Monday, July 27th, 2015 11:26 pm
(Maybe I’ll expand on these at some point, but on past experience probably not)

Acoustic Festival of Britain in June: I met [personal profile] jae  and really liked her! I saw Show of Hands with her! I enjoyed listening to live music and also a night and a day responsible to none but myself. I was really impressed with young Welsh singer Kizzy Crawford. I also realised I really don’t enjoy long-distance driving any more, but I did at least have the audiobook of Ancillary Sword to keep me going.

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Monday, July 27th, 2015 03:42 pm
Olympic Studios, Barnes, SW13

Welcome back! This week's featured article is boutique cinema Olympic Studios in leafy Barnes. It's quite pricy, and the snacks are all artisanal, but it's very comfortable in the Everyman Cinemas sort of way. There's also a cafe attached, but I didn't visit that.

We've got an update to Three Compasses pub in Hornsey, where Kake enjoyed a selection of brown bitters and the company of half a dozen people on a Friday afternoon.

Finally, the reported closure last month of Fino "tapas bar" in Fitzrovia. According to the news article announcing this, the owners believe London dining preferences have moved on to a more informal style of eating (i.e. like actual tapas bars).
Monday, July 27th, 2015 05:12 am
The next time I say I can do RWA in NYC without taking time off from my regular work, tell me I'm wrong. Tell me loudly and firmly.

This post brought to you by my very sore arms from doing a whooooole lot of catch-up work tonight, and more to do tomorrow.

Poor arms. I quit PT too soon, I think, or maybe it just didn't do enough good. I've upgraded my insurance so I'm going to try some fancier physical therapists and see whether they can help more. That means commuting into Manhattan but oh well, arms are worth it, and at least once a week I can do it on a day I'd be in Manhattan anyway.

RWA was mostly exhausting. I didn't get to any program items at all. I went to five cocktail parties in one night and two the following night. I skipped the award ceremony, though I watched from home until the livestream cut out (and cheered [twitter.com profile] tiffanyreisz). I felt lost and alone in the sea of people I didn't know. I saw a lot of people I probably know on Twitter but didn't recognize. A few people who knew me from Twitter said hello. I met a few people who were really nice. I hung out with a few people I already knew. I wore my pronoun button and it was consistently ignored, including by people I'd just finished explaining it to. Everything was very white and Christian and het and cis and I felt very uncomfortably marginalized pretty much the whole time, all the more so because my experiences at Readercon were so totally different. Now I'm more wary of going to WFC, where I won't know as many people as I do at Readercon and where there hasn't been a massive cultural change toward treating people like me as human beings, but I don't know whether that's exhaustion anxiety talking.

I got no good sleep last night, and I only know that I slept at all because I had a really unpleasant dream about being sexually assaulted. My SleepBot motion tracker looks like a ventricular fibrillation ECG. I was so exhausted that I burst into tears midday for no reason at all. I pulled myself together to spend a little time with J before he left for a week-long business trip. Then I caffeinated, got work done, went to an absolutely stellar TMBG show (one of the best I've ever seen, approaching the awesomeness of the 2007 Bowery Ballroom shows but with a totally different vibe; once that wiki page exists I'll put my full comments up there), and came home and got in a quick videochat with Josh and did more work and iced my sad sad arms (and my inexplicably sad left thumb--no idea what's up with that). Now it's nearly 6 a.m. and I don't even know what I'm feeling other than all the way through tired and out the other side. But I think I should sleep.
Sunday, July 26th, 2015 10:11 pm
(These aren't appearing in chronological order. My apologies. They're appearing as I catch up with curating, editing and uploading photos and writing the associated words!)

Not long before the Shauns left London, Keiki and I stole a day during the very short gap between our trips to Turkey and Washington DC in May to take a final shot at bagging all the sculptures. We’d nabbed 16 on our first go and done the hardest of the four trails, so I thought we had a fair chance of doing at least two more. As it turned out, we managed exactly two trails and 17 more Shauns before my feet and shoulders called time on the adventure. I reckon we could have gotten halfway through the third trail before we had to get our train back to Birmingham, but I would’ve been crying by the time we got home. It’s not so bad carrying a baby, a rucksack full of baby stuff and a dSLR for a couple of hours, but when you’re spending the whole day on your feet, it can get to be a bit much.

We popped out of Oxford Street tube station around 11 AM and immediately set about our first task: Shaun’s Trail, involving 11 Shauns.


Baa-bushka, Carnaby Street

+17 including several ridiculous selfies )

Since I was still feeling pretty strong and Keiki had had a nap and a feed during the first trail, we headed back up toward Covent Garden and launched directly into Timmy’s Trail, which involved 7 Shauns.


Me, Keiki and Flash! Photo by some nice French tourists.

+12 )

I began walking toward Temple station with the intention of doing a bit of the trail in the City before heading back to Euston, but once I arrived at Temple and sat down to await a train, I realised I was not up for it and would be better off returning to Euston, having a coffee and a bit of cake and then boarding the train home. So I did, regretfully abandoning the London hunt at 34 out of 50 Shauns. Still, I think we didn’t do too badly!
Saturday, July 18th, 2015 09:44 pm
Written end of July 2015, post-dated to the day of the ride for some kind of historical accuracy.

The website I use to log my cycle rides, Strava, has monthly challenges one can enter, which include km-per-month (starting at 250km and increasing in increments of same up to 1250km) and also a "Gran Fondo" - usually 100km in a single ride, but during the summer months, they encourage you to get out on your bike more by progressively increasing the distance to 115km in June, 130km in July and 150km in August. In June, I hit the first one by adding the extra distance onto the end of the Great Manchester Cycle, but for July, I invented my own ride: getting myself from home, across the Pennines and to a lovely cycling café I discovered in York last year.

Fisheye photo of Katie, standing with their bike ahead of their big ride to York


I set off at about 9am, and immediately my GPS began to worry me, telling me that Strava's estimated ride time of 5.5 hours was out by an hour and that I should have left at around 8am instead in order to get there at the same time as the Yorkshire-based friends I'd planned to meet. Indeed, a quick bit of mental arithmetic as I made my way to the main road, and I began to realise the GPS was probably right; I usually ride at about 20kph, so I was looking at 5 hours just for the first century, never mind the final 33km after it.

I figured, nothing I could do for it except update the friends and say I'd just let them know when I was about an hour out of York, so they could make their respective ways to the cafe.

About an hour later, I realised things had gone slightly wrong again: as I passed a sign labelled "Woodhead", I realised that I wasn't on the right road. I mean, I was, in that my GPS was telling me that I was going in the right direction - but my grand plan for crossing the Pennines was to use the utterly beautiful Snake Pass, not the HGV-filled Woodhead Pass.

Thankfully, I struck lucky with the traffic - I guess that's the perk of riding on a Saturday morning:

Another lone cyclist, on the Woodhead Pass


In the end, I think I probably made the right call route-planning over Woodhead; it was actually remarkably not-very-steep at all, more of a windy and slow ascent, and quite pleasant on a quiet morning.

There weren't many photos for the rest of the ride; I was conscious of time creeping along, so my only records between then and the café were a video of some roadside chemistry in the form of sachets of electrolyte drink and 1500mls of water, with the recording stopped rapidly, as I realised I was shaking my bottle too hard and it was going to explode - and a celebratory snapshot of the sign welcoming me to the County of North Yorkshire.

I texted shortly after, from Selby, giving the one hour warning to friends and my mum, who had decided when I was somewhere near Barnsley to hop on a train and see if she could beat me there - she did, although I think TransPennine Express gave her quite the unfair advantage! - and almost exactly an hour later, I pulled to a stop outside the café, and looked down at my GPS/clock just in time to hear Kieran say "And what time do you call this?!" - to which I happily replied: "5 hours and 11 minutes of moving time since I left home, so about 20 minutes earlier than expected!"

(OK, so I was also about an hour later than planned; I blame the Yorkshire hills and my faulty lungs for that. The "moving time" is the important figure to me!)

So then there was all the food, fruit juice, delicious cake, and a celebratory photo at York station before getting the train home:

Celebrations with the bike in York


Next adventure: Dark Peak Grimpeur, a 106km randonneur with many many hills - my first Audax not on the back of [personal profile] damerell's tandem. Hoping to take the camcorder out that I received last Christmas with the intent of video-blogging my time in Finland, and doing an on-the-move ride report...
Sunday, June 28th, 2015 09:20 pm
Written July 2015, post-dated to the day of the ride for some kind of historical accuracy.

Last month I did the Great Manchester Cycle for the second time; the 52 mile distance again, but the difference this time being that I started cycle-commuting earlier this year, and whilst I only started riding real distances... well, on the day of the GMC, it's definitely helped with my fitness levels to be on my bike almost every day for the best part of six months!

The day was plagued from the beginning, with a puncture before I even started; thankfully, Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op were on hand to give me a new tube and get me to the start line with minutes to spare...

Bicycle being fixed by a mechanic At the start line of GMC 2015


I was riding with a colleague, at least up until mile 10, where she overtook a few slower cyclists ahead of us, and I wasn't able to catch her straightaway, and since she has a faster pace than I do, she was long gone by the time I'd passed the slow bunch in front of me. We exchanged a few texts along the route, but in the end we didn't see each other again til the finish line.

About a third of the way into the second lap of the 13 mile route, I heard a familiar hissing from my back tyre and realised I had another puncture - upon inspection, there was a stone pushing its way through the rim of the tyre itself, one that looked remarkably like those on the towpath between my friend's flat and the start of the ride... I concluded that whilst my puncture from the beginning of the day had been fixed, the stone that I could see had been the cause, and having not been removed, had done double duty. Fortunately, it was a slow puncture, so I hopped back on the bike and thrashed my way along one more mile to the feed station, where other mechanics from EBC were hanging out ready to help people, and so my bike ended up in surgery again:

Bike being fixed... again!


I also took a moment to natter with the St John Ambulance volunteers (unfortunately, since it turned out that unlike in 2014, entering the feed stations didn't stop your ride timer...) and had a bit of a stretch.

The final two-and-a-half laps continued without event (or photos) - I beat my way around the course and finished, unofficially/according to Strava in ten minutes less time than in 2014. I got stuck behind a slower rider again as I went for the finish line so couldn't do a sprint finish - but there's always next year!

After the ride, I then rode up to Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op's shop to pay for the gear that I got off them, since their stands on the ride were cash-only; whilst there, I decided to buy a front tyre so that I had matching tyres (as the replacement given to me during the ride was a skinnier, slicker tyre than my previous ones, and I wanted front and back to match - plus it generally being a good idea to know how much wear your tyres have had. I then rode back to the stadium where the ride started and finished, as of course, having paid for the second tyre, there were none in the shop as they were all made available for the ride ;)

In the trip back up to the stadium, I ended up puncturing again, though thankfully the front tyre this time - and EBC, to their credit, replaced the tube for me for free when I got there - I ended up buying one tube and two tyres, and getting two free ones - the first because they caused my second puncture in not removing the stone from my tyre, and the second just because I'd already been out of my way to the shop once that day and they felt sorry for me ;)

Admittedly, part of the jaunt down to the shop was to pick up extra mileage for a Strava challenge, and so during the day I ended up riding just over 115km, or 75 miles - in about 4.5 hours. I was very impressed with myself - and very, very tired. (Also grateful to have apparently found a post-exercise protein shake that doesn't taste like death - the High5 banana/vanilla flavour, when mixed with milk, is actually quite palatable, and I had pleasingly DOMS-free legs the days afterwards, hopefully not a coincidence as I then went and bought another 12 sachets of the stuff for future rides!)

Exhausted post-ride, but happy!

Said [twitter.com profile] benjimmin of the above photo: "You are the most dignified person that exists."
Sunday, July 26th, 2015 06:23 pm
Thursday we travelled down, dropped stuff in the hotel, and caught a bus to the far side of the Gardens to walk back through them; we very deliberately stayed outside of glasshouses and mostly in less-busy areas, and finished up with time for a good half hour or more in the play area before closing.

Friday it rained a lot. I got in a bit of time with the children at a nearby playground before the rain really got started, and then we went to the Musical Museum shortly after it opened at 11.  We enjoyed the tour of their musical automata, and the performance by the resident organist on the Wurlitzer over our lunch, although both children got a bit bored at different times.  It's a nice little museum and well worth a visit.

We then ambled a bit further along the road and enjoyed the London Museum of Water and Steam, which was much more noticeably child-friendly, and also full of fascinating exhibits, and many rooms and staircases and ramps.  Charles was really into the various hands-on pumps, Nico was mostly into exploring every room and staircase and ramp.  We had foursies there and when it closed, made the very damp dash back to our hotel.  When the rain died down a bit, Nico and I ventured out on a mission to find me a spare pair of trousers (unsuccessful) and food for supper (successful).

Saturday morning we returned to the playground and then to Water and Steam.  The latter had various engines in steam over the day, and the tiny on-site railway had a little train running on it, more or less on demand.  We dragged ourselves away after lunch, and had a fairly tedious journey back across London and home to Cambridge where we all more or less went flop.

I did take some photos on both my phone and my little point-and-shoot camera, and at some point I may post my favourites, but sorting them out is another chore ...
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Sunday, July 26th, 2015 07:43 am
House warming party last night.
K has an awesome new flat with spare room, storage space and nice light. Also loads of skeleton themed decorations.
Attendees who were variously police and NHS employees had an interesting conversation about the joys of dealing with addicts. Sounds like they get to know the regular customers, which, I guess, isn't a surprise really.

From there I went on to Stunners where I (as usual) danced like the duracell bunny and had fairly sore feet by the end of the night. Mostly 80s cheese, with a bit of Sisters Of Mercy thrown in. And Depeche Mode.
Clearly I woke up far to early this morning, too...
Thursday, July 23rd, 2015 07:42 am
Kentwell happened and was fun. I did marzipan stuff one day, helped out a bit on heraldry one afternoon and otherwise did swordfighting stuff.
The tent is working well, and I'd painted the front poles with hop vines so they looked interesting.
Celidh was fun. Spent a few evenings hanging around various campfires etc.

I've started volunteering at our local community vegetable shop. Local produce, organic stuff, etc.
Mostly it's a test of my ability to identify mysterious unlabelled fruit and veg, and outwit the till.
Options on the first screen of the till are: veg, fruit, more veg, organic veg, organic fruit and misc.
Two varieties of tomato are listed under fruit (I fear a scientist may have been implicated...), one under veg and one under organic veg...
... and so on for all other items...
There's a barcode reader for the packaged dry goods which works about 2/3 of the time...
A card machine which is on dial up (which I didn't even realise was still possible) and also on the same single phone line as the actual phone, so doesn't work if there's a phonecall...
All in all it's quite an adventure.
But hey, good quality vegetables at a reasonable price and growers not being ripped off by supermarkets.
Friday, July 24th, 2015 01:13 pm
Today's recommendation is for the [community profile] common_nature community. I confess to being one of the major contributors, but I'm certainly not the only one. I tend to share the macro shots of insects and telephoto captures of birds at our feeders in this community rather than here in my personal journal. If you like photos and paintings of birds, insects and plants as well as discussion of the changing seasons and behaviour of your local wildlife, then [community profile] common_nature is for you.

Because I'm still quite proud of it, I append my latest macro shot of a white plume moth that I disturbed whilst weeding the garden:



This entry is not cross-posted to Livejournal.
Thursday, July 23rd, 2015 10:33 pm
On Tuesday I drove to Bristol to start hunting the 70 Shaun sculptures on display there. It was a more challenging drive than I was expecting as the motorways were busy plus driving in an unfamiliar city plus my satnav falling off the windscreen just as I was merging onto the M32. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the maps on my satnav have not been updated for four years and it was far easier to follow the signs to the car park. Still, I was tired by the time I arrived, so I’m pleased I actually managed to complete a trail (the Old City Trail, allowing Keiki and me to bagsie 10 Shauns) at all!


Keiki, me and Bagpuss Shaun in the Cabot Circus shopping centre.

+15 )
Thursday, July 23rd, 2015 09:23 pm
We're on a  minibreak for the start of the summer holidays and ate lunch at a chain restaurant, and had an illuminating chat with the waitress about tips and how they get allocated, which prompted more discussion later because C had questions.

And I hate the culture of tipping for food service. I hate that collectively we're ok with poorly paid food service staff and "having" to tip. I hate that almost nowhere I might want to eat out is transparent about staff pay or how tips are divided among staff, but opting out of this secretive game is massively socially disapproved (and of course does screw over the individual server).

And [livejournal.com profile] fanf said it ought to be publicly displayed like hygiene ratings are, and I said YES and tweeted about it a bit.

So my idea is a banding rating, 3 would be enough to start with:
  • at least minimum wage
  • at least living wage
  • at least 10% above living wage.

Plus a tip policy:
  • no tips
  • tips to server
  • tips distributed to all staff
% of tips retained by business for any reason

This standard info should be in the window and ideally on the menu and the website too. Who do I need to convince to campaign for this?
Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 10:18 pm
My phone photos are automatically backed up to Google+, although I have the default setting as private because I cannot imagine anyone, even my nearest and dearest, wants to see the quantity of photos I take on a daily basis before I filter them. I only ever post less than a twentieth of what I shoot with my dSLR. With phone photos, I'm even more ruthless.

Now and then, I scan through the backups and find that I missed something.

Like Humuhumu at Latitude Festival last Saturday, sitting on a carousel horsie, wearing sunglasses and a perfect Mona Lisa smile. MY HEART

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 04:19 pm
The Three-Body Problem (Three-Body, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin




OK, as usual for a book that's going on my Abandoned shelf, I'm not rating this. I have tried so hard to read it, but I just cannot get into it at all. I don't care about any of the characters, and even were I to start to care, there's so many of them and they appear or disappear entirely at random (or so it feels to me). There's just nothing hooking me into the story.

I am reliably informed that the story is good, and I'm sure it is. But more than a quarter of the way through this book, I'm just getting the feeling life is too short to find out, especially as it ends on a cliffhanger and expects me to rush right out and get the next one.

Sorry.



View all my reviews
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Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 03:30 pm
(I posted this entry to [community profile] flaneurs as part of the Three Weeks for Dreamwidth fest earlier this year. Keiki and I managed to bag 34 out of the 50 London Shauns. As I've now been to Bristol for my first Shaun-hunting expedition of the sculpture exhibition there, which runs until 31 August, I thought I'd better start playing catch-up with my entries!)

Keiki and I went to London in May to hunt sheep on the Shaun in the City sculpture trails. We bagged the two farthest-flung sheep in Canary Wharf and then headed back in to London Bridge to complete the longest of the four trails.


Keiki and me reflected in the face of Shaun the Golden Fleece in Canary Wharf.

+23 )

We ended up completing three of the four London trails by dint of doing two in one day. Sadly that was just before the London portion of the exhibition ended, as we were out of the country for substantial chunks of May. There are 70 Shauns in the Bristol exhibition and thus far we've found 10. I'm hoping we can go down for a weekend next month and do more than one trail at a go!