rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Work:
w/b 13/6 - planned day off 16th
w/b 20/6 - planned day off 23rd for election, off sick with migraine 21st-22nd
w/b 27/6 - planned day off 28th for my birthday
w/b 03/7 - planned day off 6th & 9th
w/b 10/7 - planned as a full week, off sick with migraine afternoon of 14th & all of 15th

Two migraines in less than a month is a bit concerning, although the first was blatantly stress-related and the second almost certainly so. I've been having trouble sleeping the last couple of weeks, which won't have helped. I have acquired a prescription for sumatriptan which should at least make them more manageable, and promised my doctor to work on my sleep and my stress-management.

I have been social! As mentioned previously I went to a party and saw lovely people on the 18th. On the 26th I ventured to London to meet up with [personal profile] kaberett AND [personal profile] recessional which was just wonderful (both the company, and the strangely giddy feeling of travelling around London alone, responsible only for myself). On the 2nd I had birthday drinks in the Carlton which was pleasingly well-attended and delightful, if also an exercise in pacing myself and presenting a good front. On the weekend of the 8th-10th the four of us trekked over to High Wycombe for my brother-in-law's 40th, taking in a ballet for children on the way there, and a related ballet workshop for tinies on the way back.

I've also been ferrying my children around for their social lives and engagements (there are a lot of summer birthdays) and the next couple of months are pretty booked up with one thing or another.

I've changed my fitbit daily steps target from the default 10,000 to something I'm actually achieving most of the time (currently 6,000) so I get the positive feedback of hitting that target most days rather than hardly any. I then worked out a nice nerdy systematic approach to increasing the target so I can work back up to 10,000 in a sensible way. (No more than 10% increase a week, no more than 3 weeks out of 4, and no increase unless achieving the step target on average over 28d AND on at least 23 of those 28 days).

Tomorrow is my next bone marrow sample, and I will see my consultant for the results in a few weeks. This time a year ago, I was just beginning to notice an odd shortness of breath after running up the stairs, and had had a mysterious run of migraines. I still can't run up the stairs.


Today's bird: Hen Harrier
rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
Bigwig wavered gradually up from sleep, like a bubble of marsh gas from a still stream.


[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]

rmc28: (tony)
to have and to hold from this day forward;
for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish, till death us do part;


rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I just got the result for my OU business studies module - this is the one I deferred two years ago because toddlers are demanding, rebooked last summer, and decided to continue with anyway last autumn to give me something to focus on other than cancer and chemo.

Distinction.

I did not expect that.  I expected to get a solidly good result but I didn't think I'd been working well enough to get a Distinction.  That has absolutely made my day.  Go me.



Bird of the day: Grey Wagtail



rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
When I did the nutrition course with Maggie's Wallace, we covered smoothies and juicing, and my takeaway was that fruit or vegetable smoothies which retain the fibre are better than not eating the veg/fruit at all but probably no better than eating them in the normal way.  Not retaining the fibre increases the GI, and is almost always worse unless you are in a situation where digesting fibre is hard.  We were also told to aim for 9 portions of fruit/veg a day rather than just 5. 

Recently I've been struggling even to get to 5, so I have caved and bought a "family blender" from Breville today.  It helpfully converts the blending container into a flip-top bottle, and provides 4 of them.

I am now consuming a rather chewy and slightly dubious-looking green smoothie, which makes me think of Tony Stark in Iron Man 2.  It tastes good though, and I am definitely hitting my nine portions today, for the first time in ages.


Today's bird: Blue Tit

rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
'- And then before the Mark silflay,' said Chervil, 'I always have a look at the weather'.



[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I had birthday drinks in the pub this afternoon with many assorted lovely people.

I am so tired now, but it was utterly worth it.

*goes flop*
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Content note: weight changes, body image
(This one is a bit more fraught for me than yesterday's, but I still want to note it.)
Read more... )

Today's bird: Shoveler
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (rmc-june16)
This morning I snipped off the last bit of cracked thumbnail.  Each of my rounds of chemo left a thinned, weakened strip across all my nails, which moved slowly from nailbed to tip, and when it reached the tip, it would crack very easily.  I usually keep my nails short, but that wasn't enough to prevent cracks and even small pieces snapping off under even mild pressure.  Just another tiny indignity of the whole process.

One crack, on my left thumb, kept extending itself back down the nail: I would catch it on something, and back it would go, down into the apparently-normal nail growing after all the chemo was over.  All the other weak patches were gone months ago, but that crack just kept renewing itself.  I've taken such care over that nail the last few months, trying not to catch it on anything, keeping it trimmed short, and finally, finally the very bottom of the crack has reached high enough up the nail that I've been able to cut the last of it off.  Normality restored at last.


As for my hair, I never lost it all, but it thinned out dramatically during chemo.  I estimated about 80% of it fell out. I'd leave hairs on every pillow, like a cat shedding.  I was so glad I'd had Tony clip it short in advance, it would have been unbearable to leave shoulder-length clumps in the same way.  Hair went from the rest of my body too - arms, legs etc.  Not hairless, but very thinly covered.

In January, after the last round of chemo, it started growing back.  My head felt like a dog with a winter coat growing in, two distinct lengths. I remember trimming it all back very short just to make it tidy, and then again (a little longer) when it was shaggy and unbearable.   I want to grow it out again, at least back to shoulder-length, so I've gritted my teeth and got through the shaggy stage and it's suddenly settled into something that is acceptably tidy with no effort from me.

And suddenly I've discovered that my hair is curly and springy now, instead of straight. It looks quite good (see userpic) and I don't dislike it.  It just feels unfamiliar, all the time.  I'm still waiting to feel like it's normal.


Today's bird: Merlin


rmc28: (wonderfrown)
What I have read:
I have not been reading any books or short stories.  I have instead been reading way too much stuff about my country's current glorious political situation, mostly via Twitter and Facebook.  Have some highlights:

Reactions:
Happy Now pretty much covers my current emotional state (spoiler: not happy)
Brexit was a Con is a thoughtful comparison to the Scottish referendum

Things we can do:
On LJ, my friend [livejournal.com profile] strange_complex wrote about things to do to "[try] to make this country the best place it can possibly be, given the hand we are now holding"

Two different guides to speaking up in response to hate speech: I sincerely hope not to need this, but I also know that preparing by thinking through my possible responses is the best way to avoid being part of the bystander effect.  The Guardian last November ran "How do I ... respond when I see racial abuse in public? and UNITED for Intercultural Action provide a leaflet Who, if not you? which covers similar ground.

More general again: good advice about how to argue with people if you actually want to persuade them rather than "win".


What I'm reading next:
Charles Stross's latest, The Nightmare Stacks, where I can escape into a world where the existential threat to my country is merely an alien invasion of Leeds.  Also I have now logged out of Facebook entirely on my phone, and hidden the Twitter shortcut, in an attempt to stop the negstimming.


Today's bird: Moorhen

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Tomorrow is my birthday and I have set up a fundraising page for the charity Bloodwise to celebrate.
rmc28: Charles facepalming eloquently (facepalm)
At least I managed to sleep.

And now on with the daily routine, because work, school and nursery haven't stopped.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I did absolutely nothing for the local elections last month, apart from go and vote. 

A couple of weeks ago I decided to volunteer a very limited amount of time for today's referendum (for my local LibDems, who are campaigning for Remain) and took the day off work, as part of my ongoing "burn leave to keep effectively working part-time" plan.  So I have done two shifts of telling today: the first was in muggy but dry weather; the second was in pouring rain, including a very nearby lightning strike at which I screamed rather embarrassingly.

I am now back in bed and would rather like to sleep from now until the result is clear tomorrow.  At best tomorrow I will feel a faint sense of relief rather than anything actually positive about the whole exercise, and at worst I will feel extremely worried and miserable.  (And then I'll pick myself up and carry on because I still have Stuff To Get Done no matter what happens.)


Today's bird: Coot



rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I went to a short meeting at school to confirm arrangements for Nicholas's start in September.  They are being more flexible than when Charles started: for the first ten days of term, they are offering half-day drop-ins for the new starters, but leaving it up to parents which days and how many sessions to sign up for, suggesting a minimum of two.  Then they are starting the children full time, in three waves.  Nicholas is in the last wave, presumably because he's among the youngest.  So we are able to start sorting out logistics, what days off we will need, giving notice at nursery, and so on.

Charles's class ran an assembly for the rest of the school, showing what they've been working on.  One of those things was filming and editing montages of themselves doing sports, and Charles's montage was one of the ones selected to be shown.  I was terribly proud :-)

Tony and I began our couples counselling with Maggie's Wallace, which seemed to get off to a good start.

I went out and socialised last night with lovely people.

Although I was very tired this morning, I have managed to be sensible and pace myself and get essential things done but not exhaust myself.



Bird of the day: Lesser White-Fronted Goose
rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
Dusk was falling on Efrafa.


[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Well, this has been a horrible week. The mass murder of LGBT+ people in Orlando, some unpleasantness at work, and now the murder of Jo Cox.  I'm not talking about the work stuff in public, and really it's not on the same scale, but I am tired and sad and angry with the combination of it all.  And also bloody-minded and determined to work to make things better, to plant myself by the river of truth and say "No, you move", but it's a grim exhausted kind of determination.

And just as I finished writing this, Tony came home with my Unsubtle Rainbow Jewellery as made by [personal profile] ceb and won by me in the Con or Bust auction, and I feel a tiny bit better.



rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I have been too tired and too busy to read much for weeks and weeks, but I did start getting back into the reading habit shortly before going on holiday.

What I've read: short fiction

Lullaby for a Lost World by Aliette de Bodard
A rather dark and potentially depressing story, but beautifully told.

Three stories by Charlotte Ashley who I discovered through the Campbell Award nominees collection organised ahead of Hugo nominations:
Sigrid Under the Mountain
Eleusinian Mysteries
The Will of Parliament

Also, way back when, I got through the rest of the serialised story, The Witch Who Came In From The Cold, and liked it very much but felt the end-of-season was a bit weak. Classic leaving things open for the next season kind of weakness that one gets in TV series.

What I've read: long fiction
  • Dragon’s Luck by Lauren Esker : lovely, charming addition to the Shifter Agents series, not reliant on reading previous books, great review by[personal profile] rachelmanija to which I don't feel I can add
  • The Beta’s Test by Dessa Lux: enjoyable addition to the gay werewolves in California series
  • House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard: I eventually got to the end of this; it was very beautifully written and had a great concept of magic and its sources, but the story and background were utterly depressing
  • Saving the CEO by Jenny Holiday: a fairly standard pleasant straight romance
  • Magic and Manners by C.E. Murphy: a delightful rewrite of Pride and Prejudice with magic; the plot is similar but diverges in appropriate ways given the presence of magic (and fixed up a couple of my biggest annoyances with the source story).  I loved this very much.
  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho: very enjoyable Regency magic story with non-white protagonists, matter-of-fact description of the resulting racism and inclusivity issues, plus forceful auntie figures and a lot of humour.  This review by [personal profile] skygiants covers the key points for me.

What I'm reading now
I'm kind of stuck on The Oncoming Storm by Christopher G Nuttall which is an okay-ish MilSF book I picked up for cheap as first in a series. It's very very heteronormative and predictable, but page-turny when I'm actually reading it. I suspect I might be happier leaving it unfinished and rereading something with more lesbians in.


rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
This is the first time I have done such a thing since I got ill last summer.

I had three days of training (in Cambridge city centre, so pretty convenient) and then two in the office.  I am not actually meeting my criteria for trying to work full-time yet: my study hours are still less than they should be and my Regularly dashboard is still mostly in the red, but I failed to organise taking a day off in good time, and decided to treat it as a learning experience.

I learned that it was survivable but pretty exhausting. I must make sure I book a day off next week.  I also decided to drop T'ai Chi for the rest of the term as I have made it to half the classes so far, but too often by Friday lunchtime I am just too tired, and it's one less thing to worry about.

I have at least been keeping up my daily Duolingo habit much better in the last two weeks.  I decided to add Swedish, because while a Finnish course does not (yet?) exist on Duolingo, Swedish is an official language in Finland, so I will at least know something when we go there next year.  I also discovered a Welsh course has been added sometime in the last few months so I failed to resist adding that too.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
We just got back from a week in Llandudno, in this rather nice pair of holiday apartments, with my mum, stepdad and my younger two brothers.  It was spacious and nicely presented, a short walk from the station and almost next door to a well-equipped play area.  I know the area fairly well from many childhood visits to my grandmother, who lived in Rhos-on-Sea, and I'm enjoying introducing my own children in turn.

We originally planned and booked this holiday last July, when we were all at my mother's home for a long weekend, and not even the earliest signs of my cancer had appeared.  I've been looking forward to it ever since it became likely I would be well enough to still go.  It was a little experimental: we've not done a holiday in this mode with extended family before, and there was a bunch of admin and planning beforehand to make sure things went fairly smoothly, but I think it paid off well.  An adult:child ratio of 3:1 definitely made things easier!

Highlights for me were:
  • a trip on the Ffestiniog railway to Porthmadog, where we spent a few hours with my aunt and her partner, who'd driven over from Machynlleth
  • seeing Bill Bailey at Venue Cymru
  • spending several afternoons in bed resting/sleeping, knowing there were lots of other adults to play with the children, and feeling so much better as a result
  • discovering a little model railway on the West Shore
There were a whole load of other things I would have liked to do were I fully fit, but I am working on accepting my current limits and it was really very easy to rest and relax and sit around talking with my family and all that good stuff.

One less fun thing that happened was that Charles got temporarily lost while I was on the way to the seafront with him and Nicholas one day, but he did exactly the right thing once he realised he'd got separated from us.  He went up to the sales desk in a large shop and asked to use their phone, gave them my mobile number (which he memorised some years ago), and got through to me to tell me where he was.  The shop turned out to be signed up to a lost-child protocol for the whole town, which meant shortly after I arrived at the shop, so did the local police.  They noted our details and gave me some very polite but firm advice about keeping my children close in a busy tourist town, and agreed with me that Charles had been very sensible.  I was moderately embarrassed on my own account, but very proud of Charles and made sure he knew it.

The other less fun thing was that I had an OU exam in Cambridge on Friday morning.  I came home alone on Thursday evening to get a good night's sleep, and went straight from the exam to the railway station.  I left Cambridge yesterday lunchtime in grey gloom, and arrived back in Llandudno in glorious sunshine just in time for dinner.  Nico and Tony met me halfway back to the house - I heard a small voice shouting "Mummy! Mummy!" and was then obliged to carry an armful of excited three-year-old all the way back while he told me in detail and at volume all about his day.

(I also ended up getting into a really interesting and pleasant conversation with the person sitting opposite on the train from Chester to Llandudno; I love it when that happens, and the journey flew by.)

I'm quite tired now, after the third long train journey in as many days, but hopefully I'll be fine again after a good night's sleep.

rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
When Hazel woke, he started up at once, for the air around him was full of the sharp cries of some creature hunting.



[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]


rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I think my physical fitness is still gradually improving - my cycle and walking commutes are getting a little smoother and faster and less tiring each week, and it's perfectly reasonable to cycle to hospital and then to work.  What I'm finding though is that exercise, work, childcare, study and housework are all drawing from the same pool of energy and that seems to have stopped growing.  "Pushing through", like I did to get the essay in a few weeks back, is like going overdrawn and then having to rest even more to replenish the shortfall.  I'm still going splat at least once or twice a week.

I seriously considered requesting a formal short-term reduction in work hours, to the point of working out how much it would reduce my take-home pay.[1]  That turned out to be quite a lot.[2]  I'm pretty certain we could cut back enough to cover the gap, but that in itself becomes more work and stress, so it's not as helpful an idea as I first thought.

Instead, at least for now, Tony is going to take on rather more than half of the housework, including taking back the weekday evening meals which I've been doing since the start of the year. The pressure to get the children fed as soon as possible after 6pm seems to have eased up, so eating later (which has happened a few times recently when I've been too tired to cook) seems to be fine.  I think we'll still try to keep weekend menu planning / shopping list generation going though.

I am going to use the time Tony is giving me to rest more, and to study more consistently, which will in turn make me happier and less stressed.  I would rather reduce our income than give up studying; one of the things I learned from being ill was that learning matters a lot to me.


[1] It took me a while to find a calculator that could reproduce my current payslip with the various deductions I have going out.

[2] Woe woe, the diamond shoes of my high income are pinching, I know.
rmc28: (glowy)
I reached the "I hate computers" state sometime Sunday evening, and it hasn't quite lifted yet.

However, I now have a working Ubuntu laptop with my backups unpacked onto it, and I've been able to catch up the household accounts and move some money around like I wanted to Sunday morning.  I've also managed to get 1Password working under Wine, which I never managed on the older machine.

I gave up on making the thing dual boot with Windows because that was only ever a "would be nice" and Windows was extremely uncooperative.  So now it is gone.  Also I am indebted to [livejournal.com profile] fanf for random useful bits of equipment (USB wireless key ftw!) and advice when I got stuck.

The old laptop disintegrated further this afternoon and became unusable, thankfully just after I had finally got the new one approaching functional.



rmc28: (glowy)
  1. Discovering my netbook, which has been a bit ropey for a while, is now literally falling apart and intermittently failing.
  2. Shopping for a new netbook.
  3. Going to an actual shop to get a new netbook:
    • advantage - got it today
    • disadvantage - had to deal with multiple salespeople (all men) who patronised me and tried to upsell me on lots of extras I don't want.  This is why I like shopping online.
    • call me naive but if I reserve a computer online to collect from your Collection Point, I kind of expect it to be there, not to have to wander around the store being handed off between salespeople and patronised etc for a good 15 minutes before getting the computer I wanted.
  4. Setting up Windows 10, creating a backup drive, and installing Ubuntu
  5. Restoring all my files from backup onto Ubuntu
  6. Getting things back the way I like them
(Currently still on step 4)
rmc28: Rachel with manic grin holding up wrist with new watch on (watch)
Consultant appointment today: still no sign of cancer :-)

Also fatigue is to be expected and I'm doing well to be doing as much as I am.  Next visit in August.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
That Open University assignment I took two half-days off to finish so as to avoid an all-nighter?  I ended up needing both the time off and most of a night.  I got 2 hours sleep and was surprisingly functional on the next day, but it was pretty horrible.  Luckily this came just before a 4-day weekend, but it's been an instructive example of what happens when I try to "just push through" being tired all the time.  It is remarkably like what happens if I try to keep typing through an RSI flare-up without any mitigation: short-term goals can be achieved, but only at the expense of a much longer recovery period.

I am just now beginning to get over that nearly-all-nighter, after a lot more time in bed over the last two weeks than I'd like.  Fatigue is cumulative, and I was pushing up against my limits even before the essay crisis.  So, I'm pacing myself very carefully, and I'm ignoring everything that doesn't have to be done now and doesn't have to be done by me.  I've booked another tranche of 4-day weeks at work (I'm definitely sure now that 3x full + 2x half is the right pattern for that) and am just hoping I can recover enough to think about working full time before my leave runs out.

Things I haven't the time to write about:
  • I saw Captain America: Civil War and on the whole liked it.  Not as much as Winter Soldier, but a lot more than Avengers: Age of Ultron.
  • Our weekend routine is now pretty settled, with activities for both children over both days.
  • My mother and stepfather came for a visit :-)
  • We took Charles to his first theatre production that wasn't aimed at children (A Winters Tale at the ADC, by the ADC) and we will probably take him to some of this summer's Cambridge Shakespeare Festival as a result.
  • This article about how it's not possible to see/read/listen to all the good things, and different approaches to coping with that.
rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
Some people have the idea that rabbits spend a good deal of their time running away from foxes.



[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]


rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
Sooner or later, everything leaks out and animals get to hear what others think about them.


(Apologies for missing two weekends in a row; today is technically still a weekend for me.)

[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I have booked this morning and tomorrow morning off work to attack the current essay crisis.  (tbh, if I tried to solve it with an all-nighter I'd end up taking time off to recover from that, this seems less foolish)

3 hours, assignment open, go.

Update:

I managed 2.5 hours with a short break after the first 90 minutes.  There's ... a lot more of it than there was, but also a lot left to do. That is what this evening and tomorrow morning are for. 

Stages of my assignment writing:
  1. outline
  2. structure
  3. hatred
  4. spitefully filling in structure
  5. grudging admission of interest
  6. absorption
  7. completion
  8. wow, that was a really interesting topic!
I am solidly in stage 4.

(and now it is raining and I have to walk to work imminently)
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
The ongoing return to work
Two more 4-day weeks at work have gone quite well - this is the Tue+Thu afternoons off model.  I have got quite a lot done, some of it urgent and important, without getting especially stressed.  I'm not as fast or as good as I'm "used" to being [as in, pre-cancer], but I'm being good enough, I think.   I have another two 4-day weeks booked, next week with Friday off, and the following week with Monday off.  This will let me find out which pattern is easier. 

I expect I will book another run of 4-day weeks after that though.  I'm still spending large chunks of my weekend days in bed, and rather more of my weekday evenings falling asleep early or sleepily hitting refresh on things without getting either OU study or Duolingo done, or even much reading.  I am really fed up of slow-motion OU essay crises, but I'm in the middle of another one, basically because I was too tired to study for too much of the last fortnight month.  Also, I use the app Regularly to track various self-care and housework tasks (which all need doing at some point - we're not talking make-work here) and I'm in the red on an awful lot there. 

So I'm regarding that as great honking warning signs that I'm running too close to my limits.  I plan to keep on doing 4-day weeks until I get my study hours back where they should be, and my Regularly dashboard back to mostly yellow and green.  I have enough leave left, together with things already booked, to do this until September, so I may as well take advantage.


Physical fitness
I had my second session of beginner's T'ai Chi today, and I'm really enjoying it.  It feels very gentle but focused; I've learned I can do it in a comfortable tunic and leggings, which is what I wear a lot of the time at the moment, and it's gentle enough I don't need to change.

I'm managing the cycling to work via nursery, and walking home via school okay at the moment.  I still get out of breath but no longer as boiling hot; I think I'm gradually getting faster, and it's becoming more routine.  On Monday I cycled to the hospital and back from work for an appointment, and on Wednesday from nursery to Hills Road and back on top of everything else, and wasn't completely flattened as a result.  Even so, like work, I think I'm doing enough right now, and shouldn't look to add anything else until study/Regularly tasks are under control.


Medical
Monday's test was a bone marrow sample.  It was moderately painful and I needed longer to recover before I felt able to go back to work than I would have predicted.  On the good side, they told me they got a good sample without apparently having to work too hard for it, unlike certain of the previous samples I've had taken.  I see the consultant on 10th May (it got moved back, I think because my test was later than originally planned) and as far as I know I won't hear anything before then.  All the external evidence is reassuring though.


... and this has taken me long enough to write and I need to do another chapter of study before I fall asleep.
rmc28: Face of toddler smiling (Nico2014-11)
Nico has been accepted by the same school as Charles.  It's what we were expecting, but there's a difference between "very likely" and "formally confirmed".  Now I can move on with a bunch of medium-term planning.  First step, finding out if there's room in the afterschool club for him.

Once we get past the initial reception settling-in phase, our weekday logistics will be a lot less complicated for the next two years.  But in about a year's time I have to start evaluating secondary schools, eek.

(If you want to know how the schools application process works, it's all here: http://www4.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/info/20059/schools_and_learning/363/applying_for_a_school_place/4)
rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
With the exception of Blackthorn and the addition of Bluebell, the rabbits who set off from the southern end of the beech hanger early the next morning were those who had left Sandleford with Hazel five weeks before.


This chapter opens Part III: Efrafa

[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]


rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Last week: 1 Bank Holiday, 1 intended half day that I took off because of migraine, 2 half days and then a full day to finish the week.
This week: 2 half days and 3 full days.  This is the first week I have actually worked 3 full days since returning to work, and it was more bearable than I'd feared.  I could track the cumulative toll by the effect on my after-work achievements:

Monday: made supper, did my Duolingo, did lots of studying
Tuesday: made supper, did my Duolingo, did some studying
Wednesday: made supper, did my Duolingo
Thursday: made supper, wrote a blog post in bed

Today was the second half day, and I spent the afternoon resting in bed, with a pleasant interlude catching up with my mother on our ~weekly phone call, before doing the evening nursery run.  I then made supper but have returned to bed shortly afterward. I may yet manage my Duolingo. Tomorrow is busy, with multiple things for the children, and a date with [livejournal.com profile] fanf in the evening, so I am deliberately taking it easy this evening and Sunday.

Next four weeks:
w/b 11/4 & 18/4: Tuesday and Thursday afternoons off
w/b 25/4: Friday off
w/b 2/5: Bank Holiday off

They're all four-day weeks but I expect the 4 consecutive days to be harder.  I'm going to review again on 4/5, or sooner if I get another migraine or other indication I'm overdoing things.


Other notes
I have my first follow-up bone marrow test on 18/4 and my review with my consultant on 26/4, so I will probably be extra-twitchy between the two.  Objectively I am continuing to improve steadily, there is no plateau or reversal of progress, and I've even stopped needing to change my clothes on arrival at work.  But I'm extra-aware at the moment of every time I get out of breath when cycling or walking or climbing stairs; I am 99.9% certain it's because I'm pushing just hard enough to keep improving my fitness, but the 0.1% is fixated on "breathlessness means cancer".   Charting my progress in these posts is one way of keeping that 0.1% in check.


rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
This was inspired by a tweet from [personal profile] hollymath about singing at the next Glee Club, and whether there were "enough" LibDem Hamilton fans to include songs from it.  Despite having no idea yet about when I shall next get to Glee Club[1], I found myself pondering the question every time I listen to the cast recording[2].

Glee Club is a long-standing feature of LibDem (and previously Liberal) Party Conferences: late on the final evening people gather and sing for a good few hours, aided by the regularly-updated Liberator Songbook[3], and possibly also by alcohol.  I'd group the songs sung into three rough categories:
  1. Contemporary political songs from assorted points in history, sung pretty much straight (e.g. The Land, We Shall Overcome)
  2. Filks on well-known songs which comment on specific political events/arguments/personalities - there's usually at least one or two new ones of these each year, and the best keep on being included each year (e.g. The Lib/Lab Lie, Letterboxes, 12 Days of Merger/Coalition)
  3. Songs sung for the sheer joy of them (e.g. the various regional songs, anything performed by Pauline P)
The sung-through nature of Hamilton means most of the songs depend strongly on context, and/or have sung or spoken narration & dialogue embedded within.  This makes the cast recording delightfully complete, but does make it harder to pick out songs that work in isolation.  Some of my favourites are also so technically challenging I'd not want to try them in a Glee Club setting, e.g. Guns and Ships or Non-Stop.

Category-1 songs:
Cabinet Battle #1 is explicitly political, though for Glee Club you'd need a confident performer to lead each section, and I think you'd have stop it at "I'll show you where the shoe fits" for it to work as a one-off.

The Room Where It Happens is all about power and who takes decisions and how (there's a whole lot of resonances for coalition e.g. "no one really knows how the parties get to yes / the pieces that are sacrificed in every game of chess"); for Glee Club I'd start it at "Two Virginians and an immigrant walk into a room" and cut the opening dialogue between Burr and Hamilton.

Category-3 songs:
The Story of Tonight is a very feel-good little song about friendship and common cause, though not explicitly political

Hurricane in isolation is beautiful, and has a certain appeal to anyone who's written leaflet after leaflet attempting to persuade the public to vote for them.


You'll notice I've included nothing in category-2 - I think Hamilton is novel and excitingly political all by itself; maybe when it's old hat I'll be ready to think about filking some of it for political commentary, but that isn't this year.  Also, I really love My Shot but it's really a bit long and complicated for a group mostly new to it; I think Wait For It is beautiful but the central attitude of "I'd rather wait for things to be explained/improved than do anything active about it" doesn't feel very LibDem.

If I had to pick just one, then I'd pick The Room Where It Happens.   Though I confess I'd love to hear Pauline singing Burn.




[1] September is too far away for me to predict my state of recovery, but not so far away that I can handwave it as "surely I'll be done by then", as I have for e.g. Helsinki 2017.  Also, politics really is off my priority list while I focus on a) recovery b) family c) work d) study so it's hard to justify the time/expense of Conference even when I am recovered.

[2] Yes, that's still pretty-much daily, yes it's been nearly three months, when normally I get over this repeat-listening phase in a week or two

[3] When I helped my mother move house a few years ago, I unpacked her collection of Songbooks, and spent a happy hour or two reading through them.  I estimate it as at least 2/3 complete and has a lot of low numbers.  The selection of what songs are included each year is its own little commentary on the political context.  One day I want to write that up (or to read someone else doing so ...)



rmc28: (reading)
I haven't been reading much recently but my course textbooks. However, there were three novelettes I read from the handy eligibility list provided by Clarkesworld, that I liked and haven't yet written up:


Ether by Zhang Ran
I can't work out how to talk about this story without spoilers, so I'll just say that it's a bit slow starting, but I found it worth sticking with it.

The Servant by Emily Devenport
Murder and political intrigue IN SPACE (on a generation ship).

So Much Cooking by Naomi Kritzer
A near-future pandemic as seen through the entries on a cooking blog. I found the first entry mildly irritating in style (in a real-world blog, I'd probably not bother reading it), but then the story began to move and I was completely sucked in.


Plus Ann Leckie linked to a short SF story of hers, The Endangered Camp

"And I said, jokingly, “Now the race is on–who will be the first to submit a Post Apocalyptic Dinosaurs on Mars story?  And about two days later I was driving and was fortunately on an empty street when it hit me just how I could write exactly that."

It is an excellent post-apocalyptic dinosaurs on Mars story.
rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
The following morning all the rabbits were out at silflay by dawn and there was a good deal of excitement as they waited for Hazel.



[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]


rmc28: (BRAINS)
As well as all the caring-for-sick-child, I woke up this morning with a migraine.  (I am only managing to type this with the brightness turned way down on my laptop.)  Not entirely surprising after multiple disturbed nights and higher-than-usual amounts of exercise, but entirely frustrating as well as painful.

I suppose ... at least I'm well enough to overdo things enough to get migraines?  The last one I had was in Bristol the week before I went into hospital last summer. 

*scales back immediate plans even further*


Right now I don't even know if I will be able to work tomorrow; plus I need to check with nursery about when Nico can return (I expect not until the antibiotics are finished, but not sure, and not going to cycle there to find out.)

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Nico developed an ear infection that got nasty enough yesterday evening for me to call 111. Saturday evening of a 4-day weekend is a rubbish time to access healthcare: the 111 computer systems were running slowly with the overload, but the screening nurse did her job carefully and referred us to local urgent care.  Urgent care did follow up assessment, but we agreed on an appointment this morning rather than me dragging Nico across town late at night.

He woke at least twice in the night in some distress, both times when he was due a new dose of painkillers.  (Ibuprofen is pretty effective; paracetamol, not so much, though better than nothing when it's too soon for more ibuprofen.)  It is dramatically obvious when he is in pain by the way his entire personality and demeanor changes, and when the painkiller dose is taking effect by the way he returns to his usual sunny self.  I am so glad the ibuprofen is so effective.

It was a bit of a struggle after the rough night, but even with stupid clock changes, I managed to get us out of the house and to his appointment on time.  To my complete lack of surprise he was prescribed a short course of penicillin. I asked about open pharmacies and was told airily "oh, Boots, Tesco, ASDA, I'm sure at least one of them will be open", so I biked over to them in turn (they are about 5 minutes apart) ... all closed. A quick google established that there was one (1) pharmacy open for the whole of Cambridge today, between 10am and 2pm only, and even further from home than we'd already come.

When we got there, it was a little local pharmacist and it was heaving with people queueing to hand in prescriptions and waiting to get them dispensed. Thankfully Nico was still cheerful and treating it all like an adventure, and I managed to keep him entertained for the 40-odd minutes we were there. I suspect the impulse purchase of a microwaveable Bagpuss helped:




In total I cycled over 14km today (normally it's ~6.5km to work via nursery). For some reason I slept most of the afternoon and have been fairly useless the rest of the day.

Hugos

2016-03-26 15:40
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
There's less than a week left until nominations close, and I've not read much in the last few weeks, nor do I expect to in the remaining days. So I'm going to try to wrangle something out of my placeholder list this weekend. (The placeholder list is where I've put things that were apparently eligible, that I've personally read/watched/consumed/etc and liked enough to think worth nominating)

Tasks to attempt:
  • enter what I've got without any further delay - DONE (phew)
    • decide on the best 5 of 11 short stories - DONE
    • decide on the best 5 of 10 pro artists - DONE (easier when I realised a bunch of my placeholders weren't eligible, at least not for the examples I'd noted)
    • skim the contents of Up and Coming[1] to see if I already like at least five Campbell-eligible authors enough to nominate them - DONE (and yes, I did)
  • finish The House of Shattered Wings so I can decide if it is displacing any of the 5 novels I already have
  • read the remaining novelettes on the handy list of eligible works published by Clarkesworld in hopes that I'll find two more I think worth nominating
  • if necessary, read stories from Up and Coming until I have five authors to nominate

[1] A collection of works by 120 eligible authors, free to download as ebook, available only until 31 March 2016

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
2 half days, 2 full days and thankfully a bank holiday.

It's the first time I've worked two full days in the same week.  Monday went fine, but I was seriously struggling Wednesday afternoon and went straight to bed and splat once I got home.  I was really glad yesterday was a half day for me, and that I now have a long weekend and then a very easy week, before I try again at the multiple full days the week after. 

I found myself saying "I literally should not run before I can walk" in conversation on Wednesday about exercise and how much I miss running and how I keep looking wistfully at local fitness classes.  I am still finding it funny, because it's true.   Though I do have an exercise class starting in a few weeks: a beginners tai chi class on Friday lunchtimes.  It's local-to-work and cheap, so if I'm not up to doing it when the time comes, I won't lose much money.

One of the things we covered on the Maggies Wallace course was reminding ourselves how far we've come: because I'm back at work I'm bumping up a fair bit against my memories and established habits from before I got ill.  But if I compare myself now to how I was at the worst parts of being ill (the first week of treatment; the week back in hospital in November) I'm doing really well

I've also gone through the handout on managing fatigue from a session I missed and it's essentially stuff I already know: (sleep, pacing myself, eating well, doing enough exercise to build up strength but not enough to exhaust myself, identifying things that replenish energy and things that deplete it, etc etc).

From week after next I want to see if I can manage working 4 day weeks (using annual leave)
- which also implies a cycle ride and a walk every day
- plus keeping up my studying
- plus keeping up my share of housework

... and I shouldn't look too far beyond that for now, even if I do have longer-term goals in mind.



rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
3 days to go:
Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling Anthology by Apex Publications
Looks like a fun collection of short stories, with some good names I recognise in the author list, starting at $5 for the ebook. Also, somewhat buried near the end of the very long information page, there's an add-on: $10 extra on top of your choice of pledge gets you a year's digital subscription to Apex Magazine, half the usual price.


8 days to go:
Svaha STEAM Angels: Smart Dresses for Smart Women
Science-themed dresses (!), with pockets (!!), with a really wide range of sizes - I won't even be getting the largest size (!!!)


24 days to go:
Duel for Citizenship by Holly Matthies
A book about the real challenge that is getting British citizenship, told by someone who is living it.

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
The plan is to fan this spark into a flame
Week 4: 1x full day, 4x half day
Week 5: 3x full day, 2x half day

In practice:
Week 4: 3x half day working at home, 2 days off sick
Week 5: 3x half day, 1x full day, 1x day off to look after child

Week 6 will be 2x full day, 2x half day, 1x bank holiday.  That completes my phased return and I will officially work full time from Monday 28th March.  In practice, due to bank holidays and school holidays (leave I would have taken anyway even if fully well) I will be working:

w/b 28/3: 1x bank holiday, 3x half day, 1x full day
w/b 04/4: 3x full day, 2x half day

and we'll review at the end of *that* if I need to use more half days for the next two weeks or if I feel able to actually work full time.  I finally checked my remaining leave and I have enough left to keep up a 4-day week for several months, which definitely takes the pressure off.


Argh

2016-03-16 09:59
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I was over the cough enough by Thursday to work from home the rest of the week, and to take Charles around some Science Week things on Saturday, and to meet up with [livejournal.com profile] beckyc for Bolshoi Ballet at the cinema on Sunday (all of which kind of deserve their own post) and I was gently cracking on going to work in the actual office this week and then ...
  • I managed to take the only set of bike keys with me to a thing at the hospital yesterday afternoon, and Tony needed them to collect Nico from nursery
  • so I tried catching a bus back to work after the thing, which in theory takes about 20 minutes, and in practice after an hour in horrible rush hour Cambridge traffic I disembarked and hoofed at speed to the nursery instead, and got there 10 minutes before closing, go me
  • and then I managed to coax a 3yo to walk nearly 2km home, go both of us
  • I have an essay crisis this week and really needed to work on it yesterday evening, and the whole bike-bus-nursery palaver didn't help.
  • and then Nico would not go to sleep 
  • and then started crying like in pain and saying his ear hurt, and we checked him over for signs of illness and injury but found none
  • so we gave him paracetamol anyway, because he was in pain
  • and he did go to sleep almost immediately after that, and though he woke up an hour later pain-crying some more, he went back to sleep fairly quickly
  • and this morning he was his usual full-of-beans happy self
  • so this morning I took him to nursery and mentioned the ear thing
  • and got sent home with him because the rule is no nursery for 24 hours after a dose of paracetamol
And argh, I appreciate the reasoning, and I want the nursery to be as minimal an infection source as is possible with large numbers of small people with no sense of personal space, and I would hate it if Nico got suddenly iller and made the other children ill, but it was a sudden and unexpected inconvenience.  Mostly I wish I'd known/remembered the rule before I cycled to nursery and back.

Working from home while in charge of a healthy and active Nico is pretty difficult at the best of times (looking after an ill Nico is actually easier because he tends to be quieter and less mobile) so I am not even trying.  I have asked for an emergency day's leave instead.

(and it might mean I get something done on my essay? who can say)

rmc28: (reading)
Thanks to [personal profile] calissa I discovered Nisi Shawl's crash course in the history of black science fiction, which seems like an excellent basis for a reading project.  I'm not committing to getting through the course quickly, or in strict order (though I'm almost certainly going to start with the most recent and work backwards) but I am committing to getting through it, and to writing some kind of blog post in response to each book. I have read exactly one of the books already, but many years ago.

This post is going to be a progress marker for me, and so I've made a copy of the list below the cut purely for that purpose; the plan is to turn each title into a link to my blog post about it when written. I strongly recommend reading Nisi Shawl's original list with commentary though.

Anyone else want to join in?
the list )
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
What I've read - short stories

Mercurial by Kim Stanley Robinson
I can’t decide if I like this more than I’m irritated by it: a Sherlock pastiche set on a future Mercury full of art galleries. Also a pastiche of 1930s pulp SF? (I haven’t read enough of the latter to be sure).

Transitional Forms by Paul McAuley
A tale from the frontier of artificial life

Liminal Grid by Jaymee Goh
A near-future tale of government panopticon and resistance

First Do No Harm by Jonathan Edelstein
Medical SF! An old space-faring culture, which has lost much of what was once known about how to treat illness. I couldn’t put this down - it seems to be the author’s first published SF, but I hope there will be more to come.

Conjure Man by Stefon Mears
I liked this tale of trickery and houdou; apparently there is a novel coming, which I will look out for.

The Opening of the Bayou St John by Shawn Scarber
Magic and multiple worlds and motherhood.

Into the Wreck by June Oldfather
A vivid tale of a stranded research community literally swimming inside an alien spaceship. I felt it ended very abruptly and rather unsatisfyingly but what there was engrossed me and I would happily have read a lot more in the setting. (This is a common frustration I’ve found since setting out deliberately to read more short fiction - too often the stories stop just when they’re getting interesting; my other frustration is "deliberately ambiguous ending or ran out of idea?")

The Heart is Eaten Last by Kameron Hurley
A great little self-contained novella about Nyx and her team from the God’s War trilogy. I like these stories far more than I’d expect, given the high bodycount and the general grimness of the setting.  (Currently only available to patrons at Hurley's Patreon)

Plus several episodes of The Witch Who Came In From The Cold:
Stasis by Lindsay Smith (ep 4)
The Golem by Ian Tregillis (ep 5)
A Week Without Magic by Michael Swanwick (ep6)
Radio Free Trismegistus by Ian Tregillis (ep7)
I'm continuing to enjoy and be engrossed by the story, and fairly impressed with how the different authors are matching style and characterisation across the episodes.

What I'm reading now:
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard, which is very good and very gripping, and a fairly grim tale in an utterly miserable setting. So I'm struggling a bit with it.

Acquisitions:
Magic & Manners by CE Murphy - it's a CE Murphy book, and it's a "Pride and Prejudice with magic" book, and that was enough for me to buy it on spec ;-)

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I caught another dratted cough, probably from the child who was ill last week, and so far this week I've managed one half-day working from home (planned as a half day as part of the phased return), and two days completely off, because I had no brain for work.  Yesterday I reached the point where emotionally I feel like I will never be well again, this cough is going to last forever and I will never get anything done ever again. Intellectually I know this isn't true, and I have felt like this at some point every time I get a cough, and I always get better, and I even get things done!  But my emotions aren't listening ...

Also it's only a month since the last cough, and there was one at the end of December before that, and before that the cold that landed me back in hospital in November.  While I am grateful to actually have a functioning immune system again, it could clearly be a bit more robust.

Also also, once again it's OU assignment-work time, and I should be doing that and contributing to my tutor group discussion, but I have no brain :-(


rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
A collection of 11 short stories, which the publisher very kindly makes available via Creative Commons in assorted formats. I got this because I had enjoyed the novella The Surfer reprinted in Lightspeed; sadly I did not get on so well with this collection. I think this is a personal-taste thing: they are all written beautifully, but most are a bit too weird, a bit too creepy, a bit too strange for me.

There were three stories that I did like:
  • Travels with the Snow Queen - a retelling of the fairy tale, which I happened to read very shortly after reading The Raven and the Reindeer. Not at all the same, but perhaps riffing off some of the same themes. (This was a James Tiptree Jr. Award Winner & World Fantasy Award Nominee.)
  • Flying Lessons - old gods in modern Scotland
  • Vanishing Act - a girl staying with her family in 1960s USA, missing her missionary parents and slowly fading away
Kelly Link has three more short story collections which I intend to work my way round to.

rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
'You're not too tired to silflay, are you?' asked Dandelion.



[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]


rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I did not post a review after week 2, but I asked for and got agreement to do two more weeks at 60% time.  I had slightly more energy in week 2 than week 1, but not enough that I felt confident taking on a full extra day's work.

Weekend 1: did almost nothing

Week 2: got rather more done at work, yay. Meals and sleep went a bit better, and I started doing some studying towards the end of the week.

Weekend 2:
Saturday: attacked the studying backlog for the most immediate deadline, went to a PARTY (gasp! socialising!) in the evening.
Sunday: was ded, barely got out of bed

Week 3:
+ much more back in work routine
+ Thurs/Fri especially I was working more intensely than I have since coming back
+ coped much better with the full day on Wednesday (though this might have been because I was working from home, because of child illness, so much less physical effort involved in the day)
- complete splat Tuesday evening: I'd done a load more cycling than usual because of child-illness-logistics, and I came in, ate something, sat down "for 10 minutes" to rest, and woke up a couple of hours later.
- slightly less dramatic splat Friday evening, in that I spotted it coming, made food for me and children early, and deliberately went to sleep as soon as Tony got home.


We had planned to attend my stepmother's birthday party this weekend; on Thursday evening I made the decision to cancel the trip. It would have been 4ish hours there and 6 hours back on Sunday by public transport, or about 3 hours each way driving - but I'm the only driver in the house.  I just didn't think I could do all that, and attend the party, and still be fit to work on Monday.  So I am being sensible and spending the weekend at home (and tackling some more of the study backlog) and trying not to be too resentful.


rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
In the Honeycomb, Bigwig and Holly were waiting to begin the second meeting since the loss of Hazel.


[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]



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rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Rachel Coleman

July 2016

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