The return

May. 29th, 2015 12:09 pm
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
After 6 years of using LJ just to keep up with my friends who are still there, I'm somewhat favourably disposed to the site again. I mean, I'm still annoyed that they silently took the Open Source code private; I'm fine with them making a profit from 15 years of work, much of it by volunteers, but I am less happy with them ceasing to give back to the community that made the site what it is. And they still have adverts, but they seem to have moved away from a business model based on forcing ever-more intrusive adverts on users, and towards a model of paying for premium services.

Regarding Dreamwidth itself, well. I think after 6 years we can agree that it's stable and functional and not just some passing fad. I perceive it as way more active than LJ, and better for meeting interesting strangers. There are many respects in which it's just technically better, better UI and better accessibility and search that actually works. And I basically hate the current look-and-feel of LJ, both the desktop and mobile versions look awful to me. Also I still love DW's business model of a sustainable site completely independent of advertising or venture capital or payment processors who want to censor legal content, and I love its commitment not just to Open Source principles but to welcoming and training newbies and providing a non-awful environment for contributors. But DW is very clearly being maintained rather than developed (and yes, [staff profile] denise keeps promising that we're just paying down technical debt and there will be features released any day now, but I've been hearing that for too many years to really believe it any more), so it's getting to the point where LJ is ahead on features and just generally feels more modern.

So I sounded out how my LJ readers feel about my starting up cross-posting again, and that was enough to sway me towards returning. Not so much the numbers who voted in my poll, but the fact that several people I thought had drifted away from LJ years ago turned out to be still there, silently reading. And unlike in 2009 nobody seems to be worried about the security implications of DW knowing my LJ password (sensible ways of doing distributed authentication being yet another feature that DW has been promising for years and is probably never going to actually deliver). I do think the thing of split discussions is annoying, but it's also annoying for people who wouldn't otherwise use DW to have to follow me over here, so I hope it balances out.

Since I'm actively posting again, I've been trying to tidy up my filters. I had forgotten just how bad the interface was for friends list management; DW's isn't great but it doesn't do things like divide the list into pages and lose changes when you move further down the alphabet without saving, yet jump you back to the beginning of the list rather than where you were up to when you do press Save, ugh ugh ugh. Anyway, I hope I haven't accidentally unfriended and refriended people several times because of the interface horribleness. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to make cross-posting locked entries work, in fact; I think maybe I have to create two filters with the same names on both sites or something. And boy do I miss DW's WTF innovation of splitting subscribing off from giving access to private stuff! I'll figure it out somehow; I rarely make locked posts anyway, so it's not a big roadblock.

I feel like... coming back to a house that had been shut up for 6 years. It's infuriating because nothing is quite where I expect it to be, and I've got used to living somewhere far more modern and convenient, and the neighbourhood has changed and not entirely for the better. But it's also incredibly nostalgic, this place was home and deeply important to me from 2003 to 2009. So, hi. It's a bit dusty and disorganized round here, but please do make yourselves at home. In spite of my ambivalence it's good to be back.
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Back in England, back to work – exams season starts in earnest today. Also back to an official presence on LJ, after a six year gap. So, hi, LJ folks! There will probably be more noodling about this shift later, but for now:

what I did on my holidays )

Basically I really want to go back in time twenty years and tell my teenage self that she'll grow up to be the sort of person whose friends invite her to goth festivals, as a brief break from a grown-up life with a proper job. That she'll be able to wear the goth clothes she's just starting to pine after, and that people will think she looks good rather than ridiculous. And she'll come home to loved ones. I find it quite hard to believe that the past two decades have been so good to me, really.
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
My plan for [community profile] three_weeks_for_dw had been that between 25th April and 15th May I'd post three diary entries, surveys or queries, one substantial thinky post, and ten pointers. In fact I did manage 13 posts, which was about right, but they don't quite fit [ profile] siderea's classification scheme.

I didn't really make a substantial post at all, but then again I did put lots of thinky thoughts in my five link posts. So instead of 10 quick "here's some content" things and one essay, I made five posts that fall somewhere in between those two stools. In terms of posts mainly about me, I did in fact make two diary posts and one post asking for advice and opinions, plus bits of diary and survey style things in the other posts. So that's about right.

The rest of my activity was two reading Wednesday posts, one meta thing about DW and the fest itself, and two posts about the UK general election, which happened to fall within the fest but was important enough that I wanted to talk about it. I think that constitutes a reasonable contribution to keeping up activity on DW, even if it doesn't quite match what I set out to do.

I'm about to go away for an exciting trip with [personal profile] ceb and some other awesome people, so I expect to be quiet for the next week and a half. I'm just coming to the end of my busiest time at work, and I've been as usual cramming a bit too much into the weekends in between. Highlights were [personal profile] kaberett's party at the weekend, and dinner with [ profile] ghoti at the Plough last week, and with [personal profile] cjwatson at Mestizo on the way to [personal profile] kaberett's party.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
I posted yesterday about hosting a friend with two very young children, and the ensuing discussion reminded me about the broader issue of how adults can keep children safe without over-protecting them. noodling, I promise the actual links are coming up eventually )
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
So a good friend of mine is taking a very short (sorry, USians) maternity leave and we were talking about her bringing her family to visit from the other side of the country during the three months before she goes back to work. Her older kid is a bit under two, and then there's this newborn (well, maybe a young infant by the time we actually sort this visit).

Having no experience of hosting young children for an overnight stay, I appeal to the internet for advice! In particular, both the children still sleep in cots; what do you do if you have visitors who need cots to sleep in? Is there some kind of service where childfree people can hire cots for a short amount of time? Or do most people just have cots in the loft from their own childhood or now older offspring or something?

I will of course ask my friend as well, but is there anything else that it would be good for me to set up to make the visit go smoothly? Given that I have no equipment or toys or anything in my house relevant to under-twos, and I don't want my friends to have to carry masses of stuff across the country. (I appreciate that they'll probably have to carry a certain amount, it goes with the territory of travelling with two babies.)

(More substantial post to follow, I hope.)
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read Balancing act by Joanna Trollope. (c) Joanna Trollope 2014, pub 2014 Doubleday Black Swan, ISBN 978-0-552-77855-8. read more (includes spoilers) )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
My brother the poet has been involved in activism for and outreach work visiting the occupied territory of Western Sahara for some years now. His latest big project was bringing poems from the Saharawi bardic tradition to an English audience; he worked with interpreters who provided him with literal translations, which he then interpreted as poetry. And he's made them into a book alongside expert commentary and beautiful Arabic calligraphy illustrations by the senior translator and some original poetry.

I'm an academic, so I find it a bit strange that the first ever Saharawi poetry in English is coming out from a tiny little indie publisher and funded by a Kickstarter campaign, rather than being a scholarly work. But also admirable in the sense of trying to bypass the master's tools approach, it's somewhat less than it might be another incident of privileged people from former colonial powers continuing to profit from studying colonized peoples.

Anyway, it's a bit late to tell you about this, but in case anyone is free in London tonight, Sam is launching the book at a music and slam night this evening.
liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
Via [personal profile] marina on Twitter, [personal profile] rivkat's absolutely fascinating summary of a book titled Not gay: sex between straight white men. Really amazing stuff about the amount of homosexual contact involved in heterosexuality! It relates to some ideas I've come across before, heterosexuality as a constructed identity; contexts in which straight masculinity may include seeking sexual contact with other men; challenging the idea of sexual orientation.

It's also making me revisit the concept that at least some of homophobia isn't really about who one is attracted to or about what sex acts one enjoys; it's primarily about gender policing. This sense that men may want to take part in sexual acts with other men, but as long as they don't form loving relationships or have mutually consensual, respectful sex, then they're not gay. Which has the terrifying corollary that this construction of straight masculinity implies that men who behave lovingly and respectfully towards female partners are also targets for gay-bashing. Example: the Sad Puppies accusing Scalzi, who is well known to be a man married to a woman, of being gay, because he's also well known to care about not being a sexist jerk. Example: pre-adolescent and young teen boys somewhat illogically calling it "gay" when a boy expresses romantic interest a girl instead of talking trash about her.

[personal profile] rivkat's piece almost flips the common wisdom about orientation. It almost seems like straightness is an identity, nearly independent of attraction and sexual behaviour, whereas gayness / queerness is mostly something that emerges from choices about sex and gender expression or performance, or even a political stance. Anyway, read [personal profile] rivkat's post, she's saying all this stuff much more articulately than I can.
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
It's the day after the election. We're probably doomed. And [ profile] ghoti has provided that well-known antidote to bad news: KITTENS! So I recommend you should all go and look at teeeeeny new-born kittens until you feel enough better to figure out what to do next.

I am not refraining from posting about the election because I have awesome self-control, but rather because I have no time. And I want to come at least close to the [community profile] three_weeks_for_dw challenge I've set myself. Hence, kittens.

brief medical stuff; contains breathing trouble; tl;dr: I'm fine, just sore )

Many thanks to everybody who send supportive messages here, on Twitter or by text. I felt really cared for.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
I'm mildly ill with a cold, and as a result I've been predictably slow and stupid all day. But it's combined somehow with whatever was wrong with my chest and now my lungs are really painful to the point that it's distracting. I was trying to figure out if I needed medical attention and if so how to obtain such, given that I have been procrastinating on actually registering with a GP since I moved. And I got caught up in a triage system which can't properly distinguish between pain which happens to be localized to my chest, and, you know, chest pain. So I've ended up with an urgent care appointment at quarter to midnight tonight. I'm really hoping that because it's an appointment I'll actually get seen, and it seems better than hanging around all night in A&E, as well as hopefully a better use of resources because I'm pretty sure I don't need to be hospitalized. If I get yelled at for turning up at urgent care with a bad cold, so be it.

Of course in the middle of this I've landed myself in some DW drama, where I managed to give someone I respect the impression that I was mocking her for a completely imaginary social justice fail. I have apologized, not that that ever does any good. Goodness knows that if I thought someone was hunting around for any possible allusions to anything less that perfectly social justice-y in every off the cuff comment I make in order to feel superior to me, I'd be pretty annoyed myself and likely not willing to hear an apology. But I do wish I could find a way to communicate that avoids giving that kind of impression, it's not the first time either. I don't actually think of myself as a particularly good ally or SJW, and I'm certainly not trying to look better than others. (This is something I should think about when I'm not tired, stressed and in pain, obviously.)

I would cry, except I strongly suspect that crying will make my painful lungs feel even worse.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
Generally good voting experience today. details )

FYI, if you're thinking of voting in the UK:
  • [personal profile] naath has clear and useful information. In fact, I'm particularly grateful to her for explaining that I, and others in my position, can in fact vote in local elections in two different places, as long as you only vote once in the General Election. Also to [ profile] ghoti for clarifying ambiguities in the rules

  • [personal profile] lethargic_man put up on FB the following summary of major policies. Sorry for the image of text; here's a transcription. 38degrees are not entirely politically neutral but they're not affiliated with any one party either and do try to give relatively unbiased information. Of course there is bias in what they consider to be the six "key issues", and I think it's not quite a coincidence that their table comes out with all ticks under Labour and Green and mostly crosses for Con and UKIP. But at least they're not outright lying about what the parties intend to do. I also can't easily find data for Wales, Scotland or NI or at least not for the parties that are only standing in the regions.

  • Election forecast has reasonably detailed and reasonably unbiased electoral predictions, based on reputable polls and quoted with confidence intervals. I mean, polls are only as good as polls ever are, but again, it's a site that's not actively lying in order to try to influence potential tactical votes. They're predicting a Conservative plurality (and a zero percent chance of a majority government!), and they probably know what they're talking about more than me with my prediction of a Labour plurality.

  • [ profile] ewx has a nice summary of election leaflets for Cambridge.

    I'm also extremely grateful to everybody who's volunteered for the election, campaigning, voter education and all that proper boots on the ground activism stuff, especially people like [personal profile] cjwatson and [personal profile] naath who got up scarily early this morning to distribute Good Morning leaflets before most people leave for work. And grateful to everyone who has voted or will be voting for a better society today, even if we disagree about which party is most likely to deliver that. And I appreciate my friends who've explained why they support they party they do in detail and without just repeating party slogans. [personal profile] rmc28 and [personal profile] davidgillon come to mind especially, but just everybody who has had civilized, thoughtful discussions about fraught issues, you're making democracy better and you deserve kudos.
  • liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    I have what is by now looking like rather an ambitious goal to post 10 pointer posts to other content by 15th May. Anyway, here's the first: did you know that Jan Morris has a Tumblr, [ profile] janmorris? (Discovered via a Making Light comment thread, I think.)

    commentary, plus Reading Wednesday )
    liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
    I've had really not a minute to update DW since I decided that I'd post a bunch of short pointers to other content. And I'm not doing at all well about even writing my diary here. I'm going to put a brief summary here because I had a really great April this year and I want to remember it.

    social diary )

    Still, in spite of all this wonderfulness in my life, I've been feeling more or less perpetually anxious for much of the past couple of months. I think it may be partly the imminent election, for which I see basically no possible outcomes I'm going to be happy with. But it's mainly a work thing; there's not much specifically wrong, I'm just really struggling with the balance between short-term urgent stuff and long-term career goals, and I'm finding impostor syndrome feelings harder to ignore. My chest hurts pretty much all the time I'm alone and paying attention to my body rather than interacting with other people, and it doesn't quite feel like asthma and it doesn't quite feel like a cold and it doesn't quite feel like heartburn, just... sore. I have a bad feeling that this is somatizing a proto-decision I don't want to face that I don't have a future in academia. But I might actually be ill, and I might just be anxious in a way that doesn't mean much long term, dunno.

    Anyway, I started the bit of the course that I'm somewhat in charge of today, and having started it feels a lot better than waiting expectantly for it and dreading that I'm not well enough prepared. So hopefully I will be busy in a positive and satisfying way for the upcoming three weeks. And at the end of that I'm going on a really really exciting trip with [personal profile] ceb and some other excellent people, so there's that to look forward to.
    liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
    Dreamwidth officially came into public beta on 1st May 2009, and I started using it as my primary journalling space then. So today approximately marks the day that I've been on DW for as long as I was on LJ (I actually joined at the end of May in 2003). Twelve years of blogging, six there, six here.

    anniversary thinky-thoughts )

    People are doing [community profile] three_weeks_for_dw again this year, and I've slightly missed the boat as we're already a week into the three week fest. But I might try to repeat what I suggested a couple of years back and follow [ profile] siderea's community building recipe. In the remaining two weeks, I can probably manage three diary entries or surveys and one long thinky post; I am not sure about ten pointers, as that will require me to post nearly every day, but I'll have a go.

    In honour of the fest, [personal profile] nanila has created [community profile] bitesizedreading, which I think is a really good idea. And another way to make sure that supposedly little, unimportant things end up here rather than just forgotten about or posted to more ephemeral places like Twitter or FB.

    And [personal profile] oursin is posting dear little original fiction snippets which I highly recommend if you don't already follow her.


    Apr. 30th, 2015 11:50 am
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    So I have received my ballot for postal voting. I'm going to put in the first post tomorrow morning, so you have approximately 20 hours to convince me to vote for an outcome that you favour, if you like that kind of thing.

    UK political nargery )
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison ([ profile] truepenny). (c)2014 Katherine Addison, Pub 2014 Tor, ISBN 978-1-4299-4640-7

    read more )
    liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    Someone in my circle asked me if I know of any material about Kabbalah by / for women. And I really really don't, but I bet I know people who do; any offers?

    why I'm not much help )

    People who have no idea what I'm babbling on about, or indeed people who happen to be knowledgeable about two widely contrasting areas: can anyone help bring me up to speed on My Little Pony : Friendship is Magic? I'm making friends with two small children who are hugely into the series and I could do with a primer, enough to be able to talk to them usefully or at least understand the stories they very earnestly tell me.

    I may just have to sit and watch some episodes, but I'm not inclined to consume the whole thing; any eps you'd recommend to give me a good sense for how the 'verse works? I mean, these kids are better at abstract thought than my informants when I was trying to get a sense of Power Rangers fandom in the 90s (in order to include them in the script of the panto I was commissioned to write), but even they tend to get a little bogged down in detail when I ask for explanations. Apparently I'm a bit like Pinkie Pie, but that might just be the extrovert thing.

    I do find it a little disturbing how the pastel coloured but still basically ponies of my childhood are a lot more like sexy young women in the reboot. The huge eyes, the very thin long-legged body types which seem to allude to conventionally attractive post-pubescent women. And the way they so often stand on hind legs and use their forelegs as hands, in many of the glimpses I've seen of the animation, kind of grosses me out a little. However being prudish about this kind of thing isn't going to help, I'd much rather be positive about getting a sense of other people's fandom.
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read Tea with the black dragon by RA MacAvoy. (c) 1983 by RA MacAvoy, published Bantam Books 1983, ISBN 0-553-23205-3. read more )
    liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
    This comes from an access-locked post, a set of five quite interesting questions, so I thought I'd pass it on as the questions themselves are not original to the OP, and I'm not betraying any secrets by propagating the meme.

    Apparently some newspaper claimed these are five questions people regret not asking their loved ones before they die. I'm not convinced by this, a lot of these deathbed regret things are just glurge and a way to make something sound profound, but anyway, they are interesting questions regardless of that. So, here we go:

    yet more excuses to talk about myself )

    Anyway, I'm staying with [personal profile] angelofthenorth currently, and we had a lovely weekend of visiting beautiful places and eating tasty food, as we often do when we manage to overcome geography and spend time together. And I'm procrastinating from a big pile of marking by answering memes and navel-gazing.
    liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    Reasons for watching it Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, basically. And I'm kind of a sucker for rom-coms about older characters and accessible to European things set in India.

    Circumstances of watching it [personal profile] jack and had to wait up late for friends arriving from the airport, so we wanted to do something relaxing and companionable when it was too late in the evening to do anything thinky. So we bought it from a streaming service and snuggled on our little futon in our little TV room / guest bedroom, which is one of the reasons we have that room.

    Verdict The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is very sweet if more cringey than I was really hoping.

    detailed review )


    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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