August 16th, 2017
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
posted by [personal profile] redbird at 07:24pm on 16/08/2017 under ,
Mood:: tired
flick: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] flick at 09:11pm on 16/08/2017 under
While weeding the back garden (this time with gloves on), I found another mystery plant, this time with white flowers, and Mike identified it as self-seeded nicotiana, the sap of which the internet confirms can cause skin irritation.

Fortunately, my diagnosis of the blisters as big but minor was correct: they've come off, and the skin underneath is undamaged. I'll have to remember that in future!
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
Fish
Keiki squats down to look at the fish in the polar bear enclosure at the Vienna Tiergarten.

The Schoenbrunn should definitely make the top ten of every visitor attraction list of Vienna, if not the top three. It’s the gigantic former summer palace of the Hapsburgs, and the grounds alone merit at least a half-day stroll to explore fully. There are gardens, fountains, hidden playgrounds, an enormous glasshouse full of palm trees, and even a zoo.

Despite having visited the Schoenbrunn grounds many times, I’d never been to the zoo, which is allegedly the oldest in the Western world (founded in 1752). Now, with two small children, one of whom is animal-obsessed, I had good reason to go. The children and I set out early one morning to travel via the Viennese underground to the palace.

Humuhumu was keen to learn how to navigate the transport system. She got very good at spotting the way to the correct train lines, and proudly announced when the next train would be arriving after we got to the platforms.

It took us 45 minutes to get from our temporary abode to the Schoenbrunn and, conveniently, it was just about Cake O’clock when we arrived. We detoured around the palace entrance and stopped off at an Aida Konditorei, a chain of inexplicably pink cafés that serve extremely nice cakes, coffees and hot chocolates (apart from the one near the opera house – avoid that one; everyone who works there is sick of tourists and very grumpy).

We walked into the Aida and chorused “Guten Morgen” at the round-faced, unsmiling woman behind the counter. She broke into a beaming grin and showed us to the table next to a tiny play area containing toys and books, which the children pounced upon. (Throughout the trip, I encouraged the children to greet everyone we met in German, to say please and thank you in German, to order their food using the German words and, when I felt confident in my knowledge of the right phrases, I coached them to make requests in German. I was astonished at the abundance of goodwill toward us that this produced.) Humuhumu ordered her hot chocolate and cake in German, and was rewarded with an additional pink meringue, which she received with an unprompted “Danke schoen”. When we left, Keiki crowing “Wiedersehen” over my shoulder with his dimpliest smile, the server came out from round the counter and gave each of the children an extra biscuit, which, to be honest, they didn’t really need after all that sugar!

Full of energy, we bounded into the grounds of the Schoenbrunn and raced around whilst waiting for the grandparents to join us at the entrance to the Tiergarten (Zoo). As vast as the Schoenbrunn grounds are, they are not big enough to house a comprehensive collection of the world’s animals, so cleverly the Tiergarten is focused on a limited number of species and provided them with luxurious accommodation.

Keiki and Humuhumu loved the place, particularly Keiki. Once he spotted the meerkat enclosure, we couldn’t get him to finish his lunch. Neither could we readily tear him away from the penguins. In fact, Granddad had a bit of a job keeping Keiki from clambering into their pond to join them. We communed with the seals. We watched a polar bear chewing meditatively on a traffic cone. And, of course, Humuhumu found a climbing wall and had to try everything.

It was a wonderful place to spend a sunny afternoon, and we will certainly return to the Tiergarten on our next trip to Vienna.

Further photos beneath the cut.
+++ )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
posted by [personal profile] liv at 12:28pm on 16/08/2017 under ,
Recently read:
  • Dzur by Steven Brust.

    I didn't love this; I'm not sure how much it's a weaker member of the series and how much it's me. It is book 10 in a set of 19, of which the last five are still to be written. I may have left it too long since I read the previous volumes, or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it. I decided I couldn't be bothered following all the complex allusions to the meta-structure of the whole series, and as a single novel it's never more than just ok. I didn't find Vlad's voice or Loiosh's asides witty, and the pacing dragged, and I didn't care about the mystery. Because I hadn't been following the chronology properly, the twist at the end wasn't a delightful surprise, it just unsatisfyingly didn't make sense.

    When I was reading 50 books a year, I intended to read the whole series, because both the individual novels and the way they fit together into a complex whole appeal to me. Now that I read more like 15 or 20, I'm thinking I may drop this. Not sure; one weaker book doesn't mean the whole series isn't worth bothering with.

  • A taste of honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. This was a Hugo-nominated novella, which meant that several of my friends read it, and were enthusiastic about it. So I ended up reading the copy from my Hugo packet on the way back from Worldcon, which is not exactly in the spirit of things. And I regret not reading it in time to vote for it, not that it would have made much difference since McGuire's Every heart a doorway (which I wasn't keen on) won by miles.

    Anyway, this is a really amazing fantasy romance story. It's beautifully written, great characters, twisty, thought-provoking plot. The worldbuilding is really deep; looking it up it turns out this is a companion novella in the setting of a novel, which I'm now definitely going to seek out. I had dismissed Wilson's Sorcerer of the Wildeeps mainly because the name is so clunky; I assumed it was parodic or just really generic swords and sorcery.

    It's hard to describe exactly what's so great about AToH without spoilers, but it's a really moving romance, and has a lot to say about choices and sacrifices made for love. [personal profile] jack thought it maybe needed some content warnings; some of the content is about homophobia and abusive parenting. To me it didn't feel like misery porn, it felt as if it centred its variously Queer characters and described some of the bad things in their life as well as the good. But I can imagine some readers finding it hard going.

    Up next: The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin. I'd been meaning to read this, though I'm a little scared of what I've heard about it, and I've now bumped it up my list since the sequel won a second Hugo.
  • Mood:: 'okay' okay
    location: Olorum
    Music:: Enya: Orinoco flow
    autopope: Me, myself, and I (Default)
    miss_s_b: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] miss_s_b at 11:00am on 16/08/2017
    August 15th, 2017
    flick: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] flick at 08:59pm on 15/08/2017 under ,


    Sigh. And the early tomatoes have blight (although the later ones, farther from the polytunnel door, seem clear so far).

    Home now, all well (other than Mike coming down with a cold). Will catch up on email over the next day or so....

    Slightly worryingly, just after coming in from picking veg I noticed a couple of big-but-minor blisters on my fingers. I did pull a couple of weeds (without gloves) while I was out there, but I'm now wondering which of them were noxious.... There was something unfamiliar with purple flowers. Hmm.
    nanila: (me: art)
    posted by [personal profile] nanila at 01:26pm on 15/08/2017 under , , ,
    In early July, the bloke & I went to Amsterdam for a couple of days for my (very) belated birthday celebrations. His parents kindly looked after the children so we could have our first holiday alone together since they were born.

    One of the things we did was go to an art museum and wander around for a couple of hours. This is not a thing you can do with small children, unless you have imprisoned them in a pram, and then there would (not unreasonably) be screaming.

    I’d previously been to both the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. The bloke had never been to the latter, but as it was the height of summer, it was not a good time to go. The place cannot cope with the number of visitors it receives, and unless you book days in advance, you can’t get in. When you do, you still have to queue, and you end up shuffling in a slow-moving crush of people past all of the artwork. It’s not a great experience. We opted, therefore, to go to one we’d never been in: the Stedelijk Museum, which is dedicated to modern art.

    I really enjoyed the collection. It was well curated and I now have a little list of new (to me) artists to keep my eyes peeled for in the London exhibitions.

    Photographer Zanele Muholi takes photos of LGBTQ+ community members in Africa. I definitely want a book of her work. It was a little irritating to find, at the end of our visit, that of all the special exhibitions on display, hers was the only one without a corresponding product available in the shop. No books, no postcards, nothing. Hmph.

    20170711_123055
    From her “Brave Beauties” series.

    +++ )
    miss_s_b: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] miss_s_b at 11:00am on 15/08/2017
    August 14th, 2017
    white_hart: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] white_hart at 07:53pm on 14/08/2017 under , ,
    In the third of Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher mysteries, Phryne and her companion, Dot, are taking the night train to Ballarat when Phryne is woken from a doze by the smell of chloroform, and discovers that their first-class carriage has been filled with cholorform and that one of the passengers, an elderly lady, is missing. When the missing passenger's body is discovered, her daughter hires Phryne to find her mother's murderer, and Phryne also takes on the task of trying to find the identity of a young girl with amnesia who was found on the same train.

    The identity of the murderer was glaringly obvious, but the question of evidence and alibis takes up more time, while the subplot about the amnesiac girl takes a bit more unravelling. The feminist slant of the previous novels remains strongly in evidence here, with Phryne continuing to take down exploiters and abusers of women in the course of her cases, and there are a few knowing nods to other novels; the allusion to Murder on the Orient Express is obvious, but I also spotted a reference to the Megatherium Trust which sets the series firmly in the same world as Peter Wimsey. The series continues to be entertaining feminist fluff and definitely high on my list of comfort reads.
    sfred: (faun)
    If there's anything you want to say to me after BiCon, feel free to do so here. Comments are screened and will remain so.
    miss_s_b: (Default)
    August 12th, 2017
    nanila: me (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] nanila at 09:04pm on 12/08/2017 under , ,
    Telstar
    Handsome tuxie sticks his tongue out at you from his sunny perch atop the wood shed.
    Music:: Athletics world championships
    white_hart: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] white_hart at 12:59pm on 12/08/2017 under , , ,
    After reading Kindred, which is about slavery in the USA a short time after Jane Austen was writing, I decided to re-read the one Jane Austen novel which explicitly mentions slavery, Mansfield Park.

    I actually first read Mansfield Park recently enough that my thoughts are on LJ, and my opinion hasn't really changed; I know a lot of people dislike Fanny Price, but I still find her sympathetic and relatable, and her quiet determination in the face of pressure to accept Henry Crawford's proposal (and, indeed, the careful observation which allows her to understand Henry's character in a way that no-one else, except perhaps Mary Crawford, does) is all the more impressive for coming from a character whose life has shaped her into a person who always puts other people's wants and needs before her own. Yes, a shy, anxious, insecure heroine isn't as fun as a sparkling, witty Lizzy Bennet, but Fanny feels very real and I found it easy to care about her predicament. I do wonder if some of the dislike for Mansfield Park comes from people expecting a fluffy romance and not getting that, because while none of Jane Austen's novels are actually fluffy romances (honestly, I can't think of one that isn't really an anti-romance when you look at it closely) Mansfield Park is one of the hardest to see that way; although Fanny does end up with the man she is in love with, he isn't in love with her and they have a marriage of best friends rather than a grand romance.

    I also really enjoy the glimpses of the wider world we get in this novel; Sir Thomas's business interests (and yes, the slavery that his wealth is founded on), the Navy in the Portsmouth scenes (which feel as though a Patrick O'Brien novel could be taking place only a few yards away). Like all Austen's novels, it also has interesting things to say about the position of women in English society in the early nineteenth century; the experiences of Maria and Julia Bertram, Mary Crawford's catalogue of the woes of her friends' marriages, and the pressure exerted on Fanny herself to marry Henry, despite her conviction that he is fickle and insincere (and while I think she is probably too hard on Henry, because she is so much in love with Edmund, his attachment to her clearly isn't all he would have her believe it to be), all show how constrained women's lives were, how the crucial question of marriage, answered on the basis of very little real information or knowledge, would make or break the rest of life.

    I'm not sure I can have a favourite Jane Austen novel; there were moments during this re-read when I thought maybe Mansfield Park was my new favourite, but then I remembered Persuasion and Northanger Abbey; Pride and Prejudice is justly acclaimed a classic, and I really like Emma too, so I think all I can actually say for it is that it's definitely in my top five, though they are all so close, and the only one I think I actually like less than the others is Sense and Sensibility.
    miss_s_b: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] miss_s_b at 11:00am on 12/08/2017
    rosefox: a green and white highway sign that says THIS LANE FOR ROSE (driving)
    We are in the woods. Every summer J's mom comes to the U.S. and stays at her house upstate, and we always spend at least one weekend here with her.

    Last year it was our first driving trip as a family and we stressed a lot trying to plan it. This year we had three ready-made shared checklist documents for packing (for the car), packing (for the stay), and prepping the house. I said I wanted to leave by 7:30; at 7:20 we were pulling away from the curb. Flawless. Bonus: we didn't have to bring a portable crib or changing table because we'd already brought them on previous trips.

    Last year we drove through beautiful summer sunshine, but the trip took five hours because of wretched traffic. This year we left after dinner, so even though we drove through torrential rain (I very nearly pulled off the highway at a few points) and then amazing thick fog (through which we were guided by a ghost car) it only took abut three hours. I like night driving and I like cutting two hours off our travel time but whew, I-87 is pretty terrible in nighttime rain, with no streetlights and very faded lane markers and water sheeting across the road.

    Last year Kit was a perfect travel bean. This year they were also a perfect travel bean. During our mid-drive break for sandwiches and stretching, we took them into a gas station convenience store that they examined with the same serious yet optimistic expression they brought to the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. Then J got them a bag of Goldfish crackers and they were so excited that they hugged it all the way out to the car. Everything is magical when you're a baby.

    Last year we got here in the afternoon and Kit was astonished by the trees. TREES. SO MANY. SO TALL. This year we got here at night and a very sleepy Kit was astonished by Glory's collection of teddy bears and other stuffed animals. When they went to bed we had to stop them from pulling every bear within reach into the crib with them (in addition to Toronto and Hug Face, the bears we brought with us).

    (One of Glory's bears has similar fur to Toronto's but is a bit bigger and has a snazzy black beret. "Toronto's uncle!" X said. "That must mean Toronto is French-Canadian," I said. The beret bear is now Uncle Georges and I suspect he'll be coming back to the city with us to meet Toronto's recently acquired identical twin [always have a spare of your child's favorite toy/blanket, always always always], whom I tried to name Ottawa but J and X call Toron-two. We are very silly with our bears.)

    (Toronto actually has nothing to do with Canada; I call it that because of T.O. for "transitional object". I will never get tired of this joke. Hug Face is because Kit hugs it with their face. It has a fraternal twin named Face Hugs for the same reason. We are very silly with our bears.)

    Last year I wrote, "I didn't mean to type so much; I should go do my OT exercises, ice my arms a bit more, and get some sleep. I'm just so glad that at least in our tiny little corner of the world, everything went okay today. I needed that." This year I say: yes, that.

    Tomorrow the rain is supposed to ease off in the morning. I hope Kit gets to go out and romp a bit in the grass and be astonished by the trees all over again.
    Mood:: sleepy
    August 11th, 2017
    bryangb: (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] bryangb at 09:07pm on 11/08/2017
    BlueCity carsEarlier this week I drove an e-car for the first time. Driving it was both unsurprising and quite different from the petrol and diesel-engined cars I’ve had.

    On the one hand there’s no gears, so as in an automatic car you just press the pedal and off it goes, but on the other when you take your foot off the pedal it immediately starts to slow down, very like engine braking in a manual car, only more so. The closest analogy I can think of is a go-kart, but of course with the handling and driving style of a road car – and it was eerily quiet, far quieter even than the battery go-karts I’ve used.

    It wasn’t a Tesla or anything fancy, but a small four-seater operated by rental company BlueCity* – if you live in West London, Paris, Lyon or Indianapolis, you might have seen these around the place. They’re made by BlueCity’s parent Bolloré and run on a similar basis to city-bikes or newer services such as Zipcar Flex, in that you can rent in one place and drop off in another.

    It’s an interesting idea, the snag being that there’s nowhere near as many charging stations as the bike schemes have, and each charging station only has a few parking spaces, so as well as reserving a car via your phone you also need to reserve a parking space at your destination. They are adding more bases to the London scheme though – taking over existing under-used public e-car charging stations in some cases, I think – and gradually expanding beyond the western boroughs.

    My rental wasn’t entirely straightforward – the instruction leaflet doesn’t make the necessary process explicit, and when I got it wrong, it wouldn’t simply start over for some reason. Fortunately the phone helpline provided the essential clue and re-set things for me. (I’d already had to fight to get registered on the service, by the way – they were a right pain about my ancient-but-perfectly-valid paper driving licence…)

    BlueCar dashThe car’s interior is a little spartan, with no instruments at all, just two LCD screens. One is the speedo, it also tells you the battery state and whether it is charging or discharging – the braking is regenerative of course. The other first shows you a safety video (I hope I can skip this on my next rental!) then switches to a map view. I'm pretty sure there’s a radio and a satnav in there somewhere too.

    Beyond that, it’s a case of engage Drive (or Reverse) and go. Acceleration is initially sluggish, probably for safety reasons, but once you get going it is pretty snappy. The ride feels unnaturally smooth at first, with no engine vibration – and did I mention how very quiet it is? Most odd.

    Sadly, not everything is done by app – you also need a contactless keycard, both to unlock and lock the car, and to sign in and out on the charging station. Until you plug the car back in, lock it and then sign out, you’re still being charged for rental. That’s 17p a minute, with a minimum of 20 minutes so £3.40 – about the same as two London bus tickets, or a very short minicab journey. Fortunately, as a Borough of Hounslow resident I get a year’s free membership plus some free driving minutes.

    Will I use it again? Owning a car already it is hard to see the need, except when that car is away (as it is this week) or on the odd occasions when I want to go somewhere and there’s a charging station nearby. That needs a good few more charging stations though – currently they’re just in the Hounslow and Hammersmith areas.
     
    *Where the English-speaking world tends to use ‘green’ for eco-friendly, much of Europe uses ‘blue’ instead. Partly because blue is the colour of lakes and oceans and so on, but also to distinguish the general principle from the Greens, who are an important political force in many of the countries that have actually moved their electoral systems out of the middle ages.
    Mood:: 'curious' curious
    Music:: Hawkwind - The Xenon Codex
    miss_s_b: (Self: Profile)
    posted by [personal profile] miss_s_b at 03:35pm on 11/08/2017 under ,
    (questions via [community profile] thefridayfive)

    1) What is the most outrageous style you've ever rocked?

    When I was a young 'un, there was that brief period when shell suits were incredibly fashionable, but before they had been discovered to be ridiculously dangerously flammable, and we had a non-uniform day at school. Every single other person in my class came in a shell suit. Some of them had those colour change t-shirts that showed your armpit sweat even worse than grey marl does. I wore cut-off denim hot pants, fishnet tights, an Alice Cooper t-shirt and a leather biker jacket.

    I think that tells you everything you need to know about my attitude to fashion.


    2) As a teen, were you an emo, goth, punk, grunger, or prep?

    Um. I never could be bothered with the make-up requirements for goth, but I suspect I tended more that way in other respects, with bits of punk and grunger too. I mean, I never did do the blue stonewash jeans classic rocker look, I always wore black and purple.


    3) Have you ever had a crazy hairstyle/colour?

    Ever since I was 18 right up until the present. I'm normally one or more of blue, purple, or pink, but I've been other colours too. Went jet black once; didn't like it.


    4) Do you think we ever really grow out of our teen selves?

    I certainly haven't. But then I was quite elderly in outlook from about the age of 18 months, so... (this is possibly down to the autism, which obvs was undiagnosed when I was a young 'un.


    5) Is there any fashion style you wish you could wear but maybe don't have the confidence?

    It's not the confidence, it's the tolerance for pain. I wish I could wear halter neck tops, but my boobs are so heavy that they give me horrific neck ache within seconds of putting them on.
    nanila: me (Default)
    posted by [personal profile] nanila at 12:08pm on 11/08/2017 under , , ,
    1. What is the most outrageous style you've ever rocked?
      Probably this one:

      (That's me in 2003, wearing a green vest, black trousers & boots, sunglasses and very long dreadlocks. I'm carrying the tiny metal box that functioned as my handbag in those days.)

    2. As a teen, were you an emo, goth, punk, grunger, or prep?
      As a young teen, I was trending toward goth, but I didn't go full rivethead until I was at university.

    3. Have you ever had a crazy hairstyle/colour?
      I have worn unnatural shades of hair colour: green, blue and purple. I don't really think of dreadlocks as "crazy".

    4. Do you think we ever really grow out of our teen selves?
      Um, yes, definitely. Thank GOODNESS.

    5. Is there any fashion style you wish you could wear but maybe don't have the confidence?
      I would definitely love to be a bit more goth/rivet still. It's not that I lack the confidence, it's that I don't have the time, the money or the energy to maintain the look. I spend what resources I do have on my kids' wardrobes, not my own. Also, it would be pretty incongruous at my work, which is small-c conservative.


    Questions are from the [community profile] thefridayfive community.
    liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
    posted by [personal profile] liv at 11:48am on 11/08/2017 under ,
    A song that has many meanings for you. I think this has to be Some kind of stranger by Sisters of Mercy. Partly because it's lyrically complex; I have never been sure if it's about a positive relationship or a breakup, a long-term connection or a casual affair, and it may well not be about romantic love at all.

    This is another song that [personal profile] doseybat introduced me to when we were teenagers. So it's tied up with discovering alternative music and the goth scene, and forming my own tastes in music as well as more broadly. A period of my life when I think I did the most growing up.

    In some ways it's a song about keeping faith in spite of everything that might push you towards despair. And that's why I keep coming back to it, whether it's faith in a person or just more broadly:
    And I know the world is cold
    But if we hold on tight to what we find
    We might not mind so much
    That even this must pass away

    Then it's the soundtrack of my PhD. The bit where my brother had a bad accident and I was in an emotional mess, but the science was still inspiring and still needed doing. The bit where it wasn't inspiring any more, it was a slog, and I had to keep going. One more step, one more flask of cells, one more measurement. The long repetitive bit at the end Come here I think you're beautiful over and over again, when I was sitting in the cell culture room with my headphones a portable tape player, and just keeping my cells alive and nourished before I could actually do any experiments took about three hours three times a week. You can't miss a sesssion or the cells die or mutate and you lose months of work. You have to concentrate enough not to get anything contaminated, but it's not exactly intellectually stimulating. In fact, a lot of the point of my PhD was providing justification for replacing me with a robot, but grad students are cheaper than robots, and I was just sitting there screening through hundreds of potential new drugs.

    It's also a song about making friends with [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel, towards the end of that PhD and the years just afterwards. [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel is also a Sisters fan and gave me a recording of one of their concerts, since it's nearly impossible to buy studio versions of most of their music since the 80s. The ambiguous words might be about a sudden, intense yet enduring friendship, maybe. Some kind of stranger / some kind of angel.

    And even though it's a pretty downbeat song, it's a very happy song for me now. It promised me that I could endure, and I have. My brother is fine now. I still love most of the people who sustained me in my late teens and early 20s. I've succeeded at some things that were hard and failed at others, but I have people who love me for myself, not my achievements. And nothing is permanent, but as long as I'm here and get to experience things and love people, I can cope with that.

    video embed, audio only )
    location: Keele University, Staffordshire, England
    Mood:: 'melancholy' melancholy

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