Saturday, March 07, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part LXVI: Geoff Arnold

(Geoff Arnold)

Geoff Arnold lives in Seattle, Washington, where he works for Amazon.com. The subtitle of his blog reads "Expat Brit. Software engineer. Traveller. Music lover. Mac user. Liberal. Atheist. Dreamer", all of which tags are equally important. Yes, he has a Kindle 2. No, you can't buy his Kindle 1.


What made you decide to start blogging?

From the mid-1980s I'd been active on the Internet, mostly in Usenet forums. Around 2000 I decided to create a web site for myself at geoff.arnold.net, but it was very limited: static HTML, no blogging or fancy server side stuff. All of my interactive electronic communications took place via email: I was a member of numerous mailing lists associated with music, atheism, politics, and software engineering.

Then in 2003 my son started a blog, and I realized that if it helped him to communicate with his world-wide circle of family and friends, the same might be true for me. So I started my blog in December 2003. Initially I wrote about the same kinds of topics that I'd addressed in email, and assumed that I was reaching the same people. I soon found that I could reach a larger audience.


What is your best blogging experience?

When I reached my 1,000th post in May 2006, I actually wrote about this - see Blog entry 1,000: a retrospective. The most rewarding experience was the series of postings about The Anthony Flew brouhaha which attracted a lot of attention. I'm now up to 2,095 posts, so perhaps I should take another look.


And your worst?

I haven't really had any bad experiences, except for the constant chore of dealing with blogspam. It's a really tedious business: to date, I've had 3,287 legitimate comments and 104,592 spam comments. Thank goodness for Akismet.


What do you regard as your best blog entry?

My thoughts on Indian traffic written in Pune, India back in 2005.


Favourite blogs?

Well, I have 179 subscriptions in my Google Reader account, so this is going to be a very small sample. I read everything by Andrew Sullivan even though I disagree with many of his positions. I keep up with a lot of science and atheism blogs (and often these overlap): Pharyngula, Greta Christina, New Humanist. I'm a software engineer, and there are several software blog that I regard as professionally essential: James Hamilton, Alec Muffett, Tim Bray and Jeff Barr. I stay in touch with many family members and friends, such as Art La Flamme who's currently serving in Iraq. And then there are the ones that don't fit any obvious category: one of my favourites is a wonderful blog by an airline pilot: Flight Level 390.


Microsoft or Apple Mac?

Mac. At home and at work.


How would you define the American blogosphere?

Diverse. A bunch of non-overlapping echo chambers. I try to read a number of the more thoughtful conservative bloggers, just to provide some perspective. And I also try to follow a few blogs outside my core interests, just to stretch my mind. Philosophy, law, poetry - that kind of thing.


Just how dangerous do you regard the Republican right at the moment?

As a political movement, much less than in recent years. They are rapidly demonstrating their irrelevance: it's a bit like the Labour Party under Michael Foot. The one caveat that I can't avoid is that as they contract they are becoming more virulent and unhinged, and I think the likelihood of political assassination or domestic terrorism is growing significantly.


Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

I've never been to Africa or South America, and I'd like to do both at some point. My company has a development centre in Cape Town, so that's a possibility.


Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?

Australia: Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne. And it's been too long since I was last in Japan.


Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

Interesting. I think it's probably a toss-up between Disraeli and FDR. Among recent politicians, I have a soft spot for Shirley Williams. That said, I agree with Enoch Powell that "all political lives end in failure".


Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?

My mother, Lorna Arnold. I hope I'm still as energetic and intellectually active as she is when I'm in my 90's.


Favourite Bond movie?

Casino Royale. It's the only one which captured the feeling of the original novels.


Favourite Doctor Who?

Tom Baker, obviously.


Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Chocolate. As dark and bitter as possible.


Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?

The "Alchemy" era Dire Straits. (And why hasn't that concert video been released on DVD?)


In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?

Oxford. Even though I never lived there, my mother and brother have been there for many years, and it's become my home in England.


Favourite national newspaper?

Newspaper? What's a newspaper? I subscribe to The Independent on my Kindle, but I only read it occasionally.


What would you say your hobbies were?

Reading, blogging, travelling, I guess. Work takes up most of my time, though. I don't watch much TV - mostly EPFL and Formula 1. (I support Man.U and McLaren respectively.)


And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

Songs: "Telegraph Road" by Dire Straits, "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed, and "A Saucerful of Secrets" by Pink Floyd.
Books: "The Ancestor's Tale" by Richard Dawkins, "Freedom Evolves" by Daniel Dennett, and "The Third Wish" by Robery Fulghum.

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