0 Where I Live

Physically, I live in Wollongong, a small city on the south-east coast of Australia. The region is has mild-warm climate and is geologically very stable (as much as any part of a planet mostly made of molten rock under high pressure can be). I am far enough from the sea, and sufficiently elevated to be outside realistic tsunami and flood risk, but get a nice sea breeze in the summer all the same (which is just as well as I don't have - or want the expense of, if I can avoid it - air-conditioning).

Wollongong is a rather nice place. Large enough to be convenient but not a crowded hive of humanity. There is a good multi-racial diversity in the population and people are generally friendly and helpful. The climate is very pleasing almost all year-round. The only real downside is the cost of housing (though that applies to most of East-coast Australia - see below).

Australia

I am in a small, somewhat-decrepit apartment. It is weather-tight, but pretty-much too poorly constructed to be worth renovating, even if I owned it -- which I wouldn't: the whole block is little more than demolition material! (pipework one over-turned tap away from needing a complete rip-out-and-replace, electrics disintegrating in the walls/ceiling that the electrician can't fix one part without risking breaking elsewhere, communications box in the basement a tangled mess. I live close enough to work (50 minutes walk) and public transport (15 minutes walk to the train or the free bus to work -- if the weather is obnoxious) that I have no need to sustain a money-pit of a private car (which also saves rent as I don't have to pay for a place with a garage). Surprisingly, considering the low rental bracket, there is an ocean view (barely):

View from Glenn's balcony (when standing)

Of course, being a generic slapped-down-off-the-plan design thrown up without any thought for the location, all the apartment's great big heat-leeching windows face nothing-worth-seeing and the above ocean view is from the pokey little kitchen window (or the narrow, concrete-cancer-infested balcony in front of it). Like I said, cheap rental bracket.

For the moment, I choose not to own my own home for a number of reasons:

Mainly, it is too bloody expensive! Housing prices in most Australian cities are ridiculous. And by ridiculous, I mean 60% over comparable economies. Australians sink a greater portion of their incomes into mortgages than nearly any other country - 300% greater in general! The retail sector here wants to know why no-one is buying stuff? There is a big part of the answer: all the money is going into the pockets of banks and developers and people just don't have much spare (the other part of that particular puzzle is that shops are charging a premium for crap products and even crappier service and people are just getting bored with it all).

Of course, if I bought, I would have to buy a bigger place for future-proofing. I'd also have to pay rates and body corporate fees (in some new developments around here, those together are higher than my present rent. Ouch! Even at the reasonable end, they add up to half my present rent. Still ouch!). By renting, I can pay for a place of just the size I need right now, and can change size, location, etc. with little hassle -- just two weeks notice to my landlord and my utility suppliers. Also, in the (unlikely, I'll admit) event I do find a partner to share my life with, I'd rather select a permanent home together with her, so we can choose a location and floorplan that suits both our needs and wishes.

Rent or own, I prefer apartment living. On the proviso that the walls are nice and thick! You are unlikely to ever find me in a home with a yard. Though a balcony suitable for a few nice big planter-boxes of fruit/veg is something I aspire to, one day. Actually, from what I see from the train going through the Shellharbour development, my idea of a large balcony is not-far-off comparable to the modern idea of a 'back yard', area-wise. Seriously! The only situation I would really see myself living in a place with a 'yard' would be if my partner were an agriculturalist and it was given over to growing things to eat (and/or sell) -- lawns!: who needs the trouble! :-)


* What I do for fun

Being quite introverted, I don't have a desire to go out much. When I do, it is generally to do things such as:

That is a pretty short list, but it covers the common things I get up to in my spare time. As mentioned, I prefer a fairly simple, low-overhead lifestyle and my recreational activities reflect that.

I am not particularly keen on traveling further than a day-trip away from home, though occasionally do so, generally having friends to stay with at the destination. Definitely not into clubs or concerts or festivals or anything noisy or crowded, which are situations I do my best to avoid. I am also not into shopping, beyond groceries and some specialised tools and equipment I can only order online from specialist suppliers anyway. And some cheap, kitschy, amusing junk that I also can most easily find/order online.

Ice ICE

I have rather little in the way of personal possessions. Despite being (or possibly because of being) quite tech-savvy, I don't even own a Laptop or a SmartPhone! -- I don't have anything against owning such devices: I just don't presently have any compelling use for them. Other than the obvious fridge, microwave, bed, chairs, kitchen table and the built-in fixtures that are part of the apartment, my only other significant possession is my ICE unit otherwise known as my home workstation and server.

Broken T.V. Did I see whatever on television recently?

Nope: I don't own a T.V. When my last TV broke back in the late 90's I assessed that there wasn't enough quality content available to justify the cost of a new one. I do, however, watch films and serials on disk through my computer and get the World-News feed in text/image/vidclip from the ABC website, so it's not like I have cut myself off from content -- I just consume it in a way more convenient to me. When I am visiting someone with a T.V., I find I no longer have the patience to put up with commercial breaks or waiting around for a specific time to watch something. I do technically have a cheap USB DTV dongle for my computer, but just never think to plug it in.

On that note, I don't play computer games much either. Not because of some luddite-snobbish dislike for them (I actually think, due to their interactivity and re-playability, the medium is generally superior to traditional passive-viewer media), I am just not a very goals-driven person, leaning more towards freeform content creation. However there are a few computer games I sometimes enjoy...

JoystickGames I Play

I am not hugely into computer games, though I occasionally dabble. Even more occasionally I find a game that can hold my attention for more than a few hours before I am bored of it. I am not a very goals-driven person, so collecting arbitrary points (whether they are represented as a numeric score, 'gold', 'experience' or whatever*) for no real reason doesn't capture my interest for long. I tend to be more interested in freeform content creation, so most of the games I play repeatedly will support that sort of thing. Games that play like an interactive novel can also grab me, provided the story is good and the movement through that story isn't arbitrarily difficult.

* Even in real life I don't treat my personal finances like some sort of high score! Money is very useful for buying things I need or which amuse me, but treating wealth, in its own right, like some sort of measure of achievement doesn't work for me.

IconRocks-n-Diamonds is a modern re-write of the classic 8-bit puzzler Boulderdash -- though I tend to spend more time in the level editor than in the existing levels: there's the freeform content-creation I was talking about! ... check the level-sets included in the supplemental levels pack, yup, I'm in there -- quite literally: one of the levels I contributed is based on a low-res picture of my head :-D, though I had more hair back then)

IconOolite is a modern re-write of the classic 8-bit 3D space trader/shooter Elite -- I have always loved the way Elite implemented the 3D radar: I've never seen it done as well anywhere else. There isn't much scope for content creation here, mainly because the universe of the game is pseudo-randomly generated. I have played around with creating my own custom ship and adding it into my local copy of the game though -- a low-firepower, very high defense craft for 'exploring' in without having to get engaged in combat so much (which is sort of the anti-thesis of the game's point, but ... whatever :-P).

IconMarathon is my all-time favorite plot-driven FPS and probably a significant genre-definer... but even then I have motivational issues with playing for any length of time). You may remember it from the Mac platform in the 90's - it has now been released open-source by Bungie Software under their AlephOne project and ported to Linux and Windows by the community, along with a lot of visual improvements to bring it up to modern graphics standards. There are map-editors for this game, though (unusually for me) I haven't managed to get into those.

Fun fact: Bungie, the makers of Marathon, started as a Macintosh-only game developer, dabbling in the Windows space with a port of Marathon2:Durandal. Apple was reportedly rather annoyed when Microsoft bought them up, though I don't think MS bought them to hurt the Mac's gaming platform potential: More that Bungie was a relatively obscure (so inexpensive) company who's people had demonstrated a lot of skill, creativity and potential. The success of the HALO franchise, and the run-on effect that had on the X-Box platform [AKA: "HALO-Box ... that can play other games too"] speaks to that quite strongly. Bungie is (amicably) independent from Microsoft again now.

IconMineTest is an InfiniMine-like voxel-based mining game (as is the better-known and excellent-in-its-own-right MineCraft - but Infinimine and its ilk have been around forever.... in fact, this type of game is really a 3D extension of the Rocks'n'Diaonds- and dungeon-crawler type 2D games of the 8-bit era in many ways.). MineTest itself is pre-version-1 so missing a number of nice features, but what is there right now is very 'playable' as far as creating structures goes. Though this game-type's basis on building with 1m cubic blocks has some inherent limitations compared to the arbitrary-shape-based virtual-world work I generally do (see below) it can be a lot of fun constructing in this form. Great fun exploring the generated environments too.

And with MineTest, we segue to the world of VR. Which sort of spans the space between production and recreation, for me at least!

IconHigh Fidelity or HiFi is a modern, open-source virtual reality system for providing user-created virtual worlds. It is at a very very early stage of development. I am an alpha-tester which means I have been invited to experiment/play on the very incomplete system with a view to helping the developers test different parts of it as they add features. Lots of things are missing or in flux but it is improving all the time.

IconOpenWonderland. is a Java-based virtual environment. Origionally developed by Sun Microsystems (hence the basis in Java), it was cut loose during the Oracle aquisition of Sun and now lives on as an independent open-source project. With a smaller developer base, it tends to be lagging a bit technology-wise, but its foundational principles are probably the best implimentation I have seen in this field. This is the VR system I really really want to love. I bounce regularly between OpenWonderland and HiFi depending on which quirks of each respective system are annoying me on a given day. Fortunately, my primary 3D modeling program, Blender, exports to all three of the VR environments listed here, though their avatar and scripting environments are largely incompatible.

IconOpenSimulator is a virtual world compatible with the Second Life clients. It is quite solid, but being indirectly tied to Second Life has limited its capabilities somewhat. A very good example of a geographically federated virtual world, though. I cut my VR teeth in SecondLife, moving to OpenSimulator when it became capable. The SL/OS in-world content-creation tools are extremely beginner-friendly, however this long-established environment is beginning to show its age. As I have become better at 3D modeling with Blender, my need for the beginner-friendliness has dropped off these days anyway.

You can get all of the above software for free from their respective open-source project sites linked (note: I have no problem with paying for good games -- I owned Marathon on my Mac in the 90's and owned Elite and Boulderdash on my Commodore64 back in the 80's (I owned other games too -- not heaps, but a few more -- but those 3 are the keepers) -- and if another gripping game-demo comes out, I will be only too happy to pay for the full version of that too ... the game being playable on GNU-Linux is a prerequisite at present - the new Steam for Linux may open up that field a lot!) In the mean time, I contribute back to the OpenSource games with content donations and bug-reporting where I can.


H I am a Sectarian Humanist

The sectarian part means I do not believe any supernatural forces are present or necessary in the universe. I view the need for divine presence as an extension of keeping an imaginary best friend. I see lusting for eternal afterlife as extreme narcissism from people who cannot imagine a universe without them in it (and who also, incidentally, have no concept of the true nature of infinity!!). In otherwords, I am an Atheist.

The humanist part means I follow "a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms [an] ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity." (from The Humanist Manifesto III).

I make no apologies for my views, however I do not require others to conform to them. Not even my close friends.

Some recommended reading (ie: books that have had a significant effect on shaping my life outlook):

That last one has little to do with my personal morality, but is still a great book set. ;-)


rose

I have no surname.

Glenn Alexander is two given names. I have no surname because I don't want one. My current birth certificate has a dash in the surname field. This stuffs around the government's computer systems no end. There is no legal requirement in Australia to have a surname (they checked that carefully before allowing me to abandon my former one) - you can pretty-much have any name you like as long as it uses roman characters and isn't for fraudulent purposes.

The reason that I have no surname is that they are irrelevant and unnecessary in modern society. Surnames and the way they are passed through male progeny is a throwback to the time when women and children were considered the properties of their father/husband. ie: a male was always the property of his father as denoted by his having that name and a female was the property of her father until married in which the name change signified that she was then the property of her husband. I neither wish to be the property of my father or to own my children. Besides, I know who my immediate family is and that's our business and no-one else's.

It has the further advantage that I use my two names interchangeably, so if there is another Glenn in the room, people can avoid confusion by addressing me as Alex. Though I generally prefer Glenn.

Any children I produce (an unlikely prospect at this stage in my life - never managed to find a woman I trusted to co-parent with) would have two given names, one chosen by their mother and one chosen by myself. They would be able to use either or both as suited them at any particular time.

My name format does play havoc with some badly-conceived government databases that demand a surname though, which is always fun.* I was quite well known (in a "so you're that guy" sense) in the Illawarra Health system a decade back as Glenn A. Onlyname, though Medicare has upgraded their systems since then. I imagine if the government or a big corporation wanted to collate all the information they have on me, it will take longer and with more human intervention to do so than they might like. Sucks to be them. And I won't go into the multiple isolated online identities I maintain (for perfectly non-criminal reasons).

*I did read a book once with a character named "Hen4ry" (the 4 is silent). The character changed his name in order to screw with databases that refuse to accept a number in a name field.

Related questions (that annoy me):

What's in a name?

A rose by any other name, still gives me hay-fever - not Shakespeare, though he probably would have liked it.

Tracing back my male lineage, if I did have a surname, it would be Roberts. That is a pretty boring and common name anyway. It is likely a contraction of Robertson, which is itself derived from "Robert's son"*. Now back several hundred years ago (not that long really), no-one had such things, then the king of the land sent out an edict that everyone should choose one. Many people chose based on their occupation, hence the names like Smith, Thatcher, Taylor, Farrier (look it up) and so on. Some chose a name based on their location. Then we have names like Roberts(on). What did this guy actually do? Was his sole role in life being the son of someone else? It does make me wonder if my nominal ancestor was the 11th century equivalent of a 30 year-old guy living in his parents' spare room playing X-box and watching anime porn all day.

* Actually there is even odds that my nominal ancestor was the servant of someone called Robert (Robert's property). Which is a good deal more respectable, but probably not something to brag about.

As for my actual names, they are bog-common Anglo names:
Glenn comes from the Celtic and means "Of/from the valley" (note the double 'n' - spelt with one 'n' it actually means "Is a valley" - and my butt is not that big!).
Alexander comes in from ancient Macedonia (a place which has little geographic similarity to modern Macedonia, irrespective of what their tourist board likes to pretend) and means "Defender of the People" (it can also mean "One who assists" which in my present job is probably quite appropriate).

So my full name could mean "Defender of the valley (people)" which is cool, though totally coincidental - parents seldom take such things into account when choosing names, at least not back when I was born anyway. Alexander is an old family name, and mum says she chose Glenn simply because she liked it. From the smile on her face when she told me that, I guess she still does.

In my several years working in China, I also picked up a number of other names (please excuse - and correct if you know - my pinyin: I think I have forgotten more Chinese than I ever learned, if that is at all possible!):

GeLan - derived from my first name phonetically and translating to "blue sword" which I guess fits the "Defender of the Valley" motif.
WeiShaGu - a meaning-based translation of my Anglo name, which I prefer.

I also make up my own titles. Why not?!

The "Tn." that often appears before my name is short for Technician. It is an occupational title much like Dr. means someone with a doctorate (or a medical degree), and Rev. means a Reverend (there are hundreds of these things, so a few more from me won't matter much anyway!). I don't really see what my gender has to do with anything in my workplace so eschew "Mr." In some situations (outside of work) you may also find me using "Tr." for Teacher, since I am a qualified school teacher as well, though don't work in that field much these days.

Also, students particularly, and people in general, please don't take it personally if I repeatedly forget your name. I have a specific cognitive problem with proper nouns, even forgetting friend's family-names often enough, as well as non-descriptive-names of things in general. That too is entirely unrelated to my personal name-format.


:-( I am Single

I've pretty-much given up there, but here is my dating page.