Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 10:36 pm
On the previously mentioned trip to Amsterdam, the bloke and I stayed on a canal barge in the Westerdok.

This was the much bigger cousin of the holiday barges that pootle up and down our Worcestershire canal. The main bulk of the hull served as the home of the bloke who ran the B&B. We were in the wheelhouse, overlooking the canal. The docks seem to serve as pretty much permanent moorings for the barges in this area. Each one had a small garden, and there was even a floating children’s play area.

It was surprisingly quiet given that the location is a mere 15 minute walk from Centraal Station. We could hear a distant roar of traffic, but mostly we heard the hangry cheeping of two adolescent coots and the occasional quack of a duck. We also found a great crested grebe nesting a few boats down. It was definitely brooding, as we never saw the nest unoccupied.

Urban great crested grebe nest
The nest itself was a rather wonderful construction, being a mix of urban rubbish and plant detritus, with a few hollyhocks artfully arranged around the edges. The grebe had two female mallard bodyguards, who immediately came to circle the nest at a careful distance, giving me the side-eye when I hopped down on to the dock from the pavement to take photos.

The barge proprietor tiptoed in every morning to leave us breakfast on the table next to the wheelhouse. It included a bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice, muesli, yoghurt, and hardboiled eggs nested in knitted cosies. Much as I wanted to sleep in, the prospect of getting that into my belly when I heard his footsteps got me out of bed pretty early both mornings. We received so much food at breakfast that we were able to make sandwiches from the bread and cheese to squirrel away for later. We ate these in the Vondelpark on the first day, and for supper on the second after the lunch at Rijks.

Apart from the sheer pleasure of walking around Amsterdam, we also indulged in a trip to a Michelin-starred restaurant for a very belated birthday treat for me. We spent three and a half hours eating lunch at Rijks, which is next to the Rijksmuseum. The bloke had mentioned that it was my birthday when he made the booking. As a result, in addition to our pudding, I got a white chocolate candle with sorbet and a little message inside. We sampled both white and red wines, all by Dutch winemakers “from everywhere in the world” (e.g. New Zealand and South Africa).

Photos from Rijks behind the cut.

+++ )
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 07:47 pm
... as in you probably don't want to go where I'm going. With the latter, it's usually cloudy whenever anything interesting is happening, and with cloudy backup, they usually close.

Which is what my current choice, CrashPlan, is doing at least to consumers.

Grrr.

They are at least staying in business, so my current subscription will last until - with an extra 60 days - July next year.

The two options they're suggesting are

a) Migrating to what they used to call CrashPlan Pro and are now going to call CrashPlan for Small Business. With 75% off for the first year after the current sub expires, that is quite reasonable.. at first. It'll be cheaper (12 x $2.50 < $59.99) until it gets to 2019 when the price will be at least $120, i.e. double what I am currently paying.

b) Using Carbonite. Fuck off, for the reasons given in the earlier post.

Of the ones other people use, Backblaze still doesn't do Linux* and SpiderOak is still $129 annually if you have less than 1TB of data and HOW MUCH (in this case, $279 a year) if you have more (but not more than 5TB). Plus Amazon AWS are still doing a pricing scheme that makes it clear that they're not interested in consumers.

Annoyingly, Amazon Digital Music Storage wants you to install a Windows or Mac program to do the uploading for its '250,000 files for - I think - £22/year', so I am less tempted than I otherwise would be to see if it accepts really, really, really long metadata (the ID3v2 standard allows up to 256MB!) for .mp3 files :)

It does remind me that when Napster was a new thing, someone did a Windows program 'Wrapster' that made any file look like an .mp3 file so it could be shared. I wonder if there was ever a Linux equivalent? Or given that I'm pretty sure I have a copy, somewhere, I wonder if it works under WINE?

But without playing around like that, it's looking like I will go to CrashPlan Pro, but possibly only until 2019.

* And if CrashPlan are doing this, I would want to have a look at Backblaze's accounts before believing that they're not going to be next.
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 10:11 am
Boss: Good morning.
Me: ಠ_ಠ
Boss: Morning.
Me: One day I will cure you of that bad habit. I have a crowbar at home, so that should help.
Boss: Ah, but you'd have to go through the effort of bringing it into the office.
Me: *laughing* I hate that you know me so well.
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 03:09 pm
Lots of things covered in lingonberries, sour cream and dill, and stuffed with curd cheese. Lots of pancakes (often stuffed with curd cheese and covered in sour cream) and rye bread. In Finland, award winning reindeer pizza, in Estonia, curd cheese toasts and bear with cucumber, in Latvia, dumplings, and in Lithuania a zeppilin (stuffed with venison and covered in sour cream). Smoked salmon of luxurious thickness, and cheap caviar.
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 10:24 am
I am communing with the ur-text at the moment (i.e. reading Dracula), and was tickled to notice last night that it contains a reference to Leeds - though not a very complimentary one! It's no great surprise, of course, given that a substantial chunk of the novel is set in Whitby, and indeed it is in the mouth of old Whitby fisherman Mr Swales that the reference comes. He is complaining about people being altogether too credulous about legends of bells ringing out at sea and White Ladies and such like:
Them feet-folks from York and Leeds that be always eatin' cured herrin's and drinkin' tea an' lookin' out to buy cheap jet would creed aught. I wonder masel' who'd be bothered tellin' lies to them, even the newspapers, which is full of fool-talk.
I'm not terribly sure what 'feet' means in this context, and Google isn't helping, even when I put the phrase in quotation marks to rule out ordinary references to feet. Maybe it just means foot-passengers who have come to Whitby on the train? Or might it be Bram's attempt at spelling a local pronunciation of 'fit', and perhaps means something more like 'fine folk' (in a sort of 'fit to be Queen' kind of sense)? If any genuine Yorkshire-born chums have a clue, let me know. If it's a proper dialect word, it will have been something Bram got out of a book on Whitby dialect which we know he used in his research.

[ETA: apparently I wasn't Googling very effectively before. I've found the answer now and my first guess was right: feet-folks are foot-passengers.]

Anyway, I will be going to Whitby myself in just over a fortnight, along with the lovely [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313, to join a long weekend event marking the 40th anniversary of the Dracula Society's first official trip to that location. I don't have any particular plans to eat cured herring or drink tea (which I hate), but I won't turn down any nice cheap jet, and I will make a particular point of believing any and all legends of the macabre and supernatural which anyone tells me for the entire weekend - just to annoy Mr Swales.
Monday, August 21st, 2017 10:13 pm

Mirrored from Suns In Her Branches | Kiya Nicoll.

At the moment when the light returns, flaring bright and blinding, the breath comes back, too, all in a rush. It is not that the breathing stopped through the peculiar gloom of it, but somehow it was not enough, there was not enough air, something subliminal and only noticeable in the moment that it disappears.

The light comes back. Perhaps there is a deep and instinctual part of the spirit that holds its breath, not sure whether that would be the case.

But the light comes back. The light comes back and everything seems different, now.

Slowly, slowly the sense of normality reasserts itself. The quality of the light goes… natural… so quickly, by comparison, returning to some sense of the expected, the everyday.

But there is still the knowing. Knowing that one has gone down into the dark, through the dread of it, down into the dark and seen the wonders there, and has come back.

With the light.

Monday, August 21st, 2017 09:17 am
I did not sleep especially well on Sunday night, and woke up with an explanation for why I’d been so sleepy during the day in the form of an unpleasantly sore throat. I threw painkillers at it until it subsided and decided that I would give up on any silly ideas about morning runs until I was feeling back to 100%.

By the time I woke up properly and we’d eaten breakfast, Ramesh realised that he was also feeling quite under the weather, and decided to treat it with spending a while longer in bed, so I set off into town alone to spend some time in the red light district. Naturally, I spent that time looking at churches. Why, what else did you expect? First I went round the Oude Kerk, which was originally a Catholic cathedral, but became protestant during the reformation. There was a very good audio guide, which managed to personalise the experience without being twee. It had been left very austere by the iconoclasm, but in recent years has been used as a space for new art, sacred and secular. Afterwards I went on to Our Lord in the Attic, a house church which has been reconstructed to be very similar to how it was in the seventeenth century. Catholicism at that point was not exactly tolerated, but the authorities would turn a blind eye if people weren’t too blatant about it, and despite looking like a normal house from the outside it was impressively spacious and opulent inside.

After an ecclesiastical morning I went and had lunch with [personal profile] ewan (because what foreign holiday would be complete without running into someone who lives down the road and just happens to be visiting the same city). We met at the Foodhallen, which had a good range of choices, including several for the vegan. After lunch I gave Ramesh a call to see if he was feeling up to coming out, but as he wasn’t I went for another attraction he was less interested in - the Zoo! I hadn’t been to the Zoo for about 25 years or so, and wasn’t expecting to enjoy it nearly as much as I did. There was a panther who was very stealthy, sea-lions who were very loud and playful, lions who were very sleepy, a gorilla and a capybara who were both completely uninterested and much smaller and much larger than I expected respectively.

By the time I got back to the hotel Ramesh had rested sufficiently and we went out looking for dinner. We had foolishly assumed that on a Monday evening we’d probably be able to just walk into somewhere, but after the first three places we tried were fully booked, didn’t have any veggie options, and fully booked we decided to go back to the sushi place we’d liked on Saturday, and make a couple of bookings in the places that were popular enough to be fully booked.
Sunday, August 20th, 2017 07:46 pm
Both children love swimming. Charles is a competent casual swimmer, Nicholas is still in beginner swim lessons and needs the full-time attention of an adult whenever out of his depth. So I like to take them swimming whenever possible, and made sure to pack swimming things for this holiday.

So far we have managed 2 pools in Helsinki, 1 on the ferry, and 2 in Stockholm.
Read more... )
Today we arrived in Copenhagen and our current airbnb in Fredericksberg is a very short walk from another local pool, plus there are a number of others I am investigating in case we have time for a second one ...
Sunday, August 20th, 2017 02:43 pm

Mirrored from Juliet Kemp.

I went to a panel at Worldcon on the morality of generation ships, and have been thinking about it since.

(I’m also going to take this opportunity to recommend this Jo Walton story set on a generation ship, which is great and has something to say about choice and decisions.)

So, the question under discussion at the panel was: is it morally acceptable to board a generation ship (i.e. a ship that people will live on for multiple generations on their way to another planet), given that you are not just making a decision for yourself, but for your future children, grandchildren, etc etc. The two main categories of moral problem that the panel identified were:

  • the risk of the voyage itself;
  • the lack of choice for every generation after the one that gets on the ship in the first place.

The ‘risk’ issue seems reasonably strong. It’s very unlikely that anyone would have a really clear idea of what the planet was like that they were going to. If you’re using a generation ship at all, then you probably don’t have any other form of fast travel, so any information that exists about the planet will be scanty, very out of date, or most likely both. (See Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, which is also great.) So it’s not at all a reliable bet that your descendants will truly be able to settle where they’re headed to, even if it looks good from here.

There are also the risks of the voyage itself, including but not limited to radiation issues, the possibility of running into something else, and the likelihood that the ship will genuinely be able to maintain a workable ecological system. We don’t have good on-Earth comparisons for small closed systems; what experiments have been conducted have been very short-term and not terribly promising. What about the social dynamics? What are the risks of, say, a totalitarian system arising? If the risks on Earth are very high, or humans on Earth are facing imminent disaster, then this might be an acceptable trade-off, but how high is ‘very high’ and how disastrous does a disaster have to be? Does it need to be Earth-wide? If your current home is, for example, sinking under rising waters, and you know that any alternative will mean becoming a refugee in poor circumstances — how much risk is ‘reasonable’ to accept then?

Which brings us on to the issue of ‘choice’. One could argue that a kid living in a refugee camp without enough food or warm clothes has, notionally, some future ‘choice’ or ‘opportunity’ to escape that. A child on a generation ship is stuck there.

But why is “can’t leave generation ship” morally different from “can’t leave Earth”? Which is of course a situation into which all children are currently born and which we do not consider morally problematic. And how realistic is the ‘choice’ that the average Earth-born child has? This was where I thought that the Worldcon panel fell down a bit. They threw the word “choice” around a lot but didn’t at all interrogate what realistic “choice” is available to which children in which situation on Earth. There are many kids born without very many realistic ‘choices’; children who are unlikely to go more than a few miles beyond where they were born, children whose projected lifespan is short, children whose lives are likely to be very difficult. How different is that, in reality, from a generation ship? In fact, if the generation ship does work, it might be a better life than on Earth: guaranteed food, shelter, and useful work (making the ship run).

The panel talked about limiting the choices of children born on the moon, because they might not be able to go back and live on Earth — but why is Earth necessarily better than the moon, or Mars, or the asteroid belt? Why isn’t it immoral of us to have children who are stuck down here in the gravity well?

More generally: we’re constantly making choices for our children, and through them for generations beyond; we’re constantly giving them some chances and removing other options, every decision we make. Is that immoral? It’s not avoidable, however much privilege you have, although most certainly more privilege generally means more options.

Would I get on a generation ship? Well. Not without a really good perusal of the specs. But I’m not convinced that it’s immoral to do so.

Sunday, August 20th, 2017 11:00 am
Saturday, August 19th, 2017 12:11 pm
Marks and Spencer and the National Autistic Society have launched a school uniform range aimed at the parents of autistic children. Note that I say aimed at the parents of autistic children, rather than aimed at autistic children. All the blurb is to do with how easy it is to put on, and how hardwearing it is. The subtext is that it's designed for kids who can't dress themselves. This is clearly aimed at parents.

The other way you can tell that actually autistic people were not involved in this is that if you ask any autistic person what is most important for them in clothing they will tell you it's the fabric it's made of. Many autistic people have comorbid eczema, and a lot of those that don't have sensory issues, which mean that fabric and texture are hugely important in clothing. Something that is in contact with your skin all day needs to be made of something non-irritating; that almost always means 100% natural fibres. Cotton, or bamboo, or silk, or modal. Sometimes wool, but sometimes not. NEVER SODDING POLYESTER. And some of the clothes in that M&S range are 65% polyester. And of course it's very wearying that the only clothing specifically designed to be worn by autistic people is school uniform, because nobody of above school age is autistic, and no autistic child ever wears non-uniform clothing. AND they've "removed pockets for comfort". I have never known an autistic person who didn't want MORE pockets, as long as they are made from 100% natural fibre too.

So what would clothing for autistic people actually look like? Well, from the conversation on twitter today:
  1. Clear, obvious fabric labelling on the rack/shelf. While most of us just want everything 100% cotton, some of us prefer other natural fabrics like linen, and some actively prefer viscose or modal. Some of us can cope with silk or wool, some can't. Every single one of us, though, would like to see fabrics clearly, obviously labelled on the rack, without having to go hunting through the clothes for a tiny illegible care label.

  2. No polyester. Not even a little bit. Not ever. No, not even in linings.

  3. Linings are important! Linings are the bit that is actually in contact with your skin, so they need to be all natural fibres too. Note, though, that this does not mean you can take a garment made out of something horrible and line it with cotton and it will be OK - outer fabrics need to be touchable too.

  4. Care labels to be made of the same fabric as the clothing, not scratchy plastic.

  5. Elastic to be covered with the fabric the clothes are made of, not left to be in contact with your skin.

  6. Flat seams! Or even NO seams!

  7. For Cthulhu's sake, SOMEBODY make some bras we can wear! It is really, really, incredibly difficult to get hold of cotton bras, to the extent that I have considered making my own. And even if/when you DO find them, they are covered in non-cotton frills and lace and fripperies. And have stupid care labels made of plastic right in the middle of your back.

  8. Comfort and fit are much much more important than being on trend. I saw an article the other day that low slung waist trousers are coming back into fashion and actually cried.

  9. Moar pockets, on everything, especially women's clothes - but again, made of the same fabric as the actual clothing

  10. Stop saying things are "cotton touch" or "cotton feel" or "cotton rich". All this does is bugger up searching for cotton things. And actually, make your website searchable by fabric. That would be amazing.
And a clothing store for autistic people?
  1. Would be lit sensibly, not with migraine-inducing lighting.

  2. Would have the afore-mentioned obvious, clear clothing labels on the shelf/rack.

  3. Would sort by size and colour as well as style.

  4. Would have assistants that wait to be approached rather than badgering you the second you enter the shop.

  5. Would not have music at all (many many autistic people love music, but find music that they don't like intensely irritating; whatever music you play some of us will like and some won't) and would ideally have sound baffling so that other people's conversations are not intrusive.

  6. Would open from (say) 12 till 8, rather than 9 to 5. Autistic people are more likely than others to have odd sleep patterns and/or working hours.
Now, if some kind banker or venture capitalist would like to give me a wad of cash to make this a reality... And to M&S and the NAS... I do appreciate that you're trying, and I don't wish to appear ungrateful, but if you consulted any actually autistic people in fomulating that clothing range it's not immediately obvious. Please, please, bear in mind the priorities of actually autistic people, not the parents of autistic children, when making clothing that the autistic people are actually meant to wear. Remember the phrase: nothing about us without us. Thank you.
Saturday, August 19th, 2017 12:22 am
Spent much of the day trying to sort out [personal profile] hollymath's clearing application (she's going back to university as a mature student next month to do a linguistics degree) so didn't get much writing done til late, but managed to get 1252 words done -- a blog post on what Liberalism means to me and why it bears no relation to the straw-liberals regularly being attacked on Twitter at the moment.
Friday, August 18th, 2017 11:05 pm
.. my earphones seem to be broken on return from BiCon: there's a problem just before the socket end that doesn't look to be fixable without the sort of soldering I can't do and which would cost more than their replacement cost to have done.

Given that they're seven years old - they were the set that came with the HTC Desire I bought after BiCon 2010! - I perhaps shouldn't complain too much. The average life expectancy for a pair of L's is a lot closer to seven weeks, rather than seven years, but that means she's worked through all my spares.

The main reason for moaning is that the 'foam cover, held in by the shape of your ear' type have become a lot harder to find thanks to the rise of the 'silicone mushroom, in your ear canal' type.

Which I really don't like.

When Amazon had a very good price on them, I got a pair of SoundMAGIC ES18 ones back in 2014. While the sound is good, every time something taps on the cables, you can feel it in a way that you can't with the proper :) sort. I don't like the feel or the increased noise isolation. They're also harder to protect because, as I'm sure many people know thanks to the sort of other things that gets BiCon sessions of their own, once silicone is torn, you can't repair it.

So I'm currently looking at the Sennheiser MX 375. I've had another pair of Sennheiser earphones that weren't nearly as comfortable as others, but I can't remember which they were - L broke them.

Any other suggestions?
Friday, August 18th, 2017 02:48 pm
My body: A tiny bit of post-nasal drip leading to slight throat soreness, probably just allerg—

Me: NINE HOURS OF SLEEP, STEAMY SHOWER WITH PINE AND MINT ESSENCE, NASAL RINSE, SALT-WATER GARGLE, ANTIHISTAMINE NASAL SPRAY, STEROID NASAL SPRAY, CLARITIN, AGGRESSIVE TOOTHBRUSHING

My body: —look, forget i said anything, okay?


I refuse to get sick. REFUSE. R E F U S E. J has had a horrid cough for a week and is on antibiotics and prednisone (when they prescribe prednisone to the guy with insomnia, you know it's bad), X is wrapping up a course of antibiotics for a throat infection, and J had to do that for his own throat infection last month. So far I've been fighting off all the respiratory bugs Kit brings home from daycare, but I don't take my ability to do that for granted. And I can't take most antibiotics without serious mood effects because apparently I depend on my gut flora for emotional management, so I have to be extremely diligent about my preventive care.

I'm going to go have spicy curry for lunch and drink some ginger honey tea. Fuck off, germs.
Friday, August 18th, 2017 02:20 pm
Poll #18711 Eye candy
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 49


Which?

View Answers

Vin Diesel
9 (18.4%)

Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock
18 (36.7%)

Yes, yes please
9 (18.4%)

Fast AND furious, hurr hurr
7 (14.3%)

No thanks, fit bald men aren't my thing
15 (30.6%)

I have a really short attention span. What was the question?
8 (16.3%)

Cake, anyone?
23 (46.9%)

Ticky!
18 (36.7%)

Tags:
Friday, August 18th, 2017 11:00 am
Thursday, August 17th, 2017 08:38 pm
It's my late night at the office. I videocalled home to say goodnight to the baby. They were tired, so after a while they waved bye-bye. I said "Okay, Kit, bye-bye! I love you!" and signed love you.

And they signed love back.

Me: [tears]
X: [tears]
Kit: [earnestly signing love at the camera]

My baby told me they love me. I'll just be here in a little melted puddle forever.