liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
My post bouncing off the Alderman article has generated various bits of interesting discussion. The thread I want to follow further at this point is about the bold claim of the article title that There's no morality in exercise. [personal profile] electricant challenged that claim in a really thoughtful and interesting way:
No one is morally better than anyone else because of the amount of exercise they do. However, I, personally, am a better person for working out. I'm not better than anyone else, but I'm better as me-working-out than I am as me-not-working out. And that better does include a moral dimension [...] I feel like working out is a habit that allows me to develop many positive traits in myself - some physical, some intellectual, and some moral [...] it is a moral imperative for me personally, according to my own value system
I've been turning ideas round in my mind for a while about the idea of "being healthy", and how exercise fits as part of that. I think the core of it is that being healthy is often used to refer not to a state of being, but rather to (believed to be) correct actions which people may or may not perform.

swirly unfinished thoughts )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Recently read
  • Via [ profile] nanayasleeps a very evocative description of a really terrible sex party. NSFW, obviously; the article is plain text and illustrated with a fairly vague modern art pic, but the site is a sex magazine and most of the links to related articles have more or less porny thumbnails.

  • The [ profile] embassthon account in its entirety. It's a charity stunt by [ profile] scattermoon, in which she dressed up as Carmen Sandiego and visited every single embassy in a single a weekend, and was sponsored to raise money for a refugee charity. I know a lot of my friends are into effective giving and are against fundraising stunts as a matter of principle, but [ profile] embassthon is just a lovely piece of performance Twitter in its own right. Worth reading from the bottom up; there are cryptic clues to which embassy is up next, snarky comments about the embassies and their countries, lovely stuff.

  • Network surfing led me to [personal profile] melannen's adorable Big Hero 6 / Pacific Rim crossover.

  • [ profile] cavalorn is slightly locally famous for debunking lots of silly fluff Pagan stories. This year he's come up with a rather amazing piece about church history: On Bede, pagan kings, rival Churches, and the Great Anglo-British Miracle-Off, where he explains, with great humour how: Rather than a simplistic matter of The Christians versus The Pagans, we are dealing with multiple cultural groups and multiple iterations of Christianity.

    Currently reading Two thirds of the way through Imajica. Things are getting apocalyptic, which means it's not as slow to read as it was in the earlier sections. I think there's some very cool fantasy in this, but it's rather more padded than I prefer.

    Up next I'm going to be acquiring some of the stuff you recommended for medical students for myself, no question. Well worth having a look back at that thread if you're interested in books you can learn something from.

    Other than that I've come down with a very annoying digestive TMI bug. I'm not seriously ill, I was able to get on with giving feedback on student work yesterday, just uncomfortable and annoyed. And since I do have the kind of job where I can get away with doing this, I'm being good about staying away from public areas until I'm properly better. I'm especially grateful for technology, and thoughtful friends who use it, so that I haven't actually been stuck on my own with no company for the past two days.

    So, if anyone wants to send me links I would be most grateful. At this stage of being not exactly ill but still in quarantine, I'm more interested in distracting, interesting, meaty stuff than cute adorable stuff.
  • liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    Reason for watching it: I went to the cinema with friends including a teenager, and it was his choice. It would probably have been quite low down in my own priorities, given it's the middle of a trilogy where I've neither seen the first nor read the books, and YA dystopias aren't terribly my thing anyway. But I was very glad to join my friends on their cinema trip.

    Circumstances of watching it: I'm working from home today, which meant for once I was in Cambridge Sunday evening, and was able to join the party going to the Light cinema in the complex behind the station, along with [personal profile] jack, [ profile] ghoti and her oldest.

    Verdict: Insurgent is watchable even if it's not the kind of thing I'm usually into. I also agree with [personal profile] jack's review quite a lot.

    detailed review )


    Mar. 20th, 2015 03:40 pm
    liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
    I saw this meme chez [ profile] la_marquise_de_ following links from elsewhere. And I can't quite be bothered to do the whole countdown, but they are some cute questions, so I'll do one of each.

    mememe )
    liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
    So the medical school is having a drive to encourage students to engage more with arts and humanities, so we don't end up with a lot of future doctors who haven't read a novel since they finished GCSE English. And they're asking for suggestions for books worth recommending to the students.

    This seems like an interesting question, so I'm throwing it open to you: if you could recommend one book you'd like your doctor to have read, what would it be? They specify that it doesn't have to be about a directly medical topic, but just something that could help very science-specialized people to understand more about being human. Non-fiction is ok but they want literary non-fiction, things like biographies, rather than textbooks.

    My thinking about this is that there's no point recommending the obvious nineteenth century Dead White Men classics, because even if the students were funnelled out of anything to do with literature in their mid teens they're all high achievers, they've almost certainly all "done" Dickens for GCSE and got As for their essays. And even the ones who don't read have read The man who mistook his wife for a hat because various how to get into medical school guides push it as something to mention at interview.

    So, suggestions?
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Not much this week, busy busy. But let's not leave horrible stuff at the top of my journal.

    read more )


    Mar. 18th, 2015 09:21 am
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    Stark, you are no longer welcome to comment here. You were never really welcome, because you almost always make the conversation worse rather than better, but doing anything about you was a hassle so I didn't bother. But really I should have done this ages ago.

    moderation )
    ETA: I know this isn't a good general principle for surviving in the internet jungle, but for this particular post, please don't feed the troll! I'm not surprised by Stark showing up to justify himself in a post that's about him, but the whole point is that he's not welcome to comment here, so I'd really appreciate it if people don't get into discussions with him. I'd also appreciate if we could keep speculation about his motivations, character etc to a minimum; he may be annoying but he's still a person and I don't want this to turn into a pile-on of everybody dissecting his flaws in a space where I've just said he can't reply. Ta!
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    [personal profile] jimhines, all round good egg, is doing a second series of his Invisible guest blogs where he invites people from marginalized identities to talk about (lack of) representation in speculative fiction. I have to admit I had a bit of an emotional reaction to seeing a Jewish one. noodling about identity again )
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read:
  • The shambling guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty. read more )

    Conclusion: Wednesday reading posts are definitely not quicker to write than my usual style of book reviews. But never mind!
  • liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
    I am a fan of Naomi Alderman in general, and I was really impressed with her piece on being a fat person who made a fitness app (the app in question is Zombies, Run!, which I've been enjoying after several of you recommended it to me. So [personal profile] rmc28, you might be particularly interested in the linked article). I love the title There's no morality in exercise and the lede You’re not a better person for working out, or a worse person for not. And the whole piece really resonated with me. It was so important to me to find a way into exercise that isn't about weight loss or morality, and particularly not weight-loss conflated with morality, and I feel like Alderman really gets that. Plus what she says about competition is really wise; if only people who are already highly athletic are allowed to train and improve, that's a pretty unhelpful situation.

    As well as agreeing with Alderman politically, I find that my experiences in many ways chime with hers, so I want to babble about that for a bit. This will involve talking about weight, body image, dieting and social attitudes to health / fitness / weight, all that scary complicated emotive stuff. I also mention childhood bullying, which is not a very surprising thing to come up in this sort of context.

    reasons for exercise )

    And it's not a moral imperative, not at all, I get certain benefits from exercise but I could well imagine another person deciding it's not worth the effort. I am putting a lot of time in, and I have had to give up some stuff I wanted to do to be able to do this regular running. But at least I want to offer the possibility that you can exercise because you want to, you don't have to try for weight loss, you don't have to do it because it's healthy and you are obliged to strive for health. And you can still exercise even if, like me, you're fairly bad at it. Competition can be fun, but it's not the only option.

    Happy purim

    Mar. 5th, 2015 11:35 am
    liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
    So a couple of weeks ago I helped run a bar mitzvah in our synagogue. And we ended up getting a write-up in the Jewish Chronicle, a newspaper that exists primarily so that British Jews can call eachother to point out that someone they know is in the JC. Anyway I somehow get referred to as Professor, which is very embarrassing indeed. (In the UK Professor is a title of merit, not a job title, it's very bad to be called that when you haven't earned it.) But it's also the case that here a picture in a national newspaper, showing me, who most people will correctly presume to be female, [pretending to] read the Torah in an Orthodox synagogue. Where up to now we have been small enough and provincial enough to be pretty much under the radar with our shockingly egalitarian ways.

    This has led to the Chabad rabbi from Manchester phoning everybody he has contact details for, railing about how terrible it is to let a woman read the Megillah, the ceremonial scroll of the book of Esther for Purim. I don't know where he's coming from halachically, considering that reading Megillah is the one thing that even most gender-essentialist sources say that women can do, but there you go. He's been threatening that the community will be cursed if they do this very important mitzvah wrong, and also trying to bribe people by offering to hold a break-away service in the pub and buy everybody drinks if they come and listen to his reading instead of my gender-inappropriate one.

    My lovely community were unanimously loyal to me, partly because we don't like random Chabadniks showing up and trying to cozen the community away from our synagogue. And at least in part because everybody prefers my fun dramatic reading where I do all the dialogue in silly voices and give snarky summaries in English and make Haman talk like Nigel Farage, over the rabbi's very fast mumbly chant in a thick Yiddish accent. I am so tempted to dress up as the Chabad rabbi next year, with a false beard, and offer people cheap vodka and sawdusty excessively parve cakes, but maybe that wouldn't be in good taste. But this is another chapter in an ongoing saga.

    In fact I dressed up as a backwards person, wearing a mask on the back of my head and a jacket and shirt buttoned at the back, plus my hair in a ponytail over my forehead, which caused much amusement. It was a smaller purim than we sometimes have, as several of our regulars are away and most parents didn't want to bring children to a weekday evening event. We did have an Elsa and a mummy, who both found presents they wanted in my bag of kids' presents, so that was something. Reverend Malcom Weisman turned up, not particularly in his capacity as minister for small communities but just because he was on the way home from Lancaster and wanted to drop by and hear Megillah, and he was very supportive.

    And then I went out for meal at the local Italian that was offering a mid-week deal, and on to Hector Garcia's for a cocktail instead of dessert. Their special was a tiramisu drink, made of kahlua and vodka and cream and flavoured with vanilla and chocolate. I like cream-based cocktails, and I liked sitting in this somewhat chain-ish but pleasant tapas bar drinking my dessert and drunk-texting people to say I love them. Some of my friends were especially lovely and said they'd have a cocktail that evening, so I was sort of virtually drinking with friends instead of by myself. And I do love all the people I said it to, and I don't have to be drunk to say so, just I was in a particularly sentimental mood, having successfully run an event and settled down to relax with alcohol.

    Also thanks to [personal profile] kass for pointing to Purimgifts and explaining how to navigate the AO3 page for it. I've been having a lot of fun browsing through stories that are either midrash, or are in fandoms I'm familiar with. I particularly enjoyed In the citadel of Susa, a Vashti POV take on Esther.

    Film: Wit

    Mar. 3rd, 2015 11:02 am
    liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
    Reason for watching it: We screened it for the second year students, who are getting to the point where they're spending enough time in clinical environments that there's a good chance they will see someone die in the coming months. The idea is that they get a supportive environment in which to do at least some of the emotional work ahead of dealing with this for real, and hopefully they then won't completely fall apart when that happens. (There's a ton of research about the detrimental effects of medical students and trainee doctors not being adequately prepared to deal with death, but nobody quite knows what "adequately prepared" looks like. So we're working on it.)

    Circumstances of watching it: Ugh, this term! I've had a solid six weeks with a heavy enough teaching and marking load that I feel I've been running a Red Queen's race since the new year, I haven't had time to do anything at all non-urgent, and it's making me really anxious. In theory things were supposed to slow down by the end of February; in practice everybody's kind of scrabbling, and the school were short of staff for running a bunch of sessions through March, so I've ended up roped into more teaching in the coming weeks. And because it's all last minute cover it's all in bits of the curriculum well outside my expertise. I really didn't want to be a facilitator for this session where we get the students to talk about death, but needs must. I kind of feel like this is one of the times where it's more important than usual to have a clinician leading, cos it's not just factual knowledge, it's being able to speak from experience of dealing with death as a doctor. But I suppose I was better than no-one.

    Verdict: Wit is thought-provoking if at times over-dramatic.

    So, look, the whole point of this film is that it's 90 minutes of the protagonist dying of cancer. Not in real time, it covers several months from diagnosis to the end, but the whole film, and therefore my review, is about illness and dying within the medical system.

    fictional death )

    It seems possible that I'm somewhat emotionally affected by this; the film is genuinely harrowing in places as well as a bit over-dramatic. And running the discussion where I had to manage a lot of the medical students' emotions was pretty draining, I think, especially coming on top of generally stressful stuff. So lots of things that should be fine are feeling daunting, just now. Send hugs pls?
    liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    Reason for watching it: I have a feeling I saw a trailer for it and thought it looked fun, and [personal profile] jack independently thought of it as a film we might both enjoy. It's had really surprisingly little buzz, goodness knows there's enough Disney fans, both adult and child, in my social circles.

    Circumstances of watching it: I had a weekend that was in some ways wonderful, cos I got to spend time with people I really like, including [personal profile] khalinche and [personal profile] ceb. But in some ways a bit difficult, because I scheduled too many social things and didn't have quite enough time or focus for any of them, and I didn't handle communicating about this very well. Anyway, in the middle of this [personal profile] jack and I managed to plan a date to mark three years of marriage and seven years together. So, film.

    Verdict: Big Hero 6 is a lovely piece of animation, albeit in service of a weak plot.

    detailed review )

    I found the film really endearing and exciting and just the thing for a date. I'd also be really intrigued to see it with children in the age-range of its target audience. I mean, I like it better than pretty much any other children's film I've seen since Wall·E, but I can see why something like Frozen was more commercially successful.

    The showing also included a short, Feast, which I didn't really love. It has a very cute puppy, but the animation wasn't particularly great and the storyline is your basic boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy proves his love by stalking girl shtick, and the cute puppy doesn't much make me favour that plot shape.
    liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
    So when I was composing my post about PDA I intended to include in the discussion my reaction [personal profile] thingswithwings's post on I don't like X but. And the post got a bit out of hand, so I didn't have time to get to that discussion, so I'm adding it here.

    This is a very meta sort of post, I'm talking about talking about potentially charged topics. So I'll at least mention violence including sexual violence, and I will also refer to sexually explicit including kinky stuff. I don't expect to go into lots of detail about anything, but those will be the topics. And now I'm being the centipede because the whole post is about how I should phrase this kind of description of what I'm about to write about and of course I've made myself completely self-conscious about doing so.

    with that said )

    Right, that ended up being not quite coherent. Let me put it out there anyway and see what people think.
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    More of a linkspam really...

    read more )


    Feb. 23rd, 2015 08:12 pm
    liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
    Various bitty things to record what I've been up to lately:

    diary )

    Also, congratulations to [personal profile] randomling who correctly guessed that what I was thinking of in Pessimized Twenty Questions was Croatia. [personal profile] randomling, you're of course welcome to start a new round if you like, but perhaps a single game was enough, playing by comment discussion. Honourable mention goes to [personal profile] seekingferret who played with great cunning, coming up with informative guesses and not getting trapped in assumptions based on what had been discovered so far.
    ETA: [personal profile] randomling started another round, do go and join in!
    liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
    I am doing a job that's both fiddly and intimidating, and I'm forcing myself to concentrate in very small chunks. So I would be most grateful if you'd join me in playing a silly game. I believe [personal profile] ceb invented this, and titled it pessimized twenty questions.

    I'm thinking of something. In order to find out what it is, instead of asking yes/no questions as in traditional twenty questions, you are only allowed to ask me what my something is like. I will answer either: yes, it's a bit like what you guessed, or: no, it's more like French toast. I have to be honest, but I don't have to tell you in what way my thing is more like your thing or more like French toast. If you get a yes, your guess replaces French toast as the comparison object.

    Like this:
    Me: I'm thinking of something
    Player: Is it like Guess1?
    Me: No, it's more like French toast
    Player: Is it like Guess2?
    Me: Yes, it's a bit like Guess2.
    Player: Is it like Guess3?
    Me: No, it's more like Guess2.
    Player: Is it like Guess4?
    Me: Yes, it's more like Guess4 than Guess2.

    Guesses should in general be specific things rather than categories of things. Eg "Is it like a tiger?" or "Is it like Cate Blanchett?" are legitimate questions, but "Is it like an animal?" or "Is it like a celebrity?" belong in trad twenty questions, not in the pessimized analogy version. And if you ask "Is it like [the thing I originally thought of]" then you win and you can think of something and lead the next round.

    (I'm wondering if we can take advantage of threaded comments to make triangulating on the answer non-linear, but that's probably too complicated.)

    I'll start the first round in the first comment, to make it easier to read if the game works and we want to try further rounds.

    Book meme

    Feb. 18th, 2015 10:46 am
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    I haven't got much new to add for Reading Wednesday, so I'll pick up a book meme that [ profile] ghoti posted, since it contains at least some questions I haven't answered before.

    read more )
    liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
    My current guilty pleasure: compulsively reading lots and lots of think pieces about Fifty Shades of Grey, even though I already know what I think about it, and have no more intention of watching the film than I had of reading the book. I really don't think the release of the film brings much new to the debate, I mean, wow, off-the-charts popular sexy book gets made into a blockbuster film, not exactly earth-shattering news.

    Anyway, [personal profile] metaphortunate has the platonic ideal summary of all the FSoG opinions, and some really interesting meta-meta in reaction to it. can't post links without commentary! )


    Feb. 12th, 2015 11:52 pm
    liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
    I think this is going to one of these swirly posts where I ramble about a bunch of stuff that's been on my mind for a few weeks, and I'm not sure if it'll all come together. I'm thinking about the ethics and choices around expressing affection, including sexual affection, in public or at least in front of onlookers.

    noodling )

    What do you think, people? How do you balance these things? (Possibly by erring on the side of not talking about them on the internet, in which case you probably won't be in a position to comment!) But I'm working this stuff through in my mind and would appreciate some input. Feel free to contact me offline if you prefer.


    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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