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.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read

Currently reading: Lady of mazes by Karl Schroeder. I'm enjoying it really a lot. It's sort of doing that slightly clichéd thing of whether it's better to have safety or freedom, but it's also got some really interesting world-building exploring post-human civilizations, with some very nice characterization and plenty of exciting plot.

Up next: I don't know. I think I should maybe stop answering this question as I'm pretty rarely right about what I'll pick up next; I often don't decide until I find out where I physically am and what's available when I finish what I'm currently reading. I'm thinking of trying out the Your Blue-eyed Boys Captain America fanfic that people have been raving about, even though I'm not terribly into the canon; does anyone have a reading guide?
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read
  • The girl with all the gifts by MR Carey. read more )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Recently read
  • I don't believe in God, but I believe in lithium by Jaime Lowe. It's a really gorgeously written ode to the element lithium, centred around Lowe's experiences taking lithium to control her bipolar illness. She's not taking an ideological pro- or anti- meds stance, but is really clear-eyed about the compromises involved in medicating mental illness with blunt-tool drugs.

  • On Tumblr, [ profile] helloelloh wrote a very sweet thing about romantic relationships, specifically about established relationships where love is not a fire in your soul, but one in your hearth, keeping you warm and comfortable. I mean, I haven't been in a really long-term relationship, I'm looking forward to finding out what living as a couple is like after decades, but I have been with [personal profile] jack for 7½ years now. And it's nothing like the story in pop culture where you get a few months of happy sparkly being In Love and after that it all degenerates into bickering over chores and feeling vaguely resentful that you don't get to hang out with your friends any more. It's not exactly like Elo describes either, but much closer to that.

    Currently reading
  • Still reading my friend's long unpublished novel.

  • And we've got up to The shining wire in [personal profile] rmc28's Watership Down readthrough. It's an amazingly powerful, and terrifying, piece of writing, to the point that I keep trying to compose a comment and get completely blocked on how emotionally intense it is. I mean, there's a scene in my friend's novel which I read in an earlier draft 10 years ago, and it had a similarly powerful effect on me, but coming back to it my reaction is much more detached, cerebral. And that's not the case with The shining wire; rereading it now, probably closer to 30 years later than the first time I encountered it than ten, even knowing exactly how it turns out, I'm just as much caught up in the emotions.

    Up next I have a yen to read The girl with all the gifts by MR Carey, mostly based on [personal profile] rachelmanija's informative review. I have borrowed it from [personal profile] jack, partly because I couldn't find his copy of Ancillary Sword (has anyone reading this borrowed it, by any chance?)
  • liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    Recently read Some very good stuff on my DW reading page:
  • [personal profile] lizcommotion is hilarious on the subject of cats and internet security

  • [personal profile] seekingferret challenges the popular simplification that Einstein overthrew Newton

  • [personal profile] jack wrote some interesting meta on Magic in Jo Walton's Among Others. Personally I found that one of the most satisfying depictions of magic I've encountered in fantasy, precisely because it falls into neither of the traps of being completely random and depending on the needs of the plot, nor completely systematic so that it's just like a parallel type of physics or a dice-based role-playing system. The linked posts are somewhat spoilery, mine more than [personal profile] jack's, but don't completely reveal the main plot; anyway they probably won't make much sense if you haven't read the book.

    And one Tumblr post, which is just quintessentially Tumblr, a conversation between people geeking out about the ridiculousness of folk song tropes. I particularly liked [ profile] elodieunderglass' contributions, including a playlist of I guess my corpse is a swan now: a weird folk education. Well worth following that link for [ profile] elodieunderglass' annotations and the discussion, even if you don't want to listen to the songs themselves.

    Currently reading Most of the way through my friend's long unpublished novel, so hopefully there will be interesting reading Wednesday posts again soon.

    Up next Possibly Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie, as I'd like to read that before Worldcon.

    I'm also pondering what leads to interesting online conversations. I had my first actual interesting discussion on FB in the decade or so I've been (mostly reluctantly) using the site, because I Tweeted that I'd found myself trying to explain to a Christian child the difference between magic and miracles. Turns out lots of people have opinions about that topic. And FB have sort of half-heartedly introduced threading, which maybe helps a bit. Whereas over here, people had absolutely masses to say about the topic of modest dress, which I had expected would be one of those obscure things that only one or two religion geeks would care about. I'm really enjoying the discussion, anyway.

    My post about the broken system that is PhD training still reliably accounts for nearly a fifth of all the traffic to my DW, even two and a half years after I wrote it. Again, I didn't expect it to be of more than specialist interest, but it's turned out to be the thing that made me internet-famous. And I'm reminded of it right now because both my PhD students are having struggles and I'm trying to be more supportive than a typical bad supervisor, but we'll see.

    Also today I initiated my newer student into mammalian cell culture, and I'm reminded of when I got sent to a collaborator to improve my technique and she informed me that her culture hood was 'The Holy of Holies'. I'd been missing the mental focus of trying to work 'in total purity', and I even almost miss my hands smelling of disposable gloves. And now my student knows I talk to my cancer cells; I reckon she still respects me.
  • liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    Currently reading: Still my friend's unpublished novel (which is awesome and also long, so apologies for the rather samey and uninformative Reading Wednesday posts).

    Up next: My plans for this weekend include a charity fête which usually has a very good second-hand bookstall, so I shall see if I can pick something solely for the cover.

    This being the case, my recently read is just a handful of links I think deserve more attention, so:

    linkies )

    I have spent a very long and tiring day running practical exams, so I'm kind of exhausted. If anyone's around and would like to chat in a not too energetic way, I'd enjoy some company.
    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: 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: 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: 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: 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 )
    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: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    More of a linkspam really...

    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! )
    liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
    There are two things you should know about this post: I'm writing it as a non-mentally-ill person about issues that don't affect me directly, so please feel free to take with as much salt as you like, or ignore it if you hate that kind of thing. I'm mostly planning to link to the words of people who do have mental illnesses, but I'm bad at writing linkspams without my own commentary. And secondly, it concerns mental illness and some of the worst consequences of that, so it will mention triggering topics including self-harm, suicide, forced treatment and medical neglect / abuse.

    if you still want to read on )
    liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
    Recently read: No new fiction this week. So have some links:
  • Cute personal account Jews and Muslims in France. I picked it up from Making Light, and it's nothing exceptional as journalism goes, just one person talking about her experiences. But it's a counter to the agitprop trying to turn Jews and Muslims against eachother, and valuable for that reason. It also very much reflects my own experience of interacting with Muslims, though mine is either in Britain rather than France, or more than 10 years ago.

  • Talking of positivity, I really enjoyed [ profile] illusive_shelle's verse response to the horrendous anti-Muslim propaganda on American TV: #FoxNewsFact. And a bonus sweetly scathing response in prose from [ profile] mrissa.

  • My Dad sent me this human interest story, which is rather cripspiration-ish, the thrust of the article is Deaf-blind guy marries and has a child, isn't that amazing?! But the thing is that I have a distant connection to this guy, because he was in the same ward as my brother when the latter had a serious accident in 2002. I've always been kind of haunted by the image of this young man waking up in hospital with no sight or hearing and no idea where he was and just screaming constantly. So I'm pleased to learn that things have worked out well for him, sometimes you just by chance get to the find out the epilogue of someone's story.

  • On a completely different topic, I really appreciated [ profile] papersky's musings on mortality: Everything alive and dead to weep as one. It's not exactly fiction, but it's a lovely piece of prose, and to make it vaguely relevant to the Wednesday theme, the post and discussion contain various recs for historical biographies and collected correspondence available on Gutenberg and elsewhere.

    Currently reading: Still in the early part of Imajica.

    Also still following [personal profile] rmc28's Watership Down readthrough, which I forgot to mention last week. I was away at the weekend and I don't have a copy of the book here, so I'm a little bit behind. But there's some really fun discussion developing, and the book is holding up well not only as an adult reader but as something to savour and delve into in detail, we're doing one chapter a week and each chapter is only a couple of pages.

    Up next: I still don't really have a specific plan. I've been chatting to [personal profile] cjwatson about some of the classic science fiction we both read, and thinking about new stuff to recommend eachother. Asimov, and how he's often better at shorter length due to having a lot more skill in exploring interesting ideas than in conventional novel techniques like plotting and characterization. Other people who do very ideas-heavy hard SF: Greg Egan, of course, and I have a ghost of a thought about Ted Chiang which I didn't quite get round to talking about.

    I'm realizing there are quite a few books I really liked 5–10 years ago which I now can't quite remember well enough to recommend without rereading. And I generally don't reread very much because I'm always seeking out new stuff, but books that have stuck in my mind enough that I'm excited to share them but where I no longer remember the details seem good candidates. So possibly Geoff Ryman's The Child Garden, possibly Emma Bull's War for the oaks. (Gosh, I'm glad that I used to keep up with reviewing better than I do now, I should really get back into that habit!) Or else I should make at least a note of the examples that came up in conversation that I'm not familiar with: Stephen Baxter's Xeelee stories; Poul Anderson's Tau Zero.

    Also I haven't posted to DW since last Wednesday, which does suggest that the Wednesday reading meme is good for me. I do have quite a few posts I want to make, but sometimes having an imposed structure helps with getting started.
  • liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
    [personal profile] silveradept requested: around the end of the month: Things ending, things beginning. And I'm a couple of days behind on posts which means I'm writing this right at the end of the month, not just around it. And, well, I've just come back from [personal profile] blue_mai's mother's funeral, having started 2014 with joining [personal profile] lethargic_man at part of the shiva (memorial prayers in the week after a funeral) for his mother. So my head is very much in lives ending, not just things in general. Which means this post is working out a little melancholy, and I'm sorry this in the slot where I meant to answer [personal profile] zhelana's much more positive prompt for my favorite moment of the month. Might manage that before the day, the month and the year roll over into the new, we'll see.

    a time for every purpose under heaven )

    And in my personal life I find myself at the beginning of something which is too early to be comfortable talking about publicly, but I am ending the year brimming with joyful hope.

    Not entirely on topic, but [ profile] siderea has written an absolutely brilliant and inspiring reflection for the end of a year which has included so much awfulness, notably police forces in America going rogue and killing African-American children and young men. I strongly recommend: Long Night (Staying Woke).


    Oct. 22nd, 2014 11:04 am
    liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
    Work is a bit politically frustrating at the moment, so have some silly links:

    [ profile] joannas found the personality quiz I've been waiting for all my life: What kind of protein are you? I am a transcription factor, which considering how much of my work has in fact been on TFs, is a particularly pleasing result. It means that I implement decisions by switching genes on and off, thereby delegating other proteins to go off and do useful things. Which sounds about right for someone who spends her non-research time teaching baby doctors and switching them on to go and cure people.

    ETA 1: If you're getting a result like "analyst" or "nurturer" you need to scroll up to the top of the picture to see what kind protein you actually are. Yes, it's very bad UI design, I hadn't realized that it was making the descriptions more prominent than the actual result. Sorry about that!

    There was an XKCD with biochemistry; there's no point linking to XKCD really cos just about everybody follows XKCD. And that strip isn't closely related to my work, but it's the chemistry a couple of levels under what I do, so it made me feel loved.

    All the academics on my Twitter feed are linking to this silly Guardian article about why academics have a bad dress-sense: because we're not alienated from our labour, apparently. It's a charming thought, and there is a serious point buried in the article, which is that many female academics work just as hard on coming across exactly the right degree of nonchalant about appearance as they would on being impeccably presented if they worked in a sector that expected that. Me, I dress badly because I can't be bothered to spend time or money on clothes, and because I'm fat enough that there's no low-effort way to look good. But it's nice to pretend that it has something to do with Marx or feminism or something.

    ETA 2: [personal profile] redbird absolutely nails the analysis that's missing from the article: "Even without choosing to dress that way for Marxist or feminist reasons, you can make those choices without a lot of stress in part because of your specific work and class situation." Yes, that. That's the conclusion the article should've come to, thank you [personal profile] redbird for fixing it so succinctly.
    liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
    [ profile] kake linked to a cool post by [personal profile] doug about changing history with a time machine. It's the sort of post that makes me realize just how weak my history is. There's absolutely no way I could come up with any sensible argument for which people and events made a substantial difference to the course of history, or how history would have been different if those fulcrum events ran differently. Anyway I really like reading stuff by knowledgeable people playing around with ideas like this!

    Also I accidentally rekindled the debate about whether Harriet Vane is a Mary-Sue at [personal profile] staranise's place. People are being careful about major spoilers but if you don't want to know anything the plots or characters of any Sayers books at all you might want to avoid the thread. [personal profile] legionseagle quite rightly points out that my initial premise was simplistic and probably sexist, and also has some really informative and insightful ideas about Sayers' oeuvre, about Mary-Sues, and about the law. And lots of thinky stuff about class and how that's changed historically from various people, including [personal profile] naraht. And [personal profile] staranise herself brings the psychological insight regarding relationships between authors and characters.

    One of the major topics I've been thinking about recently is how to maintain communication with people I care about a lot but who aren't regularly in my life. Partly sparked by this really chewy discussion chez [personal profile] kaberett, which started off responding to a Captain Awkward discussion about when you should just assume someone who isn't getting back to you doesn't actually want to be talking to you and it's time to stop pestering, and moves on to talking about different media and how they work or don't for communication. Also I've been talking to [personal profile] lethargic_man about related stuff; he used to joke that the reason he asked me out was that that was the only way to get me to answer emails, and it's somewhat true, I've been a direly terrible correspondent in the decade since we broke up. And now I am committing the terrible irony of failing to keep up with an email conversation about ways of keeping up with email conversations...

    So, I'd like to hear from people, how do you manage this kind of thing? What sorts of communication media work for you or don't? noodling about this )

    Anyway, how do you do this? How do you handle email guilt and deal with Facebook's horribleness? Are you comfortable flexibly moving between different media depending what suits your friends? Have you, like me, started to lose people now that lots are migrating away from DW? Thoughts very much welcome!


    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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