Sunday, December 21st, 2014 07:56 am
So, it's probably pretty obvious that I'm having a rough time lately, but there's still LOTS of good stuff!

In no particular order:

1) My mom and I are having some good times together. She's having a rough time herself, rougher than I am, and we make each other laugh, which in itself is enough to validate my decision to come here.

2) There are farmers' markets here, and we've gone to a couple of them. We're going to my old favorite one later today, which apparently has grown to be huge. Should be fun, but might be too much to handle on a regular basis. Might get a CSA box instead of chasing farmers' markets all week.

3) James and I are going to opt out of Christmas stuff this year, and I've booked us a Christmas Day whalewatching cruise! (I snagged the idea from a tweet by [ profile] seanan_mcguire.)

4) I am having some luck with jobhunt stuff and expect that I'll be working by January.

5) The apartment is ready for the guy to come tomorrow and rewire it, put up walls, etc. James did an AMAZING job ripping out all the walls and fixtures and disposing of all the drywall, etc. I took some photos on his phone, and will share some later.

6) I'm eating better, so I'm feeling better.

7) My family love me.

8) The refinery fire that was making it hard for my kid to breathe wasn't worse.
Sunday, December 21st, 2014 12:58 pm

[Image of Keiki sleeping on me in the hospital ward.]

He's a little early.

More pictures )
Sunday, December 21st, 2014 12:20 am

That's about all I've got in me for solstice vigil and ceremony. Are the dark days always so very very dark? It seems really awful this year. (Emotionally and psychologically, I mean. The weather's actually not been too bad.)

But we made it through to the turning of the year. January will be no worse than December, and then February will be terrible but short, with improbable frost-defying buds on the trees--I always fear for the magnolias, and they always come through just fine--and then spring spring spring.
Saturday, December 20th, 2014 04:29 pm

Posted by Alix

UoL Goldsmiths has a department with the promisingly Mulder-esque name of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit. They run a glittering speakers series whose link I am sharing reluctantly, because they’re free and up the road from my gaff and nobody seems to know about them and I don’t want them clogged up with Other People.

No, it’s fine really, come on down. A couple of weeks ago I went to hear Jamie Bartlett talk about his new book The Dark Net, which I haven’t yet read owing to its lying full fathoms five in a cardboard box in a secure unit somewhere in Beckenham. Bartlett is a great speaker, and has that ability to create controversy by disclaimer that is catnip to non-fiction publishers. We were going to find some of these topics, he told us, uncomfortable. The more he investigated drug dealing, child pornography and far right political activism on the internet, the more moral ambiguities he found, and meeting some of the people involved prompted a sympathetic response that unnerved him. This schtick made me wonder if absolutely everyone embarking on research for a thoughtful bestseller table book subconsciously designs a neat personal growth process for themselves, so that they can finish up by saying, “I went into this expecting to find that x, but in fact I was struck by y.” It shows you’re open to ideas, man. What kind of unreflective moron would you be if you found roughly what you expected to find and were pleased about it? Well, a research scientist, I suppose.

I’ve not bought drugs from the Silk Road, so for all I know Bartlett is right that the operation of a review system and a dazzling array of choice is driving up customer service standards and product quality (what, drug dealers aren’t motivated enough to investigate ways of gaming a website review system and search facility? Really? Even Amazon has astroturfing.) But one thing I have dabbled in is online political activism, and about this I think Bartlett was wrong in a fairly important respect. He is impressed with the passion that far right online political activism generates, and the fact that a Facebook group was used to organise an EDL march thousands strong in Waltham Forest. The Labour Party, he said by way of counter-example, never managed that sort of turnout, and mainstream political activism online had a lot to learn from the far right if it was going to survive.

Now, I am first with the custard pies when it comes to attacking our uninspiring political culture, and yes, membership of all political parties is in decline. But Labour, like other major parties, quietly gets high dozens or low hundreds of people onto the streets every single Saturday, and they certainly use Facebook among other things to achieve that. They’re just not doing anything that attracts Bartlett’s attention. Mild social democrat delivers Labour leaflet is not news. Racist delivers BNP leaflet is an ominous indicator of well-organised hatred in the heart of our political system. Actually, the far right are pretty unremarkable in the tools they use and the way they use them. Elsewhere in politics, Bartlett was spot on about the pedestrian nature of the techniques used by the ISIS Twitter account to create publicity, which have been hailed as technical wizardry in some corners of the press. It’s odd that he doesn’t see how the same applies to other political groups in the spotlight.

But then, if your thing is to turn a given picture through 90 degrees and be satisfied with the first counter-intuitive angle you find – paedophiles are sometimes nice people, political extremists are pretty successful campaigners, online drug dealing is a perfect free market in harmonious operation – you are going to finish up with contradictions. It’s controversialism that, in spite of the serious-minded warnings at the beginning, isn’t going to frighten anyone or get to the bottom of anything. I was entertained and informed – did you know that the biggest selling item on Silk Road before it closed was fake £20 Tesco vouchers? – but there were no true 180 moments when you realise the world is actually the other way up from how you thought it was. For those, presumably you have to take a look at the dark net for yourself.

Friday, December 19th, 2014 11:33 pm
Both my assignments are finished, named, and uploaded. 
Friday, December 19th, 2014 10:49 am
Me: I'd like to change doctors, please.

Kaiser: Okay, but then you'll have to have an appointment with the new doctor.

Me: Okay.

Kaiser: Okay, what did you need to see the doctor about?

Me: Um, nothing. You just told me I need to see her.

Kaiser: But I have to put a complaint down here.

Me: Fine. Put [random choice from my short list of chronic conditions].

Cut to today, when I show up for this doctor-change visit and a different doc (neither my current one nor the new one) is listed on my check-in sheet.

Me: I am here to see Dr. A and you have me with Dr. B.

Kaiser: Oh, yes, Dr. A called in today, so we switched you to Dr. B.

Me: Okay, well, I want to cancel this appointment and make a new one with Dr. A.

Kaiser: Oh. Okay. Then you don't need to see anyone at all?

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 01:52 pm
So, those of you who know my podcasting habits will know that one of the few constants is The Wyrd Ways Rock Show. It's the ONLY music podcast that's lasted the distance for me - must be five or six years I've been listening to it now.

There's several reasons for that. It helps me keep up with new music I'll (probably) like in this increasingly fragmented musical world, because it defiantly includes all kinds of rock and metal, and doesn't restrict itself to any of the increasingly narrow bands that modern bands like to slot themselves into. I like Carl's relaxed presenting style, and his comfortingly Yorkshire voice - there's something very reassuring about him. I like Elfie's enthusiasm and joy at finding new stuff to bring to the world. But mostly, I like the attitude of the show, which is: it's the music that matters.

So the Wyrd Ways RS doesn't discriminate if you're black, or LGBT+, or a girl. Orianthi is just a bloody good guitarist. Doro Pesch is just a statesman of rock. Rob Halford is just the singer for Judas Priest. None of that gatekeepy bullshit on the Wyrd Ways RS: if your music is good, you get played, no matter what your non-musical attributes.

Recent events have brought to the forefront just how bloody special this is. Don't even start me on the silliness that is #Metalgate (except that I feel sorry for these Czech festival organisers who have been going since '08 and suddenly got tarred with a very silly brush). So it was with the greatest joy that I listened to the last-but-one episode of the show:

Here is a link to the webplaying version of episode CCXCVI. This episode will be known forever to me as the "what is this female-fronted-metal pigeon-holing bullshit? Women play ALL KINDS OF METAL!" episode. And it's got some bloody astounding music on. Srsly, check the playlist. It's nearly four hours of glorious, joyful, beautiful music that sticks two fingers up at the rest of the world and says: "I don't care what YOU think; this is what I like".

So go listen to it. Go on. You can do it in chunks if you like. Then go subscribe and help pay for the upkeep of the show: it's worth it, I promise.
Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 06:07 pm

I picked up a book by someone I like and respect, and it just wasn't my cup of tea. Not badly written; just not the sort of thing I go in for. I gave it around thirty pages and moved on.

Next, I'm on to Chang-Rae Lee's On Such A Full Sea. Not very far into it so far. Seems futuristic, but can't tell; that's not a bad thing, as I'm only perhaps ten pages in. Writing is so far is lovely, as expected; he wrote one of my favorite pieces of creative non-fiction. Will report back soon.

Edit: I'm also reading Connie Willis's Doomsday Book. Liking it a lot so far.


Got Wynnona and Indigo Girls and Linda Ronstadt (What's new? How is the world treating you?) on in the car. Also have an old Karen Carpenter that mom picked up for me at the yard sales, but I disliked the first song, so I skipped it. May give it another shot later. When I'm alone in the car, I play my game where I stop on the first thing that's actual music and not a commercial, so I'm hearing lots of new stuff: mariachi and rap and classical and pop and so on. I enjoy most of it, and dislike very little of it. I continue to have mixed feelings about "All About That Bass," which continues to be my most persistent earworm.

Also, I don't think to mention this, usually, but we listen to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me every week.


I didn't care for Plants vs. Zombies 2. Not only because it requires a camera (anyone know why?) to download, but because there's just too much going on. If a game gets too frantic and fast, I start mashing the keys and lose interest.

Still playing PvZ1, Dots, Two Dots, and Royal Envoy 2, along with a thing called Dropwords that makes me long for Bookworm, so I may go see if they have an Android version. Are you playing anything fun right now?


Checked out a couple of discs of The Saint from the library. Really sexist -- he slaps women All. The. Time! Definitely not going to get more of them, but to be honest, it's the kind of show James and I tend to watch: intrigue/mystery that's not challenging to the thinky bits.

Netflix has some more seasons of Suchet's Poirot,  I still really like it, and it's been long enough since I've read any of the stories that the only one I knew the ending to was the Orient Express.

Disney re-released Sleeping Beauty, a childhood fave of mine, after years of not making it available, as part of the whole Maleficent thing, so we bought Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent both.

I will not give you the feminist commentary on Sleeping Beauty today. You can probably find it online [Jezebel | Tor] | Feminist Fiction | etc]. But I loved that movie as a child, and I was especially enchanted with Maleficent, who intrigued me and sent a frisson of dread/exhilaration through me. I thought she was beautiful and fascinating and interesting.

So why did I fall asleep watching the Jolie piece? Dunno. Will try again, because there certainly is a lot of interesting alternative story going on, and it's right up my alley, but the pace was slow and Jolie's accent was driving me buggy, and I fell asleep about halfway through.
Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 10:31 pm
I have always had lots of interests. I have enjoyed and developed some amount of skill in a few areas. I have made money doing a lot of things.

This is not always a benefit, not entirely. I mean, it makes me happy and I don't want to change it, but sometimes I want to do things WELL, not just superficially. I am decent at writing and cooking and editing and singing and math and a handful of other things. I'very been paid for most of them. But I tend to flit. Mostly, that's okay. But reduced energy and maybe some depth that comes with age means I kind of want to try to focus on something.

But what?