nanila: me (Default)
( May. 8th, 2017 03:38 pm)
I’m an atheist. I’ve never practised any religion of my own volition. I went to a Catholic school as a child, but all that’s left me with is a fondness for elaborate churches with stained glass windows, as I spent most of my time staring out of them and daydreaming.

I find it odd when atheists trumpet themselves as more conscientious and intelligent than believers. OK, so not having a religious doctrine to give you a moral code for “free” might seem like it requires more mental effort. However, you also have legal and social frameworks to provide you with a moral code, and those are probably a bigger deterrent for bad behaviour in practical terms. No one wants to pay large fines, spend time in jail, or be Billy-No-Mates. I think those are the things that keep most people, religious or not, from being arseholes.

The assumption that every practitioner of a religion believes in the same moral code also bothers me. Have you seen the news at all, ever? I can only imagine what it must be like to be a practising believer, well-versed in one’s doctrine, watching some dickhead on television saying he’s just slaughtered a bunch of people who were worshipping in their house of faith, which they thought was a sanctuary, because God told him to. It must be heartbreaking, seeing someone who’s allegedly read the same texts, extracting that message from them.

As for intelligence, the very definition of which is highly problematic, especially when people get competitive about it, what makes anyone think that atheism is an automatic pass to ranking oneself above others? There are atheists who are also stupid, who speak and act illogically, and are ignorant and determined to stay that way. There are people of faith who are not.

Anyway, the point of this ramble was really to send a message to my friends who are believers: I don’t think I’m better or smarter than you because I’m an atheist. I think this is worth saying because there are an awful lot of atheists who do. If you want to talk about your faith with or around me, please do. Or don’t! That’s also okay, of course. I love you.
This is not a review.

[This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: Rogue One. Do not click the cut if you haven’t watched the film and are sensitive to spoilers.]

I saw Rogue One last week and I'm still dealing with the emotional fallout.

Actually, before I get into this: If you think the film was terrible, want to pick apart plot points, lecture me about how the story isn't deep or meaningful, argue that a having female lead is a pointless gesture in the direction of political correctness, tell me I’m not a “real” fan, or claim that casting a significant proportion of characters of colour is tokenism or that representation doesn’t matter, I have a request. Please, hold your tongue. This post is not for you.

Because the film drew me in completely. Not just because it was, in many ways, the Star Wars film I always wanted. The Force Awakens was good, centering the female lead, providing a nuanced character of colour, connecting beautifully with the characters in the original films (Episodes IV-VI). Rogue One does those things too but I got involved with this story on the level I used to when I was a kid and I'd lose myself completely in a narrative, to the point where I'd have visceral nightmares about it (as I am with Rogue One). This story felt true.

Here be spoilers. )
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Nov. 29th, 2016 09:49 pm)
Somehow, we are nearly eleven twelfths of the way through this year. On the scale of national and global events, it has been an utterly appalling grind. On a purely personal level, it has been busy and fulfilling. I feel simultaneously an increasing pressure to expend my resources in extending an umbrella of protection over those who don't share the modicum of good fortune I possess, and the urge to enjoy that modicum of good fortune whilst it remains. I'll soon begin my annual Seasonal Giving posts in order to facilitate the former.

In the interests of fulfilling the latter, I'm going to repeat the December Days meme with photos, as I did last year. Please suggest a photo you would like me to post and, if you would like, select a particular day. If you're bereft of ideas, here's a short list.

  • the kids, Keiki and Humuhumu
  • Throwback Thursday
  • the cat, Telstar
  • me (I do love a selfie)
  • local wildlife
  • macro shots
  • places I've been (see the "travel" tag DW/LJ)

I may opt to repost an old photo or take a new one, depending on temporal and/or spatial constraints.

List of days )
  1. Why did you sign up for Dreamwidth? I signed up during the Great Migration from LJ to DW. It was billed to me as an improved version in terms of functionality, friendliness and activity, and that has 100% proven to be the case. Being able to import my entire backlog of (then-eight-years' worth) entries and carry on mirroring everything through cross-posting has been a godsend.

  2. Why did you choose your journal name? I've been using nanila as an alias for about ten years, I think? Before that (1996-ish to about 2005) I used lilith.

    My journal title comes from Good Omens. It's the description of Crowley, An Angel Who Did Not So Much Fall As Saunter Vaguely Downward.

  3. Do you crosspost? Why or why not? Yes, I still cross-post to LJ. There are a precious few people on LJ who have never left, and I don't want to lose touch with them.

  4. What do you do online when you're not on DW? Work. Shopping. Twitter. Gaming.

  5. How about when you're not on the computer? Mostly, parenting! Of both small humans and furry creatures. Also, I like running, gardening, drinking wine/whisky and tinkering with gizmos.

  6. What do you wish people who read your journal knew about you? I suspect those who read my journal regularly and have access to non-public postings probably know as much as they would like about me. Please correct me if I'm wrong about that!

  7. What is your favorite community on Dreamwidth? I love [community profile] awesomeers and [community profile] common_nature.

  8. What community do you wish was more active? I miss when [community profile] capslock_dreamwidth, [community profile] flaneurs and [community profile] multibeautiful were more active.

  9. Are there two people on your reading list that you think should meet? There'd be quite a bit of overlap in a Venn diagram of my Circle's Circles. But I think two who haven't met who would get along well are [personal profile] forthwritten and [personal profile] quoththeravyn.

  10. Tell me about your default icon. This has been my default icon for twelve years. It was created for me by [ profile] belasco from a test shot I took with my laptop camera, back when I had dreads.

  11. What features do you think Dreamwidth should have that it doesn't currently? Scheduled posting.

  12. What do you consider the five most "telling" interests from the list on your profile? "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", "magnetometers", "harbouring secret ambitions", "digitizing memories" and "overcoming irrational superstition".

  13. Do you have any unique interests on your user profile? What are they? How'd they get there? Several. Most are related to my work.

  14. Did you have a gateway fandom? Still in it? Why or why not? Is there a community for it on DW? I'm not a terribly fannish person, and I didn't get into journalling because of fandom. But I guess the first fandom I was interested in was Lord of the Rings.

  15. What's your current obsession? What about it captures your imagination? Pokémon Go and Neko Atsume. I adore collecting games, and these satisfy me aesthetically as well.

  16. What are you glad you did but haven't really had a chance to post about? I did a terrible job of blogging our trip to Iceland in 2010. I have a lot of regrets about that. I did finally go through the photos and make a book for my parents & the bloke, but I never wrote it up properly. Spoiler: It was absolutely amazing

  17. How many people on your reading list do you know IRL? I thought it was about half, but then I counted up and it turns out to be less than a quarter!

  18. What don't you talk about here, either because it's too personal or because you don't have the energy? Romantic relationships (too personal). Specifics about my work (not permitted).

  19. Any questions from the audience? Er?

  20. Yes, but what are your thoughts on yaoi? I...don't have any? Sorry!

  21. What's your favorite thing about Dreamwidth? The positive nature of the interactions in the community. Everyone seems to make a genuine effort to be accepting of, kind to, and understanding of one another. I enjoy that very much.
In just over a month, on 11 July 2016, my journal will turn 15 years old. During that time, I've rarely gone more than a few days without posting. Certainly I've not gone a day without thinking about or composing a journal post in my mind, even if it never made it to the screen. It's been an integral part of my existence for so long that I can't imagine deliberately giving it up.

I want to do something to celebrate, but I'm not sure what. Friday's Unscientific Poll, therefore, is dedicated to Metablogging. Please help me decide!

Poll #17514 15-year LJ-versary
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 46

For her 15th LJ-versary, nanila should post

View Answers

27 (58.7%)

a silly photo project (e.g. 7 days of selfies)
18 (39.1%)

a serious photo project (e.g. 5 days of b&w)
9 (19.6%)

the five best things about being an immigrant
16 (34.8%)

the five worst things about being an immigrant
15 (32.6%)

parenting tips
8 (17.4%)

from the bath
14 (30.4%)

while DRONK
25 (54.3%)

My write-in suggestion for 15th LJ-versary topic is

Humuhumu has begun to drop her T's, replacing them with glottal stops. Wa'er. Beau'iful. Floa'ing.

I presume she's picked this up from nursery somehow, but I haven't worked out from whom. It sounds very peculiar when coupled with her otherwise Brummie pronunciation ("I loike oice cream").

It also sets my nerves jangling. "Floa-ting, darling," I say calmly through gritted teeth, "Not floa'ing." Inside my head there is a tiny rage-filled fiery-eyed Nanila screaming, "IT'S GOT A T! IT'S GOT A FLAMING T IN IT! PRONOUNCE THE T!"

I'm trying to unpack why this gets up my nose so badly. I have mental mechanisms in place for suppressing the confused welter of emotions, including sadness, that assail me when she speaks and she doesn't sound American. I know that once she realises I sound foreign, she'll never be able to un-hear it. I take delight in the Brummie accent, even though I'm fairly certain that in this rigidly stratified, classist, and small-c conservative society*, she will either have to learn to code-switch or train herself out of it to achieve material success. It doesn't bother me - much - when Londoners drop their T's. I have a terrible suspicion that I've managed to internalise a certain amount of class prejudice, given that when she says "free" instead of "three" or "bahf" instead of "bath", I have the same reaction, though reduced in intensity. I don't quite understand why it applies to my child and not to anyone else, though.

* Gross generalisation, #NotAllBrits, etc.
I know I'm a slow-moving mammal when it comes to the Internet. I mean hey, I'm still actively using LiveJournal and am suspicious of these new-fangled innovations like Tumblr and Instagram. But it sometimes surprises people to see that I keep a paper diary. I do use an electronic calendar (for work; Microsoft Outlook) but it's not my primary source for my list of daily tasks and meeting reminders. If I don't physically write things down, I don't remember to do them nearly as well as if I've put pen to paper in the process of committing them to memory. So I'm curious if there's anyone else out there who is still stubbornly clinging to their paper calendar or planner, or if I'm finally approaching an age when I can start becoming properly Luddite.

Poll #17246 Paper planners
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 55

For scheduling, I primarily rely upon

View Answers

An electronic calendar (e.g. Outlook, Google)
28 (50.9%)

A paper calendar or planner
24 (43.6%)

Post-it notes stuck to mymonitor/my mirror/my forehead/various household appliances
1 (1.8%)

My brain
2 (3.6%)

nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Dec. 1st, 2015 09:50 am)
In order to keep this to something I can actually accomplish, I'm going to do the December Days posting meme with photos. Please suggest a photo you would like me to post and, if you would like, select a particular day. If you're bereft of ideas, here's a short list. I have a vast back catalogue of these, many of which have never been posted here before.

  • the kids, Keiki and Humuhumu
  • the cat, Telstar
  • me (I do love a selfie)
  • local wildlife
  • macro shots
  • places I've been (see the "travel" tag DW/LJ)

I may opt to repost an old photo or take a new one, depending on temporal and/or spatial constraints.

List of days )
nanila: me (Default)
( Apr. 2nd, 2015 01:12 pm)
Since having children, a slow but quiet revolution has been occurring in my domestic habits.

I've always been a tidy person, so keeping beds made, laundry done and put away, and kitchen sink clear were never a problem. My major stumbling block has always been getting dinner on the table*.

I knew how to cook well enough to survive graduate school, which, I'll grant you, isn't a high benchmark. I subsisted largely on three "dishes", which were as follows.

  1. Grilled cheese sandwiches
  2. Pasta with some form of ready-made sauce
  3. A plate of steamed rice, vegetables, and grilled fish

As I was generally only cooking for one person, me, this worked out just fine. I could also nip over the road to Baja Fresh or Whole Foods for cheap fish tacos or ready-made organic macrobiotic somethingorother that I assumed was probably good for me.

I liked baking and would occasionally make a chocolate cake, banana bread, or chocolate chip cookies. But I rarely deviated from these, mostly out of fear. This fear, I've determined, had several components, which I've gradually overcome.

Fear #1: Too many ingredients. When faced with a recipe on which the ingredient list ran past ten items, my mind would freeze up. It wasn't until I started cooking daily that I realised most (British) dishes are essentially a variation on meat, carrots, green vegetable and potatoes. (I tend to substitute rice for potatoes unless the potatoes are mashed, but that's because I grew up eating rice and still find whole or chopped potatoes relatively unappealing.) Making a roast on Sunday, particularly a roast chicken, means you have the "meat" part sorted for the rest of the week once you've stripped the chicken or chopped up the leftovers. Also, most baked goods, including bread products of all types from standard white loaves to crumpets, are essentially comprised of flour, butter, eggs, yeast, milk and sugar in varying proportions. And finally, making your own sauces to put on things, whether it's pasta, rice or potatoes, generally has the same set of steps: fry garlic & onions, add tin of tomatoes/beans, add pepper and salt, chuck in chopped vegetables, add prawns/chicken/leftover roast and swish round until it's all warm.

These things are probably blindingly obvious to a lot of people who have grown up being decent cooks, but honestly, they were revelations to me. There's also the gulf between theory and practice. Even if I'd been told the above, I don't think I'd have properly understood it until I had the experience I have now.

Fear #2: Not possessing the correct ingredients. If I looked at a recipe and saw there was even a single item that I didn't have in the refrigerator or the spice cupboard, it was usually enough to put me off making it. Overcoming this fear evolved in parallel with the previous one, as I started to realise that the fundamental elements of dishes are often the same. Of course if you're looking at a chicken and leek pie and you have neither a chicken nor leeks, that's probably a non-starter. But, for example, I decided to make a simnel cake to take to the bloke's parents' for Easter this weekend. I found a recipe. I didn't have glace cherries, candied peel or currants. But I did have pitted dates, chopped dried apricot and raisins. So I forged ahead with the substitution, and the resulting cake seems to be edible, although I imagine the liberal application of marzipan probably helps with that as well. Anyway, my point is, three years ago I would have given up after reading the recipe, and instead now I've got a nice homemade cake to contribute to the Easter celebration. Plus, Humuhumu will enjoy helping me decorate it with more marzipan when it's time to eat it.

Fear #3: Getting the timings wrong. Since I've never been a skilled cook, I've always assumed that it would take me at least an hour and a half to prepare a meal from scratch. It also made me very nervous to have more than one burner going on the hob, not to mention the oven going at the same time. I often had to make one or two elements of a meal sequentially instead of simultaneously. I'm now much better at chopping things up and my preparation time has decreased considerably, as well as being able to manage multiple pots without panicking. Frankly, there was no single moment that marked overcoming this fear. It just took a lot of practise. There were many burnt or undercooked items that suffered the consequences of my ineptitude.

The acquisition of a slow cooker a couple of years ago marked an uptick in my cooking repertoire. In the morning, I could spend half an hour chopping up a bunch of stuff, adding liquid (particularly leftover wine or beer), turning it on low heat, ending up with something delicious at the end of it and having enough left over for the week's lunches or another supper. It was a monumental discovery, and I probably inflicted a few too many stews and chilli dishes on the bloke and Humuhumu before calming down. It also means that there are portions of these in the freezer for the times when we are sick or busy or tired and can't muster energy to make something fresh. This is a level of preparedness I'd never aspired to, let alone believed I could achieve.

Fear #4: Spoiling the dish. When cooking for myself, it was never a problem if, say, I accidentally burnt my last piece of toast and had instead to go to the noodle restaurant and get myself some pho instead. With two other people to feed, one of whom is in no state to be in a restaurant past 6:30 PM, getting it wrong is more of a problem. Naturally it's going to happen sometimes. Things will get overdone, taste bad, or turn out to be so far past expiry that they render a dish unfit for human consumption. And thus, you get out the frozen pizza, or you have porridge for supper. It's funny how terrible the fear of doing this was until it actually happened. As we munched on iced lollies, I let go of it.

I'm hardly ready to become a contestant on Masterchef, nor would I ever want to be, but it's nice to have the confidence to feed myself and my family regularly and well, and to cook with my children. It's an accomplishment worth celebrating. I've put a lot of effort into it and largely failed to acknowledge its success to myself. So this is me, patting myself on the back, for coming along as far as I have.

* Please note that when we're both working, the bloke and I share this responsibility equally. I really wish I didn't have to spell this out explicitly, but I fear that the automatic assumption would be that I always do the cooking when in fact for most of the relationship until now the opposite has been true.
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.