I plotted a little and then took the J and N to the beach, worked and had lunch from a cafe. The train wasn't too bad, though it took an hour. Lunch at Beachside (food not as nice as it looked, no wireless, but outside tables) Then worked from the Java hut or whatever it is, and then once it got really sunny scooted across the Great Highway and went up to where there is a sidewalk (opposite the windmill at the corner of Golden Gate Park).
I walked a little way into the sand next to some sand dunes thinking maybe i could establish myself in some way looking at the ocean.
Sand is good for challenging all your small different muscles in your ankles and knees. Like with the whale watching, I could feel things happening in my ankles that were exciting but scary. Either I'm re-damaging them in horrible ways, or I'm breaking adhesions or scar tissue in there deep down. I can move my ankles better in the last couple of weeks, bending them further up. and have been icing them at least twice a day (often all night)
I could not get very far into the sand and the beach is very huge. I thought how I am lucky to get to do this and felt congratulatory for at least getting to the beach twice this summer at all (once with the kids to Aquatic Park which is super easy access and narrow) and glad that I picked a good day that was sunny and warm. Then suddenly felt sad like I could not bear the pollyannaish being glad thing. It is true I am lucky and can feel appreciative and yet I also have the horrible thought every time I do something that maybe this is the best it gets and I will never get any further onto a beach, or with walking, or whatever, and everything will get more difficult. Still, whatever, right, because I am also lucky enough to cope well with it and have a ton of support, skills, privilege, job, etc. to make things extremely pleasant and easy. And, a month ago I could not have done this as I was still too exhausted and weak from not being able to eat/gastritis/esophagus or whatever it is. Fuck, 2 weeks ago I was also getting over a cold and was hapy just to be carted along on yatima's errand. (which was great... and took us to the presidio and beach side both... but i was decrepit.) So obviously I felt happy to be able to have an independent outing and my usual pride in being bad ass enough to go across town in my tiny scooter. Take that, FEAR. I felt in planning it that I was brave enough to do it because the scooter will fit into a car and I could call a taxi which woudl actually come get me, if I got so tired that taking two trains back was daunting or if I hurt myself by accident.
BUT I thought, well here I am alone at the beach in a desolate spot. No one is looking. Perhaps I could just have a brief cry about it all. I felt some grief and loss. I wished i could have been at the beach on the east coast where my family was a few weeks ago, and there would be beach roses instead of eternal west coast ice plant/sea fig. Everything would smell "right" and would be lovely though sad in other ways. Mostly I just wished I could climb around and run around in the sand and go down to the water and feel more free to explore as I very much like to do. I cried a bit for when we were at bean hollow last week with my dad and I couldn't go look at the tide pools with moomin though I really wanted to. At least he did what i told him and went without me and had a good long look at them on his own. OK. So I cried on the beach for 10 minutes and felt very self indulgent. I wished I could just be in a sad mood for the rest of the day. I thought how nice it would be to have a strong drink or be on the super duper drugs they shoot into my veins when I get my back injections. (I think some combo of valium and other things) Then I felt better and went back to the cafe and worked some more and got a VERY crowded train home.
I am still kind of weepy to be honest.
I plotted future trips and thought it would be nice to go out again but allow much more time, and go all the way up to cliff house and the nature center/overlook/gift shop/coffee bar just above Sutro baths. Or even further and scooter all along the walkways around the point whatever that is called which I haven't been on for years.
It was a tantalizing but not really satisfying beach trip.
I'd like to go to Moss Landing but have a magic dune buggy to go out along the beach and also be able to kayak through the slough there without hurting the hell out of my hands. Not sure if I could really do it anymore. Maybe in a tandem kayak. An could it be an invisible dune buggy so I could chill the fuck out and get in and out of my wheelchair without 800 people staring at me and stuff.
I talked a good long while with a guy whose mom had a stroke and has a jazzy, at the train platform behind the safeway. he was very nice and we discussed the intricacies of scootering. She needs a joystick controller really and more stabilty than a travelscoot but there could still be smaller powerchairs (she is small) that fold up. Also, an off duty muni driver at the java hut talked with me a while about his wife who has MS and another kind of large scooter that she has trouble fitting anywhere. She would like something more portable but insurance will not pay. She could handle or nearly handle something like my scooter. I got him to drive it around a little bit to try it out. Also, I talked with many, many other people from kids to surfers to random slightly limping older ladies who all liked the scooter and thought it looked cool and wished they had one to play with or get around better on. I should keep count. I always have slightly ambiguous grumpy feelings about the people who seem to approve of me extra because I take up less space and "look cool". Thanks but how about if I didn't, would you just hate on me or what. I try to take it as best as possible and I also utterly don't mind children who are like HOLY SHIT I MUST DRIVE THIS FUN TINY MOTOR TRICYCLE THING while their parents are scared I will be angry. Hahahhaa.
Day of Feelings!
Shaded Vision by Yasmine Galenorn
The series continues. This one was focussed on the were-sister and was generally pretty pleasant to read... it's fading rapidly, but I do remember thinking that the core of this one was a commentary on hate crimes. It wasn't subtle at all.
Defending Battered Women on Trial by Elizabeth A. Sheehy
I didn't read all of this one, just the one chapter about a local case. Beyond the details of the case, it also talked a fair bit about the very negative portrayal in media and the aggressive tone of the police and prosecution. An unsettling read.
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
This was a well written fantasy novel with the most god damned inconsistent and illogical magic system I've ever read. It was like the magic system was made up by an 8 year old and then the book was written by an adult. Perhaps that's really how it was. Anyway, it was a good enough read, but I found it really off-putting when near the end one of the characters started expounding on the magic system as if it was scientific and well-studied and made any damn sense.
Also, calling it "BioChroma" when nothing else is inner-capped like that made me think it was a brand name every time it came up.
Cinder by Melissa Meyer
Seriously, I know a lot of the time when I write about things I'm pretty down on the flaws, but I really liked this one. It's a young adult novel that's a sci-fi Cinderella story - the Cinderella character is a cyborg and mechanic, and she is clever and interesting, as are the other characters. I'm very much looking forward to picking up the next in the series... although it stands alone okay, it doesn't have a happily-ever-after ending and the sci-fi intrigue looks to be excellent.
I make these pancakes whenever I have guests, and sometimes when I don’t. They’re made from the same starter/sponge as my sourdough bread, and I quite often make them the day before I bake my bread, while the starter is bubbling at room temperature.
These are American style fluffy pancakes, based on various “Yukon gold rush” recipes I found online, where miners supposedly kept their sourdough starter inside their shirts to keep it alive and bubbling in the cold climate. I prefer this style to the thinner crepe-like pancakes that are common in Australia, and I think you will too. They’re easier to flip, for one thing.
The recipe is incredibly simple:
- 1 cup bubbling sourdough starter or sponge (fed and raised at room temperature, not from the fridge)
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 2 tblsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- pinch of salt
Whisk everything together into a sloppy batter. Add a touch more milk if it’s not thin enough to pour from a ladle.
Feed your starter again with 1/2 cup strong baker’s flour and 1/2 cup
Lightly oil a frying pan and heat to medium-hot. You’ll get to know the right temperature on your own stove with a bit of practice.
Pour the batter into the about 1/2 cup at a time to make medium sized pancakes. For me, my soup ladle holds about 3/4 cup so I use that but don’t fill it.
Cook until bubbles rise to the top and form holes that don’t disappear, then flip with a spatula and cook a little longer on the other side.
As they are cooked, put them on a plate, and keep warm in a low oven with a sheet of foil over them. Or serve them as they come out of the pan, of course.
This makes enough to feed about three people normally, or for two to stuff themselves. Serve with whatever you like on top. I’ve got a banana and maple habit lately.
Leftover pancakes keep okay for a couple of days on the fridge, and can be reheated by warming quickly on each side in a hot pan. They’re not as good as fresh, but they’re not bad either, and make for a quick hot breakfast. One batch of pancakes serves me for three days this way, and makes it workable for just me living alone. (Please don’t ask about the time I tried to eat a whole batch in one morning. My stomach still aches at the memory.)
Schedules for making these pancakes
Some people told me they found the schedules in my original bread post useful, so here’s how my schedule looks for bread+pancakes, in winter (i.e. with a coolish house, around 10C most of the time). The trick is to just keep the sponge a little warmer and livelier, and to take out a cupful of sponge and refeed it in the middle of the sponge stage.
Evening, day 1: make sponge, feed starter and put it back in the fridge. Put the sponge somewhere relatively warm, like the living room, to get it bubbling more vigorously.
Morning, day 2: take out a cup of sponge and make pancakes. Top up the sponge with 1/2 cup strong baker’s flour and 1/2 cup water, and continue to keep it somewhere relatively warm.
Evening, day 2: make dough and form loaf. Rise overnight in a cold/unheated room.
Morning, day 3: bake bread.
Or of course there’s the alternate version, aka “I forgot I was meant to be making bread and now I’m almost ready for bed and can’t be bothered” on the evening of day 2. This happens to me more often than I’d like to admit.
Evening, day 1: as above.
Evening, day 2: instead of making the dough, just feed the starter again with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water and go to bed.
Morning, day 3: make pancakes.
Evening, day 3: make dough and form loaf.
Morning, day 4: bake bread.
I took about a week to get over my jetlag from the USA, but it was really rather mild. I would just get on with my day, only as soon as the sun set, the day would be over. The unpleasantness was mostly that this meant that for about a week, I worked and slept and did nothing else.
I met my mother, aunt and sister in Hornsby — where Andrew and I lived for 5 years and where V was born — the Friday afternoon after I got back, which was odd. Of course, most things are exactly the same, but there was also no point to it. We didn’t have friends up there even at the time and there was nowhere to go where people would remember me unless the food sellers in the (very very busy) local shopping centre remember a very tall past customer.
The playground where V played the most was exactly the same, but he’d forgotten it, and it was also verging on being a little young for him. Hornsby Shire Council is not the City of Sydney in terms of devotion to adventure playgrounds. I drove past the hospital to show V where he was born, and realised I’m not sure I’d remember which birth suite it was (even if they were inclined to allow random people to traipse through the delivery ward, which of course they would not be). Hornsby Hospital, which was a state-wide scandal in terms of maintainence, has had some money spent on it in the last few years. The building which I believe contained the old maternity ward my mother was born in has been knocked down and replaced with something in blocky primary colours, looking much like the new Royal North Shore hospital. It shouldn’t surprise me there are trends in hospital design, but it does.
V, of course, was politely puzzled by the idea that he had ever lived in this place or been in that hospital and so on. He also didn’t recognise his old daycare centre.
The block of flats we lived in — we still own the flat — looks exactly the same as when I last saw it more than two years ago, but there’s a speed bump in the street, and a new Thai restaurant where the sad failed grocer was. (Sad both in that any failed small business is sad, and also that they appeared to have sunk a lot of thought and effort into the fitout, trying to set up a slightly fancy deli that was patronised mostly by me and Andrew. They left on what would have been about the first annual review of their lease.) I entirely forgot to check if the Blockbuster franchise was still there; I would assume not.
I had intended to spend most of a day up there remembering things, in the end I drove around and left after 45 minutes.
It was probably that trip that inspired me into a very brief foray into the Sydney property market the following weekend, to wit, inspecting two properties. One we arrived at only to be told by a bored agent it had been bought before its first public inspection. “Yeah, sorry. That’s how it goes!” The other involved real estate agents cornering us to let us know how very motivated (very, very motivated) the seller was, and wanting to have a big discussion about what we were looking for in the market and what we thought about the market and why we thought that and whether they’d be of any help re-aligning our thoughts for us and what kind of finance we might have access to or could be assisted with, and etc, and were not easily put off by “we live just up the street and are having a sticky-beak, and also, this apartment is down two internal flights of stairs and we have a baby in a stroller, so no.” I suppose it could be worse, we could have actually bought the place. But it was surprisingly difficult to get away from them even as entirely unmotivated buyers.
And that was Andrew’s cue to nick off to the USA himself. It was a long and lonely trip at my end, probably much the same as mine for him. As our work trips become increasingly totalising — he was expected to have all three meals a day with work colleagues he needs to know better, I took a baby with me — we’ve dropped off our communications. I spoke to him a couple of times while I was away (and mostly in order to speak to a very bored and slightly bewildered V, at that), I think while he was away we had a couple of abortive attempts at video chat and that was about it. Not much fun having a chat that consists mostly of “… no, I still can’t hear you, oh, I just saw you wave, nope, now you’ve frozen, can you hear me? CAN YOU HEAR ME?” It got even worse when he got to London and didn’t have a local SIM and was impossible to reach at all.
Andrew works in an office, but I don’t, so when he travels I can go for days without having face-to-face interactions with other adults that aren’t transactional. (“Have I paid for V’s dance class this week? No? Here’s the fee!”) So I took V and A to my parents for three nights in the middle of Andrew’s trip. Packing alone for a trip is always really annoying and boring, but the drive that I was dreading (about 4 hours each way) ended up being surprisingly painless. V remains a good and surprisingly non-whingy car traveller and A sleeps even better in cars than he used to. The first morning we were there they had their snowfall of the year; unfortunately we hadn’t brought gloves with us but had a bit of fun anyway, with my parents hauling V around on a tarpaulin “sled”.
Once I was back, I warned Val that I was feeling slightly ill and was having an inexplicably grumpy and sad day. (The amount of emotional work and intimacy required in a small business can be high, but I do like being able to rearrange my day around being grumpy every so often.) It got much more explicable when I realised I was having cellulitis symptoms in my left ankle (an infection of soft tissue under the skin).
I had cellulitis in September 2012 with a slightly unusual and very aggressive presentation: I got a high fever first, about 24 hours before there was any redness or swelling and so on. By the time the redness was even really properly visible, I had been running a 40°C fever for several days, could barely walk due to the painful swelling of lymph nodes, was dehydrated, and was admitted to hospital for 6 days of IV antibiotics (and three days of rehydration, because I refused to take anything by mouth). When I was in there, the infectious diseases registrar asked if she should draw the boundaries of the redness on my leg to check if it was spreading, and the specialist said mildly “I don’t think there’s much point to that.” He was quite right: within a couple more days, the redness had spread all over my left thigh, and I ended up losing two layers of skin from most of my inner thigh, very much (as the specialist pointed out) as if I’d badly burned it. The day before I was discharged, he stopped by my bed alone and remarked that it was cases like this that “remind us that even in the age of antibiotics, these things can be very aggressive, and sometimes even fatal.”
So, naturally, I panicked that I was having cellulitis symptoms again, only this time with two children in my care and Andrew in London (so, timezone-flipped) and close to unreachable other than by email. It wasn’t, in the end, justified: this time I got the redness and swelling but no fever or systemic illness, and a couple of courses of antibiotics cleared it up without me losing any skin, although I did walk with a cane for a couple of days due to lymph node pain. It was no worse than having twisted an ankle a bit in the end. It was tough on the extended family, as I set up Illness Level Red in case of needing to be hospitalised, unnecessarily in the event. (Andrew and I agreed that he’d arrange to leave London early as soon as I started running a fever, so he ended up leaving as planned.)
As a concrete thing, Andrew and I are going to have to work a bit more about communicating, and being accessible, while each of us travels. I used to talk about emotionally putting our marriage on ice for the duration — which is already much easier for the person who is travelling than the person left behind — but it’s not possibly for parenting, especially if the at-home parent gets taken out of action.
Once Andrew was back, all was well with the world. For the week and a half it took him to incubate the influenza he presumably picked up while travelling, anyway… stay tuned.
I wanted to post a short, simple version of my sourdough bread instructions — no fancy stuff or options, unlike the earlier rather confusing post that I made — so that I can point people at it when I give them some of my starter.
So here goes. How to make a standard sourdough loaf the way I do.
Basic sourdough starter feeding
- When you get the sourdough home, put it in a large jar with lid or covering that will let it breath. I like using one of those flip-top jars and removing the rubber ring so it’s not airtight.
- Feed it 1/2 cup of strong white bakers flour and 1/2 cup of filtered water. Give it a stir. It should have the approximate consistency of cake batter.
- You have two options now, depending on your schedule and how much bread you consume:
- Leave it 12-24 hours at room temperature, or
- Leave it for longer (up to a couple of weeks, easily) in the fridge
Making the sponge
- Start the following steps about 36 hours before you want your loaf of bread.
- Take the starter and pour most of it out of the jar into a large bowl. Don’t scrape the jar or make too much effort to pour everything out — you want some left to keep the starter going.
- Add 1/2 cup strong baker’s flour and 1/2 cup filtered water back to the jar, stir, and put it aside until you want to make another loaf (as above – it’s fine on the benchtop for a day, or in the fridge for a week or more).
- In the bowl, you should have about 1 cup of starter. It’s not exact, so don’t sweat the details.
- Add 1 cup strong baker’s flour and 1 cup filtered water and give it a good stir to incorporate. You’re looking for approximately cake batter consistency. This is the sponge.
- Leave the sponge at room temperature for 24 hours, covered with a cloth (I use a clean tea towel).
- At the end of this period, it should be bubbly and smell yeasty.
Making the dough and forming the loaf
- The next day, make the dough. First add about a teaspoon of salt. Then add strong baker’s flour, starting with about a cup and adding a bit more at a time, mixing with each addition, until you get to the “shaggy dough” stage, which is when it sort of breaks into stringy clumps.
- Put some flour on your counter or work surface. I use a generous handful.
- While you’re at it, grease and flour a loaf tin. I do this now so I can dump the excess flour out onto the counter with the rest.
- Turn the dough out of the bowl, scraping the sides, and make a heap on the counter. Sprinkle a little more flour on top.
- Fold and knead for just a few minutes. I usually start by folding and gently shaping it a few times until it forms a cohesive lump, and then gently pushing/kneading it until the dough is nice and smooth and stretchy. It doesn’t need long or energetic kneading like traditional yeast bread does.
- Add more flour if it’s sticking to the counter, but try not to let it get too dry.
- Form into a loaf shape. I do this by pulling the dough into a rectangle about the size of a sheet of A4 or letter paper, and then folding it in thirds, like how you’d fold a letter to put in an envelope.
- Turn this upside down so the join is underneath, and dump it into your loaf pan.
- Sprinkle flour on top to make a non-stick surface. I just use a small handful lightly dusted over it.
- Cover again with a cloth (I use the same tea towel) and leave for 6-12 hours, depending on room temperature. In warmer weather, you’ll want to leave it a shorter period. You want it to approximately double in size.
- Bake at 220C for 30 minutes.
- Turn out of the tin and tap the bottom. If it doesn’t sound hollow, stick it back in the oven for another 5
- Cool on a rack. Leave for at least 15 mins before slicing.
The hardest thing, early on, is finding your rhythm or schedule. So here are a couple of schedules that work for me.
My winter schedule (~10 hour rise):
Evening, day 1: make sponge, feed starter and put it back in the fridge.
Evening, day 2: make dough and form loaf. Rise overnight in an unheated room, which in my climate means down around 10 degrees C or even lower.
Morning, day 3: bake, and appreciate how it warms up the kitchen and you get a nice hot breakfast.
My summer schedule (~6 hour rise, ):
Morning, day 1: make sponge, feed starter and put it back in the fridge.
Morning, day 2: make dough and form loaf. Rise during the day, keeping an eye on it after 4 hours or so as it can go quite quickly in warm weather.
Afternoon/evening, day 2: bake.
In my climate, I keep an eye on the weather forecast and aim to bake on cooler days (in the 20s celsius) when it’s not torture to run the oven. If it’s hotter than that, I’m more likely to make flatbread or just eat something else.
Some people suggest letting it rise in the fridge overnight if the weather is hot. I’ve tried it and don’t much like it, but you might find it works for you.
I got my first MP3 player in 2006, a SanDisk Sansa e140. As that one aged, I picked up the SanDisk Sansa Fuze in 2009. Recently my poor Sansa Fuze has been having trouble updating the library (takes a long time) and would randomly freeze up. After getting worse over my past few trips, I finally resigned to getting a new player.
As I began looking for players, I was quickly struck by how limited the MP3 player market is these days. I suspect this is due to so many people using their phones for music these days, but that’s not a great option for me for a variety of reasons:
- Limits to battery life on my phone make a 12 hour flight (or a 3 hour flight, then an 8 hour flight, then navigating a foreign city…) a bit tricky.
- While I do use my phone for runs (yay for running apps) I don’t like using my phone in the gym, because it’s bulky and I’m afraid of breaking it.
- Finally, my desire for an FM tuner hasn’t changed, and I’m quite fond of the range of formats my Fuze supported (flac, ogg, etc).
So I found the SanDisk Clip Sport MP3 Player. Since I’ve been happy with my SanDisk players throughout the years and the specs pages seemed to meet my needs, I didn’t hesitate too much about picking it up for $49.99 on Amazon. Obviously I got the one with pink trim.
I gave the player a spin on my recent trip to Philadelphia. Flight time: 5 hours each way. I’m happy to report that the battery life was quite good, I forgot to charge it while in Philadelphia but the charge level was still quite high when I turned it on for my flight home.
Overall, I’m very happy with it, but no review would be complete without the details!
- Feels a bit plasticy – the Fuze had a metal casing
- I can’t figure out how it sorts music in file view, doesn’t seem alphabetical…
- Meets my requirements: FM Tuner, multiple formats – my oggs play fine out of the box, the Fuze required a firmware upgrade
- Standard Micro USB connector for charging – the Fuze had a custom connector
- File directory listing option, not just by tags
- Mounts via USB mass storage in Linux
- Micro SD/SDHC expansion slot if I need to go beyond 8G
We’ll see how it holds up through the abuse I put it through while traveling.
I’m going through a bit of a cash-starved phase at the moment so I’m looking at what I can cook from my pantry, freezer and garden without shopping for groceries.
I thought I’d take a few minutes to write up what’s currently scrawled in green marker across the whiteboard in my kitchen, as I’m quite pleased with how much I think I can manage with what I already have.
- brown rice gratin with sausage, squash and silverbeet
- mujaddara served with spicy chutney and yoghurt
- lentil and sorrel risotto
- pasta with tuna, tomato, olives, and parsley
- slow cooked bbq pork with rice
- sauted red beans, sausage, and kale (to eat with with toast)
- tabbouleh-esque salad with chickpeas
- potato-and-greens frittata
- soba noodles with broccoli and peanuts
- miso soup with shiitakes and greens over black rice
The distinction between dinner vs brunch/lunch/light meal is pretty arbitrary, but this is just how I’d choose to eat those dishes at this time of year. In summer, a substantial salad might be a dinner, but not at the tail end of winter when the nights are still cold.
I figure I’m good for 2 weeks at least, and maybe more, based on cooking something every day or so and having leftovers for the meals in between.
My shopping list, to get me through this menu, reads:
- celery (to go into home made veg stock from scraps in a bag in my freezer, and also into the lentil risotto, and then to snack on whatever’s left)
- onions (I have a few but will probably need more)
Everything else is already in the house or garden. I’ve also got a couple of frozen containers of soup and leftovers, and some snackable bits and pieces, in case I don’t feel like cooking. It’ll be interesting to see how tough it is to resist shopping, though. I’m pretty sure I’ll start wishing for more eggs and dairy quite soon, though I don’t strictly need them.
You’ll note there’s a few meat meals listed there. I’m using up the last two packets of pork from my Jonai Farms ethical meat CSA membership, which ended a little while ago. There’s a packet of spicy chorizo sausages which I cooked yesterday and have been chopping up into various dishes, and a chunk of pork shoulder that will be great slow-cooked and served with some leftover chipotle BBQ sauce from my birthday rib extravaganza, that I have frozen in containers.
By the time I’m done with this exercise, I suspect my pantry will be getting close to bare. It’s interesting doing this right now, in late winter/early spring in the southern hemisphere. This time of year, in the northern hemisphere, is Lent, a traditional period of fasting in the Christian calendar. How convenient that Lent just happens to be the time of year when people’s supplies are low, the chickens aren’t laying yet, the livestock were either killed off before the weather got too cold or else are pregnant and not producing milk right now, and basically all you have to live on are greens and root veg from the garden and whatever’s in your pantry.
I’m not abstaining from animal products over these next weeks but I’m certainly going to be using them sparingly. It’s a kind of secular Lent for me, as well as a bit of a pre-emptive spring clean for my pantry, finishing off a lot of half-jars and tail ends of this and that. It actually feels kind of appropriate to the season.
Wish me luck!
Help me out?
( Some reading history: )
A couple of years back, I committed to reading Octavia Butler and James Tiptree Jr. I loved what I read of Butler (about half of Bloodchild and Other Stories): motherhood and genetics and illnesses, oh my. Excellent. And then I wanted to start on Tiptree and the collection of hers I began with started with a biographical summary and ( Warning for domestic violence ) and I think I should just not read Tiptree for the time being and move along rather than letting this whirlpool stop me from reading the genre in total.
And certainly, I want to return to Octavia Butler, although with the serious asterisk that I'm in Australia.
On the Australian issue: I have a suburban library a block away and a giant academic library in the next suburb, but it's still a bit tough. I suck at libraries really; it's basically a case of "borrow book, forget to return it, run up fine larger than purchase price of book, never borrow again" for me. (Note: right now I'm not really interested in improving my library-use skills in this respect. That's not what this entry is for.) So I tend to buy, but then, shipping is pricey, and quite a lot of e-books aren't available in Australia, and this is largely invisible to US recommenders (Amazon et al don't put up a giant "THINKING OF TELLING AN AUSTRALIAN ABOUT THIS BOOK? DON'T BOTHER!" warning). Anyway. I'll let you know if you rec something that's really tough for me to get hold of, and we can rage together.
What I think I'm looking for:
- interesting world-building as a core feature, even when this involves plot or writing skill trade-offs (obviously, only up to a point, which is hard to specify)
- engagement with social issues like gender politics, economic disparity, racial and ethnic identities, revolutions, culture clashes, illness, disability
- for momentum reasons: authors who have quite a lot of published work, since I tend to read through an author and come to a grinding halt once I'm out of their work
- narrative kinks (incomplete list): social implications of different biologies, telepathy, the ocean, time travel, marriages and equivalent length relationships, charismatic villains who play a long game
- probably not enormously experimental prose styles, and certainly not poetry. I can be a sophisticated reader in this respect, but I think not while I'm trying to get to grips with new genres.
- I'd probably prefer to stick to a single set of characters per item, ie, not the style of book that takes place over 1000 years and switches characters every chapter. (That's for novels: loosely linked short stories would be OK.)
- I'm neutral on the question of YA or New Adult or… Adult?
On Monday we released Issue 378 of the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter. The newsletter has thousands of readers across various formats from wiki to email to forums and discourse.
As we creep toward the 400th issue, we’ve been running a bit low on contributors. Thanks to Tiago Carrondo and David Morfin for pitching in these past few weeks while they could, but the bulk of the work has fallen to José Antonio Rey and myself and we can’t keep this up forever.
So we need more volunteers like you to help us out!
We specifically need folks to let us know about news throughout the week (email them to email@example.com) and to help write summaries over the weekend. All links and summaries are stored in a Google Doc, so you don’t need to learn any special documentation formatting or revision control software to participate. Plus, everyone who participates is welcome to add their name to the credits!
Summary writers. Summary writers receive an email every Friday evening (or early Saturday) with a link to the collaborative news links document for the past week which lists all the articles that need 2-3 sentence summaries. These people are vitally important to the newsletter. The time commitment is limited and it is easy to get started with from the first weekend you volunteer. No need to be shy about your writing skills, we have style guidelines to help you on your way and all summaries are reviewed before publishing so it’s easy to improve as you go on.
Interested? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you added to the list of folks who are emailed each week and you can help as you have time.
Before I left for the US in June, Val asked me what other people were saying to me about my plan to go on an intercontinental business trip and bring a baby, and I said that I gathered that people thought both that it was a terrible idea and that it was fairly typical of me to attempt it.
It was touch and go committing to it. Just when I started to get excited about it, A went through a non-sleeping patch over Easter that nearly saw me walk away from the whole thing. So after that I mostly dealt with it by ignoring it as much as possible until the time was nearly upon me, much as I deal with the entire idea of long haul travel generally.
In fact the trip over started quite promisingly, sitting in Air New Zealand’s nearly deserted business lounge looking out onto the tarmac and feeling a kind of peace and happiness I very rarely feel. (So rarely that I can remember most other cases of it. The afternoon after I finished my final high school exams. Flying back from Honolulu last year finishing up my PhD revisions. I usually need to be alone, and finishing something very big, neither of which was true in this case.)
I like Air New Zealand’s schedule to the States compared to Qantas’s. To fly Qantas to the Bay Area, you fly to LA, which takes about 15 hours, and get off the plane at some point between midnight and about 3am Sydney time, ie, just when your body was finally about to fall asleep. Instead of sleeping, you must navigate LAX. I’ve had nightmares that are more fun than that, even though LAX has usually been rather kind to me if anything. However kind, last year I arrived in San Francisco without a moment of sleep (and pregnant, and ill). On Air NZ, the long flight is the second flight: Auckland to San Francisco, so it more nearly corresponds with my sleeping time.
The question was always whether the baby would sleep at all during the flight, and actually she did surprisingly well considering how ill-designed her location was. They had her staring straight up into a light! Nightie night! I did OK too, although the trip’s high point in the lounge was quickly followed by its low point when I subluxated my shoulder in the middle of the night shutting a window shade (yes really, I attempted it from a terrible angle, but yikes) while located something like 2000km from the nearest hospital (and 10km in the air). But I only had to spend a couple of moments imagining the horror of finding some doctor on the plane to attempt to reset it before it reset itself. The whole thing gave me a new appreciation of fear of flying, as the plane bumped along held up by thin, cold air with me stuck inside it with a busted shoulder. I don’t experience fear of flying, but I increasingly think I probably ought to.
The border official at San Francisco looked a bit skeptical that I was bringing the baby on a business trip, but duly admitted me for business and her as a tourist. And then it was déjà vu all the way out thought the ceiling height metal arrival doors and into and through the waiting groups. I’ve flown into San Francisco internationally only once in the past — my first big overseas trip in 2004 — and so I quite vividly remembered the entire experience. Luckily this time I didn’t have to head out to BART and try and work out SF’s bus system without any sleep (in 2004 I had never been in the northern hemisphere before and didn’t know that I would constantly confuse north and south, thus catching a bus for half an hour in the wrong direction). This time, too, I had a baby with me. Quite a change. I went outside and Suki met me with her car and we loaded A into the car seat and we were away.
It’s always summer in SF when I go there, and for once it really felt like it. Our first night, I went to a long dinner at Amelia’s house. Everyone was pleasingly impressed with my ability to stay awake, but I was playing on easy mode: it was only about 2pm in Sydney. The next day I had lunch at Sanraku at the Metreon because somehow my SF experiences seem to always involve the Metreon, visited Double Union, had coffee with K nearby and dinner with James at Mission Beach Cafe. All with A strapped to my front. (Actually, not strictly true, I put her on the floor at Double Union!) Too many appointments; I should never visit SF just for two nights, it needs to be a week or not at all.
The idea of getting back on a plane the next day was abhorrent, but I just gritted my teeth and did it. In any case, it was only to Portland. I am too used to thinking of Australia as a uniquely large country and therefore had been surprised that we weren’t driving to Portland. Aren’t all foreign cities an hour’s drive apart at most? No. Portland is about 9 hours, it seems, from SF, so much like Sydney and Melbourne or Brisbane. I was also disappointed that it was still about another 5 hours north to Canada, or I would have gone for a day trip.
I was in Portland for eight nights. It was good to settle into a routine there. A adapted really well to the new time and slept much better than she had been doing in Sydney, or has done since. I think it was due to the solstice, which occurred while we were there. Sleeping through the night is much more likely when someone lops four or more hours off the night for you. She sleeps from 6pm here, but in Portland she was staying up past 9.
I hadn’t remembered about Powell’s until Chally reminded me before I left, and in any event I didn’t really appreciate what Powell’s is. It’s a bookstore. A bookstore that occupies a couple of city blocks. It is a good thing that my 16 year old self never got anywhere near it or I might still be living in there. Sadly, it is not quite as magical with a grumpy 8kg human heater strapped to my chest, so I only mounted a couple of special purpose expeditions in, after books I’d been meaning to get for a while. A shame, considering I was only staying a couple of blocks away.
The trip was mostly work. I hope some time I can justify spending some time in the USA that isn’t work-related. (Right now, because V hates it when I travel, I don’t really feel good about travelling for leisure without him.) We arrived Portland on Thursday, had the AdaCamp reception Friday, the Camp itself Saturday and Sunday, Open Source Bridge Tuesday to Thursday, and then I left Portland Friday for Sydney.
I decided to keep things simple while I was there by not having A eating any food, or taking any bottles or pumping supplies, which did mean I was at her beck and call during AdaCamp (which she spent with a child carer) and otherwise I always had her with me. But she was in an exceptionally good mood for essentially the entire trip. Val pointed out that she has a particular trick for interacting with people, which is that she blankly stares at people before smiling at them, giving the impression that she chose to smile especially for them. She made lots and lots of friends. She seems quite outgoing, like her brother. I was sad she couldn’t stay at Open Source Bridge forever, but she couldn’t, what with it only going for a week. (And honestly, I had trouble with just that. I was very tired by that point.)
I liked Portland, but I didn’t feel I got to grips with it. Perhaps the closest was the bus ride out to Selena’s place and back in, looking at the big wooden houses and the massive bright green leafy trees. It’s not a very large city: suburbs full of detached houses can be found within 15 minutes bus ride of downtown. I’m sure they were all ludicrously expensive, but all the same, it had something of a distinct feel to it, so I felt I knew the city a little bit. Another moment of note was that on the bus back, which was exceptionally crowded, the bus driver insisted that someone give me a seat (because A was strapped to me) and didn’t move the bus until they did so. It didn’t at all remind me of SF’s Muni, nor Sydney Buses for that matter.
Val told me that this is the deceptive time of year in Portland, the time when it seems very very liveable. I can believe it, on the 45th parallel. Summertime is long dusks and companionship. Winter is… I’m not sure. I’ve never lived that far from the equator.
A’s one bad time of the trip was on the flight from Portland to SF. She screamed continuously for much of the flight. The man across the aisle from me stuffed his fingers in his ears. I think they may have even messed with the oxygen levels, because everyone around me went to sleep and I had tears pouring down my face from yawning. A did sleep, but it took a while. The wait in SF airport was also no fun — other than a very interesting exhibit of lace in the museum area — most things were closed, and I stabbed my finger hard on a safety pin (not safe enough, it seems). But A was a perfect angel from SF to Auckland; the crew came by to coo over the soundless baby several times. And at Sydney V was very excited to see us and begin the whole fortnight he was to have… before Andrew’s work trip to the US.
Lately I’ve been working on how to make groups, events, and projects more inclusive. This goes beyond diversity — having a demographic mix of participants — and gets to the heart of how and why people get involved, or don’t get involved, with things.
As I see it, there are six steps everyone needs to pass through, to get from never having heard of a thing to being deeply involved in it.
These six steps happen in chronological order, starting from someone who knows nothing about your thing.
“I’ve heard of this thing.” Perhaps I’ve seen mention of it on social media, or heard a friend talking about it. This is the first step to becoming involved: I have to be aware of your thing to move on to the following stages.
“I understand what this is about.” The next step is for me to understand what your thing is, and what it might be like for me to be involved. Here’s where you get to be descriptive. Anything from your thing’s name, to the information on the website, to the language and visuals you use in your promotional materials can help me understand.
“I can see myself doing this.” Once I understand what your thing is, I’ll make a decision about whether or not it’s for me. If you want to be inclusive, your job here is to make sure that I can imagine myself as part of your group/event/project, by showing how I could use or benefit from what it offers, or by showing me other people like me who are already involved.
“I can physically, logistically, and financially do this.” Here we’re looking at where and when your thing occurs, how much it costs, how much advance notice is given, physical accessibility (for people with disabilities or other such needs), childcare, transportation, how I would actually sign up for the thing, and how all of these interact with my own needs, schedule, finances, and so on.
“I feel like I fit in here.” Assuming I get to this stage and join your thing, will I feel like I belong and am part of it? This is distinct from “identification” because identification is about imagining the future, while belonging is about my experience of the present. Are the organisers and other participants welcoming? Is the space safe? Are activities and facilities designed to support all participants? Am I feeling comfortable and having a good time?
“I care enough to take responsibility for this.” If I belong, and have been involved for a while, I may begin to take ownership or responsibility. For instance, I might volunteer my time or skills, serve on the leadership team, or offer to run an activity. People in ownership roles are well placed to make sure that others make it through the inclusion pathway, to belonging and ownership.
If you’re interested in participating in an inclusivity workshop or would like to hire me to help your group, project, or event be more inclusive, get in touch.