[personal profile] alexbayleaf

Originally published at Spinster's Bayley. You can comment here or there.

It’s been a long time since I posted, but I’m trying to get going again so I’ll just dive right in.

It’s been a slow, cool summer. Tomatoes hardly ripening (just a few handfuls, mostly cherries) and I wonder whether I’ll have any to preserve this year?  Despite the cool weather, things are slowly coming along including the corn my neighbour is growing for both of us (I’m responsible for pumpkins), enough zucchini (but not too much), and self-seeded greens starting to sprout.  Thanks to the cool weather I also had a crop of mushrooms off a compost delivery, which quickly made it into several meals.

I set up a weighing station by the back door, inspired by hearing of a Melbourne acquaintance who grew 350kg of food on her 1/14th acre block, but I have to admit I’ve only weighed in a couple of kilos in these first two months of 2017.

Corn in my neighbour’s backyard
A cool summer
Weighing station by the back door

Pasta with pesto genovese, zucchini and mushrooms.

A friend left me a basketful of plums, which got made into plum mead. There’s a funny story involving condoms as airlocks – check my instagram.  Just recently, I’ve been picking with a group who are starting a project called the Hidden Orchard, which aims to harvest fruit from unloved fruit trees in people’s backyards, as well as pruning and maintaining the trees throughout the year.  I’ve also been picking elderberries, to make elderberry syrup and perhaps elderberry mead.  I posted an elderberry recipe on my Tinyletter – check the archives.

Plums and op shop books from Carla
Elderberries don’t smell of anything, despite what Monty Python say
Hidden Orchard harvest is donated to community groups

A month or so back I moved into the smallest bedroom of the house – really very small, just enough room for a single bed and a chest of drawers – just to see how I felt about it.  Conclusion: I like being in a small room, like curling up in a nest, with nothing else in there but my personal effects. It is very important to keep it tidy, though, as there’s no room for a “floordrobe” or any other clutter to pile up.

I’ve also been making salves from calendula oil (calendula harvested and dried in spring, then infused in olive oil) and beeswax left over from candles. I made two kinds, one very thick that I use on my cracked heels, any small scratches, or even as a lip balm; the second is less waxy and I use it just as a general moisturiser.

My nest
Keeping things tidy, konmari style
Calendula balms

Visiting Jonai Farms’ happy pigs
Touring Yonke’s property as part of the PDC

Finally, I’ve been out and about. A few weeks ago I paid a visit to my friends Tammi and Stuart at Jonai Farms, then on to Daylesford where I spent a great day with Patrick, Meg and Woody of Artist as Family. It was so interesting I didn’t even take any photos, but they gave me heaps of great info and reassurance about living car-free in smaller country towns, and they have a house that’s very similar in style to what I want!  More recently I’ve been doing a Permaculture Design Course with the local permaculture guild, which means regular treks out to a friend’s farm where most of the course is held, plus additional site visits to other properties.  Everywhere I go now, I think about how I’d get there by bike. Next month, I hope, I’ll have the opportunity to try it!


2017-Feb-20, Monday 00:47
rosefox: "You mean the girls were topless the whole time and I never noticed?" (oblivious)
[personal profile] rosefox
Thanks to a link from [twitter.com profile] tgstonebutch, today I learned about queerplatonic relationships (a term coined in 2010 by [personal profile] kaz and [personal profile] meloukhia) and spent several hours going "WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THERE'S A NAME FOR WHAT I DO". A good primer is here and a post on QP not being "romance-lite" is here. I want to quote both of them at length. I want to hug them. This is amazing.

I'm not aro or ace. But there is absolutely a third category of relationship in my life, in addition to partnership and friendship. I've been calling it "partner-level friends" or "my [name]" because I didn't have a word for it. And now I do. Wow. I haven't felt this seen since I read the relationship anarchy manifesto. (Which is very relevant.)

While discussing this with a friend, he asked how "romantic" was being defined, since both "aromantic" and "platonic" were being defined in opposition to it, and I realized I didn't have a good answer. (Merriam-Webster doesn't either. Their definition of "romantic" points to "romance", which points to "love affair", which points back to "romantic".) After some discussion on Twitter, [twitter.com profile] numbathyal pointed me to this piece by a possible aromantic who asked a romantic to define romance. The definition that came out of their conversation was: "Romance is a natural high that occurs in the presence of certain people, without obvious connection to sexuality, 'good company', or emotional intimacy." That jibes pretty well with my experience, which I described as follows:
When I look at people I'm in love with, my body responds. My heart swells—that's literally a feeling I get in my chest, not a metaphor. My heart rate goes up and I feel a little breathless. My pupils probably dilate. I want to be physically touching the person in some way. I'm SUPER touchy-feely with X and J. Constant small touches as I walk past them. Always sitting as near as I can get.

When I look at people I'm in QP relationships with, I have a different set of reactions. Hardly any physical reaction at all. I do like hugging them, but I don't feel the same urge to be in contact. I get much more of a squee reaction. My brain lights up. It's still something I would call chemistry, but a different kind of chemical reaction.

Things romantic and QP relationships have in common for me: I feel a profound sense of safety. I can relax around the person. I say "I love you" and it's never by rote. I want regular communication of some sort. I feel more myself in the person's company.

All of this is shaped by my tendency toward feeling very definitely like I "click" with certain people. Often upon meeting them. A little alert box pops up that says "You and this person could have something amazing together! Pursue it!". I can tell you the exact moment that happened with both X and J, and with all four of my QP people. So I don't know what "romantic" looks like for people who don't have that zing or sniff test or instalove or whatever you want to call it. I spent literal months knowing I was going to fall in love with J and waiting for it to happen. Had to WD40 the "in love" switch. But it finally flipped hard and has never flipped back. <3

This is also not what my romantic relationships looked like when I was in my teens or 20s. Much healthier now. :) Twenty years ago, desperate longing to be loved and valued was part and parcel of romance for me. Now I love myself.
Some of the useful links that came up in conversation (h/t [twitter.com profile] tgstonebutch and [twitter.com profile] numbathyal):

Sexuality and romance as pet elephants that are invisible to ace and aro people
Limerence and "platonic attraction"
How to write about queerplatonic relationships in fiction (lots and lots of useful links there)
Various concepts of greyromanticism

I was amused to choose "oblivious" as the userpic keyword and have this userpic come up, because at first it seemed totally inappropriate for a post discussing nonsexual relationships. In its original context (Sluggy Freelance, if anyone remembers it), it's being said by a guy who is very into topless women and sad that he missed a chance to ogle some. But I've always used it because I am genuinely the sort of person to not really notice that an attractive woman is topless, because we're too busy talking about other things and connecting on other levels. So maybe it's appropriate after all.

(no subject)

2017-Feb-19, Sunday 16:23
synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)
[personal profile] synecdochic
dear Dreamwidth, I owe you a massive entry catching up with all my shit over the past goddamn too long forever, including our awesome photos of our awesome vacation and pics of the new cat we SOMEHOW WOUND UP WITH (don't ask, the internet was involved), but that will have to wait for when I have more time. Instead, I am making this entry to say that I started Concerta for my shiny new official ADHD (combined type) diagnosis yesterday, and HOLY SHIT IS THIS HOW EVERYONE ELSE'S BRAINS WORK? Like, thinking of one thing at a time?

(Weirdly, it has slowed down my reading speed. Apparently "taking in an entire paragraph at a time" is an ADHD symptom.)

I've had the symptoms my whole life (allllll the way back to elementary school) but was one of the generation of undiagnosed girls because the diagnosis was based on presentation in boys, and my various coping mechanisms have gone to shit in the last few years as my neuroplasticity wanes. It always seemed like way too much effort to pursue the actual diagnosis until now, but holy shit the difference with the goddamn meds.


White Night Melbourne, 2017

2017-Feb-19, Sunday 18:45
mnemonia: (deardiary)
[personal profile] mnemonia
I attended Melbourne's White Night festival last night, its fifth annual dusk-until-dawn light, music and art-installation festival held across its city centre. Taking advantage of all-night public transport, I caught a train into the city, and - expecting large crowds in the heart of the city - decided to start just outside it at the Royal Treasury Buildings in Carlton to its north, and slowly make my way south through the city.

Plenty of photos under the cut... )

An incredible night, I loved it! It's my first attendance since I returned to Australia, and - to be honest - I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, so I was understandably blown away by the range of the light, sound and artistic installations scattered across central Melbourne.

While the festival started at dusk, and most of the light-shows started not long after, I elected to arrive later at start at a more distant starting-point, as I don't particularly like crowds (although living in Europe for so long allows me to tolerate them), and expecting - correctly - that numbers would fall during the night. It was still impressive though: early numbers estimate about 600,000 people this White Night, easily out-numbering Melbourne's New Year crowds. I ended up catching a train back home at 3:30am, gratefully crawling into bed about an hour later. A long night, but definitely worth it.

Who wants to go with me next year?

I think I need another weekend...

2017-Feb-19, Sunday 18:16
17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
[personal profile] 17catherines
I seem to have spent this one in lots of very taxing conversations, one way or another.  Too many people I love are going through awful things.  And I want to be present, and to help, and to listen, especially when it's the first time someone has started talking to me about something which is important and difficult for them.  It's just a bit tricky when one gets a bunch of these in a row right after wasting a lot of intellectual and emotional energy on an argument that I should have recognised earlier would go nowhere.  Though that would have meant going into it with – as it transpires – as poor an opinion of the person I was arguing with as he evidently had of me.

Anyway, I'm quite tired now, and headachey, and a little depressed.  And I still need to sort out lunches for the week.  And dinner, though this is looking increasingly like fish and chips.

Also, today's sermon was amusingly on-point for me (alas!).  The minister was talking about Jesus's instruction to turn the other cheek, and particularly framing it as being about stepping back from an argument, rather than letting it devolve into a tit-for-tat situation that has no end.  Um, yes, letting go of arguments is not my best skill.

Though I did like the bit where he was introducing the theme to the children, by getting one of the little girls to slap his hand, and then he slapped her hand back, very gently, so she slapped his again, and they continued like this for a few rounds, and he said 'what do you think would happen if you didn't slap me this time?' and held out his hand, and a little boy immediately ran up and slapped it!  I don't think this was quite the lesson he was trying to illustrate...

Oh, scientists (Grants edition)

2017-Feb-18, Saturday 23:05
17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
[personal profile] 17catherines
The Early Career Fellowships are always fun, because they are written by baby scientists who don't know what they are doing but think they do.  Given that the NHMRC's Grant Management System (RGMS) is particularly opaque and tends to hide away entire compulsory sections, my approach tends to be to try to grab my ECF babies early, and make them sit down with me while we go through setting up a CV and a Grant on RGMS together.  That way, I can show them the bugs and the usual hiding spots and be pretty confident that I'm not going to get a last minute panic as someone discovers that they missed a whole section of the grant they didn't know about.

I had two ECFs this year, one of whom needed hardly any hand-holding at all.  And they were due to our grants office two weeks ago, and have an external deadline of March 1, so I thought I was done with them, and had moved on to reading CDFs and Projects.

And then SoccerProfessor forwarded me an email in which he told a baby postdoc who is in the US that of course she can apply for an ECF through his Division.

So I spent most of Wednesday and Thursday conferring with the Grants Office (who were understandably irritated about the whole thing), and then trying to talk a baby scientist in a different time zone through the intricacies of RGMS, with lots of screencaps, including helping her find the hidden sections, explaining why exactly she could not write some of the things she wanted to write, and pointing out that Times New Roman 10 is not an acceptable font when the Instructions say 12 point. The awful thing is that I have a terrible suspicion that she is going to be ruled ineligible anyway, but the Grants Office seemed to think she was OK, so hopefully I'm wrong.

It certainly added a special something to my week.

On Wednesday, I also had the hard drive on my computer replaced.  My computer celebrated this by failing to start on Thursday morning for ten minutes, and then proving to have lost all my carefully hand-made Endnote styles.  And possibly other things, but the search function is so borked that it's hard to tell.  I'm just hoping it doesn't die before I can get my new one.  It's still randomly turning Greek letters into little icons of people, flies and animals.  The IT helpdesk told me that a) I shouldn't be using Symbol to insert Greek characters, and nor should any of the scientists and b) I shouldn't be using Microsoft Word because it's terrible.  And it is terrible, but since I don't have a lot of choice about this, it would be nice if you supported it...

In non-aggravating-computer news, Bach choir is still highly enjoyable, and I've read a bunch of pleasantly light contemporary romances by Madeline Ash this week, ahead of the Australian Romance Readers Association conference next weekend.  I've also done a big re-read of Amy Raby's Hearts and Thrones novels, which are romances in a fantasy setting that is rather a lot like Ancient Rome, with some fairly intense politics, and assassins, spies and kings who do not hesitate to act as assassins, spies and kings, which is refreshing.  (That is to say, I like a good spies and assassins sort of plot as much as the next person, but it gets a little aggravating when they are all super ethical and never have to make any hard choices...)

I haven't written a lot this week, and my political engagement was solely a donation to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. I've been under the weather with bad period pain for most of the week, and now have the lingering post-hormone headache, which is not conducive to writing.  But, as I think I mentioned previously, I did get to attend most of the Symposium on BH3 mimetics and Venetoclax / Venclaxta at work on Monday, which was fun - my scientists made the initial discovery of the role of Bcl-2 back in 1987, and have been working on the Bcl-2 family of proteins from different angles ever since, and we are finally at the point where these discoveries are turning into drugs which are proving very effective in the clinic, specifically to cure relapsed/refractory leukaemias.  And it looks to me like the sort of tipping point where we're going to get a bunch of these BH3 mimetics and SMAC mimetics and similar therapies out in quite a short space of time, which is very exciting!  So the symposium kind of retraced the history of this work and then looked at what other things we have which are in clinical trials or about to be, and it was all very positive and fun, and I got to see lots of my scientists being clever, which is always nice. 

Hopefully I'll write something useful tomorrow.  But it turns out I can't stay awake any longer, so goodnight...

(no subject)

2017-Feb-18, Saturday 15:43
splodgenoodles: (Default)
[personal profile] splodgenoodles
I would really like to get a few things done. As in: finished!

I've got a few things going at the moment that I think of as nearly done but needless to say, that's never quite true.

Especially when knitting is involved.

Especially when you are knitting a circular blanket and each increase doubles the number of stitches per round.

Oh yeah, and I am knitting this circular blanket in order to use up some yarn I don't much like the colour of and will never use elsewhere, which looks like it now requires more yarn (of the same colour) to finish. And possibly needs to be entirely redone in order to look its best anyway.

I think I might take up origami.
tcpip: (Default)
[personal profile] tcpip
An arrival to the South Island was met by fires in Christchurch. As if that poor city has not suffered enough from the terrible earthquakes of 2011 which still scar the city. The famed central Cathedral is now but a shell of what it once was, and like all great ruins is gradually being taken by nature. The official part of my visit was to the University HPC team who have shfted most of their facilities to their national infrastructure. Still, I managed to have enough spare time to vist the impressive Canterbury Museaum and take a walk around the botanical gardens before spending a night in a former prison cell, which is certainly an imaginative use of such facilities.

The following morning caught an early flight to Dunedin and chatted with a final year engineering student who had also apparently had been on the flight with me to Christchurch. Her home was Dunedin and her trip to Melbourne was her first overseas jaunt. Arrival at Dunedin was faced with the announcement that their famous chocolate factory, would be closing down. For many this is heartbreaking; it is one of Dunedin's prize businesses, even the home of Dunedin's first computer. For the three hundred and fifty workers there it is absolutely devastating; and capital does what it always does, moving to the cheapest location. For advanced economies, I often point to the example of Germany who still have a powerful manufacturing industry.

My first day was spent with David Eyers and Jim Cheetham who cover HPC and security respectively, and their insights on such subjects will be taken home and again, as is my want, visited the Otago Museum. I've also been contacting many people I know in NZ about whether they would be interested in taking the recently retired Avoca system across The Ditch. I rather like the idea of NZ having a Top500 system on its shores. The following day was free time and the opportunity was taken to visit our South Pacific base are looking after it. The musicians who live there are doing a great job and apparently a new LP, "Lodge Music" will be released in the near future. I'm quite looking forward to it.


2017-Feb-17, Friday 23:26
rbarclay: (Default)
[personal profile] rbarclay
This morning, I got up as usual, went about the usual morning ritual (drinking coffee and reading email), then got on the bike and headed towards work. Only that I found it extremely exhausting, like driving against a 30kph headwind - even though it was only a light breeze (say, 5kph).
But ok, still doable, even if going to be a bit late - I was struggling to maintain 15kph, where 22kph is normal.
Then, about 4km from 'ork, I suddenly started to freeze&shiver. Uh, whatTF? A minute earlier I was still sweating like a pig! Couldn't, for the life of me, manage the two short sprints that save me 5 minutes at the traffic lights.
At the office, I did the bare minimum (chairing our weekly team meeting, trying to keep it as short as possible), then let SWMBO take me home in the car. Where I immediately crashed on the couch and slept for 6 hours straight.

And now everything is back to "utterly normal".
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Previously unread.

Sequel! Squeal! This is the book that follows A Darker Shade of Magic, starting approximately four months after the end of the previous book. Like the previous book, there are multiple strands of narrative that braid together. And it's been out for a year and I didn't notice. Weird, how that happens.

Anyway, eminently readable. If you liked #1, you will liekly like this one. #3 should be out in a week or so ,so all is good.

Let’s Talk About The Perfect Vagina

2017-Feb-17, Friday 12:02
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

So there’s a fairly repellent article on the plastic surgeon who’s created what he calls “the perfect vagina.” It is, according to the article, “pink, plump and hairless.”


Honestly, whenever I’ve written about my unfounded insecurities about my dick (link goes to a FetLife essay), women write in to say that most of them don’t care much about the size of the dick as long as it works. This despite the fact that porn of all stripes would tell you that every guy’s packing 7.5″ regular and everyone really wants to have a 12″ cock. And speaking as a guy who’s heard his share of locker room talk, I don’t recall a man having a firm (heh) preference on vagina visuals; generally, we’re just happy to be there.

It’s weird, because to me this is the downside of porn; once you start seeing lots of vaginas, you start ranking them in ways you wouldn’t if they were presented to you by people you loved, or at least hopefully liked. I don’t think anyone really starts out looking at porn and goes, “That pussy’s a 3 out of 10. TRY AGAIN, PORN STARLET.”

No, what happens is a slight preference over hundreds of vaginas; “That’s a little nicer, I guess. I might do with less hair, if you asked.” And those tiny shrugs add up into porn stars slowly converging towards some rude mean, and then over time – compare presentations of pussy in the 1970s to those in the 2000s – people come to expect that this is what a pussy should look like, and then suddenly outliers look weird.

What gets slowly nudged to the front is this denuded white-girl ideal, a mild predilection amplified by an abundance of poon and a market desperately eager to gather dollars. And that pussy, largely, doesn’t exist except for when it’s created, usually by painful Brazilian waxing techniques.

But like dicks or female bodies or male bodies, people have their own preferences – ones they don’t talk about, because a) objectivization is always weird, and b) they’ve been trained to think that their own preferences are somehow bizarre when really, if you did a survey, you’d find that people liked all sorts of female bodies, not just the skinny-model types.

They just don’t discuss it because, well, the skinny-model types are the ones you’re societally-authorized to drool over. Going, “Melissa McCarthy is so hot” gets people going, “Hey, man, she’s a comedienne, is it really cool to uncork such volcanic lust on her?”

So there’s this weird reverberation wherein people are authorized to like a specific form of body, and because they speak out that’s the body type people become conditioned to like (even if that conditioning doesn’t necessarily take), and all of society seems to desire this thing and this thing only when really it’s a mild majority preference by a lot of people who’d also be equally (if not more) happy with something else.

And so we’ve converged on this so-called “perfect” pussy – so much so that women feel the urge to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get professionals to cut them into a different configuration.

Which I can’t shame them for. I have severe depression, and sometimes you need to take shortcuts – you can all but kill yourself fighting this thing you know to be untrue, or sometimes you just say “Yeah” and take the path of least resistance. If the surgery makes them happier in the end, then I can’t blame them as long as they don’t start pussy-shaming other people.

(Nor can I blame the folks who get surgery for practical reasons – hey, yeah, if your lips stick out enough that it’s painful to ride a bike, sure. So really, I can’t blame anyone.)

But I think the whole syndrome is a shame that society is quietly shaping what a pussy “should” look like. Like I said, I don’t think most guys really have hard-core preferences on the matter, and those who do generally are the people who’ve had their mindset sculpted by porn to an uncomfortable degree.

What people like in porn and in movies is generally different from what people like when they’re dealing with, well, people. And thank God. Because those preferences are some idealized convergence created by abundance, reinforced by familiarity, and I hope none of us are as narrow as what the media would want us to desire.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

Sometimes it's rather handy to have ..

2017-Feb-16, Thursday 09:09
rbarclay: (laughingcat)
[personal profile] rbarclay
.. gadget-hungry PFYs.

I think this is now the 3rd graphics card I've bought off of him because he just had to have the newest&shiniest one (GTX980, o/c, for 200 eurobucks).

(no subject)

2017-Feb-16, Thursday 17:32
splodgenoodles: (Default)
[personal profile] splodgenoodles
Getting home care is very good for me, and I do think it's fair and good that the dishes get done...except when I spend the next three days taking dry dishes out of the drainer to use and they're greasy. Or have gunge still on them.

I mean seriously, how have my carers not died of botulism yet? I've been rewashing as dishes are required, but as soon as I've got the energy I'll do the rest at once.

Or am I missing something. Beneficial health effects of retaining a coat of gunge on eating utensils?

Gut flora, but for crockery?

*shakes head in disbelief*
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Previously unread.

This is the 3rd collection volume of McGuire's Velveteen stories. Superheroes aplenty. And some crass corporatism. And all.

That aside, it's pretty darned good reading, so that's brilliant. All I need to do now it remember to track down more.

Valentine's Day, Tarkovsky and Gaming

2017-Feb-14, Tuesday 23:16
tcpip: (Default)
[personal profile] tcpip
What did you do on Valentine's Day? Well, I left my partner at the airport (after a hellishly long drive due to substantial roadworks on the freeway). Poor [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya is going to be by herself for a fortnight, whilst I spend two weeks in New Zealand, starting a Christchurch for a day, then Dunedin for three, then Wellingon for four, then Cambridge for four (yes, I will visit Hobbiton), then finally Auckland, and then back homewards bound. It's a rather hectic tour and almost entirely consisting of a conference and research-related visits. Yesterday finished the talk that I'm giving at Multicore World, so that's certainly one thng I don't have to worry about. There's even a possibility I might even be able to give away one of the world's most powerful computers. Also had a great lunch with several members of the University Sustainability team with a couple of members of Research Computing; there was no official collaboration going on, entirely social. We just happen to work in the same building and I have a couple of good friends in the former group.

Last night was the final of three sessions of Tarkovsky films at the Astor, the semi-authbiographical "The Mirror" and the WWII story "Ivan's Childhood". The former was beautiful and strange with discontinuities and more magical realism than you could poke a wand at. The latter was about as bleak as you could imagine; a vengeful twelve-year old who acts as reconnaissance in the swamps of the eastern front. Whilst on the topic of things magical, realistic, and bleak, I've been working on the last pieces of a late issue of RPG Review, particularly a review of GURPS Transhumanism, GURPS Reign of Steel, and Mindjammer, all of which should be made public in the next few days. In an interesting gaming session on Sunday we finished another murder-mystery episode of GURPS Middle Earth (there's an awful lot of that in Michael's games). Swinging back to the aforementioned topic, I'm hoping to pick up the Stalker RPG, based on the Tarkovsky film. More than anything else, Tarkovsky's Solaris and Stalker seem both very useful sources for truly alien minds, and perhaps appropriate for Eclipse Phase

Sleep class!

2017-Feb-14, Tuesday 00:45
azurelunatic: A pajama-clad small child uses a rainbow-striped cruciform parachute. From illustration of "Go the Fuck to Sleep". (insomnia)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
So because not only do I have insomnia, I also suffer from it, the most-recent in the chain of moderately alarmed sleep-adjacent professionals (the neurologist at Deer Creek) referred me to the Improve Your Sleep! class, which has been eating my Monday evenings over the last month.

The main feature of this class, in the eyes of the neurologist and my counselor, has been the CBT aspect of it. Apparently the number one thing that cures insomnia is CBT. So everyone was hopeful. (I had specified to the neurologist that I would in fact be running anything suggested in the CBT past my Supervisor and my therapist. Which was a good call to have made.)

It turns out that when Guide Dog Aunt loaned me a book on sleep a few years ago, the one that pointed out that there was not in fact any moral value to any specific sleep schedule, and that instead of saying stuff like "I'm lazy because I sleep until noon", one should look at it in terms of "My most productive hours are in the evening, and I schedule my life in a way that suits my sleep schedule" -- that general tool of re-framing the guilt and fear around sleep is in fact the very CBT that this class relies on. So, unfortunately, the CBT that I had hoped would be new information was not, in fact, new information at all. The book specifically addressed Negative Sleep Thoughts. The class then expanded the concepts of re-framing runaway negative thought chains in a better light, which is also a Fishmum trick that I've been teaching my little fishies and my partner...

The other main leg of this class is meditation and the relaxation response. I believe that I can trace my habit of meditative breathing in particular to the summer when I read ... some Heinlein book or other ... and thought that taking up meditation would be a grand idea. The latest that could have been was 1996. Then I formally took up meditation (and learned all of the techniques discussed in the meditation unit of this class) in 2001-ish, when I went to DeVry to get a degree in Holistic Massage join a coven. So depending how you slice it, I've been familiar with, and practicing, meditation for anywhere from fifteen to twenty years.

The main new information I got out of the class, in fact, was that sleep-maintenance insomnia was recently discovered to be associated with a sleep-time body temperature that has not dropped as it ought to for that part of the night. And I do, in fact, routinely overheat while attempting to sleep. Which means that if I'm in bed and even slightly think that I might not get to sleep soonish, I should immediately go and get the ice pack, and not try to be a hero.

Also, low doses of sedating antidepressants are also used as sleep medications. The instructor was down on this practice, because antidepressants are only good for people with depression. FUNNY THING, THAT.

Pretty much all the rest of the class was review, and (due to my internets research) I was often in possession of more detailed information than the instructor. I came to feel that I could probably have taught the class myself, given the curriculum.

The first class was pleasant enough. I think there were about ten of us. One woman came in late, and borrowed a pen from me. We had a pleasant chat while she was waiting for her husband to pick her up. She's sleep-deprived to the point that she can't safely drive, and caretaking for her autistic son has done a number on her sleep schedule and ability to stay asleep.

I reviewed the materials in the packets for the four weeks. The second week, the cognitive re-framing, was going to be hard, since the materials blithely suggested that "most people" could get away with abbreviated amounts of sleep with nothing more terrible than a loss of creativity and a bad mood. Pro tip: when your patient reports very bad effects ) tied to as little as one night of abbreviated sleep while under stressful circumstances (and the current Republican administration is nothing if not stressful circumstances) telling the patient that everything is probably going to be okay if they blow sunshine up their own ass is life-threateningly bad advice. So I realized that I had better sit next to the door in case I had to step out of the room.

During the second class, the instructor was trying to impress upon us the way that a poorly timed nap can fuck up your sleep schedule pretty badly. My friend said that this was going to be a problem for her: you put her in the car (as a passenger) and she passes out pretty much instantly.

"It should be easy to stay awake in the car!" said the instructor.

"It's hard."

"Well, life is hard."

At this juncture, I decided that the most constructive action I could take was going to be going and sitting in the hall for a bit (and angrily texting my partner). I came back in after about five minutes.

Later in the evening, the instructor planned to lead us through more meditation/relaxation, to include the rest of the class period. I abruptly realized that I did not actually feel that making myself vulnerable to and in front of this instructor was a good idea, and grabbed my stuff and left the building.

In the third class, I sat by the door. (My friend did not show up for this class, or the following week.) When the meditation/relaxation section arrived, I popped both headphones in and proceeded to listen to podcasts, and only emerged when that bit was done. At the end of class, I asked the instructor about the bits in the next one, saying without explanation that I would not be taking part in the relaxation exercise, and would likely leave the room. He said when the long one would be, and there would be another short one later.

In the fourth class (tonight), I sat by the door, and took a chair with me when I popped out for the duration of the exercise. The instructor came and fetched me when it was done. And I did other things for the short one.

I did ask, this time, what he recommended to keep you awake when the sleep pressure is high but it's a bad time for a nap. And if there were resources on being a millennial and not having a whole house to work with in terms of keeping stress out of your bedroom. (Do something loud. And, probably, somewhere.) I asked about next steps. He recommended the meditation class, or the anxiety class. "That really doesn't seem to be a recommendation geared for someone who has been practicing meditation for fifteen years," I said, smiling aggressively.

He recommended tai chi.

"That's really rather along the same lines," I said, still smiling.

There was a class evaluation form, which asked about how much we learned from the class, and how helpful it was. It was ... not.

So I'll be asking my GP, my counselor, and my psychiatrist about next steps, then. Now that I've taken this miserable class so they'll take me seriously.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine

This is the first book in the Charlie Madigan series (4 so far, 5th in the works, but has definitely missed the expected 2016 release).

Anyway, Madigan's world is a world where portals to Heaven (well, Elysium) and Hell (well, Charybdon) have stood somewhat open for years. Madigan's a police officer and single mum, on the Atlanta police department's "we chase angels and demons" squad, ahem, task force. She's also recently resurrected (no, this is not normal).

And it all starts with shit going wrong and it doesn't get much better from there.

All in all, eminently readable. I think it's two-or-so years since I read this last, but I am, to be honest, not 100% sure.
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

Sure. I have nights where my girlfriend’s out on a date with a new guy, and he’s fantastic in bed (as all new guys must be, in my mind), and she’s going to leave me because the only thing I have to offer is the ability to provide orgasms and he’s clearly better at that (as all new guys must be)….

And those are sucky nights. I text my friends, plan movie marathons, brace myself for a breakup.

But you know what?

I got insecure in monogamous relationships, too.

She’d smile at a guy who she was “just good friends” with and I’d go, are they really only good friends? Can I trust this dude? They seem close. What’s going on here?

She’d hit it off with a girl at a party and I’d go, Are those romantic sparks? That girl just touched her arm, should I be jumping in to head this off? Or will I look like a possessive jerk?

She’d go out for a night with her friends and I’d wonder, She’s probably just seeing a movie, but… what happens if she meets someone new? Or what if she’s cheating on me?

And here’s the thing: that wasn’t just me. I had insecure girlfriends as well who hated the way I flirted (even though I was, and am, never sure what things I do that make me flirty), and they’d interrogate all my female friends, and they’d get anxious after I went out for a night on the town.

And in a lot of those cases, the fix was simple:


Tired of fighting? Well, don’t hang out with people you find attractive, and I’ll feel better.

Maybe we should do everything together. You know, drop the boy’s/girl’s nights out. Just make sure I can always tag along, not quite a bodyguard, but… see? Isn’t this fun?

Oh, you liked that person at the office get-together? I dunno. I got a bad vibe off of them. Yeah, I’m not saying you shouldn’t hang out with them, I’m just going to reiterate my concerns every time you discuss them until you get the hint.

A lot of those monogamous relationships died on the vine because, well, we quietly pruned off any insecurity-making activities until all we had left was each other. And strangely, a lot of what we liked about each other was the stuff that came out when we were out with other people.

Monogamous people talk about monogamy as though it’s the cure-all to insecurity (just as polyamorous people talk about polyamory as though it’s the cure-all to cheating, with equally incorrect results). They tell you they couldn’t take the insecurity of dealing with multiple partners, when the truth is I’ve seen too many monogamous people (including me!) who couldn’t take the insecurity of dealing with a single partner.

I’ve seen monogamous people get insecure because their partner is paying too much attention to their child, and frankly, the fact that you can love your children enough to have more than one is one of those diehard, unspoken assumptions in the communities that shit on polyamory.

Monogamy does not get rid of your insecurity. It just makes it easier to quietly cut away all the things that bother you.

I’m not saying that monogamy is inferior to polyamory, mind you. Polyamory has its own myriad and well-defined dysfunctions. Yet this quiet repetition that “I couldn’t handle the insecurity!” often fails to note that the insecurity is not something caused by polyamory, it’s something you bring with you into a relationship.

Any relationship can trigger insecurity. It’s how you deal with that insecurity that defines your relationship, polyamorous or monogamous.

And in the end, you have a stark choice: you can work to get your partner to stop doing all those things that make you insecure in the hopes that you’ll survive the culling of all the things they love that you don’t. Or you can work to discover whether your partner is genuinely trustworthy (because some aren’t), and figure out which portions of your insecurity are dark reflections of your own self-worth, and which portions are the canary fluttering weakly in the coal mine.

Polyamory, by its structure, makes it more difficult to get your partner to stop doing things that make you insecure. But people still manage to do that. And what I’ve discovered is that even though facing down my insecurity is fucking terrifying at times, what I’ve gotten by surmounting it is stronger, healthier relationships where my partner can walk away, have fun, and come back without being punished for having that fun.

My wife and I learned that back when we were monogamous.

It’s especially true now that we’re polyamorous.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

"A toast!"

2017-Feb-13, Monday 01:46
rosefox: A bearded man in a yarmulke shouting L'CHAIM! (Judaism)
[personal profile] rosefox
Today was my mother's 75th birthday party. Instead of making a traditional toast, I wrote her a poem.


A warm baguette with fresh unsalted butter
Good whiskey served in glasses meant for wine
Fine art and jazz and clothes with flowing lines
I learned appreciation from my mother

Speak from the heart; don't ever silence others
Defend our rights and fight to right what's wrong
Wave signs, wear buttons, sing those protest songs
I learned my activism from my mother

Write eagerly, then edit out the clutter
Read lit and genre, dictionaries, poems
A wall of books will make a house a home
I learned the joys of language from my mother

Immense affection for my younger brother
No matter how we'd argue, snark, and fight
"You'll sort it out," Mom said, and she was right
I learned both love and patience from my mother

Abundant hugs and kisses, but don't smother
Praise every scribble as a work of art
Be honest and respectful from the start
I learned to be a parent from my mother

Find endless ways to cherish one another
Build families from friends through joy and trust
Each day, she teaches that to all of us
Please join me now to toast my splendid mother


Happy birthday, Mom. :)

Bright spots on a pain day

2017-Feb-13, Monday 16:03
17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
[personal profile] 17catherines
I love it that my period now comes with a side serve of generalised inflammation, such that every joint or tendon I've ever injured or over-used - which is basically all of them - gets swollen and sore.  There is virtually no part of me that does not currently hurt.


Today's salad lunch was actually really good, so that's nice.

I have chocolate brownies in the house, also a banana cake that is alarmingly Country Women's Association in its evenness of texture and perfectly flat top and tidy icing.  For a cake that mostly happened because I had totally forgotten about those bananas for two weeks (and then nearly didn't happen because one of the three had actually gone mouldy), it's surprisingly good.

And I actually had time to attend most of the symposium today, which was very interesting, since it was one half talks about new possible BH3 and SMAC mimetics, and the other half the 30 year history of apoptosis and how it led to the development of venetoclax.  Fascinating hearing how things got started, especially as it was mostly my scientists who founded the field. 

Also, I wound up sitting between my two most tall, dark and handsome lab heads during the first half of the day, which was very pleasing, especially as they were making amusingly sardonic remarks on the talks.

(I would not normally be commenting on the extreme gorgeousness of these two lab heads, except that a) they really are very gorgeous, it's quite distracting if one is tired and distractible, and b) I really was feeling terrible this morning, and had a lot of trouble dragging myself to work, and I choose to view this as my reward for being a good Catherine and not staying at home in bed.)

And, as I think I've mentioned, I've started reading novels by the various authors I'll be meeting at the ARRA festival in a couple of weeks.  This morning's novella was quite adorable, and today's novel is looking promising, which is good, because the one I was reading over the weekend was pretty dire and I have no idea what I'm going to say in my five-minute face to face session.  I think the plot was quite good?  But I wanted to slap the hero almost all the time, and the author had a bad habit of drawing out characters' reactions to everything in a way that slowed down the plot to a crawl.  I'm sort of wishing I hadn't read it, actually – it would be easier to be enthusiastic about it in theory.

And we got our first Marley Spoon delivery, and the ingredients certainly look nice, though there are more peas than Andrew is likely to appreciate.

For a pain day, it could be much worse. 

But it would be even nicer if it were not a pain day.
tcpip: (Default)
[personal profile] tcpip
Working on the transhumanist issue of RPG Review Issue 33 this week, having received (a little late) the interview with Rob Boyle. Reviews for that issue are also gradually making their way on rpg.net, with Eclipse Phase - Gatecrashing, receiving a strong recommendation. The week also witnessed a session of Papers & Paychecks which thematically took aspects of the classic The Keep on the Borderlands; it worked very well. Friday night managed to get some Eclipse Phase play in, a variation of Think Before Asking. Today was another Cheesequest day with [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce where - apart from making our way through several varieties of said food - we also made our way through another chapter of Mice and Mystics.

The Isocracy Network continues at pace with a meeting on Friday night on a 2019 Labor-Green Alliance, with a supplementary . Of course, a week is a long time in politics, and the departure of the ultra-conservative Cory Berndai from the Liberal Party does give the possibility of greater control by more liberal elements; the possibility of even a Grand Coalition was raised. There has been four 'blog posts on the Isocracy Network this week, including Actually, Nazi's Are Still Bad, by [personal profile] reddragdiva, Tribune of the Plebs by [personal profile] catsidhe, and my own The Shambling Mound's Third Week.

This coming week I leave for New Zealand for a fortnight, which will include visits to some computational centres in Canterbury University in Christchurch, Otago University in Dunedin, MC-ing and presenting at Multicore World (that's quite some speaker's list, then to Cambridge for Nyriad and finally the Auckland University of Technology. I must say I'm rather looking forward to the visit, as it has been far too long since I've had the opportunity to drop into this rather favoured corner of the world. "Home is where the heart is", and mine is very much in the deep south of Aotearoa.

2017 - #13, "Grave Peril", Jim Butcher

2017-Feb-11, Saturday 11:10
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine

This is the 3rd book in Butcher's Dresden Files and rereading the early bit of the series, it's fascinating how much of what happens resonates throughout the rest of the series. I am still not sure if it's clever use of established plot, or if it's clever setup of plot to come, but I am willing to believe the latter.

I think this is the first book we meet Michael Carpenter, one of the Knights of the Holy Cross (capitals very much necessary, as it were) and one of the signs, I believe, that Dresden has a life outside the books, which is not a bad thing.

Anyway, Chicago's ghosts are all aflutter. Or was that "angry and more out than normal"? Something like that. Into the centre of this mess, Harry and Michael dash, in order to Set Things Right Damnit All.

And in that single book, three or possibly four future Dresden Files plot threads are born.
17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
[personal profile] 17catherines
We're well into February now, which means it's Grant Season at work.  This particular season is looking suspiciously light, if one does not count the massive LLS SCOR (for which, fortunately, I have help – we hired someone to coordinate it.  Having said that, the administrative burden for this grant is high enough that when the NHMRC load is down, I'm now helping my helper).  But I'm now in that lovely time of year when I get to read people's grants and giggle at their phrasing. 

Some of my favourites from this week include the chap who was talking about the Institutional Support provided and listed 'personal support' as one of the supports provided.  I suggested that he might possibly mean mentoring, though I understood how the stresses of grant season might take one that way.  He also finished this section with a flourish '... which will enable me to succeed in my scientific quests.'  Nice.

I also have one woman who wanted to talk about the ascension of her career trajectory, which is a nice attempt to re-phrase the endless 'upward trajectory' fellowship applicants have to demonstrate, but had some interesting theological implications.

I had to gently suggest to a couple more people that, in a world where reviewers work at other research Institutes and Universities, one should perhaps exercise a little modesty and not say that our Institute is 'the leading Institute in Australia' (or indeed the world) for this sort of research.  We already have a reputation for being up ourselves; let's not give the reviewers an excuse to look at 'track record in relation to opportunity' and say 'well, clearly their opportunities are the best possible, why don't they have twelve Nature papers and four patents'?

My German speakers all want to say that they can guarantee excellent results from their experiments.  I'm beginning to think that this has something to do with how English is taught in German-speaking countries.

And the competition to find the best adjective with which to describe one's papers continues.  Seminal is always good.  Groundbreaking is nice.  Paradigm-shifting is excellent.  Revered, on the other hand, should perhaps be avoided.  Unless you are aiming for sarcastic marginalia, which I suspect some of my scientists are now doing, at least on occasion.

My political action for this week was ringing Turnbull's office and asking him to withdraw from the deal with Trump to send our refugees to America.  I think this article by Michelle Grattan (on whose sofa bed I once slept in London, she says, namedropping cheerfully), lays out the reasons why very well.  I also donated to a homelessness charity, because the Lord Mayor of Melbourne just criminalised sleeping rough in the city (because apparently if people aren't allowed to sleep on the streets, they will magically stop being homeless).  I'm contemplating a political post on the current war on poor people, and trying to work out who I can write to about what.

In other news, ALL my stories got stuck.  I started making inroads on my Pierrot Pantin sequence, and went looking for The Velveteen Rabbit, only I didn't remember that it was about a rabbit and so I started asking google for picture books featuring teddy bears.  This led me to a Goodreads list which started with Winnie the Pooh and Paddington, and then descended alarmingly to a book titled ...but Teddy, I'm SO HORNY (Stuffed by my Teddy Book 2), which is not a link you should click on at work, because the blurb is actually worse than even the title suggests.  Once I'd managed to bleach my brain clean of that, a friend helpfully pointed me at Mallory Ortberg's creepy retelling of the story, after which I thought I'd better write about something else, because I knew that was going to infect my writing style.

So instead, I started - and finished - a completely new story for Les Sablons called The Little Fox, which is a sequel of sorts to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince.  And then I illustrated it with pencil drawings, which was fun, because I haven't really tried to draw anything properly since I was in early high school - our school made you choose between arty subjects and academic ones at the age of 13, and while I loved art, I wasn't good enough at it to convince my parents that I should do that instead of geography.  Which is sort of apt to the circumstances.  So I'm quite pleased with the way the drawings came out, all things considered – though it's fortunate that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's style is itself rather childlike and simple.  And it was interesting how much better the story worked once the pictures were there - I really didn't expect that.

I can't actually remember what I've been reading this week.  Not a lot, I think.  Though I've started reading novels by the various authors I'll be meeting at the Australian Romance Readers Association conference in a couple of weeks.  The first one I read, by Maggie Mundy, had 100% more serial killers and angry ghosts than I had expected. 

Oh lord, and of course it did.  And I've just realised that this is the second romance novel I've read in the last year that had surprise serial killers in it, and they were both set in South Australia.  We always like to joke that Adelaide is the Serial Killer capital of the world, but I didn't expect romance authors to embrace this stereotype...

So that was my week.  What was yours like?

The Politics Of Crushing

2017-Feb-10, Friday 09:08
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

Last night, I wrote, “Tonight’s the sort of night I wind up writing messy emails to my crushes if I’m not careful. (The nights you’re most tempted are, in my experience, the nights you should definitely call no-gos.)”

Yet people asked, “Why shouldn’t you email your crushes, Ferrett?”

There’s a couple of reasons for that, most of which are specific to me:

First off, it’s a bad move for me to chase after a crush as a specifically selfish move. Generally, the only reason I think you should reveal a crush is if there’s something potentially in it for them – as in, “Hey, I like you, I think there’s a good chance you like me, let’s see if there’s any potential for something interesting happening.”

(Even if that “something interesting” is as minimal as “occasional chats and sexting, with no hope of ever meeting in real life.”)

But where I am right now is not a fertile bed for anything happening. I’m polysaturated with partners, so a crush wouldn’t lead to anything date-like. And my health issues have left me as a moody, irregular hot mess – I’m not even necessarily texting the friends I have, let alone reaching out for new ones, so even if I went with my usual offer of “occasional chats and sexting,” well, I’m not even up to that consistent enough to call it “occasional.”

So for me to contact a crush would be to say, “Hi, I like you, this would be more of an inconvenience for you if it was reciprocated.” Which is not a nice thing to do to someone I like.

(How many crushes do I have? Oh God. Hundreds. I am a crush-making machine. If I were to follow up on every one of them, I would die.)

And second, not only am I in a bad place to accept a crush, but I’m also in a bad headspace to be reaching out. I have a bad habit of forging new connections when I feel unloved or unattractive – hey, are you feeling like a fat invalid, Ferrett? Let’s ignite a couple of new relationships!

Honestly, what I should have done in a better headspace would be to reach out to old crushes (or current partners) and reconnect. But in the depression I was mired in last night, everyone’s absence was proof that nobody wanted me, and I had an irrational fear that I’d text them with “Hey, sweetie, how’s it going?” and hear nothing back because shit, I didn’t want to talk to me, why would they?

(I could reach out to them and say, “I’m feeling lonely tonight,” but alas, that would involve me not being sick of the sound of my own depressive struggles, which depending on the night I totally can be.)

So new crushes for me, when I’m in that funk, are a bad idea. (Also see: I try not to turn my crushes into something that’s exclusively good for me.)

And lastly, there’s the eternal issue of that informing someone about your crush is an obligation. A mild obligation, yes, but if I’ve misread the signals and they’re not into me, I’ve just given them a burden, not a joy.

If I like you enough to crush on you, my goal is to give joy.

So last night I stayed silent. I’m not opposed to crushes, aside from the fact that I am haloed in them, but I have my own wisdom on how to act. I have wonderful partners, and wonderful friends, and wonderful crushes who occasionally send me texts out of nowhere to tell me how they’re doing.

And if I was in a position to respond to the people who know me already, I’d probably have said, “Sure, maybe emailing someone I think is vivaciously gorgeous to tell them how much I admire them.” But I wasn’t, so I didn’t, and I have zero regrets about that. Especially now that the morning has arrived, and things seem brighter.

Still. Last night would have been vastly improved if one of my secret crushes had texted me to unveil their neverending attraction to me. But how often does that happen? And how often do you know the perfect moment to reveal that crush?

You don’t. So I usually don’t.

For me, it’s the smart move.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine

Found myself between books (well, at the end of a book) and thought "why not". This is the first book in McGuire's InCryptid series, the second urban fantasy series she's written. All in all, eminently readable and I really can't find anything to complain about, apart from the lack of things to complain about.

If you like action and "supernatural" beings, this may well be very much the right series to read.
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett
  • No, you probably wouldn’t have tackled that rampaging gunman and brought his workplace shooting to a halt.
  • No, you probably wouldn’t have stopped that dangerous scene at the kink club.
  • No, you probably wouldn’t have punched out that abuser who was molesting you when you weren’t expecting it.

Because those last words are the critical ones: when you weren’t expecting it.

The problem is that you’re not continually braced for the unexpected, and so when these extraordinary things happen to you, you’re not in the frame of mind of “This is a shooting” but rather mired in a muddled stew of “Wait, what’s going on here? Are those firecrackers? Am I overreacting? Does that guy really have a gun, or am I going to tackle some random dude for no good reason and make a fool out of myself?”

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s see what someone who survived the Columbine massacre has to say:

“I was thinking it sounded like firecrackers, and that it was just a weird sound to hear at that time of day.”

By the time you hear about it, you’re presented with a nice headline that is also an easy conclusion: Mass shooting. Kink scene gone wrong. Rape. But you wouldn’t have had information like that available to you at the moment of the incident.

Instead, you’re spending time you could have been a Big Damn Hero merely trying to figure out what the hell is happening.

And there are significant disincentives to coming to the wrong conclusion. Yes, it’s awesome if you see that rope scene is dangerous, and override the dungeon monitors to swoop in with a knife and scream, “THAT HARDPOINT IS INSUFFICIENT FOR THE BOTTOM’S WEIGHT!” But you know what’s not awesome?

You swooping in and ruining someone’s scene because you, you idiot, didn’t understand how hardpoints worked at this club and in fact everything was just right and you now have made a total ass of yourself.

Again, it’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback when you know what the results were – but here in not-action-hero-land, you’re contemplating what an idiot you’ll look like if you make a bold, dangerous move and it turns out you were wrong.

Tackle a gunman, you’re a hero. Tackle a guy holding a stapler, and you’re the talk of the office for years.

Then add that to the fact that things don’t often look like they do in movies. Gunmen don’t always burst in through the door, dressed in conveniently color-coded black, to shout their intentions. Your molester probably isn’t wearing a balaclava and jumping out at you from the bushes, they can be an acquaintance who’s saying quite nice things as they ignore your discomfort. And the people running dangerous scenes aren’t comedy-doofy – they often look like they’re taking things quite seriously.

So you’re likely to do what most people do, which is to take your cues from the people around you – wasting more time as you make eye contact and go, “Is everyone else seeing this?” And of course, most of them are looking back to you, herd instinct in search of a conclusion.

Because at this point, you don’t really have a conclusion. You just have a bunch of facts fluttering around. Tomorrow’s headlines will have the conclusions, but you’re not reading them.

Yet even when you do come to the conclusion of something as distasteful as Yes, I am being molested, then there’s that final layer of confusion: Am I positive this is happening?

Because, remember, this is an unexpected situation. Thankfully, you probably don’t deal with people trying to fondle your genitals without permission all the time. So when that happens, your brain often glitches from the unexpected input, throwing up a dialogue box that wastes more time: “This is really weird! Are you certain this is what’s actually going on? Y/N.”

And by the time you finally process through all of this confusion, and the potential embarrassment of getting it wrong, and the unreality, it may be too late to do anything worthwhile. The guns have been fired, the bottom has fallen, your body’s been violated.

Then people will yell at you because “They would have known” what to do.

There is one exception, however. Quite often, you would know what to do, because it’s not unexpected to you. You’ve experienced this before – perhaps under tragic circumstances, but this is nothing new to you.

Most of the folks who’d know what to do if some random asshole threw a punch at them have, not coincidentally, been in lots of fights before. Lots of the people who have no problem raising the alarms when some skeeve starts making nonconsensual moves on them have, sadly, dealt with an abundance du skeeve. And the people who’d be comfortable intervening solo in a dangerous scene are often experienced DMs, or teachers, or both.

And I’m glad those people are there to step in. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t step up when the time calls – you absolutely should, if you can do so and protect your own safety. Any time someone in the community can rally and shut down a dangerous event before it gets rolling is a good moment.

But every time some bad incident happens, I hear people saying, “Well, that wouldn’t have happened if I’d been there.” They say it by the hundreds, until the Internet would have you believe that everyone in existence is a coiled spring of justice, eternally braced for the most unusual incidents, and these constant dribbles of disappointment are some whacky exception.

Alas. We’re human. Humans generally react poorly to unexpected stimuli. And as much as I’d love it if we all had the correct initial reaction, the sad truth is that by the time we’ve figured out what’s happening, whether we’re sure it’s happening, and what to do to stop it from happening… it’s happened.

The best you can do is try to expect the unexpected. But how easy is that, really?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

2017 - #11, "Fuzzy Nation", John Scalzi

2017-Feb-09, Thursday 06:40
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine

This is essentially fan fiction, My understanding is that Scalzi wrote this for his own pleasure, expecting to be unable to publish it. However, it ended up being essentially a reimaging or reboot of H Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy and published with the blessing of the latter's estate.

Now, the fact that it's essentially fan fiction doesn't make it bad (or good, I have a strong suspicion that the presence or absence of fan fiction in a work's history is neither here nor there as far as quality is concerned), but it does mean that we can contrast it with what came before and I would definitely say I prefer this to the original.

Perth Fringe requests

2017-Feb-09, Thursday 11:45
leecetheartist: A lime green dragon head, with twin horns, and red trim. Very gentle looking, with a couple spirals of smoke from nose. (Default)
[personal profile] leecetheartist
I did a heap of Fringe reviewing last year, and had a really good time.

I encourage everyone to peruse the Fringe program so here's what's on today https://www.fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/whats_on_today/

I'm unlikely to go much this year - haven't even seen a single mermaid yet (sigh and they're free!) because of us going to Finland and saving the money, brainspace and energies for all that's involved in that.

I'm looking sadly at my review site on Google Plus which is right here - I did many Fringe reviews last year -https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/107887485468519838860/stream/8861fa96-02e8-492a-b9ef-229895f21fbc which I've not been able to populate with Fringeness. So here's an invite any of you attending Fringe to post your reviews, links to same or if you'd like to let me to link to anything you've written let me know. At least I can then enjoy it vicariously and my review site has some Fringe love.

Highly recommended: And Now For Something Completely Wireless.

On non-binary dysphoria, and top surgery

2017-Feb-08, Wednesday 17:09
azurelunatic: (Queer as a) $3 bill in pink/purple/blue rainbow.  (queer as a three dollar bill)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
Quoted with permission. The writer is non-binary gendered, AFAB, and has recently had top surgery.

One of the best things about [top surgery] is how quickly my dysphoria has eased. One of the things I worried about was whether I actually had dysphoria - after all, I was managing to hold down at least one job, go out, have a relationship and so on. I was pretty functional, right? Now I've actually had surgery, I realise how bad it was: all the things I avoided because it meant putting a binder on, all the ways it impacted my relationship and friendships, the way it affected about how I felt about my body, the constant buzzing low level awareness that couldn't be switched off. And now it's gone, and its absence is so noticeable.
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

My Uncle Tommy loved mysteries as a kid.  I was more drawn to his science fiction collection.

Weirdly, that absence actually hurts me as a writer.

Because I never read any mysteries (and I never watched ’em), I never internalized the rhythms of mysteries, nor picked up on how to structure them.  I understand, vaguely, when a clue gets dropped, but I have never ever once in my entire life solved a mystery before the story ended, and that includes really dumb and easy-to-understand clues like the rogue taxi driver in the first episode of Sherlock.

Me reading mysteries is like a dog watching television: I’m entertained, but I can’t say I’m getting it.

And that’s actually kind of a hindrance when it comes to writing a long-running series with a small cast.  Mysteries are an excellent backbone plot to stick characters in, because the characters don’t have to change all that much; their concern is figuring out who the killer is and what they’re up to.   You can have lovely little character bits sprinkled through, but the motivating force is not something that the character is deciding to do because they need to change their lives, but instead is an external event that’s hampering their life.

Which is why mystery writers can write series that go on forever.  There’s a dab of character evolution in there, as everyone wants a character arc – the cold detective warms slightly to people, or the bumbling sidekick creeps towards competence, or there’s a background romance that inches forward – but 95% of the novel is Interesting People Investigating This Distressing Conundrum, and only 5% is based on the character making new decisions they would never have made before today.

And it’s not just Mysteries that use mysteries.  Most long-running urban fantasy series are mysteries in a magical wrapper.  House ran forever, and that was basically “medical mysteries.”  Harry Potter had a lot of characterization, but still, 60% of what drove the plot?  A mystery.

Whereas if you don’t have an external mystery to drive the plot, what you have left to move this story forward is  character arcs.  And those are dangerous.  Because if you don’t have a mystery, the character arcs become wide – if Batman isn’t investigating some string of Joker-crimes, then the impetus for events has to be that Batman’s philosophy is threatened in some way.  It’s not “Batman chases down the Riddler,” but instead “Batman’s forced to decide when killing is an appropriate response,” or “Batman must question whether the sacrifices he makes to save Gotham City is worth it,” or “Batman must choose between loyalty to family or loyalty to his life’s mission.”

And there’s only so many of those you can do before a) they become really repetitive (because if Batman keeps rejecting his personal life to save Gotham City, then the outcome’s never in question), or b) the decision creates a change that fundamentally alters the character so they don’t have the same appeal (as “The marital conflicts of Bruce Wayne, no-longer-adventuring-husband” are unlikely to appeal to teenaged boys).

I ran into this when I was writing my ‘Mancer series.  Without a mystery-of-the-week to drive the series, there were three stories I could realistically tell: Family of magicians comes together, family of magicians is driven apart by an evil force, family of magicians is driven apart by a good force.

And I’m proud of the ‘Mancer series, I am, but people keep asking me, “So what comes next?” and….I got nothing.  (Well, not nothing, I’ve got my new novel The Uploaded coming out in September, but that’s in an entirely different universe in an entirely different genre.  Although it’s also about families.  And yet I digress.)  In the ‘Mancer series, these characters have changed radically from their inception, and I can’t think of anything else they could do that would be as compelling.  I could go on to tell the stories of other ‘mancers in that universe (and might, some day), but that’s different from the bestselling urban fantasies that have fifteen novels on the continuing adventures of That Character You Love.

Because if I could write mysteries, it’d be fun to plop Valentine and Aliyah into the Mystery Machine and have them go around solving magically obsessive crimes.  But…. I’ve tried, and I never internalized the rhythms of how mysteries work.  I don’t think in mystery terms.  And that is a real handicap for a guy who already doesn’t know how to plot in advance.

Not that it’s a bad thing that I write novels with huge, sweeping character arcs.  It’s just a mild issue for my career as a writer, because even if by some miracle I wrote The Bestselling Novel, I couldn’t then spin out endless tales with that person at the center.  I’d tell three, maybe four stories and be done.

(Which isn’t to say that many famous writers haven’t done well off of that model – they have – but it’s sure nicer if you can Jim Butcher your way into a situation where every annual installment helps sell copies of the other 14 books in the series.)

I’ve pondered how to solve that, or even if it needs to be solved.  I’ve wondered whether I should do nothing but read a mystery book a week for a year, hoping that I might start to think in mystery ways.  I’ve read books on How To Write A Mystery, and they seem cold and distant to me.

And maybe it’s because, ultimately, the mystery isn’t that compelling to me.  Reason I’m writing this is because last night I picked up a mystery by an author who I really enjoyed, and the first three chapters left me cold.  It was a perfectly good book, and yet what was a really interesting take on a locked-room mystery still had me shrugging.

In the end, this may be like the appreciation I wish I had for jazz, or 80s rap; I’ve listened, I wish I was educated enough to find the joy that other people take in it, but I’ve tried and it doesn’t seem to work.  And maybe mainlining it for a year would give me that joy, or maybe it’d turn out that it’s just not for me no matter what I do.

Some days, I write essays that come to firm conclusions about how things should be.  This isn’t one of them.  It’s not like my writing career hinges on getting this down; it’s just a tool in the box that I lack.  And you can get by as a writer without possessing all the tools, as there’s plenty of writers who don’t really have the rhythm of traditional plotting or character arcs down, and they compensate with other strengths.

But it’d be nice to be able to write a story and not have it all hinge on the growth of the characters.  I’d like a little mystery in there to serve as the spring.

Maybe some day.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

Proving that love is real.

2017-Feb-07, Tuesday 12:10
azurelunatic: A green-blue-and-purple gemstone heart, made of alexandrite (alexandrite)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
Love is real.

Everyone is worthy of love. (Without, I may add, an obligation for any one person to provide that love, nor should this be any excuse to not behave like an ethical sentient being. And no particular reason that any given person's love should look the way any other person would expect it to be.)

My partner and I have been proving to each other that love is real, repeatedly and continuously. Little messages of support. Reminders to put things in the calendar. Kisses. Skype calls that start just before bedtime and either disconnect quietly in the middle of the night, or are still running in the morning when Antisocial Cat begins to demand breakfast. Consideration and care. Not going too fast. Making checklists so that if we break up, we can break up safely, swiftly, and completely. Admitting when we can't even anymore, and sending the other in the direction of another friend for support. Poking each other when we've seen that another friend is having a bad day and could use a kind word. Decisions about lunch. Saying hello to the cat. Bad puns. Saucy selfies. Poetry. Determination. Resistance. Solidarity. Community.

Survival is resistance.

Thriving is resistance.

Art is resistance.

Love is resistance.

Love is real.

[ bookmonth ] 2017-01

2017-Feb-07, Tuesday 19:58
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Book list )

Somewhat late summarising January. Linear extrapolation says 84 books, that's probably shooting under the actual mark, but, you never know.
tcpip: (Default)
[personal profile] tcpip
Dropped in to the Unitarians on Sunday to hear Paul Dahan give his presentation on Land Price a Cause of Poverty and Source of Unearned Income. It was a good topic, and Paul does get his points in a storyteller's style. Rick B., was meant to be taking the service, but his train of thought was a little askew, so I took the opportunity to task if he wanted me to take over. It was a fairly seemless process. Afterwards Rohan McL. presented to The Philosophy Forum on Ontology and Violence, also held at the Unitarians..

Afterwards that was another session of Eclipse Phase, as the Sentinels finished off their Vurt-inspired hallucinatory scenario (part one, The Vurt in the Mind's Eye, part two, Of Fictions Imitating Reality). In a very closely related science fiction trajectory went to the Astor the following night with [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya, [livejournal.com profile] funontheupfield and Maria to watch the Tarkovsky psychodramatic film, Stalker. I appreciate the rumours that this is where the KGB poisoned him, but they seemed to do well enough in finding the most polluted place on earth to do the set.

Other major event of the past days was a presentation I gave just a few hours ago at Linux Users of Victoria, on Open Stack and the Barcelona Summit. I tried to give a conceptual overview of cloud technology in general, and OpenStack in particular with summary detail of the core and optional services, as well as the governance process, the techical changes in the Newton release, and the future of OpenStack's development. The well-attended LUV meeting also was addressed by Jacinta R., who spoke on various types of algorithms including some very recent developments by László Babai on Graph Isomorphism.
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

It sounds kinky, but one of the major problems in computer programming is deciding how much you need to expose.

The same is true of polyamory, but let’s start with the far less confusing topic of computer programming as an example.

Let’s say you have a program that calculates sales taxes: you hand it an order, and it tells you how much money you owe. Many programmers would argue that the ideal way to do this is a “black box” method – you hand the program an order, and it gives you a tax percentage.

How did it come to that conclusion? You don’t need to know how that program made that decision. What happens inside the program is a mystery.

But life is complex, and sometimes you need to peek inside the box – say, for example, if you need to know which tax code to apply to the order for accounting purposes. In which case, you might need your box of a program to return a little more data – say, a tax percentage and a tax code.

And in weird cases, maybe you need to get a breakdown from the box to know how it came to its conclusions – maybe you need to know which things you ordered were tax exempt so you can tell your customer, so you have to expose the box’s calculations to a much greater (and more complicated) extent.

So what’s the best way to program this tax-calculating device? Good programmers will trot out all sorts of theories to prove that you should always go with the simplest method, or the most flexible approach, or the most maintainable one.

Smart programmers, however, will answer: it depends what you need. Programming is not an absolute. There are solid, well-tested guidelines in programming, but every good programmer’s had to hold their nose because dammit, this clunky, inelegant solution is the best fix for this specific problem.

And that’s a lot like the way you process how your partners have sex with other people.

Right now, one of my partners is starting a new relationship with someone else. This is normally a time that provokes jealousy and insecurity.

For me, I need my partner’s sex to be a black box. I don’t need to know too much; I send a query going, “SEX GOOD?” and she replies with one of three answers:

  • Great!
  • Good
  • Meh

And that is all I need to know to function. Any more information on what’s happening inside my sweetie’s sex-box would cause me to start comparing, and I’d start to wonder if they were way better in bed than I was, and of course if they were better in bed then my sweetie would of course have no reason to stay with me and I would freak the hell out.

So they just tell me, “I had a great time!” and that’s sufficiently abstracted that I can be appropriately happy (or concerned) for them.

Of course, that information would be too much for many poly people. For them, the black box is even more abstracted – they send a query that says, “WAS SEX PROTECTED?” and the answer is Y/N, aaaaaand that’s all they need to know. Good? Bad? Irrelevant. “Unlikely to serve as a staging ground for STIs” is the only answer they require from their sweetie’s sex-box.

Then again, some people would find that information stifling. Some poly couples have to get a good, solid look at the sex-box’s internals, walking through the sex moment-by-moment, sifting through the other sex for tips and tricks they might use on their own, getting turned on by the knowledge of their sweetie’s pleasure. That box is flexible, man.

And which box is best for your polyamory? Let’s ask the smart programmer:

It depends what you need.

Because defining that black box of your partner’s partner is a vital survival skill in polyamory – and it’s not just sex. Personally speaking, I don’t need to know the fine details of my sweetie’s sex life, but I do need to know their emotional details – are they falling in love? Are they getting along? What sorts of happy things do they geek out about?

Yet again, for other people, that box may be a little more encapsulated. For them, they have an emotional partner-of-partner box that asks, “RELATIONSHIP GOOD?” and they get the answer of:

  • Great!
  • Good
  • Meh

And that is all they need to know to function. And that’s great!

(Or you can start exploring the VantaBlack box zone of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Relationships, where you literally are not even aware of who your sweetie is dating, but that risks some fatal miscommunications if you’re even slightly out of sync. Nothing wrong with DADT in the abstract – but if I were to describe it in programming terms, it’s known to be a very buggy approach.)

The point is, a lot of novices to polyamory freak out because their partners are either exposing too much or too little information about what’s happening in their other relationships. And part of learning to do polyamory comfortably lies in determining what sorts of feedback you want when you query the black box of your partner’s other relationships for information.

That answer may vary from partner to partner (I have a partner who’s a swinger, and I do love hearing about her sex parties), or topic to topic (as noted, I need way less information on sex than I do emotional realities). But framing it in terms of “What I need to know about how my partners are getting along with their partners” – even if that answer is, “I don’t” – is key to happily managing an active polyamorous network.

In the end, like programming, there’s no wrong answer. It lies in what you need…. And if it doesn’t work, you go back and refactor it! There isn’t a programmer in the world who hasn’t finished a perfect black-box tax calculator that hands back a single percentage, only to be told, “Oh, wait, we need the tax code too.” At which point they sigh, roll up their sleeves, and change the code.

Which is hard work. But like programming, things will go a lot better if you think things out in advance instead of just making everything up as you go.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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