Tuesday, 23 July 2019

AMS Notices

Jointly with Justin Curry and Julie Corrigan, I have published an article in the most recent AMS Notices about our mental health advocacy.

The Notices is the American Mathematical Society's members magazine, with a large readership within the mathematics community.

Monday, 22 July 2019

"The Post": Accidentally Tapping Into People's Pain

This is the story of our most viewed post, by a factor of more than 15 times.

Have a look at the stats for our top posts, all time.

I just changed that introductory sentence from "most successful" to "most viewed".  Our most successful post would the one that helped most, whether it be the author or readers of the post, or anybody. I don't know what post that is.  But  "most viewed" is unarguable. Also most commented on, again by many many times.

But that post feels very like a mixed blessing. Somehow it has sparked so many people to express their pain, and the pain seems so overwhelming.

The post title, "I don't necessarily want to kill myself", comes from this wonderful comic: "Depression Part Two" by the wonderful Allie Brosh.  The comic is a long one and expresses a lot about how I felt.  The phrase I used comes in this panel:

The post itself is not massively insightful. I do remember an early comment which criticised me for stealing the title from somebody else's work, which seemed odd and that comment disappeared quickly - either deleted by the author or my co-founder of the site deleting it as a rude comment.

That was it for the post.  So why is it - capital letters - The Post?

As time passed and we moderated further comments, we saw more and more painful and deeply pained comments of people it had struck a chord with.  You can if you wish go and find the comments yourself, but here are some excerpts. In fact to reduce triggers I'm only taking some indicative comments, not the worst things people said:
Even on a great day, given the choice I would opt out of living.
I feel as though my existence is worthless
I hate my existence, I hate the world I live in. 
Wishing I didn't exist is an everyday thing for me. 
I completely relate to it and this was almost word for word what I typed into google.
Those are just quotes from the first five comments, not selected highlights.  We have more than 100 comments and many of them are hundreds of words long.  The pain is just so immense, and these are people who don't want to kill themselves.  It's heart-rending to read the comments and there is so little or nothing we can do to help. At the same time of course it's humbling to have written something that touches so many people. And we are pleased to have been able to let people speak for themselves on our site. 

Being a sounding board like this is part of what we wanted for the site, but most people posting are not academics, or don't say they are.  Why?  What happened?

I think the clue is in the quoted text of the last comment: "what I typed into google".  I think that typing in that you didn't want to kill yourself had a good chance of landing at our page.  I think it used to be on the first page of results and it's still in the first few pages.  (The first hit is now and has for some time been for a counselling service for the suicidal, which is a good match, whether through an automatic process or manual intervention.) 

So somehow we hit on something that doesn't get a lot of attention (of course on the back of a great artist's work on the same topic.) 

But the human pain we accidentally uncovered, and seeing it in our comments as we moderate them, is ...  ...  .... sorry I don't even know how to finish that sentence.  But it's a remarkable thing and I think clearly shows why it's The Post.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

The Memorial Service

As a lecturer, there is no doubt that the best friend I ever made among undergraduate students was Madeleine (Madz) Conway or Patrick (Patch) Reynolds. Which one was the best? Choosing between her and him is easy because they are in fact the same person. She and he had many different names and gender identities even in the shortish time I knew them, so please don't get confused during the rest of the post.

I thought of her as a friend long before she died. I call her the best undergrad friend I ever made because I keep a certain distance between me and students: I think is necessary since I am somebody who is in a position to judge and assess them. I try to be friendly but not become friends at least until after they have finished their courses. But it was different with Patch.

She came to university to study Computer Science. I didn't know it at the time but it had been a massive struggle for her to get here, and indeed had included my colleagues showing sympathy towards her unconventional path through school (which had included hospitalisation).   I was first-year coordinator so naturally came across her. She was extraordinarily enthusiastic and interested and had bright yellow hair, and was not shy in coming forward to talk about things.  The first memory I have is of her asking if soya milk was available for coffee because she was vegan.  (A colleague started getting soya milk for her and other students).  

I would not have called her a friend at this point, but we did have a lot of friendly contact during her studies. In writing this I went back to check my emails from the period to remind myself of encounters.  And I was stunned how fast things moved.  She was incredibly open about her issues from the very start. I remember a conversation on the doorstep of our building, where she showed her incredible enthusiasm for the subject and learning.  But looking at my email I find that I reached out to her because she had mentioned in passing her mental health issues.  I mentioned this blog (then just a few months old) and that I had issues too, and in response she told me a lot about herself.  She mentioned her work for BEAT, an eating disorders charity. As somebody with many problems herself, it was typical of her that she worked hard to help others with similar problems.

Perusing emails show how often we engaged, whether it was because she needed to discuss aspects of the course or her work, but often just to discuss things that were on her mind. And many other meetings where she just popped by to say hello would not be recorded in my emails.  One sentence in one email caught my eye from this period: "For some reason I trust you as a decent person in CS (and there are a lot of them in this department)". Statements like that mean a lot.

But still, it was not in her period of study as a computer scientist that I would have called her a friend. We would have discussions about her issues with courses and her mental health.

Just a few weeks into her studies Madz told us she was transitioning from female to male, and using the name Patrick Reynolds or Patch for short. I had no idea what to do as coordinator, but fortunately our university policies seemed to be pretty good and straightforward.  Again he talked to me a lot about issues and appointments meaning missing classes, but as a very open person everybody knew what was going on and it seemed to be easily accepted.

This is kind of coming over as just a story about Patch, but it's also covered a young person with a lot going on in their head: serious mental health and eating disorder issues, and gender reassignment, but through all this being incredibly enthusiastic about her course and incredibly outgoing. In fact at some point she mentioned that she also had an autism spectrum diagnosis, but the stereotyped lack of social skills was in her case exactly reversed.

I must have suggested that she would be welcome to write a post for this blog. At some point Patch took up the offer and wrote a beautiful blog post for Depressed Academics, "On being the happiest person in the room", of which more below. 

One day around this time Patch appeared in my office and told me he was saying goodbye. I didn't know what it meant but it turned out that he was quitting Computer Science and not coming back. He took a leave of absence for the second semester and came back the following year as a Geologist.  Perhaps the most remarkable thing was that after stopping studying the subject, he helped out at open days to tell prospective students how awesome we were as a place to study, and remained as enthusiastic as ever.

It was after this that I started thinking of Patch as a friend unreservedly. There was little chance I would have to assess him and he continued to come by to chat when visiting his CS friends, as he often did. I remember him for example as an early and passionate Corbynista (supporter of Jeremy Corbyn for leader of the Labour Party). 

His second year in St Andrews he also changed his mind about study and again had a leave of absence, returning this time as Film Studies student, and as a woman this time.  She was still a friend and a visitor in her third calendar year at St Andrews. One memory stands out from that period.  I was still first-year coordinator and during the week before teaching started we had induction events with the new students. Remember, they'd been in St Andrews for less than a week. At one event I was talking to new students and mentioned that our degree has a lot of flexibility, with one of our students having changed from CS to film studies. Quick as a flash, one of the group said "Do you mean Patch?" which blew my mind since how did they know her and her history?   It turned out they were staying in the same hall, which is part explanation, the rest of the explanation being that she was Patch and had instantly got to know everyone in the hall. 

The other seminal memory is the tragic one. A few weeks later I got an email from a student asking for an extension because another student in their hall had died: Patch Reynolds.

This was heartbreaking. Amongst other tributes I wrote a small piece for this blog: "Rest in Peace, Dear Patch". There was an outpouring of many other tributes from friends and fellow students, and also people and groups she had helped such as BEAT.  

There was a family funeral near her home, which I didn't attend, but in the new year the University Chaplain helped to organise a memorial service for her, for everybody to remember her.  Somehow I got involved and ended up volunteering to speak, and it was agreed that it would be fitting to read out her wonderful Depressed Academics post from two years earlier. Here's what I read:

"Often I am told that I appear incredibly happy, positive and optimistic. By often, I genuinely mean at least once a week. When I tell people that I am actually a clinically-diagnosed depressive with aspergers, anxiety and an eating disorder, the response is usually befuddlement.  “But you don't act depressed / anxious / socially awkward / etc! Surely it can't be that bad?” they exclaim, “You act happier than I do and there is nothing wrong with me!” they continue, shocked that someone with mental illness can appear to be as happy as a small child who has just discovered how to blow a raspberry. According to many of the people I converse with, having a psychiatric disorder makes me unable to feel joy, express delight or giggle with glee. They wonder what exactly my secret is. Weed? Copious amounts of alcohol? Mountains of prozac? Nope. I'm just good at finding things to be happy about.
"Currently it's the fact that my Lush products arrived and they are making my flat smell absolutely delicious. It's the fact that the person who packed the products in the box wrote their name on the invoice with a love heart. It's a letter sent to me from a friend in the states. It's another friend promising to start a rock collection in my honour. It's my self stirring mug. It's the box of tissues I bought with a boat on the front. It's an email from my Geography tutor telling me not to worry that I couldn't get out of bed due to the flu because he also has it. It's my spotty duvet cover, my wind-up lego torch, my Thor figure, my replica of the ring of power, my mother sending me a picture of my dog, my hair defying gravity. It's the thought that someone has just read Harry Potter for the first time, that someone just laughed so hard they cried, that someone slipped on a banana skin and landed on their arse. The amusement of mishearing song lyrics, the fun of playing a videogame in a way that you don't normally do.  It's the little things, and finding humour in everything."  
There are also parts I didn't read out, because she had died by suicide as a result of what her family called a "terminal mental-illness".  So it didn't seem appropriate to read her closing comments in that post:
"Preparing for the bad days on the good days is one of the best things you can do, and certainly one of the most useful things I have discovered in my 7 year long battle with mental illness. By planning for the worst and ensuring you have safe ways of improving your condition can save your life – it's definitely saved mine."  
I wish so much it could saved her life another time, and another, and another.  It wasn't to be. I've thought of her so often since then. For years I would constantly see somebody in town and think "Oh there's Patch" before remembering it couldn't be. When I mentioned this on facebook more than one of my friends said they had exactly the same thing.

Patch's friendship enriched my life. Her passing greatly saddened it, but did bring one good thing. As well as her friendship, our shared grief brought me into contact with some new friends who I still have, such as her uncle and the Film Studies lecturer who had got to know her in her period as a student there in the same way I had in Computer Science.

And one last thing I remember from the memorial. My colleague who had helped her get into St Andrews attended and had previously said he was worried that helping her get here had been the wrong thing to do, as it had ended badly. I was sure the worry was misplaced so I explicitly asked the family and they confirmed that St Andrews had been the "perfect place" for Patch. I am glad she came here to study and glad to have been her friend.

A different disorder than you

My therapist was telling me about some research which said that one can be more easily triggered if one experiences a non-positive environment for more than 35 hours a week.  In the context of research on schizophrenics.

In passing she said that it was interesting even though it was "a different disorder than you".

Not quite sure what my disorder is but getting some clues from my therapist. But it was reassuring to have me labelled as disorderly as a matter-of-fact statement of the obvious.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Economics discussing mental health

Following the suicide of Alan Kreuger, a conversation has gotten started in the Economics field about mental illness, mental health and how best to take care of the faculty community.

The entire article is worth your time and attention - this part stuck with me:
After hearing of Krueger’s suicide, Beggs used Twitter to implore people to talk more about mental illness. “We need to stop thinking that professional success shields people from depression and the like,” she wrote. And “we need to remember that economists are still people, with all of the messiness that that entails, even when they appear hyperrational regarding economic matters.”

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Fine thanks, just tired

I wrote this a few days ago when it was bad. It's better now.
I am
zoned out in the cereal aisle stare mutter notice myself hope no one sees don't really care but shame

I am
here to buy bread plus peanut butter keep me alive the psychiatrist asked if I was eating not if I was cooking

I am
maybe I should eat an apple crunch nourish feel it yes but no no too many choices taste price food miles difficult can't

I am
OK for eggs I think

I am
holding it together not lying on the floor not crying not crying checkout not screaming not crying walk home not crying not crying not crying

I am
fine thanks just tired

I made him write it down

This is another guest post by Lyra Swann. Her first post is here.

I made him write it down: Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. 

Once it's written down, it's real. No-one can take it away from me. This diagnosis is validation; it affirms so many of my feelings and experiences. What I feel is real, it is happening, it's not "just me". I have a way of expressing some of the challenges I face. I've always been battling, but now I've glimpsed my foe.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Yet another go at therapy, episode 1

Should have found another therapist months ago but am trying somebody now.

Did a questionnaire about how things have been over the last two weeks.

Comes out as "Moderate to Severe Depression" and one more point would have been "Severe." 

Except the last week or so I haven't been quite as bad so I gave lower scores to some answers than I would have done a week ago.

Asked me what I want from therapy and I don't really know but managed to say that being able to control my obsessions would be nice.  Sometimes I want to get lost in them but other times I need to stay away.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Something Changed

“ - And I imagine it makes you politically angry as well -” says Serena (not her name, but it'll do).

“Yes!” I exclaim. We’re talking about the fact that I am shelling out eye-watering amounts of cash for a private consultation with a clinical psychologist, and am painfully aware that so many people who need this kind of help can’t afford it. It’s funny that Serena knows I’m politically angry about this, because we’ve just met. But then, talking to her is really fucking expensive, so it’s reassuring to know she’s perceptive.

This consultation could not be more different from the one with the NHS psychiatrist. Apart from anything else, it feels like Serena and I are bonding. It’s remarkable how comfortable I am here, 45 minutes into a chat about whether or not I might be autistic. NHS guy had squirmed a little when I suggested it as a possible cause of my recurring (and recurring, and recurring) depression, said “You see, the thing is, it’s a developmental disorder…” and when I couldn’t provide a completed questionnaire from either of my parents, declared there was nothing that could be done for me. (I was politically angry about that, too.)

Serena asks me about sensory issues. Sounds stress me out more than most people I know. A lot of people's voices are too loud for me, but I know it's weird to ask them to be quieter, so I don't. If I hear a sound with a rhythm or tune, I can’t help but tap it with my fingers (pinkie for higher notes, thumb for the lowest, and a complicated mapping for tunes with more than five notes so that - never mind). I startle so easily that people think it’s odd. I can not cope with warm rooms or the heating in cars or bright sunlight –

OK, so, social communication. I'm OK at this, I think. But I remember the day I learned about hyperbole. My mum explained it to me. I’m grateful to her that she always took the time to explain things to me. She told me about sarcasm, too. I can spot it most of the time (I think?), but I have not yet learned how to respond to it with the right combination of words and tone to tell the other person I’m in on the joke. I have ‘small-talk scripts’ which I can run without too much bother, but if you ask me a hard question it’s quite likely that I’ll have to shut my eyes to formulate the answer, or maybe stare at the wall above your head and answer in a monotone. I hope one day to learn how to say “I’m really sorry to hear that” without it sounding horribly phony. The fact that I can’t makes me sad.

“What about intimate relationships?” asks Serena.

“Ah, I knew that was coming!” I laugh. So does she. But seriously, we have to talk about that now. OK.

There was a time when I thought I had to be in a romantic relationship. (You can see why a girl growing up in the 90s would have formed that impression, right?) That did not work for me at all. Sex is fine, but there are plenty of other things I’d rather be doing. When someone has romantic feelings for me, it’s like being yelled at in a language I don’t understand. I find it confusing and exhausting. I quit conventional relationships about a decade ago and am now quite content with a kind of aromantic, grey-asexual, relationship anarchy kind of approach to life. (It involves a lot of difficult, honest discussions about boundaries and plenty of time for sudoku.) NHS psychiatrist referred to this as my "um, trouble with relationships." Potato, potato, I guess.

Serena nods a lot while we are talking. It is the nod of someone who is finding what she’s hearing very familiar. She asks me if there’s anything else about me that people might consider ‘weird’. This question was also not in the NHS consultation.

So I tell her a few things that come easily to mind. When I was a kid I loved car number plates. Still kind of do. A digital clock display is ‘good’ to me if the sum of the digits is divisible by the number of digits it has, and this has been the case since before I could use the word ‘divisible’.  When I take eggs out of the box, I like to make sure that the ones that are left are arranged in a symmetrical pattern. My housemates at uni said that watching me eat a meal was “like watching surgery”, so now I try to eat in a less weird way, but if I’m not concentrating I’ll still eat my food one component at a time.

All of this discussion takes place over an hour and a half, interspersed with observations about how the Fucking Patriarchy impedes women from getting the mental health help they need, discussion of the possibility that I might also have ADHD (it would explain my relationship with deadlines), the pros and cons of SNRIs, and what a shame it is that I got slapped with a personality disorder diagnosis by NHS guy when everything about my presentation screams ‘autism spectrum’ to someone who knows a bit about how it presents in women - especially ones who happen to be good at passing exams.

Serena says that I seem to be more concerned with finding out about myself and making peace with whatever I find than actually putting myself into a diagnostic category straight away, and she's right. But as the session wraps up it looks like I might be on my way to being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Like my sister, now I think of it.

I go back in a month.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

99 Random Facts About Me: Twitter Megathread.

Following is a huge long twitter thread I posted last night and today.  I enjoyed it and it took my mind of the various kinds of misery I've been feeling lately.  
So I thought I would preserve it here. Barely edited with a few inter-fact tweets italicised.
I have really really been struggling with my mental health so far this year. So I thought I would try to let my twitter friends cheer me up by loving and chatting random supposedly interesting facts about myself. 1/megathread
There was thing before Christmas of one like = one interesting fact. I'm not saying any of these should interest you but I had a conversation with @aquigley where I said I could easily do say 50 "interesting facts". So here goes.
I'll start numbering when I start the facts in the next tweet. Some will be academic boasty and most will be obscure little things to do with niche interests of mine that you probably don't share.
Random interesting fact number 1. 
I once won a bottle of champagne from The Independent for a spoof piece in 100 words based on a real headline from the paper that week. 1/
I saw Glenn Turner score his 100th century in first class cricket at Worcester. Probably the best innings I ever saw as he went on to make 311 not out in the day. 2/
When I was at school I could solve Rubik's cube reliably in less than a minute. But I can't solve it now at all. 3/
I taught a Turing Award winner, Robin Milner, to juggle, but I don't suppose he kept it up. 4/
For a while in the mid 90s my teddy bears' pictures on my web page were some of the top hits for teddy bears on the entire internet. 5/
I don't think I invented it but I want the following to be known as "Gent's First Law of Putting Things Back".

Always put things back in the first place that you looked for them. 6/
One of my ancestors was on the jury for a murderer in a case where his navy captain was called as a witness. The captain was Horatio Nelson. 7/
In the 1970s there was a stationer in Malvern where I grew up which had printing calculators in it. I would go in there and do sums on them just for the fun of seeing the numbers go up on the printout. 8/
As a child I loved Asterix books and often had a dream that the next day I would go into a bookshop and find a brand new Asterix book. One day it came true. 9/
The first time any intellectual work appeared in print was in my mother's school maths textbook. This textbook was published by Mills & Boon, overwhelmingly famous for publishing romance novels. 10/
The only autograph of a cricketer I ever personally collected was Basil D'Oliveira's. I'm incredibly lucky that my childhood sporting hero also turned out to be a hero in real life, playing an important small role in the history of anti-apartheid. 11/
One day helping with washing up I looked out of the window and said to my dad "that looks like an eclipse of the moon". He said "no I doubt it because I would have heard about it if it was." He had 9 papers in Nature on astronomy but I was right. 12/
Talking about my dad I gave the eulogy at his funeral, an incredibly moving experience. I started with the words "Hubert Gent wore a monocle". Don't think I mentioned the cloak though. 13/
I've published a chess puzzle in which you can prove you can mate in two moves but you can't tell which of three moves will achieve this. (Really). 14/
I once solved an open problem in Combinatory Logic posed by Raymond Smullyan, only to discover an AI program had already solved it. 15/
Talking about resolution theorem proving... I once impressed Alan Robinson (who invented it) by noticing that "Bare Story" is an anagram of "Oyster Bar" 16/
I heard the first episode of The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy the first time it was ever broadcast on radio. I remember talking about it the next day at school with somebody else who had been struck by it. 17/
Talking about the radio... my parents agreed that if I went to bed early I could stay up all night to listen to the last day of the amazing Centenary Test Match in 1977. Something went wrong with the alarm so I missed most of it. Maybe they snuck in and turned the alarm off? 18/
Twice in my life I listened to every official Beatles track in a single day. I think it takes about 12 hours but since they well on physical records you had to keep going quite efficiently, especially for the singles. 19/
One of my favourite words is "antepenultimate" which means "two before the last". Once I gave a talk which was scheduled as the antepenultimate one just because the organiser knew I loved the word. 20/
There's a very obscure thing called the "Gent representation". I did invent it but I got it called that by bribing @Azumanga with a beer (or maybe it was a cider). 21/
My older sister and her school best friend used to love taking me to shops when I was ridiculously young and see me stunning the shop assistants by telling them how much change they should give my sister. 22/
I once started a thread on an internet newsgroup which lasted for many years - it was a "Clue Writing Competition" on rec.puzzles.crosswords. 23/
I was born 100 years to the exact day after overarm bowling was legalised (according to Wisden Cricketer's Almanack) 24/
Talking about Wisden, age 11 I got Wisden 1975 for my birthday. I found an error in it and wrote to the editor. He wrote back to confirm it was a mistake.

His letter finished "Tell mummy she wrote the envelope very nicely." 25/
There's a few academic things I've not invented but named: all of these are mine:
  • Large Neighbourhood Search
  • Solution-directed Backjumping
  • Support Encoding
  • Petrie Multiplier.
The best joke I've ever come up with is this:

"Why is it even more important to remember your girlfriend's birthday than your mum's?"

"Because the day after you forget your mum's birthday, she's still your mum."

I once had a maths teacher who told us it was her birthday and we could guess which one because it was a prime number. We thought she was about 30 so said "29" as a safer guess than "31".

She was offended and said "No, I'm 27!!".

27 is not a prime number. 28/
I own what a very reputable antiques dealer tells me is the only surviving railway sign telling you are now in Wales. (She's reputable because she's my sister). 29/
My mother once swapped open-air cockpit seats in a biplane in mid air.

I only found out about this a few years ago. She'd never bothered to tell me because she didn't think it was very interesting. 30/
Talking about my mother and cricket, I seriously annoyed her by refusing to tell her how exciting the 1981 Headingley Test was becoming. I was superstitious and thought if I let her watch it she would jinx it. 31/
One day I was walking to work and thought "I'd love something nice to happen to me today." When I got to work there was an email from a woman I'd met at a conference inviting me to visit her. We've now been married almost 25 years. 32/
I never really enjoyed the Fringe when I lived in Edinburgh but in 1987 I was really impressed by a show I saw which turned out to the first time Reduced Shakespeare Company did the Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged). 33/
I once had an argument with my co-authors on a paper where I said we should call a new algorithm after the famed Scottish haggis. I won the argument, or perhaps you might think we all lost. 34/
When I was a PhD student my office was Room 101. 35/
There's an incredibly exclusive club called the "Gotcha Club" for people who found mistakes in the New York Times crossword. I am a member and the puzzle with the mistake was published as an example of one of their all time best. 36/
The woman who invited me to visit her 3000 miles away and I then married was best friends with an office mate with a best friend of one of my best friends. The chain of 5 is not unusual but I feel the closeness of each relationship was unusual. 37/
My sister-in-law @underwoodwriter has written many successful children's books include New York Times bestsellers. But when discussing this with @afd_icl I spectacularly lost the boast battle when he asked if I'd heard of his mum's book "The Gruffalo". 38/
To be clear and fair to Ally I don't think he realised he was in a boast battle. But when most people say their mum has written children's books you can win the boast battle if a book dedicated to your daughter has been a bestseller.
Talking about @underwoodwriter, her book was meant to be read by Pearl Mackie on CBeebies on Christmas Eve 2017. My tweet complaining about the fact they showed the wrong episode was quoted by The Sun. 39/
When I went to "meet the parents" of my future wife, flights around Christmas meant that I got there the day before my girlfriend. They were exceptionally nice.40/
In the early 1990s I used to type in the Listener Crossword in LaTeX and email it to America for my girlfriend, and to other aficionados in the US. Since paper copies took too long to get there, entries on my latex version were accepted as official entries. 41/
One of the people who got on the mailing list was the setter "Sabre" who asked if my father's name was "Hubert" (which it is), since he knew the family. I still remember when I read his email telling me that Fermat's Last Theorem had been solved. 42/
Yes the Hitch Hiker thing should have been #42. We apologise for the inconvenience.
One of my photos of one of my hostas has been used as the facebook cover photo of maybe the most famous hosta-seller in the UK. Some of my twitter friends just think of me as that guy who posts photos of that plant they'd never heard of before. 43/
I haven't yet opened my wedding present from my wife. It was a bottle of whisky distilled the year after I was born. It was distilled 53 years ago but in whisky years will forever be 29 years old since that's when it was bottled. 44/
My most highly cited paper was rejected twice before being accepted. 45/
As a youngling I used to love looking in my dad's copy of the (then-physical) Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. I now have a few sequences I've helped calculate in there, including Sequence number 250,000 oeis.org/A250000 46/
I wrote an item for cricinfo before it was even a website still available today about shortest chain of players from the first test to that day. Years later I mentioned it to a cricket fan at a conference and he said "That was you?!!" 47/
I have an Erdös number of 3.

And I copied and pasted this from @michiexile's thread inspired by mine because we have the same number!

Talking about @michexile we co-founded @depressed_acad when we found out each other had mental health issues which we'd never known about when we worked in the same place. blog.depressedacademics.org 49/
I was really surprised "turingfan" was available as a username when I joined twitter. I've met a number of people who knew Alan Turing. For example at one conference I went to my bedroom was next door to Robin Gandy's since rooms were assigned alphabetically. 50/
I've got to 50 facts now but slowing down and it's bedtime. See if I have a burst of energy in the morning and try to reach my century.
Since @tnhh mentioned my h index...

The most cited paper which is not in my h index is also the very first refereed paper I ever published. Seems unusual to me - I'd assume that your first paper is either going to have almost no citations or lots and lots. 51/
I can think of at least 2 journal papers I was involved with which were rejected and then never resubmitted there or anywhere else because we lost the text of the paper on our computers. 52/
The family dog when I was a kid was "Sue", and therefore unacceptable as an answer to those internet security "First family pet" things as it has less than four letters. 53/
Talking about Sue, as a child I was always told she was born on the same day as me. When I eventually saw her pedigree certificate I was disappointed to learn that she was one week younger than me. 53/
This one's grizzly, sorry.
One day I was alone in the car with Sue and my sister's pet mouse. Sue opened the cage and ate the mouse, and I can still picture its back legs wriggling in her mouth.
I wonder if my family thought I opened the cage for her (I didn't).  54/
We live next to a river. For the first couple of years we lived here a pig lived in a little sty across the river on the wasteland, I assume kept by the landowner.

It disappeared after foot-and-mouth in 2001 and was never replaced.  55/

I can type much faster than people who can't type and much slower than people who have been taught well to type. 56/
The only time I got terrible sunburn was in Edinburgh since I wasn't worried about it. It was watching Scotland play West Indies at cricket and I even had a sunhat with me. 57/

My favourite movie is Groundhog Day. 
So yes, I've watched Groundhog Day over and over again. 58/
I have soft spot for the movie The Dish because my dad would have known some of the real radio astronomers involved.
But the plot point where they lose the signal is ludicrous. My dad's friends would have (a) owned up immediately and (b) had no problem relocating the signal. 59/
I used to love watching shopping channels like QVC but never bought anything from them.
One day a friend challenged me to talk about a pencil as if I was on a shopping channel assuming I couldn't do it.  
After a few minutes he conceded defeat to get me to shut up. 59/
Talking about shutting up, I once won 10p off my sister for not talking for 7 minutes. She was very surprised I succeeded.  60/

Talking about winning 10p off relatives, one once taught me to mount a bike from a standing start and promised me 10p if I could do it. With that incentive I did it first time. 61/

Talking about cousins I don't see that often, I have a second cousin who I've only met once or twice. When I moved to St Andrews it turned out she was the best friend of the wife of one of my colleagues in my small department. 62/
I was always unfit , so it was a big surprise when it turned out I could keep running for a long time if not very fast.
I achieved my lifetime running goal when I ran a 10k in fewer minutes than my age in years, doing it in less than 50 minute when I was over 50. 63/
Talking about academic collaborating I've used the following gag semi seriously.

I used to think I was a terrible collaborator.
Later I realised I was actually a better collaborator than most academics.
Later I realised both these statements were true.

At my interview for my current job, I was talking about my research and said

"This isn't an academic question, there are people all over the world who care about this.
"Actually, now I think about it they are all academics so yes it is an academic question"  65/
Talking about academic interviews, I once said to my head of dept that I was glad mine didn't involve a teaching talk about balanced binary trees as I never would have got the job.

Instantly he shot back: "Ian, why do you think we introduced them?"

He was joking. I hope. 66/
Having been given a programmable calculator by my parents I used it on holiday in the 1970s to calculate the handicap times in the dinghy sailing races where we went on holiday.  67/
I love skimming stones at the beach. With flat stones and a calm sea I take ten hops for granted but am pleased to get 20.  68/
The main thing I enjoy doing at the beach we go on holiday to every year is damming the stream in interesting ways. The best ever was when my wife and I made an aqueduct, using only natural materials from the beach.  69/
Seeing me build dams my mum told me that former Prime Minister Clement Attlee was very good at building recreational dams. I've tried to verify this several times without success. 70/
There's a long time family belief that we are related to the von Trapp family singers (from sound of music) but NOT either the Captain or Maria. Because the Whitehead branch was related to his first wife.

Sadly I'm pretty sure it's not true.  71/
Most people in my family are seriously good at remembering song lyrics etc, applying both to basically everybody in both my birth family and my wife's family and my children.

I just don't have that gift at all, and I think only my mum is also like that. 72/
I have an autograph sheet of the 1930 Australian Cricket team including Don Bradman, Stan McCabe and Archie Jackson. Personally collected by my uncle when they played Scotland and given to me as the only family member who liked cricket. 73/
I believe that both John Arlott and Brian Johnston's last commentary stints on Test Match Special ended with the same words:

"And after Trevor Bailey it will be Christopher Martin-Jenkins".

Arlott's was a big deal but nobody knew Johnners would die over the winter. 74/
I once won £10 off a statistics lecturer, and now FRS, Frank Kelly. I paid 11p to play a variant of St Petersburg paradox with him with an upper limit of £10. Heads came up 9 times in a row so I won the £10.  75/
I was a committee member of the Archimedeans, the Cambrige University maths society. One year I colocated an AGM with my birthday party to ensure it was quorate so that we could change the constitution in some way.  76/
Even though I was really good at mental arithmetic for many years I struggled with remembering 7x8. Eventually I internalised it by remembering that the answer to the hard sum I couldn't remember was 56.  7/
At a conference in 1989 somebody asked me if had an eidetic memory because I seemed to have a very visual memory.

I definitely don't have an eidetic memory in the sense of looking at a page of text.

But I can still picture the scene when the guy asked me that.

The same conference was when I first met @BarbaraKnits.

Years later I moaned about her not remembering me from there.

Her PhD student then asked me where I first met him and I said I didn't know.

Which is annoying because I vaguely thought it was Liverpool and it was.

The first conference abroad I went to was SEP 91 in Victoria, BC

I kept seeing cars with stickers which said "SEP 91", and I couldn't figure out why so many were advertising this obscure conference

When I saw one which said "Oct 91" I realised it was a tax renewal date

I once lost count before I got to one!

Coming home from SEP 91, I was jet lagged on the tube and worked out I had to get off after 4 more stops.

A couple of minutes later I thought "have we passed zero or one stops?" It was zero.

I once lived at 73 Newcombe Road, Coventry.

On the wall of 72 Newcombe Road is a blue plaque to Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine.

It's not a massive surprise to me that many of these facts involve numbers, because I have always loved numbers.

It is a bit of a surprise to me that I haven't bothered to synchronise the numbers with the fact number.
At my primary school I once got 99% on a history exam.

I have never forgiven the teacher for marking "Guthrum" wrong as a viking name, even after I appealed. Guthrum was Alfred the Great's viking enemy.

I still say that should have been 100%.

Probably my favourite crime novelist is Dorothy L Sayers whose detective is Lord Peter Wimsey.

The weird thing is that in several of her novels the murder method wouldn't work. I've seen Unnatural Death, Strong Poison, and Nine Tailors all criticised for this

I don't mind.

In light novels I really love E F Benson's Mapp & Lucia series.

But I really quite like Miss Mapp and dislike Lucia, while most people are the other way round. So it grates that all through the books they are both in, Mapp never ever wins.

I'm always thinking about my own thought processes, which can be bad.

I've sometimes used this to my advantage, one day thinking "what shall I make myself to eat?" and then

"Wait, I like things I like, and I liked last night's dinner, so I will do the same again."

I usually wear odd socks, on the basis that it removes all problems of attempting to match socks.

The principle is I wear the first two socks I pull out, so sometimes I do match.

My daughter used to tease me by putting them away in pairs tied together. 87/

I wear a Ben and Jerry's t shirt like this on special occasions.

I've got 5 of them so if you see me all week at a conference in the same t shirt it doesn't mean I will smell disgusting.

I can juggle three balls in one hand. Pretty reliably in my right hand and at times I've been able to do it in my left. I think this is probably more difficult than juggling five balls in two hands but I could do 3 in one before I could do 5 in two.  89/
I once decided not to prep a talk for a meeting when I realised there would not be time for it. There was great relief when I said I didn't mind not giving my talk.

My laziness went unrewarded when the organiser of the next meeting promised I could be on first! 90/
I used to buy real cricket scorebooks to score my games of the "Owzat!" cricket game. Staff at the Worcester cricket shop couldn't understand why I bought so many at the last game of the season.  91/
My first anniversary present from my wife was an HP programmable calculator. The vast majority of time I have spent with it has been programming or playing an "Owzat!" cricket game simulator.  92/
My father gave me his Curta mechanical calculator and I've often said it's the most beautiful object I own.

Of course I should add I don't own my wife or children who are far more beautiful.  93/
Talking about my beautiful wife

A friend once said that there was a word to describe me which was "uxorious". Which (I didn't then know) means "Having or showing a great or excessive fondness for one's wife."

I agree this describes me except for the word "excessive".  94/
The last number does match the fact since we got married in 94. That was also the year of "four weddings and a funeral".

That film scared my mother in law about getting a fancy hat so much that my mother firmly said "I will not be wearing a hat". 95/
Perhaps our best wedding photo is the one of @BlueManifold retying my tie into a windsor knot after expressing disgust at my terrible schoolboy knot and saying I couldn't get married in that. 96/
Our reception was at Worcester Cricket Ground. We were married on Monday because on Friday the 2nd XI MIGHT have got to the semi final of the one day cup, and they MIGHT have been drawn to play at home and though the game was on Thursday it MIGHT be rain delayed to Friday. 97/
Thanks to @chtruchet for reminding me of this one...
At CP95 in Cassis I gave a talk in which I juggled to explain the phase transition in constraint problems.
Gene Freuder came up to me and said "that was brilliant!" I'm going to learn to juggle so I can steal your idea. 98/
I've decided not to go to 100 but to run out at 99 with one that relates to that number, cricket and my wife, which have been three recurring themes.

As some guy I could google the name of 
 once used to say [It's John Ebdon
If you have been, thanks for listening.
I used to watch Dipak Patel play cricket for Worcester.
When I first visited my future wife in the US I could just listen on her shortwave radio in her bathroom to commentary of him playing for New Zealand vs England.
In one match he was run out for 99, like this thread.
I eventually ran out of steam at 99 facts. Not sure I managed to keep them all in one thread so need to storify them or something to make sure they are all reachable. [Special thanks to Duncan Smeed for using threadreaderapp and saving me most of the work in creating this post from the tweets.]
It's kept me busy and my mind off misery and the nice things people have said are uplifting.
On making this post I've noticed it actually is 100 because there are two fact 59s. But I'm keeping it at 99.