liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
I've been in a funny mood these past couple of weeks. There have been lovely things, viz:

misc bitty things; mentions death )

Anyway, it's been the kind of time when I keep opening compose windows and not knowing what to say. And I haven't got anything new for Reading Wednesday as I have read basically no fiction in the past couple of weeks. So have some links to other people's writing:

  • I rather appreciated [livejournal.com profile] evilrooster's fic Silence in the hill country. It's not at all the sort of thing I normally like, since it's NT fic for one thing, and for another the main topic is Mary's pregnancy. And I'm slightly hesitant to recommend Christian Bible fic, but as far as I can tell the story is framed in a reverent way; the writer is a practising Christian.

  • A rather sweet story about a so-called natural inseminator, a man who helps women to become pregnant by having sex with them rather than just donating sperm. Although there is a weird bit in the middle where the journalist expresses horror at the idea that people with genetic diseases or autistic people might donate sperm, so if you don't want to run into sudden unexpected eugenics you probably shouldn't follow the link.

  • [personal profile] rachelmanija started a wonderful discussion about how people find hope in a time of despair. I should note, I could hardly be further from despair, there are many many good things in my life and I have more to look forward to. And some of what people are writing about is dealing with absolutely horrible circumstances, pretty much everything horrible that could happen to anyone is in the comments somewhere. I'm finding something very moving about people's descriptions of just still being here after the worst possible things happened to them.
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: 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: 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: 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: 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, [tumblr.com 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 [tumblr.com 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 [tumblr.com 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 [livejournal.com 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, [tumblr.com 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 [twitter.com 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 [twitter.com profile] embassthon account in its entirety. It's a charity stunt by [twitter.com 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 [twitter.com 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.

  • [livejournal.com 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! )

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    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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