Just One Q

When Claire and I changed our surnames to the letter Q, six and a quarter years ago, I was pretty sure that we were the only “Q”s in the world. Ah Q‘s name is a transliteration into the Latin alphabet; Stacey Q is a stage name that she doesn’t use outside of her work (she uses Swain in general); Suzi Q‘s “Q” is short for Quatro (perhaps popularised because of the similarly-named song, which came out when she was aged 7; Maggie Q‘s “Q” is short for Quigley (she finds that her full name is almost impossible for her fans in East Asia to pronounce); and both Q and Q are fictional. We were reasonably sure that we were the only two people in the world with our surname, and that was fine by us.

Q from James Bond.
Fictional, as much as we love them.

After Claire and I split up, in 2009, we both kept our new names. In my case, the name felt like it was “mine”, and represented me better than my birth name anyway. Plus, I’d really gotten to enjoy having a full name that’s only four letters long: when my poly-tribe-mates Ruth and JTA (each of whom have almost 30 letters in their full names!) were filling out mortgage application forms recently, I was able to get through the pages I had to fill significantly faster than either of them. There are perks to a short name.

Q from Star Trek.
Also fictional. But we’re less-upset about that.

I can’t say why Claire kept her new name, but I’m guessing that some of our reasons overlap. I’m also guessing that laziness played a part in her decision: it took her many months to finally get around to telling everybody she’d changed her name the first time around! And while I’ve tried to make it possible to change your name easily when I launched freedeedpoll.org.uk, there’s still at least a little letter-writing involved.

Now, though, it looks like I may soon become the only Q in the world:

@Poobar: She said yes! We are going to be the Drs Carter :-) @Eskoala: @poobar proposed (and I said yes!) so we are engaged! :D

Personally, I thought that after she passed her PhD she’d have even more reason to be called “Q”. I mean: “Dr. Q”: how cool is that? It sounds like a Bond villain or something. But on the other hand: if she wants to downgrade to an everyday name like “Carter” then, well, I guess that’s up to her. I shan’t blame them for not opting to hyphenate, though: “Carter-Q” sounds like a brand of ear bud.

U.S. President Jimmy Carter
It’s not like there was ever anybody famous called “Carter”. Except for this guy, I suppose. But he was more of a “brave politician in the face of international crises” character than a “Bond villain” character. Not fictional.

Seriously, though: good for them. If those crazy kids feel that marriage is for them, then I wish them the best of luck. And let’s face it, we’re approaching a bit of a lull in this run of all-of-our-friends-getting-married, so it’ll be nice to have an excuse for yet another wedding and a fabulous party (I’m jumping to conclusions and assuming that they’re going to invite me, especially after this blog post!).

Jimmy and Claire.
Aww. It’s a sweet photo, but somebody should probably buy them a tripod as a wedding present: it’s hard to keep the horizon level in an arms-length selfie.

In other name-related news, look out for me in the Money section of tomorrow’s Guardian, where I’ll be talking about deeds poll, as part of their series of articles on scammy websites. I always knew that it was only a matter of time before my photo appeared in a national newspaper: I guess I should just be thankful that it’s for something I’ve done right, rather than for something I’ve done wrong!

Update: Here’s the online version of the Guardian Money article.

London’s Olympic “Missile Defence”

I gather that we’re going to be deploying surface-to-air missiles in London during the Olympic Games this year. I can’t help but feel that this could be a really bad idea.

The CAA chart for VFR restricted airspace during the Olympic Games. Basically: don't fly over London without IFR.

Do we really want to shoot down an aircraft over one of the areas of highest population density in the country? Even if you know that AirBus is exclusively filled with evil, nasty terrorists, I’m not sure that raining burning aircraft onto the city is necessarily an improvement.

Furthermore, is the solution to terrorism in Britain really to put even more dangerous weapons into the affected area? Isn’t there a risk that these powerful rocket-propelled explosives could be turned against our own targets?

I’m sure that somebody must know what they’re doing. I’m just not convinced that it’s the people making the decisions.

Showing Some Pride

Paul and I seem to be featured in today’s Oxford Mail.

"Gay Pride March Ends City Celebration", in the Oxford Mail

From the article –

Friends Dan Q and Paul Mann, of Kennington, decided to mark the [superheroes] theme by dressing as characters from the silver age of comic book heroes, the Flash and Kickass, far left.

Mr Q, 30, said: “We wanted to take part in the march because first of all it’s an excuse to dress up, and also to show that Oxford is home to gay, lesbian, and bisexual people and they should be represented.”

Apart from the obvious fault with the age of our characters – Kick-Ass (here correctly hyphenated) is a very new comic book character, designed in from only 2008 – which could have been corrected with a quick Wikipedia search, the article’s not bad. I’m reasonably pleased with my soundbite quotation, there: the journalist we spoke to caught me off-guard so I just reeled off the first thing I thought of, but it’s not bad, at least.

Ruth managed to carefully avoid appearing in any press photographs, but I think she’ll have been hard-pressed to avoid all of the shots my the Pride photographer, who ran around enthusiastically in a pink day-glow jacket, snapping away.

Dan and Paul.

The Oxford Pride parade was fun, with the exception of the Catholic protest on Cornmarket, with their calls to “repent” from our “sinful lives”, and it was nice to lounge on the grass at Oxpens and listen to the music at the fair. Paul came second, by my estimation, in the fancy dress competition, and then I leapt around on a bouncy-castle/slide-thingy and sent all of the alcohol in my bloodstream rushing to my head.

Later, it rained, and I was too drunk to care.

Fox News on IPv6

Here’s what Fox News have to say about IPv6:

Web developers have tried to compensate for [the IPv4 address shortage] by creating IPv6 — a system that recognizes six-digit IP addresses rather than four-digit ones.

I can’t even begin to get my head in line with the level of investigative failure that’s behind this sloppy reporting. I’m not even looking at the fact that apparently it’s “web developers” who are responsible for fixing the Internet’s backbone; just the 4/6-digits thing is problematic enough.

Given that Wikipedia can get this right, you’d hope that a news agency could manage. Even the Daily Mail did slightly better (although they did call IPv4 addresses 16-bit and then call them 32-bit in the very next sentence).

Oh; wait: Fox News. Right.

For the benefit of those who genuinely want to know, one of the most significant changes between IPv4 and IPv6 is the change from 32-bit addresses to 128-bit addresses: that’s the difference between about 4 billion addresses and 340 undecillion addresses (that’s 34 followed by thirty-eight zeros). Conversely, adding “two digits” to a four-digit number (assuming we’re talking about decimal numbers), as Fox News suggest, is the difference between a thousand addresses and a hundred thousand. And it’s not web developers who are responsible for it: this change has nothing to do with the web but with the more fundamental architecture of the underlying Internet itself.

Cerrie Burnell – All About Me

This morning, I saw the BBC News Magazine article about Cerrie Burnell, who’s apparently a children’s television presenter (I’d never heard of her before, but that doesn’t mean anything – I can’t remember the last time I watched any kids’ TV). The article centres on the fact that Cerrie was born without a right hand (her right arm stops at the elbow), and states that some parents are finding it awkward to answer the questions that their inquisitive children are asking about it (“Where did her arm go?” etc.).

After reading most of the (brilliant, really supportive) comments in the Have Your Say at the end of the article, I thought I’d look up some more information about this presenter I’d never heard of (y’know, because that’s what you do). Her Wikipedia page was a little sparse, so I tried the link on it to her homepage (as provided by CBBC).

There, it lists a handful of questions that kids will ask, along with fun answers. Do you have any brothers and sisters? Yes, I have a younger brother and a cousin I’m close to as well. When is your birthday? It’s the 30th August. If you had a super-power, what would it be? I’d like to be able to grow a tail and turn into a mermaid. You see the kinds of things I’m talking about.

What’s your favourite game? Twister.

I laughed out loud. And then I felt bad about it.

And then I blogged.

OMG Child Pr0n (or is it?)

What a mess this is turning into! I am of course referring to the UK-wide internet censorship of a Wikipedia page (the one about the Scorpions album, Virgin Killer – if that last link doesn’t work, you’re among those affected).

The thinking is, according to the Internet Watch Foundation, that the cover of the 1976 album constitues child pornography and therefore we all need to be protected from it. It’s all a little controversial, though, because they’re not suggesting that Amazon US be blocked, for example.

But the worst of it is the amount of news exposure it’s generating is actually drawing traffic to the banned content. I wouldn’t ever have seen the album cover if it weren’t for the ban, for example, after which I realised how trivial it is to see the offending Wikipedia page. And that without the offending content appearing in a Wikinews article about the ban!

It’s hard to justify this kind of policing. In accordance with Wikipedia’s own policies, it is not a creator of content so much as a distributor: it takes content that is already “out there” and, in theory at least, legal, and disseminates it in an approachable form.

I’ll be interested to see how this plays out.

Firefox 3 “Download Day”

Download Day 2008

Downloaded your copy of Mozilla Firefox 3 yet to help them make the world record? I’ve been using Firefox 3 since the early betas and I’ve got no qualms about recommending it wholeheartedly. The awsomebar is simply that: awesome, the speed and memory usage have become far better than the previous version, and the care and attention that have gone into the little things – like the fact that it now asks you if you want to save passwords after you’ve seen if they were correct, not before – really do make this the best web browser I’ve ever used.

Go download it already.

Politically Incorrect Human Nature

A recent article from Psychology Today talks about human nature, sex, and the best theories on why we act like we do. From the article:

Women often say no to men. Men have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them. Men have built (and destroyed) civilization in order to impress women, so that they might say yes.

Now go read it.

Orgasms And Biochemistry

Just read a great article on brain activity during sexual stimulation and specifically upon orgasm: scanning people’s brains while they’re engaged in sexual activity with their partners has lead to some fascinating results. From the article:

In men, greater activity was seen in the insula, which deals with emotion, and particularly in the secondary somatosensory cortex, which rates the significance of physical sensations. This suggests that the sensory input coming from the genitals is being judged highly important and pleasurable by the brain.

Women, however, show very little increased brain activity, and only in the primary somatosensory cortex – which registers purely that a sensation in the genitals is there.”In women the primary feeling is there, but not the marker that this is seen as a big deal,” Dr Holstege said.”For males, touch itself is all-important. For females, it is not so important.”

I fascination turned to amusement when I read about some of the difficulties the participants had under experimental conditions, though:

The experiments also revealed a rather surprising effect: both men and women found it easier to have an orgasm when they kept their socks on. Draughts in the scanning room left couples complaining of “literally cold feet”, and providing a pair of socks allowed 80 per cent rather than 50 per cent to reach a climax while their brains were scanned.