Sep. 4th, 2012 08:48 am
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
I have a PhD student! She started yesterday, and she is brill, I am so looking forward to working with her. I'm also a bit nervous, because I've never done this before, and I'm in very large part responsible for her career and quite possibly her happiness.

The PhD system is really weird in how heavily it depends on the relationship between supervisor and student. Modern academia is just starting to put safeguards in place to salvage the situation if the relationship goes wrong, but it's still essentially like a Mediaeval apprenticeship: your supervisor all but owns you and has almost unlimited power over whether you get your PhD, which is the essential and almost the only entry route into an academic career.

So I'm taking a leaf from [personal profile] rachelmanija's book: if you've ever been a PhD student, tell me stories! Tell me something your supervisor did that made things better for you. Tell me something they did that made the soul-killing struggle of getting through a PhD even worse than it should have been. (Like [personal profile] rachelmanija, I don't really need to know about obviously disastrously wrong things like sexually harassing students or completely ignoring them or stealing their work, because I already know I'm not going to do that. But hey, if it's cathartic for you to tell the internet how your supervisor was an evil crook who exploited you, go ahead!)

I have no problem if you want to give me general advice that doesn't come from direct personal experiences, or if you want to chime in with stories about a similar relationship that wasn't specifically a PhD. Also feel free to comment if I don't know you, if you found this by chance eg via Latest Things or Network. Anon comments are allowed but you may have to fill in a Captcha.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
So is being DDoSed, and whatever measures they're taking to mitigate this problem mean that I can't connect via my usual IM client, Pidgin. Apparently it has something to do with DNS, but beyond that I'm in the dark. I have tried upgrading Pidgin to the latest version but no joy there. And I have tried all the reasonable web searches I can think of and not turned up any way of fixing this myself.

So, does anyone know of an IM client that successfully connects to Jabber / XMPP when they have anti-DDoS measures turned on? Basically my only requirement is that it works under Windows and handles multiple protocols, with Jabber being the most important. I would prefer something that doesn't display ads; I'm willing to pay a small amount of money to make the spam go away. If it can do IRC as well as IM that's a bonus, but not an essential feature. Visually sleek or simple is better than visually flashy and cluttered, and I don't particularly need something heavily skinnable.

Secondly, does anyone know how to retrieve IM service passwords out of Pidgin? I have several accounts that I only ever use for IM: MSN / Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo, AIM, and ICQ, and the passwords are stored in Pidgin, never getting typed in anywhere, and not in my browser where I can choose to display stored passwords. Would be a lot easier to move to a different client if I can extract them somehow.

The consequence is, until I can get this fixed or the DDoS goes away, I'm not available at my usual Jabber contact, the one I use for chatting to people who are on Google Talk. PM me if you'd like to add me on one of the other services temporarily, and I'll give you a username. It would help if you could send me a brief message with the add request because I'm getting a whole heap of IM spambots trying to persuade me to join webcam sites (especially on Yahoo and AIM), so I tend to delete add requests by default.
ETA: Fixed!
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
I am looking for romantic music. Primarily for the wedding, but also for my general life. I like songs with words, and I usually care about the actual meaning of said words, so I would like to find some songs that are not accidentally break-up songs (which seem to get chosen as wedding music disturbingly often). And if possible I would like songs that are not creepy and stalkerish and obsessive, and songs which don't imply that finding The One is the ultimate aim of life.

Any style is fine; I'm just trying to brainstorm ideas here. I like rock better than r&b and I like baroque and early music better than classical, but those preferences are not set in stone. Also, any language is fine; languages I actually know are English, Swedish, French, German, Hebrew and Latin (and I can sort of kind of understand Spanish, Italian, Ladino, Norwegian and Yiddish), but if you know a good example in a language I'm completely ignorant of, then I will trust you to pick something with non-offensive words. I am particularly hoping for songs that mention weddings (for obvious reasons of aptness), and songs that mention May / springtime / summer, cos two potentials I have in mind are Telemann's Schmückt das frohe Fest mit Maien and Fauré's setting of the Victor Hugo poem Puisque mai.

This bit is more of a long shot, but I especially especially want songs that would work for communal singing, which is to say stuff that's reasonably simple musically and / or reasonably well-known, and preferably out of copyright or otherwise public domain. But not hymns. There may be no songs at all in this category, but I reckon several of my friends have a better chance of knowing about them (if they do exist) than I do.

All suggestions gratefully received (yes, even facetious ones)!
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
OK, so this is in fact wedding-related, but I need the benefit of your wisdom in an area that isn't really specific to weddings. Namely, we're trying to get invitations custom-printed. We have a scan of a beautiful line drawing by [personal profile] hatam_soferet, and we're trying to combine it with text saying "Jack and Liv request the pleasure of your company etc". The printing-company have asked for a 1:1 scale PDF; however, I'm completely unable to create such a file without everything ending up horribly pixellated. Do you have any good suggestions for how to do this?

more technical details )

Also, does anyone know a better font than Italianno? I'm looking for something calligraphy-ish, but a reasonably legible Italic style rather than a very swirly copperplate or anything very loopy or elaborate. Italianno is about right aesthetically but I don't really like its numbers, and there are a few minor infelicities in the way the letters combine.
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
Does any restaurant exist which:
  • Is located in Cambridge or within a reasonable half hour's drive of there?
  • Serves interesting, tasty food for veggies and meat-eaters?
  • Can cope with gluten-free and other special diets? Able to tell you exactly what's in the food and make substitutions if necessary?
  • Is realistically (not just theoretically) accessible to wheelchair users?
  • Can cope with a party of 20?

Blehhhh. Not being able to think of any such place (let alone one that actually seems appealing) is causing a load of drama that I would really rather not be dealing with.
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
So [personal profile] angelofthenorth's wedding made me realize that this getting married plan is actually happening. I don't know of any weddings in my social circle between hers and ours. (There may be some that haven't been decided yet, of course!) But anyway, our intentionally long engagement, which was supposed to allow time for planning and decision-making without too much time-pressure, has nearly all gone. There's only half a year left, which means we need to come to some definite decisions right now, in order to allow people we're paying to do complicated things to book us in.

The venue and catering are sorted, the celebrants have agreed in principle to be present. The two big things that aren't even decided are the dress and the un-honeymoon. (There are a couple of things where we've made a general decision but need to fix up the details, notably the guest-list and the artwork.) But, dress.

I fear I'm becoming a clothes bore )

Plus, I need to find something for [personal profile] jack. I find it really sexist when the bride puts lots of money and effort into a marvellous dress, and the groom just hires a generic suit. Besides, we seem to be still living in a Beau Brummel world, where men's formal dress comes in various shades of grey or black, and is designed to look good on men who have the classic inverted triangle body shape, broad shoulders and slim waist, and even tailored I don't think that is going to really show [personal profile] jack to his best advantage. What I'm hoping for a is something along the lines of an eighteenth or early nineteenth century style frock coat, either an earlier justacorps or a slightly more recent but still very period cutaway coat. But I haven't had any success in finding such things; reenactment garb and stage costumes, yes, but not actual serious clothes. Also, steampunk. Steampunk is all very well, but I am pretty certain that something from an earlier era, Regency or earlier still, would work better for [personal profile] jack. Does anybody have any ideas?

Now I think of it, I'm not sure the naked icon is quite the thing for talking about clothes! But I don't have a better one.
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
I've had two sessions at the gym which reminded me exactly why I was scared of exercise. I'm not exactly going to give up after 9 months, but I'm feeling rubbish and I could do with some hugs / encouraging thoughts.

body and exercise stuff, including asthma )

This is pretty much what I was scared would happen when you all encouraged me to try going to the gym anyway. So I'm hoping you'll encourage me again and reassure me that just because I've had two consecutive bad sessions, doesn't mean that I have completely lost the ability to do exercise. Sorry to be whiny; I just feel as if I've reverted back to my teenage self being constantly frustrated and picked on because I couldn't keep up with physical activity.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
So my brother Screwy is a philosopher. This means he occasionally gets people who want him to help with their philosophical problems. Not quite as bad as admitting that you're a doctor during social occasions, but still.

In this case, he's passed a request on to me, because he thinks that I know more SF/F readers than he does. The issue is as follows:
[My interlocutor] is writing a fantasy novel. He asked me to read the bit he has written. It is much as you might expect. Anyway, one interesting feature of the story is that there is this group of lizardmen who seem to have a religion that revolves around doing evil in the full knowledge of its being evil. I pushed him a bit on this because I thought it was a) interesting and b) badly executed. He suggested that it was because I did not grasp the effect of their cold blood on their mentality. I suggested it did not come through in the writing and that he should have a look at other fantasy writers who try to create a universe where human logic does not apply and see how they handle it and also fantasy writers who create alien mentalities. The best I could think of, being the only fantasy writer I have read, was Tolkien and his Elves. I thought he did a reasonable job of creating a species who were minded differently from humans. He certainly does not provide an example of a universe with a logic radically different from our own.

I have a feeling that this question is going to be better addressed by SF than fantasy, but I'm not sure how picky Screwy's friend is about the distinction. Anyway, does anyone have any good suggestions of books that deal with convincingly non-human approaches to morality?
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
Boring thing to post about, but I have a new shiny Android phone on the way to me. This hopefully means I get to play with apps. What do you guys recommend? I definitely need Twitter and some kind of RSS reader. I might be persuaded to install Facebook and Google+, and I wouldn't be averse to a DW app if there's an LJ app for Android that's compatible. Anything else that makes phones better?

the gory details )

Because the phone I had my eye on had to be ordered from the last remaining stock in the warehouse, there may be a transition period between switching off my old (overpriced) service, and activating the new contract on the new phone. Shouldn't be more than a couple of days, but I may well not be contactable between whenever Orange update their system and Friday. I will see emails and DW comments (though not instantly), and you can certainly call my landline. From Friday, assuming all goes smoothly, I will reattach myself to my precious instant data feed including Twitter and email, and I will continue to be reachable by text or phone at the same mobile number I already had.


Jul. 25th, 2011 07:27 pm
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
I've had my ereader for slightly less than a year, and I've sort of run out of stuff to load on to it. outlining the problem )

So, any ideas? There must be something on the internet that helps find people new books to read and new music to listen to, that isn't Amazon's extremely clunky recommendation system. How do you people discover new media?
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
The wonderful [personal profile] hadassah has generously offered to accompany me on a fact-finding mission to look for potential wedding dresses. Bear in mind that I want a bright-coloured party dress that I can wear for other occasions, not a traditional wedding dress or anything white. However I'm basically terrified of clothes shopping, and although [personal profile] hadassah is very good at it, she is also a foreigner and doesn't really know where the best places are.

So for UK based people, my question is where in London would be a good place to look? I'm looking for any recs at all, department stores, boutiques, little off-the-beaten-track indie or even vintage shops that stand out above the rest... If I have a day in London, where should be my top priority?

For everyone, do you have any advice about how to go about shopping for a serious dress? I'm basically intending to spend a few hundred pounds for something off-the-peg but nice, and then spend perhaps as much again getting it altered to fit me perfectly, and buying accessories including high-end underwear. I would really prefer something made out of natural materials and ethically manufactured if at all possible, but I think the former is easier to find out than the latter. Do you know of any designers / brands who are known to pay a decent wage for the people who manufacture their clothes?

Also my plan is to avoid mentioning the W-word, because I don't want to be charged a premium and I don't want to be steered towards stuff that looks wedding-y. I think I'll say "I'm going to reach the third of a century mark next year, and I'm planning a big party", both of which are true but aren't as connected as that would imply.
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
Haven't managed to post anything since I started back at work after the New Year break. During that time I have:
  • Visited [personal profile] angelofthenorth in Cardiff
  • Hosted [personal profile] khalinche for a truly delightful couple of days
  • Made a flying visit to Cambridge for [personal profile] jack's birthday / engagement party
  • Heard a fascinating but rant-inducing talk by Simon Baron-Cohen
  • Had a visit from my parents, uncle and grandmother
  • Heard a really good talk about the Staffordshire Hoard
  • Marked dozens of exam papers
  • Seen an urban fox
  • Helped represent the Jewish community at a whole bunch of Holocaust Memorial Day events
  • Saw Star Wars for the first time (only the original film, now called episode IV, as yet)
  • Continued going to the gym regularly with [ profile] mathcathy
And [personal profile] jack has been staying with me, which is probably the biggest reason for spending less time on the internet than I sometimes like to.

I have built up a huge queue of posts in my head, including my thoughts about many of the above events, but I also want to post about:
  • Reviews of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel, Stephen King's The Liar and Jo Walton's Among Others
  • Finishing the 10-day countdown meme
  • Answering deep questions people have been posting about relationships
  • Answering the final, giant FAQ about getting engaged, namely: what are the political implications of your decision?
  • A retrospective of 2010; I always do that, every year, and although it'll be February by the time I get to it I'd feel bad about not doing it at all...
Sorry for the bullet points instead of a post. I am very much enjoying 2011 so far, but wow.

I also have a small logistical problem: there is a sofa. It belongs to my brother's partner. They (brother and SO) want it in the long term. Right now it does not physically fit in their living room. I have no sofa, but I do have plenty of space. My brother and sister-out-law would like to long-term lend me their sofa. Sofa is currently in their flat in Hackney. How do I get the sofa from there to my house in Stoke? I'm happy to throw money at the problem, but, you know, preferably not more than the value of the sofa!
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
So, day 16 of my newfound gym habit, and I haven't missed a session yet, in spite of the worst weather and the busiest week this year. In fact, I've even added in some extra sessions, including letting [ profile] mathcathy talk me into getting out of bed for a swim on Saturday morning. (She came over for lunch and political debate and boardgames afterwards, making for a highly enjoyable day.) I'm generally feeling better for it, while only a little resentful of the time taken from sleep and fun.

body image and exercise stuff )

Anyway, I think what would improve my gym experience is something to take up my spare attention which I'll enjoy more than watching MTV, or mainstream TV with subtitles. (I suppose I could regard my gym subscription as partly a subscription to TV channels I wouldn't bother with at home, but honestly I don't much see the appeal of most of what's been on, especially with no soundtrack.) Does anyone have any recs of working out music? Or even audiobooks (I'm not sure if I could concentrate on an audiobook while treadmilling, but I want to give it a try.)

While I'm filling up my media players, what are you digging in terms of general music at the moment? And can you recommend me any novel-length (or at least >10k word) fanfic? I know about Harry Potter and the methods of rationality, but what else good is out there? The sort of thing I'm after is:
- Firefly, though not spoilers for Serenity as I haven't seen that. I ship Inara / Kaylee, but really whatever.
- Harry Potter; I don't really care about spoilers, though I haven't actually read past about a quarter of the way through book 4. I've picked up enough from general culture that I can follow fanfic, and I don't particularly need to be shocked by the twists in the later books.
- Classic children's books, though preferably gen or stuff set after the characters grow up, cos I don't really want to read about kids having sex.
- Sandman
- Inception
- The matrix, especially Neo / Morpheus (does that ship even exist?) I haven't seen the sequels, but don't particularly mind spoilers.
- Star Trek, mainly TNG, but I'm not averse to TOS or the reboot film. Haven't seen DS9 or Voyager

I'm interested in any pairing, OT3 or more, any combination of genders. I'm happy with kinky stuff but I'm not into dubcon and I'm not sure how to describe the line in my head between playing with consent and pain, and the sort of thing that would read as rape to me. (I hope that's not too unhelpful or kink-shaming, I'm trying to talk about what I like to read rather than making moral judgements about what anyone else should read.) As I said, I'm not interested in any kind of underage sex; can cope with 16-year-olds if it's fairly non-explicit, but generally I find adults much much more hot. Again, no offence to Harry Potter fans or anyone else! Also, I'm definitely interested in gen stuff that explores relationships or characters or aspects of the story which aren't sexual.

Also any good podfics or non-fictional podcasts? I want to get into those genres but have no idea at all where to start!
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
I want to do more exercise, but I'm not sure how I should go about it. Please, please read what I'm actually asking about before jumping in with advice.

discusses exercise, body image and breathing issues ) So, any ideas? Please be a bit kind to me, I know I suck for having reached the age of 32 without figuring this out for myself, and for not having got over all the baggage I have from school PE classes, and for being generally too lazy to do what I know is good for me, but. Feeling guilty about not having started yet is not at all going to improve my chances of starting now, that much I'm sure of.

New toy

Sep. 7th, 2010 01:28 pm
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
I've been going back and forth about whether I want an e-reader or not. This week I finally caved. gadgetry babble, with bonus rants about DRM )

The big reason I bought an ebook is to change my book buying habits a bit. I have enough income now that I ought to be reading the 50 books I most want to read in a year, not the 50 books I happen to find cheap or free. My plan is to create a proper, organized to-read list, and systematically acquire books from it to put on my new shiny reader. And carry it with me everywhere, and get it out to read for 5 minutes at the bus-stop or when the person I'm with gets up to go to the loo, like I used to do with paperbacks before I got my smart phone. But I'm having problems with carrying out this good resolution, so could use some pointers.

My Cool-ER supports pdf, HTML, plain text and rtf, and epub for DRM books via Adobe's Digital Editions thingy. But I don't quite know how to find ebooks in those formats. Lots of online shops seem to sell ebooks only to the US (would anyone be willing to "lend" me their US posting address so that I can buy the books? They are actually purely digital and don't need a shipping address at all, and I promise not to do anything to besmirch your good name.) Most websites I've looked at don't even say what formats they do supply, which is really unhelpful. Interead (the company who make the Cool-ER) does have a bookstore, but it's one of those stupid things with mostly self-published stuff, as they have some stupid idea that teh ebil publishing industry is all about turning away perfectly good authors and everybody should have the right to publish their works without having to get past any gatekeepers *eyeroll*. This attitude doesn't usually produce things I actually want to read! And a lot of sites seem to have gone down the Amazon route of only selling things specifically for their pet device. Even without that, I have this awful feeling that I'm going to have to put a different program on my computer for every different company I want to give money to, which I'll do, but I won't feel happy about it!

So, for those of you who read ebooks, can you point me to the sites you use to buy them? If you have any advice about *cough* format shifting (note: it's absolutely my intention to pay publishers the full market price for everything I want to read, even if I end up using grey channels to convert the texts to a format that my device can read and I can back up) I'd be glad to hear it. I'm happy to know about legitimate sources of free ebooks (which is to say, not those that offer bundles of thousands of pirated titles, or those that charge exorbitant prices for poorly OCR'd versions of stuff that's in the public domain anyway; I know about Project Gutenberg, of course.) Also, what gadgets do you use for downloading webpages for later offline reading? Do you know any good e-publishers who may sell stuff that never goes through a paper format, but who actually do some selecting, editing and proofreading before taking their cut? Or any authors who are selling their own works directly whom you'd recommend? Another part of my resolution is that I want to read more non-traditional formats, like poetry and comic books / anime, so recs appreciated.

In other news, today I saw a woman with לא נכשלת tattooed across her cleavage in large, blocky Hebrew letters. (I may have looked at her breasts a little longer than is polite, cos while I can read Hebrew, I am not quite fluent enough to read whole words at a glance.) I translated this, with some bemusement, as "she does not fall over"; Googling brings up a lot of technical help documents about what to do when Windows fails [to do whatever], but also several quotes about "love never fails". Perhaps she has "love" somewhere that isn't publicly visible, even on someone who's fairly skimpily dressed. People are strange, but in a good way.
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
OK, I'm an idiot, I signed up for a four-day text study event on the assumption that it was a residential thing. And in fact it's yet another of those events that are really only aimed at Londoners, preferably those who live in the NW London enclave. So can anyone offer me crash space for any of Wednesday evening (21st July) through Saturday evening (24th July)? I should emphasise I'm not expecting to stay for that whole time, but just one or two evenings would give me a chance to socialize with people I like, and also make the event less prohibitively expensive. If I can do two nights in a hostel instead of four, that's a big help. The actual location is Hampstead Hampstead Garden Suburb, but anywhere in London or surroundings would be a start.
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
Here's a challenge for you: can you suggest me some names, which meet the following criteria:
  • Plausible for actual people (ie not sounding like a spammer)
  • Not really obvious defaults or clichés like "John Smith"
  • Not similar to any famous person or fictional character
  • Reasonably easy to spell and make a guess at the pronunciation
  • Not rude or comical
  • Plausible for someone from a different ethnic background from your own
  • If you're feeling really ambitious, I could do with names that sound plausible for children, middle-aged people, and elderly people.
The reason I'm asking is that one of my jobs for the summer is to help write a bunch of case studies and exam questions, and we always, always struggle with the names. We try to get a balance of implied ethnic backgrounds, (and a range of ages and genders is necessary because it's often medically relevant) but we usually end up with way too many variants on things like "Robert Johnson" and "Mary Barker". It's actually surprisingly difficult to come up with names, so what I'm aiming to do is make a list that we can select from, so that we don't keep getting bogged down in inventing names for our imaginary doctors and patients.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
I have stuff lust, but I'm not sure where to start; would appreciate any advice.

wishlist )

In other attempting to be a geek news, I now have an official Dreamhack (Dreamwidth development environment). So that means I have to figure out how to run the hack myself, so that I can test and submit patches, rather than just playing around with the code and getting other people (mainly the wonderful [personal profile] afuna) to do the technical bits. I think that means understanding Apache and having another stab at Mercurial, and quite possibly some other stuff too. I've had this problem a lot with programming; I'm reasonably good at learning how to write code by looking at tutorials and trying things out, but I keep getting confused by creating situations where I can actually execute my code. But I'm pretty excited to be trying this out.


Apr. 25th, 2010 12:08 pm
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
The sun has finally come back, and everything is blooming enthusiastically, and I've been getting over-excited about the macro button on my camera.

my parents' garden
Had fun in the garden of my parents' house at the end of Passover, which was the first week in April. Daffodils and trees in blossom and lots of other things which I expect Mum and Granny know the names of but I have no idea.

my garden
Here's a few from my garden yesterday.

neighbourhood and cemetery
And some more from the surrounding area, particularly the giant cemetery which lies just behind my house. There's an odd one out which is of masonry rather than spring foliage, but hey, I like it anyway.

technical questions about photography and gardening )

Anyway, yay spring! I should leave the computer and soak up more sunshine while I have the chance.
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
One: is it possible to buy someone vouchers that they can use to buy tickets for any concert? Things got a bit muddled and I didn't manage to buy my student a wedding present. I want to get something appropriate (given that she is, in fact, my student), but that she will enjoy, and I know she's a big rock fan, but I have no idea what her tastes are specifically. So I'd like to be able to give her a certain value of concert tickets, but let her choose which gig to go to. Sort of like iTunes vouchers, but for live music? Ideally it would be physical vouchers I could send her in a nice envelope, not just a code to type into a website, cos that would make it more like a wedding present.

Two: is there a gazetteer or something similar that tells announcers and news reporters how to pronounce place-names? Even small obscure villages? Was travelling home the slow way across country today, and I noticed that there are an awful lot of names that even a fluent native speaker has no hope of guessing how to pronounce, especially if they're in a different region from where that person is familiar with.

(As you can probably deduce from this, I'm home. Work starts tomorrow, but I do feel I've had a good break, two weekends and an intervening week really helps even when it's hectic.)


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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