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Scrabble: A Night on the Tiles

December 11th, 2014 (07:32 pm)

I very much enjoyed this documentary about the origins of Scrabble and how it's played now. It's so right about a lot of things. There was quite a lot in there I didn't know. I knew that Alfred Mosher Butts invented Scrabble, but I didn't know there was a middle phase to the story. The way I knew it, he invented it and then it was discovered by Macy's. But there was more than a ten year gap! And in fact Lexico was not a former name of the board game Scrabble, but a predecessor with similar equipment and rules.

I very rarely think about it now, but I was a player for about 5 years. I did enter a few tournaments but relatively not that many. I was primarily an online player but felt the need to prove myself by playing live tournaments, because Internet Scrabble in particular is a cheat's paradise and there aren't any reliable ways to tell a good player apart from a cheat.

I think it would be very different if I started again today.

Firstly my concentration span is so bad I don't know if I could play. I mean, you can switch off during your opponent's turn which I highly recommend. In a tournament you might play 6 games in a day, or even in one particular tournament 16 games in two days. Each game you get 25 minutes thinking time each, so a theoretical maximum of 50 minutes per game (I say theoretical, it is possible to neutralize the clock so you can go over 50 minutes).

Ignoring that, I remember joining the UK Scrabble forum. Um, total shambles I'm afraid. People at each other's throats constantly, people who knew each other in real life too! Plus now, I wouldn't be so keen to prove myself. I mean I like to record my juggling achievements on camera but not to prove myself to anyone, not even myself. It's nice to have a record of good things that you can watch whenever I want to. Furthermore with counting catches, sometimes you don't know how many catches you have, but if you film it you can replay it and do slow-motions and count catches as many times as you like. Finally you can see what it looks like to others and spot flaws in your own technique. So basically recording your own juggling is an all-round win.

I think I found out that playing Scrabble in person is expensive and quite boring. I remember thinking after 4 games of a 6 game tournament that I was both tired and bored and basically had to try hard to concentrate to not quit in the last two games. Plus with travel and staying overnight (the last one is optional of course) you're paying at least £50 which is as much as the first prize is. In fact, you can win the tournament and operate at an overall loss. Not only 'can' but even the world's best players aren't professionals because there isn't enough money in it; they're winning thousands and spending more than that on travel and accommodation.

So I was really an Internet player. Playing socially in person was cool too but I was a bit too good for the people around me. I had one person come to my house called Mark who was really good but also really sort of weird and boring and I never invited him round again.


mglovesfun [userpic]


October 28th, 2014 (11:10 pm)

I've taken an age to get round to this. And I'm going to say why and then make it relevant.

A couple of things, one is that I'm usually pretty busy (though not always) and most of my free time in front of the computer is on facebook or watching old tennis videos on YouTube. In fact I've just finished the 2011 Australian Open final, moving on next to the 2011 Wimbledon finally. I'm yet to find any US or French Open finals on YouTube, though I've seen quite a lot of Wimbledon and Australian Open ones. In fact all the Wimbledon finals since 2003.

Also I have a lot of trouble concentrating on anything involving reading or writing. This is where it starts getting relevant.

I've left Citizen's Advice Bureau. I didn't see it coming.

Edit: I couldn't even finish this blog post in one go, I've had to save it and come back to it.

But anyway, I didn't realize how academic the qualification was going to be. In fact, I didn't even realize I was going to be doing an academic course at all. It wasn't what I thought I'd signed up for at all. So I was disappointed and I think it would have been in their best interests to say what the course involved, I can't imagine any scenario where it wouldn't be.

The issue really was concentration. I can probably concentrate for about 30 minutes before I need a 30 minute break. So again I've learned something from a voluntary job, something useful, but what I've learned is jobs not to apply for because I won't be able to do them. It's not all that long ago I was applying for admin jobs!

I think in fairness, applying for admin jobs in 2010-2011 it was quite different back then, because I could concentrate for a lot longer. It's a bit worrying in one sense. People might think I'm joking when I talk about early onset dementia. Well I'm not. I mean not now but, y'know, the way my life has gone I wouldn't be at all surprised if I was suffering with dementia at 40.

So after saying in 2012 it would never happen again, I'm not ESA (Employment and Support Allowance). I think sadly it's the right choice as with the panic attacks, lack of concentration, early onset of tiredness there's no job I could actually get and retain.

It's the two issues; getting a job in the first place, then retaining it. I discovered in 2013 that 20 hours a week at something I was good at and enjoyed was beyond my limits.

That's it really. So, no good news. I mean, I'm fine, my pride is hurt, but a bruised ego's not the worst thing in the world.


mglovesfun [userpic]

Ched Evans

October 19th, 2014 (04:02 pm)

This is a blog post about the convictions and subsequent release of the footballer Ched Evans.

A few things before we get started. He's been convicted and served his sentence. Or more accurately he's served his custodial sentence, he still has another 2 and a half years on probation.

Trials aren't about what actually happened, they're about evidence. That is to say, juries make their decision on the evidence they have in front of them, they can't travel in time and space to be there when the alleged offence happened. The other things trials are about are juries. Juries are the unknown, the decision-makers without any legal training or experience. And I think sometimes why convictions get ruled unsafe, it's because of this.

I'm not a legal expert and I haven't seen all of the evidence in the Ched Evans case. There are a few things. Let's start with what the law says

(1) A person (A) commits an offence if—

(a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis,

(b) B does not consent to the penetration, and

(c) A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

(2) Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps A has taken to ascertain whether B consents.

(3) Sections 75 and 76 apply to an offence under this section.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.


Most noticeably when I first read this, all rapists are men. Or biologically men if you want to include transgender people with a penis. Also as alluded to above, section 75:

(2) The circumstances are that—

(a) any person was, at the time of the relevant act or immediately before it began, using violence against the complainant or causing the complainant to fear that immediate violence would be used against him;

(b) any person was, at the time of the relevant act or immediately before it began, causing the complainant to fear that violence was being used, or that immediate violence would be used, against another person;

(c) the complainant was, and the defendant was not, unlawfully detained at the time of the relevant act;

(d) the complainant was asleep or otherwise unconscious at the time of the relevant act;

(e) because of the complainant’s physical disability, the complainant would not have been able at the time of the relevant act to communicate to the defendant whether the complainant consented;

(f) any person had administered to or caused to be taken by the complainant, without the complainant’s consent, a substance which, having regard to when it was administered or taken, was capable of causing or enabling the complainant to be stupefied or overpowered at the time of the relevant act.


Curiously the Act goes into quite a lot of detail as to what consent isn't but doesn't mention in the slightest what consent is, so 'consent' maintains its normal definition.

Really the first curiosity about this case is the victim doesn't know whether she consented or not. From what I understand, she was very drunk, though this doesn't fall under section 75 (2) (f) above because the footballer isn't the one who gave her the alcohol. 75 (2) (d) seems also not to apply in that there's no evidence she was unconscious at the time. She doesn't remember and the last footage of her on CCTV shows her conscious.

So I suppose it's down to the CCTV footage. Drunken consent is consent, so she'd have to be so drunk as to not be able to understand what was going on. Given the last footage of her was in the hotel lobby not the hotel room, I'm surprised there's enough evidence to show she was incapable of consent. Again, it's not knowable whether she consented or not because she doesn't remember, so the only way to be sure she didn't consent is if she was incapable. And I'm surprised the jury feels like they can know that beyond a reasonable doubt based on CCTV before the incident happened.

Again, this is not condoning his actions, it's an analysis of the evidence as I see it and how the evidence fits with the statutes of this country.


mglovesfun [userpic]

Re: Mental health: why we're all sick under neoliberalism

October 5th, 2014 (04:26 pm)

This isn't such a terrible article. I've posted worse here. My main objection is that it moves from one issue to another about as seamlessly as a cut-and-shunt car that's half red and half yellow. I've read it a couple of times to try and find a link between the first article and the second article but alas I haven't found one. So I'm in fact classing it as two articles separated only by two linebreaks.

I disagree somewhat. Eradicating poverty is a good thing, of course, but do we want it at any cost? I mean a classic example, if we as a produce enough food to feed everyone (and I believe we do) what if as a farmer you could make more money living on benefits than you could being a farmer? How many would stick with it? Some of course, perhaps more than half, but if world food production goes down 40% then all of a sudden you can't feed everyone.

That's sort of the problem with communism as I see it. If you get given as much money not matter how much or how little you work, why not work 10 hours a week instead of 40 hours a week? Why not work in a shop instead of being a farmer?

I also saw a really good BBC documentary on the Asian Economic Miracle, which was actually started by the British governor of Hong Kong! They reduced benefits and reduced taxes. In fact, in the UK state spending is a higher percentage of all expenditure than it is in China. And China is supposedly a communist country.

The Hong Kong system actually led to more state income from taxation as with lower taxation, people more less of an effort to avoid paying it. Workers got to keep more of what they earnt, incentivising work. People work more, they have more money, they spend it hence the people making the money, they have money to spend. Basically the system works.

Do I oppose state benefits? No. Nowhere did I say that. I think I'm very much in the majority that thinks that there should be some state benefits, a 'safety net', but that there should be a limit to how much people can claim. Enough money to live on? Yes. Somewhere to live? Yes. More money than people who are working? No.

The actual Jobseeker's Allowance rate is £57.35 for someone under 25 (£56.25 may have been right at the time of posting). So in fact it has gone up, for people over 25 it has definitely gone up too, it's £72.40 and it was £60 not so long ago. It's gone up faster than earnings so I think a freeze is justified.

We're a lot more socialist than we used to be as a country. Really in the last 100 years since the Great Depression and the two World Wars, we have benefits, women and non-whites can vote, men can legally marry men and women can legally marry women. A lot of work has been done, and as one friend put it 'we should give socialism a try'. I think we already are. We're dramatically more socialist in terms of policies and in terms of public mood than in 1914.

As for what was posted about mental health, I find it misleading. Everyone has mental health. Everyone has physical health too. If you want to point out that people are in good mental health I think that's fine and I don't think it's stigmatised. In the same way, if someone wanted to point out I'm not blind, not deaf, not in a wheelchair etc. I wouldn't object to that.

Mental health is sometimes used in the sense '[person] has mental health' which is a pretty irritating way of putting it, but I'd imagine that's what the author is referring to. Still, he should make that clearer. I only understood it because I have experience.


mglovesfun [userpic]

I'm so lazy for not posting more often

September 11th, 2014 (01:14 am)

I have so much news as you might expect after such a long time.

I'm on new medication and have been for about 4 weeks now. Having said that, I've idiotically managed to forget to pick up this month's medications for two days in a row, so it's been 4 days since I've taken any, which while that isn't that much, it's not great when you've only been on it 4 weeks to start with.

I've also started volunteering at Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). Literally started that today. It went well, I have nothing really to say on the matter at this point. I won't be posting anyone's details even anonymously here as we take confidentiality very seriously. I'd lose my job (well, no-one reads this blog, so I likely wouldn't) but even so I'm not the type to post things anyway.

Watching some hoop videos, I feel quite frustrated. I like hooping but it is not very natural for me. Perhaps even less natural than juggling. I suppose one thing I say about juggling is I've been doing it so long, more than 5 years now, in part because I'm not naturally talented. I was naturally talented at Scrabble and I think it in part led to me quitting after a couple of years. Also because I juggle a hell of a lot less than I played Scrabble. I juggle like 6 hours a week, well I used to play Scrabble 6 hours a day, often more, and probably more than 40 hours a week!

Back to hooping, here's a little sample. I choose this for two reasons. One because to find an ideal example would take quite a lot of time and it's 1am. Second because I was the one who suggested this.

The clue is a little bit in the video description: "Someone asks me to dance of this music." (sic, I think she's Dutch). I'm not a dancer and don't want to be a dancer. Maybe it's just one of those things. I don't think about presentation so much. I want to achieve a trick, making it attractive to other people isn't what I think about. That's not to say hoop dance is all about presentation, it's not, it's very technical, just not 'my style' of technical trick.

I've never made a hoop video, I've made hooping/juggling video but never had the 'courage' (perhaps not a good choice of word) to make a purely hoop video. I reckon I might get a chance on Friday but I'm not certain either.


mglovesfun [userpic]

Uninteresting post about volume

August 29th, 2014 (09:51 pm)

So, at Cats Protection we use a disinfectant called Anistel®. It has to be diluted by a ratio of of 1:100 (for the sake of pedantry, 1 part Anistel to 100 parts water). We have a 50 litre mark on our largest sink, so you had 50 litres of water and 0.5 litres (that is, 500ml) of Anistel. Simple enough so far, right?

The other day I learned that the 50l mark wasn't calculated using mathematics which is what I'd assumed, but by filling up a 10l bucket five times and marking where it got to (on the chain of the plug). In fairness, as long as you wait for the water to settle and mark it off right (both in the bucket and in the sink) it should be very accurate.

Though today I finally got round to measuring it. It was pretty interesting, I got a tape measure out and did a quick measure for ballpark figures. And the good news is, we're definitely in the right ballpark. I got

length: 123cm
width: 47cm
height (the marker on the chain): 10cm

The bottom's quite flat. We know this from trying to get the water out of the sink after we've used it. It doesn't drain very naturally and you often have to scrape the last bit out with your hand. On the other hand... it's a sink, it isn't intended to be dry! It's more a case of for rinsing with clean water to get the previous lot of water out. But no, I haven't actually got a spirit-level out to check how flat the bottom is and which way it leans. That would perhaps be a bit excessive. But from the pattern of the water, the water doesn't run in any direction, the plughole is raised by a few millimetres and you get a few millimetres of water at the bottom all over when you're finished.

So, let's crunch the numbers. A litre is 1000cm³. 123*47*10/1000 = 57.81

My measurements were pretty rough. I spent a lot of time on the height which is by far the most important. The others could be a centimetre out but not really more than that. If you take a centimetre off the width and the length, you get 56.12. The corners are curved which makes accurate measurements trickier. I used a cloth tape measure as well, which is not ideal, though luckily I can reach far enough to do the 123cm measure without needing someone else. If the tape measure is slightly crumpled in any way, it increases the measurement.

Is this worrying at all? Well I'd say no. using the 57.81 figure, 0.5:57.81 is a ration of 1:115.62 which isn't that far off. says "two simple dilutions" but doesn't list them explicitly. On the microbiological tab it says "The Anistel High Level Surface Disinfectant range has been widely tested by to be Virucidal, Tuberculocidal, Fungicidal, and Bactericidal at all its recommended dilutions, including general cleaning regimes at 1:200 and has also been tested for high risk environments and associated organisms including Parvo, Calici, Kennel Cough at 1:100 in both clean and dirty conditions." "all its recommended dilutions" is pretty confusing because on the previous pages says it has two, but then says "all" and not "both". But it seems that the recommended dilutions are 1:200 and 1:100 (at which it can be clinically proven to kill a couple more diseases). So 1:115 would be between these two. It doesn't say what the tolerance for the dilutions is. I mean, what about 1:99? Obviously fine. How about 1:80? Or 1:70. Doesn't say.


mglovesfun [userpic]

Professional juggler

August 26th, 2014 (12:11 pm)

I wanted to go into a bit what it means to be a professional juggler. First of all, I'm not a professional juggler but I know some people that are. I think they'd all class themselves as professional performers not professional jugglers.

That's because that's what your job is, to perform. To entertain, it's the entertainment industry. That's why the best jugglers aren't necessarily the best performers. Anthony Gatto (usually regarded as the best technical juggler of all time) wrote "Nobody cares about good jugglers in the performance world" and in a later post "They care about entertainers". Quite.

Ivan Pecel is one of his YouTube videos (I will post the URL if I find it) says that show business is two words, it's the show and it's the business, and some of those that are the best jugglers aren't the most successful because they're not as good at the business side, i.e. maximizing pay, maximizing expenses, getting the most gigs.

If you ever watch the WJF Championships, the World Juggling Federation Championships, don't be surprised when the best performing jugglers in the world don't turn up! Why? Because their work is performing and if they want to enter the WJFC they have to take time off from it. It would be like Roger Federer taking time off from tennis to play Wimbledon. But he doesn't of course, because playing tennis competitively is his job. But for a professional juggler, his/her job is performing, not juggling competitively!

Here's a good vlog from Ivan Pecel on being a professional juggler. Edit: at 7:41 contains the reference to 'show' and 'business'.

mglovesfun [userpic]

re: There's nothing selfish about suicide

August 13th, 2014 (06:52 pm)

Huffington Post: There's nothing selfish about suicide

A friend posted this, and she's very upset about it. So while in other circumstances I'd rather address my answer to her directly, I think it would cause avoidable pain, and I don't like causing pain to anyone, let alone my friends.

"Until you've stared down that level of depression, until you've lost your soul to a sea of emptiness and darkness... you don't get to make those judgments."

So I'll make those judgments then, shall I?

If you've read any of my blog before you can probably predict what I'm going to say first: it depends what you mean by selfish. I mean, when I eat breakfast, that's selfish. I'm not eating breakfast for anyone but myself. Ditto when I go to the toilet.

But yes I realize that isn't what people mean. They mean acting in one's own best interests even though, in their opinion, it will likely be detrimental to other people.

There are a couple of things to say. Number one, they might feel so useless they think that they're doing their friends and family a favour by taking their own life. So that's inherently not selfish.

Some don't have any family or friends so in the case it's not selfish either. Nobody to hurt.

Some may lack the mental capacity to make an informed decision. I'm sure it does happen but I can't imagine it being very common.

For everyone else, yes it's a selfish act. I mean just obviously, in a way that I don't think is necessary to explain. But you know what, it's ok to be selfish sometimes. It's the individual's decision to make. They have the right to make a selfish decision about their own future.


mglovesfun [userpic]

Professional circus performer

July 22nd, 2014 (09:44 pm)

This is something I've been meaning to post for weeks now.

Someone called Tim came in to Leeds Children's Circus and lead two sessions. Afterwards we picked his brain on how to run workshops (and related topics).

What he said was quite revealing as to why I couldn't be a professional circus performer.

My inability to get a job has lead me, since this year or maybe last year, to think about being self-employed. But as what? Well, how about a juggler (or a circus performer)?

Well there are a few problems.

The first is that I'm not a good performer, in fact I'm poor. So clearly that has ramifications. A professional circus performer is not necessarily a 'good' circus performer I'll admit, professional just means you manage to make a living out of it. But still I get very nervous. It's not really a lack of confidence so much as getting very irrationally nervous. I'm not a natural performer and I don't think it's necessarily something I could learn. I literally wouldn't know how to even learn it.

I'm also not very business-minded. It's not in my nature to bargain or haggle or look for guarantees. So basically I'd struggle with the performing side and the business side. So in other words, the whole thing.

Another one is money, the travel and the hotels (or lodgings of some kind). If you wanted to teach workshops you need a lot of equipment which costs money and tends to get broken and/or lost. I have a friend who's looking into this and he;'s got £40,000 or something in the bank. He can afford to run at a loss and live comfortably for a few years. I have about £23 in the bank. Oh and I can't drive so how would I transport the gear? I don't know if I could learn to drive either, as someone who suffers from panic attacks.

So the main problem would be not being good enough at the performing-side, not being good enough at the business-side and the high likelihood of running at a loss which I can't afford. So literally every part of it I would fail at.


mglovesfun [userpic]

Brazil 1 - 7 Germany

July 9th, 2014 (10:49 am)

Well, anyone who's vaguely interested in football has already heard about it! I thought the commentators missed a few important and pretty obvious points.

A tap-in from a corner is unheard-of. To be unchallenged, I mean he's about 7 yards from goal and about 3 yards from the nearest Brazil defender. It's true that some of the Germany passing was very good, but it was too easy for them.

Germany actually did seem to switch off in the second half. Brazil themselves had two tap-ins right at the start and missed them both. Oscar hit the first one straight at the goalkeeper from about 7 yards out, then another player. Brazil themselves could've scored 4 or 5.

Germany actually didn't defend that well, they were just put under absolutely no pressure for the entire first half, and in the second half, Brazil got behind them five times at least but only scored once.

Germany I think also could've scored more. Apart from Ozil's rather obvious miss, there was another occasion with two players through on goal, the first player missed it and Julio cesar managed to get to the ball before the German player. But of course had the first player not left it... he wouldn't've had the chance.


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