Sunday, September 21st, 2014 12:06 pm
My English mother-in-law, who was actively opposed to the idea of Scottish independence, has written to her (Tory) MP to say that a promise was made to Scotland and that promise should be kept, and, in particular, that nobody should be trying to manipulate the situation to gain advantages for their own parties in the process.

I am both astonished and grateful.

Her response to being thanked was "I didn't do it for you, dear. I did it because I believe it."
Saturday, September 20th, 2014 10:09 pm
I bought an iPad Air and some accessories the other day. Although I bought them all at the same time from the same company, they arrived in five separate LARGE boxes, all of which contained a smaller box.

The first photo shows the packaging.
Read more... )
The second photo shows the packaging together with the accessorized iPad Air, and a curious cat.
Read more... )
Saturday, September 20th, 2014 09:52 pm
If you have 33 minutes or some subset thereof, Stef-Bob sez sit back with your favorite mind altering substance, or not, and check out this animated video score of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring." Definitely right up there with the best laser light shows I've seen.

Read more... )
Saturday, September 20th, 2014 10:00 am
Saturday, September 20th, 2014 01:11 am
The subject line is what [ profile] jamessacorey said when I claimed that J and I had made almond mozzarella. But we did! Here's photographic proof:

a small wheel of white cheese

And here's what it looked like on pizza:

a small pizza covered with tomato sauce, melted cheese, and pieces of sopressata

Yes, it shreds and melts, thanks to the magic of kappa carrageenan, though it doesn't get stretchy (I'd have to add xanthan gum for that) and it doesn't love direct heat. I made that pizza with 10 minutes in the toaster oven preheated to 450F followed by 4 minutes under the broiler, and it came out fine. But when I put slices of the cheese (not shreds) on top of bread and toasted it, with the toaster oven starting out cold and heating the toast from both above and below, the cheese got an odd sort of thin crinkly skin on top, though it was lovely and melty underneath. It had only started to brown slightly when I took the toast out, but I'm sure it would brown well if given the chance.

It is far FAR better than any storebought vegan mozzarella I've ever had. The flavor is perfect, milky and mild. The texture is a little solid, almost rubbery; it would be perfect for something like deep-fried cheese sticks but it's not quite right for eating on crackers. There's a "buffalo mozzarella" recipe that cuts the carrageenan from 4 tsp to 3 with all other proportions the same, and I might try that next, since I still have some almond milk in the fridge.

Oh yes, this is made from homemade almond milk: almond meal + water + Vitamix + 2 minutes. (I love the Vitamix so so so much; very grateful to [ profile] auntyglory for that housewarming present.) So the complete and total ingredient list for the cheese:

Almond meal
Tapioca starch (aka tapioca flour)
Refined coconut oil
Kappa carrageenan
Lactic acid powder (lemon juice can be substituted)

That's it. And making it was pretty simple, though it required some elbow grease (provided by the mighty [personal profile] sinboy): blend the non-acid ingredients*, heat in a nonstick pot over medium-low, stir frequently until it goes through the curdled stage and becomes glossy and goopy and thick (and reaches 175F internal temperature), remove from heat, rapidly mix in acids, pour into a mold and let cool, put in the fridge to set. I keep it wrapped in paper towels to absorb excess moisture that gradually rises to the surface, so the cheese gets firmer over time.

* The recipe recommends blending everything except the acid and the oil and adding in the oil in the pan. This doesn't make sense to me, since the Vitamix can emulsify the mixture far better than a person could manage by hand. Maybe the oil becoming fully incorporated into the mixture would be a sign of cooking progress? Still, I should probably try it the way the recipe recommends, to see whether that affects the cheese's texture in some way.

In short: chemistry is pretty incredible. And delicious.

The recipe is from The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook, which is nonstop amazingness from cover to cover. The book is inexplicably self-published; I don't know why it isn't being brought out by a trad publisher and marketed the way Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese was, but the only place to buy it is from the author's website. So if you're interested in making your own vegan cheese (and butter and whipped cream and sour cream and all sorts of other fake dairy products), please support awesome queer vegan self-publishing chefs and buy a copy. I recommend the PDF edition, which is full of seriously impressive photos.

Now to decide what to make next: mild cheddar or Swiss. The Swiss calls for extra-dry vermouth, and I'm not sure we have any... must check with J, who's in charge of the liquor cabinet.
Friday, September 19th, 2014 01:07 pm

Posted by Alix

Ashcroft’s breakdown of Yes/No voting is interesting if you like baseless tossed-off morning-after speculation (which you do, you dawg).


Incidentally, Martin Kettle suggested at some bleary godless hour this morning that women had “saved the union”:

In the polls, men were decisively in favour of yes. The yes campaign was in some sense a guy thing. Men wanted to make a break with the Scotland they inhabit. Women didn’t.

I don’t know whether he was looking at a different poll, maybe one written in purple and orange on the inside of his eyelids, but I don’t think the figures above reflect that, so I suspect the usual gender narratives are at work here. Those women and their fearful conservatism eh? Tcoh.

Much has been made of the staggering 16/17 year old vote and the mirror opposite 65+ vote (I’m sure I’m not the only one who would like the latter broken down further by the way. Now that we no longer, all being well, routinely drop dead three years after retirement age as soon as all our paperwork is in order it seems silly to group 65 year olds with 80 year olds.)

More interesting, if you are a person who likes to whiffle on about cohorts and conservatism and the young and all that jazz, are the wild downward swing in the Yes vote among 18-24 year olds and the (lesser but still probably outwith the margin of error) upswing in Yes in the 25-34 year old group, before the march towards No resumes. I’ve read suggestions that the first of these patterns is about economic security – maybe the 18-24s, being on the sharp end of most economic indicators going, are inclined to hedge their bets. So by the same token maybe their older siblings, being a little more established, are more at ease with economic risk. But this doesn’t altogether satisfy me, partly because I have just never bought this idea that people construe their bank balances in terms of macro-economics in the way that they will often vaguely imply they do, and partly because it isn’t really established that a No vote was a vote for Steady Now economics anyway. In fact, the Yes campaign did their very best to paint it as a hair-tearingly disastrous risk for the future of the economically vulnerable.

Perhaps there is something more abstract going on here though, a conservatism of life stages rather than of economics in the raw. You could say that a characteristic of the average 18-24 year old life is uncertainty and the unknown. It’s not so much that they live on beans (which actually one does perfectly cheerfully at that age) as that they are looking at their blank page futures post-graduation, or have just been plunged into the maelstrom of work and don’t really understand how it’s all going to pan out. The Steady Now is not so much economic as social. They are trying out adulthood for size (certainly I was) and that default “nae bothered” is a bit of a pose that conceals a very real fear about what the world is going to end up doing to you. The 25-34 year olds, formally speaking, are just as economically fucked on the whole – they are also on the business end of the ageing population, the pensionable age change and the housing crisis. And they have had it harder in some ways – when I was 25 ten years ago there was already a housing crisis – it’s just that no-one gave a fairy-shaped shit. At least everyone knows and acknowledges that 18-24 year olds now are fucked.

But what the 25-34 year old group contains are people who have nonetheless pieced together a life (ha!) if only out of eggboxes and bits of string. They are probably at the stage of making some hefty life choices, insofar as those choices are economically available to them. The referendum may not be the scariest thing they have had to make a decision about this year. They have perhaps weathered a few personal, financial and professional crises of their own, and realised that the world doesn’t end. They just may be more at ease than the very young with the idea of the coins being thrown in the air, just to see whether they fall out any better.

Friday, September 19th, 2014 02:17 pm
Post-election breakfast meet up with people helped me a lot, and I hope it helped other people too.

Bit of chaos at first as the venue we'd agreed for meeting at turned out to be closed, subsequent arrangements were complicated by my muddling up City Cafe and City Restaurant. (Apologies, all)
But I think everyone who intended to come along found us eventually.

There was a good discussion about democracy, voter involvement and devolution, which makes me feel a lot more positive about the future.
There's work to do, and hopefully people are looking to the future, even if the present is difficult and disappointing.

Also a couple of lads in tracksuits who seemed to be from one of the estates overheard us talking and one of them said he'd voted for the first time (at 22) and intended to carry on, which is a definite positive outcome for democracy.

Other topics of conversation included: methods of reducing corruption in MPs, devolution for parts of England, congestion charging, and obligations people have as members of a society.

So, where do we go from here?
Well, for one thing, yes, it wasn't a fair fight. There are reasonable grounds for believing that relevant information was witheld, that BBC coverage was biased in several instances and so on.
Those in positions of power cheat and lie to keep that power.
The suffagettes didn't have a fair fight. Nor did Ghandi or Mandela.
But the best thing we can do is acknowledge that and move on to working for what we do have, which is a promise of more devolution.
Scotland was cheated out of devolution in 1979 despite a majority in favour, but got it in 1997, so losing now isn't the end of the story.
And the regions of England are looking towards devolution of their own now, so I guess it's time to look to the future and see what can be built.
Friday, September 19th, 2014 02:12 pm
1. New words.  New words all the time.  New phonemes rather less often, so guesswork is frequently required.  On the other hand, the most recent new word is a very clear "Hey!" complete with indignant intonation.  Yesterday I was well impressed with "toc milk" i.e. chocolate milk. 

2. No.  Alongside all the new words is a lot of no no no no no.  "Do you want a cuddle?" "No" "Do you want a drink?" "No" "Time for a nappy change." "No".  Sometimes complete and furious meltdown when he isn't getting what he wants.  Two is clearly hard.

3. He's currently utterly fascinated with putting the DVDs in and out of the player.  Sometimes he doesn't even want to watch them very much, just establish which one they are and then get a different one.  As he's got more stable and careful, I've become more relaxed about letting him be in control of what goes in.
Friday, September 19th, 2014 11:49 am

As part of the response to the 'no' vote in Scotland's independence referendum, various Tory MPs – from the Prime Minister downwards – have been talking about the answer to the West Lothian question* by having only people elected in England voting on matters that affect only England.

They want equality for England to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Good.

The Scottish Parliament is elected by PR (under the additional member system). The Welsh Assembly is elected by PR (the additional member system again). The Northern Ireland Assembly is elected by PR (STV this time).

All these ensure that the relevant decision-making bodies actually reflect the wishes of the whole of electorate they are representing much more than a Parliament elected by 'first past the post'.

If it's to be "English votes for English laws", the votes who elect those representatives have to be fair ones. It would also be good to see some devolution within England and it's notable that when that was proposed in 2004, it involved regional assemblies elected via the Additional Member System.**

As well as ignoring the question of which members of the House of Lords would be entitled to vote, the 'grand committee' of the House of Commons consisting of all the MPs elected to English constituencies that various Tory MPs are proposing out of naked self-interest simply isn't good enough.

* It's a sign of my age that I would have been amongst the first to write about that in an O-Level exam in the following June…

** One area rejected a flawed proposal and two others were cancelled because of that and irregularities in an all-postal ballot election.

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

Friday, September 19th, 2014 10:00 am
Friday, September 19th, 2014 02:22 am
PW is lacking a copy editor at the moment (do you want to be our next full-time copy editor? Apply here!), so I offered to help out. They took me up on it to the tune of eight extra work hours a week. On top of my current freelance projects. Of which I have a copy edit due tomorrow, a crit due 10/7, and another copy edit due 10/28--all of full-length novels.

It's been a while since my workload was this intense. I'm enjoying it, but it's taken me a little while to get up to speed. I think I've more or less remembered how to balance work and sleep, and sometimes I see my family for a minute or two, and I'm pretty good at remembering to eat at least twice a day. Those being my priorities, expect to see a lot less of me around LJ/DW and Twitter for a while. I'll try to keep up, but no guarantees.
Friday, September 19th, 2014 07:19 am
1. He wants ukulele lessons.  I am entirely happy to support this, but it just took me five minutes to find my chequebook.  I wonder if I can persuade the music teacher to take bank transfers if he sticks with it after this half-term.

2. He has convinced me he can cross the one quiet road safely so he is now walking (most of the way) to school by himself.  Except the first bit is my route to work so yesterday we had an argument because he wanted to Do It Himself so refused to walk with me, and I wouldn't set off for work until I knew he was on his way.  So we had this embarrassing standoff halfway down the road until a friend of his turned up and he could save face by walking with friend.

3. He was losing his temper in the shop yesterday and
a) actually listened when I suggested going outside to wait for me and calm down and
b) found that it did actually work and came back much calmer, if still upset, about five minutes later. 
We continue to discuss the merits of walking away and counting to ten.  I'm making a lot of use of the latter at the moment ....

Friday, September 19th, 2014 05:52 am
I woke up a bit after 4am to find both children had come into my bed during the night, despite neither starting the night that way.  I snuck downstairs to watch the end of the Scottish referendum results.  No more than 15 minutes later, Nico turned up next to my chair looking very sleepy.  About 15 minutes after that Charles turned up looking worried and very sleepy.

I've spent the next hour or so fielding questions about the election from Charles e.g.
"What does 'united' mean?" 
"Why wouldn't Scotland want to be independent?"
"What's a nation?"

Meanwhile Nico is playing with wooden blocks and ignoring the tv.

ETA: well, that was a disappointment
Thursday, September 18th, 2014 08:09 pm
+ back to work after 2 days sick
- lengthy meeting in room with flickering projector triggered a new headache
+ free lunch
- colleagues with assorted troubles taking them away from the office
+ played with new free project-management app
+ which resulted in dumping a lot of stuff I was perseverating over into external memory
+ got a few of those "little non-urgent but useful" tasks done
- missed book club due to headache
+ tony being supportive and children being (mostly) lovely
Thursday, September 18th, 2014 06:46 am
A week from Saturday, we'll hitch up the rental trailer, fill it with what's left of our belongings (not much, I'll tell you), and drive almost exactly 500 miles to our next home. I'm not exactly excited, but I'm looking forward to it. Not counting work-related stuff, I'm not very stressed at all, so that's good. I tend to like change, and I'll be moving nearer my mom and living in an apartment I like with a person I adore, so mostly, this is happy stuff.

James is a little stressed, but mainly because he spends all day home with no moving work to do. We (mostly he) started doing the work of moving months ago, and it's basically all done. Now we just wait. My last day of work is the 26th. We leave the next day.

Work will go on without me, but regardless of my expendability, I am trying to leave my stuff in as neat and take-over-able a condition as I can for the next guy, who is doing just fine in his training.

I don't have a job in San Diego yet. I'm a little stressed about that, but money will be fine for a few months, and by then I'll know if I can make enough from home to tide me over until I start a master's program in the fall. *If* I start a master's program in the fall.

So yeah. Lots of change, but a relatively small amount of stress. I'm fine with that.
Thursday, September 18th, 2014 12:37 pm
Firstly, Calderdale Local Party has it's policy working group meeting to consider amendments to motions this Saturday. If you have an amendment to a motion that you need support for, email it through to me or Alisdair and we'll put it in front of PWG for consideration for our support.

The other thing that will happen at PWG is that we will consider our OWN amendments. There are several motions that I have an eye on for some minor tweaking (and probably some of the things I am thinking of will be accepted as drafting amendments by the submitters of the motion) but there is ONE motion in particular that I think has the potential to be as controversial as Floella Benjamin's motion on censoring the internet protecting children was.

Heartbreakingly, that is the Crime motion which has had Julian Huppert's name applied to it. After the farrago over DRIP I am less surprised than I might have been, but it's still depressing to see him put his name to something so chock full of sneaky legalese, hidden authoritarianism, and puritanical attitudes. My problems with this motion are so many and varied that I am actually considering doing a full speech against it, rather than trying to amend it. But what do YOU guys think I should do?

Poll #15928 F13 Conference motion on Crime
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 10

In response to the bloody awful Crime motion, Jennie should:

Speak against the motion at conference
7 (70.0%)

try to get lots of amendments submitted
7 (70.0%)

do a line-by-line fisking of the thing on her blog
7 (70.0%)

despair at the damn thing being accepted in it's current form
3 (30.0%)

none of the above
0 (0.0%)

ETA: I should say that I am not against SOME of the proposals in this motion, and that's what makes it so frustrating. I'd really love to vote for some of them. But there's not enough there for me to want to support the motion as a whole.
Thursday, September 18th, 2014 10:08 am
There does appear to be a huge amount of confusion about this in various parts of the internet, so I'm going to break it down into almost patronising component parts.

What Free Speech is:

Free Speech means that you are free to say whatever you like, and so is everybody else.
Free Speech only works if everyone has it. If one person is free to say what they like but others are prevented from doing so then it's not really free.

What Free Speech isn't:

Free Speech means that you are free to say whatever you like: it does not mean that anyone else has to listen.
Free speech means that you are free to say whatever you like: it does not mean that anybody else has to give you a platform for your speech. Example: Internet forums and blog comment sections can have whatever moderation rules they like and this does not infringe upon your right to free speech in the slightest. You are perfectly free to go and set up your own website; nobody else's website has to give you room.
Free Speech does NOT mean that you are free to say whatever you like without there being any consequences. Example: If you say something racist, it is perfectly reasonable for people to conclude that you are racist. This is not them "shutting down debate" or repressing you. This is also where legal restrictions on free speech cut in. You are free to break those laws: but you must expect there to be consequences. If the laws are unjust then that is something to campaign about.
Free Speech does NOT mean that you are free to say whatever you like and once you have said it that is the end of the matter and nobody is allowed to argue with you. Example: If you make a factual error, nobody is infringing upon your right to free speech or your right to hold an erroneous opinion by telling you that you have made a factual error. They are merely engaging in their own right to free speech by telling you this.

The Basic Thing To Remember is:

Freedom of speech cuts both ways; it only works if everyone has it. You are free to speak, but others are free to respond. Then you can respond to them in turn. And then we have conversation. Or possibly debate. Or possibly bloody great blazing row.

Previous Posts in This Series:

Coming Soon (not necessarily in this order):

  • The Liberal approach to Education, and why Education is fundamental to Liberalism
  • Non-Conformity, and why celebrating it rather than just tolerating it matters to Liberals
  • Why Liberalism is Intrinsically feminist, anti-racist, pro-LGBT+-rights, etc.
  • The Liberal Approach to the Elimination of Poverty
  • The Rule of Law, or why Liberalism is not Anarchism
  • Bodily Autonomy and Consent: not just about sex.
  • Weatherwaxian Liberalism: "Treating People As Things" as a Root of Social Evil
  • Solving The UNIT Dating Controversy: or why Liberalism Appeals to Geeks and Why Most of Us Are Obsessed With Scifi