April 2014

S M T W T F S
  12345
67891011 12
1314 15 161718 19
20 212223242526
27282930   

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
rmc28: (books2010)
Monday, April 21st, 2014 02:02 pm
Battle for Bittora is the second book by Anuja Chauhan and I enjoyed it even more than The Zoya Factor.  First because I am a much bigger fan of politics than I am of cricket, and second because I think the writing and plotting have both improved. 

Jinni is a computer animator, designing cartoon germs for toilet cleaner adverts.  She is also the granddaughter of two famous politicians, and when her grandmother comes to ask her to come and campaign for the parliamentary elections, Jinni finds it hard to refuse.

"Oh, I do realise, being grown up now, that it is gruelling and chaotic and horribly stressful, and hearbreaking and possibly heart-attack inducing.  But I also know that the only thing worse than taking part in a Lok Sabha election is not taking part in a Lok Sabha election."

Yep, that sounds familiar. 

Jinni agrees to go and help campaign for her grandmother Pushpa Pande, but then discovers that the party top management want her to fight the seat instead.  And her opponent will be her childhood best friend Zain, descended from the area's former royal family.

What follows is a gripping account of an Indian election campaign.  Now, my knowledge of Indian politics is what I have picked up from reading the Economist.  Even so, I recognise the two very thinly-veiled parties that Jinni and Zain represent.   Some parts of campaigning are familiar to my UK experience (door-knocking, public meetings, attending important local events, dealing with the press, the importance of polling, the need to know where a toilet is at all times) and some are startlingly different (the constituency size, the length of journeys, the atmosphere of meetings, the number of parties, the grinding poverty, the importance of caste, the bribery and financial irregularity). 

The contest between Zain and Jinni rather pointedly puts inherited privilege of one kind (former royal family) up against another (political family).   One of Jinni's support team, Munni, is clearly the better politician - but from a poor family without a famous grandmother, and she rightly gets furious when Jinni makes a big mistake that may waste most of Munni's (and Pushpa's) efforts.  Jinni's friend from work, Rumi, drops in and draws attention to the "poverty tourism" side of Jinni just dropping in on this rural state from her nice job in the capital.  Jinni herself means well, but all too often gets caught up in the Need To Win, though she does also start asking awkward questions, and in one case take personal direct action against something awful.

Overall I do appreciate the way the book sets up stereotypes and then shows It's More Complicated Than That, and does it all with the same humour and exuberance as I loved in The Zoya Factor.  And I would love to see the Enforcer 49 comics, as drawn and written by teenage Zain and Jinni. 

Especially touching is the photograph in the end of the author's notes at the back, of her real-life relatives who inspired the story, the first couple to be elected to India's parliament.

I remain indebted to [personal profile] deepad for introducing me to Anita Chauhan, and to her Anita Chauhan Reading Club for the opportunity to read Battle for Bittora.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Monday, April 21st, 2014 07:50 am
We got a phone call yesterday evening to say that my sister-in-law Lucy had gone into labour.  7 weeks early and while on holiday visiting her dad in France.  They'd got her to hospital in Dijon (which is *not* a trivial journey from where they were staying) and though obviously it was early, the hospital is a good university hospital, and she had family with her.

So we couldn't do much but wait and try not to worry too much.  Dijon is at least 7 hours from here, however one travels, and Lucy is well-provided with people to support her.

In the early hours I got another call, to say that my nibling was safely arrived ("born crying") and all seemed to be well, at least for now.

Meanwhile my two woke me at their usual horribly early hour, and N has a cough and C has school tomorrow.  We await a name for their new cousin, but in the meantime Mustard seems an appropriate nickname.
Tags:
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Saturday, April 19th, 2014 04:50 pm
Specifically, the new University Sports Centre, which is conveniently located about 5 minutes' cycle ride from my office.  It has a gym with lots of machines, a big free weights room, and a big sports hall.  I've joined on the staff-discounted lowest-rate membership, which gives me entry to the gym from 8am-4pm weekdays and 8am-8pm weekends. I'm pleased to find the centre uses my university card for entry and also for locking/unlocking lockers in the changing rooms.

My plan is to replace my lunchtime runs with a short hard session on the cardio equipment, and my long weekend runs with long easier sessions ditto.  (From Tony's point of view, me cycling off for an hour or two in the gym is not any different to me disappearing on foot for a long run.)

Yesterday afternoon, which had been planned as a long run, I went over and tried out different cardio equipment:
Notes for my reference ) 
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 08:30 pm
Haven't done one of these for a while, but it's always fun (and will reduce the number of tabs I have open)

Captain America: Winter Soldier
We went away on holiday just after the film opened in North America, and the great outpouring of fannish response happened.

So, there was [personal profile] musesfool posting after seeing an early preview in New York: http://musesfool.dreamwidth.org/648436.html and [personal profile] selenak who posted after seeing it in Germany shortly after I saw it in the UK: http://selenak.dreamwidth.org/973500.html

Two different long thoughtful pieces on the politics of the film:
http://coffeeandink.dreamwidth.org/2014/04/04/captain-america-winter-soldier.html
http://thingswithwings.dreamwidth.org/213279.html

A links roundup so I don't have to (which includes a link to [personal profile] coffeeandink 's links roundup): http://musesfool.dreamwidth.org/653272.html
A couple of fic-rec posts: http://kate-nepveu.dreamwidth.org/898144.html (also includes review/meta) and http://tielan.dreamwidth.org/701766.html


Parenting
http://www.cuppacocoa.com/a-better-way-to-say-sorry/
http://www.cuppacocoa.com/preventing-misbehavior-what-every-parent-should-know/
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/opinion/sunday/raising-a-moral-child.html

Misc
Changes in the population / behaviour of people in public space (in New York) between the 1950s and now (a couple of months old, but I looked it up for someone else this week, so may as well mention it again). http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/magazine/technology-is-not-driving-us-apart-after-all.html

Unisex toiletries aimed at the teenage market (which for sure needs it): http://www.samfarmer.co/ Once I've caught up my accounts, I'm seriously tempted to see if I can afford some of these pour encourager l'auteur

A lovely poem (The Sciences Sing a Lullabye, by Albert Goldbarth): http://strangecharm.dreamwidth.org/186551.html
Tags:
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 02:53 pm
The broken toe is very colourful today. The full impact of yesterday morning's clumsiness is beginning to sink in.  Google autocompletes "running with a broken toe" awfully quickly, and the results generally indicate Do Not Do This.

No neolithic half-marathon on 4th May.  Probably no meeting up with my dad that weekend either.  More of a question mark over Flaming June half marathon on 1st June as that's 6.5 weeks away.  No lunchtime runs in the spring sunshine.  I had just got to the point of running 3 short and 1 long each week comfortably.  (Zombies Run 3 is now confirmed to release tomorrow.  Bah, etc.)  Six weeks of sitting with my foot up is going to put me how far back in my fitness?

I can cycle without it hurting, if I tape the toe up, so at least I can still do my daily commute / childcare runs.

I am investigating the university sports centre, which is about 5 minutes' bike from my office.  If I can do some lunchtime & weekend cardio work that doesn't hurt the toe (elliptic? rowing? bike machine?), I might keep up enough fitness while the toe heals so the June half marathon is still possible.  In any case it might help my mood; chronic pain + lack of runs to work off stress => grouchy Rachel
Tags:
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 08:11 pm
I bashed the little toe on my right foot this morning by walking into my own bedroom furniture (I have form for this).  From its state this evening I suspect I broke it.  NHS Choices assures me that there is little to be done but strap it up and wait for it to get better.  I am supposed to be running another half-marathon in 2.5 weeks, and doing a long training run this weekend.  Humph.

To cheer myself up, three good things:
  1. ALL THE BLOSSOM.  There are multiple trees in blossom outside the window of my office.  SO LOVELY.
  2. I actually used "On your left!" appropriately while cycling past a pedestrian on one of the shared-use paths on my commute.  Then I felt terribly self-conscious.  But I will probably do it again when appropriate, because it makes me giggle inside.
  3. The children are being lovely: Nico is using "Dada" and "Mama" consistently, and Charles is being very solicitous while I sit with my foot appropriately raised.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Saturday, April 12th, 2014 06:44 am
We got back yesterday evening from a pleasant six days visiting Tony's father in France, leaving the house in charge of Jonny and our latest lodger.  While we were gone, the lodger managed to overcook something in the microwave to the point of filling the kitchen with smoke and setting off the smoke alarms (as observed by J).  Jonny has done the obvious: cleaned the microwave inside, opened windows to set up a through-draught for a few hours yesterday, but the house is still rather fragrant with eau de char.

Any suggestions other than the obvious (giving the microwave another really thorough cleaning, keeping up the through-draughts until morale improves)?
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Saturday, March 29th, 2014 10:53 am
Same-sex marriages can take place in the UK from today, and the first ones have already happened! (Midnight weddings! Makes midnight cinema screenings look a bit boring.) Congratulations to all today's newlyweds :-)

On the topic of marriage, I was reminded this week of a recent blog post by Rebecca Taylor MEP about titles, names and marriage, and in particular how our European neighbours have already got over the Miss / Mrs distinction.

(Apologies - I had to recreate post this due to technical difficulties i.e. my inability to correctly drive the poll creator)

Poll #15154 Marriage, names, titles
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 34


Marking marital status by title?

View Answers

The status quo: Miss, Mrs and Ms if you must
4 (11.8%)

Mrs for all adult women
3 (8.8%)

Ms for all adult women
15 (44.1%)

Miss for adult women
0 (0.0%)

Mx for everyone (why mark gender either?)
17 (50.0%)

Something else which I will expand in comments
11 (32.4%)

Tickybox
11 (32.4%)

Arguments over titles ruined my grandparents' marriage, you heartless blockhead
3 (8.8%)

I am

View Answers

married and I changed my name
2 (6.1%)

married and I changed my title
3 (9.1%)

not married but would not change my name if I did
13 (39.4%)

not married but would not change my title if I did
12 (36.4%)

not married and fed up of smug marrieds going on about it
1 (3.0%)

divorced
2 (6.1%)

against the whole institution of marriage
1 (3.0%)

uninterested in the whole irrelevant discussion
1 (3.0%)

other
17 (51.5%)

tickybox
9 (27.3%)

rmc28: (reading)
Saturday, March 29th, 2014 09:14 am
The next time I have an urge to see a midnight showing of a film (I'm thinking Age of Ultron), I will take at least the morning off work afterwards, and then I might not be knocked flat the rest of the week.

Also [personal profile] recessional liveblogged her rewatch of Captain America: The First Avenger and made me laugh and cry in almost equal measure. In particular,

"HYDRA WHY IS YOUR EMBLEM AN OCTOPUS THESE ARE NOT THE SAME THINGS."

I mentioned this to Jonny, who made me a thing:

octdra alert

Sound the Hydra Alert!
Tags:
rmc28: Rachel with manic grin holding up wrist with new watch on (watch)
Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 03:05 am
I am SO too old for midnight screenings, and I am going to regret it in the morning.  Later in the morning.  But only a bit.

I really, really enjoyed the film.  There was banter! explosions! plot twists! mystery! teamwork! revelations! fanservice!

Jonny claimed to like it even more than Avengers Assemble.  Where Avengers was "get the team together, save the world", Winter Soldier is more "solve the mystery, save the world".

Oh yeah, there are two extra scenes, before and after the main credits.  Strange people, flooding out of the cinema after the first one.  You come to the first screening and you leave before the end credits scene?

Going to see it again in about 18 hours.  Woohoo.
rmc28: (BRAINS)
Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 10:30 am
So there's a film being released tomorrow that I've been looking forward to for a long time. There are midnight showings! There are double-bills with an earlier film for which I have an abiding adoration and would love to see again on the big screen.  But I won't be.  Because the double-bills and nearly all the midnight screenings are in 3D.

3D films mostly work for me while I'm watching them, though I find fast-moving sequences seem to be jerky rather than flowing.  But without fail, I get nauseous afterwards, and I get a migraine the next day.  Throw in the lack of sleep that goes with a double-bill ending at 2:30am, and that's going to be a bad migraine.

I have it fairly easy: my brother (also a migraineur) gets a headache within a few minutes of watching something in 3D.  I have a friend who reports getting headaches from walking past display 3D TVs in shops. 

I don't love any film enough to take the consequences of watching them in 3D any more.

(Luckily, we found a midnight showing in 2D, so I'm taking my brother tonight as a birthday present, though I'm going to need a nap first.)

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Sunday, March 9th, 2014 09:11 pm
The Zoya Factor is an entertaining read about India, cricket, celebrity culture, and romance.  The writing is exuberant, funny, full of Indian English and Hindi slang, and I adored it.  I am very grateful to [personal profile] deepad for introducing me to this book via her Anuja Chauhan Reading Club.

Zoya Singh Solanki works in advertising and ends up having breakfast a couple of times with the Indian cricket team, who have a sponsorship deal with one of her clients ahead of the imminent World Cup.  The last time India won the tournament was the moment Zoya was born - this combined with unexpected victories for the team after breakfasting with Zoya leads to some players seeing her as a lucky charm.  This leads to the IBCC paying for Zoya to go with the to Australia and bring them luck for the World Cup.  Not everyone is convinced, least of all the handsome and famous team captain, Nikhil Khoda.

The romance subplot is mild spoilers )
The cricket thread is a lot of fun.  I'm a casual fan of cricket and a bad amateur player; Zoya supposedly dislikes cricket but her narration betrays a lot of knowledge of the game anyway.   I loved the descriptions of Indian national enthusiasm, especially by comparison with Australia's "cricket fever".   The characterisation of the various players is great, several apart from Nikhil are major characters, but even the minor ones are more than just a name to make up the squad, with consistent play and behaviour over a number of matches.

The supporting cast, oh my! The other team members, Zoya's father, brother, aunts horrible and kind, her work colleagues, the player's agent, the IBCC chair ... there's a lot of characters in this book but I had little difficulty keeping them straight, which I think is another sign of Chauhan's skill.

And the language! I've read reviews saying it was offputting, but for me, it was easier than adjusting to Austen's English, or some of the more fiercely historically-accurate Heyers.  It's full of slang and code-switching and bits of a language I don't understand, but almost all of it makes sense in context.  Occasionally I google-translated some of the Hindi out of interest but I rapidly found I didn't need to.  (There is I think just one line in mixed Hindi/English towards the end of the book which does make Zoya's actions a bit more explicable once translated.)

And I found it very funny, and occasionally biting, for example this description of some of the sports agents:
"... sharp dressers with fancy phones and haircuts straight out of the latest Farhan Akhtar film.  They always carry books like The Seven Habits of Highly-Effective People with Business-Class boarding pass stubs as bookmarks."

or this bit in Australia
"The organizers had warned us about traffic but Rinku Chachi said, 'What traffic? This whole country and all its cars will fit in our UP state only'"

There's a bit where Zoya is about to arrive in Australia and has a minor panic at being in a strange country:
"But then the fact that I was in another country, a First World country chock-full of unilingual white people, suddenly hit me .... People who knew only one language which was weird.  Because, hello, what would they switch to if they started getting pally, or angry, or fell in love?  Suddenly I just wanted to jump back into the plane and head home."

As a unilingual white person I felt a bit got-at by this passage; and then I thought maybe it was an intentional inversion of the trope of White People Abroad panicking that they won't understand the language.
 
Anyway, I haven't even covered the treatment of luck and superstition, or the skewering of celebrity culture, but it's late and I want to get this posted.  If you want something fun, entertaining but not completely frivolous to read, I highly recommend The Zoya Factor.  I will happily lend out my copy to local people; also Amazon UK has it on Kindle or in paperback for under £3.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Sunday, March 9th, 2014 06:56 pm
Today was so warm I wore sandals. The children voluntarily went out into the garden. I took them to the playground this morning, an idea greeted with enormous enthusiasm:

Setting out on a sunny day
[Two children grinning at the camera in bright sunlight, in front of some crocuses]

They were especially keen on the swings, either with me pushing them both:

Round swing 2
[Same two children sitting together on a large round swing, one looking up, one looking down]

or with Charles playing big brother:

Swings 2
[The older child is mid-push of the younger in a baby swing; in the background all the play equipment basks in the sun]
rmc28: Rachel speaking at a lectern with microphone and part of the slogan "Stronger Economy Fairer Society" in shot (speaking)
Monday, March 3rd, 2014 10:24 am
1. My major leg muscles ache (unsurprisingly) and my upper arms also (slightly more surprising, I must swing them a lot).

2. By serious-runner standards, 3 hours for a half-marathon is hilariously slow. By my standards it was a) the longest distance I've ever covered b) the fastest pace I've sustained for more than 10km.

3. Holy wow my colleagues are generous & JustGiving are right about promoting the fundraising page after the event as well as before. (http://www.justgiving.com/rmcf just fyi)

4. I have the most amazing sustained endorphin-hum (it's a bit lower than a buzz) going on. I just feel very content and happy, even with the aches.

5. Have a photo from before the race, taken by a kind fellow-runner using my phone.

Rachel before her first half-marathon

6. The photo also shows how my hair has been growing out since I last cut it in September (as shown in the LibDem/speaking icon on this post). Nico seems to have grown out of pulling it, so there's been no incentive to keep it super-short. I'm inclined to keep going for now, though I do sometimes miss how fast haircare was at that length.
rmc28: Rachel, in running tshirt and leggings, holding phone and smiling into mirror (runner5)
Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 02:55 pm
Finished my first half-marathon. Forgot to stop tracking when I finished but it was about 3 hours. I had the dubious distinction of being the last one in.

I feel utterly shattered and utterly amazing.
rmc28: (bat-funny)
Saturday, March 1st, 2014 10:18 pm
This is brought to you courtesy of excessive watching of the Captain America: Winter Soldier trailer (only 25 days to go here!), and extensive discussion with Charles on who belongs in which category.

Avengers venn diagram

[Venn diagram: 3 circles labelled "FAST", "STRONG", "METAL ARM". In the intersection of all three is WINTER SOLDIER. Other Marvel heroes are allocated to appropriate sections of the diagram.]

Edited to add: the inspiration of this is the bit in the trailer where Steve Rogers says "he's fast ... strong ... had a metal arm" over an illustrative set of visuals.
rmc28: (bat-funny)
Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 02:19 pm
The parents association at C's school has bought a double-decker bus ... to fit out as an outdoor reading room for the playground because the reading tent is too small.

I cannot help wondering if there is some overlap with the university society that bought a bus a few years ago.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 10:38 pm
Last Thursday it was raining as I left work, and the sun was setting, and there was the most enormous clear rainbow over north Cambridge as I cycled to nursery.  One end seemed to rise vertically from the sunlit tower of a College chapel in the centre of town, the other dipped somewhere in the mass of houses around Huntingdon / Histon / Victoria roads.

I lost count of the number of people I had to cycle round (bah, shared use paths) because they had stopped to take photographs.  One of them, as I passed, sang triumphantly "DOUBLE RAINBOW!"  I looked again, and they were right.

I mentioned the DOUBLE RAINBOW comment at work the next day and several colleagues joined in enthusiastically with their own angles of view on it.  Such a simple thing, but beautiful, bringing happiness in the homeward commute.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Sunday, February 16th, 2014 10:06 pm
The Friday before last, it wasn't dark when I left my office to start my four-cornered homeward commute.  It was dark by the time I reached nursery, but that's the start.  Over the next few weeks, the sunset will push back over my commute, and soon it will still be light at nursery, and then at kids club, and then finally still light by the time we all get home.

This winter I've done much better at getting outside in daylight - it was a good choice to take up lunchtime running - but even so the feeling of a weight slowly lifting is vivid.  And very very welcome.

Tags:
rmc28: Rachel, in running tshirt and leggings, holding phone and smiling into mirror (runner5)
Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 04:44 pm
This is inadvertently topical.

In just under six weeks, I will run my first half-marathon.  I took up running with couch-to-5k to rebuild physical fitness after recovering from Nicholas's birth in the autumn of 2012.  More recently, I've been running in my lunch hour since my workplace moved to a new building last September.

Running has certainly helped me regain fitness after the physical rigours of pregnancy and c-section.  It also helps me manage my post-natal depression, which never entirely went away and gets better and worse over time as these things do.  Running seems to help with it not getting much worse.

So it seems appropriate to dedicate my first half-marathon to Mind in Cambridgeshire, the local branch of the national charity which campaigns and delivers services to "make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone".  I have set up a JustGiving page or you can give me a donation in person, if you feel so inclined.
rmc28: (wonderfrown)
Friday, January 10th, 2014 07:02 pm
On Monday I finally took the step of deferring my current study module with the Open University.    I'm simply not managing to get the necessary study hours in, and faced with another approaching deadline, I could see only another horribly stressful ten days for the whole family (like the last essay crisis), resulting in another probably-mediocre mark.  I decided the trade wasn't worth it.

By formally deferring I get a fee credit against a re-enrolment on the same module in the next two years (in practice, either Oct 2014 or Oct 2015).  I need to study something in each academic year to stay on transitional fees until 2017, but apparently this deferred module counts for the current academic year, so I have a breathing space.

The qualification I'm on formally expires at the end of 2017, and not all the modules I have studied may be eligible for its replacement.  So although I have made things easier for myself now, I will need to study much harder later, or spend rather more money.  Or both.   Or change my goals.

My plan is to work on incremental improvements to my / the family weekly routines over the next few months, and make an assessment at the end of June as to whether I can realistically sign up to studying again or not.    I'm feeling a mixture of really relieved I don't have any more deadlines for a whiile, and really gutted.  During 2013 I cut back on a lot of things in order to keep studying and now I've stopped studying too.  

I think the fact it's taken me from Monday to today just to have time to write about this indicates some of the problem.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Wednesday, January 1st, 2014 01:20 pm
Tony & I saw in the new year splitting a couple of bottles of wine and watching films we'd previously missed (Pacific Rim and The Amazing Spiderman).  We did start on a third post-midnight film, this time one we'd seen before (Salt), but entirely predictably got disturbed by the small-hours panics of the children before we got more than a short way into it.

I return to work tomorrow.  The break has been nice but also a reminder that "holiday" with a toddler just means constant provision of childcare rather than much actual rest or opportunity to do anything else, not helped by Nico being extra-clingy and mildly unwell since the 23rd.  Some days literally the only time to myself has been in the bathroom, with a howling toddler outside the door fiercely rejecting any attempt by his father to comfort him for my minutes-long absence.

We balanced the desire to see the (large) extended family with the desire not to expire of exhaustion by arranging matters thus:

21-22: family gathering one in Leeds
28: family gathering two at our house
29-30: family gathering three in High Wycombe
4 Jan: family gathering four in Leeds

In the event, only Tony went to High Wycombe so as to stop Nico passing his illness on to his baby cousin.   So I didn't have to travel and wrangle a toddler in new places, but I did have to single-parent both children for a day and a half.  OH WHAT FUN. However, I am a lot more physically rested than I was eight days ago, even if mentally and emotionally I am incredibly ready to do something other than childcare and housework.

I've not made any resolutions.  Like last year, I have enough ongoing commitments (in fact I have less than last year and I'm still overloaded) that really any resolutions I can think of boil down to Just Keep Swimming.
Tags:
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Wednesday, December 25th, 2013 12:30 am
This is the present pile for the five of us here tomorrow, most of it for the children.

Gifts underneath the tree

The turkey is still not very defrosted so we might be having ham tomorrow and turkey on the 26th. It's all fine. We are together and there are no external pressures for a few days.
rmc28: (OMG)
Friday, December 20th, 2013 09:32 am
To add to my sunny happy outlook on life, this morning has so far featured:
  • coming off my bike on black ice
  • new barriers on the university-owned cycle path to work that are going to make it hard to actually cycle to work with my cargo bike
rmc28: (wonderfrown)
Thursday, December 19th, 2013 08:53 pm
This week I have been to "Christmas songs" featuring Charles's year group at primary school, and "Nativity Play" featuring what seemed to be the entire enrolment of Nico's nursery.  The two events have left me filled with
a) delight in the enthusiasm and creativity of children and the teachers and childcarers
b) increasingly homicidal rage towards other parents/carers who keep standing up and blocking my view of a)

Being British, I expressed b) by folding my arms and frowning slightly at their backs while internally vowing to turn up at least 15 minutes early next year so I can sit in the first couple of rows.

I'm having a similarly split attitude towards Christmas in general: where my family and friends are concerned I've been enjoying the planning and the choosing of gifts and the social events and the getting ready, but as far as people in general are concerned I basically cannot wait for the point where I get to go home on Christmas Eve and shut the door on the outside world for at least a couple of days.

I think my lurking misanthropy stems from being deeply tired: work is busiest from August through to November, so I have just started to catch up on things-not-instantly-urgent.  I am struggling failing to keep up with my study schedule, and the children are both being clingy and demanding in different infuriating, entirely understandable, age-appropriate ways.  A week off work isn't going to fix any of this, but it will help. 

Charles is very excited about Christmas, and Nico is just old enough to start appreciating that something special is happening - he was rapt and delighted by the decorations C & T put up yesterday.  I have bought both children far too many presents (which need wrapping, argh) and am very much looking forward to watching their reactions when they get to open them.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Friday, December 6th, 2013 09:36 pm
I am so behind, on everything! I am six days behind on this December prompt meme, and I am certainly not going to commit to writing something every day, let alone specific topics on specific days. So I'll do the easier version, where I just promise to write about stuff if you prompt me, as soon as I can.

I have some half-written-in-my-head posts, so you can vote for one of these, or suggest something else in the comments.

Poll #14663 Things that I might write about
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 26


Rachel should write up her half-formed thoughts on ...

View Answers

charitable giving
13 (50.0%)

daylight savings time
15 (57.7%)

subsidising childcare
13 (50.0%)

responses to her post on abortion & consent
13 (50.0%)

responses to her post on body confidence
14 (53.8%)

apps she loves, or at least finds very useful
10 (38.5%)

everything that needs fixing on her cycle commute
9 (34.6%)

something else which I will suggest in a comment
3 (11.5%)

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Friday, December 6th, 2013 05:46 pm
I started with a new-to-me pair of jeans from eBay, which arrived last night.  They seemed to fit well at first, but over the morning it became clear that my waist-to-hip ratio was not that expected by the makers.

I went to the charity shop to look for a belt to help hold them up, and managed to find not only a belt but a nice warm coat too.  Between the belt and the coat I'd now spent about three times as much as the jeans cost, but was in considerably greater comfort.

Aldi provided a purple headband scarf thingy (buff?) and a VERY BRIGHT long-sleeved running top.

Then I just had time to drop things home before picking Charles up from school and being talked into purchases from the playground cake sale.  Nom nom nom.

When we got home, Charles's latest edition of the Phoenix had arrived and silence reigned in that corner of the room for a good half hour. Meanwhile Nicholas had woken up and decided that running around with my new running top tied on as a cloak was the BEST THING EVAR.

It didn't last.  They are currently "sharing" some lego, which involves rather more refereeing on my part than I would like.

I have two more Friday half-days before the end of the year.  In January I'll be working full-time again.

rmc28: (rmcf+fcdf-3)
Saturday, November 30th, 2013 09:47 am
I approve of this modern fad for teaching signing to children in places of childcare and education.

Charles has been demonstrating his school "Christmas songs" to me, complete with signing.
Nicholas can communicate "food", "nappy", "please/thankyou", "full", "more", "sleepy" and (as I just discovered) "cuddles".

It's not that we don't have toddler communication frustrations daily - but it makes the basics So. Much. Easier. I tried teaching myself signing for Charles, without much obvious success. The nursery staff are much more consistent and so both Nico and I have learned to be.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Thursday, November 28th, 2013 12:09 pm
I managed to submit the latest OU assignment at 1am today, a whole 11 hours ahead of the deadline, and am feeling only mildly sleep-deprived.  It's still eaten all my spare time for the last ten days, with associated stress on everyone.   It was still an improvement (in both time management and output) on the previous assignment, so hopefully I can continue improving in block 3, which starts on Saturday.  Tony has been immensely supportive, but I think we would both prefer I didn't inflict essay crises on the family every 5-6 weeks. 

Amusingly, a chunk of work in the assignment was on the concept of continuous incremental improvement.  The point has been taken.

Anyway, I skipped my run yesterday to finish the assignment.  Today I took the time to find and pack up my running kit for work, but managed to leave it behind.  There isn't time to go get it AND run at lunchtime, and that was my last chance if I wanted to run 3 times this week.  Bah.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Sunday, November 17th, 2013 04:17 pm
One of my work team-mates was taken suddenly ill at lunchtime, and it was one of those classic bystander-effect moments, where everyone sort of flailed and froze. I probably wasted a good ten seconds freezing, before asking loudly if anyone was a first-aider. No one answered, but Tony named two firstaiders who happen to work in the office immediately below, and I ran to get them. Their calm but fast response helped calm me, Tony retrieved our things so we could finish our lunch, and I was relieved to hear later that my friend had recovered ok.

Looking back, the two things I think I could have done better was a) not freeze and b) go to the list of first-aiders on the wall and use my phone - both quicker than running, and more flexible if the two I was thinking of were out of the office.



After that drama it was a relief to have a quiet afternoon with Nico and Charles. In the evening I ignored my cold to go and see Thor 2 with Tony. I enjoyed it much more than Thor (which is kind of a low barrier I know) and more than I had expected. There was a startlingly for-the-female-gaze gratuitous camera shot, which caused me to whisper to Tony "more of this sort of thing!". I think it was even more gratuitous than Captain America's bum-first introduction in Avengers Assemble, not that I am complaining.

I was unduly excited by the Captain America 2 trailer, even though I saw it lots of times on youtube already. Otherwise we had Keanu Reeves saving Japan, the next instalment of Peter Jackson's Tolkien fanfic, the Hunger Games sequel which actually made me consider reading the Hunger Games, and next week's Doctor Who special (which I will be watching at home rather than risking migraine with 3D).
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Sunday, November 17th, 2013 01:27 pm
I spent Friday trying to dispatch a cold with soup and distraction. I did not succeed, so I have spent the weekend feeling ill and sulking about not being able to go running. Yesterday I spent in my pjs, but today I felt better enough to get dressed, and Charles did the honours with my camera.

Read more... )
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Thursday, November 14th, 2013 08:58 pm
I know I'm days behind on this, but there was a wee bit of furore on a LibDemVoice article, where Jo Swinson used the launch of some size-16 mannequins to promote the government body confidence campaign and there were a number of commenters who were very concerned that this might mean fat women think it's ok to be fat.

If feeling miserable and ashamed of my body achieved anything, I'd have been toned and slender long ago. So I've tried to give up body-hatred and focus on what I can do. My body has grown two enormous babies, and fed each of them for years. I rack up 10,000+ steps a day on my pedometer, and I cycle-commute around north Cambridge every weekday. At the end of September last year, 12 weeks post-partum, I took up running with Couch-to-5k, and after a couple of gaps this year (flu in February, and the hot summer), I've re-established a habit of running three times a week and am dreaming of running a marathon next year.

Twice a week I run in my lunch hour at work. I am a fat woman and my running gear does nothing to hide this, because it is comfortable and functional. I've been enjoying seeing some of my friends making Clovember posts, and so today I snapped a couple of photos of me in my running gear before I set out. Photos and numbers are behind the cut.

Read more... )
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 10:24 pm
DEC have opened a Phillippines Typhoon Appeal which means they think a) the problem is really big and serious  b) they can do something about it c) people will respond to an appeal (paraphrasing their Appeal Criteria).

I think they may be right about c) anyway - I had an email this morning urging me to donate money through the Big Give as there was matching funding to effectively double my donation.  By the time I looked this evening, the page said the matching funding had been used up within 6 hours, raising £150,000.

So I donated direct to DEC, approximately half my monthly budget for spending-on-me, which is about what I can spare on short notice.
Tags:
rmc28: (charles2011)
Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 06:44 pm
Exchanging very punny emails with my older child (at a distance of about 10m).  Every so often he leans back from the family computer and says "MUM I SENT YOU ANOTHER ONE", watching to see my reaction as I read it.

His puns are funny to my taste, and he has spelled everything correctly too!

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Friday, October 18th, 2013 05:00 pm
DWCon next August had sold out by the time we had a month where we hadn't overspent our budget on other things.  So we'll not be going.  We did book Loncon3 the previous time we had a surplus; so I booked us hotel rooms for that in the nearby Travelodge (which put us back into overspend, but means next August will be less expensive).

I feel a bit weird about this: Tony & I met because of mutual friends made at the DWCons and online Pratchett fandom, I've been to every UK DWCon so far, and there are good and dear friends we would normally see there. But it can't be helped and maybe this will be an incentive to do some smaller-scale meeting-up with some of those friends in between now and then.

LibDem Spring Conference next year clashes with a friend's wedding.  So I'll be at the wedding and not in York.  I don't feel at all weird about that!  Yay weddings.

I tried to sign up to Yuletide before the deadline but blocked on actually asking for things.   I've signed up to the pinch-hit list and may try writing treat(s) anyway.  It amuses me how far I've come since this time last year when Actually Writing And Publishing A Fanfic was a huge scary thing and now I'm like "sure, let me turn out 1000+ words for you in my copious free time".  I find I like writing gift fics, even if my free time isn't all that copious.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 06:58 pm
Next one is in June next year.  Next one I will actually have done a reasonable amount of study each week, and more than a half-assed go at revision, and will have a stronger grasp of the material (rather than writing "it's the one with the snail" about a certain case).

My hand is really not happy about writing near-continuously for 3 hours.  Handwriting was noticeably worse at the end.

Time to take a look at the next module (it formally started last Saturday).

rmc28: (BRAINS)
Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 09:55 pm
My Financial Accounting exam is a week tomorrow; it's 14 years since the last time I took an exam.

I am not (yet) panicking.  Nor am I doing enough studying / revision.

I won't fail, but if I don't get a bit more urgency into the exam preparation I have no hope of matching my marks on the continuous assessment portion.  My memory is much worse than it was in 1999 & I suspect my handwriting is too.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 11:43 pm
We've been using Ecotricity as our power supplier for a couple of years now (prompted by [livejournal.com profile] furrfu  and [livejournal.com profile] monkeyhands), and moved to them because they explicitly invest their profits in new generation capacity. They also price-match the "standard" regional tariffs, which meant we could get cheaper by shopping around the confusopoly of energy tariffs, but not by much, and we decided the extra was worth paying for sticking to our values and not having to shop around every year.

Now, they are making a small but symbolic reduction in energy prices, so they will be a few pounds cheaper than the local standard tariff.  Because now they are generating about 35% of what they sell from wind, so they are less tied to the global gas / oil / coal prices which ultimately determine the price of conventionally-generated electricity.  And to quote from the customer email I got, "We intend to stretch the gap between us and the conventional energy companies as we achieve greater levels of energy independence."

This to me is the whole point of the endeavour, of going with Ecotricity and not the Big Six, of getting solar panels on roofs everywhere, and heat pumps where we can: becoming less dependent on burning fossil fuels for power.  And now we're seeing that in hard cash terms - a small step but I think the beginning of something quite exciting.

Another interesting nugget about Ecotricity which I found buried on page 18 of the 2012 progress report (pdf) is their approach to customer service: 

"We don't have a call centre. You call our office and we answer the phone (quickly). And the person you speak  to is able to make decisions and solve problems on our behalf. ... We deal with nine out of ten queries within one call, so our customers rarely need to call back. We never set our staff targets for the number of calls they handle or how quickly they deal with them.  It’s about letting them do the right thing for the customer."

This reminded me of the stuff David Boyle repeatedly says about "human-scale" services and particularly this rant about call centres and IT.  I think he's worth reading, even if I do think his dislike for "digital by default" is misunderstanding the nature of the GDS project.

[I'll also say that it's a pleasure to have the bills arrive on time now - we were with Ecotricity for a while in 2005-07 and the bills always arrived late and we had massively overpaid when we finally switched away.  But no complaints this time around!]
rmc28: Rachel speaking at a lectern with microphone and part of the slogan "Stronger Economy Fairer Society" in shot (libdem)
Friday, September 20th, 2013 03:52 pm
Nico & I were away from home from Friday afternoon to Wednesday night, attending LibDem conference in Glasgow.  I took yesterday off, with the intention of resting up a bit, and maybe actually blogging / emailing / otherwise following up all the ideas that Conference invariably leaves me with. 

Instead I had to go to the GP in the morning for a mildly embarrassing medical complaint (*) and to school in the afternoon for a conference with C's teacher.  I did at least rest a bit too, and create my new icon from a photo taken of me speaking on Saturday.

Today I worked my usual half-Friday.  Almost my whole department is moving offices over the weekend and the old office was organised chaos as last minute packing-up got done.  Along with a few others, I got my desk set up in the new building and confirmed I have phone and network there, and will be able to work on Monday. 

That was pretty much all I managed, apart from the last "helpdesk hug" in the old building (scrum was too unfriendly for the manager who'd read about Agile and set them up) and goodbye to one of my team who is off on maternity leave.  We were supposed to have food and "a few words" from the boss at noon.  The food didn't arrive until nearly 1, about the same time as Tony did with Nico.  Nico charmed a number of my colleagues, the boss said his stuff, we all ate as much as we could and I brought a doggy bag home.


(*) Nico has oral thrush and so I have nipple thrush, which is making breastfeeding almost impossibly painful.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 10:21 pm
We went to school for this event, to meet C's new teacher, and the other teachers in year 2, and to be given a quick introduction to the new set of expectations of children this year.  We also went to a presentation about the school's approach to reading and what they want parents to do to support it - this was mainly reassuring as we seem to be doing the right things already.

I was really pleased to note that C's teacher spoke about preparations for PE - removing earrings if possible and taping over irremovable ones (e.g. ones in the first six weeks after piercing), what clothes to wear, tying long hair back etc - without using any gender-specific language.  The school dress code similarly has no gender distinction.
Tags:
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Saturday, September 7th, 2013 09:22 pm
This is a temporary exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, which I visited today with [personal profile] kaberett.  It's on until 3rd November and I thoroughly recommend it.

The exhibition takes up two galleries.  The Mellon Gallery is full of combs, lots and lots of them, from all over Africa, with more or less certain provenance, including some very modern ones in both plastic and wood.  I appreciated the care in labelling to show the limits of what we know about the sources & ages of the combs, and especially the entire case of mystery combs.   The final case showing combs grouped by cultural/stylistic similarity is beautiful but also makes a gentle point about Africa's artificial borders thanks to colonisation. 

The Octagon Gallery is much more about Afro combs in the context of recent history, culture, race relations and racism.  A very popular design of plastic Afro combs has a Black Power fist on the handle; there was a huge picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists on the Olympic podium in 1968.  After watching a huge number of podium ceremonies during last year's Olympics, I had a much stronger emotional reaction to this picture than when I first saw it.   Other things that affected me strongly in this room were the set of combs narrating the story of the Jamaican maroons, and the personal stories submitted by visitors to the exhibition, especially the story from a woman whose hair grew back differently after chemotherapy.  (Both [personal profile] kaberett  and I have mothers who are still with us thanks in part to chemotherapy - and my mother's hair also grew back differently.)  On a lighter note, I really loved the Jamaican souvenir comb made from wood and recycled bicycle spokes.

There is a book accompanying the exhibition for sale in the museum shop, and a rather thicker book on the topic of Afro combs.  I bought the former, along with some postcards from the exhibition.  There was a smaller selection than I had expected, and I may go back with my camera to attempt some photos of my favourite pieces.

We did not make it to the companion installation at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, which finishes on 28th September, but I may try to get there while there is still time.
rmc28: (bat-funny)
Thursday, August 29th, 2013 11:14 pm
 So my current study unit is on business ethics, and just covered a six-point conceptual framework for working through ethical dilemmas. My brain is trying to turn it into a fanfic. The Stark Industries accountant recording weapons sales to the Ten Rings, for example.

If I can get ahead of my study schedule I can totally justify writing this as revision, right?
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 08:06 pm
Everybody was out of quarantine by Monday morning, and if we all had to be ill, at least it was over the bank holiday where we could get away with being lazy taking the time to rest and fully recover.

I briefly had inbox zero, but it hasn't lasted.

I got the mark back for the assignment that I fought so hard with to submit last Tuesday.  I had resigned myself to a mediocre mark and was wondering if I ought to think about replanning my choice of remaining modules.  But it turns out I did significantly better than expected, and from a quick read, got some really helpful feedback as to what I thought I was getting wrong.    Now, if only I can do as well in the exam ....

I have a post-it-note pile countdown, which is proving very helpful for keeping up a steady-ish flow of studying little and often most days.  42 days to my exam now.

School restarts in the middle of next week.  I've just remembered that I was going to get more uniform for Charles.  Luckily we did shoe shopping a few weeks ago, and his tops are all fine, and he'll be ok with slightly draughty ankles in the existing trousers if delivery on longer ones takes a while.  His bookbag is a disaster though, and I should have ordered that at the start of the holidays.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Saturday, August 24th, 2013 10:36 am
Nico got sent home from nursery on Wednesday with a dodgy tum; Tony & I succumbed Thursday night and are nearly better now; Charles & Jonny just succumbed.  We are scrupulously observing the 48-hour rule before being social/going back to work/childcare.

I have been especially grateful for the new tumble-dryer as lots of bedding needed changing several times in close succession.  Only the waterproof undersheets can't go in it; Tony hung one of them on the line in yesterday's sunshine but forgot to bring it in before the night's rain.  There seems no point in bringing it in until the rain has stopped now.
Tags:
rmc28: Rachel holding newborn Nicholas (rmcf+nhf)
Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 09:24 pm
Nico now reliably says "uh-oh" when appropriate. Like when dropping food on the floor, or escaping through the living room gate.  (Compare with Charles, who started with "oh dear" and about six months older.)

Also if I shout at Charles, Nicholas often bursts into tears.  If I cuddle Charles, he comes barrelling over to get into the cuddle.  He babbles a lot and is climbing on everything.  Also the shelves that were out of his reach 2 months ago aren't any more.  Time to move everything upward again.

This Nico icon is a bit out of date!  There are oodles of more recent photos ... on my camera memory card.  Maybe one day I will sort them out, perhaps as procrastination for studying?
rmc28: (reading)
Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 07:29 pm
By my log, I have spent >17 hours on the OU assignment since Sunday morning. I am short of sleep and short-tempered but it is done and submitted now. I really regret not doing more earlier, especially when we were on holiday.

My exam for this module (B291 Financial Accounting) is 7 weeks tomorrow. I think I might start a little countdown with post-its by my bed to help me stay focused between now and then. The textbooks for the next module (B203 Business Studies in Context) have already arrived, but I'm cordially ignoring them until After The Exam - there's over two weeks between the exam and the due date for the first assignment in B203.

Late last night I was really cheered to get a lovely positive comment on my Rare Pair story from its recipient, only about an hour or so after notifications went out. I saved my own gift story for this evening, after submitting, and it made a really pleasant reward.

Drawing A Slow Circle (1815 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Dragonriders of Pern - Anne McCaffrey
Rating: Mature
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Mirrim/T'gellan
Characters: Mirrim, T'gellan, F'nor, Brekke
Additional Tags: Friendship, Unresolved Sexual Tension
Summary:

Mirrim knows entirely too much about what's going on in the weyr; and nothing about what's going on in T'gellan's mind.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Thursday, August 15th, 2013 01:51 pm
Oh yeah, what we're getting in today's messed about delivery: the most energy-efficient tumble-dryer I could find - a Bosch with a heat pump.  I feel a bit guilty about the extra energy use, but we have been finding it really hard to hang up the bedding to dry inside, especially last winter, which means we don't wash our bedding anywhere near as much as we'd like.  (Guest bedding is of course always fresh!)

The dryer is a condensing one that doesn't need a vent fitted anywhere, and it's going to live in the garage as a mild deterrent to using it routinely.  But on suspicion we might start using it routinely anyway, I decided to get the most efficient I could, even if it was more expensive.

(This is the last bit of cat-related admin, as the money came from the self-insurance pot of savings for covering vet fees, which we no longer need.  I cancelled the monthly payment into that pot last week.  I am still finding it strange not to be tripped up on the corridor, and not having to shut the kitchen to defend against intrusion.)
rmc28: (grouchy)
Thursday, August 15th, 2013 01:35 pm
What is the point of a delivery company giving us an hour's delivery slot (with implausible accuracy - 14:19-15:19), for which we make arrangements for one of us to come home and meet from 2-3:30, if they turn up nearly an hour early?

Jonny is home, looking after a Nico with a bad cold, but had explicitly said he didn't feel comfortable accepting the delivery, both because it's not his, and because he would be doing childcare.   Of course they arrived during a nappy change too, and by the sound of it, have made him feel it's HIS fault, rather than theirs for being early.

So now Jonny's been messed about, Tony's been messed about (he was going home to meet the stated delivery slot) and I'm just annoyed with everything. 

GRRRRR.  The 1-hour delivery slot was part of what convinced me to go with the Co-op for this.  WHAT IS THE POINT IF THEY ARE GOING TO IGNORE IT.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Wednesday, August 14th, 2013 07:35 pm
I've just uploaded my RarePairFest story, a whole two days early.  This is to give me more time to finish the next OU assignment, due in next Tuesday.  I have in-laws visiting on Friday-Saturday, and I haven't done all the reading yet.

What could possibly go wrong?
rmc28: (charles2011)
Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 08:15 pm
Charles had another bout of career planning yesterday, as we walked together to get Nico from nursery.  "I want to be a teacher in a nursery and look after the babies and help them stop crying.  AND, if the baby has an older brother, I will tell the older brother how to make the baby laugh and stop crying."

He asked Nico's key worker R about how you become a nursery teacher, and she said the job title is "nursery practitioner" - it used to be "nursery nurse" but this changed recently to avoid confusion with actual nurses.   There are apprentices at the nursery who do a day a week in college and work the other four days; but it is also possible to do the written learning online.

Charles thought a bit and said "I could probably manage college just one day a week".  I pointed out he needed to finish school first anyway.

Tags: