Log in

14 February 2013 @ 10:17 pm
So, here's the story of my Valentine's Day.

Yesterday, I got a text asking me whether I could sing in a quartet to a woman whose boyfriend couldn't be with her on Valentine's Day. The fella was in Ireland while his girlfriend was in Bath. I said yes, although by 2pm today I was still none the wiser as to who the woman was, what songs we were expected to sing to her, or where she'd be at the appropriate time.

After a few frantic text messages and phone calls though, I had the details. The young lady in question would be finishing up her regular session in the gym at Bath University's sports centre (the same place where they filmed Superstars, sports fans), at 8pm. I'd meet up with her friend beforehand who'd point her out to us. We'd then sing the suitably slushy Love Me Tender to her, I'd read out a message from the absent boyfriend saying how much he wished he could be with her on Valentine's Day, and then we'd sing the theme tune to Happy Days to finish off. All this would take place in front of her friends and sporting team-mates for maximum embarrassment potential.

This plan would have worked brilliantly if it weren't for the fact that, for the first Thursday in forever apparently, she didn't go to the gym. And she wasn't answering her phone when her friend called her. Nobody knew where she was.

So we weren't quite sure what to do. In the end, we decided to record a video of us singing the two songs and delivering the boyfriend's message onto her friend's phone, before the four of us went off to the sports centre's cafe to have a cup of coffee each. It all felt a bit anti-climactic, so to ensure we embarrassed at least one person that evening we serenaded the woman who served us our coffees, fibbing to her by saying that her fella had asked us to sing to her. She didn't believe us, but at least she did appear to be embarrassed as we crooned out the Elvis ballad in front of all of her customers. Good.

Just as we were finishing up our drinks and thinking about heading home again, I got a call from the boyfriend in Ireland. He'd heard what had happened and -- no doubt motivated by the fact that he'd forked out 250 quid for us to sing to his girlfriend and we hadn't done so (although we had sang to a barista for free) -- had tried to get in touch with her himself. He'd found out that the reason she wasn't at the gym was, get this, that a child had bitten her finger and she'd had to go to the doctor to get it looked at. (If one of my students ever came up with that excuse as to why they weren't in class, I'd be genuinely impressed at their ingenuity.) However, he did give us her address and told us that she'd be there right now.

So we all got into a car and hot-footed it to her front door. Her friend was there to meet us and we eventually got to do our piece in front of the intended recipient on her front porch. She cringed and was suitably embarrassed, although nowhere near as mortified as she'd have been if we'd have sang to her in front of the entire gym. But you can't have everything, I suppose.

I used to hate Valentine's Day. But now I love it.
Current Location: Bath, UK
06 January 2013 @ 07:16 pm
Well, I'm very flattered.

Thank you to the people who have asked after me since I stopped writing stuff here. I am doing fine, but I am not missing the ridiculous mission I'd set myself to write a daily blog. Now that I'm not doing it any more, I realise what a burden it was for me. I now have more time to do important stuff, such as sleeping. It's good. I'm not saying that I'll never write here ever again, but I'm not saying that I definitely will write here again either. Maybe I will and maybe I won't. But don't go holding your breath waiting for an update or anything.

I know some of you are already unfortunate enough to follow me on that there Twitter thing, but if you're not and you'd like to then you can see my boring #dealornodeal related ramblings at @ImMisterAl. I don't do Facebook because Facebook is evil.

You might have seen me on Channel 4 a couple of days ago being insulted by Jimmy Carr. This came about after I went to sit in the audience for the 8 Out of 10 Cats does Deal or No Deal so-called 'mash-up' programme, recorded just before Christmas. Mr Carr was hosting it and the comedians known as Jon Richardson and Sean Lock were playing for charity. At one point the audience was asked what they thought the players should do, and I stuck my hand up to say deal. This was mainly because Jon Richardson was clearly uncomfortable with risking the £9000 that had been offered at the time and the odds were against them having a favourable round if they carried on. However, since the vast majority of the rest of the audience really couldn't care less about such matters I was in a minority and my hand was noticed by a certain Mr Mark Olver on the wings, who decided to get me involved in the game and asked me to explain myself. I blathered on about percentages and maths for a bit and a joke was made at my expense. Not that I minded that; it was quite a funny joke.

What didn't make the final edit was the part, later in the game, where Jimmy Carr asked me for another probability, namely the chance of the largest remaining amount still being in play after the final round of the game. I duly supplied the correct answer, 40%. Jon Richardson then suggested that this would depend on whether that particular amount was on the table in front of him, which I then tried to explain wasn't important because that was all taken into account. Mindful of the fact that I suspected the Channel 4 audience hadn't tuned in for a maths lesson, I didn't really want to go into too much detail, but the interesting thing was that Oxford graduate of mathematics Rachel Riley (the numbers woman from off of Countdown) then started disagreeing with me. But she was wrong. Clearly it's been some time since she's studied combinatorics.

Also, the transatlantic woman on the wings, called Katherine and wearing the yellow top didn't like me much. "Do you want to be the guy who goes on about percentages, or do you want to be happy?" she said at one point, with some disdain in her voice. I have decided that I dislike her so much that I cannot be bothered to research her last name for this entry.

After the recording was over Jimmy Carr had another chat with me in front of the assembled audience. That conversation went something like this.

Jimmy Carr: So, maths geek, have you ever thought about playing this game for real? You should do it!
Maths geek (played by me): Yeah, but I don't think they'd have me. I know too much.
Jimmy Carr: You don't know what's in the boxes.

I had no response to that.

When it was all over and people were filing out of the studio, I was approached by a tall man who I recognised as senior producer Glenn Hugill. That name may not mean a lot to you if you're not a Deal or No Deal nerd like I am, but suffice to say that this chap has a huge influence on the content of the show, and in my opinion is one of the biggest reasons why the show is such a success. He chatted with me for a few minutes, thanking me for my contribution to that particular show and for my continued support over the years. He even asked me whether I still had the miniature box I'd been given nearly three years ago! (Like I was going to throw it out or anything.) To be honest, him taking the time to come up and speak to me was the highlight of the entire evening for me!

That concludes my report of the 191st game of Deal or No Deal I've seen recorded at the Bristol studios. See you all around, hopefully.
Current Location: Bath, UK
24 November 2012 @ 03:18 pm
I was walking along last night, on the pavement by the side of a busy road. There's nothing unusual about that. Indeed, another man -- a man who I didn't know -- also had the same idea to walk on the same bit of pavement by the side of that same busy road.

Right next to me.

He'd just crossed the busy road via a pedestrian crossing at exactly the same time as I was was passing and happened to be going in the same direction, so we ended up side by side. But rather than alter his velocity to avoid us continuing to be side by side, this man just carried on walking at the same speed as me. It felt awkward.

It was about two minutes before our paths diverged. That may not seem like a long time, but when you're being forced to share pavement space with an obdurate man you don't know, it can seem like forever. Of course, I could have slowed down a little bit to avoid the embarrassment, but I WAS THERE FIRST! I wasn't going to be bullied into slightly changing my walking speed by anybody. I am a reasonable man, but giving pavement bullies the upper hand is not something I will tolerate!
Current Location: Bath, UK
22 November 2012 @ 12:05 am
When I asked a student to explain why he was ten minutes late to class today, he told me it was because his toe had snapped.

"What?" I said. "Are you serious?"

"Yeah, it's just hanging off and flapping around a bit. It's quite painful, actually," he said whilst looking surprisingly calm for a person who must have been in excruciating agony.

"Well, you need to see a doctor!" I exclaimed, before rushing down to see the first aid officers and asking for their assistance. One of them took him to hospital whilst I carried on with my lesson.

It was only later that we found out that he meant his toenail, not his actual toe...
Current Location: Bath, UK
19 November 2012 @ 09:30 pm
There's a new guy who's moved into the room next to mine, which means that the crazy idiot that used to be there has moved out. But that means that somebody else is now being bothered by my snoring.

So here is the text of a note that was passed under my door at the end of last week.
Sorry to complain -- I know you can't help it, but I've been woken up twice this week by your snoring, even after moving my bed away from the wall.

Please could you move your bed away from the wall, and/or try using some snore relief?

Sorry to be a pain, but I work hard so rely on a good sleep!
Now, I'm sure you'll agree that this note was respectful and polite, unlike the ridiculous nonsense one of his predecessors came out with. So I've just knocked on his door and had a chat with him. I apologised for my nocturnal noise-making and said to him that I'm going to try wearing nose strips for a few days. We smiled and shook hands and things were very friendly.

Politeness and respect, making things much more pleasant there. Who'd have thought, eh?
Current Location: Bath, UK
18 November 2012 @ 01:03 am
Okay, my new blogging policy. I'm going to write something on the days that something happened that I might want to remember. I'm not going to force myself to come up with something every day because that seems a bit silly. And I'm not going to finish off by mentioning Deal or No Deal any more because that's even sillier. Okay?

So yesterday, after leaving the place where I work I got into my car and hot-footed it across the country to Marlborough in Berkshire, for that was the location of the chorus's high-profile concert with none other than Military Wives. You've heard of Military Wives, yes? They only had the UK's Christmas number 1 single last year and everything. Yes, be impressed. 600 punters had shelled out twenty quid a ticket to see them, but seeing as though they only had half an hour's worth of songs we were drafted in to fill out the rest of the time.

In fact, those Military Wives didn't quite have enough material to cover even one half of the concert so the octet I'm part of were drafted in to fill in ten minutes too. The amazing thing is that whilst it was the Military Wives who drew the crowd, we were the ones who went on last and did the longer stint, as though we were the headline act. And pretty much every one of the hundreds of audience members stayed and, if the kind of reports I'm seeing online are anything to go by, loved what we did. It was fantastic.

Today then, and I was singing again, this time in South Wales. You might remember that I was there a few weeks ago to surprise the congregation by jumping up and singing during a wedding ceremony. Well, what I didn't mention at the time was the fact that, sadly, the bride's father became very ill the day before the wedding and wasn't able to be there to give his daughter away. This meant that the bride had a very bittersweet day and the ceremony wasn't quite as joyous as it really should have been for everybody there.

So, the family got together and decided to recreate the whole day again today, this time with the bride's father fully recovered and in attendance. Obviously there wasn't another wedding -- the couple were already married -- but there was a blessing where everybody got dressed up in their posh frocks and even posher suits again, the bride was in her wedding dress again and the same church and reception venue was hired out. During the ceremony there was a very poignant moment when the bride read out a poem she'd written about her actual wedding day, saying that it was the hardest day of her life and that all the months worth of planning and preparation just didn't seem worth it because her father wasn't there to be part of it. But the poem also paid tribute to the family and friends who rallied round and supported her and that in years to come she'd regard today as her actual wedding day. It was really very moving and even an old cynic like me was getting a bit misty-eyed hearing it.

Anyway, the big difference for us was that this time the bride and groom didn't actually have any idea at all that we were going to be there; the bride's brother had arranged for us to hide in the church vestry and at the appropriate time we started to sing and slowly wandered out in front of them. It was only the bride's brother, his girlfriend and the vicar who had any idea we were there. Nobody else had a clue. And when the bride saw us and realised what was happening, she started crying with the emotion of it. I think that was a good thing!

So, that's two tremendously exciting things my singing hobby has allowed me to do in the space of 24 hours. You should try it yourself sometime.
Current Location: Bath, UK
16 November 2012 @ 02:31 am
I think I'm tired of writing this blog. It's not that I don't have things I could be writing about; it's just that I'm not sure I want to write about those things publicly any more. So maybe I'll just stop.

And then maybe I'll start again to tell you that Teresa won thirty grand on Deal or No Deal. Goodbye.
Current Location: Bath, UK
15 November 2012 @ 12:13 am
One of the reasons why I prefer playing board games to video games is the fact that with board games you handle stuff. Real, physical stuff. Chunky components made out of wood and actually shaped a bit like the thing it's supposed to represent (sometimes). You move these things around in front of you and it feels good. Not like pressing a few buttons on a plastic controller.

I picked up a new game today entitled Village, a game which features plenty of these lovely components. It also won the prestigious 'Kennerspiel des Jahres' award this year too, so I'm hoping it's pretty good to play as well. However, there is one thing that's a little bit annoying.


Each of the little wooden men in the game -- gaming nerds call them 'meeples' -- needs to have a sticker with a number on it stuck to it before the game can be played. In fact, they each need to have two stickers on them; one on the front and one on the back. And these stickers are small and fiddly and will take ages to apply. There are 48 little wooden dudes who need to be stickered up in the game and it's going to take me ages. The frustrating thing is that some of the stickers are blank, but still need to be stuck on because the dudes need to be drawn out of a bag randomly and must be identical to the touch too!

Surely it isn't a huge deal for somebody to find a way of manufacturing little wooden men with numbers already printed on them somehow. Is it? I mean, somebody has found a way of manufacturing boxes with numbers printed on them. I know because I saw them being used in Charlie's game of Deal or No Deal today. They helped him win £13,500.
Current Location: Bath, UK
14 November 2012 @ 01:04 am
You must have listened to ¡Dos! by now, yes? It's the second Green Day album to come out this autumn and the great news is there's another one on the way in January. What a great world we live in.

So what do you think about the third song, Stop When The Red Lights Flash? Does your brain do what mine does and get very confused by the intro? I keep thinking that the very first guitar chord you hear in the song is on the first beat of the bar, which sounds great for a while but then when the drums properly come in sounds really out of sync. It's only when the verse starts that my mind catches up with the rhythm of the song and I realise that very first guitar chord I heard was actually half a beat before the end of the bar.

If you've got no idea what I'm going on about then take a listen yourself. Somebody has put the whole album up onto YouTube and this particular song begins 3m52s in. It's like the aural equivalent of one of those optical illusions that look like one thing then suddenly morph into something totally different.

Enough of that. In today's Deal or No Deal everybody seemed to forget the meaning of the word 'coincidence', which is why Tommy ended up winning just five pounds.
Current Location: Bath, UK
To all maths students everywhere, but particularly to my maths students,

You know how, in non-mathematical subjects, you have to explain things clearly when you're answering questions? Yes? And you know how sometimes you have write things down in such a way that somebody else might have a hope of understanding it? Yes? Well, here's the thing. You should probably do that when answering maths questions too.

So, as well as making sure you do all the obvious stuff like writing legibly and neatly, try including some actual words as part of your answer. Yeah, I know what you're thinking; maths is all about calculations using symbols, right? Well, no. Maths is about ideas. Sometimes those ideas can best be expressed using symbols such as + or = or f(x), but sometimes everyday language can express those ideas best. Besides, including brief sentences -- yes, sentences made out of words -- stating what you're attempting to do at each stage of your working will help you keep track of your thoughts just as much as it helps somebody reading follow what you're up to.

Also, and please do try your best to respect the fact that people generally read from the top of a page to the bottom of a page. It's just a silly convention we have. I'm sure that if the world had developed differently then it'd be perfectly typical for text to start in the middle of a page before moving down and to the right and then finally jumping unpredictably up to the top left, jumping around and filling in any blank space wherever it may happen to be. But written communication didn't develop that way so do stick to going from top to bottom. Left to right within that would be good too.

Oh, and do try to remember what you did in class too. It helps.

Finally, don't bother mentioning any irrelevant stuff like the fact that Jo had a bit of a shocker on today's Deal or No Deal. Although she did still win 2700 quid.

Yours sincerely
Mister Al
Current Location: Bath, UK