rmc28: (books2010)
What it's about
This is a book based in an alternate universe: where the United Arab States were attacked on 9th November 2001 by Christian fundamentalists from the mountain regions of America; where an invasion followed and a Green Zone was set up in Washington D.C. and where the UAS Homeland Security works to prevent crusaders carrying out terrorist attacks in Baghdad.

In the summer of 2009, a captured suicide bomber claims during interrogation that this is all a mirage and that in the real world the USA is the single superpower.   The interrogation is cut short by orders from the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee - the war hero Osama bin Laden - but not before the investigating team become aware that this story has been said again and again by other captured terrorists, and are asked to investigate "the mirage story" by direct request from the President.

How I came to read it
I read this book for bookclub (and then was too tired for bookclub, so have no idea what the others made of it) and I probably wouldn't have read it otherwise, because the premise has the potential to be really good or really appalling.  Normally I'd give this book a wide berth and go read something else instead.

Read more... )

I'm very unlikely to reread this and will be taking it to the charity shop next week, unless one of my local friends would like it?
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I've been following with a certain horrified fascination the discussions following the reveal of Benjanun Sriduangkaew as Requires Hate / Winterfox. I was vaguely aware of all three: BS as a well-regarded nominee for the not-a-Hugo award for new authors (though I never did get around to reading that part of my Hugo packet earlier this year); RH for vicious reviews and nasty tweets that occasionally had a point, but I found the ratio of venom-to-point too high for my taste and after a while stopped following links to her that were shared; Winterfox for being vicious online to some people I know slightly.

I spent a long time reading the (hundreds of) comments to James Nicoll's post about the revelation and many of the links people posted in the course of that.  I came to my own conclusion after all that reading, which is basically that this person repeatedly acted to bully and intimidate people.  She was destructive to more than one fandom community.  And she deleted most of the evidence, so you are left looking at comment threads with only the responses by others framing the negative space where her words used to be.

I'm not so bothered about the nasty reviews.  It's the bullying and the community destruction I find particularly abhorrent. 

Laura J Mixon did a rather more systematic analysis.  This helpfully includes a couple of tables in the appendix of people targeted for bullying by BS/RH.  It's that time of year when my family shares seasonal gift wishlists.  I made a point of putting works by authors on that list onto my public wishlist; some were already on my private list of things-I've-been-recommended, some after a quick google looked as though they'd be My Sort Of Thing.

I have mostly come to terms with the fact that I'll never read all the good books.  I have literally hundreds of books on my to-read piles and wishlists; if I never added another recommendation I'd be set for reading for the next decade or two.  Right now I don't feel like prioritising Benjanun Sriduangkaew's works, and I do feel like prioritising the works of people whom she attacked.
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  • Glorious solitude
  • Toddler bedtime cuddles
  • Curry
  • Imminent sleep
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 I sent myself to my room for losing my temper with the children and shouting too much.

I think it amused Charles, which is better than scaring him.

Tony promises curry shortly. If I don't have to talk to anyone for a bit I may even be fit company by the time it's ready.

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My doctor wrote to me to request a follow-up blood test for my vitamin D levels.  The symptoms certainly match, as do the risk factors (being fat, breastfeeding, latitude).   The earliest I was able to book a blood test is next Friday, so I am trying hard to contain my impatience until then.

I managed to run three times in the last week, and I'm going to bed when I'm tired rather than trying to get everything done each evening.  I don't feel as awful as I did a week ago but I'm a long way off what I like to think is "normal for me".  Let's not talk about the to-do list or the paperwork pile.
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Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown & Sherwood Smith (Amazon | Apple | Google | Kobo )

This is a post-apocalyptic YA adventure story, which is a self-contained story but which clearly has lots of scope for sequels. I liked it a lot and I hope it sells well enough that the authors can write sequels.

It's not quite a dystopia - well, it's post-apocalyptic, but the action all takes place within a community which seems not-horrible, if imperfect in the way that small communities where everybody knows everybody's business are. Families and school and a bar and a dance hall and at least some democracy (a council, a mayor). Oh, and at least some of the population has mutant powers (except that 'mutant' is a slur, and the polite word is Changed), and there are lots of strange and dangerous mutated animals and plants too. (Meat-eating roses! Telekinetic squirrels! Psychic murder trees!)

The basic plot is that the small community, Las Anclas, has been getting on with life, vaguely aware of the threat of an empire-builder who they fought off nearly two decades ago. There's tension between the Changed and the Norms, and some bad history, and a recent change of Sheriff. And into this comes a young man, the stranger of the title, who is escaping danger but may have brought it with him.

The story is told from five points of view - five of the young people in Las Anclas, including Ross the newly-arrived stranger. Each one gets a chapter at a time, and the voices are distinct enough and get enough airplay at a time, that I found this very effective. Between them they see pretty much everything that is going on, and as the tension and action reach a climax towards the end of the book, I was unable to put it down as they all faced peril.

I liked that the teen romances on view included gay, lesbian, poly and straight relationships, and included a main character who I read as asexual-to-demisexual. I especially appreciated the skewering of the "two best friends fall for the same boy" trope. I was a bit meh about the Beautiful Mean Girl (With A Secret), though the chapters from her pov were both alien and compelling. I do hope she gets to grow up, have better role models, and be less mean.


I preordered Stranger after discovering that Rachel Manija Brown is also Lia Silver, author of the Werewolf Marine romances about which I have enthused previously. I'm very glad I did. This book is a different genre and a different style, but what they share are: characters I care about; writing that keeps me turning the pages; avoidance or subversion of the most annoying genre tropes.

I'm now looking forward to working through some of Sherwood Smith's backlist, while I wait for sequels to Stranger and more werewolf marines.
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l was pretty sarcastic about the doctor telling me what I already know.  But since speaking to him, I have taken more concrete action towards both sleep and exercise than I've managed in the last two months, and I'm not feeling quite so ground down by exhaustion.  (I'm still not getting enough done, but baby steps.)

Maybe if I'd done that in the last two months I wouldn't have needed to go to the doctor at all.

Maybe I could work on being kind to myself without needing an external authority figure to agree with me that I need something.



rmc28: Face of toddler smiling (Nico2014-11)
Over the last months, Nico has gone from singing along occasional words with Let It Go to singing entire lines both with and without the original, to singing a recognisable Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, to a little repertoire of recognisable nursery rhymes.

And he likes to change the words.  So for example he has a whole song about Yellow Yellow Ye-e-low, and another about Daddy Daddy Da-Da-Dee (both to Twinkle Twinkle) and additional verses to The Wheels on the Bus where Mummy goes cuddle-cuddle-cuddle and Daddy is either fast asleep or goes snore-snore-snore.  (Not the fairest division of labour, I feel.)

Yesterday was the most complex yet, where he was singing about an orange plate to Let It Go.

Meanwhile, C just about tolerates N singing the wrong words but Tony and I are absolutely not allowed.
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Poll #16126 Reading guilt
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 27


I feel guilty about not finishing a book I

View Answers

bought
12 (46.2%)

borrowed from a friend
12 (46.2%)

borrowed from the library
7 (26.9%)

started reading on recommendation from a friend
15 (57.7%)

started reading on recommendation from a more formal review (whether by friend or not)
5 (19.2%)

was given to review
11 (42.3%)

was assigned for study
10 (38.5%)

tickybox
5 (19.2%)

I feel no guilt
8 (30.8%)

I feel guilty about not even starting to read a book I

View Answers

was lent by a friend
16 (61.5%)

was lent by a friend who wants it back soon
19 (73.1%)

borrowed from the library
4 (15.4%)

borrowed from the library and renewed once
5 (19.2%)

borrowed from the library and renewed the maximum number of times allowed
12 (46.2%)

bought
8 (30.8%)

bought more than a month ago
3 (11.5%)

bought more than three months ago
2 (7.7%)

bought more than six months ago
2 (7.7%)

bought more than a year ago
6 (23.1%)

bought more than five years ago
6 (23.1%)

bought more than ten years ago
6 (23.1%)

tickybox
7 (26.9%)

I feel no guilt
5 (19.2%)

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What I should have been reading over the last few weeks:
  • Library books due back this week that I've already renewed the max number of times
  • Canon for yuletide assignments
  • Leaflets on sensory processing
  • Books on autism (to be fair, this group is more like "the last few months")
What I have been reading over the last few weeks:
  • Fanfic
  • Assorted romances, mostly from reviews at Smart Bitches Trashy Books (still calibrating my taste against that of the reviewers there but only one Did Not Finish, so not bad so far)

I did take myself to the doctor this week with the sense that actually this isn't my usual "busy life, children, etc" tiredness but has been getting gradually worse recently and is now substantially affecting my ability to get much done.  In particular I haven't run regularly in months now and I miss it.  He did refer me for some blood tests for the most obvious causes but opined that "it probably isn't anything simple, you've got too much to juggle, you should try to get more rest and rebuild your level of physical exercise".

I was nice. I didn't say "yes, that's what I've been trying to tell you" or "thank you genius", I just agreed that these were important goals and I'd get right on them and we'd review again in a month or so.

(I did then take this as guidance to go home for the rest of the day and I did get an extra 3 hours of sleep as a result, which did make me feel a lot better.  So that was good, but I can't do that regularly without radical changes to my work and lifestyle, and thus the family.  Which, argh, if I knew what to change to make things better, I would, but I don't want to make serious changes without a bit more to go on.)

I did have a bunch of things I was going to do this weekend.  I'm shelving them in favour of
a) sorting out replacing my fitbit; it mysteriously stopped working a few weeks ago but before then it was giving me some useful sleep data
b) returning my library books
c) doing a gentle run
d) napping

Never let it be said I ignore medical advice.
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Someone (and I don't remember who, I'm very sorry) on my DW / LJ follow lists linked me a few months ago to this amazing "Mass Bolero" - a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Torvill & Dean's Olympic gold. The dance was re-choreographed to work on land, and broken into 10-second segments and all sorts of community groups across Nottingham learned one 10-second segment each, and then it's all filmed and stitched together beautifully. I think my favourite is the rugby players, but I love the whole thing, the huge variety of bodies and backgrounds, sizes and shapes.



Each of the children like to watch it with me, I think they are getting different things out of it. Anyway, after we'd watched the tribute a few tens of times, I looked for a video of the original. In contrast to the mass community production, this is the very specific hair-raising beauty that comes from very talented people who have practiced very very hard to get everything just so.



And just for fun I found another 30th anniversary version, this time from ITV's Dancing on Ice. Just how good and how practiced those two athletes still are:


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In case you've missed the Cars franchise from Disney, they're animated movies about anthropomorphised vehicles aimed at children.  Charles adores them and I find them tedious-to-irritating, so I can usually cope with seeing them once.  These days I have an ebook app that does night mode - this makes tedious children's films on the cheap weekend mornings far more bearable.

This one was slightly better than I expected, but I'm filing it with the rest of the franchise as "films you can only watch again when I am not in the room".

spoilers )

Trailers beforehand:
Annie - a remake of the musical film, with a black orphan girl and a black mayoral candidate in the rich-rescuer role.  

Get Santa - a father-son bonding movie rescuing Santa from jail.  There is literally a half-second view of one non-male face in the entire 2 minute trailer, among at least a couple of dozen male characters.  Charles was keen but I think Tony can take him if he insists on going.

Paddington - which managed to hit both my embarrassment limit and my bodily-function-disgust limit within about 20s of the trailer.  So nope.  I mean, the last time I had to actually stop watching a trailer was one for Prometheus while I was pregnant. 
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Because my spare time is miniscule, so I should actually try scheduling this.
lists, I love lists )
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I've got an assignment and I'm all happy about it.  (Need to reread canon though to do the prompts justice)
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It's time for my semiannual reminder that I hate the stupid changing-the-clocks ritual.  The change forward in the spring doesn't hit me as hard, just reminds me of this tedious twice-yearly waste of time.

My daily commute is roughly 08:30-9:00 in the morning and 17:00-18:00 in the evening.  Yes, it is twice as long in the evening, because of picking up from childcare, whereas darling child is able to walk himself to school, most of the time (and when he doesn't, school is closer than after-school childcare).  At this latitude it's basically always light when I go out in the morning (if not when I actually wake up), but not in the evening.

The last few weeks, the evening has been creeping in. Not quite dark before we get home, but getting there, closer and closer. I don't like it, but I adjust, day by day.  Tomorrow, because of the time change, it will suddenly be dark when I leave work, with no chance to adjust, and that's what hits me the hardest.

It took me a few years to realise that's what I hated most about the clocks going back.  Not the commute in the dark itself, though it's not great, but the sudden jump.

Summertime is such a clumsy way of attempting to "make the most" of daylight, as though everyone worked on the same schedule throughout the country.  Although every time we talk about changing it, all the exceptions who would be badly affected speak up. Why not keep one timezone all year round, and adapt locally, or in specific activities, to the seasons if we need to?  More complicated.  But probably more useful.
rmc28: (tony)
Charles wasn't thrilled to see me when I picked him up today, but we got home, and we avoided the temptation of shopping while cross with each other, and then he helped me put the bins out.

Then we got food-for-children on the go, and I had some consolatory chocolate ovaltine, and Jonny helped me wrangle children while Tony made delicious filling beans+bacon with truly luxurious amounts of butter and garlic. Charles talked to me some more about Christmas cards, but this time when he wasn't hungry, and we came to mutual understanding and agreement, and there were lots of hugs.

Tony and I had beans and bacon, and a mutual-support-and-venting conversation, and Charles has been reading upstairs, and Nicholas is being affectionate and chatty, and in general the world is a much better place than it was 12 hours ago.
rmc28: (OMG)
By 8am this morning I had already:tales of success and woe )

Why is there never any chocolate left?
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Yesterday I walked into town with Nicholas to get him new shoes and do other errands.  He asked to walk when we crossed Jesus Green, and as we were making our slow erratic way across the park he gestured and asked about the people playing some kind of ball game enthusiastically to our right.  I glanced over properly (most of my focus being on him up until that point), and took in the three goals at each end, and the sticks between players' legs, and the pattern of play.

"Yes darling," I said.  "They're playing Quidditch."

I'm not sure I'm happier that there were people playing Quidditch in the park on a Sunday lunchtime, or that I could recognise it in a glance.

Nico has not been paying sufficient attention to Harry Potter to care about such things. Charles might have done, if he'd been with me.  We haven't got much further through the books because he is focused on Diary of a Wimpy Kid and its sequels.  I'd rather be reading Harry Potter but so long as there is reading at all, I am not complaining.   Too easy to kill his enthusiasm.

rmc28: (bat-funny)
Thank you so much for signing up for yuletide. I'm sure you're going to do a great job. It's pretty likely you don't know me, so here's a bit about my general likes and dislikes, and then I've basically just cut and pasted my Details section for each request for reference.   Hopefully this will spark off something if you need it to; you may already have a story in mind in which case go for it!



Likes: teamwork, competence, friendship/affection, women being awesome, people valuing each other and working together, people communicating like adults, people being awkward and embracing it anyway, optimistic or hopeful endings.

I'm comfortable with ratings from general through to explicit smut, please go with your comfort level and your own sense of the characters you're writing. If you do write sex, I like it when everyone is having a good time and it's a consistent continuation of their relationship together (whether that is a one-time friends-with-benefits or lifelong monogamy or anything in between).

Tropes: I like friends-to-lovers, road trips, odd-couple partnerships, and also the crackier fanfic things like soulmates, wingfic, A/B/O, genderswap, bodyswap, groundhog day. The latter group especially work for me where they are exploring who these people are, how they would work if that thing was true / that thing was changed.

Basically I am after "tell me MORE about these people" whether that is filling in a missing scene, adding some backstory, speculating What Happened Next, or sticking them all in a coffeeshop AU for fun and giggles. I am an especial sucker for competence: show me my darlings being brilliant at what they do and I will adore you for it.



Dislikes:
I'd really prefer not to have an explicitly grim or really dark story. I need some kind of hope at the end. If you are writing hurt/comfort I prefer the hurt to be mostly offscreen, and the focus on the comfort. I have a sufficient humiliation/embarrassment squick to find most sitcoms unwatchable, so I'd be really grateful if you avoid that. In general I find it hard to cope with reading harm to children, graphic sexual violence and non-consensual sex. Please avoid lengthy focus on pregnancy or childbirth (but passing mention is fine, as is care of babies or children).



As for my requests: I would love ANY of these, so don't worry about sticking to the one you match on if you find you can do one of the others better. The Yuletide rules say you are expected to write something including all the characters I've nominated. I personally don't expect you to do that (and in the Imperial Radch case it might be a real struggle to do so) so please don't feel you have to shoehorn someone in to meet a quota if you have a perfectly good story going on with other of my nominated character(s) without them.



The Brothers Sinister Series - Courtney Milan
- Violet Waterfield, Sebastian Malheur, Rose Sweetly, Jane Fairfield

Ok, I LOVE this series so much, and Jane and Violet and Rose are all such awkward darlings, Jane embracing her bad taste and occasional lapses of manners, and Violet and Rose getting so engrossed in their science and maths respectively. Sebastian's love and care of Violet in The Countess Conspiracy never fails to bring me to tears. Sometimes they are of laughter, like when he flirts with her using classifications of rakes.

So here I would love to see a bit more of Violet and Jane's friendship (which is only lightly hinted at in the books. Maybe some scenes fleshing that out. I can't think of a scenario where Violet's genetics research would ever need a computer, but if it did, then Rose would be the obvious choice. Or maybe just my adorable science girls geeking out at each other and sharing tales of woe like having to stop sciencing to go and meet social obligations. I'd love to see Sebastian basking in his faculty-wife role, maybe teaming up with Jane to fend off critics of women doing science.


Imperial Radch Series - Ann Leckie
- Nyseme Ptem, Sievarden Vendaai, Tisarwat, Mercy of Kalr

I am completely smitten by this series, and in particular by the way I get more out of the books with every reread. This is one where I think it's particularly unfair to expect you to write something involving ALL of my nominated characters, as Nyseme Ptem hasn't yet appeared or interacted directly with any of the others, and is only referenced in the daily prayers of remembrance. (Unless you want to invent some backstory where she did know someone on Mercy of Kalr).

So ideas here: what Nyseme did and thought before she acted at Ime, how Sievarden treats Mercy of Kalr and what Mercy of Kalr thinks of her. Do they work together to manage their Captain? Tisarwat and Mercy of Kalr before and after her implants are disabled.

And if you want to include any of the other characters in this rich and fascinating series, please do. I just nominated the ones I most wanted to read (more) about.



Werewolf Marines - Lia Silver
- Charlie, Echo

I love this series, and I enthused about why in this entry. In case that's tl;dr, it boils down to: shapeshifting coolness without dodgy sexual politics; romantic protagonists who are living with believable mental illnesses, but are still attractive and allowed to find love; love does not magically fix everything.

I am particularly drawn to Echo in Prisoner and her deep attachment to Charlie, who is so very like her in appearance and unlike her in physical health and personality. Anything exploring their relationship, some of their history, even just them bantering together, maybe something from Charlie's point of view, maybe an external point of view on them both. Please don't take it in an incest direction though; I can see how that might be a plausible interpretation but it really wouldn't work for me with these characters.



Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
- Abigail Brand, Carol Danvers, Janet Van Dyne

I really love this series, which I discovered after getting into the Marvel movies and the attached megafandom, and how different many of the characters are from their movie versions, and how many cool and interesting characters haven't even made it into the films yet.

Janet is lovely, the real heart of the Avengers, and pretty much the only one who stays in the team throughout the series. I'm utterly fascinated by Carol and her friendship with Janet, and her response to acquiring powers; in particular her utter rejection of Mar-Vell's attempts to protectively coddle her, and by extension Earth, after inflicting her with Kree powers. We don't see much of Abigail Brand, but what we do see is competence, decisiveness, charisma and leadership (like when she recruits Sydren), and hints at an interesting backstory: "who said I was human?".

So anything with these three working together would be wonderful: is there a friendship as well as a working relationship between Abigail and Carol? How did Abigail come to work for SWORD? How do Janet and Abigail get on? Maybe a story where they work together against an alien threat, or maybe just a girls night out telling war stories. If you wanted to go in a femslash direction (with any two or all three) that would be hot and awesome, and if you wanted to stick with friendship and teamwork that would be delightful and awesome.



Gravity (2013)

I would love to read anything exploring the world of this film. It's one that seems ripe for what happened next stories - we don't even know where Ryan Stone eventually lands, or who is going to find her, or what is happening to the world with so much satellite infrastructure destroyed. There's so much to speculate over what was happening on the ground, maybe at mission control, maybe at a random school or astronomy club or something watching what's going on.

Or you might want to look at what happened before. We know that Stone is a just-competent-enough astronaut, having done the minimum six months training because she's just that good an engineer that they need her in space to fix Hubble. How did she get into that situation? How did she get through training? Did she make any friends?




Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
- Rita Vrataski

I just rewatched this film, and oh wow it is such a good film. I especially love Rita Vrataski who is the hard-ass hero being gradually-less-incompetently helped by her sidekick Cage. I would love anything more about her.

It could be from before the movie starts, exploring what happened at Verdun, or who Hendricks is and how she came to kill him over 300 times. It could be why she signed up, and how much training she did before Verdun (the opening credits say "just a few months training" I think). It could be how she met Dr Carter (he has that lovely throwaway line about "well and then I met Rita so now I'm just a maintenance worker with delusions").

It could be any scene within the move from her point of view rather than Cage's. Or it could be what happens next, whether on the micro-level of what Cage says when he finishes laughing at the end of the film to the huge macro-level, with armies marching to meet each other over a devastated Europe.

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We have two shoe racks to give away:

They have been claimed and have left the garage!

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Last weekend when I was migrainey, I spent a bit of time thinking and ordering stuff to improve our hallway and kitchen.  The stuff arrived during the week, and I spent much of yesterday sorting it out and installing it, variously assisted by children and spouse.

In probably tedious detail if you aren't me )
rmc28: Charles holding his baby cousin (charles and cousin)
C: "Mum, I know why the tooth fairy was a day late that one time when I put the tooth under my pillow and she didn't come and take it away that night but the next one.  It's because you fell asleep early that night, and you are disguising yourself as the tooth fairy!"

Me: "Is that so?  Shall I stop?"

C: "No! Because I like getting the money."


There is a new tooth going under the pillow tonight.  I'm currently considering leaving extra tonight as a bonus for having worked it out.

I'm wondering if when he'll take the next logical step and figure out who's filling the stockings on Christmas Eve.

(Now both children are dancing around the kitchen to Talking 'Bout My Generation. Sometimes they are lovely together.)

rmc28: (BRAINS)
Sunday: mild migraine - got very little done
Monday: recovery day - as migraine was mild I was able to work, but I did minimal effort apart from that
Tuesday: easy normal day with no run
Wednesday: busy day, lots of walking, no run
Thursday: in theory a fully recovered day, should have been out running at lunchtime but lacked all motivation and didn't
Friday: mild migraine, could still work, weekend plans cancelled, that explains my mood Thursday
Saturday: migraine continues

I know what the stress trigger is behind this, but I can't fix it easily (that's why it's stressful!).  (It's child-related and not for public discussion, sorry, not trying to be all I-have-a-secret at you, readers.)   Running is a great coping mechanism but not at times like this, where there aren't enough days I can run.  I need better/alternative coping mechanisms. 

I can't fix it today.  Today is for resting and recovering so I can do my job next week.  I have used three Audible credits on Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and the first third of the BBC Lord of the Rings adaptation by Brian Sibley.
rmc28: (wonderfrown)
Today's XKCD usefully skewers the devil's advocate approach to discussion, which long-time readers will remember I loathe.

It's the alt-text that makes it, for me.  I still don't want to be your entertainment.  Go find a boat.

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 I got it on my phone when I woke up and have been reading it in every spare moment today. I loved it and it is a bit more straightforwardly structured than AJ. But it's past my bedtime so more words will have to wait. 
rmc28: Charles holding his baby cousin (charles and cousin)
Charles is 8 today.  We took advantage of a teacher training day last week and spent Friday and Saturday at Legoland Windsor, which was a good family trip, but very tiring.  He got a few birthday presents there from us, and some more from relatives when we got home.

I've been living in Cambridge for 18 years now.   I am finding this strangely hard to comprehend.

[icon is a recent photo of C holding his baby cousin the mustardseed]
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I am now trained to use the evac chairs to help people who can't use stairs to escape my office building in case of fire.

Training was fun (if a little warm at times): we each in turn practiced unfolding the chair, being behind the chair and in front of the chair (it is a two-person job), and we all had a turn in the chair so we know what we're inflicting on people.  While I winced at the repeated use of "wheelchair-bound", the trainer was at least firm and clear that we should always ask the person being moved how they wish to get into the chair "as they know best how to move themselves".  I kind of wish that didn't need to be stated, but we're not in that world yet.

At the moment, we don't have anyone using a wheelchair in the building, but there is at least one person who cannot use stairs.   And of course there may be temporary reasons why someone cannot use stairs at a particular time: most likely injury or panic.

Also, yay checklist for making sure we had covered everything we need to know.


(And then after a couple of meetings I went to the gym and lifted weights, and now my muscles are really tired.)

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I finally got around to booking a "personal program" discussion with one of the fitness staff at the University Sports Centre, so I can add some weight training to my routine.  So we did the discussion and assessment on Friday lunchtime, and I'm heading out shortly for my walk-through of the program he's developed for me, with the idea that I'll follow it for "a month or so" and then book a review.

My previous experience of weights in gyms has been fixed machines.  Here we're doing bar and kettle bell stuff and it is all new and I am not very strong (at least by comparison to the available weights).    I found the exercises interesting to learn and satisfying to do, and the trainer was utterly professional and helpful, giving nothing but constructive and positive commentary.

But I found the whole assessment session intimidating and stressful.  I was painfully aware of being a visibly fat woman exercising incompetently in public.  I feel like that sometimes when running, but at least then I leave people behind (or get overtaken/left behind by faster runners).   And I'm going to have to grit my teeth and get through that intimidated feeling every time I go and do a session.   It will no doubt get easier as I get better at doing the exercises, but I can see it's going to be another barrier and something to guard against on days when I'm less motivated.

I feel ridiculously grateful that the trainer was professional and positive.  It would have taken very little in the way of judgemental tone or negative comment to upset me enough to cry during that session, and then I would have been hysterical and emotional as well as fat and incompetent.  And at the same time I feel furious that I should be so grateful for someone doing their job properly.

rmc28: (silly)
Nico has a new consistent and very clear word: Poo. 

Charles finds this very funny.  Ok, so do I.

Also Charles has begun asking daily when we are going to have another baby.   He doesn't like the answer "Never".  This is the stereotype one expects from one's mother-in-law, not one's beloved firstborn.
rmc28: (reading)
At his request, I just read the opening of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone as Charles's bedtime reading.   He was really engaged until sleepiness won.    We've also got the films, but he was quite definite about reading each book first before watching its film(s). 

I haven't actually seen the last four films either, and it's been a while since I read the books.  I'm so looking forward to sharing this with him.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I have nominated fandoms for Yuletide for the first time. I may even manage to sign up this year.  

(My brain weasels, let me show you them: I may need handholding for actually asking for what I would like when the time comes.  I'm no longer worried about writing 1000+ words for a gift exchange in a shared fandom, but 10-100 words on something-for-me was too much of a barrier last year.)

Anyway, I nominated Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes after finding myself adding evidence to the argument it should be accepted.  I also nominated Imperial Radch - Ann Leckie which has only 3 works on AO3 at the moment.  Finally I nominated Brothers Sinister Series - Courtney Milan which doesn't appear at all on AO3, but which I would *love* to read fanfic for (Women being awesome and doing science! And hot men who treat them like people!).  As [personal profile] metaphortunate put it "Courtney Milan, back to her: it's like a romance novel, with the focus on women, and the comfort reading style, and the sexy parts, but without the bit where the women are doing everything Wrong and the men swoop in and correct them."

So I'm really hoping these all get accepted, that I actually manage to sign up and offer/ask for these, and that there will be an increased amount of fanfic for all three to read on Christmas Day, whether or not any of it is produced by or for me.

Also in fannish mode: Ancillary Sword is released two weeks today.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
1. New words.  New words all the time.  New phonemes rather less often, so guesswork is frequently required.  On the other hand, the most recent new word is a very clear "Hey!" complete with indignant intonation.  Yesterday I was well impressed with "toc milk" i.e. chocolate milk. 

2. No.  Alongside all the new words is a lot of no no no no no.  "Do you want a cuddle?" "No" "Do you want a drink?" "No" "Time for a nappy change." "No".  Sometimes complete and furious meltdown when he isn't getting what he wants.  Two is clearly hard.

3. He's currently utterly fascinated with putting the DVDs in and out of the player.  Sometimes he doesn't even want to watch them very much, just establish which one they are and then get a different one.  As he's got more stable and careful, I've become more relaxed about letting him be in control of what goes in.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
1. He wants ukulele lessons.  I am entirely happy to support this, but it just took me five minutes to find my chequebook.  I wonder if I can persuade the music teacher to take bank transfers if he sticks with it after this half-term.

2. He has convinced me he can cross the one quiet road safely so he is now walking (most of the way) to school by himself.  Except the first bit is my route to work so yesterday we had an argument because he wanted to Do It Himself so refused to walk with me, and I wouldn't set off for work until I knew he was on his way.  So we had this embarrassing standoff halfway down the road until a friend of his turned up and he could save face by walking with friend.

3. He was losing his temper in the shop yesterday and
a) actually listened when I suggested going outside to wait for me and calm down and
b) found that it did actually work and came back much calmer, if still upset, about five minutes later. 
We continue to discuss the merits of walking away and counting to ten.  I'm making a lot of use of the latter at the moment ....

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I woke up a bit after 4am to find both children had come into my bed during the night, despite neither starting the night that way.  I snuck downstairs to watch the end of the Scottish referendum results.  No more than 15 minutes later, Nico turned up next to my chair looking very sleepy.  About 15 minutes after that Charles turned up looking worried and very sleepy.

I've spent the next hour or so fielding questions about the election from Charles e.g.
"What does 'united' mean?" 
"Why wouldn't Scotland want to be independent?"
"What's a nation?"

Meanwhile Nico is playing with wooden blocks and ignoring the tv.


ETA: well, that was a disappointment
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
+ back to work after 2 days sick
- lengthy meeting in room with flickering projector triggered a new headache
+ free lunch
- colleagues with assorted troubles taking them away from the office
+ played with new free project-management app
+ which resulted in dumping a lot of stuff I was perseverating over into external memory
+ got a few of those "little non-urgent but useful" tasks done
- missed book club due to headache
+ tony being supportive and children being (mostly) lovely
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
What I've read
I still haven't been reading books much.  I had a migraine yesterday and read the entirety of Talyn by Holly Lisle which I bought my own copy of this year.  I wrote a short review of it in 2010, based on the library copy.

What's next
I have a vague plan to reread Watership Down but I think that will be its own set of posts.  Mirror Empire is still sitting where I put it when I unwrapped the parcel.  It's three more weeks until Ancillary Sword comes out so I hope I unstick my reading by then. (I did devour the first chapter free on Orbit's website).  Maybe I'll reread Ancillary Justice for bookclub tomorrow.

Books acquired
I got Rivers of London, Moon Over Soho & Whispers Under Ground, all by Ben Aaronovitch, at a very reasonable price from the Angel Bookshop on Bene't Street.  This is a local independent bookshop that stocks the sort of books I like to buy, so I suspect we'll be back.   Charles has figured out that I am a pushover when it comes to buying him books so he got Diary of a Wimpy Kid which I'm hoping he'll read with me.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I went to see this with C, as we have both enjoyed the previous four Tinker Bell films from Disney.  Things that I generally like about the series are:
  • Disney has gone with Tinker = Engineer and Tinker Bell is the best most amazing engineer that the fairies have ever known.
  • Not all the fairies are white! (though they are of course all slender and beautiful).
  • Most of the main characters are female.
  • Which means there are multiple different female characters who are allowed to be different rather than a single Strong Female Character.
  • And the characterisation is consistent across films and the plotting is generally fun, if a bit predictable.
Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy felt quite short (it's under 80 minutes), and has a rollicking action plot where almost all the fairies are drugged to sleep for several days, enabling the theft of the super special fairy dust that allows fairies to fly.  Tinker Bell and her friends are the only ones awake to see the theft and set off in pursuit.  There's some nice little nods / setting up characters for the pirates in Peter Pan (and are we all shocked when the pirate with a super-posh English accent turns out to be extra bad? no we are not), and there is a happy ending where friendship and teamwork save the day. 

I find it amusing that the films generally fail the reverse Bechdel test i.e. the few token boy fairies rarely talk to each other and if they do, it is usually about Tinker Bell.  This film actually passes because of conversation between the pirates (all male) but I was amused that the six girl fairies went off to have adventures and left a token boy fairy to look after everyone at home.
rmc28: (books2010)
I have not read any books, electronic or otherwise, in the last week.

Instead have two recs for fanfics for Captain America / Avengers / Winter Soldier, both of them doing what I think of as 21st century epistolary form:


User Since (3848 words) by rageprufrock
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: Major Character Death
Summary:

To: PC (loyaltothedream@hushmail.com)
From: Buck (bucky1956@yahoo.com)
Subject: Report!
Date: May 10, 2012

Phil — where the hell are you, man? Let us know if you're all right, or if there's anything we can do to help. HQ's freaking the fuck out.


tin soldiers (19743 words) by idrilka
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Summary:


In his 2009 book on Captain America comic books, war photography, and American propaganda, Everett claims: “There is nothing to suggest that either the graphic novels issued during the war or the photographs taken during Rogers’ stay with the Howling Commandos can serve as a basis for a queer reading of Rogers and Barnes’ relationship. But even more importantly, there is nothing to suggest that such a relationship ever existed in the first place, and as such, those queer readings are not only misguided, but also libelous” (197).


[from: Lynn E. Anderson, Captain America: Behind the Mask. Steve Rogers and the Contemporary Hero Narrative (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), p. 242.]

In the aftermath of Steve's return to the world of the living and the battle of New York, the academia and the Internet react.
rmc28: Rachel with manic grin holding up wrist with new watch on (watch)
My smartphone (a Fairphone 1) abruptly started taking an age to charge, and then stopped charging altogether. It is under warranty but needs to be sent off for repair which with their advertised turnarounds means nearly a month by the time I get myself in the vicinity of a post office.

A month without the ability to read one-handed while wrangling children to bed, or my running app: the blood ran cold.

I am grateful to [personal profile] andrewducker who linked to a review of cheap Android smartphones, which meant I was at least aware the possibility of a cheap backup existed. I spent some time Monday morning browsing phone seller websites, then got offered a "live chat" by Phones4U and said "ok, tell me the cheapest SIM-free Android phones you offer, that have at least 4GB of built-in memory and take a standard SIM. MicroSD expansion slot is a would-be-nice." Within a few minutes I had a choice of two, rang up the nearest shop, and by lunchtime I had an Alcatel OneTouch Pop C1 for £50.

It's smaller and feels a lot more cheap-and-plastic than my Fairphone, but it a) works b) has been really easy to set up with email, web, ebooks, Zombies Run, enough of my music to make me happy, and a bunch of other apps that make my life easier.  I'm deliberately only installing things as I want to use them, and I expect once I have my lovely big phone back I'll go back to it.  But this is better than I expected as a backup.

Meanwhile I came home yesterday to find Tony watching some Apple event and contemplating a phone ten times the price of my little ETH.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Tony and I are going to Dysprosium (Eastercon) next year!   I'm really looking forward to it.  The children will stay home and a couple of family members have kindly agreed to spend the long weekend taking care of them, which we think will work better all round than bringing them along.

We finally got our head around the voting-on-future-Worldcons process  (after we'd got home, and after completely missing all information on how to vote at Loncon3 for 2016).  So we're now both supporting members of 2015's Worldcon, Sasquan, which means later on we can pay out some more money in order to vote on the four-way contest for 2017, which in turn will give us a supporting membership for whatever wins 2017, so we can do the same again to vote on/join 2019. 

We are blatantly biased in favour of "potential worldcons we can attend without flying", i.e. Helsinki in 2017 and Dublin in 2019.  I am also having far too much fun reading about various train/ferry routes to Helsinki.

Supporting memberships mean we can carry on voting on Hugos, at least for the odd-numbered years, and nominating in all years.  I rather enjoyed that aspect of this year's Worldcon, in particular the various discussions and blog posts among my friends and people I follow online.

rmc28: (OMG)
I found an unpaid invoice for repair to our bakfiets, which has been lurking in my too-full-to-cope-with inbox.  It's now paid ... SIX MONTHS late.

At least it is now paid.  And I paid the plumber just now, the same week they invoiced, so that's much better.
rmc28: (books2010)
Books read

I've read through several kindle samples based on recs from Worldcon.

Oblivion Storm by R.A. Smith
Opens with a rags-to-riches heiress on the streets of 19th century? London and then switches to modern day London, sudden peril on the Underground and something magic- or time-travel related going on.  Not bad, but didn't especially grab me so I'll not continue.

Huntress by Malinda Lo
Two young women are chosen by magical? prophecy to go on a diplomatic mission to the queen of the faries.  I was sufficiently engaged to order a dead-tree copy, which sadly seems to be taking a while to get to me.

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman
This is the first in a YA trilogy about racism, in particular with the relative power of black and white people inverted.  It was recommended at the Diversity in YA panel, and the author is a black British woman who is open in the foreword about this being a book allowing her to express a lot of anger over the racism she's personally experienced.  I'm prepared for it to make me uncomfortable, either because it is a simplistic Message Novel, or more subtly because it makes me more aware of my biases.  But the first two chapters were page-turny and not Messagey, and the library has it in stock so I'm waiting for my reservation to come through.

I then decided I needed to stop reading samples because I'd start getting confused by having too many books in progress simultaneously.

A Bad Spell in Yurt by C Dale Brittain
I put this down for a while after finding it hard to stay interested when being interrupted every few paragraphs.  I managed an uninterrupted hour or two while we were off work, and whooshed through it.  As [personal profile] skygiants made clear, it's a generic Eurofantasyland where Our Hero saves the day by the power of friendship and reading his textbooks really carefully.   If that's what you want to read, it does it very well and I enjoyed it, but I'm not often in the mood for that so won't rush to get the sequels (which I initially typed as SQLs oops work).

Night School by C J Daugherty
This is a YA story, first in a series, about a teenage girl who gets sent away to a boarding school in the British countryside by her parents to stop her getting in trouble.  It is kind of rife with tropes of the genre, right down to instant-friendship-bonding and secret societies and mysteries uncovered, and the inevitable hetero love triangle.  But it performs them well and the characters feel like people rather than placeholders, and I found myself reading it avidly and wanting to find out what happens next.

The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh
This is the last of Balogh's back catalogue in the county library system, which I may write up separately at some point. This one is a rather sweet portrayal of a young, moderately naive heiress and her romantic pursuit of the man her family and his wants her to marry anyway.  It's clever enough to make me sympathise with said heiress rather than want to shake her for being so silly, and I'm glad I read it.

Next books
Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley arrived in today's (Thursday's) post, so I expect that is next up.

rmc28: (silly)
There is a letting agent whose sign I pass on my commute, called Let's Rent Cambridge.  Every time I see the sign, I find myself thinking "what, all of Cambridge?"

Tony was 40 earlier this week and we had a meal at the Cambridge Smokehouse, where the Eraina used to be.  This is a great restaurant if you like meat with your meat and some meat, and I love the "ping a light for service" approach.

I have a new fitness-monitoring-wristband thing (Fitbit Flex for those that care), and my slow overfull waddle back from the Smokehouse was classed by it as "intense activity".  I slightly fear what it will make of my running, when I next manage it.

rmc28: (charles-dragon)
I've talked to some people in person about this, but I wanted to make a brief public post, not least because this topic is going to absorb a lot of my attention for the foreseeable future.

Charles was formally diagnosed with high-functioning autism last month.  Tony & I were not entirely surprised, but now that our suspicions have been formally confirmed, we have a lot of catch-up learning to do.

The letter we have says "high functioning autistic spectrum disorder (also known as Asperger's syndrome)" and later on says "in the medical profession, the term Asperger's syndrome is being phased out and the term high functioning autistic spectrum disorder is being used more frequently". Meanwhile the National Autistic Society insists there is a difference between autism and AS.  

The doctor who made the final diagnosis talked with me for some time and recommended a number of resources (listed below). In addition, I can talk with my youngest brother, who was diagnosed very young, and with our parents for their perspective.

I am interested in recommendations / feedback on recommendations, and will prioritise in the following order:
  1. people who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  2. people parenting children who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  3. therapists, psychiatrists, or similarly-qualified people with recent experience working with people who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  4. everyone else
Comments here, or emails to me at rmcf @ cb4.eu if you want to keep it non-public.

I don't want to talk specifically about Charles on this post, and will probably keep that to locked posts and direct conversations.


Resources

From the doctor:
National Autistic Society, in particular the resources on visual supports
The Complete Guide to Asperger's by Anthony Attwod
Managing Anxiety in People with Asperger's
by Anne Chalfant
Mental Health Aspects of Autism by Mohammad Ghaziuddin

From this Captain Awkward post I also identified:
Asperger's From The Inside Out by Michael John Carley

I've got copies of all the above books now.

Based on the NAS website age-appropriate recommendations I've picked out the following to read with Charles, which are on their way.
I Know Someone With Autism by Sue Barraclough
Can I Tell You About Autism? by Jude Welton
A Book About What Autism Can Be Like by Sue Adams

and we also have the NAS's own publication What is Asperger syndrome and how will it affect me? on the way (they are out of stock of I have Autism .... what's that? but I will look out for it being back in stock if the AS one is any good).
rmc28: (books2010)
I've still had a file listing books read and acquired and that list is behind a cut below.  I thought it might be more interesting to put here my post-Worldcon list of new authors/books to try (additional recommendations welcome!).  I'm going through and tracking down kindle samples or library copies for now - my to-read pile being perpetually too big.

Diversity in YA panel:

Malinda Lo - Huntress
Nalo Hopkinson - The Chaos
Robin McKinley - The Hero & The Crown
Malorie Blackman

We Have Always Fought panel:
N.A. Sulway - Rupetta (Tiptree Award winner)
Richard Morgan - Altered Carbon (fanf has this & others on our bookshelves)
Justina Robson - Quantum Gravity series
Django Wexler
Alice Nunn - Illicit Passage (this is the one about sisters and hackers, and I can't find a website for the author)
Carol McGrath - The Handfasted Wife (historical romance rather than SF, about Harold's not-official wife and the Norman invasion)

Other authors who said interesting things, either that I saw directly or through others' writeups:
Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
Mary Anne Mohanraj
Kate Elliott
Rebecca Levene
Liesel Schwarz
R.A. Smith
Zen Cho
Tobias Buckell
Candas Jane Dorsey
JY Yang
Max Gladstone

Long lists of books read and acquired since the last Reading Wednesday post are behind the cut.

Read more (why, yes I did) )
rmc28: (bat-funny)
As this year's membership lets me nominate for next year, and the problem is always looking back and trying to remember good things.

lists )
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
And I enjoyed it quite a lot but did feel that I wasn't getting in anywhere near enough fannishness (either events or socialising) as I would have liked, primarily because children.

I made a choice to concentrate our childcare funds on 2-year-old N, who is too old to be baggage and too young to be quiet and convenient for adults. There were a surprisingly high number of child-friendly events, but I vastly overestimated 7-year-old C's ability to cope with large numbers of people and a vast and loud venue. So he spent a lot of time out of the venue with one or other of us instead.

I find that I want very much to go to more cons (next year's Eastercon has Jim Butcher whose books both Tony & I like very much, for example), but only if we budget a lot more for childcare, assuming there is any, or wangle some family cover to leave the children behind entirely. [I leave solving the problem of cons - and party conferences and tech conferences - being inherently hostile for young families as an exercise for the reader.]

Whinge over. I enjoyed the two panels I was on, and felt both resulted in interesting conversations in which I was able to make relevant points.  My initial nervousness / imposter syndrome basically dissolved as soon as we got started and it was a great experience.  Several people were pleasingly complimentary afterward, and not all of them were friends and family :-)

(Though it was incredibly heartening to arrive in the huge 7 + 12 room for my first panel and seeing half-a-dozen friends in a row giving a cheerful wave at me, and m'mother taking up her access seat in the front row. )

The other panels I attended also seemed to have a really appropriate mix of participants. Excellent work by whoever matched programme volunteers to panels.  Go that team!  I am absolutely sure there was a great deal of work behind the scenes to achieve that result.
 
Which reminds me, at least two people I spoke to were unaware how one gets picked to be on panels: there was a programme volunteer form which was drawn to my attention at least twice in the run up to the con, and I filled it in, and a while later I was invited to be on these two panels, and confirm my details, etc.  It was all very straightforward from my point of view, which I think again results in a Go Team Programme!

I have pages of notes of recommended books, authors, youtube videos, blog posts, etc, which I shall try to work through in the remainder of my leave from work.

Oh, and though I missed the Hugo ceremony, I was very happy reading the results this morning, in particular Ancillary Justice winning best novel and Gravity winning best film.  Nicholas Whyte did some analysis of the voting numbers and transfers if you like that kind of thing. For me it's just a pleasure to not be in the minority in the areas where I'd formed a strong opinion.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
(The whole guide is here: http://guide.loncon3.org/  I am currently failing at reading it, but I've got a few weeks.  I also think I have some reading and rereading to do in preparation.)

"We have always fought": warriors vs llamas

Sunday 16:30 - 18:00, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL)

In a Hugo-nominated essay published on Aidan Moher's blog A Dribble of Ink in 2013, Kameron Hurley argued that in order to challenge prevailing narratives of women as passive adjuncts to men, we must write more stories that reflect the genuine history of women's involvement in war and conflict. (How) is this being pursued in contemporary SFF? What are the strategies being used by writers to turn the stories we tell about women into stories about warriors, rather than - as Hurley put it - llamas?

Jeanne Gomoll (M), Rachel Coleman, Kristina Knaving, Liesel Schwarz, Rebecca Levene

The Politics of the Culture

Monday 11:00 - 12:00, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL)

In her review of Look to Windward, Abigail Nussbaum suggests that the central paradox of Iain M Banks' Culture is that it is "both a force for goodness, freedom, and happiness in the galaxy, and an engine of its citizens' selfish, childish needs to imbue their lives with meaning, to which end they will cause any amount of suffering ... both are true, and both are reductive." To what extent is the Culture, as a political entity, built around this unresolvable duality? How do the Culture novels grapple with the contradictions at the heart of this utopia? And how do the actions of the Culture connect with the more immediate political choices we face in the present world?

David Dingwall (M), Rachel Coleman, Ken MacLeod, Gemma Thomson, Lalith Vipulananthan Lal


rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I think we started the school year with 6 each of trousers, polo shirts, jumpers.
We end it with: 5 trousers (1 with a tiny hole in the knee), 3 polo shirts, 1 jumper.

I think this is the worst yet for losing things.   At least the jumpers were all cheap ones? (Because I left restocking to the last minute last summer and my preferred supplier had sold out of everything - trying not to do that this year, but maybe I should just go cheap anyway if this is the rate of attrition.)

Also C is still apparently in the same school uniform size as last year.  What are the odds of him doing a growth spurt at the start of next term?
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
(A tidied-up, expanded, written-down version of a conversation I had enthusing about them to [livejournal.com profile] fanf at the weekend.)

Read more... )

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