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 (a bit too warm lately!) climate and is geologically 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: I normally have to sweat through a dozen-or-so unpleasant days a year, which isn't bad at all!).

Wollongong is a quite nice place. A good bit larger than necessary for my own needs but not actually a crowded hive of humanity. I have a decent job here, which is really the only reason I have for staying, though. There is 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 coastal Australia). Roads and traffic are downright terrifying, but where in today's world is that not the general case?


I currently reside in a small, somewhat-decrepit apartment. It is weather-tight, but pretty-much too poorly designed and constructed to be worth renovating, even if I owned it -- which I wouldn't, for the just stated reasons. On the (rather big) up-side, It is close enough to public transport that I have no need to sustain a money-pit of a private car (which additionally saves even more tn rent as I don't have to pay for a place with a garage, or parking fees at work....). Surprisingly, considering the low rental bracket, there is an ocean view (barely):

View from Glenn's balcony

Of course, being a generic slapped-down-off-the-plan design thrown up without any thought for the location, all the apartment's stupidly big single-glazed 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.

I actually prefer to live in an apartment, mainly for efficiency reasons, but if I was to pay money to actually own one, it would have to be one designed according to my needs, rather than something built for minimal cost 'investment' at the expense of actual habitability for the resident. So that counts out just about everything built after the 1980's due to abysmally poor modern architecture and construction in this and similar countries, and most places built before the 1980's are out of consideration due to less-advanced materials and techniques being available at the time they were built. In the end, I'd rather rent a regularly-crappy apartment and let the owner worry about the bits that keep falling off due to that crappy design and build quality. At least they get to tax-offset the costs of those repairs! As an owner-occupier, I wouldn't.

* 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 or family to stay with at the destination. I'm 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.


I have rather little in the way of personal possessions. Despite being (or possibly because of being) quite tech-savvy, I don't own a lot of tech 'toys' - nothing against people owning such things, but I don't have any personal use for them at present. Other than the obvious fridge, microwave, bed, chair, 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 (and somewhat an art project in its own right).

I have recently had to retire my old feature-phone and decided to try a smart-phone. It is fine, but my goodness is the interface on those things clunky! I don't care how many fancy UI animations you can cram into a modern hand-held computer, I want something that is actually usable! For real work, not just some sort of adult-baby-sitting device to fiddle with and pretend it makes me look cool! Technology for me is a tool, not an ornament! I have beaten the native UI into a vague semblance of usability, but it is still less than a pleasant experience to use! I guess it comes down to what you are used to, and most people will put up with just about any crap if they don't know how much better it could be. Or if getting better requires even a mote of effort on their own part! I should be happy: they deserve every bit of what they accept being given. I just resent being dragged down with them!


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 for no real reason (whether they are represented as a numeric score, 'gold', 'experience' or whatever*) 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.

Rocks-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!)

Oolite 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). Note that this isn't the same as the modern multiplayer online Elite Dangerous reboot - the one I play is single-player and much more basic - the owners of the Elite IP have kindly allowed it to continue to exist despite their new online game, on the condition that it not exceed the spirit of the origional 8-bit game (though they are allowed to jack up the 3D to modern levels) so full kudos to them for that!.

Marathon 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 late-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.

MineTest 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'Diamonds-type and dungeon-crawler-type 2D games of the 8-bit era in many ways.). 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!

Overte is a modern, distributed, open-source virtual reality system for providing user-created virtual worlds. It is at somewhat early stage of development. I have been involved from near the start as an alpha-tester which means I was invited to experiment/play on the very early, incomplete system with a view to helping the developers test different parts of it as they add features. The system is still a bit raw, but it is perfectly usable, and improving all the time.

OpenSimulator is a virtual world compatible with Second Life clients. It is quite solid, but being indirectly tied to Second Life has limited its capabilities quite a bit. A very good example of a geographically federated virtual world. 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.

My own little world: I also dabble with the idea of making my own VR environment from scratch. Just a hobby, won't be big and professional like Overte: I technically don't even need it to be multi-user for my own purposes. It would be rather different to what most people think of as VR, probably something very highly focused on programatically-generated content and not at all on any sort of photo-realism (I already have that - it is called 'outside').

You can get all of the above software (except the last one, since it doesn't exist yet!) 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 I bought the below commercial games to enjoy. And if another gripping game comes out, I will be only too happy to pay for that too. In the mean time, I contribute back to the open-source games with content donations and bug-reporting where I can.

Oxygen Not Included is a really cute tile-based space-base simulator. I had a lot of fun with this one and it was well worth the modest price Klei Entertainment (known also for their Don't Starve games) asks. I have, however, pretty much played it out to my satisfaction now.

Cities: Skylines is a very advanced 3D city simulator.
If only I had the time to play it more!

H I am a Sectarian Humanist

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 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 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 require more human intervention to do so than they might like. Sucks to be them (maybe they should take time to check if the web and database contractors they pay to do their data-work are actually qualified and aware of now-decades-established standard IT practices in this regard!). 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. I'm not interested in deliberately screwing with databases and if they were competently implemented it wouldn't be an issue.

Related questions (that annoy me):

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.