Thursday, December 8th, 2016 10:00 am
Thursday, December 8th, 2016 09:38 am
[personal profile] kht asked "What do you like to cook for yourself when you're low on time and energy?".

I'm afraid the answers to this are fairly boring. I don't get nearly as much pleasure out of cooking if it's just for me, so a lot of the time when I'm on my own in the Northampton flat I practically live on fresh filled pasta with a bit of grated parmasan and olive oil, and then fill up on fruit to make sure I'm getting enough vitamins. My other staple is scrambled eggs, which I sometimes add rice wine and soy sauce to, and eat with a croissant, and sometimes do with just salt on pepper, served with marmite covered toast.

When I feel like making a tiny bit more effort I'll make egg-fried rice, which I can throw vegetables into, or I'll make a stew (onions, garlic, various root vegetables, lentils, pearl barley (or buckwheat if I want it to be gluten free), cabbage or other green leafy veg, stock, red wine, dried herbs, spoonful of marmite), which takes about 15 minutes of work, and then just sits and cooks, and makes great leftovers.
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 04:56 pm
Magnet + iron filings
Photo of a grubby optical table with a piece of chipboard on top of which are two dipole magnets stuck together under a sheet of white paper with iron filings sprinkled on top to show the magnetic field lines. Also on the optical table: a magnetometer, a multimeter, two small magnets, a forming machine and a bean bag. You know, the stuff you usually find on an optical table. Or not.

Anyway, I did this demo for a TV programme today. It's going to be about the end of the Cassini mission, and the segment features my Big Boss, who does all of the talking. I had originally envisioned a sophisticated demonstration involving a magnetometer and an oscilloscope, and instead I ended up sprinkling iron filings on different permutations of magnets for three hours. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ C'est la vie!
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 02:30 pm
The life-changing magic of tidying up - Marie Kondo
I thought the 'life-changing' nature was overstated, and the scale of the difference it made to the writer is largely a function of the kind of person she is, rather than a generalisable rule. It was also steeped in the privilege of wealth, and I think would be incredibly frustrating to read for someone who doesn't have the disposable income to discard things easily.

That said, I thought the core idea, in which one declutters not by following a set of rules for things to get rid of (e.g. anything I've not used for more than a year goes), but instead having the simple positive rule for what to keep of "does this thing inspire joy", is certainly an interesting perspective. I do plan on having a fairly major declutter after we've moved house, and I suspect it will be somewhat informed by that idea.

The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician & The Master Magician by Charlie Holmberg
I can't remember why I picked these up. It's a trilogy set in a magical version of 19th century London, about a young magician coming into her power. It was diverting enough that I bothered to read the 2nd and 3rd books, but to be honest just barely, and only because I wanted something very low effort to read whilst I was feeling under the weather. It was a fairly standard coming-of-age quest narrative, with some rebellion against the magical authorities of the day. A slightly squicky romantic subplot between the protagonist and her mentor was the only thing that made it more interesting, and not entirely in a good way.
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 10:00 am
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 09:39 am
Part one here. (This is unprompted, and I only have a couple of questions in the pipeline, so more very welcome.)

After the keynote, the next couple of sessions I went to were mini-workshops given by the Center for Applied Rationality, each introducing a practical technique to improve your thinking. These were brilliant, and made me really want to go on their full course at some point. The first technique, dubbed Double Crux, was aimed at making discussions with someone you disagree with focus more on finding the truth together than on convincing your interlocutor. This is something I try to do anyway, but having a specific set of practical steps to follow should make me more likely to actually do it. The second workshop introduced an iterative technique to make plans more likely to succeed by imagining that you'd failed and addressing the likely failure modes in advance.

After a break for lunch the next session was a pair of talks, the first of which had the biggest impact on me of anything else at the conference. It was called "Look, Leap or retreat", and the core argument was that when trying to choose between a high probability/low impact or a low probability/high impact proposition, in which your confidence in your assessments of the probabilities is itself low, doing more research is likely to be higher value than choosing either immediately. Based on this I've been doing a lot more research and thinking about my giving, and will be making changes shortly, although I am still wavering between various organisations.

The second afternoon session was called "Lessons from Starting Organisations", which pretty much did what it said on the tin, and there were a few useful ideas, but a lot of it was quite generic. One point that I did find interesting was the comment along the lines of "Don't assume that because you're smart and you've been successful at some things you'll automatically be an expert at everything straight off the bat. In particular, management in hard." I found this relevant because I spent a lot of the weekend being conscious of how terrifyingly young everyone was - it was probably the first time in my life where I felt I stood out as being well above the average age - and I think that this is something that could end up biting the EA community in the arse. There're an awful lot of bright young things, and rather less experience in the wider world.

Dinner was at a nearby Thai restaurant, and involved fun conversations about rationality and learning techniques. After dinner there was one more session, "A Conversation about Motivation", lead by four speakers who are closely involved in the EA world. This was a real eye-opener, and clearly not just for me. There was a lot of very frank discussion of feelings of inadequacy, imposter syndrome, and serious mental health issues, and the way people had dealt with them. Once the conversation opened up to the room it seemed like everyone had a story to tell, and although I left at the end of the session as scheduled, many people stayed behind, and several people said then or later that it had been the most important part of the weekend for them.

Afterwards there were semi-structured pub conversations, but I was feeling quite peopled out by then so went back to my B&B to read and then sleep.

And then in a moment of incompetence I set my alarm for the appropriate time on Monday morning instead of Sunday, and managed to sleep through the talk I was most interested in the next day. I felt like something of a fool then, but was still feeling a)really quite overpeopled, b)not overwhelmingly enthused by the remaining sessions I had planned to go to, and c)as though I'd already got more than enough value from the conference so far to have made it worth going. So I went home and closed the door and played my piano and read and felt entirely good about that decision.
Tuesday, December 6th, 2016 01:23 pm
Dressing up
The list of things that Humuhumu thinks are the best things she's done this year includes "visiting Pierre" and "meeting K and L" (American cousins). But watching Frozen while dressed up as Princess Elsa is pretty high up the list too.
Tuesday, December 6th, 2016 10:06 am
I've been on and off work due to stress for the last month or so. For the last couple of weeks, I've been focusing a lot on self care and reducing stress. Yesterday was my first day of phased return to work with reduced hours and responsibilities, and it was a success, I'm going to work another 4 hours today and the plan is to try this 5 days a week until the xmas holidays then start ramping up in the new year.

I identified a while ago that posting here would be a nice way to get thoughts and feelings off my mind at a slower pace than Twitter and with a small audience of understanding people who I've known for a long time. However, there's been so much going on in my life that writing a first post with all the context for the rest just seemed too big and overwhelming. I decided that I'd try to write out the shortest possible 'elevator pitch' description of what's gone on, which has resulted, thanks to my tendency towards verbosity, in a reasonable length entry with a 'To Be Continued' ending...

Getting diagnosed with ADHD and thinking I had all the answers at last )

And then I went to BiCon, Nine Worlds and Autscape...
Monday, December 5th, 2016 10:51 pm
Ram's, Kenton, London HA3

Evening all!

This week's featured article is for Ram's in Kenton, a vegetarian Indian restaurant and sweet shop with a decent all-you-can-eat buffet. Unlimited bread! There are also two new pages on RGL: Cactus Grill in Wallington serves Mexican/American food with a lunchtime meal deal, and Hap Lee in Norbury does the usual Anglo-Chinese cuisine (maybe skip the aubergine).

There's an update for the Orange Room in Mile End, just around the corner from a house where approximately half the population of Livejournal has lived at one point or another, including this author. I'm pretty sure there wasn't a local Lebanese mezze place at the time - but now there is!

Several pub closures to report: the Hatchet near Mansion House, the Chequers in Hendon, and the Greenwich Pensioner in... wait for it... Poplar! (Come on, why would you think a Greenwich Pensioner might be in Greenwich?) The Victoria Stakes in Muswell Hill is also temporarily shut following a fire, but the Good Samaritan in Whitechapel has reopened: very handy for a pre- or post-Tayyabs pint.
Monday, December 5th, 2016 04:38 pm
Talk to the paw
Telstar lounging on our bed in the afternoon sun.
Monday, December 5th, 2016 04:36 pm
[personal profile] bunnypip asked about "cooking for other people and what you get out of it (because it's something I used to love and fell out of love with) are there any downsides for you that make it less fun? what are the best bits?"

Basically, I just really like food. Eating really delicious things is one of my favourite things to do, and especially one of my favourite things to share doing. So cooking for other people is just an extension of that really; it means I get to share eating (hopefully!) delicious things whilst at the same time knowing that I made it happen.

One of the really nice upsides to living in Northampton for a while is having new people to feed; all the dishes that I've cooked dozens of times for [livejournal.com profile] obandsoller and [livejournal.com profile] robert_jones get to be appreciated anew by [personal profile] hjdoom and [livejournal.com profile] vyvyan, and I find myself experiencing them with a fresh palate as well.

The best bit is when you serve dinner to a noisy room full of fabulous people, and then for the next five or ten minutes silence descends, because everyone is too focused on the food to continue their conversations, no matter how engaging, and you know that you've absolutely nailed it. I don't manage this every time, but it never gets old.

There aren't many downsides. I used to get very stressed about things coming out less than perfectly, but by now I'm confident enough that I'll be able salvage something edible from nearly any mistake, and that the people I cook for will be forgiving even if it does go horribly wrong and I have to resort to ordering takeaway. And unsurprisingly, being more relaxed means that things go wrong much less often anyway.
Monday, December 5th, 2016 10:00 am
Sunday, December 4th, 2016 07:49 pm
Blue tit
Blue tit on a dead branch of our cherry tree, above the peanut feeder. The low winter sun and freshly trimmed hedgerow have been perfect for capturing birds visiting our feeders.
Sunday, December 4th, 2016 11:13 am
Observed on twitter today.

Man with 400,000 followers responds to news that woman was raped during making of film by tweeting that it was a rubbish film anyway.

Woman with fewer than 1% his number of followers quotes his tweet and asks whether that was really the most important point to be made here.

Man with 400,000 followers quotes her tweet, angrily denying that this was in any way what he meant and then blocks her while engaging in conversation with people who agree with him and also men who disagree with him.

You see that Twitter pile up? That's your best argument, that is.
Sunday, December 4th, 2016 10:00 am
Saturday, December 3rd, 2016 11:02 pm
The site slowdown tonight (Saturday night) is due to database load -- Saturday nights are one of our busiest times and we're still going to need to do some performance tweaks to our new setup over the next few days as we run into load issues. (Some problems only show up once all y'all start banging on the site!) We've made a few changes now that will improve things for some people, and will do a more permanent fix later on tonight or tomorrow morning once the traffic dies down, since doing it now would just increase database load.

Site performance may continue to be rocky on and off for the next few days until we get everything tuned the way it needs to be tuned -- thank you for your patience!
Saturday, December 3rd, 2016 06:16 pm
My brain is definitely still adjusting to the correction. I was highly distracted at collection by the way everything around me was Suddenly Much Sharper, and also Bent Slightly Wrong. My proprioception is a bit off still: on my walk home I began to feel as though I was about a foot shorter than usual, and stopped a couple of times to touch things for reassurance. Even now (some hours later) my laptop screen appears to be a trapezium rather than a rectangle. I am assured this will pass in time ...

A couple of obligatory phone selfies behind the cut (which also showcase my luxuriant wavy hair)

Read more... )