liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
A while back, I made a post related to weight loss dieting, and in the comments, [livejournal.com profile] shreena asked me why I do believe that politically and scientifically, health at every size and similar approaches are 'better' than weight loss dieting, commenting:
I'm interested in the evidence base on this. I have not looked into it so I don't really have an opinion but I'm interested by the fact that many intelligent knowledgeable friends of mine hold the view that you [...] have expressed but so many health institutions and guidance hold the opposite view (i.e. that health and size are correlated.)
I possibly shouldn't have shoved this in with the December Days prompts, because really I want to put in lots of links to evidence rather than just writing off the cuff as I end up doing when I'm trying to post every day. But equally, I don't want to duplicate the work that lots of other fat acceptance / HAES bloggers have done really comprehensively, so I'm going to try a brief run-down here, and follow up in the new year if this isn't satisfactory.

In order to address this prompt, I am going to talk about weight loss and dieting and also about the medical establishment's attitude to fatness and fat people. My plan is to take this post in a fairly sciencey way, given [livejournal.com profile] shreena asked for the evidence base. I have a political opinion, which is strongly body positive and against medical and other discrimination against fat people. But I'm going to try to be as neutral as I can, and I'm going to entertain various possible interpretations of the evidence that I'm discussing. I'm aiming to present a case to intelligent, open-minded skeptics, basically, and I appreciate that even acknowledging the possibility that fatness may cause bad health is going to be offensive or upsetting to some people.

Further, I'm talking purely about the connections between size and health. I am committed to the view that health is not a moral imperative, so even if I saw enough evidence to completely convince me that it's always healthier for everybody to be as thin as possible, I would still argue that people have the right to choose whether they want to go on weight loss diets or not. But that's not the point of this post, I want to explore the question of whether losing weight actually is beneficial to health.

I should also warn about the comment discussion that might come up. I didn't do so last time I discussed this topic, and some of the comments ended up upsetting some friends – I'm very sorry about that. I generally get a lot of pushback when I talk about this sort of topic, because some of my friends are more politically radical than me, and some are convinced by the orthodoxy about fat and health. I hope everybody will be civil and sensitive about discussing a fraught topic, but I expect a fair range of opinions here. I may also not have time to answer comments, partly because it's about to be Christmas and partly because I'm trying to keep up this daily posting for another couple of weeks, given it's been so satisfying up to now.

wow, that was a lot of disclaimers! )
Does that help? Basically that's where I'm coming from on the issue, scientifically, though my political views do follow on from and extend that. I don't think it's going to be enough to help my brother and his housemate argue against the weight centric approach being applied to care home residents, but it's the best I can manage in an evening.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
[livejournal.com profile] ghoti wanted to hear about a game you like.

babble, but I do answer the question eventually )

[December Days masterpost]
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] angelofthenorth asked me about Art – what do you respond to?

talking about personal history seems to work well in these posts )

[December Days masterpost]
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So I've just lit the first candle, and I have some bhajis cooking, and it's time to answer [personal profile] kass' prompt about chanukah:
Since Chanukah falls during December this year, how about a Chanukah post? Favorite thing about it, least favorite thing about it, favorite interpretation, a Chanukah memory -- whatever sounds like fun.


cute but theologically problematic )

Anyway, happy chanukah if you're celebrating! Does anyone know where I can source (in the UK) Fair Trade chanukah gelt / chocolate coins?

[December Days masterpost]
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
So [personal profile] yoyoangel asked:
what would your eight Desert Island Discs be? (Optionally, also pick a book and a luxury item.)
I'd been meaning to do DID ever since I saw [personal profile] strangecharm's excellent post on the topic, and then I wasn't sure I wanted to do it in December because it's the kind of thing that takes thought to do well. But I'm going to give it a go anyway, it's not going to be as polished as it would be if I hypothetically actually went on the show, but I'll have a go at 8 pieces of music.

my musical tastes are embarrassingly conventional )

[December Days masterpost]
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So most of two years ago [personal profile] kerrypolka asked me about the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and I accidentally wrote five thousand words about the history and politics of Anglo-Jewry instead. So in this regular posting meme round, [personal profile] jack asked me again what the deal is with the Board.

let's have a go )

Anyway both my parents are Deputies, my Dad representing their local community in Cambridge, and my Mum one of a small number of representatives of the Reform movement as a whole. So I am hoping to get them to write a guest post some time cos they can talk more knowledgeably about the Board than I can. But generally I think the Board, for all its flaws, is a pretty excellent thing for the community to be able to support, giving the Jewish community as a whole a voice in politics and the media which is secular and political rather than purely based on religion.

[December Days masterpost]
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] ewt wanted to know your take on poverty in the UK and elsewhere and what, if anything, you think should be done about it (and by whom).

This is the kind of good question that gets to the heart of where I come from politically. I suppose basically I think some amount of poverty or at least economic inequality is inevitable, if people ever have the freedom to make bad decisions at all. I also think a lot of UK and global poverty right now is being deliberately orchestrated, and what I really want is for the governments of rich countries to stop doing that, which I think would improve things a lot before we get to more positive anti-poverty initiatives.

I suspect this may annoy my leftier friends and possibly some fellow right-wingers too )

Feel free to tell me why I'm wrong, I am not hugely emotionally attached to these views so I'm happy for this post to trigger a debate!

[December Days masterpost]
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
[livejournal.com profile] ghoti asked: could you tell us about your favourite places outside the UK?

This is going to be brief, cos it's ended up on a Friday and I never have more than half an hour spare on Fridays. I've been to plenty of beautiful and historic places, but I put a much higher priority on visiting friends than on being a tourist. So I'm most likely to get excited about the home town of someone I love, especially when it's far away enough that I probably wouldn't have the time and energy to go there except to visit them. I think the top two in that category are Melbourne in Australia, and Montréal in Canada.

Neither really has the kind of must-see tourist destinations that the most beautiful old-world cities have, nothing to compare with Paris or Florence or Jerusalem. But they are places I could imagine myself living, not just ticking the sights off my bucket list. They are big cities with plenty going on culturally, but feel much more spacious and less crowded than London or New York. Partly because they're less densely populated in a literal sense, but partly because they have sensible public transport infrastructure and a somewhat European-like café culture, you don't feel like everybody's constantly in a hurry and shoving you out of the way. I love that they're multicultural and don't seem, at least to my visitor's eyes, horribly segregated by race or economics. Both have an amazing range of really good food available.

I mean, the climate is hopeless, Melbourne regularly has summer temperatures above 40°C and Montréal has several months of unbearable humidity and winters that are terrifying even to someone who lived in Sweden. But basically everywhere that isn't the UK has a worse climate than the UK. And I love the mix of new world and imported European flora. Melbourne just smells amazing!

The main reason I love Melbourne is that my very good friend MK lives there, as does my mother's brother, with their respective families. And likewise I love Montréal because [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel lives there, and I have had the most amazing visits with them. And just last year [personal profile] hatam_soferet moved there too so now I love it even more!

[December Days masterpost]
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] ceb asked me, and lots of our mutual friends, What's your favourite museum? It's a really interesting question, because a museum is not the kind of thing most people have a stock favourite, and I've been finding other people's answers really informative.

So anyway, I will consider art galleries separately, because I have a prompt for later on to talk about art. Aside from great art collections well displayed, what I most like in a museum is that it should show me how things work. If I wanted purely factual information, I'd probably rather get it from just reading a book. And I can like collections of physical objects, but they have to be exceptionally curated, just objects with captions ends up feeling like I'm leafing through a catalogue. I mean, I had a soft spot for the old Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford, for precisely the way it was hardly like a museum at all, more like wandering around in the attic of an eccentric hoarder relative. And the new Pitt Rivers is amazing, because it's basically a museum about the kind of awful anthropology museum it used to be, a collection of artefacts, including human remains and sacred objects, that nineteenth century colonialists felt completely entitled to pilfer from anywhere in the world.

But more generally what I like in (non-art) museums is that they have working equipment and explain technology. Needs to be real or realistic replica machines; I don't go to museums to press buttons and watch dated CGI. I especially like the kinds of museums that are built right in the factories or other working places they are about. The north of England is a very good place for museums like that, and we went to some on our honeymoon, near some of the first factories built in the entire world. I also love reconstructed habitations, and I have very fond memories of visiting Sovereign Hill gold mining town near Ballarat in Australia, which demonstrates both how the mining technology worked and how people lived during that era.

If I have to pick just one favourite in this genre, I will go for Verdant works in Dundee. It really does show you clearly how the jute industry worked, including working replica machines (originally used for training engineers IIRC from a visit 10 years ago) which allow you to follow every stage of the process from fibre to fabric. And it explains how people lived in Dundee and the political and economic implications of the jute trade and its decline. I learned there about how a young Churchill was sent to talk down the uppity women's suffragists in a town that had almost total female employment (and almost zero male employment). It's run by enthusiasts, mostly retired people who worked in the jute industry during their working lives, and they're dedicated to detail at the level of scouring Europe for exactly the right kind of early tungsten bulbs so that the illumination would be period-appropriate. I still have my spool of jute thread and my little corner of jute sacking that I watched being made on the machines there, it smells gorgeous, but it's mainly something I just love as a souvenir of my time in Dundee.

So, many thanks for asking an excellent question, [personal profile] ceb!

[December Days masterpost]
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
It's Nobel day! And [personal profile] vatine very aptly asked for your thoughts on the Nobel prizes. In short I think the whole concept of them is really cool, even if I don't always love the exact decisions made.

yay science )
ETA: I hadn't seen it at the time of posting, but apart from Malala being awesome, the highlight of this year was May-Britt Moser's amazing neuron dress. Neuron dress! I am in love.

[December Days masterpost]
liv: Detail of quirky animals including a sheep, from an illuminated border (marriage)
I generally disapprove of pictures of text on the internet, so let me take the opportunity to write out what our contract actually says, while I'm talking about it.

relationship stuff )
liv: Detail of quirky animals including a sheep, from an illuminated border (marriage)
[personal profile] bugshaw asked for Colours you saw that day, and when I put the calendar together I accidentally put her prompt on a day when I'm working from home, then travelling back to Stoke probably after it gets dark. So I don't have many opportunities to go out and find interesting colours. I will talk about the colours in our home instead.

domestic )

[December Days masterpost]
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
[personal profile] falena gave me a very thinky prompt of:
Work/family/social life balance? You seem to be doing it right, despite all geographical limitations and full-time work.
Honestly, I'm not sure I do get it right, but let me try and talk about this a bit.

work is part of life )

I hope that isn't depressing, [personal profile] falena! To give an example, and because I'm doing daily posting and therefore not having much time for typical journalling, last weekend [personal profile] jack's parents visited, and I spent some of the time hanging out with them and some of it working on the lecture that needed to be done by Monday. And managed to fit in playing board games and drinking tea with [personal profile] cjwatson and [livejournal.com profile] ghoti and their children for a couple of hours. And this weekend I've spent quite a lot of the mornings asleep, and managed more gaming with [personal profile] cjwatson and [livejournal.com profile] ghoti and family, and dinner with [personal profile] ceb and IWJ one evening and with H WINODW another. And I've been working from home today, which meant I had time for lunch with [personal profile] cjwatson and time for a longish tea-break writing this post, and tonight I'm going for dinner with [livejournal.com profile] ghoti. At the same time I worked late several evenings last week because immediate student welfare crises came up when I didn't have any slack in my schedule to deal with them. And it's nearly chanukah which is needing a bit of organizing, on top of my normal Friday night services and Hebrew teaching, so that's taken up a lot of the remaining evenings.

I really admire people who manage to balance serious caring responsibilities plus a full-time job, or have a work-life balance in spite of chronic illness or disability which may well be hard to plan for and schedule round. But from my relatively comfortable and easy position, this is about how I manage, or don't.

[December Days masterpost]
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
[personal profile] angelofthenorth asked for Music - that make you think of people

play on )

Anyway, rather than embedding individual YouTube links, I've put most of these on Grooveshark. I think I've checked most of those that they are the original versions of the song in question and play correctly, but Grooveshark is always a bit random.

[December Days masterpost]
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[livejournal.com profile] ghoti requested: I'm talking about family traditions, could you do that too?

So one thing my family do, more rarely nowadays, but on occasions when we're all together for Friday night meals, is we do a full sung grace after meals. Which is to say, about six pages, some chanted but mostly singing, with call-and-response and multi-part harmony and gestures and sound-effects and drumming on the table. We learned this initially at Hengrave and expanded on it at youth camp. And you understand that absolutely nobody in my family of origin can carry a tune, don't imagine some cute pious tableau of everybody sitting round the table singing religious songs, it's much more about raucous cacophony.

And there's puns and sarcastic asides and arguments about some of the theology and gender politics, which have themselves almost become part of the ritual. Like, everybody points at me at a tower of salvation to God's own king because malco is similar to the playground insult mal-co[ordinated]. We argue whether in the sight of God and mankind is sexist, or rather, whether adam means 'human being' or the personal name Adam, which should then according to egal traditions be replaced with 'Adam and Eve'. (I'm on the side of the argument that is actually grammatically correct, if anyone feels tempted to chip in at this point.) Or whether we should include the traditional quote from the Psalm I have been a youth and now I am old, and I have never seen the righteous in want, nor their offspring begging for bread, or whether R' Gryn (of blessed memory)'s replacement prayer is ableist because of May we not be blind to the needs of others, nor deaf to their cry for food.

Another thing we do that's special to my family is, at the Passover seder meal, we always tell my great uncle's joke, it's almost become part of the ritual. The joke is that a Jewish man is going to be knighted for his achievements, and he is taught a Latin tag that he's supposed to recite when he's presented to the Queen. But at the crucial moment, his mind goes blank, so he says the first foreign thing that comes into his head, the opening to the Four Questions traditionally recited by the youngest child at a Passover seder: Mah nishtanah halayla hazeh mikol haleylot. And the Queen turns to Prince Philip and says, "Why is this knight different from all other knights?" (a homophone for the ritual question, why is this night [of Passover] different from all other nights?) I knew [personal profile] jack was going to fit in to my family when he took on telling this joke one year. [personal profile] jack tells it really well, actually, he makes the experience of the confused Jewish knight-to-be really vivid.

It's strange to tackle this prompt, actually. I'm not sure there's a lot we do that isn't fairly typical for English Reform Jews, but equally that's a fairly small and not well known culture, so maybe I should talk about things that I think of as 'normal' but would seem surprising to other people. But anyway, here's a couple of examples to be going on with.

[December Days masterpost]
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
[personal profile] cjwatson gave the really thinky prompt:
"Homes": you have active roots in several quite geographically separate places, not only in terms of where you actually spend your time, but also communities you feel attached to. How does this affect your concept of home?

wherever I lay my hat )

[December Days masterpost]
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] wildeabandon asked: What are three non-dreamwidth blogs that you'd recommend?. The answer I gave [personal profile] zhelana when she asked me a similar question last year mostly still holds, though Pervocracy hasn't updated for yonks.

Lately I'm reading more blogs about various aspects of psychology and relationships. So one I'd recommend is Book of Jubilation. Coburn is one of the really amazing and insightful commenters on Captain Awkward, so when I found she had a blog where she explains things in long form, I was very keen indeed to follow it!

I also really like Rewriting the rules; Barker is just amazingly thoughtful about gender and sexuality and relationships, and I don't agree with them all the time but I really appreciate their measured, scholarly approach, their willingness to learn and change their ideas, while at the same time they just doggedly and gently push back about bad media stereotypes.

Along completely different lines, I thoroughly recommend harm·less drudg·ery. Stamper is an (American) lexicographer, and sometimes hilarious but more often just a bit bittersweet, and really passionately committed to communicating how dictionaries really work and how that's different from how internet rhetoricians try to treat them. She updates far more rarely than I'd like, but I'm always excited to see a new post from her. And her latest post on racial slurs in the dictionary is a stonker, though as is probably fairly obvious from context contains a number of examples of, well, racial slurs and discussion of the racist context in which such slurs exist.

Anyway, this is a short post, so let me take the time to say, I'm really really enjoying that so many people are doing some form of the December posting meme. I know it'll probably tail off as we run into obstacles; I'd be surprised myself if I actually manage to post every day this month. But the past few days of a high proportion of my reading list posting every day has been an amazing experience. The commitment to posting every day is really great because it encourages people (very much including me!) to post short, casual things rather than waiting until we have a polished Proper Blog Post.

I'm also really appreciating the ways people have come up with variations on the original daily meme, so that they're posting more often than they otherwise would, but at a level that's manageable. The filling prompts thing is really fascinating, too, because people are talking about stuff they wouldn't necessarily blog about in regular months. Another element I really like is the way some people have a stock question they've asked of several different friends, so different approaches to the question are coming up and it's all interesting and layered. It's true that having the general activity levels here (and on LJ) so much higher than usual can mean it doesn't feel like there's enough time to comment. I am trying to say something about all your really interesting DD posts, though!

If you are still seeking prompts, either if you didn't fill the whole month and want some additional ones, or if I didn't manage to get to your original prompt post and suggest something, please drop a link in the comments and I'll do another round of asking questions.

[December Days masterpost]
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
So far I seem to be giving out food related prompts. (I like talking about food, I guess.) So a favorite food memory?

[personal profile] forestofglory said:
So far I seem to be giving out food related prompts. (I like talking about food, I guess.) So a favorite food memory?

timing is everything )

[December Days masterpost]
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
[personal profile] watersword asked about Cambridge-the-town. Basically I've considered myself "from" Cambridge from 1987 to today, though I've only actually lived there full time from 1995 to 1997. And I have only indirect connections with Cambridge-the-institution, I mean, quite a lot of indirect connections – just about everybody I've seriously dated (apart from [livejournal.com profile] darcydodo) has been a Cambridge graduate – but I've basically spent my whole life clarifying, Cambridge-the-town, not Cambridge University.

but men from Shelford and those parts / have twisted lips and twisted hearts )

[December Days masterpost]
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So [personal profile] jack asked for Moar awesome Talmud stories. And in January I started my daily posting by talking about midrash, so it seems nice to carry on from there. It does feel very strange to be posting anything from the Talmud without looking it up, let alone giving a proper daf reference, but anyway. It turns out that I haven't actually posted the story of the highwayman who fell in love with the rabbi here, but since this topic was [personal profile] jack's request and he's definitely heard that story, let me try something else.

The tale of Mr and Mrs Ookba )

[December Days masterpost. Still a couple of slots free!]

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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