September 22nd, 2017
hilarita: trefoil carving (Default)
posted by [personal profile] hilarita at 07:51pm on 22/09/2017 under ,
And some other things that aren't otters. But mostly, otters.

Before going to the Lib Dem party conference, Drswirly and I went to stay in Christchurch, because of its proximity to the New Forest Wildlife Centre, which has a lot of otters. Did I mention the otters?
I found Christchurch a bit stultifying, and the kind of place I don't at all feel at home in, because it's quite clear that I'm not really their type of person. Christchurch was the kind of place that had a UKIP office prominently on one of the main streets. (It's now shut, which is definitely an improvement, but Christchurch was definitely a UKIP heartland.) It was next to a curry house, which I found mildly pleasing, though I'm not so sure the curry house owners would have agreed. We went to otters first, and then later wandered round the town. (I haven't posted pictures of the town; it's not that interesting. There's a mildly interesting bit of castle, and a mildly interesting Norman church (in places), but it's not really a particularly notable example of the genre. I may upload some bits to wikimedia commons, if I can be arsed to manage their categorisation system.)

I'm going to put a cut in, because there are a lot of otters.
Read more... )
For those people who didn't wade through the pictures of mustelidae, you should at least look at:
a gif of a contact-juggling otter!

and a short video of a giant otter squacking on command.
posted by [syndicated profile] xkcd_feed at 04:00am on 22/09/2017
September 21st, 2017
hilarita: casting my stoat (stoat)
posted by [personal profile] hilarita at 03:26pm on 21/09/2017 under ,
...as a member of the Lib Dems.

tl;dr - Conference is a pretty excellent place, provided that, unlike me, you have more social skills than a dead hermit.

Quite a lot of Conference is for the srs activist and/or candidate for some kind of political office. There is a fuckton of training, if that's your sort of thing.

However, they've also put quite a lot of effort into general activities, and activities for newbies. Sadly, some of those activities clashed with Important Brexitty debates (which was a bit of a problem this year, because of the number of new people who'd joined specifically because we're one of the less fuckwitted parties over Brexit*). Also, some of these were in the evening, by which time my energy had buggered off somewhere and was having a little lie down. 8/10, would work better for those people who aren't snooze stoats.

They're also encouraging of having new people speak at Conference, which was extremely good. They were very keen to put new members to good use. I found the info on how to fill in Speaker's Cards and so on very useful. 9/10 (I'm docking one point because I'd dearly love there to be a web form, not a pdf or a piece of paper.)

The debates were generally very well run - there's a clear protocol, and people follow it. Most of the motions seemed well-chosen; I'm grateful for those people who've blogged about the process involved with choosing motions and amendments - it really helped me to work out what was going on. 9/10

OK, you get some points for having a Conference app. But you lose several points for the navigation system. Sorry. 5/10, must try harder.

And I'm incredibly glad that I got to take part in Lib Dem policy making, because, as a member, I got a vote! I could turn up, and vote on motions! It's almost like it's a democracy or something! 10/10

So - good Conference. I'm not sure I'll go again, because I'm almost totally incapable of spontaneously talking to people (I can respond when people come up to me, but this is generally insufficient for these kinds of events). Also, just being around so many people (lovely though the people were that I spoke to) was very draining. I've spent most of the past 48hrs on the sofa, with the Internet and computer games (and my partner). Fortunately, this Conference was at a time when I could roll it into my annual leave, so I have time to recover. It didn't really help that Bournemouth and my asthma don't mix well, especially with a hotel on East Cliff. I'd prefer flatter cities for Conference.

I'd like to be more involved with LD policy making, but preferably from my sofa, where I don't have to go anywhere and pretend that I can pass for a reasonably sociable human being.

* We're still being rather incoherent, split, and downright confused about how to present our extremely strong support for the EU, because every so often people whinge But The Will Of The Peeeeople... We're managing to clear the low bar set by the Conservatives and Labour, but frankly, toddlers can step over that bar nine times out of ten.
September 20th, 2017
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
What I've read: short fiction
Actually read this week:Some of the backlog (all DSF):

What I've read: long fiction

Banishment by M.C. Beaton, which is the first of six apparently-fluffy Regency romances about six beautiful sisters and a malevolent stately home, recommended as a Yuletide fandom (thanks [personal profile] ceb for the pointer!)  This one was indeed the promised fast, lighthearted read, in which the family lose their beautiful stately home and much of their wealth, and (some of them) begin to learn Important Lessons About Not Being Awful To Other People.  And the first of the beautiful daughters finds true love, etc.  The remaining five in the series are now on their way so I can find out just how malevolent the house gets ...

hilarita: trefoil carving (Default)
posted by [personal profile] hilarita at 06:37pm on 20/09/2017 under ,
Apparently, when on holiday with less internet, I read books.

Raven Stratagem, Yoon Ha Lee (2017)
The second in the series. Once again, really, really horrific things are happening (mostly off-screen). Our main character from the first novel isn't our POV - we see them through others' eyes. It does quite a good job of misdirecting us, doing some very interesting plotting and politics and stuff. I don't think it's quite as good as its predecessor, but it's a pretty damn good book

All Systems Red, Martha Wells (2017. Novella)
Our protagonist is called "Murderbot"! It's great. Main story of conspiracies, survival, with a side order of AIs, augmented humans and personhood. Murderbot is a fantastic character to get to know.

The Last Good Man, Linda Nagata (2017)
Near-future thriller, looking at the way robots and drones are taking over military operations. Also, usual military morality stuff (when is shooting the shit out of things and/or people justified? what should you do when your people are captured by The Enemy (TM)). It's a pretty good example of the genre, if you like that kind of thing (which I do).

The Prey of Gods, Nicky Drayden (2017)
Set in South Africa. Proper SFF (with robots, AIs, and demigods coming to fuck your shit up). Comes with a mild caution that I can't comment on how sensitively the relevant cultural stuff with the demigods was handled - the (non-South African) author mentions sensitivity readers, so I'm going to guess it's not terrible :) . I found it very striking, quite gory, and I do look forward to seeing other stuff by them, though possibly not just before bedtime.

Undertow, Elizabeth Bear (2017)
I think this was probably the best of the things I read while away (the charms of the Murderbot not aside). It contains aliens, big business, exploitation, probability, and some fantastic world-building. Complex, full of compelling detail, and I don't want to spoil the plot, because bits of it are really interesting.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter, Theodora Goss (2017)
This is quite a good novel of the "let's stick Sherlock Holmes into anything set in the late 19th century" genre. It also draws on the early SF novels of that century, with the first character we meet being Dr Jekyll's daughter. It's generally fun, aware of its genre, but - pedants beware - there are 21st-century colloquialisms in the asides in the writing and Americanisms in the speech of 19th century Londoners. Including Sherlock Holmes. This means I can't wholeheartedly recommend it, because it's just Wrong.

I'm also very nearly through a re-read of Ann Leckie's Ancillary series (what would Fleet Captain Breq do?), and am looking forward to Leckie's new novel later this year.
ghoti_mhic_uait: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait at 04:16pm on 20/09/2017 under
I read a book today which I really liked, but I can't find online. It's called The Princess And The Broken Heart revised by Smaul the Troll. It's almost a Sleeping Beauty retelling and almost a Snow White retelling. I love that genre and this one has another trait that I love - it doesn't assume anyone is irredeemable. Consider this statement about the evil stepmother queen 'Now, Leonora was not born cruel, and she had never been mean, but she had taken up a terrible way of thinking that consumed her like a fire'. The copy I picked up feels like it has a bit missing, because it talks about puzzles that the reader solved, and there weren't any that I noticed, but apart from that, it's a lovely story about love and change.

But autumn is upon us and I am feeling better enough that I've caught up to my Goodreads challenge of the year (which is just the same as last year rounded up, and I was a couple of books behind, having got loads ahead in the spring).

I also noticed that two years ago, I read a lot of dross that I picked up in the library, and last year I read mostly recommendations and it went a lot better, and this year I've read almost entirely recommendations and presents, and have enjoyed a lot more. I think I've been too busy reading random stuff that wasn't very enjoyable to listen to you lot.

So, here's my question - what's a book that 'everyone's read' that you would recommend? Imagine I've been living under a rock for the last ten years.

My contribution is 'The Bray House' by Eilís Ní Dhuibhne . It's Irish post apocalyptic fiction, and it's super popular in Ireland, the sort of book you find in guesthouses &c throughout the land. It's also brilliant.
posted by [syndicated profile] xkcd_feed at 04:00am on 20/09/2017
September 19th, 2017
ghoti_mhic_uait: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait at 11:02pm on 19/09/2017 under ,
On Wednesdays we are out all day, so I make packed lunches. Except tomorrow, because this evening I put a bunch of stuff on the table (including a roast chicken and a bowl of boiled eggs) and the children made their own.

Judith has chicken, carrot sticks, dried mango, rice cakes, crisps, mini cinnamon rolls and jelly. Andreas has eggs, carrot sticks, dried mango, bread (plain), fruit winder, crisps and jelly. It'll do. (I've got sushi rice, eggs, chicken, mixed chopped veg and hummous, some mixed dried fruit and jelly.) We'll all drink water.


In other news we watched Toast, the autobiography of Nigel Slater, yesterday. It actually just covers the first half of the book, his childhood, and I was touched by how sympathetically it portrayed even the people he didn't really like, I'd recommend it whether or not you read the book.
September 18th, 2017
posted by [syndicated profile] xkcd_feed at 04:00am on 18/09/2017
ghoti_mhic_uait: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait at 08:48am on 18/09/2017 under , ,
This summer I have spent a lot of time wandering around Europe with my family, and a small amount of time playing with exciting people, but they were particularly exciting people. [personal profile] forestofglory visited, for example, and we had Friday night dinner and talking.

Then there was Bärli's parent's 40th anniversary. Bärli's family are so lovely. At one point there was a bit of a clash of understanding between Bärli's mother and Andreas, and both of them said to me they were worried the other would think they didn't respect them. But it was OK. And the whole family is so lovely and welcomign to us.

This weekend was [profile] huskyteer's birthday. Huskyteer is one of those people who is just so cool I can't imagine why they'd want to talk to me, but of course, also cool enough that they don't even think like that. Anyway, I can't think of a better person to introduce me to my first complete James Bond film (which I greatly enjoyed).

Now it is back to term, and I am doing so much! Band twice a week and karate, and Wednesday home ed stuff, and playdates. Remember how a year ago I was grumbling about never having time for me? Well, my people arranged it so I could, and it's wonderful. Thank you my people! I get two whole hours of cycling by myself, plus band (it's 10 miles away and I get a lift to Friday band but cycle on Sunday).

Rest of life round up:
Eating: sausage ragu with rice, made by the lovely [personal profile] jack
Reading: Just finished 'In My Own Time' by Nina Bawden, her autobiography, which is rather lovely. Her respect and love for the people around her really shines through, and she seems like such a nice person.
Playing: Argo. Not my cup of tea. Littles were playing Stratego, which I also can't get my head around, so I'm glad they have each other to play with.
Watching: Pororo. Cute Korean penguin and friend.
September 17th, 2017
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
posted by [personal profile] rmc28 at 10:26pm on 17/09/2017 under
numbers )
sparrowsion: (home page portrait)
posted by [personal profile] sparrowsion at 04:25pm on 17/09/2017
Or, Who The F*** Are You? as we call it. Specifically, Lisa Hammond and "why her paternal grandfather Harry Hammond never spoke about his experiences in World War II". Well, my paternal grandfather never spoke about his experiences in World War II either, but at least we knew he'd been taken POW in Italy and was ultimately liberated by the Americans, so I was curious to hear this story.

Turns Hammond too had been taken prisoner in Italy, and almost certainly was suffering from PTSD as a result of his experiences in the POW & labour camps. And the Who Do You Think You Are? magazine (which [personal profile] 1ngi takes for her genealogical research) had some hints for chasing up similar stories.

So, well, I had to do that. And this is what I learned.

My grandfather was with the 2nd Battalion of the North Staffs during the Battle of Anzio. Anzio, if you've not heard of it before, was probably the biggest Allied cock-up of the war. From the small, personal perspective, the 2nd North Staffs were at the forefront and lost 323 men capturing a ridge which they were unable to hold because their ammunition supply was exhausted.

"Unable to hold" means many were taken prisoner. I don't know how many, but I'm guessing from the list which includes my grandfather's name that it was at least 50. That would be about half the battalion taken out in one day.

I don't know what happened to my grandfather in the immediate aftermath—that's going to take a lot more digging to try and find records. But I do know that he wound up in Altengrabow along with 60,000 other POWs. And that leads to the one piece of information I'd had passed down which is missing from these accounts: at the end, the Commandandt, having arranged for the Americans to evacuate the camp, took his own men and departed the scene.

I'm sure my grandfather was traumatised by his experiences in the camps, just as Harry Hammond was. But more traumatic, I feel, would have been that day on the Italian coast when so many of his comrades fell.
Mood:: 'sad' sad
September 15th, 2017
posted by [syndicated profile] xkcd_feed at 04:00am on 15/09/2017
September 13th, 2017
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
So, it has been nearly 5 months since I last did one of these.  This is necessarily incomplete because I didn't keep notes, and also because where I did keep notes (e.g. Daily Science Fiction stories), I have way too many to post all at once, so I'll dribble them out over the next weeks.

What I've read: poetry
I Speed Toward The Moon by Constance Hanstedt
At The Forestry Institute, Hanoi by Pepper Trail
Father Son Haiku by Kelvin River
Fallers by Alex Harper

What I've read: short stories
The Family Ghost by Jamie Lackey
Vervain, Grasshopper, Sun by Marissa Lingen
The Thing About Heisenball by Stewart C. Baker
Last Long Night by Lina Rather

While we were in Helsinki I noticed that Lois McMaster Bujold had another Penric novella out - and that it was in the middle of the existing novellas so she'd renumbered the series.  I enjoyed it very much, both for the plot in itself and for the additional worldbuilding about the shamanic and sorcerous magic systems. Then I reread my way through the entire series:
Penric's Demon
Penric and the Shaman
Penric's Fox
Penric's Mission
Mira's Last Dance


What I've read: long fiction
Bookburners: Season 1 by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty and Brian Francis Slattery.  If I'd read this as it was published weekly at Serial Box, I'd probably have listed each episode up in the short-fiction section.  Instead I read one collected ebook with all 16 episodes. A New York police officer ends up getting drawn into a secret society of magical book collectors operating out of the Vatican, and joins the team in hopes of helping her brother.  The overall arc plot gets resolved satisfyingly while leaving an opening for more, and I note that Series 3 is currently unfolding on Serial Box.

I finally read A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers and found it pleasant enough but less amazing than some of the hype had led me to believe. It's a good found-family series of minor adventures (in fact, in that sense it reminds me quite a bit of Bookburners) and I'm glad I've read it and will happily read more by Becky Chambers.  But it didn't grab me in the way that e.g. Ancillary Justice or All Systems Red did.

Bewitching Benedict by C.E. Murphy came out last week. It's a historical-romance comedy of manners, which I really enjoyed, especially the grand farcical climax. I am hoping it does well so that the author feels like writing the books to pair off the rest of the eligible bachelors she's introduced here.

Listen to the Moon by Rose Lerner is another in her Lively St Lemeston series, this time focusing on a valet and a housemaid who have lost their jobs due to events in the previous books.  There's a good job for both of them in the local rectory, but the vicar insists he only wants a married couple in post. Luckily they fancy each other like mad; it takes them a bit longer to figure out how to solve some trickier conflicts.

What I'm reading next
Well, now my degree is done, anything I like!  Ahahaha. 

A Taste of Honey by Rose Lerner just came out and is waiting on my kindle, which is what prompted me to read Listen to the Moon first. From my long-neglected physical to-read pile, I've pulled out The Scientist in the Crib by Alison Gopnik and The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. 
posted by [syndicated profile] xkcd_feed at 04:00am on 13/09/2017
September 12th, 2017
ghoti_mhic_uait: (Default)
So, earlier in the year I had a whole lot of blood tests which resolved into 'so you should take this extra strong folic acid and continue to eat horse two or three times a week and exercise immoderately'. And it became obvious that that's exactly what makes me feel physically and mentally a lot healthier so I've been trying to do much better at that, and I got to the point where I felt like I really needed heavier weights. But weights are expensive so I've been dithering, until today I made up my mind that weights now were better than a spinning wheel later for health and happiness, and bought a set of 4kg, 6kg and 8kg dumbbells and I expect I'll want heavier in the future but for now that will do me, and the spinning wheel goal is just set back somewhat further.

SO the nice new heavy weights are in the flapjack muse's workout room, and now we just need to move Jack's weightsbench there and it will be perfect, and I will be all strong and happy and you should feel free to ask me to flex because I will be glad to.
September 11th, 2017
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
posted by [personal profile] rmc28 at 07:22pm on 11/09/2017 under
I took my exam this afternoon, and unless I completely failed to understand the requirements, I should have passed comfortably.  So now it's all over bar the marking and formal graduation. 

Apart from the specific course content, I have learned:
  • I love to learn new things when I actually sit down and do so
  • I default to deadline-driven when it comes to other people's deadlines
  • but I can manage to do 'a little bit most days' and I'm happier when I manage that
  • blocking out specific times to get a little bit done most days works a bit more than 50% of the time
  • given the choice between producing 'good-enough' and 'truly excellent' work with 25% more effort ... I will do good-enough work and spend the 25% extra on something else
I have ceremonially deleted my recurring daily 'study' reminder.

Now for all the things I have been neglecting for the last few years, especially this last year ...
posted by [syndicated profile] xkcd_feed at 04:00am on 11/09/2017
September 10th, 2017
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
posted by [personal profile] rmc28 at 10:54pm on 10/09/2017 under
numbers )
hilarita: trefoil carving (Default)
posted by [personal profile] hilarita at 02:45pm on 10/09/2017 under ,
Plastic Smile, S L Huang (Russell's Attic Series) (pub 2016)
I do like this series. Why wouldn't I like something where maths is your superpower (provided, of course, you don't have to do any original thinking!). It gives us more info on Cas' past, and some neat techno-babble programming and engineering.

Cold Welcome, Elizabeth Moon (Vatta's Peace)
This is the first in the Vatta's Peace series, following on from Vatta's War. If you enjoyed Vatta's War, then you'll find many more of the same sort of politics and violence. This one also has elements of a top-notch survival thriller, so if like me you really enjoyed reading accounts of people doing reckless things in Antarctica, this is a good book.

Brute Force, K B Spangler
Cyborgs. In a deeply creepy US. I'm finding this hard to read, because it has US 'sovereign citizens' in it, and other things that are far-right-adjacent in America. After Charlottesville, I just want to go and hide in a cupboard, and not go near America until it's got its head out of its arse. So, good book, really not helping right now.

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