GIP

May. 20th, 2016 05:45 pm
liv: Cartoon of a smiling woman with a long plait, teaching about p53 (teacher)
Remember when we used to make posts to show off new icons? Well, I have the most adorable students ever: for an end-of-term present they made me a custom mug with a little cartoon of me teaching the class about p53. I asked the artist if I could use the cartoon as a profile pic, so here it is. (Click through to DW to see both the icon and the full-sized version.)

I am so very endeared by this. In fact, I squee'd so much when I saw it that my students declared me adorable, which I'm not sure is how it's supposed to work. But hey, I like 'adorable' better than 'intimidating'. (They've also given me a 100% positive evaluation this term, which is going to be very nice evidence to present at my appraisal next week.)

Full size original behind the cut - I think maybe it wants cropping a bit closer so it's just the picture of me, as you can't see the detail of the molecule or my speech bubble. I do love that my characteristic comment is "coolness", which I totally picked up from [personal profile] lethargic_man.

pic of Liv teaching all about p53 )

Milestones

May. 9th, 2016 07:07 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
The quad is mostly non-escalator relationships, though it does contain two married couples who live together and in my OSOs' case have children. It's more like, as we spend more time together we have more shared experiences and more closeness. And we've just noticed that it's a year and a half since we got together, and there are some small new things to report.

diary stuff )

Meanwhile I'm handling a potentially career-threatening crisis at work in the middle of my busiest month of teaching, which is why I'm not very present online or in one-to-one communications lately. Definitely getting to spend time with my loves and put work stress out of my mind at weekends has been helping a lot in coping with this. But I'm hoping to be more in communication soon.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: Lots of really great stuff on my reading lists currently. I recommend:


Currently reading: Still Ghost spin, by Chris Moriarty. It was a bit slow to start in a way but it's picking up and is doing lots of cool stuff with the same character in multiple timelines.

Up next: The next thing on my extremely slow reading challenge list is A book with a color in the title. I've just sent most of my to-read books back to my real house with [personal profile] jack, so I can't look through them and see if anything qualifies. [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel gave me Burning days by Glenn Grant as a belated birthday present, so that's a likely choice. Or maybe some of the genuine Hugo nominees; I've been meaning to pick up Uprooted by Naomi Novik for a while.

B'seder

Apr. 26th, 2016 11:49 am
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
Yes, obvious pun, sorry. Anyway, the point is that I was really stressed about the beginning of Pesach and actually it was totally fine.

seder reports are a bit of a tradition by now )

And at the end of the week I get to run a seder for my partners and their children. I was sort of hoping parents would join us if not invite the whole crowd of five extra people to their seder, but it's really not practically feasible this year. They are being really supportive with lots of advice, though, so I feel loved and accepted. I am trying not to get into a mindset of being excessively nervous because I want my loves' first ever seder to be perfect. We've been having lots of good conversations about doing the seder in an appropriately interfaith way.

If you've ever been a non-Jewish guest at a seder, please do comment with what sorts of things were helpful and welcoming, or what was confusing and alienating. I'm happy to hear suggestions from Jewish friends too, of course, but I'd particularly like to know about people's direct experiences.
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
In summary, I had a really excellent weekend followed by quite a major come-down when I had to come back to campus and leave my people behind. This is becoming a bit more of a pattern than I'd really like. Also, Passover starts on Friday and I'm involved in three seders and three households worth of cleaning and I'm a bit snowed under.

yay friends, boo geography )

I have a big backlog of stuff I want to post about, but I'm scrabbling for time, so let's start with just a bit of babbling about what's going on in my life.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
So I'm pretty intensely pro trigger warnings. I generally agree with people like [personal profile] jimhines: that it's nonsense to consider TWs as censorship. Most of the arguments I've seen against TWs are like Stephen Fry's nonsense (which started this round of the debate), people who feel that the highest moral principle at stake is their so-called free speech right to bully people who are already getting crapped on by society.

more discussion of the TWs question, with some abstract mentions of the sorts of things that may need TWs )

But that's why I'm a lot more concerned about students getting too little support than too much, anyway.
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
Things that are awesome:

  • It's spring, and we used our barbecue set and our garden to have a spontaneous BBQ just because. And before it we played in the park with OSOs and kids and after it [livejournal.com profile] ghoti stayed over so we actually got some time together and I feel so very loved.
  • [livejournal.com profile] ghoti made an entire multi-course fancy dinner out of chocolate, and it was even more amazing than it sounds from that description.
  • Cascade aka the animation from the end of Homestuck Act 5. I mean, it will probably make little sense and / or be spoilery if you haven't read Homestuck up to the appropriate point, but it's mindblowing.
  • [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel triumphed over geography and we managed a whole week together. And no, we did not spend all of it watching Homestuck.


Things that are decidedly not awesome: My cooker decided to die completely near the beginning of [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel's visit. Fixing it is probably going to be both expensive and a hassle, and meanwhile I can only cook at all with a microwave, which is really irritating. Besides, I shall probably have to throw out most of the groceries I acquired for feeding to [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel.

Also there is too much geography and too little time, and I want to see more of my people but can't see my way to sort out any of the relevant logistics.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
Lots of people don't believe in ethical capitalism, for various reasons. Maybe they think capitalism is inherently unethical as a system and if you participate in it at all you're tainted. Or they think that consumer choices don't really have important ethical consequences. Or they think it's unfair that the extra costs of ethical business practices should be borne by the consumer, meaning that buying ethically becomes a kind of luxury. Or they are Effective Altruists who hold that that the good that can be done by buying the cheapest possible goods and spending the difference on efficient charities that cure childhood illnesses in the developing world outweighs the harm done by increasing the profit of companies that exploit their workers. And all of those criticisms have some merit, but I'm still an idealistic capitalist at heart, so I still worry about these issues.

One place where it's particularly acute is electronics. I am not the kind of ascetic who could live without a smartphone, and I worry a lot about the resource and labour implications of buying the things frequently. But right now my trusty three-year-old Galaxy Note II is on its way to becoming unusable as its battery won't hold charge any more. I am reluctant to replace it with a new shiny phone, though it may come down to that because as mentioned I am not prepared to live without my mobile phone, and if I can only use it when plugged in then I basically don't have a mobile phone any more.

So, I would like some advice:
sorting through options )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Reasons for watching it: It sounded cute and [personal profile] jack and Judith wanted to see it.

Circumstances of watching it: [livejournal.com profile] ghoti was super organized and managed to book tickets for all of us to see a popular new release on bank holiday Monday when every family in Cambridge wanted to go to the cinema. Which meant I got to sit next to Judith and she could cling onto me during the scary bits. That was somewhat of a novelty, up to now she's never really come to me for comfort. Though being pleasurably scared by a film is not the same as being actually scared, but even so.

I'm super proud of myself because I cycled to the cinema, the one in the leisure park behind the station, from our home in north Cambridge. That's my first attempt at cycling through town; the roads were mostly fairly quiet due to the bank holiday, but not completely without traffic. And the longest distance I've cycled in one go, not quite four miles out and I still had just enough energy to come back. [personal profile] jack was really helpful at coaching me in dealing with tricky junctions and other road awareness stuff, which is what I most struggle with at the moment, and also took charge of the navigation so I didn't have to worry about that.

I'm really slow, but I always knew I was going to be a slow cyclist, and cycling to the cinema was still faster than taking a bus. Also more convenient and companionable because we could all cycle back together; my people have been really accommodating about taking the bus because of me not being confident at cycling, but it's clearly easier for everybody if we can all cycle. The advantage of being slow was that we could actually chat at the same time as travelling in a little convoy. Andreas noted that I'm not very good at cycling, so I told him that's why I need practice, and having done that once I now feel pretty confident that I will fairly quickly get to the point where I can use the bike as a viable means of transport.

I did completely crash when I got in in the evening; I knew I was hungry and tried to eat enough to replenish my used up calories, but I was still pretty shaky and exhausted. I think that's something that will get better with more experience, or else I need to increase my estimate of how much extra I need to eat on days I spend a couple of hours cycling.

Verdict Zootropolis is really sweet, but probably doesn't want to be thought about too hard.

detailed review, discussing metaphorical racism )

So I don't know, it's all good fun, but I wasn't able to turn off my brain quite enough to fully enjoy it.
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Apparently it's world poetry day, which I didn't know until I started seeing lots of cool poems on my reading page. I particularly loved (though I don't fully understand it) this Auden quoted by [personal profile] kalypso: In praise of limestone

I feel like I ought to be the kind of person who would immediately think of a poem to put here when I belated discovered that somewhere in the nation of internet we're celebrating poetry. But I'm not really, I'm not immersed in poetry to that extent. Like, I have some favourite poems, but they're mostly really obvious dead white men ones that I studied in school, or more often that my Dad learned in school, when the curriculum was even more heavily slanted towards the obvious Romantics. I mean, I love Kipling and Housman and Auden, but who doesn't, from my sort of background? And even with poets I claim to love, I often only know their most obvious pieces, the ones that get quoted in books like 'the nation's hundred favourite poems' and used as markers of having the right sort of education. And my poetry books are in Keele, not here, but I could probably find something in one of [personal profile] jack's anthologies, my tastes are obvious enough.

My brother [twitter.com profile] angrysampoet posted a really thinky blog post recently, which is about lots of different things, including how he's managed to transcend just liking the obvious things that everybody with our kind of upbringing likes, and become a professional poet who's very much involved in the contemporary poetry scene: Slam poetry is a genre. I disagree with him about some points, particularly where he falls into the lazy reflex of blaming social media for the ills of our generation, but there's a lot to think about in his piece.

Particularly: People who write poems once or twice in their life for someone’s birthday or Valentine’s Day will write in cliché. And yeah, that's kind of me, I've written more than two poems in my life but not a lot more, and most of what I write is cliché because I don't write – or read – enough. It's not that I have ambitions to be a professional poet like my brother, it's that what he's saying fits into stuff I've thinking about to do with making creative stuff more accessible to people who just want to do it for fun (shout-out to [personal profile] mirabehn who's been talking interestingly about this topic elsewhere). I want to do more creating, not because I want to compete and be the best poet, or because I want to make money at it, but because creating stuff is satisfying and uplifting, and because when I do write poems for friends and lovers I'd like what I write to be a worthy gift and not just a thing they put up with because they like the gesture.

There are probably other creative things I could be doing more of, writing fiction as well as blog posts, possibly drawing. The other day Judith got me to join her in a drawing challenge, and I think I should follow her example of getting into the habit of just sketching things, not for any particular reason other than that it's fun.

But anyway, I wanted to say I'm most grateful to people who post poetry, their own or other peoples', whether for World Poetry Day or any other reason. You're doing a good thing by making poetry something that 'normal' people can enjoy, without proving a point about talent or social status or anything else.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
So two posts about terrible letters to agony aunts crossed my radar recently:

[personal profile] oursin: Sexual bucket list WHAT?, and [community profile] agonyaunt: Women need to loosen up. In the Guardian column, the writer asks for validation of his desire to either cheat on his wife or pressure her into anal sex. And in the Dear Abby one, the writer wants his wife to give him an exceptionally nice surprise and stop being so inhibited. I mean, both of these are entirely gross and inconsiderate and in both cases the agony aunts and the DW commenters quite rightly slate the men concerned. But what's bothering me is that both the comment discussions go in directions of jokes along the lines of, bet these awful men wouldn't be so keen if their wives suggested doing them with a strap-on! (Paraphrasing rather that quoting, because the point is not to get at the particular people who made these kinds of jokes, but to talk in general about that sort of rhetoric).

grumpy and somewhat sexually explicit )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
So you know that silly thing on Tumblr where people complain about new-fangled linguistic conventions, and people try to repeat the complaint in older and older styles of English? Well, [personal profile] lethargic_man has made a real version of this, reading the first chapter of Genesis in English starting from 500 and gradually updating the language until the current day. It's a seriously amazing piece of work, no, not rigorous academic scholarship, but he's looked stuff up properly rather than making a guess based on vague half-remembered history of English classes.

1500 years of English. It's a video; the audio track is the main point, but the words are written across the screen showing how written English evolved too. So it's inherently somewhat accessible though not as useful if you can't hear the audio, and you get most of the point without the visuals, so I don't think there's much to be gained by a text description.

I think lots of you may appreciate this, [personal profile] highlyeccentric and [personal profile] forthwritten and [personal profile] pne spring to mind, but I bet there are lots of other people I haven't thought of who will be impressed.

Letter

Mar. 10th, 2016 11:16 pm
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] azurelunatic revived a meme from several months back, where you answer some questions with a particular letter of the alphabet. This is what I said a year ago for A. And now Azz has given me G, so:

meme )

Comment for a letter, if you don't mind a second round of the meme.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
There is quite a lot of controversy about what language is appropriate to use for discussing disability. In terms of talking about people, the obviously polite and ethical thing to do is to refer to people using the terms they prefer, and not impose other ones on anyone for any reason. But I'm quite often talking generically, or talking about a stranger whose preferences I don't know. discussion of appropriate and inappropriate language )
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
I spent the weekend with [livejournal.com profile] ghoti's ex, celebrating his fortieth birthday. I like living the kind of life where I can write that sort of sentence! Anyway, the party itself was very cool, it had good food, and really impressive fancy cake made by [twitter.com profile] planetxanna, and interesting conversation; my girlfriend's ex introduced me to someone who's just submitted her PhD thesis on early Christian art history as someone who would be interested in her academic field.

And yes, I was indeed very interested, and also quite flattered that a host would think that was a useful way to make a connection between me, professionally a natural scientist, and another guest. I learned about this third century synagogue where not only is there representational art, which doesn't surprise me that much for the period, but actual images more or less of God, namely a hand coming out of the clouds, as you commonly see in lots of much later Christian art when they're less squeamish about drawing pictures of God.

mobile games )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
No real theme, just people being interesting:

  • [personal profile] jack posted something really thinky about formal logic and common sense.

  • [personal profile] sovay posted a really interesting review of a 1944 film, There are a lot worse things in this world than losing one's beauty. The film involves a Jewish character losing his sight as a result of being tortured by the Nazis, and [personal profile] sovay discusses how awful it is that this is mostly portrayed as back story and support for the non-Jewish, non-disabled heroine's emotional arc. But at the same time it's a really interesting analysis of a film which directly references the Nazi genocide in 1944, while it was still ongoing. Some really interesting discussion in the comments on LJ side about very early media portrayals of the Holocaust.

  • [personal profile] rachelmanija is posting a lot of really fascinating Hamilton meta lately. In the comments to one of her recent posts, [personal profile] brainwane linked to this really thoughtful, profound analysis of Iago in Shakespeare's Othello by Max Gladstone: What the f*ck, Iago?
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
Facebook memes are so much less fun than the old-school LJ kind (and those annoying kids should get off my virtual lawn). Anyway, [livejournal.com profile] ghoti ranted about that awful 27 ways to love me FB meme, which is barely even a meme, it's just a series of stock photos of young, thin, apparently white and heterosexual couples with banal words printed on them in a font that looks slightly less dated than Impact. Ten years ago it would have been a quiz where you could select which of the 27 things apply to you, much more fun, and much less assuming that all relationships are the same, and all women want things that can easily be marketed to them.

So in the spirit of 2006, I am going to transplant the meme to DW, and I'm going to make up my own list of 27 things, not just click share on an extruded marketing product, and I'm going to write the list in text not images of words. And I'm not going to assume that all love is coupley romantic love or a prize for young pretty people who buy the right things. And I'm not going to call it ways to love me because I can't decide for anyone else how they should experience love, but rather ways to make me feel loved, because I do know my own reactions.

mememe )

Currently reading: Ghost spin, by Chris Moriarty. I'm enjoying the writing and the beautifully detailed world-building, even though I am a bit annoyed by the set-up for this third book in the trilogy.
liv: Detail of quirky animals including a sheep, from an illuminated border (marriage)
So eight years ago, on 29th February, I asked Jack out and he said yes. And then some years elapsed where we decided the relationship was in fact serious and long-term, and I moved back to England and we had lots of detailed discussions and eventually got engaged. Four years ago, on 29th February, we did not exactly celebrate the anniversary of getting together, because we were too busy getting married. So today is a day that I couldn't have begun to imagine in 2008, and seemed impossibly far away even in 2012: our first ever wedding anniversary.

contains soppy )

We had hoped to do something really exciting for our first! ever! anniversary! but when it came to it, we're both just over-stretched and tired, so we opted for just a weekend in a little self-catering cottage (with, amazingly, its own semi-working water mill!) in the countryside not far from me. And we mostly spent the weekend staying in and cuddling and playing board games and watching a low-effort film. We managed a couple of meals out in indifferent pubs, and a half-hour stroll in what is a very pretty but not too touristy area. And we had a few relationship conversations of the kind that you often don't get time for in daily life. But basically we were just tired, and needed a weekend to recharge. It was extremely lovely to be able to do that together, I must say.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently acquired:
  • A wild sheep chase, by Haruki Murakami. Valentine's present from [livejournal.com profile] ghoti, since she's a fan of Murakami and I haven't read anything of his yet, and I like sheep-themed stuff because of my offline name, and also I often notice the cute ears in animated films we've watched together, and this book has a girl with exquisite ears, apparently.

  • The secrets of enduring love by Meg John Barker and Jacqui Gabb. This was a present from me to all of my quad collectively. There are too many combinations to make it very practical to celebrate VD in couples, so both this year and last year we've mostly done something along the lines of all of us celebrating eachother. (Last year we were really new, mind you.) And I am a massive fan of Barker, because of their really unique approach to studying and discussing relationships, sexuality, and identity. For one thing they seem to blend rigorous academic scholarship with personal involvement and activism in a way that seems really unusual, though it fits in with their general approach to avoiding binarist thinking. And secondly, because they don't do inclusivity starting from a default model of straight, monogamous, dyadic couples but then make sure to mention that not everybody fits this default, rather they treat all relationships genuinely as equal. So I'm particularly interested in a popular account of their research into long-lasting relationships which seems to include a wide range of what is called a "relationship", not even necessarily assuming romantic and sexual, let alone straight and monogamous.

Recently read: Not a lot, various miscellaneous internet things but nothing that I'm burning to share with you. So have the always worthwhile Debbie Cameron on Crap apps and female email, where she takes down the idea that sexism is caused by women being too feminine, particularly in their style of communication.

Currently reading: Ghost spin, by Chris Moriarty. The third in a trilogy where I loved the first two, but I'm dubious about this final book because so far the first chapter has killed off my favourite character. I suspect he's going to turn out to be complicatedly dead, but I dislike Gandalf plots where the vitally important character isn't dead after all nearly as much as I dislike my fave characters dying, so I'm suspicious. Given how much I loved the first two books I'm not giving up yet, though.

Up next: Don't know, I've only just started the Moriarty. Probably one of my exciting valentines presents.

In other news, I had a weekend I crammed way too much into, but the scraps of time I got with my people were really good. I had a sort of rushed semi-date with [livejournal.com profile] ghoti late Friday night and Saturday morning before breakfast and the day's obligations. And then the afternoon at Andreas' fourth birthday party; I've not recently had enough young children in my social circles to do that much, but I do enjoy parties that are based on playing and food and where you get a party bag to take home.

In the evening I managed to go out for a meal with [personal profile] jack, at The Plough, a local gastropub we're quite fond of. But again, only a fragment of a date, really, and we had to leave early on Sunday morning to squeeze in a brief visit to my grandmother, her daughter who is my aunt and who is currently visiting from Australia, and my brother Screwy who is Granny-sitting while parents are travelling. Which was rushed mostly through my own fault because I also wanted to see [personal profile] doseybat and [livejournal.com profile] pplfichi at the latter's birthday party, and before Bat goes abroad for fieldwork for some weeks.

Lots of my people are going through hard times right now, and I'm helplessly sad about it. If I talk about it at all it'll be in locked post, but it's getting me down a bit even though my direct actual life is really good at the moment.

The only

Feb. 18th, 2016 11:40 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I've spent my life being the only Jewish person in most social contexts. When I was tiny, younger than school age I think, I tried to explain the High Holy Days to my Dad's best friend from university; I remember vividly the intense embarrassment at having made a social misstep, but also the sheer surprise at discovering that someone other than family, met outside a Jewish context, could also be Jewish.

I was the only Jewish kid in my nursery school. My brother and I had to go up on stage a week or so after I started full-time school to demonstrate to the other pupils that we were normal children just like them and nobody should pick on us for being Jewish. That could have backfired, but in fact it didn't, it was only really in junior school that I got bullied for being the only Jewish kid, and that was caused by a couple of teachers who had a problem with it and egged the other children on to be horrible to me. In secondary school I wasn't the only, probably about 1% of the school body were Jewish, so that meant about one girl in each yeargroup, and I had to do lots of explaining, and had to sit out of RE class the term we "did" Judaism because the teacher was insecure about teaching in front of a student who knew more than she did. I obviously wasn't the only Jewish person at Oxford (!), but I it was a very common experience for me as a student that I would be the first Jewish person somebody had met. And when I lived in Scotland and Sweden, I was pretty much the only Jewish person in my work circles and other social groups, and often the only Jewish person in interfaith groups.

Now I'm semi-officially the Only Jewish Person at the university where I'm a lecturer. I mean, I'm not, not remotely, but nobody else is admitting to it and I'm the person the university calls on for official functions when they want some Diversity. They're in the process of doing bureaucracy to make this actually officially part of my role, with a title and terms of reference and everything. I somewhat flippantly describe it as being appointed as the institution's official token Jew, and that's only partly a joke.

So that's pretty much always been part of my experience. And now I'm the only Jewish person in my relationship, in the group of people whose lives are perhaps less intertwined than the most common meaning of the word family in a culture that has definite expectations of what a nuclear family looks like, but not a whole lot less. I mean, I was the only Jewish person in my relationship when it was just me and my husband, but being one out of two doesn't feel quite so much like being the odd one out as being the only Jewish one in a group that contains two culturally Christian atheists and four religious Catholics. Generally I'm pretty happy in this situation, but it's something that impacts on various parts of my life so I feel like talking about it a bit.

religion and relationships )

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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