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: (smile)
It's about 34 years since I first met my great-uncle Theo and his partner Bob Olsen in California.
It's about 26 years since Theo died.
It's about 16 years since I met Bob for the second time, shortly after which he also died.
It's about 10 years since Canada made same-sex marriage legal.
And just over a year since England and Wales did too.  (7 months for Scotland, and Northern Ireland still doesn't ...)
Just a few weeks ago I was crying over the photos and stories of Irish people going #hometovote, and with joy over the result.

I grew up knowing that a same-sex couple was part of my family, that they were loved and valued.  I don't know if they wanted to be married; I do know they didn't get a choice.

There's still work to do; but today I was in tears of happiness again.  Some of my favourite images behind the cut.
Read more... )
It's my birthday on Sunday; this is a great present, world.  Thank you :-)
rmc28: (OMG)
I write the kind of exciting stories I want to read.
You keep bringing politics into your stories.
They churn out tedious message fiction.

(inspired by reading the comments on George RR Martin's thoughtful set of posts about The Hugo Mess)


There also seems to be some confusion between noting a political thing a book does (that pleases me) and only liking that book for the political thing that pleases me.   Not realising it is additive: here is a good book and it does this cool thing.  

And often that "cool thing" is merely refraining from treating non-straight-ablebodied-white-men horribly: the Bechdel test is a really low bar and yet so few things pass it, let alone if you also look at ethnicity or disability or sexuality etc.  It's not "come and read this politically correct yet tedious book" it's "come and read this cool book that won't kick you in the teeth, at least on this axis".

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I found Bob Olsen's obituary again. (Bob was partner to my great uncle Theo for decades.)  So now I know which cemetery to go to if/when I visit Toronto again.

(dept of ridiculous advance planning: maybe for the solar eclipse in 2024)

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

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

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

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

rmc28: Rachel speaking at a lectern with microphone and part of the slogan "Stronger Economy Fairer Society" in shot (speaking)
Yesterday I went to the Cambridge LibDems Special General Meeting where we discussed and then voted on whether our local party should call for a leadership election. 

Spoiler - the vote was lost 32 to 45 and Cambridge LibDems the local party are not calling for a leadership election. (Although a number of individual Cambridge LibDems have done so).  That's not really what I'm trying to talk about though, but more about my emotional reaction to this meeting.

Read more... )
Short version: I really care about a lot of people in the party, and even when we are talking about really hard stuff, spending time with them makes me happy.

That's what gets me out of the house leafletting or canvassing on a miserable day or making phone calls (and I hate making phone calls to strangers). Principles and organisations are necessary but a bit too cold, it's the warmth of people I need.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
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: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 36


Marking marital status by title?

View Answers

The status quo: Miss, Mrs and Ms if you must
5 (13.9%)

Mrs for all adult women
4 (11.1%)

Ms for all adult women
17 (47.2%)

Miss for adult women
1 (2.8%)

Mx for everyone (why mark gender either?)
18 (50.0%)

Something else which I will expand in comments
11 (30.6%)

Tickybox
11 (30.6%)

Arguments over titles ruined my grandparents' marriage, you heartless blockhead
3 (8.3%)

I am

View Answers

married and I changed my name
2 (5.9%)

married and I changed my title
3 (8.8%)

not married but would not change my name if I did
13 (38.2%)

not married but would not change my title if I did
13 (38.2%)

not married and fed up of smug marrieds going on about it
1 (2.9%)

divorced
2 (5.9%)

against the whole institution of marriage
1 (2.9%)

uninterested in the whole irrelevant discussion
1 (2.9%)

other
17 (50.0%)

tickybox
9 (26.5%)

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
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: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Or, how pregnancy made me so much more pro-choice

Read more... )
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
A disappointing exchange with Parkrun support following yesterday's email. Paraphrased, with full text behind cut at end so you can come to your own judgement on whether I'm being unfair.  I'm pretty angry so I probably am being unfair.
 
Parkrun: Comparative stats are important and popular! We store your DOB securely. Sorry about the discrimination against minorities but we're just following sporting world conventions. Hope that addresses your concerns.

Me:
Nope. I just want to be social and opt out of this competitive ranking stuff. Also why does a voluntary local running org have to discriminate like professional sports? Why is it better to exclude me entirely rather than let me join in but not share my stats?

Parkrun:
Ranking everyone by age and sex is one of our core values and builds community. If you disagree, please go away.


So much for the friendly grassroots running organisation for everyone.


*********

Some of this is about the overwhelming priority given to ranking everybody for their age group and sex. It's so important that opting out can't possibly be allowed, but so assumed that it's not even mentioned in all the warm words about parkruns being for everyone (see national site, Cambridge "about us" page).

The idea of wanting to run but not compete gets a lot of resistance, right down to my friend who said I would be "spoiling it for everyone else" if I could run but not disclose age and gender.

Next time I need to give an example of the hidden assumptions in organisational cultures, I've got it. Right here.

********
Read more... )
rmc28: (destructive)
I took up running last October, once I was recovered from abdominal surgery for parasite removal.  One of my goals was to join the local Parkrun and have a regular Saturday running social: exercise, outdoors, with people.  Tick tick tick for things that make me happy.

My fitness is nearly back where it was when I was last running regularly (December) and a spontaneous run last week went  well, so I thought I might just jump in and register for this weekend's Parkrun now it isn't freezing cold.  But then I found both date of birth and a binary gender choice were compulsory on the form, and I got annoyed.  I sent the following feedback and am hoping it's clear enough to convince the volunteers that run Parkrun to change things.

While I was registering for Parkrun I was concerned to discover that it is compulsory for me to select male/female and also to provide my full date of birth.  I understand this is for statistical comparison with other runners, but that is not my reason for joining Parkrun.  I was looking for a regular social time for running and tracking my 5k time.

I am worried that making these two fields compulsory unnecessarily excludes people from the social and personal-tracking aspects of Parkrun.

I would rather not give out my full date of birth just to join in a weekly run; this is private data and is e.g. used by banks to reset credit card security such as Verified by Visa passwords.   I would prefer the option to add it later if I became more interested in how I compare to others; and even then I would prefer just to add year of birth rather than my full d.o.b.

A compulsory field for male or female immediately excludes anyone intersex or otherwise not identifying as either gender from joining in the run.  Again, perhaps this field could be made optional for those who are actually interested in stats, and ideally it would be Male / Female / Other. 

I look forward to hearing from you.  In the mean time, I will not be registering for Parkrun.

I'm planning to run again tomorrow anyway, and I'm hoping this is the beginning of me making regular running part of my routine again, with or without Parkrun.
 
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
My paternal grandmother Cecillie had two older brothers, Vincent and Theo, and they grew up together in Toronto.  Cecillie was doing a PhD at Imperial College when she met my grandfather and, as women did then, gave up her PhD to marry him and have children.

Theo had an amazing adventurous life, from the stories my aunt tells me, but I only remember meeting him once. He and his partner Bob were living in California and my parents took four-year-old me and my baby brother Daniel out to see them.  I have two strong memories of that holiday: meeting Snow White in Disneyland, and being taught to eat corn-on-the-cob by Uncle Theo.

Theo died of cancer when I was twelve.  When I was twenty-two, just graduated from Cambridge, I took my grandmother to see Vincent, now living in Washington State with children and grandchildren, and Bob, now living in Toronto.  Cecillie had early-stage Alzheimer's and needed someone to drive, to remind her to take her medicine and make sure she ate regularly. 

We spent a week in Bob's house in Toronto, mostly being tourists and meeting up with some of Cecillie's schoolfriends.  Our schedule and Bob's usually matched over breakfast.  Bob was dying of cancer, and refusing treatment after nursing Theo through it a decade earlier.  I knew this, but we hadn't told Cecillie to save putting her repeatedly through the distress each time she forgot.  The house was full of photograhs of Theo and Bob, their love for each other evident in every one. I spent a lot of time listening to my grandmother and Bob telling "do you remember" stories.

Bob said he was writing a story of Theo's life because it had been so exciting. One of the days we were there I fixed his computer and rescued the latest draft of the book, because that's what family elders ask 22-year-old computer science graduates to do.

I told Bob about being taught how to eat corn-on-the-cob and he told me what he remembered of four-year-old me:

Four-year-old me met Bob for the first time and did nothing but stare at him.  Bob was not very used to children and looked back a bit disconcerted.  Eventually I said "You're really old".  Bob said "Er yes, and one day you will be old too.  Everyone gets old."

I thought for a bit and said "When I'm old, you'll be dead."

Bob thought this was a) hilarious and b) a fine example of deductive reasoning.  I was embarrassed and sad, because we knew he was dying.  I forgot to take a photo of him to remember him by before Cecillie & I left.  He died less than a year later.

I gathered from our stay that his birth family had never approved of his relationship with Theo, but had reconciled with him after Theo's death.  They certainly didn't want to come and meet Cecillie or me.  They never told us when he died - Vincent found an obituary in an internet search when he couldn't get hold of Bob. We don't know what happened to the photos of him and Theo, or the book Bob had been writing. 

Bob was part of our family but it seems his birth family didn't see it that way.

They should have been able to marry.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
My brother & I wrote this for LibDemVoice and it's just been published there.

Rachel writes:
Every time I hear the phrase “a life on benefits”, it’s like a slap in the face to my brother, who lives in my spare room while looking for a job. He’s not lazy or a scrounger, he just can’t find a job. As Sarah Teather said two weeks ago

the term “scroungers” has become so pervasive in social consciousness that even those on benefits do not attempt to debunk the entire category, only to excuse themselves from the label.

I asked my brother if he was willing to share what his life on benefits was like:


Jonny writes:

I have been on benefits for over three years. I apply to two or three jobs each week, making a proper effort to sell myself as best as I can with each one. It’s a very discouraging task: every role is oversubscribed, and the rare times I get as far as interviews I am always beaten by someone with more recent experience. It’s hard to convince myself each application isn’t just a waste of time.

I have volunteered at a charity shop for over two years, and though this varied and challenging work experience has not led to employment, it is emotionally rewarding and one of the few reasons I have to get up each day.

For food, I buy the cheapest healthy food I can, only getting nicer food when it is sufficiently reduced. For entertainment, I have the computer I use for job applications and the broadband in my sister’s house. I only buy myself clothes from the cheapest shops. I try to save a little from each month, against unexpected expenses such as bike or computer repairs.

I’m always conscious of my restrictions:

  • I can’t go on holiday.
  • I can’t drink with friends in the pub: if I do go I stick to tap water.
  • I can’t eat out more than once a month, and then only in cheap places.
  • I can’t afford train tickets to see distant friends.
  • I can’t go to see shows or films more than a few times a year.
  • I can’t join any club that requires a subscription.
  • I always feel guilty if I spend more than £5 on anything.

Though I do manage a life on benefits, it’s not a good life and it’s not my choice to be unemployed.


Rachel writes:

I admire my brother’s care with money and his resilience under the constant grind of jobhunting. Even so, I worry for him now that the Benefits Uprating Bill has passed its third reading. A 1% rise in his JSA is not comparable to the 1% rise my salary will see this year, because my starting point is so much better. We’ll both have to absorb a real-terms cut in income, but what I will hardly notice, he will struggle with.

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I wrote a blog post which was accepted for and published on LibDemVoice today. Here's what I wrote (behind the cut):

Read more... )

I did a quick check-and-response to comments at LDV at lunchtime; I'll do more this evening (there and here).

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

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