nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
( Mar. 18th, 2014 09:59 pm)
I felt the urge to rewrite my introduction so I thought I’d use it as a starting point for a Subscription Meme, as I haven’t seen one going around for a while.

I’ve made a template, which I’ve filled out very wordily below. Please feel free to adapt it to your wishes, and please link this post wherever you like. (Please participate or share? I'm going to feel very sad if this entry sits here alone with 0 comments...)

Subscription Meme template:
<b>People in this journal</b>
<b>About my job</b>
<b>Some random facts</b>
<b>Things I like to do</b>
<b>Fandom</b>
<b>Social media usage</b>
<b>>Subscriptions, access and commenting</b>
<b>What I’d like to get from my participation here</b>


My responses! )
tags:
Just Finished
Okay, I must admit, I got kind of stuck with Otter Country. It was all the internal eye-rolling at the overwrought Nice Middle-Class White Lady Deepening Her Connection with Nature stuff. I couldn’t take it after I realised I had another 220 pages of it left. So I did some fun re-reading to cleanse my palate and rejuvenate my interest. In rapid succession, I consumed Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul and Margaret Atwood’s Morning in the Burned House.

In Progress
I then started Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table and got completely sucked into the autobiographical narrative. It’s an account of his crossing, by cruise ship, from Sri Lanka to England when he was eleven. His prodigious powers of observation (and diary-keeping) made it an absorbing nostalgic indulgence, written at the request of his children. The navel-gazing and bite-sized, evocative, anecdotal layout of the chapters is exactly to my taste (see: my love for DW and LJ)..

Up Next
Miriam Darlington’s Otter Country. I’ll give it one more try. I always get the sense she’s just on the brink of using the phrase “spirit animal”. If she does, I’m letting it go.

After that, it’s David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. I got this for the bloke’s birthday, thinking it was The Bone Clocks. It turns out he’s already read it. Fortunately, his brother got him The Bone Clocks!
As usual, I’m more than a year behind the curve when it comes to viewing films. First of all, let me state that I enjoyed this one very much. I liked that it was a nuanced mother-daughter story. I found Maleficent’s shifts in character (mostly) believable. I cried over the revelation of the meaning of “true love’s kiss”, even though it was blindingly obvious what was going to happen. It’s visually beautiful, and I will certainly re-watch it many times - though probably not until Humuhumu and Keiki are a bit older.

Still, there were things that bothered me.

  • Racefail: Rant 1: The fairies - the good, happy, sunny, nature-loving, communist fairies - all have RP English accents. I imagine this is at least partly because Ms Jolie does best role-playing an RP accent, as she did in the Tomb Raider films. But then the film-makers decided to give the humans - the greedy, vain, grabby, grubby, feudal humans - Scottish accents.

    And then the one human who ends up proving to be the unifying element between the races is the one raised by the (English) fairies. Who, of course, doesn’t have a Scottish accent.

    Nice job there, film-makers, for (possibly unconsciously) enforcing and even glorifying the English colonialist perspective. You’d think Americans would know better, given all that business in 1776. Especially since there is plenty of evidence about that it is still entirely possible for people to oppress one another for racial, religious and socioeconomic reasons, even if they’re not officially doing it under the mandate of colonialism. Er.

  • Racefail: Rant 2: The one (visibly) black actor with speaking lines is pretty much just there to get smacked in the face by the human king. Er.

  • The Ending: Rant 1: The fairies - the good, happy, sunny, nature-loving, communist fairies - start off by having a lovely society in which everyone gets along by cooperating and sharing resources. They have no rulers. Maleficent, though she is powerful, pointedly requests the assistance of her peers when facing an outside threat.

    Then after getting a massive bee in her bonnet over the wing-stealing business, which is fair enough, she suddenly decides to set herself up as queen. An ill-tempered, capricious and dictatorial queen.

    Okay, in the end she has a change of heart and all is wonderful and beautiful again and she hops gladly off her throne. And instead of going back to their peaceful, delightful, communist society, the fairies decide, “You know what I miss about that period of darkness and fear? Having a queen! So let’s appoint this teenage human - humans have a wonderful history of tolerance and peaceful accord - that we hardly know into that capacity. What a great idea.”

    I mean...What?! Why not just declare peace between the two realms? There was no need to introduce a completely different and obviously flawed system of monarchical governance into the one that got along fine without it for centuries before that. And again, wtf @ Americans. Er.

  • The Ending: Rant 2: Diaval. Am I mistaken, or did Maleficent set him up a little with that whole I-saved-your-life business? And then use him as a slave? And then at the end, he’s standing next to her, looking like he’s now her equal and after that flying around joyfully, looking like a partner and friend? Because that really bugs me.

    Yes, most American films err on the side of spelling out far too many things that don’t need to be. But in this case, I think we could have done with some explicit statements. Specifically, Maleficent releasing him from his obligations, which it appears she obtained on false pretenses and oh, I don’t know, at least verbally apologising for robbing him of his autonomy for a mere sixteen years. He deserved a little more compensation than, “If I take off the hair-shirt and step off this self-appointed throne, you’ll forgive me and we can have a normal relationship, yes? Yes. Good.” Er.


I know that most of these complaints can be easily dismissed if one takes the view that, for all the improvement in gender dynamics on the original Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, it’s still a Disney film. But I think it’s worth considering the places where it could easily have been done better (casting a more diverse set of actors), and where problematic elements were unnecessarily introduced (the rest of the above list).
This weekend, we had confirmation that Humuhumu now has medium-term memory capacity.

We make regular visits to our local National Trust property. It has lovely gardens, including a vegetable garden where you can buy interesting produce, lots of walking trails, a pretty tea room and a cute playground.

It also has a motorised buggy to take people who are disabled (and/or burdened with small children and their accoutrements) between the entrance to the grounds and the stately home.

Humuhumu thinks this is a “bus”. She loves buses more than any other form of transport. We have several toy buses at home, including a big wooden double-decker with wooden peg “peoples”.

On her last visit to the NT property with her daddy five or six weeks ago, she got to ride on the “bus” on their way back to the car park. We didn’t think anything of this until we were about to leave after the visit this weekend, when she stopped bibbling along the path in front of the stately home, tilted her head at us, and politely enquired, “Bus?”

The bus wasn’t there. We told her that the bus was probably taking other people who needed it somewhere else. Disappointed, she carried on toward the car park. We were three quarters of the way there when suddenly the “bus” appeared, traveling in the opposite direction. Humuhumu greeted it with such happy cries of, “BUS! Oh, BUS!” that, er, we had to walk all the way back so we could catch the bus.

The nice chap driving the “bus” didn’t just take us from the house to the car park. He gave us a turn around the grounds. Humuhumu had a huge smile on her face the whole time. “Ridin’ da bus,” she informed us proudly at intervals.

And now, a picspam from an assortment of recent weekends.


Humuhumu doing her best “....Please?” face.

Lots more )
If you were setting up a ritual to summon me, what three objects would be required?
tags:
nanila: little and wicked (mizuno: lil naughty)
( Feb. 12th, 2015 01:56 pm)
I'm enjoying the resurrection of this meme. [personal profile] liseuse gave me an L.

Something I hate: Lint. Especially the lint you get when you accidentally leave a tissue in one of your pockets and then do a load of dark laundry. Thousands of tiny pieces of white lint, gleaming all over your black jeans, adhering with the stubbornness of dried snot. ARGH.
Something I love: Lumpia, or Filipino fried spring rolls. I do believe that, along with malasadas and manapua, they constituted a significant proportion of my childhood diet. I did a Google image search for them and I’m drooling all over the place now. Go on, try it. Even if you’ve never eaten one, I bet it’ll do the same for you.
Somewhere I’ve been: Lamu Island, World Heritage Site off the Kenyan coast. I went there in 2010 with the bloke and two friends. We spent a few days exploring it. I’ve linked the first day’s journal entry here, and if you follow the “lamu” tag it’ll take you through the rest: DW/LJ.
Somewhere I’d like to go: Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway. I want to see both the Svalbard Satellite Station and the Global Seed Vault.
Someone I know: Lyn, my wonderful neighbour. Which reminds me, I need to ask her over for tea next week.
A film I like: Lilo and Stitch. Because ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten. And because mad “I prefer the term evil genius” scientists, ray guns, aliens playing punch buggy, and social worker named Cobra Bubbles.

Also, Tia Carrera. ♥

Please leave a comment if you would like a letter from me!
Does anyone else remember those closed-membership LJ communities where you had to post lists of your favourite things (books, films, etc) and then be judged by the members in order to be admitted? You know, those glorified “intellectual” popularity contests that those who've been judged similarly on, say, their looks or their taste in clothing or their preference in romantic partners should probably loathe on principle?

I remember starting to painstakingly assemble a list to apply for admission to a book community that I watched in order to pick up recommendations. And then I thought to myself, “Wait. I’m a scientist. I don’t read or review literary fiction or non-fiction for a living. I read books and watch films for pleasure, and I enjoy the authors I’ve either discovered for myself or found through friends or internet reviews. Do I really need to be judged inadequate and unworthy by a bunch of people who are getting their kicks out of telling others that their tastes are pedestrian and vulgar because they happen to actually like the required reading from their high school English classes? Or because they’ve never heard of that other Bronte sister? Or because they’d rather pick up a romance novel than, say, a famously impenetrable work, probably by a dead white guy? No. No, I don’t think I do.”

Just Finished
Ben Aaronovitch’s Foxglove Summer. PC (and magician) Peter Grant gets sent out of London to go tromping through the wilds of Herefordshire in a smelly 4x4 borrowed from a gay copper’s farmer boyfriend, looking for some missing children. Highly enjoyable, although I’ve already forgotten most of the details. Full of funny little nods to pop culture, including my absolute favourite Contains dialogue - mild spoiler ). A+ would read again with pleasure.

In Progress
Miriam Darlington’s Otter Country. This was a Christmas present from 2013, embarrassingly (see: 2014: the lost year). The title is not deceptive and there are indeed many otters involved. I find myself internally rolling my eyes a lot as I’m reading it, though. I’m enjoying the factual tidbits about otter habits and otter population fluctuation in the UK and otter conservation, but the florid, breathless style of the narrator when she goes on about her otter-finding quest exasperates me.

Up next
I’m not sure. Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table was going to be next but I may have temporarily had my fill of flowery poetical styles once I reach the end of Otter Country. I might go back to sci-fi for a bit.
nanila: little and wicked (mizuno: lil naughty)
( Feb. 10th, 2015 04:50 pm)
[personal profile] liv gave me an S.

Something I hate: Starting things. No really. Flippin’ heck, beginnings are scary, not least because success is never guaranteed. Starting things is the reason procrastination is so attractive.
Something I love: Shoyu. Some people call it soy sauce. Either way it is delicious and there are not many savoury foods I don’t find improved by its addition.
Somewhere I’ve been: St Kilda, World Heritage Site and essential breeding ground for North Atlantic seabirds, three hours by speedboat off the coast of Scotland. We went when I was 5.5 months pregnant with Humuhumu. This is still one of the most amazing trips I’ve ever been on. Read about it here: DW/LJ.
Somewhere I’d like to go: Singapore. Sydney. Southern Hemisphere in general. The furthest south I’ve ever been is Mombasa in Kenya.
Someone I know: Siobhan. We have been friends for many moons, and although we are separated by an ocean and a continent, I still feel close to her.
A film I like: Salt. Female action hero ftw.

Please leave a comment if you would like a letter from me!

(Oh, PS, yesterday I sent out the last batch of dragon postcards. At last. \o/ If you don't receive yours in a week or so, please let me know.)
Exhibit (A): The baby-changing room at the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham. It is nice and clean and very orange. It also has a spinning disco ball above the changing table. Which, apart from actually being rather good at keeping baby mesmerised, is just so very Brummie. (Shiny metal sign reads: "In the interest of safety, please do not leave your child unattended on the changing facility".)



Exhibit (B): British Waterways public notice on a bridge over the canal.



I consider this worthy of a full transcription [parenthesised comments by me]. It reads: "British Waterways Board*: The waterways are meant to be used and enjoyed by the public. It is an offence to:
  • Waste water by interfering with locks and sluices [Fair enough]
  • Ride a bicycle or bring a vehicle on the towing path without a permit [A vehicle I can understand, but I wonder how many cyclists know they're supposed to have a permit! And where exactly to obtain one?]
  • Obstruct the towing path
  • Damage the canal or towing path
  • Interfere with boats
  • Leave litter [Hollow laughter. Also, someone please tell that to the people who put their dogs' poo in plastic bags and then hang the bags from the hedgerows. Speaking as one of the people who cares for a section of hedgerow next to her back garden: NO. NO NO NO. You have taken a problem - people leaving their dogs' poo in public places - and made it worse by rendering it immune to the process of decomposition. I DO NOT LIKE YOU.]
  • Pollute the canal [More hollow laughter. And please tell it to the people I see using sticks to flick their dogs' poo into the canal instead of bagging it up and taking it away like decent responsible dog-owning human beings.]
  • Fire guns or throw stones [I don't want to meet the person who would go duck-hunting with their shotgun on the canal.]
  • Ride a horse on the towing path (unless it is a designated bridleway) [I've walked a fair few miles of the towpath and have yet to encounter any sections that are bridleways.]
  • Bathe in the canal [WHAT DEAR LORD NO]
  • Fail to obtain or display an appropriate licence or river registration on craft navigating the waterway"


* Now the Canal and River Trust
Yesterday, Humuhumu came to me with her gloves in her hand and said solemnly, "Mama, I can't do it." She likes to put all her clothes on herself, but gloves are difficult. She tries, but she can't do it.

The way she pronounced "can't" (KAH-nt) gave me a sudden, very sharp pang of alienation. It's a sensation to which I've become unaccustomed, embedded as I am into life in the UK. It brought home that my daughter doesn't sound like me. Not only that, she never will. She'll grow up with a British accent - what flavour is still to be determined, as she hears Brummie and Black Country at nursery, but academic British and American at home. Both my children won't sound like me. Maybe one day they'll be even embarrassed by their mum's American accent. It was unexpectedly painful to know that no matter how British I become in my habits and my tastes, as soon as I open my mouth I'm instantly identifiable as non-native, and I'll be the only one in our little family to be so.

There's a passage at the end of the last story in Zen Cho's Spirits Abroad that resonates particularly with me.

Past a certain point, you stop being able to go home. At this point, when you have got this far from where you were from, the thread snaps. The narrative breaks. And you are forced, pastless, motherless, selfless, to invent yourself anew.


Despite striving to reinvent myself over the past decade, I know that my expression of Britishness is always identifiably tinged with foreignness, and I don't just mean my accent. It's always a little jarring to be reminded that integration is not a process that is ever finished, or that can truly be perfected. I want my children to be as well integrated as possible into the culture they'll have to spend the majority of their time in. It will be effortless and natural for them. I don't want them to have American accents. But since they already seem to have so little of me in their outward appearances, apart from dark eyes and in Humuhumu's case, an outrageous fringe of pitch-black eyelashes, it hurts a little to watch them do with ease what I have to practise consciously. And to know that this difference between us is permanent.
Postcards
I received more requests for dragon postcards than I had postcards! Never fear, I have ordered another pack and will be able to fulfill all of them. I’m sending them out slowly in batches as I have a chance to write them.

Crossposting question
Is anyone else finding that, if they edit an entry that’s been cross-posted from DW to LJ, it re-posts to LJ instead of modifying the previous entry? I’m getting grumpy about it, as I usually have to edit entries 3-4 times after initially posting because I’ve forgotten a tag or spot a grammatical error.

Beautiful sky rock
[personal profile] kaberett, did you see the cover of this week’s Nature? It is gorgeous. From the Nature web site:


The Esquel pallasite — arguably the most beautiful meteorite ever discovered — consists of centimetre-scale gem-quality crystals of the silicate mineral olivine embedded in a metallic matrix of iron-nickel alloy. The pallasites are thought to originate from a ~200 km radius parent body that separated into a liquid metal core surrounded by a rocky silicate mantle shortly after the birth of the Solar System. High-resolution magnetic imaging of the iron–nickel matrix of two pallasites (Esquel and Imilac) by James Bryson et al. reveals a time-series record of magnetic activity on the pallasite parent body, encoded within nanoscale intergrowths of iron-rich and nickel-rich phases. This record captures the dying moments of the magnetic field generated as the liquid core solidified, providing evidence for a long-lasting magnetic dynamo driven by compositional convection. (Esquel image from Natural History Museum, London.)


I have a paper copy of the issue if you would like me to post it to you.

Birds
As mentioned in my post about the long-tailed tits (DW/LJ), I received a new lens for my dSLR for Christmas and have been keeping vigilant watch on the bird feeders so I can rush out with it when the light is good (not a common occurrence in January). I’ve been posting selected shots to [community profile] common_nature, but wanted to put a record of them on my personal journal for safekeeping as well.

Birds, birds and more birds )

Cat and boy

Telstar and Keiki napping together on a spare room bed. Telstar has decided he definitely prefers infants to toddlers. Especially toddlers who chase him around gleefully shouting, “No, Teldos!”
.