MaW's Musings

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Well, it's been an interesting time. Rupert's birthday party, celebrating one year since h2g2 went down for that terrible, terrible time in which there was much uncertainty until - lo! - the site reappeared under the ownership of the BBC, and while there has been and still is disgruntlement about some BBC policies, I would like to state here that I think the whole project has been a complete success, and I applaud the BBC for stepping in.

After all, without them there'd probably not be an h2g2 for us to go to - I'm not rich enough to support it from the interest on my savings account smiley - sadface, and I doubt anyone else around here is, either.

Exams

Well, I've had exams. Four of them, to be precise. Algorithms and Data Structures was an acceptable paper of a roughly perfect difficulty level, I thought. Computer Communications and Networking was evil, as expected, while Database Systems surprised us all by being remarkably easy. Then Computer Graphics came along and needed at least another half hour to finish...

So the results come out next week, which I'm looking forward to with a kind of dread... as, I'm sure, are all the other people out there waiting for exam results. Good luck everyone!

The Teletubbies

It might seem odd to skip from exams to the Teletubbies1, but that's part of the beauty of writing a column like this - I can talk about more or less whatever I want. During the exams one of my housemates and I spent a great deal of time in the mornings watching and analysing the Teletubbies. Why? I hear you ask. Well, for one thing, I find watching Teletubbies to be a great way to de-stress. Also, it's surprising what you can read into a programme, even if you are actually making the whole thing up. For example, by watching the Teletubbies one can see things which might indicate that...

  • Po is a matriarchal figure with dominance over the group
  • Dipsy is going out with Laa Laa
  • Tinky Winky is both stupid and possessed of awful taste2

Various other commentators have suggested that Tinky Winky is a gay icon (that first came up when Teletubbies aired in the USA) because he carries a red handbag around sometimes, and his aerial is in the shape of a one particular gay pride sign. While I agree this choice of favourite item for Tinky Winky (all the Teletubbies have one) is unfortunate, deciding that there are gay themes in a programme for pre-schoolers is really quite, quite silly.

Or is it? It's no siller than the three points I mentioned above. The really important question is - does it matter? And I'm not sure that it does. If Tinky Winky is carrying a handbag around while being portrayed as a male character, is that a particular problem? If his aerial happens to be triangular, is that a problem too? Society sometimes gets far too obsessed with symbols.

For those of you who are wondering, the other three Teletubbies have much less controversial favourite toys - Dipsy has a hat covered in fake fur in a dalmation-like pattern3, Laa Laa has a ball that's almost as big as she is, big, squashy and probably oozing sexual imagery from every atom, and Po has a pink scooter4.

So was there a point to all that? Well, there might have been, but I can't remember what it was, so I'll move on to something else now... and that something else is...

Rupert's Birthday Party

The Official Winter 2002 h2g2 Party in London, UK was a resounding success as I'm sure many of you are already aware. Too many Researchers to count gathered in pubs to make merry and freak out the landlords and other customers.

I travelled down to London that morning on the train from Nottingham. I had a reserved seat, because the nice woman in the ticket office offered me one for no extra cost, so there wasn't the usual fumbling about to find a free seat that wasn't reserved. Comfortable with this prospect, I boarded the train, managed to find the right coach first time (my experience has shown that the art of reading the coach markings on the outside of the train eludes many passengers), and slumped in the seat to wait out the journey with the aid of a good book (The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings), and some suitable music in my MiniDisc player5. The train was fairly empty when it left Nottingham, but by the time we'd passed through Bedford, the last stop before London St. Pancras, it was chock full and I was glad I hadn't had to go from there!

Upon arrival in London a very large number of people got off the train - more, I am certain, than could possibly have fitted inside it. I headed directly for the Underground station, purchased a weekend travelcard for such zones as I would require to get to my overnight accomodation as well as the h2g2 venues, and headed down the escalator. It takes two trains to get to Charing Cross from King's Cross St. Pancras - you can either take the Northern Line to Euston and then the other Northern Line to Charing Cross, or go via the Picadilly Line to Leicester Square, then the Northern Line to Charing Cross. I opted for the latter, as I know from experience that taking the Northern Line to Euston first takes noticeably longer6.

Emerging at Charing Cross Station, it was only just past 12 noon. Since the meet didn't call for people to assemble until 2pm, I quickly located the nearest Waterstone's and browsed the shelves for a while, then headed down Whitehall to see if I could find the pub. This was surprisingly and pleasingly easy, and when I arrived there were already a few people there, including the Post's very own Pastey and his delightful wife Magrat. I bought food and drink, then drank and ate until it was gone, talking quite a bit along the way. As this happened, more people turned up, and the pub gradually got fuller and fuller and fuller...

The weather was awful, but lots of people decided to do the Photo Scavenger Hunt anyway. Not being quite so keen, but also not wishing to sit in the pub for ages, I seized an opportunity and took LokuZ with me to go look for somewhere with some ducks, and also to catch up on talk from home, because LokuZ attends the same sixth form I used to. We did indeed find some ducks in St. James' Park, after admiring the gold leaf on the railings of Buckingham Palace, which was extraordinarily bright in the overcast January daylight.

Along with some interesting ducks we also found some interesting geese and some moorhens. I have photos, but they won't be developed for quite a while so don't hold your breath.

Time was moving along, and the weather looked like it was getting worse, so we headed back to the Lord Moon of the Mall and socialised for some time longer before everyone decamped to the Sutton Arms for the evening festivities, which were accomplished amid much drinking and laughing.

I was of course on the Post quiz team, which came a shameful second from last, thus failing to gain me a new h2g2 T-shirt to wear for meets, as my normal one, which I bought when you could still buy them, is looking rather faded now. However, it was a lot of fun and I had some rather nice wine.

Eventually it was time to go, and I had a merry old time at Victoria trying to find out which train I wanted. It turned out most of the other people there wanted the same train as me, and were waiting because once I found it on the board I discovered it didn't have a platform number. Eventually the train arrived some 20 minutes late, and deposited me at my destination for sleep and more socialising on Sunday.

With two birds well and truely killed, although I'm not sure if it was one stone or one and two-thirds which I used, I returned to Nottingham late on Sunday afternoon tired, eager for a shower and bed, but very happy and with many wonderful memories.

To the Italics, without whom such memories would not be in my head. Hip hip, hooray!

MaW


07.02.02. Front Page

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1For those of you who don't know, Teletubbies is a television programme for very young pre-school children, made by Ragdoll Productions for the BBC and starring four unusual creatures with televisions in their tummies, which receive subtly educational films once per episode. Teletubbyland is also populated by the Noo Noo, which appears to be a robotic vacuum cleaner.2It's that red handbag again, Tinky Winky old chap3Oh no! He's encouraging the wearing of animal fur!4Which is bad, because Po is red... It's unfortunate when one clashes with one's favourite toy, isn't it?5Specifically, Kylie Minogue's Fever, The Bangles' Eternal Flame and Sarah Brightman's Timeless.6If you look at a map, this kind of makes sense.

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