Sunday, June 26th, 2016 12:19 pm
... can somebody explain the Scottish education system to me? Like, what are the landmark exams? How would it affect a theoretical 13 yr old hypothetically moving from England? Currently, when she goes back to school in September, she'll be starting her 3 year GCSE courses, this totally hypothetical 13 yer old, if that helps...
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Saturday, June 25th, 2016 01:41 am
The Brexit news is wretched and I can't pay too much attention to it or I fall into this sort of stupor of grief. Fortunately we had a lot to distract us today: our first-ever car trip as a family, the minimum-three-hour drive to visit J's mother upstate.

Prior to this, the longest drive I'd ever done was the two hours between Boston and New Haven for last year's Readercon travel Rube Goldberg machine. And my arms have been very cranky, as noted elsewhere, and my knees have been a little cranky, as I think I haven't even bothered noting because there's so much other stuff going on; highway driving is fine for my knees but stop-and-go is awful, and anytime we drive out of NYC there's going to be stop-and-go unless we leave in the middle of the night, which we can't do because baby. And X has their learner's permit but their driving test isn't until next week, so they can't spell me as the driver when we're renting a car. So we were all concerned about how that was going to go. I had a tiny little additional anx over never having rented a Zipcar before, but at least I'd seen other people do it and basically understood the process.

Kit does great in cab rides but has never been in a car for more than an hour. They've also never slept overnight anywhere other than our house (not counting the hospital where they were born). So we had no idea what or how much to pack, and had no idea how often we'd need to stop, and had no idea whether Kit would abruptly run out of "happy to be in the car" before we reached our destination. Plus I was nervous about the responsibility of being the driver with the baby in the car.

Given all of that, it's a wonder we only all snapped and griped at each other a few times over the course of getting ready and getting on the road. And then it went totally fine. We planned the fuck out of it, and 98% of the plan worked, and the 2% that didn't (Kit's folding crib not fitting in the rental car trunk; me packing all the burp cloths in a duffel that we put in the trunk) were things we had a backup plan for (I remembered that you can see a Babies R Us sign from I-87 in the Bronx--I've gone by it a million times in Chinatown buses--so we stopped there and bought a super compact folding crib/playpen that juuuuust fit in the back with the rest of our stuff) or coped with well on the fly (X noticed the lack of burp cloths and grabbed a few more before we left the house). My knee was kind of murderous after the two hours of stop-and-go traffic that got us to the Bronx, but traffic was much lighter the rest of the way and it recovered quickly. X was a superb navigator and deejay in the front seat while J entertained the baby in the back seat. Kit slept, ate, complacently tolerated being changed in the Babies R Us bathroom, slept, ate, complacently tolerated being briefly extricated from the car seat at a rest area where I stopped to eat a sandwich and have J jab the pressure points in my shoulders, and then cheerfully babbled and watched the sun-dapple through the trees for the last 45 minutes of the drive while J sang them silly songs and cracked us all up. We started the trip grumpy and anxious, but I think we all ended it feeling much more relaxed and content.

After nearly five hours of travel, we arrived at Glory's house, where she was standing out front waiting for us so as not to miss a single minute of her grandchild. We set up Kit's folding chair right in the driveway and plunked them in it, and they looked around wide-eyed at their ecstatic grandmother and all the glorious trees and then gave us a huge beaming smile. I have never felt so good about my life choices as I did in that moment. All the stress, all the fretting, all the physical discomfort was 100% worth it to see my baby smile like that.

While I iced my arms and knee (which all felt pretty good, but why take chances), J and X unloaded the car and Glory doted on the baby. J brought all the heavy bags in and then swung right into cooking dinner while X took point on feeding Kit, which was a bit of a challenge as we were sitting on the porch and they kept getting distracted by all the trees. So many trees! All moving constantly with wonderful breezes that smell so delicious! Kit happily sat on Glory's lap, happily let X take them inside and finish feeding them away from the distractions, happily had their diaper changed and put on pajamas, and happily lay down in their new crib (on their familiar mattress, with familiar music playing and a fan for white noise--we wanted to take as few chances with sleep as possible). More than an hour after their usual bedtime, they were still wide awake. But we all said goodnight and turned the lights down and left them to settle, and after a few minutes of babbling quietly--to themself? to the house spirits? who knows? it's not a thing they usually do--they conked right out. That was four and a half hours ago and they haven't woken yet.

Friends, I don't know what we did in a past life to deserve this baby. I think we were a trio of saints.

I'm already trying to figure out how often we can come up here. A five-hour drive is no picnic, even once X can split it with me; we all took today off to make it happen. I can't imagine doing the trip on a two-day weekend. Even a three-day weekend is pushing it. But Kit is so happy here. My little elfling. :) At the very least we should take more walks in Prospect Park. Trees! Trees are the best.

I'm so glad we have this trip as a trial run before going to Readercon in two weeks. By the end of the weekend we'll have a much better idea of what we need to bring with us and what's overkill. We'll know what to pack where we can reach it during the trip and what can go in the trunk. (I'm still embarrassed about the burp cloths.) We'll know the car; we've already reserved the same one for the Readercon trip. (I'm not sure I'd rent it a third time, but it's good enough that familiarity trumps wanting a car where the gas pedal is not set so much further forward than the brake pedal that it's literally impossible for me to find a comfortable seat position.) We'll know which of our travel gear works and is useful, instead of just having to hope. (Static cling car window shades: amazing. The thing that goes under the car seat and protects the upholstery: probably not necessary until Kit's old enough to be dropping Cheerios everywhere.) We'll know how often we need to stop and take breaks. We'll know that my "quiet and mellow" playlist is something the baby can sleep through--though frankly I wouldn't be surprised if Kit slept through Darude's "Sandstorm", Hamilton, or Beethoven's Fifth--but not so mellow that it puts me to sleep while I'm driving. We'll know that our baby is an amazing travel baby. And we'll know that we're a pretty amazing travel family: we may be a little irritable as we're getting on the road, but we can recover from that and go on to have a decent trip and a good time at our destination. Plus there should be a lot less irritability on the next trip, now that we have any idea what we're doing.

I didn't mean to type so much; I should go do my OT exercises, ice my arms a bit more, and get some sleep. I'm just so glad that at least in our tiny little corner of the world, everything went okay today. I needed that.
Friday, June 24th, 2016 02:06 pm
The electorate were misled. Don't get angry at them; persuade them to get angry at the lying arseholes that sold them this crock of shit and told them it was shinola.

The shittiness of the crock of shit is already becoming apparent, but there's no use screaming I told you so at people who already feel crap because they were duped. Telling people they were wrong when they know they were wrong only leads to them doubling down and blaming immigrants, "benefit scroungers", women and LGBT+ folk even harder.

Don't tell them they were wrong, tell them they were tricked. Tricked by the same Bullingdon Boys they thought they were sticking two fingers up to. And then tell them what they can do about it, if they want to.

Show them that there are some politicians who will tell them the truth.
Show them that there is a better way.
Show them liberalism.
Friday, June 24th, 2016 12:38 pm

Posted by Alix

The future of Nigel Farage’s political career may not be anyone’s idea of happy lunch time puzzler today. Actually it feels like I’ve been up eating shit sandwiches all night and am now voluntarily washing it down with a paper cup of cold sick. This all feels too big, too serious, just too damn awful to talk party political alignments yet – though frankly it’s the kind of parochial response to momentous international developments that we should probably get used to.

And yet, I can’t help wondering. His apotheosis today could herald the start of a truly sinister phase of his political career (when someone hails a political development as occurring “without a single bullet being fired” you have to wonder about their personal Overton Window. Quite apart from the fact that it is, ahem, not strictly proven to be true.) Or this could all be looked at from the opposite perspective. What else is there left for him to do? This is his big issue, and it’s over. Without the cover of all the (to a certain cast of mind) noble-sounding sovereignty and bureaucracy business, he might just start sounding like the nasty piece of work he probably is. Though by analogy with Trump we may well have decreasing confidence that this would signify loss of support.

But what really is going to happen now, from UKIP’s perspective? Most likely, the same thing that happens to every political force that enjoys success: disillusionment. The only way is down, and nothing makes them special. The European divorce will be technical, protracted and difficult, and generally a complete waste of everyone’s time, but under no circumstances is it going to be the stuff of a movie poster. I can see already Remainers crowing about Farage’s admission that the £350 million a week going to the NHS promise was a lie, as if this is going to make his supporters crush their heads into their hands and howl “What have I done?” Of course they won’t, they never really cared about all that in the first place – it was a figleaf “political-sounding” argument and it was understood as such by both those who proffered it and those who used it.

They cared about how Farage and his fellow travellers made them feel about themselves and their lives, and this is far more likely to be the area in which disillusionment sets in. There aren’t going to be square-jawed heroes with pints and union jacks around the negotiating table, there are going to be the same competent, faceless, subtly-minded people who have probably dealt with Brussels all along anyway. No-one is suddenly going to find their town transformed into Camberwick Green, or that all those inconvenient immigrants have disappeared, or that council houses are given out with free ponies, or that hated bosses, jobs and frustrating life circumstances are magically improved. In general, none of these people are going to find that the universe starts handing out validation lollipops in the way that they were implicitly promised would be the case. Given the economic circumstances their decisions have set in train, probably quite the opposite. It was all magical thinking in the first place.

In case you think I’m saying the potential slide of UKIP is a good thing, it’s actually very dangerous, with or without Farage. Once you’ve stoked people up with emotion, you’re both extremely committed to delivering, and you’ve conditioned them to be open to emotion. Certainly some of the Leave camp evidently think Farage and everything he represents can just be put back in its box, and, well, they may or may not be right. This is what Tim Montgomerie said this morning, and this is what the usually-correct @miss_s_b said in reply:

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The trouble with “necessary evils” in politics (and I’ve thought this since 1997) is that it sets off a chain reaction. Everyone’s designated “necessary evil” embraces, at some point, another necessary evil of their own choosing. This means that whenever (as often happens) we are called on to choose between the lesser of two evils, we find that the choice is worse, and worse, and worse, each time. I can already see it happening today that the right wing of the Tory party are now positioning themselves as the appealing, moderate choice compared to the other shady chancers potentially on offer. And just like all the other briefly successful triangulating political operatives since Blair, they really think they can stop it there.


Friday, June 24th, 2016 11:00 am
Friday, June 24th, 2016 09:46 am
Westminster flags lowered for Jo Cox

I took this photo last week, after MP Jo Cox was assassinated. I want to make it very clear, for what I hope are obvious reasons this morning, that this photo is about her death.

In the hope that others could also use the distraction of an Unscientific Poll:

Poll #17530 Telecon Unmute Bingo
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 20


Whilst on a work-related telecon, I have heard the following “participant unintentionally unmuted” actions

View Answers

sneezing
15 (83.3%)

coughing
14 (77.8%)

burping
5 (27.8%)

farting
4 (22.2%)

swearing
9 (50.0%)

typing
14 (77.8%)

boiling a kettle
5 (27.8%)

attempting to dial another number
5 (27.8%)

conducting a separate phone call on a different device
11 (61.1%)

deriding the person currently speaking
6 (33.3%)

deriding the chairperson
2 (11.1%)

flushing the toilet
1 (5.6%)

I can escalate this:

Friday, June 24th, 2016 09:10 am
.. I think.

"5. Only those Party Members and Scottish Party Members who were members of the Party from the time of the call for nominations by the Chairman of the 1922 Committee for the election of the Leader and have been members for at least three months immediately prior to the close of the ballot for the election of the Leader shall be entitled to vote."

The 1922 Committee has not yet called for nominations, and the close of ballot will be over three months away.
Friday, June 24th, 2016 06:25 am
At least I managed to sleep.

And now on with the daily routine, because work, school and nursery haven't stopped.
Friday, June 24th, 2016 06:18 am
So the pound is in freefall, and the markets haven't even opened yet.
The Nikkei and the Nasdaq have both suspended trading.
We've embraced xenophobia and nationalism.
We've given Nigel fucking Farage what he wanted.

How do I explain this to my daughter?
How do I forgive my mum for voting leave?
Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 08:04 pm
I did absolutely nothing for the local elections last month, apart from go and vote. 

A couple of weeks ago I decided to volunteer a very limited amount of time for today's referendum (for my local LibDems, who are campaigning for Remain) and took the day off work, as part of my ongoing "burn leave to keep effectively working part-time" plan.  So I have done two shifts of telling today: the first was in muggy but dry weather; the second was in pouring rain, including a very nearby lightning strike at which I screamed rather embarrassingly.

I am now back in bed and would rather like to sleep from now until the result is clear tomorrow.  At best tomorrow I will feel a faint sense of relief rather than anything actually positive about the whole exercise, and at worst I will feel extremely worried and miserable.  (And then I'll pick myself up and carry on because I still have Stuff To Get Done no matter what happens.)


Today's bird: Coot



Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 03:24 pm
Yes, they use indelible pencils in polling booths.
Yes, these are better than pens because they don't run out and are harder to chemically erase.
Yes, it's very funny that there's a bunch of tinfoil-hat-wearing people who don't realise either of the above facts.
Yes, it would be easily testable by taking in your own eraser and trying it for yourself in the polling booth, and yes, there are far easier ways to alter a ballot than erasing the mark placed there by the voter (putting another mark to spoil the ballot, for example).

However...

Doesn't it say something about how low trust in our democratic processes has got when there are so many people willing to buy into this?

That makes me sad.

Anyway, go vote Remain. I have. You know it makes sense.
Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 11:00 am
Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 10:58 am
Voting in the Referendum

For the avoidance of doubt, I'm for RemaIN.

And here is a short linkspam, [personal profile] silveradept-style on staying in the EU.

Ben Goldacre on why Brexit is not a good choice.
Chart showing UK tax spending allocations. We spend less on the EU than on overseas aid.
Jobs, export and trade. Free movement. Freedom to live and work in Europe. Access to the single market. Access to EU research fund. Oh, and peace. Me, I'm particularly keen on peace, considering that the history of Europe contains an awful lot of war.
Lettuce Romaine.
ETA: No such thing as a Brusselo.
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 10:00 pm
I went to see a new occupational therapist today. She instructed me to look at everything I use my arms for and figure out how to do it more ergonomically. If I'm not sure how to make improvements, I can have someone take photos of me and she'll help me troubleshoot.

* Using my laptop. I just bought a very clever folding standing desk that hooks over a door, which means I can use it in my bedroom where there's a/c but no room for a desk or table, and will set it up with my laptop and ergonomic keyboard; hopefully that will help. Nothing to be done about using the laptop when I'm out and about, unless I want to spend another $300 on a ZestDesk. (There are much cheaper folding standing desks, such as the $25 Oristand, but they're hard to tote around.) I'm also going to try OS X's built-in voice recognition; it doesn't work for InCopy, but it's good for social media. I am, in fact, dictating this sentence right now. The selection commands don't seem to work very well within this Chrome window, but I'm impressed by the speed of it and how well it understands my commands when I'm speaking at a normal rate.

* Using my phone. Holding it is hard and swiping on it is hard. I don't know what to do about this. Just use it less, I guess. I should definitely use the voice recognition more, since it's surprisingly good.

* Folding laundry. Ergonomically it's okay, I think; I stand at a table that's a good height. It's just a strain.

* Reading books. I downloaded Moon+ Reader, an Android e-book app with pretty decent auto-scroll functions; it can do continuous scroll on epubs, and for PDFs it'll do this wacky thing where it starts unrolling the next page at the top of the screen while you're reading the bottom half of the current one. If I can prop up my tablet and auto-scroll a book, that gives me something to do while putting ice on my arms, and is generally easier on me than holding a physical book. I've been using auto-scroll in Chrome to read books on Gutenberg and it works really well.

* Driving. The OT recommended changing hand positions frequently, doing upper back stretches (bringing my shoulder blades together) while driving, and taking breaks to rest and shake out my arms and shoulders. I also plan to bring our giant ice packs in an insulated bag. They won't be frozen solid by the time we stop for a break, but any cold is better than nothing.

* Picking up the baby. The OT suggested scooping from the side (one arm supporting the baby's head, the other supporting the bum), which uses my upper arms, rather than lifting under the armpits, which uses my forearms.

* Pushing a stroller. Hard to change the ergonomics of that, but we just bought a lovely shiny 10-pound Maclaren Volo that will be much easier to push and lift than our splendidly feature-rich but heavy Graco Modes; the Volo even has a carrying strap to use when it's folded up. We also got an Ergobaby 360 carrier that's better ergonomically for both us and the baby than the Baby Bjorn. X would rather push a stroller than use the carrier, especially in the summer, so they'll bring the baby to daycare in the Volo, and I'll pick them up with the 360 and either push the Volo home empty or fold it and carry it with the strap.

What the hell else do I even do with my hands these days? X and J have been taking over a lot of my chores so I can rest and recover. And I already know not to stir a pot or chop vegetables or carry grocery bags by hand. I suppose this is enough to change, anyway. Just another way that I'm shaking up my life. Might as well do it all at once. (I am very glum today, but that always happens on my first day of physical therapy or equivalent; it brings up a lot of miserable feelings about how long I've been in pain and how hard it is to believe that I'll ever really get better. I'll be okay once I've had a chance to get some rest.)
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 02:22 pm
HRH Telstar
HRH Telstar presiding over the picnic table.
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 12:42 am
I'm glad to be speaking at the Third Annual Fat Activism Conference. This is an online conference, so you can listen from wherever you are by phone or computer. The conference will take place September 23–25, 2016 and features a diverse group of speakers and topics.

The 48-hour Rush Registration has now launched. If you register before 12:01 Pacific Time on June 24th you'll get the lowest registration rates, and special bonuses. Check it out at http://www.facregister.com/?ap_id=firecat (that's my affiliate link) or http://fatactivismconference.com. All the registration options, including Pay-What-You-Can-Afford, are detailed on the registration page.
Tuesday, June 21st, 2016 01:39 pm
Someone just wrote to me asking for advice on getting started building a dapper wardrobe, and of course I have LOTS of advice. I figured I'd share it here too.

Style inspiration: I love looking at portraits of the original dapper dandy, Beau Brummel, and his fellow Regency-era men. A quick Google search for "Regency men's clothing" will give you a ton. If you like more flamboyant styles, researching the fops and fribbles who predated him is also a lot of fun. In the modern era, try looking up drag kings, who have fabulous style and do interesting things with the basics of menswear. Or flip through the catalogs/websites of high-end butchwear companies even though you can't afford anything they make.

Buying clothes: EBAY EBAY EBAY. I'm a boy's size 16/18 in shirts, and it turns out there are a lot of teen boys who wear very nice shirts once and outgrow them, and then their parents put them (the shirts, not the boys) up on Ebay for pennies. The best thing is that many of them are posted with measurements as well as size numbers. Buy a few different brands and see what fits. You can also go to a big department store and try on things from the boys section. Men's trousers are more difficult to find unless you're skinny all the way down; I have a small waist and a big butt, and I do pretty well with Old Navy men's jeans as long as they're a tapered fit. Don't shy away from fitted clothing. Baggy pants won't hide your shape--they'll just make you look shlumpy, and you won't feel good about yourself, which hampers the self-confident attitude that's the true hallmark of the dandy.

In one word, I teach you the secret of success in dapperness: ACCESSORIZE.

The most obvious accessory is the tie. If you have a short torso, regular men's ties will be much too long for you, so get pre-tied clip-on or zip-up ties for kids (very easy to find on Ebay in a wide range of colors and sizes) or wear bow ties. You can also try bolo or string ties if that's your style. I like wearing a vertical pin on my shirt placket to give the suggestion of a tie without the formality of one.

My favorite way to dress up a button-up shirt is with a vest; it can be hard to find one that fits if your chest is big, but a little subtle tailoring can turn a blocky square vest into something smooth and glorious that also hides your waistline a bit. Sweater vests stretch to accommodate your shape and are great for autumn. In the winter, wear suit jackets. In the summer, wear a white cotton undershirt (I like Hanes men's small) to soak up sweat and keep your thin cotton shirt from wrinkling or going transparent. Use shirt stays--they're like suspenders that attach your shirt to the top of your socks and keep it tucked in and smooth. A neatly folded pocket square or a pair of suspenders can also do wonders, though I find that I have to wear a binder (gc2b is an excellent brand) if I want suspenders to lie properly on my chest.

And hats! Hats are great! My preferred hat shop is Goorin Bros. even though they inexplicably started dividing their collection into "men's" and "women's"; ignore those artificial distinctions and get yourself a fedora (we can reclaim them from the whiny bros) or a flat cap. If you have long hair, either tuck it up into a hat or wear your hair in whatever long style is associated with men of your race/culture (single ponytail, single long braid, tidy dreads, loose and all one length--there are a surprising number of options even if you don't think of there being long hair styles for men), with or without a hat.

Get shoes from Tomboy Toes, or from Payless, which has some decent men's shoes in very small sizes for very cheap. My first pair of shiny captoes in size 5.5 came from Payless and cost something like $20. I still have them and love them, even though the soles have cracked.

Pay attention to detail. If you're wearing a jacket, shoot your cuffs. Shine your shoes. Wear silk socks and boxer briefs, even if no one but you will know. Iron your handkerchief. Wear earrings that match your cuff links. Wear men's shirts rather than masculine-styled women's shirts so that the buttons are on the correct side, and never ever wear a men's shirt with a women's jacket or vice versa. The little touches that pull an outfit together are really what give the impression of dandyness.
Tuesday, June 21st, 2016 11:00 am
Monday, June 20th, 2016 10:25 pm
Sun Luen Snack Bar, Little Newport Street, London WC2

Hullo RGLers!

This week's featured article is for Sun Luen Snack Bar in Chinatown, which sounds like a nice quiet place for a breather (and an egg tart) in the centre of town.

A bunch of new articles have appeared! There's a branch of the Franco Manca pizza chain in Wimbledon; long-established dining spot Joanna's in Crystal Palace; the organisationally-challenged Tartine Artisan cafe, and Lebanese restaurant Meza, both in Tooting Broadway. The Bond Street branch of Rasa has had an update following a visit, by me! Spoiler: it's still great, and you should all go.

Lastly, after what seems like aeons, the Waterloo Tap is finally open, and ready to sell you some craft beer.