Richard Thompson's Website

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My Interests and Hobbies, Past and Present

(Last revised Tuesday 01 June 2020)

Much of the material on this page, indeed on most of this site, had been here for ten years or more when I embarked on a thorough revision. I realised that much of this page described things I used to do, but for various reasons do no longer. Simply deleting out of date material would not have left much for people to read so I decided to include reminiscences about things I used to do. Past activities have after all helped to shape the dwindling individual I now am.

Reading

I read a good deal on a variety of subjects, especially Philosophy , Mathematics, Science, History and sometimes SF, my interest in which was revived by meeting Mary Gentle on cix, but I very rarely read anything that literary people would call 'literature'.

I usually have several books on the go at any particular time and there is always a small pile of others awaiting attention.

Gardening

When I first wrote this page I had quite a large garden. Tending it was a major hobby and I spent a lot of time in it. Here's a link

A few years ago I moved to a rather larger house with a considerably smaller garden. I missed the old garden, particularly those rather special apple trees, but regret was mixed with some relief because I had begun to find maintenance rather challenging. Bending down to gather the redcurrants was quite a strain, and if I tried to dig I couldn't turn more than a couple of sods before back-ache stopped me.

When the previous owners handed it over the present house had a fairly small but very overgrown garden Now my nephews have tamed it, with plants in either raised beds or pots, I very much enjoy pottering about in it while they do the heavy lifting.


Playing Go

In the early 1970's I became very interested in board games and built up quite a collection, many of which turned out to be almost unplayable. I was more a collector of games than a player, but I did have some friends who liked to play an unusual game occaasionally. Sometimes I had Sunday lunch parties followed by games playing, but after I left the Manchester area I lost touch with most of the willing players Although I still have much of my original collection of games, the majority are now tucked away in various cupboards or in boxes in my attic study room.

The game I played most was Go and that I played on and off for many years, even after I forsook other games. For several years The Leicester Go Club met weekly in my house.

Many people were attracted to Go because, although computers had been programmed to be champions in many of what now seem to be called 'Mind Games', the best Go playing programs were until very recently little stronger than beginners. That attracted quite lot of computer programmers and Mathematicians to the game. Recently the game has been mastered by an AI that was programmed to teach itself. Earlier progams had been based on the collected wisdom of Human champions, who could always beat their creations. By that time I had stopped playing. I was finding it harder to concentrate, and dwindling bus services made it harder to get to meetings.


University of the Third Age (U3A)

Since January 2006 I've been a member of the Leicester University of the Third Age, and I also belong to the Science and Technology Group which has proved an excellent way of meeting intelligent and agreeable people. At the beginning of 2008 I became Group Leader.

At various time I've talked to the Science group about Artifical Intelligence, Temperature, Chaos, Solat Energy and CS Peirce and have put some of my material on this site. There are links on The box_room page.

For several years I also acted as Webmaster for the Leicester U3A web site. and I once constructed a new web site for the Association of East Midland U3As


Cooking

I quite enjoy cooking, and as well as cooking meals I also make lots of jams and jellies and marmalades. Before I moved house most preserves, apart from the marmalade, were made from home grown fruit.

Recently I taught myself to make scones and biscuits.


Pen Friends and Cyber Friends

Before email was even thought of, I'd developed quite a network of penfriends, some of them people who used to live near but then moved away, and some people I met through contact advertisements in magazines, the greatest number through an Atari ST user magazine.

Now letters are written only rarely as a special treat for the nostalgic, but I have quite a large circle of email friends, and also chat a lot on cix conferencing which has the great advantage that one can use an off-line reader. Very useful are some friends who work in computing, and can provide invaluable help in cyber crises, notably Gerard without whose advice this site would be even more primitive than it is, Leslie who provides me with a free reserve email address, and Philip who seems always to know the answer.


Computing

In the 1980's, when I was proud owner of successively a Sinclair Spectrum, a Sinclair QL and an Atari ST, I should have cited computing as one of my interests but today when it is not owning a computer that makes one remarkable, it might be better to make the more modest claim that I don't take my computer entirely for granted, but take a moderate interest in its working and in the numerous strange files, most of them not put there by me, which despite their great number and in many cases considerable length, still don't come near to filling the hard disk.

Nevertheless I encountered computers at such an early stage in their development that I shall allow myself a reminiscence.

From time to time I try to learn something new, and in June 2011 struggled with the use of forms and cgi programming. The, rarely used, form on the visitors page of this site was created as a proof of principle. Towards the end of 2012 I started to teach myself more about interactive web sites and learnt a little about PHP programming but have never managed to master the SQL database on the server.

Investigating the Supernatural

These days enthusiasts prefer the word 'Paranormal' to 'Supernatural', but I think the latter term gives the layman a better idea what is involved.

Although I was quite enthusiastic about the subject in the 1980's, when I took part in several investigations in the Manchester area (I may still have somewhere a map of the numerous suposedly haunted sites of Salford) in recent years I've done nothing about it except read the ocasional article, so it would be better described as an ex-hobby. However as people often ask me about it, I've put some anecdotes here.

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