Thursday, January 29th, 2015 11:30 am
I received more requests for dragon postcards than I had postcards! Never fear, I have ordered another pack and will be able to fulfill all of them. I’m sending them out slowly in batches as I have a chance to write them.

Crossposting question
Is anyone else finding that, if they edit an entry that’s been cross-posted from DW to LJ, it re-posts to LJ instead of modifying the previous entry? I’m getting grumpy about it, as I usually have to edit entries 3-4 times after initially posting because I’ve forgotten a tag or spot a grammatical error.

Beautiful sky rock
[personal profile] kaberett, did you see the cover of this week’s Nature? It is gorgeous. From the Nature web site:

The Esquel pallasite — arguably the most beautiful meteorite ever discovered — consists of centimetre-scale gem-quality crystals of the silicate mineral olivine embedded in a metallic matrix of iron-nickel alloy. The pallasites are thought to originate from a ~200 km radius parent body that separated into a liquid metal core surrounded by a rocky silicate mantle shortly after the birth of the Solar System. High-resolution magnetic imaging of the iron–nickel matrix of two pallasites (Esquel and Imilac) by James Bryson et al. reveals a time-series record of magnetic activity on the pallasite parent body, encoded within nanoscale intergrowths of iron-rich and nickel-rich phases. This record captures the dying moments of the magnetic field generated as the liquid core solidified, providing evidence for a long-lasting magnetic dynamo driven by compositional convection. (Esquel image from Natural History Museum, London.)

I have a paper copy of the issue if you would like me to post it to you.

As mentioned in my post about the long-tailed tits (DW/LJ), I received a new lens for my dSLR for Christmas and have been keeping vigilant watch on the bird feeders so I can rush out with it when the light is good (not a common occurrence in January). I’ve been posting selected shots to [community profile] common_nature, but wanted to put a record of them on my personal journal for safekeeping as well.

Birds, birds and more birds )

Cat and boy

Telstar and Keiki napping together on a spare room bed. Telstar has decided he definitely prefers infants to toddlers. Especially toddlers who chase him around gleefully shouting, “No, Teldos!”
Thursday, January 29th, 2015 11:11 am
The upcoming Cambridge History Festival has clashing events:

Impact of the Railways in Cambridge: Friday 27th Feb from 19:00 to 20:00
Tony Kirby looks at the role of the railway in shaping Cambridge and explores the past and present railway landscape, from the days of steam through dieselization to electrification, and from the Hills Road Bridge to Chesterton Junction, Cherry Hinton and Histon.

CAMRA at the White Horse Inn: Friday 27th Feb from 19:30-21:30
Find out more about the history of brewing in Cambridge while sampling delicious beer from the Moonshine and Black Bar breweries, and enjoy a short tour of current and former Inns in the Castle Hill area.

Surely I'm not the only person who is torn between TRAINS and BEER?

Poll #16417 beer or trains
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 15

Daddy or chips?

View Answers

8 (53.3%)

13 (86.7%)

1 (6.7%)

3 (20.0%)

3 (20.0%)

7 (46.7%)

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 12:10 am
Currently watching sixties Batman with Adam West and pondering a present day version.

Cast so far:

Bruce Wayne/ Batman - Bruce Campbell
The Joker - Mads Mikkelsen
Catwoman - Emily Deschanel
Alfred - Tony Head
The Condiment King -Kelsey Grammar
The Riddler - Matt Smith
The Penguin - Derek Jacob
Two Face - Helen Mirren

Any suggestions received with interest.
Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 07:15 pm
  1. Got up before 8am
  2. Had shower
  3. Got dressed
  4. Tidied bathroom and set toothbrush to charge, toothbrush charger was disgusting, seriously how does that happen?!
  5. Took delivery of groceries, put some away
  6. Put on a load of laundry from the holiday
  7. Emptied and refilled the dishwasher
  8. Cleared mouldy food off table, dear god, ew
  9. Went to charity shop with three children, delivered donations and bought some things in my new, larger size
  10. Went to pharmacy to pick up hairties, chapstick etc
  11. Supervised kids doing some workbooks
  12. Booked Linnea's summer camp
  13. Booked my optician's appointment
  14. Paid a bill
  15. Let the electricity meter reader in
  16. Made enquiries about Linnea's summer school
  17. Registered for the potato council's educational growing kit
  18. Started sorting fluids for the trip on a plane in a few weeks. Carry-on only, the children are anxious about REALLY WANTING to bring (nail varnish, shower milk, detangler, whatever) so I'm trying to sort it out ahead of time. The good news is, because there are no children's fares any more, we have five adult cabin baggage allowances.
  19. In the last three days I have also booked all those flights, bus and taxi transfers etc.
  20. And I remembered to eat food.
Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 06:17 pm
I have spent most of the past five weeks really really unwell. But I'm hopeful it's going to get better. After Christmas we spent a week at Centerparcs and I did tiny bits of cycling and lots of playing in the swimming pool, then we traveled back and the following day I was unable to stay awake for more than 10 minutes at a time, but that's ok.

Today we got out of the house in the daylight and ran some necessary errands, and I've made an appointment for an eye test, and the children are starting on their workbooks again. Emer has taught herself to crochet and Linnea's interest in Things And Stuff continues unabated. Astrid learned to swim while we were away and can now propel herself forwards in the water and breathe.
Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 05:25 pm
Another notable thing about that BBC website article is the attitude of the Polish government towards Ukraine vs Russia:

"The Kremlin accused Poland of engaging in anti-Russian 'hysteria' after Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna credited Ukrainian soldiers, rather than the Soviet army, with liberating Auschwitz."

Obviously the current situation between Ukraine and Russia plays a part, and obviously Poland has a very long history of problems with Russia: just looking at the 20th Century, a big chunk of what's now Poland was a puppet state of the Russian empire (for about a century prior to the end of WWI, the rest was part of Prussia / Germany); the Russian army failed to protect it against Germany and Austria-Hungary during that war; there was a war between the newly reborn Polish state and the Red Army in the 1920s that Poland came very close to losing before winning via by taking advantage of a gap between the two army groups sent against it;* the Soviet Union invaded Poland in September 1939, killing tens of thousands of Polish leaders; in 1944, the Soviet Union failed to assist the Polish uprising against the Germans in any meaningful manner, then imposed a communist puppet government; and Poles take zero comfort in the way that that was probably the 'least worst' such government in Eastern Europe, blaming Russia for decades of oppression, mass arrests, torture, low living standards etc etc.

But the majority of the staff at the extermination camps were Hiwis - 'those willing to help' - and typically Ukrainian...

* This is a big reason why Britain allied with Poland before WWII - as well as not being communist, it was seen as more effective militarily. If Britain had allied with the Soviet Union instead, they'd have been no Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and Germany to secretly divide up Poland and possibly no German invasion of Poland...
Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 08:18 am
Reading: Just a murder mystery called Two Graves. There are a bunch of other things I'm ostensibly reading, but literally the only time I'm not too tired to read is during lunch at work.

Listening: I have a musical game I play with myself that I don't think I've talked about here. I'll put it under a cut to spare your reading list )

Watching: Hmm. Have I watched anything this week? I don't think so. New job, tired, etc. And James has a new game he's playing, so he'd rather play that than watch TV with me. So yeah, nothing, I think, unless you count (and I guess I should) watching my "videos that make me happy" playlist on YouTube, which I just created and which I'm really enjoying building. Recently added the Neil Patrick Harris opening of the 2013 Tony Awards. When he starts talking about inspiring young theater geeks, I lose it. Every. Time.

Playing: I uninstalled Two Dots and reinstalled it after I won the final level (which is currently 135, I think). Also still playing my other stuff. I really want a new puzzle game for android phones (hint, hint), but with the tired and all, haven't gotten around to it.
Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 03:46 pm
What I've read
What's Yours Is Mine by Talia Surova
Draw Me In by Talia Surova
Call Me Saffron by Talia Surova (dnf)
I want to like these books but found them infuriating in different ways, but I think that rant is lengthy enough to deserve its own blog post.

Snowball in Hell by Josh Lanyon
This was good! It's a detective novella set in WW2 Los Angeles, which starts with a body found on top of the La Brea Tar Pits. And it is also a gay romance where neither of the protagonists dies or has a miserable ending. There is apparently a sequel planned, and Lanyon has an enormous backlist (as it were) which also seems to be m/m romance in various subgenres. I've put in a library request for the one book in the Cambridgeshire libraries system, and put myself on the author mailing list so I can find out when the sequel to this one is out.

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch
I was on a roll with reading and remembered this was out, so bought it on impulse. This one is over in the Welsh borders rather than London, and the big spoiler from the end of Broken Homes is mostly in the background of a gripping missing-persons case. I was particularly struck by the vivid sense of location - just as much in this countryside as in London. I think this is one that someone could read without much familiarity with the previous books, because it doesn't really depend on them for context beyond "policeman who can do magic".

One Dance with a Duke by Tessa Dare
One of my freebie romances from earlier in the month, and better than I had expected. I think I'd read one previous novella by this author and not been overly impressed, but I may look out more now.

Trade Me by Courtney Milan
I've already blogged about how much I liked this one.

All I Have by Nicole Helm
This was a nice little romance about a pair of farmers and their competition for custom at the local farmer's market, complete with believably annoying small-town reputations and family preconceptions. I now find it's going to be reissued later this year with extra scenes due to one romance line shutting down and books being bought up by another one. So I'm subbed to another author mailing list to find out when that's available.

Maid to Crave by Rebecca Avery
The Last First Date by Maggie Wells
Light My Fire by Kristina Knight
These three were in the same ebook box set as All I Have but all of them annoyed me / failed to grab me so I didn't finish any of them.

The Siren by Tiffany Reisz
Surprisingly good S&M romance, which was more engaging and more complicated than I expected, and turns out to have half a dozen sequels.

What I'm reading now
The Angel by Tiffany Reisz - sequel to The Siren and equally engaging.

What's next
I just bought The Seventh Bride by T Kingfisher and have samples of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel & The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, all thanks to people reccing things to me for Hugo consideration. Plus I got the special issue Women Destroy Fantasy! of Fantasy Magazine, and am hoping to borrow a copy of the Kaleidoscope anthology.
Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 09:40 am
I’m finally beginning to tackle the pile on my bedside table that’s mostly been gathering dust for the past year. I managed to finish less than ten fiction books in 2014, and only have strong memories of two: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie and Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho, both of which I loved. This is mostly because my attention span is shot to hell by the combined pressures of house maintenance, toddler care and an extremely full schedule at work. The latter is temporarily off and although I do now have an infant to look after, that actually affords me some time to practice my now-rusty reading skills. It’s better to pick up a book in the middle of the night than to refresh the Economist or the Guardian on my phone and get worked up about the latest injustice. So! Here we go.

Just Finished
John Scalzi’s Lock In. Now that was good fun and a very quick read. I enjoyed the crime-solving process. Then there were the added bonuses. The gender of the protagonist is never specified and doesn’t matter. Likewise, their (non-white) race is only mentioned once as part of a tangential plot point. It is heavily implied, thoughminor spoiler ). Racial diversity is evidenced through the use of names rather than physical descriptions. There are plenty of female characters in professional positions of authority. All of this is presented deftly and integrates smoothly with the plotline and the wry, witty dialogue.

I enjoyed this offering more than Redshirts, which is the only other book of his oeuvre that I’ve read.

In Progress
Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword. I had more difficulty getting into this during the first sixty or seventy pages than I did the first book in the series. Perhaps it’s because Breq’s motivation - the overriding sense of anger - is subsumed somewhat by her* need to play her cards close to her chest, as the political game she’s now playing requires. Even though it’s not spelled out as explicitly as in the first book, the sense of her non-human-ness feels stronger, as well. I found myself wishing for an occasional switch of point of view to a character I have more ease in sympathising with - Seivarden, for instance. Now that I’m nearly a third of the way through**, this desire has abated and I’m fully immersed in the action. I try to slow myself down to savour Leckie’s loaded dialogue and meticulous world-building, but it’s getting very exciting.

* I use the pronoun in the same gender-neutral manner as in the books.
** I wrote most of this entry yesterday. The baby had a very disturbed night, so I’m now twenty pages from the end.

Up next
Ben Aaronovitch’s Foxglove Summer. I missed out on Broken Homes (see: 2014: the lost year) but I’ll acquire it if I enjoy this offering sufficiently.
Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 10:58 pm
The antidepressant i take is called Sertraline. Last time i went to the doctor i got a repeat prescription for it and most of my other usual meds and got it filled at the big Boots in the middle of town (where i've been getting prescriptions for getting on for two decades). I'd used some of the meds from the big bag of ludy-maintenece chemicals but because i was part way through a previous scrip i hadn't looked at the Sertraline until today.

And i found that i'd actually been given two boxes of Sildenafil - which is also known as Viagra!!!

I can kind of understand a busy/stressed/tired person muddling up the two names but that's why there's a procedure for all dispensed medicines being double checked. So i'm deeply unimpressed.
Because it was Viagra there's a kind of dark humour to the incident but being given the wrong medicine could have been very, very nasty indeed. I'm glad the pills were a different size and shape (and there are a different number in a box) - otherwise i might have just assumed the packaging had changed. It's scary that being dyslexic could make me more vulnerable to not noticing the similar but different name on the packaging (visually impaired people would also be more at risk). The pharmacy stickers with my name and details on said Sertraline ...

I went to Boots and the duty pharmacist was suitably horrified and apologetic (her eyes went huge!). I now have the correct meds (She made a point of unsealing the bag to show the packs to me) and the mistake has been reported.
I just hope it doesn't happen again ...
Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 02:08 pm
Hey, anyone want to help work up any of these ideas as Wiscon panel descriptions? They're listed with the name(s) of the people I talked to about them.

• there are several entirely different WisCons going on simultaneously (jesse the k)
• "The Structural Underpinnings of Social Isolation" (jesse the k)
• "a panel that isn't about picking people up for sex, but meeting folks one has an emotional/intellectual spark with" (possibly for dating in the future. ACE-friendly) (sophy)
• "carbon dating fairy": which books have aged well, how and why? Not so much about which books the various $suck and $fail fairies have visited, but which ones feel modern even after decades (Dune?), which ones are classics for every age (Tolkien?), and which ones remain attached to the era they were written but stand as great examples of that era's writing and concerns (PKDick?) * Is SF more likely to age badly than fantasy? * How much of a role does writing style play in the feeling of aging well or poorly? Some other books/authors: _War for the Oaks_, Piserchia, _God Stalk_, McCaffrey, Le Guin (the OH)
Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 02:03 pm

Almost all of my spiritual practices that involved other people have taken place in small groups. This article suggests that small groups work better than large ones because of the way human social brains are wired.

Reading it, I suddenly realized part of the reason I'm reluctant to get more involved in my local sangha ( is because I have no experience of doing spiritual stuff in the context of more than 4–8 people. (I went to a big church with my parents when I was growing up, but that wasn't at all spiritual for me.) I've gone to the sangha to sit but I don't take part in planning or running things. Sitting with others is different from sitting alone, which is also true for me in other spiritual activities—some kind of group energy is generated. But my limited attempts to socialize with people at the sangha haven't brought a strong feeling of connection.

I couldn't necessarily say this is all due to human brain limits on the number of people we can know well, though, because I've always built or joined as a founding member covens and other spiritual groups instead of joining an already established one, and I think that makes a difference to me, along with the number of participants.

Also my tendency to other myself (thinking "I'm too weird for these people," in the absence of any corroborating data) is active at the sangha because I don't know the people from other contexts. There was an LGBQT* retreat last weekend and I wanted to go, but I couldn't drag myself out of bed early enough (why do Buddhists always start things so effing early?).
Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 08:34 pm
Today is of course the 70th anniversary of the Red Army's liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex of factories, concentration camps and extermination centre. As part of its story on the commemorations there, the BBC website says, "Some 300 Auschwitz survivors returned for the ceremony under a giant tent".

Why does so much of the Holocaust coverage deal with Auschwitz? Obviously, it was the site of about a million murders of Jewish people and several hundred thousand other murders, but that's 'only' a sixth of the Jewish total. A big reason is because there were a significant number of survivors and obvious physical evidence.

What the BBC story doesn't say is that 300 is almost double the total number who made it to May 1945 from the other extermination camps in Poland:

Chełmno - total of murders not known, but somewhere between a quarter and a third of a million. Survivors: seven, not all of whom made it to the end of WWII. For example, one escaped, wrote a report about what he'd seen, then was recaptured and died in...

Bełżec - total of murders not known, probably around half a million. Survivors: seven.

Sobibór - total of murders, about a quarter of a million. Survivors: about seventy, most as a result of a successful rebellion that led to the early closing of the camp.

Treblinka - total of murders, upwards of three quarters of a million, possibly nine hundred thousand. Survivors: about seventy and, again, most as a result of a rebellion.

.. so say 150-160 survivors vs roughly two million deaths. And that's getting to the end of the war alive: almost all of them are now dead.

In their main period, all of these four were just extermination camps: unlike Auschwitz, the overwhelmingly vast majority of people sent there were dead within a couple of hours. Unlike Auschwitz, all used carbon monoxide from exhaust fumes to kill: Chełmno in special vans, the others in gas chambers. And unlike Auschwitz, all were successfully destroyed before the Red Army arrived, leaving things like bits of bone in the soil as the evidence as to what had happened there.

The large majority of rest of the three million were killed by the mobile killing units of the Einsatzgruppen, following the German military into the Baltic republics, the Ukraine and Russia, and in the ghettos. There is even less public awareness about their fate...
Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 01:26 am
My talk at this year's was "When Your Codebase Is Nearly Old Enough To Vote": a case study of Dreamwidth and all the horrible horrible things we've found down there underneath the couch cushions, along with the lessons we've learned about when to rewrite them and when to leave them alone.

You can view the YouTube recording (sorry, no transcript), or check out the slides!
Monday, January 26th, 2015 09:47 pm
Shoah is a documentary film on the Holocaust lasting over nine hours. What makes it special is that there is no archive footage and no voice-over, just interviews with survivors - perpetrators as well as survivors and witnesses - and footage of the sites in question now.

The original French version had no subtitles either - when someone speaks in another language, we hear the translator the director used to do those interviews at work. (I wonder if this is one reason for the UK version being shorter - we don't hear the French translation when someone speaks in English.)

With that sort of length it was clearly never going to be at many people's local cinema, so I first saw it when Channel Four put in on one evening in the mid 80s with no ad breaks - how could you have them in the middle of this? - but keeping the single intermission for toilet visits etc.

I'm pretty sure I haven't seen it since, so it was very good to see that the BBC are showing it in two halves. The first is on iPlayer for about another four weeks and doubtless the second will be too after it's shown next Sunday.


There are criticisms of it - if you look at the WP article, you'll see that there are Polish people who don't like it because there are Polish witnesses who don't look good in it. A specific complaint is that the suffering of the Polish under Nazi rule isn't shown enough, but that the majority of people who were murdered were Polish is. And one memory of a couple of holidays in Poland is looking at a modern 'history of Poland' guide book which barely mentions the Holocaust despite three million Poles killed in Poland as part of it. I think a castle changing hands in the 13th Century got more space.

There is a lack of context for some of this: this was made when Poland was under communist rule and right from the start, the communists took the attitude of 'de-Jewing' the Holocaust. Even the Soviets' great war correspondent wasn't allowed to tell the truth: Vasily Grossman's reports on places like Treblinka were censored to remove the ethnicity of the majority of victims, Jews like himself.

And there are some mistakes. There weren't just two survivors from Chełmno, where somewhere between a quarter and a third of a million were gassed in vans, for example. It was still in single figures though, and there are interviews with two of them, including the last who survived being shot in the head as the Nazis attempted to remove all the evidence of what they had done.

As I say, unforgettable.
Monday, January 26th, 2015 02:10 pm
A casual acquaintance of mine made a post on Facebook that nettled me a bit, but I didn't want to reply to it there fore several reasons. First, I don't know this person well and have no idea how they'd take disagreement. Second, I make it a rule to check Facebook once a week or less. Third, I only use it to like pictures of other people's cats and babies and to make innocuous, supportive and inoffensive comments, because it is a piss-poor platform for nuanced, well-informed interaction. Thus, behold: a journal entry containing the reply I would have made if said comments hadn't been hosted on Facebook.

The post essentially said: Why do feminists think it's okay to be pro-breastfeeding-in-public and simultaneously oppose Page 3 of The Sun newspaper? Are they not contradicting themselves on the subject of bare breasts? (I'm phrasing this more coherently than the original poster did.)

Well. Let us examine the problem with this logic. It assumes that bare breasts are viewed in a manner that is completely context-free. Either they are simply fleshy bits stuck on the front of ladypersons and are totally inoffensive under all circumstances, which is an attitude I would gladly be on board with adopting, or they are totally offensive under all circumstances, which I would not. The social reality is a lot more nuanced than this. If the "feminist" attitude seems contradictory to you, it's because mainstream social attitudes towards these two particular presentations of bare breasts are most frequently contradictory, and often the reverse of what one might expect (e.g. the first is offensive and the second is not). Thus, the answer to the question is that there isn't a contradiction in adopting such attitudes, because the assumption that all mammary presentations are equal in the eyes of society is wrong.

Below lies my personal view on this glandular conundrum:
I identify as a feminist and I find neither of these boob presentations offensive. The first is a no-brainer for me, not least because I'm a breastfeeding mum. Despite what I'd like to believe in theory - that a breast being used to feed a baby is being presented in an entirely innocent way - I feel the immense social pressure to breastfeed in an innocuous manner, and thus I always try to find a discreet place in which to do it and ensure that I'm covered. It would be much easier if I could just whip out a nipple and let baby latch, of course, but I don't really want to be stared at whilst I'm feeding him, so I don't do that. I would be delighted if breastfeeding stopped being such a polarising subject, but until social attitudes change pretty drastically, I don't see it happening.

On the subject of Page 3: I don't think the breasts themselves are offensive. Taking it a step further, I think that the circumstances under which they are photographed and presented are far better than what was being proposed to replace them. The owners of the breasts are compensated (I can't comment upon whether or not the amount of the compensation should be deemed adequate), but most importantly, they have consented to be photographed. The idea that replacing these images with "candid" (i.e. non-consensual) photos of celebrities in states of undress would somehow be a step forward for feminism was baffling to me. Some of the opposition to Page 3 that I've encountered also strikes me as another way to devalue sex work and demean sex workers, we really need more of that?

I know there are those who would ask me, "What if your daughter was on a train and saw a man looking at Page 3?" I can only say that I think it best that she learns that there are images of naked people in the world and that most of the people who view them are wankers.