liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
Well, I managed to finish the December Days meme better than I'd expected! One day I posted late, and then I missed two days right at the end of the month, so I've been behind since then. But I've completed 29 of my 31 prompts. The 30th will be [personal profile] zhelana's request for your favorite moment of the month, which I'll cover today, and I think I'll skip [personal profile] jack's request for talking about board games because I already made a similar post about games and gaming.

I love my friends )

Anyway, happy new year to all of you! I went to the traditional north Cambridge NYE party, where I drank port and dessert wine with bubbles (that's one very Liv-friendly drink, oh my goodness) and talked to interesting people. We had a fit of productivity just before the party and unpacked my dresses that have been languishing in a case since we moved in, and I thought, why not, and put on a shiny OTT one. I had to make a minor repair to it first, very minor indeed but I had been blocked on it because I'm really intimidated by sewing. So I had a Dress with a tight, slightly rigid, shiny purple bodice that does interesting things for my cleavage, and a big foofy black skirt with several layers of petticoats. It's a bit long to walk in but it garnered me a lot of very pleasing compliments. I wasn't the only one who had dressed up so there were plenty of other pretty people to admire, notably [personal profile] khalinche in a marvellous corset and [livejournal.com profile] atreic and [personal profile] emperor in reverse-matched purple and black.

We did the midnight thing, a little half-heartedly in some ways, but there was holding hands in a circle and listening to the radio announcing midnight and playing the recording of Big Ben's bongs, and singing Auld Lang Syne, and drinking fizzy wine, and kissing, even if we did all of those somewhat in a random pile all at once instead of sequentially. I stayed a little while enjoying the party, but not until absurdly late, and walked home admiring the stars and being a little bit tipsily romantic.

This morning I got up about noon, not especially hungover but slightly jetlagged from sleeping 3 am to noon instead of midnight to 8. My wonderful husband made me an elaborate and delicious cooked breakfast while I was still blearily caffeinating myself and browsing bits of Yuletide. So I reckon 2015 has started pretty well!
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 [livejournal.com 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).
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
Still behind, will try to make some brief posts. [personal profile] angelofthenorth asked about Things that make you go hmmm? Which is a lovely question, but I can't quite articulate in general what it is that makes me look at something and feel dubious. I think it's a mixture of things smelling like conspiracy theory, and things where I think group affliation is probably a bigger factor than rigorous analysis. Oh, and any kind of simplistic answers to complex questions, whether medical, social, spiritual or whatever.

hmmm )

Any others from anyone else? What sorts of things are likely to elicit a skeptical response from you?

[December Days masterpost]
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
I was doing so well, managed to post every day up to Boxing Day, and then I fell off the wagon. It's for a good reason, though, cos I've been having the most amazing weekend celebrating my 36th birthday.

Saturday we had a party and lots of people I really like showed up, in spite of really horrendous transport doom in London. My sister (who wasn't present) made me 36 square pieces of gingerbread to mark being a square number of years, and we had fun eating them in ways to keep them arranged in squares for as long as possible. We got to meet [personal profile] morwen's brother and [personal profile] kaberett's boything. However one friend had not quite registered that it was supposed to be an afternoon party rather than an evening party, and showed up at 11 pm. I was so pleased to see her and have a chance to catch up that I ended up talking to her instead of writing my post for that day.

Then Sunday we celebrated the second half of Granny's 95th birthday. The first half had been on the day itself, Boxing Day, when we travelled up to Brighton for a roast dinner hosted by my brother Screwy. Whereas yesterday we had a tea-party at my parents', with my other brother, Thuggish Poet, present plus a few of Granny's local friends. It was especially nice to see both my brothers, albeit consecutively! [personal profile] cjwatson and [livejournal.com profile] ghoti came over to ours for the evening, and I wanted to spend time with them more than I wanted to catch up with DW posts, so. It definitely felt like the whole weekend was my birthday this year!

Anyway, on 27th if I hadn't been busy turning 36, I was going to write about owls, as requested by [personal profile] jack, and this is fairly short so I can squeeze it in now. owls )

[December Days masterpost]
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] ephemera asked about seasonal music. (And a bunch of other things, but unfortunately I'd filled all my December slots before getting round to those ones.) And I found it an interesting and thought-provoking question, so let's see.

culture is complicated )

And I suppose there's no reason why I shouldn't listen to carols at other times of year, since I'm not listening for religious reasons anyway. But somehow I like spending the dark days of the year listening to ths particular style of music when it's at least approximately seasonal.

[December Days masterpost]
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[personal profile] silveradept prompted me with the commercialization of religious festivals (the Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon could be used as a springboard, if you like.)

praise ye the god of gold )

Anyway, I hope everyone's had the Christmas they were hoping for. And if you didn't, I hope things improve for you in the coming year.

[December Days masterpost]
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
[personal profile] jack asked about Moar cool science (stuff that's obvious to you as well as stuff that's new to you). So for the old stuff I want to introduce the idea of apoptosis, because that's the thing so cool that it made up my mind I was actually going to study science to high level, when I was dithering about it in my late teens, and I do in fact work on it now. And because when I was babbling about transcription factors I clarified a few points in the comment discussion, and [personal profile] silveradept mentioned I had no idea there was a self-destruct button for cells, so maybe this is something other people also don't know.

And for the new stuff, I know I've been babbling about it already to some people, especially if you were at our Christmas party at the weekend, but I came across a guy recently who is basically making a piece of kit which is very nearly a Star Trek medical tricorder.

sciiiiiience )

[December Days masterpost]
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
[personal profile] angelofthenorth asked about Drama - where be llamas?. This is prompt I've been thinking about quite a lot in the intervening weeks, partly because I'm scared that writing a post could itself be a source of drama. But also partly because I think it's an interesting question.

mentions intimate violence in passing )

So I suppose I try not to act in ways that cause drama, and I try to avoid getting sucked in to drama, even though it can be emotionally rewarding in some ways. But I also try to take people seriously and not leap to the conclusion that a serious problem that needs help and support is "just" drama. It's a very difficult line to walk and I know I get it wrong more often than I'd like.

[December Days masterpost]
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
I did not manage to make a second post yesterday; I'm starting to be in Christmas mode, huddled up with people I care about and I haven't quite worked out how to fit the daily posting into that. With a bit of luck I will manage to catch up after today.

Saturday night I got home in time to be present for most of [personal profile] jack's Christmas party, having had a really flukey journey after leaving the Stoke chanukah party at 5:30 and walking in before 9. It was a lovely party, fairly low key and with lots of people present I really enjoy talking to, including [personal profile] pseudomonas, yay. Then yesterday we didn't really get up until lunchtime, at which point we went to the Carlton to socialize with a small group of friends.

And in the evening I went with [personal profile] cjwatson to a show at the Corn Exchange called Not until we are lost. It's a sort of circus style thing, where they had the audience just milling about in the main space at the CE, and the performers doing essentially trapeze artist tricks on various bits of metal frame scattered through the space. It sounded from the description a bit artsy and pretentious, but it was a really enjoyable show, just for the sheer skill and strength of the artists, swinging from bits of frame and lifting eachother and throwing eachother around and just being gloriously competent and at home in their bodies. There was quite a lot of acting, with the facial expressions of the artists conveying a whole lot of emotion. I'm extremely glad we saw it!

The thing that is wonderful about my life at the moment is being able to spend the longest night cuddled up listening the wind whistling outside. And the sun is coming back, we're about to light seventh candle of chanukah (when friends arrive to join us for the celebration), and it's the new moon of Tevet, so there is going to be more sunlight, and more moonlight, and just generally more brightness and joy.

Anyway, [personal profile] syderia asked me to talk about your favorite pastries. Sorry for being a day late with that! om nom nom )

I wish you all light and joy, whatever you're celebrating at the turn of the year!

[December Days masterpost]
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
[personal profile] lilacsigil wanted another post about transcription factors and why some of them just blindly copy and some have more complex roles. I am not sure quite what further to explain without going into technical details, so I'll have a go at that. If it works out that this post is boring or too obscure, please feel free to ask me more questions about what it is that you actually want to know.

genes make RNA, RNA makes proteins, but it's more complicated than that )

I'm running a day behind on the meme at this point, I wrote this yesterday while travelling but didn't get online to post it until today. I don't know if what I've written quite makes any sense, so please do ask any questions. Either to clarify what I've written here, or to ask about how transcription factors work at a different level from this.

[December Days masterpost]
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
A while back, I made a post related to weight loss dieting, and in the comments, [livejournal.com profile] shreena asked me why I do believe that politically and scientifically, health at every size and similar approaches are 'better' than weight loss dieting, commenting:
I'm interested in the evidence base on this. I have not looked into it so I don't really have an opinion but I'm interested by the fact that many intelligent knowledgeable friends of mine hold the view that you [...] have expressed but so many health institutions and guidance hold the opposite view (i.e. that health and size are correlated.)
I possibly shouldn't have shoved this in with the December Days prompts, because really I want to put in lots of links to evidence rather than just writing off the cuff as I end up doing when I'm trying to post every day. But equally, I don't want to duplicate the work that lots of other fat acceptance / HAES bloggers have done really comprehensively, so I'm going to try a brief run-down here, and follow up in the new year if this isn't satisfactory.

In order to address this prompt, I am going to talk about weight loss and dieting and also about the medical establishment's attitude to fatness and fat people. My plan is to take this post in a fairly sciencey way, given [livejournal.com profile] shreena asked for the evidence base. I have a political opinion, which is strongly body positive and against medical and other discrimination against fat people. But I'm going to try to be as neutral as I can, and I'm going to entertain various possible interpretations of the evidence that I'm discussing. I'm aiming to present a case to intelligent, open-minded skeptics, basically, and I appreciate that even acknowledging the possibility that fatness may cause bad health is going to be offensive or upsetting to some people.

Further, I'm talking purely about the connections between size and health. I am committed to the view that health is not a moral imperative, so even if I saw enough evidence to completely convince me that it's always healthier for everybody to be as thin as possible, I would still argue that people have the right to choose whether they want to go on weight loss diets or not. But that's not the point of this post, I want to explore the question of whether losing weight actually is beneficial to health.

I should also warn about the comment discussion that might come up. I didn't do so last time I discussed this topic, and some of the comments ended up upsetting some friends – I'm very sorry about that. I generally get a lot of pushback when I talk about this sort of topic, because some of my friends are more politically radical than me, and some are convinced by the orthodoxy about fat and health. I hope everybody will be civil and sensitive about discussing a fraught topic, but I expect a fair range of opinions here. I may also not have time to answer comments, partly because it's about to be Christmas and partly because I'm trying to keep up this daily posting for another couple of weeks, given it's been so satisfying up to now.

wow, that was a lot of disclaimers! )
Does that help? Basically that's where I'm coming from on the issue, scientifically, though my political views do follow on from and extend that. I don't think it's going to be enough to help my brother and his housemate argue against the weight centric approach being applied to care home residents, but it's the best I can manage in an evening.

[December Days masterpost]
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
[livejournal.com profile] ghoti wanted to hear about a game you like.

babble, but I do answer the question eventually )

[December Days masterpost]
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] angelofthenorth asked me about Art – what do you respond to?

talking about personal history seems to work well in these posts )

[December Days masterpost]
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So I've just lit the first candle, and I have some bhajis cooking, and it's time to answer [personal profile] kass' prompt about chanukah:
Since Chanukah falls during December this year, how about a Chanukah post? Favorite thing about it, least favorite thing about it, favorite interpretation, a Chanukah memory -- whatever sounds like fun.


cute but theologically problematic )

Anyway, happy chanukah if you're celebrating! Does anyone know where I can source (in the UK) Fair Trade chanukah gelt / chocolate coins?

[December Days masterpost]
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
So [personal profile] sfred asked:
what would your eight Desert Island Discs be? (Optionally, also pick a book and a luxury item.)
I'd been meaning to do DID ever since I saw [personal profile] hollymath's excellent post on the topic, and then I wasn't sure I wanted to do it in December because it's the kind of thing that takes thought to do well. But I'm going to give it a go anyway, it's not going to be as polished as it would be if I hypothetically actually went on the show, but I'll have a go at 8 pieces of music.

my musical tastes are embarrassingly conventional )

[December Days masterpost]
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So most of two years ago [personal profile] kerrypolka asked me about the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and I accidentally wrote five thousand words about the history and politics of Anglo-Jewry instead. So in this regular posting meme round, [personal profile] jack asked me again what the deal is with the Board.

let's have a go )

Anyway both my parents are Deputies, my Dad representing their local community in Cambridge, and my Mum one of a small number of representatives of the Reform movement as a whole. So I am hoping to get them to write a guest post some time cos they can talk more knowledgeably about the Board than I can. But generally I think the Board, for all its flaws, is a pretty excellent thing for the community to be able to support, giving the Jewish community as a whole a voice in politics and the media which is secular and political rather than purely based on religion.

[December Days masterpost]
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] ewt wanted to know your take on poverty in the UK and elsewhere and what, if anything, you think should be done about it (and by whom).

This is the kind of good question that gets to the heart of where I come from politically. I suppose basically I think some amount of poverty or at least economic inequality is inevitable, if people ever have the freedom to make bad decisions at all. I also think a lot of UK and global poverty right now is being deliberately orchestrated, and what I really want is for the governments of rich countries to stop doing that, which I think would improve things a lot before we get to more positive anti-poverty initiatives.

I suspect this may annoy my leftier friends and possibly some fellow right-wingers too )

Feel free to tell me why I'm wrong, I am not hugely emotionally attached to these views so I'm happy for this post to trigger a debate!

[December Days masterpost]
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
[livejournal.com profile] ghoti asked: could you tell us about your favourite places outside the UK?

This is going to be brief, cos it's ended up on a Friday and I never have more than half an hour spare on Fridays. I've been to plenty of beautiful and historic places, but I put a much higher priority on visiting friends than on being a tourist. So I'm most likely to get excited about the home town of someone I love, especially when it's far away enough that I probably wouldn't have the time and energy to go there except to visit them. I think the top two in that category are Melbourne in Australia, and Montréal in Canada.

Neither really has the kind of must-see tourist destinations that the most beautiful old-world cities have, nothing to compare with Paris or Florence or Jerusalem. But they are places I could imagine myself living, not just ticking the sights off my bucket list. They are big cities with plenty going on culturally, but feel much more spacious and less crowded than London or New York. Partly because they're less densely populated in a literal sense, but partly because they have sensible public transport infrastructure and a somewhat European-like café culture, you don't feel like everybody's constantly in a hurry and shoving you out of the way. I love that they're multicultural and don't seem, at least to my visitor's eyes, horribly segregated by race or economics. Both have an amazing range of really good food available.

I mean, the climate is hopeless, Melbourne regularly has summer temperatures above 40°C and Montréal has several months of unbearable humidity and winters that are terrifying even to someone who lived in Sweden. But basically everywhere that isn't the UK has a worse climate than the UK. And I love the mix of new world and imported European flora. Melbourne just smells amazing!

The main reason I love Melbourne is that my very good friend MK lives there, as does my mother's brother, with their respective families. And likewise I love Montréal because [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel lives there, and I have had the most amazing visits with them. And just last year [personal profile] hatam_soferet moved there too so now I love it even more!

[December Days masterpost]
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] ceb asked me, and lots of our mutual friends, What's your favourite museum? It's a really interesting question, because a museum is not the kind of thing most people have a stock favourite, and I've been finding other people's answers really informative.

So anyway, I will consider art galleries separately, because I have a prompt for later on to talk about art. Aside from great art collections well displayed, what I most like in a museum is that it should show me how things work. If I wanted purely factual information, I'd probably rather get it from just reading a book. And I can like collections of physical objects, but they have to be exceptionally curated, just objects with captions ends up feeling like I'm leafing through a catalogue. I mean, I had a soft spot for the old Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford, for precisely the way it was hardly like a museum at all, more like wandering around in the attic of an eccentric hoarder relative. And the new Pitt Rivers is amazing, because it's basically a museum about the kind of awful anthropology museum it used to be, a collection of artefacts, including human remains and sacred objects, that nineteenth century colonialists felt completely entitled to pilfer from anywhere in the world.

But more generally what I like in (non-art) museums is that they have working equipment and explain technology. Needs to be real or realistic replica machines; I don't go to museums to press buttons and watch dated CGI. I especially like the kinds of museums that are built right in the factories or other working places they are about. The north of England is a very good place for museums like that, and we went to some on our honeymoon, near some of the first factories built in the entire world. I also love reconstructed habitations, and I have very fond memories of visiting Sovereign Hill gold mining town near Ballarat in Australia, which demonstrates both how the mining technology worked and how people lived during that era.

If I have to pick just one favourite in this genre, I will go for Verdant works in Dundee. It really does show you clearly how the jute industry worked, including working replica machines (originally used for training engineers IIRC from a visit 10 years ago) which allow you to follow every stage of the process from fibre to fabric. And it explains how people lived in Dundee and the political and economic implications of the jute trade and its decline. I learned there about how a young Churchill was sent to talk down the uppity women's suffragists in a town that had almost total female employment (and almost zero male employment). It's run by enthusiasts, mostly retired people who worked in the jute industry during their working lives, and they're dedicated to detail at the level of scouring Europe for exactly the right kind of early tungsten bulbs so that the illumination would be period-appropriate. I still have my spool of jute thread and my little corner of jute sacking that I watched being made on the machines there, it smells gorgeous, but it's mainly something I just love as a souvenir of my time in Dundee.

So, many thanks for asking an excellent question, [personal profile] ceb!

[December Days masterpost]
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
It's Nobel day! And [personal profile] vatine very aptly asked for your thoughts on the Nobel prizes. In short I think the whole concept of them is really cool, even if I don't always love the exact decisions made.

yay science )
ETA: I hadn't seen it at the time of posting, but apart from Malala being awesome, the highlight of this year was May-Britt Moser's amazing neuron dress. Neuron dress! I am in love.

[December Days masterpost]

Soundbite

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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