Exploring and documenting my personal history using data visualization, lists, maps and all sorts of fun stuff.

Biography/map project – all the places I’ve spent the night

A few weeks ago, in those crazy moments between turning off the light and actually falling asleep, I had an idea to make this map as a way of preserving memories: a map of everywhere I’ve spent the night in the UK.

View Places I’ve spent the night in a larger map

I’ll call it an ongoing project because a) I’m not dead yet and will (hopefully) spend the night in other places in my life, and b) I might remember some things I’ve forgotten thus far, but I think it’s pretty complete. (The one major exception at the moment is the location in Wales where I spent my first birthday – got to find our roughly where that was. I suspect there also might be a few more around Merseyside – mum & dad’s friends/family – from when I was very small.)

The pinpoints with a dot in them are precise, the ones without a dot are not as precise either because it’s really hard to pinpoint exactly where it was (such as camping at a festival) or for privacy reasons (nearly all private houses are dropped at the nearest cross-roads). The only one that is inaccurate because I can’t remember exactly where it was is the one in dropped in Hexham – we got a lift from Hexham station to a nearby village, and I don’t think I ever knew what that was called.

The colour of the pins represent how many nights I spent in the location in a nice spectrum- light turquoise-y blue is 1-2 nights, mid-blue is 2-4 nights, deep blue is 5-10 nights, pinky-purple is more than 10 nights and red, a home of less than a year. Long term homes (a year plus) break the nice getting-redder colour sequence and are in green.

From the map, it appears I have never spent a night in Lancashire proper, including Greater Manchester (unusual given the clusters on either side of it), or in Wales apart from when I was very small.

On the off-chance I’ve spent a night at your house, or spent a night with you somewhere I’ve forgotten, do please let me know so I can add it to the map. Either leave a comment or email me.

I very much like the idea of making a hard copy version of this from a big map and a whole lot of coloured pushpins. One day…

My life so far in video games – in a venn diagram

After doing the last ones, I just had to do it for this too.

And it was almost as fun as playing the games ;)


(Click to enlarge, naturally.)

My life so far, in video games

Age 5-10:
Platform: ZX Spectrum, ZX Spectrum +2, ZX Spectrum +3
Games of note: Horace Goes Skiing, a Scooby Doo game, some adventure game where I couldn’t get passed the fourth screen no matter how hard I tried, Mailstrom, Paperboy

Age 9-11:
Platform: Commodore 64
Games of note: Snare, Football Manager, Split Personalities, Skool Daze, a Bubble Bobble game, Daly Thompson’s Decathlon,

Age 12-14:
Platform: NES
Game of note: Super Mario Bros 3 (far eclipsing all others to the point that they’re not worth mentioning)

Age 15-19:
Platform: a 286 PC
Games of note: Moria, Monkey Island 2, Indiana Jones & the Fate of Atlantis, Pinball Fantasies (many keys broken), Chemquiz (which is why I know the periodic table and all the elements now)

Age 18-19:
Platform: D’s brother’s PC in Bradford
Game of note: Transport Tycoon Deluxe (my first very antisocial addiction!)

Age 19-21:
Platform: our PC in Liverpool
Games of note: Civilisation 2/Civ 2 Test of Time, Tropico, Age of Empires & Age of Empires 2 (played over the LAN with Alex), The Sims, Shadow Warrior (not the actual game, just the level editor)

Age 21-23:
Platform: Yahoo Games while bored at work
Games of note: Literati (*cough*Scrabble*cough*), Chinese Checkers,

Age 22:
Platform: PSOne at Dan’s and at ours
Game of note: (ours) Tekken 2 & something Tony Hawk-y and (Dan’s) Bustamove 2 (many hours spent putting the world to rights)

Age 23:
Platform: laptop running Debian
Games of note: Five or more, (what is now) Swell Foop

Age 23-26:
Platform: XBox
Games of note: Psychonauts, Fable, something in the Tony Hawk series, Super Mario Bros 3 on an emulator, Soul Calibre 2

Age 25:
Platform: PC
Game of note: World of Warcraft, oh yes.

Age 27-onwards:
Platform: laptop running Ubuntu
Game of note: OpenTTD (Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe)

Age 28:
Platform: Nintendo DS
Game of note: Harvest Moon DS (gardening and keeping chickens before I could in real life)

Age 28-onwards:
Platform: Nintendo DS
Game of note: Scrabble DS, Zookeeper

Age 29-onwards:
Platform: On ubuntu under WINE
Games of note: Age of Empires/AoE 2, Theme Hospital, Tropico

Age 29-30:
Platform: XBox 360
Games of note: Fable 2, Hexic

Age 30:
Platform: PC
Game of note: World of Warcraft, oh yes again.

Five favourite games overall (in no particular order):

  • Super Mario Bros 3
  • World of Warcraft
  • OpenTTD
  • Tropico
  • Psychonauts

Some books that I possibly like, maybe

A few times over the last couple of weeks I’ve referred to different books being on my “favourite books list” – but yesterday I realised I’ve never sat down and worked out said list so, frankly, anything could be on there.

As a result of that realisation, and in a bid to avoid doing anything actually useful, I decided to make the list of my top 20 favourite books yesterday afternoon. They’re not — by any means — the best 20 books ever written or the most important books to society in general, or anything like that. They’re just books that strike a chord or mean a lot to me for one reason or another, or frankly that I just enjoy and I (have and) will re-read every year or so. I wouldn’t even say it’s definitive as my choice in books depends heavily on mood and context but I can safely say these are books that I probably liked that afternoon, maybe.

(In alphabetical order. I missed out “the” on some of them, not sure why, but I’ll be blowed if I’m renumbering everything now.)

  1. Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson. The only graphic novel on the list – I have a lot of favourite comics but this one makes it onto this list because the characters felt developed enough for a novel.
  2. Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. The first time I picked it up, I stopped on about page 5. The second time, I thought I was a frickin’ fool for putting it down the first time. When someone asked me my favourite book, my snap answer is usually Triffids.
  3. Death of Grass by John Christopher. Like Wyndham, apocalyptica always seems more real when it’s happening in the UK – and when it’s something as possible as a devastating plant virus. Also, Leeds gets nuked.
  4. Drop City by TC Boyle. This book hits all my book-buttons. Love it.
  5. e by Matt Beaumont. Not exactly a literary classic but I love the humour coming from the different points of view. Very fun.
  6. Good Evening Mrs Craven and other stories by Mollie Panter-Downes. There is no word for this book of short stories other than “delightful”. Really evocative of the era.
  7. Happiness ™ by Will Ferguson.
  8. How I Paid for College by Marc Acito. Reminds me of my own not-quire-so-crazy youth. My teenage years didn’t include fraud, blackmail and stealing a buddah but it evokes those heady days all the same.
  9. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. It says in the intro to my book that Dodie read the whole book allowed to her partner to see if each sentence worked by itself – and you can tell. Really well crafted. I also love the characterisations of the animals ;)
  10. Little Children by Tom Perrotta.
  11. Microserfs by Douglas Coupland. Not something I re-read regularly nowadays but a book I used to finish reading then immediately start again. I found it randomly in Southport Library in early 1997 and it introduced me to the idea of geek culture. It inspired me to start my first website a few weeks later :)
  12. Miss Pettrigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. I felt so uplifted when I finished this book. Talk about carpe diem.
  13. Miss Wyoming by Douglas Coupland.
  14. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. I described it on The Really Good Life the other day as: “in a parallel universe somewhere, I am American, went to boarding school and Sittenfeld stole my teenage diary”. So much detail, so accurate neurosis!
  15. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates.
  16. Scepticism Inc by Bo Fowler. I picked this up completely randomly when I very first moved to Leeds in 2000. An absolute gem of a find – really funny.
  17. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham.
  18. The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham. Like Triffids, the first time I read it, I struggled with it. It’s pretty slow/long but it tells such a story – over nearly a couple of decades. Now I’d rate it as highly as Triffids.
  19. The Rotters Club by Jonathan Coe.
  20. The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. Another I can barely read now because it’s so clunky but I read it regularly from about 13-19. I didn’t really get it then but like Microserfs, I think it put me on a path – or showed me the path I’d not realised I was already starting on.

After writing the list, in an effort to avoid doing even more chores, I decided to work out some stats: how many were 50+ years old, how many had been made into films, how many were in which specific genres/themes/styles. I read my numbers out to John and he demanded to know how many fit into multiple categories. A Venn Diagram was surely the answer – and a way to waste even more time! ;)


(There is one error with this one – I Capture the Castle should also be included in “coming of age” as well as “over 50 years old” and “turned into a film” – but even with a lot of shuffling, I couldn’t work out how to fit it in. It’s corrected in the simpler one below.)

Then, on the way to having a curry with the team last night, I was talking to John about the Big Book Venn Diagram and realised that some of the books on the “top 20” list were filler-ish – that I hadn’t had to refine my choices enough and that those “filler” were the ones that would be more likely to change (in fact they did, I made some substitutions during the drawing). So this morning, I cut it down to a “top 10” and drew a new Venn Diagram (although keeping all the same categories). Because it’s simpler, I also tried to make the circles more to scale. Apparently I like books set in other eras ;)


Now I should probably do something slightly more productive ;)