales. I would tend to believe 193-194, being a bit above my pre-Christmas low of 192. This time last year, I had to raise my userinfo from "200-205 lbs." to "205-210 lbs." due to a "big Christmas" - and I vaguely recall it being at the higher end of that band. Accordingly, I weigh between 10 and 15 pounds less than I did last year, and am probably two inches thinner.

i. happier or sadder? - We can measure this! This time last year, the BBC quoted a formula for measuring happiness; I churned through the algebra and concluded I was 55 happy, exactly half-way between the minimum possible 10 and the maximum possible 100. This year?

1. Are you outgoing, energetic, flexible and open to change?

Not very, not very, moderately and somewhat. Particularly due to improvements in the last of these, I think I can improve last year's 4/10 to a 5/10 this year, though.

2. Do you have a positive outlook, bounce back quickly from setbacks and feel that you are in control of your life?

Last year I gave myself 3/10 for this. I think I definitely do better on "positive outlook" than I did last year, though still definitely not good at bouncing back from setbacks and still not a vast amount of control over my life. 4/10 sounds fair.

(Add together the scores for 1 and 2 to get a 2-20 score for P.)

3. Are your basic life needs met, in relation to personal health, finance, safety, freedom of choice and sense of community?

This one translates to "Turn your Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs diagram into a number". There's a fair amount of green there compared to very little red, but high scores should depend on the elimination of red altogether. The worsening financial situation suggests I really ought to lower last year's 6/10 to a 5½/10.

(This is your score for E.)

4. Can you call on the support of people close to you, immerse yourself in what you are doing, meet your expectations and engage in activities that give you a sense of purpose?

Definitely more people than I could last year, yes. Activities: the work front is similarly perilous, but I am doing a university course which represents an improvement and meeting up with interesting students on a reasonably frequent basis. This compensates for the fact that I'm not enjoying the games club as much as I once was and LiveJournal is losing some of its novelty. I'm definitely better off here than I was last year, so I rise from 6/10 to 6½/10.

(This is your score for H.)

Apply the formula Happiness = P + (5xE) + (3xH) and I get Happiness = (5+4) + (5*5½) + (3*6½) = 9 + 27½ + 19½ = 56.

So I can conclude that yes, I am happier than last year. Specifically, I am 1 happier. Good.
4. Yes, I'm happier than I was last year. However, I've also been looking into the following matters, on the basis that now is a better time to do so than when I'm less able to cope:The last one is particularly interesting - a recommendation for all, not just those who struggle with depression or distress. On the other hand, I'm not sure whether it represents good advice or not. If you were to be named as one of someone's five relied-upon, would you take it well? I do have my five in mind (and know what data I am missing) but am not sure whether making the list and distributing it to the five in question really would be taken well. I also find the section in part two about "Get clear in your mind what your own personal limitations are as a friend and a support system. Because when the crisis hits is not the time to suss that out." scary, but probably very relevant. Thoughts welcome, please. How would you go about doing that for yourself? (The results aren't my business - I'm interested in the thought process.) Does the advice and the process seem sound to you?

5. It's cheap travel season! Look out for flight bargains. Brits pay attention to the British Airways Sale, though the prices look like they could be beaten by 10%-20% by other operators yet. (BA examples: LHR to NYC return for £199 inc. tax; LHR to ORD return for £269 inc. tax. Book by 27th January, fly out by end April, stay for between a weekend and a month, not available at Easter.) Virgin's sale is about £10 cheaper across the board.

Teessiders, there's a very good deal on rail travel at the moment. A small number of return train tickets between Darlington and Edinburgh are being sold for £10 and between Darlington and London for £15. Book them on a special telephone number advertised in Monday's Middlesbrough Evening Gazette 7+ days in advance, plus collect six tokens from the Gazette before you travel. Rules: limited number of tickets, must pay standard fares to get to Darlington, tickets only refer to specific trains so a miss would be an expensive blunder, apparently no limit to the number of times you can take advantage of the offer until the end of March. Heh, heh. Looks like I could be coming to London, or taking unusual routes to Oxford - train to London, then coach to Oxford. (Cheaper than National Express all the way, more comfortable, probably quicker and with considerably less Birmingham Digbeth Coach Station.)

6. A couple of weeks old now, but the results of the Guardian's second British Blog Awards are up. The choice for "best written", Belle de Jour (a prostitute's blog) - well, I was hoping something a little less well-known and a bit more, well, bloggish would win. It's certainly well written, with a neat point of view, good tales and very tight self-editing. The less explicit entries are sweet and charming. There have been accusations of it being fictional, but that is frankly almost completely irrelevant. :-) However, it's by no means outstanding for links, for personality (all but anonymous due to a deliberate business decision) or for any sense of community other than occasional appeals for e-mail. That doesn't add up to a great blog to me.

However, it's an easier judgement to take when you realise that the award was just for "best written", not for "best blog" - indeed, there is no "best blog" award. Perhaps I'm not interested in "best written" as the criterion if I were to crown a single winner; I care more about "most personally interesting subject material", "most attractive/desirable/pleasant-seeming personality", "most interesting discussions sparked", "biggest impact on other journals", "most interesting ideas", "biggest impact on the rest of the world", "best gimmicks", "silliest jokes" and things like that. It's a good illustration of the difference between a LiveJournal and a blog - and why LiveJournal is better than other blogging systems. (OK, better for me, but probably better for many or most.) Their unenthusiastic but fair review of LJ does at least lead off with LiveJournal is the most community-oriented of the blogging systems, though alas does not immediately conclude and therefore it is the one you should use.

7. Remember discussion of different ages of consent for types of sexual acts? As pledged, I mailed Peter Tatchell. Four days later, he sent a polite and interested reply, suggesting that he wasn't aware of any research on the subject and inviting me to write a paper on the matter. Which was nice.

8. mrstrellis and parents took me bowling yesterday! It was a lot of fun, especially as it was the first time I had bowled for, at a guess, over five years. I scored 85, which is simultaneously nothing special and satisfactorily close to what I used to get. Unfortunately, in about frame four, I somehow pulled or twisted or otherwise graunched the lower front of my thigh, just above my knee, and consequently putting weight on the left leg (as I do when I'm bending to, er, bowl the ball) became rather painful; accordingly, I sat out of the second game. (mrstrellis got a studly 132.) On top of that, I have a definite case of "bowler's base-of-the-thumb", so I conclude that my technique leaves a lot to be desired.

Lesson for next time: make sure you warm up - even for bowling!
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