puzzlement: (Default)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Topic from Frequently Or Not So Frequently Asked Questions way back in 2011, now part of the topic meme project.

What beautiful/amazing/fantastic outdoor places should people visit in New Zealand? —[personal profile] holyschist on [personal profile] redsnake05's Frequently (or not so frequently) asked questions - Aotearoa New Zealand post

It's nearly four years on, so I will keep this brief and picture-y.

My husband and I spent two weeks on the South Island in 2008. We drove from Christchurch to Twizel, Twizel to Queenstown, Queenstown to Te Anau, had a bus trip from Te Anau to Milford Sound, then Te Anau to Queenstown, Queenstown to Greymouth via Wanaka and SH6, Greymouth to Picton and then the ferry to Wellington, and then back on the ferry and down to Christchurch. Here's a map.

Based on this, I would recommend… the South Island of New Zealand!

Our one-sentence summary of our trip was a running gag we had, where every time the car was approaching a corner — frequently, as the South Island is mountainous and we did a few trips over and through the middle — one of us would say "Gosh, I wonder what could be around this corner?" and the other would answer "hrm, I am going to go right out there and guess… maybe a mountain? and a lake?" and we'd turn the corner: "YOU WIN AGAIN!!!!"

I put off this entry partly because I'd never imported the photos into Flickr, but last year, I finally did so. Here's some highlights:

Lakes and mountains )

So, that's all very nice, but my recommendation for the west coast of the South Island is even stronger.

Milford Sound is very well known, and justifiably so:

Milford Sound and surrounds )

But to get a feel for the West Coast as a whole, here's what greets you off the pass on SH6:

West Coast near Haast, SH6

We had a very foolish itinerary: we were driving from Queenstown to Greymouth in a single day, and that was bad and wrong of us, because it's all like that. You should look at that picture regularly if ever reading [personal profile] karenhealey's novel The Shattering and just imagine an entire cost that looks like that (the details differ obviously, sure, but basically that) and then you will understand that it has to be due to supernatural forces. We managed to stop to take that photo and then at the Franz Josef glacier viewing point, and that's it. Some day I will go back and give the West Coast the time it properly deserves. Probably about three hundred years. And then I'd have to go visit some lakes and mountains too… see you in a bit.

My full set of NZ pics from 2008.
puzzlement: (Default)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Topic from the December/January meme, now part of the topic meme project dating back to 2011.

I'd be interested in hearing you talk about toddlers/young kids and food —[personal profile] transcendancing

Feeding toddlers and young kids is something I'm not very good at, frankly, and I'd like this to not descend into a defensive spiral, so, I'm going to keep it factual and avoid feeling like I need to defend myself from all the things.

I'm also going to cut this, because childhood eating is an unpleasant memory for many people.

Discussion of feeding children, and childhood eating )

Your comments

A caution on advice. Advice is OK, but what I'm going to avoid is the Internet-advice-whirlpool of "hey, how about X?" "well, X won't work for me because something" and then "well how about other-X, not-X, quasi-X, and maybe-X? Also, there's a spectrum of things to try over in the Y and Z space!" and I feel bad and defensive that I haven't tried the 20 incoming suggestions and you get annoyed that I've tried nothing and yet am complaining that nothing works. How I'll deal with this: probably by not giving you a lot of feedback on your advice, so that neither of us feels like we have to debug the advice.

Shorter caution: I'm open to advice… but I may not respond to it, discuss it or implement it. Advise at that risk ☺

Bonus: if you're interested in parenting stories and kid pics, follow [community profile] incrementum (or the main site it is a mirror of).

It's meme time again!

Feb. 26th, 2015 05:47 pm
beable: (a cunningly devious plan)
[personal profile] beable
[livejournal.com profile] rottenfruit gave me the letter "E" and it's been so long since I've meme that it seemed time. So today I present you on my thoughts on E:

Something I hate: Eye doctor appointments. And eye drops. (Yes, this is also why
I'm not a contacts wearer).

Something I like: Exit, pursued by a bear.
Er, I don't really want you to leave, don't worry! Also, I'd rather send beagles and schnauzers to chase after you than bears. But the above is such a wonderful stage direction, and I love it.

Somewhere I've been:Europe. Ok, that's a cheat (I've only been to a very small percentage of Europe).

How about .. Etobicoke! I first visited Etobicoke in 1984 for the Ontario bicentennial when they made this big production of getting kids from all over the province together for this hoopla weekend. I was part of the group representing Nepean, back when Nepean was still a city. I suppose Etobicoke isn't a city anymore either though.

Somewhere I'd like to go: Estonia. When I was in Europe in 2003, I went to Scandinavia and also spent a day in Helsinki. I would have liked to have gone to Tallinn, Estonia as well, but at the time Canadians required advance visas and my trip was too last minute to get one.

Someone I know: [livejournal.com profile] rottenfruit! Or if an answer in the form of a blog name should reflect the blogger name starting with an E, then [livejournal.com profile] elaine_alina. Elaine is one of my medieval dance friends in Michigan.

A film I like: Enigma. It plays liberties with historical accuracy, but it was an enjoyable movie, and I generally like Tom Stoppard's writing.

A book I like: Ender's Game would have been high on this list once upon a time, but admittedly I have avoided re-reading it in recent years in case the suck fairy has been at it.

Comment if you want a letter.

What do you expect? (a poll)

Feb. 24th, 2015 01:36 pm
brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (Default)
[personal profile] brainwane
A few bits of thought passed across my mind recently, about legacy and friendship and the law, and I found myself curious about whether I'm quite different from my friends in my assumptions about the way my life will go. So: a three-question poll.

Poll #16481 What do you expect?
This poll is anonymous.
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 32

Do you expect that someone will, in the future, systematically research your life, e.g., by reading all of your public blog posts and interviewing your friends and family?

2 (6.2%)

9 (28.1%)

Probably not
12 (37.5%)

9 (28.1%)

Not applicable; I know that this has already happened
0 (0.0%)

If you have never been sued before, do you expect that someone will someday sue you?

0 (0.0%)

5 (15.6%)

Probably not
22 (68.8%)

5 (15.6%)

Not applicable; I have been sued before
0 (0.0%)

Do you expect that you have already met everyone who's going to be very important in your life?

0 (0.0%)

5 (15.6%)

Probably not
11 (34.4%)

16 (50.0%)

The poll is anonymous. Please feel free to elaborate on your answers in the comments! EDITED TO ADD: And comments are screened by default and I'm going to leave them screened unless you say it's ok to unscreen.

FOSSC Oman 2015

Feb. 22nd, 2015 06:15 pm
pleia2: (Default)
[personal profile] pleia2

This past week I had the honor of speaking at FOSSC Oman 2015 in Muscat, following an invitation last fall from Professor Hadj Bourdoucen and the organizing team. Prior to my trip I was able to meet up with 2013 speaker Cat Allman who gave me invaluable tips about visiting the country, but above all made me really excited to visit the middle east for the first time and meet the extraordinary people putting on the conference.

Some of the speakers and organizers meet on Tuesday, from left: Wolfgang F. Finke, Matthias Stürmer, Khalil Al Maawali, me and Hadj Bourdoucen

My first observation was that the conference staff really went out of their way to be welcoming to all the speakers, welcoming us at the hotel the day before the conference, making sure all our needs were met. My second was that the conference was that it was really well planned and funded. They did a wonderful job finding a diverse speaker list (both topic and gender-wise) from around the world. I was really happy to learn that the conference was also quite open and free to attend, so there were participants from other nearby companies, universities and colleges. I’ll also note that there were more women at this conference than I’ve ever seen at an open source conference, at least half the audience, perhaps slightly more.

The conference itself began on Wednesday morning with several introductions and welcome speeches from officials of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), the Information Technology Authority (ITA) and Professor Hadj Bourdoucen who gave the opening FOSSC 2015 speech. These introductions were all in Arabic and we were all given headsets for live translations into English.

The first formal talk of the conference was Patrick Sinz on “FOSS as a motor for entrepreneurship and job creation.” In this talk he really spoke to the heart of why the trend has been leaning toward open source, with companies tired of being beholden to vendors for features, being surprised by changes in contracts, and the general freedom of not needing “permission” to alter the software that’s running your business, or your country. After a break, his talk was followed by one by Jan Wildeboer titled “Open is default.” He covered a lot in his talk, first talking about how 80% of most software stacks can easily be shared between companies without harming any competitive advantage, since everyone needs all the basics of hardware interaction, basic user interaction and more, thus making use of open source for this 80% an obvious choice. He also talked about open standards and how important it is to innovation that they exist. While on the topic of innovation he noted that instead of trying to make copies of proprietary offerings, open source is now leading innovation in many areas of technology, and has been for the past 5 years.

My talk came up right after Jan’s, and with a topic of “Building a Career in FOSS” it nicely worked into things that Patrick and Jan had just said before me. In this world of companies who need developers for features and where they’re paying good money for deployment of open source, there are a lot of jobs cropping up in the open source space. My talk gave a tour of some of the types of reasons one may contribute (aside from money, there’s passion for openness, recognition, and opportunity to work with contributors from around the world), types of ways to get involved (aside from programming, people are paid for deployments, documentation, support and more) and companies to aim for when looking to find a job working on open source (fully open source, open source core, open source division of a larger company). Slides from my talk are available here (pdf).

Directly following my talk, I participated in a panel with Patrick, Jan and Matthias (who I’d met the previous day) where we talked about some more general issues in the open source career space, including how language barriers can impact contributions, how the high profile open source security issues of 2014 have impacted the industry and some of the biggest mistakes developers make regarding software licenses.

The afternoon began with a talk by Hassan Al-Lawati on the “FOSS Initiative in Oman, Facts and Challenges” where he outlined the work they’ve been doing in their multi-year plan to promote the use and adoption of FOSS inside of Oman. Initiatives began with awareness campaigns to familiarize people with the idea of open source software, development of training material and programs, in addition to existing certificate programs in the industry, and the deployment of Open Source Labs where classes on and development of open source can be promoted. He talked about some of the further future plans including more advanced training. He wrapped up his talk by discussing some of the challenges, including continued fears about open source by established technologists and IT managers working with proprietary software and in general less historical demand for using open source solutions. Flavia Marzano spoke next on “The role and opportunities of FOSS in Public Administrations” where she drew upon her 15 years of experience working in the public sector in Italy to promote open source solutions. Her core points centered around the importance of the releasing of data by governments in open formats and the value of laws that make government organizations consider FOSS solutions, if not compel them. She also stressed that business leaders need to understand the value of using open source software, even if they themselves aren’t the ones who will get the read the source code, it’s important that someone in your organization can. Afternoon sessions wrapped up with a panel on open source in government, which talked about how cost is often not a motivator and that much of the work with governments is not a technical issue, but a political one.

FOSS in Government panel: David Hurley, Hassan Al-Lawati, Ali Al Shidhani and Flavia Marzano

The conference wrapped up with lunch around 2:30PM and then we all headed back to our hotels before an evening out, which I’ll talk more about in an upcoming post about my tourist fun in Muscat.

Thursday began a bit earlier than Wednesday, with the bus picking us up at the hotel at 7:45AM and first talks beginning at 8:30AM.

Matthias Stürmer kicked off the day with a talk on “Digital sustainability of open source communities” where he outlined characteristics of healthy open source communities. He first talked about the characteristics that defined digital sustainability, including transparency and lack of legal or policy restrictions. The characteristics of healthy open source communities included:

  • Good governance
  • Heterogeneous community (various motivations, organizations involved)
  • Nonprofit foundation (doing marketing)
  • Ecosystem of commercial service providers
  • Opportunity for users to get things done

It was a really valuable presentation, and his observations were similar to mine when it comes to healthy communities, particularly as they grow. His slides are pretty thorough with main points clearly defined and are up on slideshare here.

After his presentation, several of us speakers were whisked off to have a meeting with the Vice-chancellor of SQU to talk about some of the work that’s been done locally to promote open source education, adoption and training. Can’t say I was particularly useful at this session, lacking experience with formal public sector migration plans, but it was certainly interesting for me to participate in.

I then met up with Khalil for another adventure, over to Middle East College to give a short open source presentation to students in an introductory Linux class. The class met in one of the beautiful Open Source Labs that Hassan had mentioned in his talk, it was a real delight to go to one. It was also fascinating to see that the vast majority of the class was made up of women, with only a handful of men – quite the opposite from what I’m used to! My presentation quickly covered the basics of open source, the work I’ve done both as a paid and volunteer contributor, examples of some types of open source projects (different size, structure and volunteer to paid ratios) and common motivations for companies and individuals to get involved. The session concluded with a great Q&A session, followed by a bunch of pictures and chats with students. Slides from my talk are here (pdf).

Khalil and me at the OSL at MEC

My day wound down back at SQU by attending the paper sessions that concluded the conference and then lunch with my fellow speakers.

Now for some goodies!

There is a YouTube video of each day up, so you can skim through it along with the schedule to find specific talks:

There was also press at the conference, so you can see one release published on Zawya: FOSSC-Oman Kicks Off; Forum Focuses on FOSS Opportunities and Communities and an article by the Oman Tribune: Conference on open source software begins at SQU.

And more of my photos from the conference are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157650553205488/

Originally published at pleia2's blog. You can comment here or there.

request for meta

Feb. 20th, 2015 06:24 pm
brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (Default)
[personal profile] brainwane
I request your recommendations for fannish meta comparing and contrasting Batman and Iron Man, especially CEO Wayne vs. CEO Stark.
[personal profile] mjg59
So blah blah Superfish blah blah trivial MITM everything's broken.

Lenovo deserve criticism. The level of incompetence involved here is so staggering that it wouldn't be a gross injustice for the company to go under as a result[1]. But let's not pretend that this is some sort of isolated incident. As an industry, we don't care about user security. We will gladly ship products with known security failings and no plans to update them. We will produce devices that are locked down such that it's impossible for anybody else to fix our failures. We will hide behind vague denials, we will obfuscate the impact of flaws and we will deflect criticisms with announcements of new and shinier products that will make everything better.

It'd be wonderful to say that this is limited to the proprietary software industry. I would love to be able to argue that we respect users more in the free software world. But there are too many cases that demonstrate otherwise, even where we should have the opportunity to prove the benefits of open development. An obvious example is the smartphone market. Hardware vendors will frequently fail to provide timely security updates, and will cease to update devices entirely after a very short period of time. Fortunately there's a huge community of people willing to produce updated firmware. Phone manufacturer is never going to fix the latest OpenSSL flaw? As long as your phone can be unlocked, there's a reasonable chance that there's an updated version on the internet.

But this is let down by a kind of callous disregard for any deeper level of security. Almost every single third-party Android image is either unsigned or signed with the "test keys", a set of keys distributed with the Android source code. These keys are publicly available, and as such anybody can sign anything with them. If you configure your phone to allow you to install these images, anybody with physical access to your phone can replace your operating system. You've gained some level of security at the application level by giving up any real ability to trust your operating system.

This is symptomatic of our entire ecosystem. We're happy to tell people to disable security features in order to install third-party software. We're happy to tell people to download and build source code without providing any meaningful way to verify that it hasn't been tampered with. Install methods for popular utilities often still start "curl | sudo bash". This isn't good enough.

We can laugh at proprietary vendors engaging in dreadful security practices. We can feel smug about giving users the tools to choose their own level of security. But until we're actually making it straightforward for users to choose freedom without giving up security, we're not providing something meaningfully better - we're just providing the same shit sandwich on different bread.

[1] I don't see any way that they will, but it wouldn't upset me
[personal profile] mjg59
PC World wrote an article on how the use of Intel Boot Guard by PC manufacturers is making it impossible for end-users to install replacement firmware such as Coreboot on their hardware. It's easy to interpret this as Intel acting to restrict competition in the firmware market, but the reality is actually a little more subtle than that.

UEFI Secure Boot as a specification is still unbroken, which makes attacking the underlying firmware much more attractive. We've seen several presentations at security conferences lately that have demonstrated vulnerabilities that permit modification of the firmware itself. Once you can insert arbitrary code in the firmware, Secure Boot doesn't do a great deal to protect you - the firmware could be modified to boot unsigned code, or even to modify your signed bootloader such that it backdoors the kernel on the fly.

But that's not all. Someone with physical access to your system could reflash your system. Even if you're paranoid enough that you X-ray your machine after every border crossing and verify that no additional components have been inserted, modified firmware could still be grabbing your disk encryption passphrase and stashing it somewhere for later examination.

Intel Boot Guard is intended to protect against this scenario. When your CPU starts up, it reads some code out of flash and executes it. With Intel Boot Guard, the CPU verifies a signature on that code before executing it[1]. The hash of the public half of the signing key is flashed into fuses on the CPU. It is the system vendor that owns this key and chooses to flash it into the CPU, not Intel.

This has genuine security benefits. It's no longer possible for an attacker to simply modify or replace the firmware - they have to find some other way to trick it into executing arbitrary code, and over time these will be closed off. But in the process, the system vendor has prevented the user from being able to make an informed choice to replace their system firmware.

The usual argument here is that in an increasingly hostile environment, opt-in security isn't sufficient - it's the role of the vendor to ensure that users are as protected as possible by default, and in this case all that's sacrificed is the ability for a few hobbyists to replace their system firmware. But this is a false dichotomy - UEFI Secure Boot demonstrated that it was entirely possible to produce a security solution that provided security benefits and still gave the user ultimate control over the code that their machine would execute.

To an extent the market will provide solutions to this. Vendors such as Purism will sell modern hardware without enabling Boot Guard. However, many people will buy hardware without consideration of this feature and only later become aware of what they've given up. It should never be necessary for someone to spend more money to purchase new hardware in order to obtain the freedom to run their choice of software. A future where users are obliged to run proprietary code because they can't afford another laptop is a dystopian one.

Intel should be congratulated for taking steps to make it more difficult for attackers to compromise system firmware, but criticised for doing so in such a way that vendors are forced to choose between security and freedom. The ability to control the software that your system runs is fundamental to Free Software, and we must reject solutions that provide security at the expense of that ability. As an industry we should endeavour to identify solutions that provide both freedom and security and work with vendors to make those solutions available, and as a movement we should be doing a better job of articulating why this freedom is a fundamental part of users being able to place trust in their property.

[1] It's slightly more complicated than that in reality, but the specifics really aren't that interesting.
[personal profile] bokunenjin
It's 9°F/-13°C outside now, with a wind chill of -3°F/-19°C, and a snowstorm's coming tonight. Perfect weather for ice cream!

In my last ice cream post, I described making a decent soy-based chocolate vegan ice cream. There are various approaches when it comes to vegan ice cream bases, and I wanted to try some of the others. How to Make Great Vegan Ice Cream makes a convincing argument that coconut cream-and-milk makes the creamiest base for vegan ice cream, so I found some coconut cream at my local H-Mart and tried out Max Falkowitz's Foolproof Vegan Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream recipe to bring to a weekly dinner night among friends.

nut-based vegan vanilla "ice cream"As I mentioned in that last post, coconut products don't agree with my vegan sweetie, so I made a second vegan vanilla ice cream to bring, this time exploring the world of nut bases. Primal Palate's Vanilla Cashew Ice Cream recipe uses almond milk and soaked-and-pureed cashews for a base. It uses maple syrup as a sweetener, and golden raisins as... well, I don't know. It doesn't use enough of them to affect the flavor or the texture. ::shrugs:: If I made it again, I'd skip 'em.

At the aforementioned dinner night, I arrived just as the people already there were finishing dinner, so I opened my container of coconut-based ice cream, set out an ice cream scoop, and grabbed myself some dinner. By the time I was finished, the coconut-based ice cream was no more. Reports confirmed my impression from the licks I'd gotten off the churning paddle: it indeed creamy, with a detectable but not cloying coconut undertone. People loved it. One person asked for the recipe. Since it was consumed so quickly I don't have a photograph for you, but I'll definitely be making this one again, it's just a matter of choosing a flavor.

Next I opened up the nut-based ice cream. The texture wasn't creamy or even scoopable, but grainy and crumbly. The few of us who tried it agreed that it had a pleasant, subtle nutty flavor, so how much you enjoy it probably depends on how important you consider a creamy texture to your frozen dessert experience. It's important to me, so I wouldn't make this again for myself, though of course I'd make it again for others who don't mind the texture. I wonder whether a consumer-grade food processor just can't make a smooth cream out of whole nuts no matter how long you keep it going. If I find any coconut-free vegan ice cream recipes based on nut butter (without bananas, which I personally dislike) I'd try them, but nut-based ice creams may need a binding agent in addition to a smoother base in order to get a good texture.

Nice weekend

Feb. 16th, 2015 08:45 am
badgerbag: (Default)
[personal profile] badgerbag
And I just woke up to prepare myself mentally for work and realized it is still the weekend! Huzzah!!!!! I will do my taxes in celebration.

Friday I worked hard, then took Milo out to high tea. He liked the tiny sandwiches and scones and crumpet and petit four and salad and fruit but not the actual tea. While I went to therapy he read comic books at the nearby library where I then joined him to work some more. We looked into 2 shoe stores but they didn't really have anything that appealed to him. He has always worn non-laceup shoes like vans or merrils and tried to talk himself into laces and failed. We walked all the way there and back playing ingress and talking. Super nice day.

Sat. I fooled with my container plants and cleaned the porch some more from its rainy season cruft and trash and spiders. We all 4 walked down to 24th and the cultural center where there was music and cake. We also had tacos and stopped at the fizzary. ada got a small set of pan pipes. Perfect weather. danny then was super tired and slept a lot. he is still getting over his cold. I trimmed the plants on the side path to the garage and swept it.

sunday i did more plant fiddling. yatima stopped by for tea on the porch. danny and I went up the hill and grocery shopped together which is always nice. f and cmex came over and stayed till dinnertime. So the clean front porch got a lot of use. we had a great time and some hilarious conversations. f. plied and wound some greeny-yellow yarn on a giant spindle and a thing called a niddy-noddy. moomin was out at a game con with his dad. a. and yatima's daughter hung out much of the afternoon there or here. I cooked spaghetti and meatballs (sitting down) and had some pulled pork in the slow cooker all night.

today i am physically shaky and realizing i overdid things yesterday walking around the house and garden. each porch sweeping or gardening feels possible and even good while i'm doing it but I get too gung-ho and over do it. I have at least figured out taking allergy meds beforehand is a good idea! I scrubbed half the porch railings yesterday (sitting down) and did not realize till bedtime that I had screwed up my right hand doing that. I iced it a lot in the night waking up from the pain. It is going to be hard not to clean the rest of the things today. I have all this energy from the zoloft, i think, but not the physical stamina. Though, I just did 3 really nice not-staying-in-bed days with going out each day, and I think have not fucked up yet, I need a "down" day for my knees and ankles...

wonder if my pool is open today? I could go swim!

Must let my hand rest. more reading, less scrubbing ?

Valentine fandoms

Feb. 16th, 2015 10:35 pm
puzzlement: (jelly)
[personal profile] puzzlement
Originally posted at http://puzzling.org.

Boycotting Valentine’s Day has never been a huge thing for me, because my family also never made a big deal about it. It’s hard to feel truly society-defying about being more or less indifferent to Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. and actively hostile to the Melbourne Cup, when you could wind back time twenty seven years and get my mother to say essentially the same things about them for pretty similar reasons.

There’s also circumstance and privilege. Circumstance: as with my mother and her mother, in our turn my mother and I don’t live in the same city, so it was a long time before I even noticed that there’s a Sunday in May on which it is considered rude and presumptuous to try and make non-maternal plans. Privilege: I’ve been partnered with a man since I was eighteen years old. He doesn’t come with the extravagant romantic gestures add-on, but if I wanted to make plans for Valentine’s Day I have an obvious candidate and a set of scripts.

And so it was that as far as I can recall, Andrew and I went out to dinner for Valentine’s Day for the first time ever and I don’t have to explain my change of heart. As you’d expect, the timing was semi-coincidence; it was as much that it was the Saturday closest to his birthday today as it was Valentine’s Day, but I was at least curious about the level of enforced Valentining that would go on. (Andrew and I once completely accidentally made a lunch booking for the day of the Melbourne Cup, and discovered very considerable mandatory Cupping.) To my surprise, the answer was none at all. We went to Lolli Redini in Orange, a treat my parents originally planned for us in Christmas 2013, and they didn’t have a set menu, any kind of flowers or heart-shaped things, or, in fact, the restaurant made up only to seat couples. There was a group having dinner for eight in the centre. This is probably what one wants in the actual night but not for writing about it afterwards; no stories. The cheese soufflé is very good though!

Andrew and I pondered what to discuss. Unlike the parent cliche, we don’t tend to discuss the children much when we’re having date-like activities but I warned that we were at risk of falling into our current conversational sinkhole, which is talking about our career trajectories. Andrew correctly steered the ship to what he said was our other mainstay: fandoms. And so we had a very satisfying dinner talking about Sherlock/Firefly crossovers and thinking about all the fandoms we’ve created/inhabited together.

Diablo Our original fandom, off to a promising start when I spent an evening at Wesley College with new friends, including Andrew, and didn’t get to play Diablo multiplayer because of capacity and/or skill. A year later, we lost a decent chunk of 2000 to Diablo II, and it was one of the fandoms we managed to infect our friends with. Hours of waiting impatiently at the edge of town while Andrew and Daniel compared the stats on different weapons before we could set forth. We went back and dived in again a few times since. We played III late last year, having moved on somewhat in our gaming preferences (I now tank, Andrew went for a magic user rather than a ranged attack). It didn’t eat our lives quite as much, but only because of the kids.

JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth. This was a fairly inevitable consequence of him having met me as a teenager. There would be Tolkien. Funnily enough though, I didn’t think of this one, Andrew did. Probably because we’ve read the books more in parallel than together; they’re not something we’ve spent a lot of time digging into together.

Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn chronicles I’ve been reading them since I was perhaps 15. Andrew and I ship Rushton/Elspeth and are hoping Carmody cuts Ruston a break some book or other and can find it within herself to finish the series.

Firefly For the reasons most people like it, I would think, except that to us it only having fourteen episodes is a considerable bonus rather than a source of pain. Who wants the commitment of multiple seasons? Not us.

The Dandy Warhols Andrew introduces me to almost all the music I encounter (barring 90s women-in-rock), this is just the one that’s stuck the best. Particularly You Were the Last High, which plays right into my love for songs that are all about messed up relationships almost entirely unlike anything I’ve been involved in. (See also Placebo’s Special K and Radiohead’s Talk Show Host.) A Dandies concert was the first night out we had after V was born.

The novels of Ursula Le Guin Circuitously, I think, via a recommendation from the Twisted folks.

Sherlock Was always likely to be Mary and Andrew catnip, because is comparatively low time commitment when measured in evenings, it has banter, a really consistent aesthetic, a fascinating villain and is profoundly frustrating. If we can discuss it and its flaws for an entire course at dinner, then we’re pretty much done for.

We also found a whole set of things that are “only because of this marriage”, that is, we’d drop them if it wasn’t for that. For me: Doctor Who, cricket, the Civilization games, the vast bulk of our music collection. For him: The Sims games, pretty much any podcast. You have to make some compromises, after all.

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