j4: (goth)
So I'm not doing NaBloPoMo, obviously, because I can't guarantee getting enough time free to shower every day, let alone blog every day. However in the spirit of trying to make it a month of writing, I started a NEW BLOG (because hey! I don't have enough half-finished projects!) which now has enough posts that I can just about bear to link to it.

The new blog is here and (as those of you who watch my flickr stream -- weirdos! -- will probably already have figured out) it's about PINK and BLUE or rather how everything is stupidly gender-stereotypically colour-coordinated (plus more general mockery of gender-stereotyping in toys, gifts etc). I don't promise to update it all that regularly, though depressingly there's enough material that I could probably update it a hundred times a day & not run out.

... So, yeah. Blog. Not much to shout about but there you go.

In other news, daughter is slightly bigger and I am slightly tireder. (If I don't manage to post anything else for the next decade or so, this summary will probably stay reasonably accurate!)
j4: (hair)
There's feeling full of fail, and then there's feeling full of existential fail. I've spent most of today wanting to curl up under the desk in a little ball and howl like an over-tired toddler. I was working for the Department of Fail, which always saps my will to live -- they're not really inherently full of fail, but I and my colleague J. are contracted to work a few days for them and so all the problems they save up for us are the things that are either a) completely intractable and/or incomprehensible, b) sufficiently bitty and faffy that nobody has ever had a chance to sit down and really get them, or c) enormous cans of worms (these are invariably simple-looking tasks, and for all I know they may be given to us in all innocence, but they turn out to be many-headed sharp-fanged fail-hydras from the Dark Places). It doesn't help that the DoF is also located in a vast open-plan office, flickery-fluorescent-lit, and dry as a desert; being there makes me feel exhausted and drained and even more queasy than I was already starting to feel.

[Yes, I know I'm lucky to have a job at all, and I shouldn't complain. And I know I'm lucky that I'm not suffering (yet, so far) from all the horrible things that can go wrong in pregnancy, so I should be practically rejoicing at tiredness and a bit of recurring queasiness. And depression is all in the mind so it can't be that bad. And the Tories will fix everything if we just let them get on with it.]

Today was a day of cans of worms involving javascript and CMS horrors )

During all this fail-wrestling I was keeping a vague eye on twitter in the hope of getting some voices of sanity filtering in through all the madness, but in fact it just made things worse: it was a non-stop stream of rants and shouting, flickering away in the background like the last TV fuzzily broadcasting the apocalypse, showing the world falling apart while I was stuck inside designing better deckchairs for the Titanic. And outside it got darker and colder and I didn't want to stay in the Department of Fail but I didn't want to go out into the cold either, and every time I get home I feel like I don't ever want to go out again, but every time I look around me here I feel as though everything is a reminder of some kind of brokenness (inside or out) which I should have either fixed or got rid of, and I want to hide from it, and there's nowhere left to hide except going to bed, and even that doesn't help because I'm uncomfortable and I sleep badly, and going to sleep just means waking up into another day of fail.

And there's not enough time left before everything runs out of time. Working days, days before Christmas, days before the baby arrives ... days before the end of something, of everything. When I die they'll cut me open and find nothing inside but small charred fragments of to-do lists.
j4: (popup)
While looking through the fragments I also found this one called "markov.txt", from which I infer that it's what you get if you put my journal through a Markov chain. It's probably more coherent than some of the actual posts I've made, so here you go, a bonus post: this is your LiveJournal on drugs )
j4: (omnomnom)
A couple of fragments both labelled 'food' (OK, food.tmp and food_2.tmp, since you ask) -- the first was clearly intended to be a comment (judging by the first line, anyway), then got a bit rambly, then I guess decided to rework it as a post, & then I added bits of another post at the end, & then I never did anything with it. So it's posted here unedited:
This is a really interesting post -- thank you!

[livejournal.com profile] barrysarll mentioned "Sudden Adult Death Syndrome" a while ago, as an extreme example of the disconnect between effort and results: as he put it, "In amongst all the health and terror scares, while everyone tries to improve their odds, SADS is the Reaper's little way of reminding us that the house always wins."

This also reminds me of a brilliant post by [livejournal.com profile] rhodri: Stop press: Everything causes and doesn't cause cancer. Which in turn reminded me of something said to me by a biochemist I briefly shared a house with, while I was an undergraduate, which has made me think ever since. He told me that he didn't want scientists to find a cure for cancer. "Everybody has to die of something," he said. "If they take away cancer, what are people going to die of?" I still disagree with his wish to avoid a cure (he's too late, anyway: cancer is no longer the death sentence it once was) but his point seems tangential to one of the ones you're making, and one that keeps occurring to me: increasingly, people seem to believe that they have a Right to avoid ill health altogether. That if they didn't do anything wrong, and they still get ill, somebody must be to blame. Maybe it's
the government, for not banning food (because a food allergy could have been responsible). Maybe it's their parents (either nature or nurture).

In the long run, we're all dead.

"Gosh, that looks healthy"

Suggestion that 'healthy' is abnormal (worthy of comment) and that choosing "healthy food" is something that people would not normally do. I feel the need to defend myself against (perceived) allegations of weight-loss dieting; I want to say that I'm just eating things I like and/or things that are convenient, but I want to do this without *denying* that it's healthy, without denying that I *try* to eat healthy food.

Yes, I want to be healthy. How many people would say that they want to be unhealthy, if asked?

What is "healthy" food? Most things are fine in moderation; most things are bad for you in excess.

And yes, I've had it forcefully explained to me since then that actually lots of people do want to be unhealthy (not just to do unhealthy things from time to time, e.g. drinking/smoking, but to be unhealthy, persistently and permanently) and that's their Inalienable Right as well, and by suggesting otherwise I am a Health Nazi and probably also guilty of Bad Fail. Too tired to deal with that argument though, because it all bleeds into the question of whether deliberately self-inflicted injuries should be treated on the NHS (which is a rusty-edged can of poisonous worms, so at the risk of being boring and "healthy" I'm not going to pick it up, I'm just going to nudge it out of the way with a very long stick), so perhaps we could just agree that it's a bit irritating when colleagues say "Gosh, that looks a bit healthy" in a kind of mocking way when we eat salads at work. Isn't it. And that anybody who says "rabbit food" when they see me shovelling an entire pot of hummous into my mouth using a couple of sticks of celery as a spoon has really not understood the insignificance of the celery in this picture.

So, enough of that, and on to the other fragment (unedited except for making the link work):
"It is cheaper to buy a Big Mac than to source focaccia, fresh tomatoes, carrots, organic beef and watercress."

Well, yes. But you're comparing apples with oranges. If you want something cheaper than a Big Mac, it's foolish to go out and attempt to construct a Big Mac out of more expensive materials.

Big Mac =

Pack of 4 frozen beefburgers
Pack of 4 rolls
fresh tomatoes
No, I didn't work out the costs of the beefburgers, rolls, lettuce, etc., but I suspect it would be a lot closer to the cost of a Big Mac. Also, since I started posting this it has (quite coincidentally) been pointed out by a friend on twitter that there's nothing wrong with comparing apples and oranges. To which I replied that there is: it's a waste of time when you could be eating them.

I do seem to argue with articles about food a lot in my head. But I am currently too cold and tired and hungry to have any of these arguments, and I am wishing November was over, because I have so little to say and so little energy to say it with.
j4: (clutter)
A couple of weeks ago [livejournal.com profile] addedentry's mum and sister visited, and kindly used their car to take a load of wood and nasty disassembled broken furniture to the tip for us. Last week we gave our spare bookcase (still flatpacked, we miscalculated) to [livejournal.com profile] i_ludicrous, and also managed to lend him a big plastic space-consuming baby-entertaining device (their baby is already out and entertainable, whereas we won't be needing bouncy-chair-things for a good while yet) which [livejournal.com profile] addedentry's sister gave us.

On Friday we got rid of a big wooden standard lamp (which came with the house), a big black fake-leather armchair (ditto), and a small formerly-white wooden chair (many years ago I'd tried to strip the paint off with some thought of getting it back to a 'natural' wood look, but got fed up halfway through, so it just looked 'distressed', & not in a trendy shabby-chic way) -- the nice chaps from Emmaus came and took them all away.

Today we earmarked another stack of books for going to the Great Library in the Sky (mostly waifs and strays from Oxfam, & many too tatty for anything except recycling), and rehomed my old iron with [livejournal.com profile] jinty, who was also going to take my old toaster to a fix-it shop she knows but -- ahem -- fortunately thought to ask us first "You've tried changing the fuse, haven't you?" No, I hadn't, because, er, a small parasite is stealing my brain? OK, maybe I am just an idiot. Anyway, one swift fuse-change later, the toaster sprung into glowing life with a reassuring smell of burning toast-crumbs; so hopefully it'll be good for another 40 years now, which means we can rehome the spare not-quite-working toaster.

Of course, there's still a big heap of things in the "stuff to get rid of" pile, miscellaneous things that I don't want to throw away (or rather recycle) because they are still useable and potentially useful, but they're not good enough to sell (or to expect charity shops to sell) and they're too small and faffy to freecycle (and freecycle is a pain in the neck anyway if you're not at home all the time). I don't get the impression that normal people (you know, people who aren't from the internet) have "stuff to get rid of" piles around their house. Maybe they're wise enough not to acquire stuff they don't need in the first place. Or maybe when they stop wanting to keep it they just chuck it all in landfill and forget about it.

I gather I'm supposed to be 'nesting' at the moment, and to me that concept always seems to imply bringing things into the house, getting nice furniture and stuff; whereas actually I'm constantly trying to get rid of things. Of course, it's all making more space to live in, and I'll be much happier with the clutter out of the way, so it's certainly making our 'nest' nicer; but sometimes it does feel as though I'm just always whittling away and trying to reduce myself to nothing. I know I am not my possessions, but sometimes it still feels like going round turning all the lights out until I can softly and suddenly vanish away. You know?
j4: (baby)
I've been feeling the baby moving for a while now -- the first "hmm, was that a tiny wriggle or was it just wind?" was on 1st November, with a more definite wriggle a couple of days later -- and for the last couple of weeks she's been dancing about like a mad badger. On Wednesday night the kicking (or whatever she's doing in there) was strong enough for [livejournal.com profile] addedentry to be able to feel it from the outside (at last!). Then this morning I actually saw the movement from the outside for the first time -- not a foot or hand protruding or anything Alien-esque like that, just a visible blip in the bump as I lay in the bath staring at the increasingly vast (for me) expanse of stomach. I'm now trying to resist the temptation to sit and literally gaze at my navel (still slowly turning inside out bit by bit) for ages, watching for another movement.

This has to be the slowest and most bizarre way to get to meet someone. I'm trying not to project a personality on to her (it would seem odd to talk about 'anthropomorphising' something that's already human, but you know what I mean) before she has a chance to develop her own, but I am definitely starting to think about her as a 'someone' rather than a 'something' -- just before the last scan I was thinking "cool, I get to see her again soon". She was unusually quiet at that one -- ironically, having been dancing a non-stop fandango for the last couple of weeks, when prodded with the ultrasound widget she stuck her thumb in her mouth (at least that's what it looked like) and refused to budge to give them a better angle on the bits they were trying to measure. "She's got a beautiful mouth", said the sonographer -- which was kind of a nice thing to say, but no, I don't know how anybody can tell at that size and resolution (and I can't help idly wondering whether they'd've said something like that about a boy baby, or one where they didn't know / weren't revealing the sex). The views of her face on the scans still look a bit strange and skull-like, to be honest, but as you can see I found one (from an earlier scan) that looks human enough for an LJ icon.

I'm now looking forward to the next scan (I get several more for the Intergrowth study). At this rate we'll have filled a photo album before she's even born!
j4: (hair)
Another fragment (with footnotes added for extra amusement, but otherwise unedited):
There exists a reasonably-well-understood concept of the fallacy of the excluded middle, or false dilemma. But what do you call it when it's not the middle which is excluded but the two ends? Is there a word for the logical fallacy whereby one argues from "There are cases where it is difficult/impossible to decide whether something falls into category A or category B" to "Nothing can be confidently stated to be either A or B" and/or "A and B are useless/meaningless categories"?

One of the many irritating manifestations of this is a kind of childish what-iffery. "But WHAT IF there was a case where there were three identical twin sisters who were respectively married to three non-identical twin brothers and they were all gay and all had different fatal diseases but only two of the brothers and a non-corresponding two of the sisters were in a higher tax-band and the plane all six of them were in crashed ON THE INTERNATIONAL DATELINE[1]? Would that count?"

Is sorrel goth? IAMFI.[2]

[1] http://michaelkelly.artofeurope.com/lateral.htm
[2] http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~janetmck/oxbridge_tat_faq.html

On re-reading I'm not sure I agree any more that the what-iffery is quite the same thing, although I can see how I got there (both are a way of trying to insist that because there are edge cases there can't be any useful generalisations). I'm struggling to think of a better example that doesn't involve gender/sex/sexuality (because talking about any of these things on the internet just makes people angry).

Relatedly, I had another fragment somewhere about 'conversations which I really hate getting into' but I think I deleted it already. It wasn't even about the dangerous conversation topics, just the tedious ones. The topic of forbidden topics is something I keep circling around and not wanting to address; in some ways I think the meta-conversation is even more risky than the conversations themselves. I have a different version of that argument in a notebook somewhere -- when I get round to digging out the 'fragments' on paper perhaps I won't feel the need to avoid it again. When I grow up. Maybe.
j4: (admin)
Last night I had a variant on the "late for work" anxiety dream, a more specific one in which I was late for the meeting I was supposed to be going to this morning. classic anxiety-dream nonsense )

In practice (back in the real awake world) I got into work on time, quickly wrote up the notes I'd made last night into a more readable form from which I could refer to them in the meeting, checked my email, went to the meeting, and had a constructive 2 hours (!) discussing my job, my role on the team, where I want to go, what I want to learn, how we can make the team better, etc. with my two new line-managers (I haven't moved role, we've just had a bit of a middle-management reshuffle, & they are enthusiastically and laudably being very proactive about taking responsibility for the team and setting its direction rather than just letting us all keep drifting). Anyway, I came out of the meeting with useful specific short-term goals and a better picture of some possible longer-term goals and directions (as well as some helpful input into the decisions about maternity leave and coming back afterwards). The notes I'd made were useful, and I managed to mention everything on them. Over all I ended up feeling much more positive about work than I have done for a while.

The silly thing is, it's not even as if the anxiety dreams spur me to do better; I'd already done the prep for the meeting last night (over a bagel and a large hot chocolate in G&Ds, between work and choir) because I knew I'd get more out of the meeting if I was prepared for it. The dreams just make me feel fuzzy-headed in the morning (fortunately the freezing cold cycle ride in helped with that) and worried about things where I don't need to worry.

Now to deal with all the things I do need to worry about.
j4: (badgers)
There's lots of things I want to post about -- thoughts about my work and my 'career' direction (prompted by preparing for a sort of review meeting with new team-leaders tomorrow); thoughts about the student riots (hard to voice at the moment because my feelings about it all are complicated but the dominant narrative on the internet is all Good Guys v Bad Guys, also whatever I say about it someone will hate me for it); a few more general work-ish posts that will probably never see the light of day (about web development, and university admin/support, and the value of university websites); and a handful of other bits and pieces that are rattling around my head -- but I'm so shattered that I'm just going to stuff them all into that parenthesis there like a load of odd socks in a big cardboard box, and leave them until I can do something useful with them. I had to be at the JR for 9am for another ultrasound; went straight from that to work, then was in work till 7pm desperately trying to fix awkward bugs in something that someone needs to demo in a talk tomorrow; had a choir rehearsal from 8-10pm; and now I want to go to bed.
j4: (badgers)
Another fragment (looks like it was originally a comment in response to someone else, but I can't remember who/where) because I'm too tired to put together a more coherent or contentful post:

I wish I were like you. But I'm lazy.

I do not believe that there's some kind of little on-off switch in my genes which I, or God, or even the Holy Richard Dawkins can flip to "lazy" or "not-lazy". I believe that it's about doing, not being; I am not "a lazy person", I am a person who can make lazy choices. But each choice is a new choice. Okay, I went to the supermarket instead of the market; but next time I can make a different choice. Each choice is a new event.

Saying "I wish I were less lazy" is IMHO just like saying "I pray every day that God will make me a less lazy person" (& all sorts of people who would scorn the latter say the former). Even postulating the existence of God, it's not remotely clear to me how (not 'by what divine force' but 'in what describable way') God would make someone a less lazy person except by making them make the non-lazy choices. And since I don't think God (or wishing) can actually pick a person up from the road to Sainsburys and plonk them down in the middle of Borough Market, I think it comes down to individual choice and will. The bit where you decide to move your legs in one direction or another. I like to believe I have some control over that.

I mean, basically (at the risk of repeating myself) IMHO it's not a question of wishing you were the sort of person who makes that choice; the only thing that distinguishes "the sort of person who makes that choice" from the sort of person who doesn't is the making of the choice. The difference is situated in the action, not some kind of difference in the colour of your aura, the health of your soul, or wherever you choose to lay the blame.

And yes, actions are habit-forming -- but that goes for the less-lazy actions as well as the lazy ones. The hard bit is rarely the actual action itself, it's the recognition of your own ability to make the choice: because if you could make the choice, then you have to take responsibility for the fact that you haven't. It is far, far easier to say "I care about this stuff, but it's difficult" than to admit that you could change your habits; it's easier, too, to say "I care about this stuff, but I'm lazy". That looks like accepting responsibility, but it's really only one step away from blaming God or genes for things you could change. And all of these things are easier than saying "Actually, I don't care about this enough to do something different."

I think I still agree with this (and while I certainly don't think it makes it easy to change ingrained habits, I do personally find it a more helpful way of framing the problem), but I'm not sure I want to deal with the possible arguments that could spin off from it -- not because I'm lazy but because I'm extremely tired, I'm likely to be very busy for the next few days, and I don't like arguments.

Is November nearly over yet?
j4: (badgers)
I took Friday and Monday off work with no more concrete plans than "catch up on sleep and chill out a bit". so how did that work out? )

Every time I take a couple of days off like this I'm reminded how much easier it would be to keep all the 'life admin' tasks under control if I didn't have to go to work, and how I wouldn't actually get bored because I still do plenty of other stuff (and would be able to commit to doing more). This is either a very good time or a very bad time to be thinking "what would I do if I didn't go to work?" -- on the one hand I am intending to go back to work after maternity leave (and will have to go back for at least 3 months otherwise I'd have to pay back all the maternity pay!), but on the other hand, am I just doing that because I feel I have to? Financially I'd have to do some kind of work, but there's nothing that says I have to spend the next 30 years doing what I'm doing now. I'm not going to go into detail about this now because it's late and I'm tired (and anyway I think it would be foolish to try to make too firm a decision before seeing what it's really like for me spending at least 9 months off work), but it has made me think about the extent to which I'm defining myself by my work (or by the fact that I go to work), and whether I'm doing what I want to do or what I think I ought to do, and it's probably good to be forced to think those things a bit more clearly. Otherwise, you know, I might wake up in 30 years' time and think "is that what I wanted to do with my life?" and by then it'll be a bit too late to change anything.

The subject line of this post, by the way, refers to a game I used to play with my best friend Kerry when we were about 4 or 5. I had a toy farm with lots of different animals (including some things that were from a 'zoo' set, so the 'farm' had elephants and a panda and a walrus and all sorts of other miscellaneous animals), and in our game, the animals would all ESCAPE! Oh noes! So we'd round them up and make them go back into the farm, and then we'd shout "STAY THERE FOR DAYS!" at them to make sure they stayed put. But then they'd ESCAPE again! ... and thus the whole sorry cycle would repeat itself. For hours on end. Would it be cynical of me to try to relate this to the experience of work in some way? Probably.
j4: (orange)
More fragments today:

1. declutter_ideas. I think this may have been intended as part of a post to [livejournal.com profile] unclutter_2009 when I was still doing that (I gave up when we moved house because it all just became too complicated to keep track of -- we have been furiously decluttering since then anyway, but not itemising it all).

Throwing away v recycling - PLEASE RECYCLE EVERYTHING YOU CAN and if your local council doesn't accept something that other places do, write to them and ask. [make up draft letter]

"Why don't charity shops accept x y z..." - because sorting/pricing things that won't sell wastes volunteer time (ie money), and putting things out on shelves that won't sell (or won't make any significant amount of money) wastes space (ie money) and makes the shop less attractive (ie loses money).

The important thing about the decluttering is not just to get stuff out of the house but to think about how it got there. e.g. do you buy cans/bottles/jars of stuff you wouldn't normally use "because they're really cheap" rather than because you need (or even particularly want) them, & then find that they just sit there and go off (especially since they're probably only cheap in the first place because they're near the end of their shelf life)? Do you buy several of a thing "just in case" when one would do just fine? (I cite these examples because they're things I know I'm guilty of. :-)

The problem is there's two types of shopping: the sort where you work out what you need (at least roughly) and go and find it; and the sort where you wander round in a daze looking at lots of shiny things which have been packaged & presented to look appealing, and -- surprise, surprise -- you find that the billions of pounds' worth of marketing works on you as well even though you're really clever and never ever get influenced by adverts.

(I love the note-to-self of '[make up draft letter]'. I have never written to the council to tell them they ought to be recycling more things, I never get round to writing that sort of letter at all. Possibly this is part of the reason why I decided not to make such a preachy post.)

2. Another news-story-with-comment:


"Our all-or-nothing approach to meat eating leaves us with no understanding -- and little tolerance -- of the concept of a low-meat meat diet. It's awkward telling friends who know you eat meat that you'd rather have a specially prepared vegetarian option when you're invited round for dinner. It smacks of the sort of hypocritical vegetarianism that people love to sniff out and ridicule and it's much easier to just avoid the issue and eat whatever's going."

Either deal with the awkwardness, or fix the thing you *can* fix: the bits of your diet that *you* control. Saying "I can't have a low-meat diet because it's awkward telling friends" is just making excuses, unless you really eat out at friends' houses for every meal.

I know why I don't post these things; what I don't know is why I bother writing them down in the first place. Sometimes, with the responses-to-news-stories, I'm not sure why I bother thinking them: having arguments in my head with people who can't hear me just raises my blood pressure (incidentally my actual non-metaphorical blood pressure is absolutely fine, I know this because I'm getting it measured quite frequently at the moment) and wears me out. It's arguably even more pointless than posting comments on Have Your Say; at least there the idiots are probably feeling some kind of positive bond with other idiots, whereas I'm just doing the equivalent of sitting on the sofa at home on my own and shouting at the telly.

So, yeah, sorry about all these dull bits and bobs. I was going to post about making a Christmas pudding, which is what I was doing (among other things!) today, but I think I said everything interesting I can think of to say about this on last year's Stir-up Sunday. The only thing to add is that last year's pudding (which we forgot about & eventually got round to eating in February, ahem) was delicious, so I've gone for the same recipe again, but this time with the right amount of suet and with fewer bits of ancient dried fruit from the back of the cupboard. The things you leave lying around in cupboards don't get any tastier the longer you leave them. That would be the moral of this story, except that morals in stories are a bit like sixpences in puddings: an interesting idea with the weight of tradition behind it, but in practice you just break your teeth on them.

I'm just making this up as I go along. I bet you'd never have guessed.
j4: (score)
I'm not very good at writing reviews of things so this is really just a diary entry to remind me What I Did At The Weekend...

I spent the afternoon at a Come & Sing Christmas Carols session organised by the BBC Singers. [livejournal.com profile] ewtikins joined me and we met for lunch beforehand -- it was lovely to catch up a bit and talk about bikes and music and stuff before heading off to the Emmanuel Centre to sing.

carol carol gaily )
j4: (badgers)
Just thought I'd write a few notes (partly for my own benefit) about physical/mental changes now I'm 20 weeks pregnant (hopefully halfway through!).

sickness, bump, twinges, mental health, and a baby ninja )

So that's where we are at the moment. Hope this is of interest to someone other than me, but if not, eh, tough. :-)
j4: (dodecahedron)
A few people have said (here and elsewhere) that they share my reservations about posting because of the fear of getting flamed. I suspect those who've spoken aren't the only ones who feel it.

I have often thought that I'd like to have some kind of forum for more in-depth discussion of interesting issues where there was a general understanding that the purpose of the discussion was to build, not to destroy; a sort of intellectual version of the 'fix-it sessions' I was envisaging in another recent post, somewhere you can bring your half-formed ideas and see if with the help of others they can be made into something more coherent -- or disassembled into their component parts and reassembled into something else entirely. I love silly conversations and catchphrase-trading as much as the next guy, but there are times when it would be great to discuss something more meaty and/or more meaningful -- but to be able to do so without constantly fearing a metaphorical kick in the teeth.

Rather than wishing for this thing & doing nothing about it, I'm now thinking what the best way to organise such a community would be, with a view to doing something about actually setting it up (probably as an LJ community because that's simple and free, but other suggestions welcomed -- a real-life discussion group would be marvellous but I suspect that availability and geography would conspire against that). A few half-formed thoughts about different aspects of such a forum )

There are undoubtedly lots of other issues I haven't considered, but I'm basically bringing my half-formed thoughts to the table & asking politely for constructive help with fixing them. Does this sort of thing sound like a good idea? Like the sort of thing you might find interesting? How could it best be made flameproof -- or is that a misguided aim?
j4: (hair)
Another of those news-article-with-comment fragments (believe it or not, I'm deleting more than I post: down to 113 once this one's been exorcised). Again, unedited except that I've made the URL into a hyperlink for convenience.
Lib Dem transport spokesman Norman Baker said: "Young drivers could face legal problems because they have had a couple of drinks the night before or used alcohol in cooking. The answer is a lower limit for all drivers."

The reference to "young drivers" make it sound as though being a "driver" is something inherent, essential, rather than merely a choice on a case-by-case basis to perform an action. In fact, in that sense, it's a bit like drinking: so why don't we say that young drinkers could face legal problems just because they have a couple of car-journeys? They're equally absurd. Neither drinking nor driving is essential or irreversible; there's nothing illogical about legislating to make them mutually exclusive choices.

The question of why it should only apply to "young" people is another matter entirely, and seems to me to be supporting the idea that drink-driving is something you can do when you're a better driver: this may indeed be true, but who decides who "counts" as a "better" driver? Older drivers, who (may) have more experience? Younger drivers, who (may) have quicker reflexes? Either way, since the majority of people believe they're above average competence as drivers, this seems like a dangerous idea to propagate.

The reason I never post these things at the time is that I feel I can't post them without hedging around everything a bit more, making sure that every possible argument is covered, making sure I'm not categorically stating anything that isn't 100% verifiable fact. Not being interpreted as categorically stating anything, etc. Not apparently being interpreted as, etc. Endlessly backing off, bent double with différence. The more I start to hedge, the more arguments come crawling out from under the stone, the more it all unravels, until I'm incapable of saying anything. Every thought is just a flamewar that I haven't been burned by yet: in the acorn, the tree; in the tree, the dead wood, the pyre.
j4: (badgers)
Another fragment from the vaults (and from the department of the bleeding obvious), because I am too tired to manage anything more contentful. I am glad I publicly resolved to go through these things in alphabetical order and actually get them out of the way, otherwise I would have skipped this one and it would have sat there making me feel obscurely guilty for another MILLION YEARS.
I've been thinking a lot about age recently; feeling young, feeling old, it's all relative. My perception of my age seems to change more or less daily; and it's not just as simple as (for example) talking to students making me feel old, and talking to grandparents making me feel young.

My parents have got younger and younger as I've got older. When I was tiny, they didn't have an age (how could you tell how old somebody was if they didn't have cakes with candles on and you didn't know what class they were in at school?); and when I was older and more annoying they were clearly ancient; and when I was a teenager they were just the older generation and therefore Didn't Understand Me (yawn); and when I was a student and chatting online to people who were approximately midway between my age and my parents' ages I started to realise just how flexible it all was (and that the lines between 'generations' were really quite fuzzy and not terribly useful), and they started to seem younger and younger. These days I reckon they're in the same age-group as the rest of my friends-group. My office-mate (he of the birthday card) was born in the same year as my dad.

And I look at photos of my parents from when I was a baby and think "bloody hell, they look younger than I am now", and realise that that's because they were. It's like time-travel. I'm having the same disconnect with the bands I used to like, the teenage crushes; I'm older now than Loz Hardy from Kingmaker was when I was a squealing fangirl. He claimed he was going to kill himself at the age of 23 because it was better to burn out than to fade away, better to die before you got old. Twenty-three. Okay, so he was an idiot, and fortunately didn't follow through on that threat, but honestly.

It's not so much about age, though, as about experience; not the having-done-stuff sort of experience, but the having-been-there sort. Seeing the moon landings the first time round. Remembering. In a lot of ways I feel more aligned with a half-generation above me: remembering LPs, and the early home computers, and so on.
I probably could have wittered on about this for another few pages. The only thing I'd add to all this obviousness (you can probably guess) is that it's extremely odd to read this stuff again while being kicked quite determinedly in the innards by the next generation.
j4: (clutter)
Back to those blasted fragments. I have decided I am simply going to work through them in alphabetical order, and make a decision to either post them (with or without prior reworking), move them (in some cases they shouldn't really have been filed under potential blog posts, because they're just lists of things or drafts of work stuff -- moving them into a more sensibly descriptive location is a good start) or delete them. They're not like fine wines, they're not going to improve with age. I've deleted three or four this evening, mostly lists of things that I've forgotten what they were for, or things I've actually already posted anyway.

Several of the fragments consist of a URL (usually a link to news stories) followed by a bit of commentary/response. In some cases I think I was planning to write a longer response; in other cases I think I just wanted to feel I could reply, but didn't actually want to comment on the story itself (because the people who comment on news stories are always crazy, and by joining them you've already lost the argument, whatever argument you were having and with whom, even if you didn't think you were having an argument). The way the "right to reply" and "have your say" culture have changed the nature of debate and discourse is another story, an article I've half-started in my head ("I have often thought of writing a monograph on the subject..."), but now isn't the time for that.

So, without further ado or context, a recent-ish fragment (October 19th, apparently); I have very little memory of writing it, and am no longer quite sure where I was going with it. (Posting it and simultaneously half-disowning it: having my cake and eating it, I suppose. But I'm eating cake for two, so I think I can get away with that.) Unedited except to make the URL into a link.


The problem with using advertising to sell "things which are actually good" (let's assume for the moment that we've solved the problem of defining 'good') is that advertising is at best amoral (and at worst immoral, cf the tobacco advertising industry). If you're on a moral crusade, is it OK to use amoral/immoral tactics -- or do they cheapen your message? Does the end justify the means? The church seems to have already had this bout of conscience-wrestling and decided that it's fine to mimic commercials to get their message across, and in doing so it has stepped off a pedestal (admittedly one which it had already been more or less knocked off).

By putting yourself in the advertising marketplace, you're admitting that you are _no better_ than anything else that's out there -- if you're happy to let the market decide then you're abdicating your moral high ground. Brand value may go down as well as up -- one day people will buy your message, the next day they'll see a better advert and buy a coke instead.
j4: (dirigible)
Sometimes I feel like I'm surrounded by broken things: things I want to fix, but don't quite know how, or don't have the tools. I don't want to throw them away (or even recycle them — repair is better than recycling) but I never quite seem to have the time/energy to fix them, or if I have the time/energy then I don't have the tools to hand, and by the time I get to the point of working out what I need, the shop that sells the tools is closed, or it's too dark to do things outside, and ... basically, "for want of a nail, FAIL".

One strategy would be to plan better: to decide "this Sunday I am going to fix the Broken Doobrie, which means I will need a thingummy and a whatsit, so I have to buy the thingummy from Sprockets 'R' Us before Sunday, and borrow the whatsit from Fred when I see him on Saturday." But that would require knowing in advance that I'm not going to feel too tired and miserable on the Sunday in question to do anything more energetic than stay in bed reading Chalet School books; and at the moment I feel like I can't take awakeness for granted, let alone feeling-up-to-doing-things-ness. (I generally feel guilty about not "feeling up to" doing things, as though it's just a question of willpower; but for once I have an actual excuse, which is that it's hard work making a whole actual human being, and sometimes I will just have to sit down and rest.) The other strategy would be to make sure I have all the thingummies and whatsits in the house to start with so that when I do have the time and the energy I've already got the tools. This is probably less efficient (there are lots of tools I will probably only need very rarely, so the sensible thing to do would be to borrow them rather than spend money on them and then have them taking up space) but on the other hand might result in things actually getting mended, which would create more space (because things could either be used by us rather than stored in a 'things that need fixing' pile, or given away to be used by someone else) and save money.

What I'd really love is some kind of regular 'fixing things' drop-in session where people could get together and bring their broken objects and fix them together, sharing tools and workspace, actively helping each other learn how to fix things, or just being companionable while they fix their own things. I don't know how I'd go about organising such a thing, though (and I don't really have the time or energy at the moment). I fail at Big Society. But, in the meantime, here are some examples of the sort of things on my mental list of things-that-need-fixing:

Scattert peaces of a broakin pot )

Advice welcome but not demanded/expected!
j4: (roads)
The other day I posted about cycling, and included a fairly content-free gripe about the stupid things I see other road users do. Now it sometimes seems to be assumed that when cyclists say "other road users" in that tone of voice they mean car drivers; in fact, I meant exactly what I said: other people who use the roads. That's car drivers (and bus/lorry/milk-float/whatever drivers), cyclists, motorcyclists (though as mentioned I don't see many of those actually), walkers, joggers, pigeons (a very real hazard on Cornmarket), and anyone or anything else that has occasion to stray into the road (if the towpath counted as the 'road', I'd have to include dogs, ducks and geese). All of them do stupid things sometimes. Especially the pigeons, though they have the excuse of having a brain the size of a pea.

Sometimes I feel as though I resent the car drivers most: they're handling a more dangerous vehicle so they should be paying more attention; they're using up fuel and polluting the air as well as doing idiotic things on the roads. Other times I feel more angry with the cyclists, because by doing stupid and dangerous things they're giving the car drivers more reason to be annoyed at "those bloody cyclists", which makes them more likely to treat me badly and/or assume I'm going to do stupid things. (Some days I just resent everybody for existing in my airspace, but that's not so much to do with what they're actually doing, more to do with being a morning-hating grouch.)

I don't have a long daily commute, and most of it is on the towpath rather than the roads, and other than that I only potter around town a bit, so you'd think I wouldn't have time to see much idiocy on the roads... but I do. I don't want to make this into a series of ranty anecdotes about individual incidents, even though that would probably make a more lively blog post: those sort of incidents just make me angry (both at the time & when I remember them), and recounting them generates more ranty anecdotes from other people, and I'm not convinced that's healthy (particularly after reading in 59 Seconds about studies showing that actually letting all your rage out increases your anger rather than dissipating it). However, here's a list of things that I encounter often enough to annoy me:

all the small things )

The response to this sort of list is often along the lines of "oh come on, nobody's perfect"; but a lot of these things are really not difficult to avoid (e.g. it doesn't require some kind of saintlike disposition or superhuman willpower to decide that you're going to stop at red lights). Some could be attributable to lapses of concentration, which we're surely all guilty of from time to time; on the other hand, I don't think of myself as a particularly focused person, & I still don't forget to signal -- it's habit, it's just part of what you do when you're changing lane/direction, it doesn't require "concentration" as such, it just requires me to have my hands free (not e.g. texting, smoking, drinking coffee, holding an umbrella, doing my hair, holding a handbag, or putting my hands in my pockets). The majority of these things seem to boil down to not thinking about other road users: sometimes that's a lapse of concentration, but often I think it's more of a general attitude.

I feel like a blog post should have a punchline or a moral or some kind of conclusion, but the main conclusion I can draw from this, really, is that people do dumb things.

May 2017

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