liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
A locked discussion on my reading page reminded me that I've been meaning to talk about this: I basically hate the framing of "punching up versus punching down" as ways of analysing interactions. [ profile] lollardfish expressed my views rather well:
First of all - I don't like punching. Second, I think the simple verticality of power spectra is almost never clear [...] Instead, I recommend thinking about whether a given situation undermines hierarchies and stereotypes or replicates them.
. In fact I think Perry's entire piece on public shaming is worth reading.

I don't like punching )
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
I don't often talk about news events; I don't particularly need to participate in the social media circus of uninformed opinions about headlines. I haven't suddenly become an expert on terrorism and international security, but I do have pretty strong opinions about blaming Muslims, or even worse, refugees, for terrorist attacks.

Anyway, several of my circle have said really wise things about terrorism and xenophobia and I wanted to draw attention to them. links and commentary )
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
So one advantage of being out is that I can write diary posts about what I'm up to without being coy about spending time with my partners. Terminology wise, we've more or less settled on saying OSOs when we want to make a distinction between spouses and other partners, so I'll probably use that term a bit going forward.

In fact, [ profile] ghoti introduced herself on the coming out thread and offers: But friends-of-Liv who'd like to get to know me better perhaps may wish to know that I will be doing December Days and that might be a good place to ask questions? [ profile] ghoti is very much an LJ person and doesn't really do DW (indeed, DW-[personal profile] ghoti who is in my DW circles is an entirely different person whom I'm not dating, so I hope this does not result in any confusion.)

recent fun things )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently acquired There were three books I positively wanted in the campus Blackwells' 3 for 2 offer, so my physical to-read pile has grown by:
  • How to be both, by Ali Smith. I like Ali Smith a lot, especially Girl meets boy, which has really stuck with me. And this one is getting a lot of buzz and seemed like something I'd be excited about
  • Being mortal by Atul Gawande. Gawande is a really amazing writer on medical topics, and death is an important one, and I feel reading his non-fiction will help me get better at training future doctors.
  • Fields of blood, by Karen Armstrong. I mean, I'm a huge huge fan of Armstrong and I'm basically interested in reading her shopping list, and the subject of religion and violence seems particularly acute right now.

Recently read
  • Not actually recent, but I was reminded that ages ago I meant to link to this article about historical changes in the nature of phone calls, by Ian Bogost. It's better on the history of the tech and hardware than on the social history, but it does include some of the second. And my Dad worked for a telecommunications company for many years so I was already a bit interested in technological solutions to maximizing sound quality for voice calls with really very limited bandwidth.
  • And this is more images than words, but it's a fascinating summary of How Richard Scarry updated his children’s book.

Currently reading Still The Dervish House by Ian McDonald. I don't have much new to say about it, it's one of those books that I enjoy a lot while I'm reading it but don't have much urge to pick up again when I'm not.

Up next Not sure. The next item on my Bringing up Burns challenge list is a book at the bottom of your "to be read" pile, and my TBR pile doesn't actually have a physical instantiation, it's scattered between my two households and some mental notes about what I have my eye one that I should probably write down.

Likely the draft of my junior student's first year report at some point in the next couple of weeks, plus an ongoing pile of undergrad coursework that I'm probably going to be marking through about January.
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Reasons for watching it Maggie Smith, primarily. And the set-up of an indigent woman living for many years in a van in Alan Bennett's driveway sounded interesting.

Circumstances of watching it We're doing some fairly intense prepping the first years for practical exams at the moment, which involves repeating the same mini-lesson 12 times in 8 hours spread over two days. So several of us were pretty shattered by 5 pm yesterday, at which point a colleague offered, who wants to go out for a bite and a film?

We ended up at Hector Garcia's, a chain Mexican place that's mainly good for cocktails and tapas. Since that's a bit intimate for a meal out with colleagues, we ordered entrées instead, and I was kind of disappointed with my chimichangas which just about rose to the level of pleasant, but were more heavy than hearty and more spicy-hot than interestingly flavoured. Plus one colleague who joined the expedition is one of those awful diets where you don't so much change what you eat as talk constantly about how bad you're being for eating food.

Verdict The lady in the van is a technically clever film which fell down for me because it doesn't respect its characters.

detailed review )

Basically I spent way too much of the film cringing compared to how much time I spent laughing from genuine enjoyment, though there were some of the latter moments too.

Coming out

Nov. 12th, 2015 08:55 am
liv: bacterial conjugation (attached)
I missed National (nation of internet?) Coming Out Day, partly because I was busy, and partly because it wasn't the right time to make this post.

coming out thoughts )

So with that preamble, I too, a much lesser writer than Penny or Monroe, have something to tell you: I am polyamorous. That is to say, I'm currently in romantic relationships with several different people, all of whom know about eachother and are completely happy and supportive. I don't think this is likely to be a surprise to most of my readers; I've not been making huge efforts to keep it a secret, and I'm sure many of you whom I haven't told directly will have found it easy enough to read between the lines. But this is the first time I've actually said the sentence, I'm poly, on my public blog. And part of why I'm saying it now is that it's not only a fact about my philosophy of relationship, and I'm not even sure it's a fact about my identity at all, poly is more a thing I do than who I am. It's also a fact about my life and the people who are important to me.

A year ago I became part of a quad, four people who are in relationships with eachother in various combinations. And it's been a completely wonderful year, full of new experiences, and we're all really hopeful that this can be a long-term, potentially a committed thing. When I was poly in the sense that I had various shapes of romantic-ish connections alongside my primary relationship, it didn't matter so much, partly because I don't identify as poly as such. People knew who I loved and who I was close to, and that was great, and it wasn't really anybody's business but the people involved exactly what form those loving relationships took. Now that I'm part of a quad, it feels like a different situation. Unlike with being bi, it's not that people need to know this fact about me and who I am, it's that I want people to know whom I love and the relationship structure I'm in. Every time in the past year I've referred to, or even introduced, my partners as "my friend" instead of "my partner" I've cringed internally; it's like going back 20 years and playing the pronoun game because I wasn't sure how safe it was to come out.

The thing about coming out about relationship structures rather than identities is that you're telling other people's secrets. The other three people in the quad needed to be free to make their own decisions about when and what to tell their respective parents. I told my own parents as soon as I was reasonably confident that the relationship was stable and not just a passing fling, and as when I told them I was dating a woman, they said supportive things and didn't entirely understand what I meant and have been slowly coming to terms with the idea that I'm in this multi-person relationship network instead of the dyad they expected when I got married. But, well, four people have a lot of parents between them, and part of why I missed National Coming Out Day was I didn't want to put anything on the internet until all the parents had been informed directly.

And even now I've made this post, I haven't just flipped the switch to being Out instead of Closeted. It's not that hard to connect this journal to my wallet name if you go digging, but I hope that a cursory web search on my wallet name isn't going to find this pseudonymous blog. I'm not out at work and I have no immediate plans to be; I'll carry on saying "spending some time with... friends" when people ask me about my plans for the weekend. And I'm not fully out within the Jewish community (though I'm out to individual Jewish people including obviously my parents), and both those things mean that I'm not likely any time soon to mention poly on Facebook.

In some ways being out about poly feels more scary than telling people I'm bi. That's partly because I've been lucky that I've experienced relatively little homophobia or biphobia. And I generally hang out with liberal tolerant types who at worst accept the culturally prevalent idea that gay people are just like "us" except that they happen to be attracted to the same gender. Poly in that sense is less "normal"; there are many people who generally see themselves as non-judgemental but have no paradigm at all for multiple or multi-person relationships other than having affairs and deceiving or cheating on one's (singular) partner. Even some LGBT campaigners and activists are so fixated on the assimilationist paradigm of "just like heteronormative dyadic relationships" that they are eager to distance themselves from any kind of poly or open relationship situation. But at the same time, although it's harder to tell people about my relationships with several people than it is to tell them about my (past) relationships with women, it still feels like it's my choices that are being disapproved of, not that I'm being oppressed because of something I just can't change about myself.

Anyway, I'm very happy and in love, that's the other thing I wanted to say, aside from all this political and angsty stuff. It's been a wonderful amazing year, in so many ways.

Please feel free to ask questions; I personally don't mind being a resource if you've not had much exposure to poly relationships before now. As you can see from this post, I'm being a bit cagey about the actual identities of my partners, but if you ask me general questions that I can answer without disrupting anyone else's privacy, I'll do my best.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently acquired The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble, from the giveaway shelf at work. I sometimes like Drabble and sometimes don't, but I find it hard to resist free books. And if I don't get on with it I'll put it back on the giveaway shelf.

Recently read
  • Via [personal profile] khalinche, The lonely death of George Bell, by NR Kleinfield. One of those really excellent pieces of non-fiction writing which takes a single individual who's not particularly famous or exceptional, and conveys their character and situation. This is a portrait of what happens when someone dies having no real social connections, while also showcasing a bit what the bureaucracy manages to discover about Bell.

  • And from the other pole of human life, Parenting and pronouns, by Dorian at Beyond the Binary. Some really interesting observations about what happens if you actually take seriously the idea that you can't guess a baby's gender by looking at its genitals, an experience some of my friends are are also going through.

    Currently reading The Dervish House by Ian McDonald. I'm reading this slowly, because it's dense, but in a good way. I love the world-building of near-future Turkey, seen through the eyes of disparate characters who have the sorts of totally coincidental connections that only happen in fiction. As with some of McDonald's other stuff, it's SF in that it has nanotech and political extrapolations, but the atmosphere feels more like fantasy in some ways, partly because magical things happen and it's very ambiguous whether there's an underlying scientific explanation, and partly because the language is really lush and poetic.

    Up next Not sure; I've got a bit under a third of The Dervish House still to go. I'm kind of pining to read Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie, partly cos the whole internet's talking about the third in the trilogy and I'm behind! The main reason I didn't get to it sooner is because [personal profile] jack lent his copy to someone and we can't remember whom, and I'm irrationally reluctant to buy it again when I "could" just borrow it from J. Except that's silly, because obviously I can't borrow it if we don't know where the copy is, and I'm rich enough these days that it won't hurt me to buy the same book twice and I'm happy to support Leckie, she's writing good stuff and seems like a really nice person.

    Today I did good adulting. I saw the nurse practitioner at the campus GP practice, and endured her telling me off for being two years behind on dealing with minor medical stuff, in exchange for her prescribing me some non-expired asthma inhalers and administering a flu vaccine. And I have another appointment for a proper asthma review, which will be tiresome as I've been taking the same medication for 25 years and I know it works for me, but I understand why they want to do this with a new patient, and the nurse agreed to combine (!) this with a cervical smear, which I'm also overdue for and won't be any fun, but hey.

    And I dealt with some email, and other generally useful but boring work tasks, and I showed my face at the Remembrance service in chapel this morning. They got about a hundred people, I think, some of them in military uniform. And the Catholic (with a red poppy) and Free Church (with a white one) chaplains did one of those very Keele ecumenical services which was sweet and sincere and generically theistic rather than intensely Jesus-y, and definitely not about glorifying war and brave soldiers' heroic sacrifices etc.

    I'm doing our Remembrance in synagogue this Friday; I usually try to do it the Friday before Remembrance Sunday, but I ended up just picking the closest Friday to the actual date of the 11th without looking up when the official commemoration was going to be. My Facebook is absolutely lousy with arguments pro and contra marking the day at all, and honestly the people whose politics are generally most congruent with mine are against it. There's not really any question that I'm going to mention it in synagogue, because it's something we've always done since 1918, you don't change the community's customs based on how you feel about Cameron versus Corbyn. But I think it's time for some Sassoon; he was at least arguably Jewish and it feels like this year is his year, everybody's quoting him.
  • liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
    I am more and more thinking I want to contribute to Open Source. Now, one way is to overcome all the inertia and get going again with Dreamwidth, but I don't want to put all my eggs in one dubiously viable basket. So I'm considering other possibilities.

    noodling )

    Anyway, I have so far failed to get Ubuntu onto my netbook, and I'm framing this as a success at gathering data on how hard it is, rather than a failure at installing the OS. And like a good little scientist, I've documented the experience in my dev journal; you're welcome to take a look if you're curious but I don't want to shove that kind of boring detail stuff in everybody's faces.

    Advice is cautiously welcome. I really don't want to hear all the arguments for why Ubuntu is rubbish, I have my reasons for starting from there, and if I find that it isn't the system or the community I'm looking for, fair enough, but I have made up my mind to try at this point. Equally I don't want people to offer to take over and sort stuff out for me, however well-intentioned, because I want the experience of figuring it out at least as much as I want the end goal of having a netbook running Linux. But if you want to give me advice on where to start with troubleshooting my installation process, I would be grateful.

    And if you want to give me more general advice about getting started with contributing to Open Source, then I would definitely like to hear it. I'm most likely to listen to advice that takes into account that I'm reasonably intelligent even though I'm female and don't have much in the way of programming experience, but also doesn't assume any prior knowledge at all.

    Keeping up

    Oct. 30th, 2015 12:35 pm
    liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
    Some time ago, [personal profile] cjwatson and [ profile] siderea asked:
    it generally seems that working scientists have to spend a sizeable proportion of their time keeping up with other people's research, since after all that's at least theoretically the point of publishing in the first place and unless you're a genius in a tiny field you'll get further that way than by ignoring everyone and striking out on your own! But scientific publications are generally pretty information-dense and there are a lot of people publishing in most fields, so I'm guessing that just keeping up with your reading could use up all your time if you let it. What strategies do people use for selecting out the most important things and keeping the firehose of incoming information under control?
    It's a good question, so let me give it a go, albeit belatedly. I'm not sure I can talk about what strategies people in general use, only what I do, but I don't think I'm that much of an outlier.

    work nerdery )

    Does that help? Please feel free to ask more questions, including the rest of my readers beyond the ones who asked me in the first place.
    liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
    I have some small but extremely personally important connections to Hengrave Hall, which I visited once or twice a year from 1988 to to 2005 when the religious community based there had to close down due to lack of funds. And [personal profile] sunflowerinrain drew my attention to the fact that there is a film about the musical history of Hengrave. I really want to see this film, though on closer inspection it turns out that it's not filmed on location, it has Kentwell Hall (a place I know several of you have connections) playing the role of Hengrave.

    But it's a tiny little indie film and none of the showings were in reasonable times or locations. So what I'm thinking of is seeing if I can bring it to the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse using this crowd-funding site (thanks to [ profile] bugshaw for finding that for me). The idea of OurScreen is that if you can get enough people to pledge to buy tickets, it's worth the cinema's while to screen something that wouldn't otherwise be on their schedule. If you don't find enough pledges, everybody gets their money back.

    What I'd really like would be to have a custom showing of Draw on sweet night for my birthday, which this year is a Sunday, 27th December. It's going to be fiddly, because in order to make it happen I have to persuade Capriol films to sign up with OurScreen, and then get enough pledges so that the cinema agree to show the film. So I'm starting out by gauging interest here. I realize that the middle of Christmas is a bad time for lots of people, but I don't think we'd need huge numbers, range of 20-30 tickets I think.

    I reckon that even if you don't care about Hengrave, a film with sex and madrigals might be a draw. The story sounds a bit melodramatic, but the music is authentic and they've got some good early music groups involved in performing them. Polls don't cross-post well, so LJ people, please either come over to DW and vote using OpenID, or explain your views in the comments. When I ask for commitments, I don't mean absolute unbreakable promises, I understand that emergencies happen, but in order to do this thing I'm going to need a couple of dozen people who will actually put the date in their diaries and expect to show up on 27th in most normal circumstances. And I'm going to need to know this at least somewhat in advance so that I can actually organize things.

    poll )
    liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
    So this weekend I got to join in with excited small children going on An Expedition to the Science Museum. thoroughly wonderful weekend adventures )

    So yes, weekends with lots and lots and lots of time with lovely people, and space and dressing up and dancing and tasty Asian food lead to a very happy (if very shattered) Liv.
    liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    Updating DW in an odd awkward break between teaching. Wow, just like old times. Anyway, I still have many essays in my head but I don't have time to write them, so here is some other people's stuff instead:
    liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
    Well, today's LJ cross-post made it into the top 25 LJ posts. Which these days is hardly an achievement; according to the rather crude site stats LJ offers, that amounts to approximately 70 visitors. But anyway, while I have the attention of the last few dozen people still clinging to LJ, some publicity:

    My amazing brother [ profile] angrysampoet has achieved a minor life ambition: he's playing The Junction in Cambridge. Headlining a Hammer & Tongue poetry slam on Friday 6th November. I really want to go, but I can't because there's no way I can get to a Friday evening gig five hours' travel away from where I'm teaching on Friday afternoon. So I'm telling you lot about it instead, I think a fair proportion of my circles live in or near Cambridge.

    And my equally amazing baby sister, [ profile] berksonbakes, has set up a website for her bespoke gluten-free baking business. At least some of her cakes can be sent by post, so anyone in mainland Britain can order from her. And she really is doing bespoke stuff, she'll make four or six individual slices of cake, or she'll cater a whole event. She's pretty good at other dietary restrictions too, eg vegan, nut-free etc.
    liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
    So the very famous game Hatoful Boyfriend is in this week's Humble Bundle (if you see this in the next few hours, it's still available). I've seen so many comments on the internet saying that Hatoful Boyfriend is surprisingly profound and much more rewarding than the concept of a high school dating sim with pigeons would imply, so I gave it a go.

    review )

    It's a bit of a stretch to call this related, but [ profile] ghoti recently gave me a very cool present, the Japanese themed game Machi Koro. She described it as a kawaii cross between Dominion and Settlers, and it's hard to imagine a better encapsulation of what the game is. first play thoughts )
    liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    [ profile] ghoti found a production of a stage play of Tipping the velvet, so of course we had to go to that. I was somewhat expecting a play-of-the-book (which I haven't read), but in fact what really impressed me about the production was that it was very much its own thing, it was musical theatre, full of elements specific to that medium. The story is partly set in the the theatre, and the show made references to period popular theatre including the music hall tradition, but didn't try to slavishly recreate historical stuff, it was very much a modern production.

    detailed review )

    So yes, basically that was awesome, many thanks to [ profile] ghoti for suggesting the show and for being excellent company for watching it!
    liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    Reason for watching it: I have read a lot of analysis of the film, some strongly positive and some very angry, and I was curious to see it.

    Circumstances of watching it: A nice relaxed evening with [personal profile] cjwatson and his younger two kids.

    Verdict: Brave is a lovely story about a mother and daughter, and gorgeously animated, while I'm somewhat ambivalent about the Hollywood "Scottish" setting.

    detailed review, with spoilers, mentions child abuse and racism )

    Reading Wednesday: Still reading and enjoying The Dervish House by Ian McDonald; nothing much more to report.
    liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    It's National Poetry Day, apparently. And this one is actually based in my own nation, rather than just one of those vague nation-of-internet special days.

    As it happens, yesterday the internet was full of people being cross about a project to produce contemporary English translations of Shakespeare. Now my opinion is that contemporary English translations are just one part of the myriad ways that modern audiences respond to literary classics. Certainly it's possible for them to be awful, but the idea of reworking Shakespeare's words isn't inherently awful.

    [ profile] papersky wrote a sonnet expressing the general sentiment that changing Shakespeare is horrible. I commented that I really shouldn't try to write a response sonnet to express my alternative view, and certain people talked me into it instead of out of it. I'm rather charmed with the idea of an internet argument about Shakespeare in sonnet form, I must say.

    So anyway, have a rather bad, dashed off hypertext sonnet about why I'm in favour of translating and reinterpreting Shakespeare:
    True poetry is what survives translation,
    An exiled Magyar poet told me once.
    We're all time's exiles. Each one longs
    To touch the past through each imagination,

    But time excludes us from each treasured word –
    No verse, no rhyme, no play remains pristine,
    We'll never watch unchanged a perfect scene,
    Nor ever hear what past play-goers heard.

    Limelight's electric now and women act,
    Some plays are filmed instead of staged,
    The words, the sounds, the very rhymes have changed.
    No fossil, this, to be preserved intact,

    But living art in loving minds reborn,
    Poetic truth translation can transform.
    I do rather like writing poetry that responds to existing works. Pastiches and filks and metrical translations of poetry in other languages, too, but especially when someone writes a poem and I reply to it in similar style and metre.
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read: The first fifteen lives of Harry August, by Claire North. (c) Claire North 2014, Pub Orbit 2014, ISBN 978-1-4055-2825-2. The first fifteen lives of Harry August is the sort of book I normally really like, intelligent SF which explores a cool idea. but it didn't quite work for me.

    read more )
    liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    I spent some of the weekend at [personal profile] emperor's readthrough of Joss Whedon's Firefly. I'll write about the social experience behind the cut, and while I'm giving you the choice whether to read about the event, I'll also make some comments about the portrayal of sex workers in the series, and mention potential small spoilers.

    mostly the good kind of drama )
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read:
    • A couple of striking pieces on people talking about their experiences of living in their bodies:
    • A thorough and informative long read about my brother's poetry book and the political background: Poets Of The Rifle: Cultural Resistance From Saharawi Refugee Camps, by Jen Calleja.

    • [personal profile] commodorified's thinky essay and discussion about how fandom talks about writing about rape. I've been meaning to link to this for ages, it's very complex and nuanced and I don't think I can really summarize it, but if you're at all interested in fandom culture and communities of trauma survivors more broadly it's well worth reading (if you can cope with a meta discussion about rape and trauma, of course).
    Currently reading: The first fifteen lives of Harry August, by Claire North. I'm actually most of the way through, I'll probably finish it next time I have half an hour to spare. It's... ok, there's nothing obviously terrible about it, but it just doesn't give me any sense of wanting to read on to find out what happens next. It should be exciting, because it's all about Harry's arch-enemy trying to alter the timeline so that Harry never exists, risking destroying the whole world in the process, so there's plenty of both personal and global peril, but for some reason I'm not emotionally engaged with the plot.

    It feels like much of the book is North exploring a cool idea, that rare people are "Ouroborans" who when they die return to their own births with their memories of their lives, now in the relative future, intact. But she never really moves on beyond exploring the implications of this cool idea, tFFLoHA just doesn't quite hang together as a story. I think a lot of my problem is that I don't like Harry August as a character, he's very self-centred and just annoying, and that's preventing me from engaging with the plot.

    Up next: Next on my Bringing up Burns challenge list is A book by an author you love. So maybe it's time to read the third in Chris Moriarty's Spin cycle, Ghost spin. Or perhaps The Dervish House by Ian McDonald, which I was really excited about a while back but then didn't read because Brasyl really disappointed me.

    Also I'm thinking of reading Das Kapital by Karl Marx, along with a friend who is looking to fill a gap. I love the idea of reading seminal texts collaboratively, but it's possible that this may be a bad idea as said friend is quite a bit to the left of me politically, which might make me an annoying reading partner. And if I do pick up a big scary political tome I will probably read a novel at the same time.


    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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