redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
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[sticky entry] Sticky: Welcome

( Sep. 4th, 2013 08:44 am)
Hi. This is an online substitute for a paper journal, as well as a place to talk to people, so a lot of what's here is quotidian stuff about my life and place. These days, that's more exploring the Seattle area than what's in bloom right now in my corner of the world. As of March 2016, "place" is Arlington, Mass. [September 2017 update: Make that Somerville; we moved about three miles last month.] Some of the basics about me are in my userinfo; the userpic with this sticky post is a photo of me, from about a decade ago, in case you're wondering whether I'm the redbird you know from elsewhere.

Long ago when the net was flat, I spent a bunch of time on Usenet, mostly rassef and alt.polyamory; I did some of my growing up in science fiction fandom, which in my case meant writing in/for a lot of apas. If you don't know why I subscribed to your journal, we probably have friends in common, and either one of them said "this person is cool" or you posted interesting comments, and I looked at your journal and found it interesting.

Anyone is welcome to read and comment on my journal (though I screen comments on some posts). I do post some things locked and/or filtered. I am more likely to give access to people I know, either previously (online or off) or from interactions here. If we know each other but I might not recognize your username, please leave a note here so I can make the connection.

If we don't already know each other, welcome, and please introduce yourself. I'm screening all comments to this post, so you can tell me "Hi, it's $old_friend" without other people seeing the connection between your username here and other names or handles you use. Or comment on other posts, and I'll get some feeling for what you're like.

There are a half-dozen access-locked posts in here, none recent, with nude photos of me (all tagged "nudes"). I grant access to most people who ask (and many who don't), and those aren't the posts I consider private.

I generally use a cut tag for details of exercise or (rarer) body size/shape posts, and tend to avoid other people's discussion of weight and dieting. If there are other things you would like similar warnings about, let me know. (I am assuming the current level of cut-tagging on exercise is okay for everyone reading this journal; if not, let me know and I'll see what I can do to address that.) I also use cut tags for things that even I don't find very interesting, but may need later: Dreamwidth as external memory.

I'm posting a lot about politics these days. I'm not cut-tagging those posts, but I am going to try to label the entries that are entirely or mostly about politics, rather than drop a paragraph about calling my senators in between discussions of out-of-town visitors and cucumbers, in case your self-care means you need to skip those discussions for a while.

[last updated March 6, 2019]
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Apr. 21st, 2019 07:52 pm)
I saw the movie Apollo 11 this afternoon, at the Somerville Theatre, and enjoyed it. This film is very much what it says on the tin, a documentary of the Apollo 11 flight put together entirely from archival footage, and works well.

I recommend seeing this on a large screen (in a movie theatre, or maybe on a large flat-screen television, rather than something like an iPad).

I had meant to go sooner, but I've been dealing with a lingering cough; there were a few days when I wasn't exactly sick, but was still coughing enough that it seemed unkind to go to the movies. By this afternoon, I sat for more than an hour and a half without coughing at all, aided only by a single medicated cough drop.
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Apr. 16th, 2019 07:24 pm)
Dr. Lazzara told me something today, as an "if this happens, we can deal with it easily, but you need to know about it." cut for people who don't want to read about cataract surgery )
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Apr. 16th, 2019 05:42 pm)
I saw Dr. Lazzara this afternoon, for the last post-surgery check-up. He is happy with how my eyes look generally, as well as specifically with the eye pressure and my corneas. I have an eyeglass prescription, and he suggested I could get either progressive lenses or bifocal computer glasses. I can in fact see without my glasses; what I can't do is read without them, and it's annoying to have to pull out reading glasses to do things on my cell phone. Meanwhile the non-prescription reading glasses don't work well for distance, and I can't use the same ones to read a book and look at the computer screen.

I will go to the optician in Arlington Center in a couple of days and talk about eyeglass options and prices. (I may also consider going online for reading glasses that correct for the astigmatism; I had poor results in the past trying to mail-order my complicated bifocal/progressive prescription.)

That was the second medical appointment of the day.

I've had an annoying cough for more than a week; over the weekend I decided that since it wasn't getting any better, I should talk to a doctor, make sure it's not pneumonia, and find out if I need an antibiotic. I called Davis Square Family Practice first thing this morning, and they gave me a 1:30 appointment. After asking me some questions, and listening to my lungs very carefully, the doctor said that this is in fact just a lingering cough left from an otherwise-gone respiratory infection. I have a prescription cough suppressant, and an okay to go back to my regular exercises, including walking—"just don't run a marathon." This is disappointing in the sense that she couldn't say "take these, you'll feel a lot better in 48 hours," but it also means that no, calling the doctor Friday would not have been better: I had to remind myself a few time yesterday and Sunday that any plan involving a time machine can be safely disregarded.

I saw a lot of forsythias in bloom today, as well as a few cherry trees, the first maple flowers, and many daffodils; I'd stayed close to home the last few days, and saw a nice variety of bulbs and one dandelion, but no flowering trees.
I just instilled the last post-surgical eye drop in my right eye. I am glad; I'd gotten comfortable with the process, but I will now have less to keep track of, and fewer medications to take with me if I'm going to Adrian's overnight.

The one-month follow-up appointment is a week from tomorrow, and I expect to walk out of there with an eyeglass prescription to take to the nice optician in Arlington Center. I need a pair of glasses that I can use for reading and to correct the astigmatism. I don't know yet whether I want bifocals; that will depend partly on what Dr. Lazzara says, and what amount of correction my eyes need now that they're healed after the surgery.
I just got back from a (surprisingly small, even for short notice) rally on Boston Common, demanding release of the full Mueller Report, to Congress and the public.

No elected officials were there, though the organizers said they'd all sent messages of support, and Sen. Warren sent someone from her office to read hers. There was a bit of music (tuba, but somewhat muffled; a man was explaining that to his six-year-old before we started) at the beginning, and one of the organizers read from a "list of statements from the House Judiciary Committee" and followed each by asking the crowd "do we know or think Trump did this?" and "is it OK?" At the end, he explained that he'd been quoting from the articles of impeachment of President Nixon--which makes sense, the current Judiciary Committee has just authorized subpoenas related to this investigation.

Also, if you stretch it a little, you can make "redact" rhyme with "attack": in the call-and-response chant "When X is under attack, what do we do?/Stand up fight back!" they gave us "When democracy is under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back! When the Mueller report gets a major redact, what do we do? Stand up fight back!" (I wonder whether "redact" is now trending on m-w.com.")

I got there about 4:45 (having allowed for Red Line problems) for an event that was announced for 5 p.m. It started a few minutes after five, and was done half an hour later. I stopped for ice cream on my way home, at Lizzy's in Harvard Square (a small chocolate cone, plus a quart of ginger for later).
An interesting article on the difficulties of de-biasing language difficulties of de-biasing language, from a machine learning viewpoint. The author notes that simple approaches can hide bias in automated systems without removing it, e.g., if an algorithm is trained on a biased dataset in which "programmer" clusters with words that are more often found on men's resumes, words that might be irrelevant to job qualification. At the same time, the effort is worth making; even if a completely unbiased algorithm isn't possible with current methods in a society with baked-in prejudices, a less-biased one will get better results if the goal is (say) to hire qualified programmers, or make loan decisions based on ability to repay, not on race or gender.

The problem we’re facing in natural language processing (as in any application of machine learning) is that fairness is aspirational and forward looking; data can only be historical, and therefore necessarily reflects the biases and prejudices of the past. Learning how to de-bias our applications is progress, but the only real solution is to become better people.


(via Richard Mateosian, on Copyediting-L.)
redbird: full bookshelves and table in a library (books)
( Apr. 3rd, 2019 06:44 pm)

Recent reading:

"Rogue Protocol," by Martha Wells. This is the third of the Murderbot novellas. Like the first two, it's good--I enjoyed the fast-moving plot, Murderbot's narrative voice, and the bits of world-building. Murderbot's viewpoint and goals change by the end of this novella, because of what it sees and experiences here. I finished this and immediately asked the library for the next one, which I got yesterday; it's next on my reading list.

That Ain't Witchcraft, by Seanan McGuire. Another InCryptid novel, an immediate sequel to *Tricks for Free"; spoilers for both books )

In between the plotting, we learn more about Annie's half-human, half-cryptid boyfriend now that they're in the same place long enough to have some time to talk.

I didn't like this as much as the earlier books in the series. This might be because McGuire is running out of ideas/steam on this universe; random variation, in the books or my mood; or that I don't like Annie-as-narrator as much as I did the books about her older siblings. A note at the end of the book says that the next book will put Sarah (their cuckoo cousin) at center stage; my reaction to that was that I miss Verity's narrative voice. Or maybe the problem is the lack of Aislin mice. If you liked the previous InCryptid books this is worth reading, I think, but I wouldn't start here.

"The Measure of a Monster," by Seanan McGuire: this novella is included as a bonus with That Ain't Witchcraft; it's about Alex Price (Verity and Annie's older brother) and his partner going to the rescue after a large number of children are kidnapped from the nearby gorgon community. It includes a bit more about cousin Sarah and her recovery from the mental damage of saving Verity a few books back. The story is set during That Ain't Witchcraft, and Alex is pleased to get even a tiny scrap of news about Annie beyond the inference that she's alive because their dead aunt Mary would let the family know if she died.

Through an odd coincidence, I have learned that our landlord is planning to replace at least one of our apartment windows, which definitely needs it:

I got a call this morning from a number I didn't recognize, which I answered because it wasn't the pattern the scammers tend to spoof. The caller said that he was from "High-Tech Windows," and that my landlord was replacing all the windows in our building, so he needed to make an appointment for someone to come measure them. I suggested 10 a.m. tomorrow, which he agreed to.

After hanging up, it occurred to me that anyone could claim to be calling from a window company, so I called the building management company, to make sure I hadn't been conned into making an appointment for a burglary. The person I talked to was confused--but it wasn't the confusion of "window replacement, what window replacement?" It was "are they at the door now... They weren't supposed to be calling to make appointments, they put notices under the apartment doors last night, and should be there now." He said he would call the building owner and get back to me.

It transpired that while my landlord has never heard of "High-Tech Windows," they are planning to replace at least one of my windows. However, they won't need to enter our apartment because they measured one of the identical apartments upstairs.

I called High-Tech Windows back to let them know that they didn't have an appointment for 10 tomorrow, and that they still needed to talk to whoever they thought they were talking to when they called me. The guy thanked me for getting back to him, which I did mostly because I was thinking of the possible inconvenience to the person who he thought he had made an appointment with. A small oddity of the whole thing--beyond the coincidence of him calling a wrong number belonging to someone else whose landlord was measuring for new windows that day, is something I didn't even think of until after sorting things out with my landlord. During the first call, the caller had said any time tomorrow would be fine because his crew was "right around the corner on Fort Washington Avenue." At the time that had pinged as "familiar" from a quarter century of living in Upper Manhattan rather than as "wait a minute, that's in New York," but I remembered the phrasing and noticed the anomaly before calling the guy back and telling him that he was talking to someone in Massachusetts.

Wisconsin has a special election today, for the state's Supreme Court. If you live in Wisconsin, please vote for Judge Lisa Neubauer.

(I sent some postcards to strangers about this one, and the morning's email from Penzey's wants me to text my Wisconsin friends to remind them, which I may, but not before 8 a.m.)
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redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Mar. 28th, 2019 09:26 pm)
I re-colored my hair this morning, about an hour before going to my doctor's office. Both the receptionist and the nurse practitioner commented favorably on the purple.

After I saw the doctor, [personal profile] cattitude and I went over to Powderhouse Square and had a sushi lunch with his sister, who teaches at Tufts. That was at Yoshi's Sushi; I had decent though unspectacular eel and cucumber and sweet potato rolls, and a disappointingly bland shrimp and mango roll.

It turns out I don't need a referral or a routine mammogram, I should just call Mount Auburn Hospital and make an appointment. (I have put a reminder into my calendar to call soon; I didn't feel like dealing with it this afternoon.
I got an electronic newsletter from my new Congresswoman, Ayanna Pressley, last week. Among other things, she says her office in DC "has take over 400 phone calls and received over 9,000 emails" since she was sworn in. I read that, and checked my records*--I have called her office three times, and emailed once. If she's getting that few calls, it would explain why her staff have always picked up the phone quickly and sounded unhurried.

I also want to note that the one email I sent got an automated "Thank you for contacting me, I'm sorry I have to automate this" and was signed "In solidarity, Ayanna Pressley."

*I didn't use to keep records of this stuff, but in the last couple of years it has seemed like a good idea, for reasons like being able to reassure myself that I'm doing stuff, and not wanting to call the same person two or three times about one issue, when there are other calls I haven't made.
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I seem to like, or want, my apartment to be brighter now than before the cataract surgery, which is counter-intuitive. A month ago I had (mild) cataracts in both eyes, and was wearing photo-sensitive glasses that were old enough that they were always very slightly dark. Now, I'm using over-the-counter reading glasses, with clear lenses, and am comfortable with a level of light that seemed like too much pre-surgery.

My guess here would be that, pre-surgery, my pupils were dilating a bit more, to make up for the cataract blocking some of the light. But that's a guess. What I know is that I'm now comfortable with the overhead light on when I'm exercising on the bedroom floor, rather than needing to turn off everything except the lamp on my bedside table.

I'm also adjusting more easily than I'd expected to walking around without glasses, either in the apartment (when not reading) or outdoors at night and on cloudy days.

(I had been wearing glasses essentially all the time--taking them off only to shower and sleep--for many years, so I literally don't remember what it was like to go outside without glasses.)

Recently read:

So Far So Good: Final Poems 2014-2018, by Ursula Le Guin. As the subtitle says, this is Le Guin's last book of poetry, finished just before she died; death was definitely on her mind here, especially in the last section. It's good, but either not as good as other poetry that I've read (none of it in the last couple of years), or -- likely -- death just isn't what I want to read about right now.

(The new glasses are drugstore reading glasses, while I wait for my eyes to finish healing post-surgery and can get a new eyeglass prescription. For most purposes, my uncorrected vision is now better than my corrected vision a year ago, but for reading and other close work I need glasses, and will be glad when I can get prescription glasses that correct for the astigmatism.)

redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Mar. 19th, 2019 04:44 pm)
tl;dr: all is well

I had the one-week follow-up appointment after the cataract surgery on my second eye today. All is well; there's a bit of swelling, but no more than would be expected. I have the doctor's okay to resume normal activities--exercise other than swimming, leaning forward, carrying more than eight pounds, sleeping without the eye shield. The doctor sent me home with samples of the two kinds of eye drops I still need, the Durezol that the insurance won't cover, which is what I had called and asked for, and the Ilevro, which is covered but still not cheap.

I have one more follow-up appointment, in mid-April, at which time Dr. Lazzara will prescribe new eyeglasses. In the meantime, I have to make do with the drugstore reading glasses. I told the doctor I was having trouble reading my computer monitor, because it's at an inconvenient distance, and he suggested I try a weaker prescription, maybe +0.75 or +1.0 (I'm using +2.0 for reading on paper or with the kindle). I have now measured the distance from where I normally sit to the monitor, and am going to try drugstore glasses while holding something to read about a foot and a half away.

I am enjoying being able to see, though not read, without glasses; it's weird having to remember to take my glasses off to see properly when not reading. I figure I'm going to want prescription glasses that can deal with the astigmatism; I may buy small ones that I can look over, rather than something complicated in the way of bifocals. That's a decision for next month at the earliest, but thinking about it now seems reasonable.
I can't tell if the skin on my hand is drier than it was, or if I'm just seeing it more closely than I'm used it.

The drugstore reading glasses are good for closeup work, which apparently includes looking down at my own right hand; usable for my computer (and I am going try moving the monitor close to my chair to see if that helps; and actively counter-productive for medium-distance things like, say, walking into the bedroom. This means I keep noticing that I forgot to remove my glasses. (The cheap non-prescription sunglasses are fine for walking around outside, riding the bus, etc., but I need the reading glasses to use the Transit app on my phone.)
I have deleted my LiveJournal, finally. No actual information should be lost: I told it not to delete my comments on other people's journals, or my community entries. (I should probably go back and delete the "redbird's test" account as well.)

I've been meaning to do this for months; finally doing it was prompted, oddly, by the news that Myspace has "lost" all data from before 2016. And that led me to thinking, briefly, about the solidity or otherwise of websites, and reminded me that I didn't want my entries over there, (Also, I don't trust the current owners of LJ enough to trust them as backup for this online version of my life.)

ETA: Now I am feeling accomplished, because I checked that off my to-do list, and saw two other things I have done that were still on there. That file is labeled "call this a to-do list" but it's not really serving as one, apparently,
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Mar. 13th, 2019 08:43 pm)
I got up at 6:30 this morning to go to the eye doctor. He looked at my eyes, after an assistant checked the pressure in both eyes, and says I'm healing reasonably well. medical bits )

I have another follow-up appointment this coming Tuesday, after which I hope to be able to go back to most normal activities, but Dr. Lazzara said he likes to wait for the one-month follow-up before writing a new eyeglass prescription. Right now I'm trying to decide whether to go look at over-the-counter reading glasses tomorrow, because the pair I've had for a week isn't quite right for the left eye, or give the right eye another day or two to heal first, which would also mean I didn't have to go anywhere tomorrow..
The second eye surgery also went smoothly, despite the minor annoyance of what felt like a long wait in the pre-op area. My vision now seems a lot better in that eye as well; I'll be surer of how much better when I take the eye shield off, either briefly to put in eye drops, or tomorrow morning. For now, I have the drugstore reading glasses on over the eye shield, which means I'm reading mostly with my left eye.

Like the first surgery, this was easier than I expected. The anesthesiologist predicted I'd remember more of this one, that being how Versed tends to work when given twice in a relatively short period; instead, I remember significantly less, which is fine with me.

Less cheerfully, the doctor's office called while I was in the pre-op area (with my eye dilated etc.) and left a message that they were rescheduling tomorrow morning's appointment to *8:45* instead of 11. I called back after listening to the voicemail and they had nothing later available; the receptionist said Dr. Lazzara was going to be in surgery most of the day, which I assume means something came up on short notice. Elizabeth is a hero of the revolution--her response to this news was that she could do that, but will need a wake-up call. I thanked her, and we discussed the fine points of me handing her a thermos of strong tea when she gets here.

[personal profile] cattitude and I put ourselves on a waiting list for the Shingrix vaccine last fall. Saturday, while I was exercising, the pharmacy called (mispronouncing my name badly) to say they had gotten a supply in, and was I still interested. I said yes, and then called the eye doctor's office and left a message, asking if it was reasonable/safe for me to get the vaccine the day before the eye surgery.

The eye doctor said yes, go ahead, so I walked down to the Rite Aid at Davis Square and got the first dose of the vaccine; they will call me in between two and four months, depending on availability, so I can get the second dose. (CDC says the doses should be 2-6 months apart.)

I am pleased; I had the previous shingles vaccine (Zostavax) five years ago, but it's less effective and may only last three-five years, so the CDC is urging people to get this one even if they've had the other.

Cattitude has not yet been offered the vaccine; he checked, and yes, he's next on the list.

I started on the pre-operative eye drops for my right eye this morning; the spacing of today's doses would have been slightly simpler if this wasn't the first day of daylight saving time. So far, I'm doing okay with one set of pre-op instructions (for the right eye) and a different one for week two of post-op on the left.

I have also arranged a ride to the eye surgery center (and possibly back; if not, [personal profile] cattitude, the responsible adult of my choosing, and I will take a Lyft home). I talked to the surgical coordinator on Friday and rescheduled the one-week follow-up appointment to actually be one week later, instead of ten days. (When we were scheduling, back in January, they had no available appointments for the 19th.)

I expect this recovery to be slightly easier than the recovery after the left-eye surgery, in part because I don't usually onto my left side in my sleep, so the plastic shield taped over my right eye is less likely to wake me. Also because it is the second eye: I have more practice with eye drops, and I hope to be able to read with the non-prescription glasses I got last week, even if prescription reading glasses turn out to be a good idea.
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