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.

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 Jan. 19, 2019]
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Feb. 17th, 2019 09:56 pm)
Despite being awake late last night, I woke up a little after 7 a.m. I made tea, then went down to the fitness center. This time I did a few exercises and soaked in the hot tub for a bit, which my legs appreciated.

That took me to about 8:30. There was no Sunday morning programming that interested me, and I didn't feel like hanging out for a couple of hours hoping someone I knew would walk past and be in a mood for conversation, so I got dressed, checked out, and headed home. (Judy Bemis saw me in the lobby as I was heading out; we hugged goodbye as she explained that she was on her way to a shift in the con treasury.)

I stopped off at South Station and grabbed a savory croissant at the Pret a Manget; I hadn't wanted to wait in line at the hotel lobby Starbucks, but it seemed imprudent to wait until I got home. One disadvantage of this year's Boskone is that the con suite had only packaged snacks--chips, candy, cookies, I think some little packets of cheese and crackers, rather than bagels or donuts, or the lots and lots of hard boiled eggs they've had in previous years. There wasn't even milk for the coffee and tea, just packets of sugar and creamer. (This seems to have been a change in hotel policy.) If I go to another con at that hotel, and stay overnight, I am going to make sure to bring yogurt and other food I can keep in the fridge. (I'd bought a couple of single-serving yogurts, and forgot to grab them on my way out of Adrian's apartment Friday; if I'd known how limited the con suite would be, I'd have stopped in South Station and at least gotten some more yogurt.)

Since getting home I have played three games of Scrabble with [personal profile] cattitude, combed Molly, proofread one short article for Queue, stretched and exercised, and unloaded (twice), reloaded (twice), and run the dishwasher. Tomorrow's plan is more Scrabble, proofreading, stretching, and playing with the cats.
Amazon has just announced they won't be moving to Queens, onto land that had been (and I hope will be) designated for much-needed housing, because of local opposition. I just sent an email to the mayor of Somerville, saying that we don't want them here either. (Somerville had expressed interest, before Amazon picked New York and Virginia.)

I figure it can't hurt for them to hear from us now, before they start making public statements on the subject. ("They" also includes your local government, if you live somewhere else that tried to make this mistake.)

Here's the letter I sent for use by anyone who isn't sure what to say )
Elizabeth is someone [personal profile] cattitude and I know from Yale Story Reading and then hadn't seen for many years while we were living in New York and she was in Boston. Cattitude went to dim sum with herh and a whole bunch of other people on Christmas Day. I didn't get to talk to her at length, but I mentioned the planned eye surgery and she offered to give me a lift to the surgery.

At the beginning of February I sent her a message with the subject line "touching base," to ask if that still looked doable, and saying that also, I'd like to just hang out soon. So, she came over here yesterday afternoon to spend a few hours with me, Cattitude, and the cats. A good time was had by all; the conversation included a bunch of catching up, and chatting about our cats. Elizabeth praised Molly's fluffy tail and general long-haired-cat good looks, as well as scritching both cats.
NASA has pulled the plug on the Mars rover Opportunity, several months after it was last heard from. That rover did a lot of science (as did its sister rover Spirit, which "only" managed six years of their original 90-sol mission. Landing on Mars is difficult, but JPL builds good hardware: the Voyager space probes are still functional and doing science after more than forty years.
The KOMO story about the latest Seattle-area snowstorm says that

A warm front, probably not fully aware of the irony of its name, is lifting north through the region bringing moderate-to-heavy snows to just about all of Western Washington.

I didn't move from Seattle to New England to get away from winter snowstorms. Really. (This reminds me of the winter, several years ago, when I had the good luck to avoid/escape three major snowstorms by going from New York to Boston.) It's been colder here than in the Puget Sound lowlands, but not very snowy this year.
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Feb. 6th, 2019 10:31 pm)
[personal profile] baratron pointed out that I'd forgotten to lock a couple of entries, and I've changed that. If something vanished, that's why.
Recent reading:

Rex Stout, And Four to Go. I thought I'd read all the Nero Wolfe books, but I think this one was new to me. It's a collection of four novellas, none of them impressive. "Easter Parade" does odd things with Wolfe's orchid obsession, and contains some anti-Asian racism, what feels like a mix of Wolfe (and the author) being aware of how that racism affected a Chinese-American woman, and Archie's literal and straightforward use of "inscrutable." (Authors aren't responsible for the opinions of their characters, but sometimes it's hard to tell whether they share them.) An character's actions being with both Wolfe telling one character that he understands that she knew the police wouldn. There's one ("Fourth of July Picnic") that's more Wolfe-tricks-the-killer than usual one where he and Archie Goodwin figure out who did it, but learn the motive in Wolfe's usual meeting of all the suspects. "Christmas Party" is layers of deceit, including Goodwin and Wolfe lying to each other, but didn't quite work for me.

Steven Brust, Vallista. This is the fifteenth of the Vlad Taltos/Jhereg books, and not a good starting point—a lot of it assumes the reader knows who people are, and what happened in many of the previous books. The story starts when Devera finds Vlad and says something like "Uncle Vlad, help me" before vanishing, leaving him trying to figure out what's going on, how, and why, in a building that makes Escher's "Relativity" seem straightforward. (Slightly grumpy spoilers here: Read more... )

Brust has said there will be 17 of these, which leaves two after this, and I'm not sure where he's going to take it from here (which I think is a good sign).

Current reading:

The Glass Universe, by Dava Sobel
So Far So Good, by Ursula Le Guin
[personal profile] elisem just posted LIONESS CHALLENGE: Moon in a Rocking Chair, a writing challenge/contest based on a sterling silver and opal pendant she made. Details there, but it's pretty open-ended: a piece inspired by the pendant, no more than 500 words long.
The winner will receive the pendant "Moon in a Rocking Chair" and bragging rights. The winner retains all copyright to their work(s).

I'm signal-boosting this because, many years ago, Elise did a similar challenge for poetry a pair of earrings, "Song of the Lesbian Elephant." I don't think of myself as a poet, but they were pretty earrings, and an interesting title, and one day I decided I could write something good enough to lose a poetry contest. I was surprised, and pleased, when she told me I'd won.

I've been thinking about the extreme cold in much of the US and Canada, and about some of the discussion of that weather, and wind chill, and how best to report on this sort of extreme weather.

The thing about unusually cold weather is that people aren't used to it. We're used to whatever's normal for where we live; that includes the coldest weather of a typical winter, but not the coldest of a typical decade or more. I used to get a daily paper (Newsday) that ran feature articles every late fall or early winter on "what you need to know about a New York winter, in a page or less." Basic things like wearing gloves, keeping your feet dry, and how to shovel snow safely. The first year I saw that article it surprised me, and then I thought about it: those articles weren't (mostly) a reminder for natives, they were for people who had just moved there from warmer climates, who didn't know what questions to ask. "Where can I buy gloves?" assumes that the person knows they should.

And remembering that reminded me of a winter almost twenty years ago. I was visiting Jo in Swansea, as was [personal profile] fivemack. Jo's 11-year old son Sasha, fivemack, and I went for a walk along the beach, while Jo and [personal profile] rysmiel sat in a cafe. It was a cold day, but not bitterly cold, and I didn't worry about Sasha saying he was cold. Then he said he was too warm, and I said "we're going back now." Sasha and fivemack didn't argue, and we walked back into town. I led them into the first open shop, where we walked idly around, warming up, before going to the cafe where Jo and rysmiel were. Somewhere, I'd read about that feeling of being too hot as a warning sign of hypothermia, and knew what to do.

I left a message for Dr. Lazzara last week, because I was confused about why he thought we should correct my distance rather than near vision. He called me back an hour ago, and explained: while subjectively "near-sightedness" and "far-sightedness" are two different things, physically what I have is hyperopia, severe enough to cause problems with seeing things at any distance. Plus astigmatism.

It would be physically possible to over-correct [sic] that, and then I might not need glasses for near vision, but they don't generally do that, and he thinks it's a bad idea because I'd still have the astigmatism.

So, the plan for the cataract surgery is to (we hope) leave me needing glasses for near vision, and I might or might not also need them for distance (because of the astigmatism) but not as strong a prescription as I have now. Last week he said I might need only drugstore reading glasses post-surgery; this afternoon he said I might still want progressive lenses. But that's all secondary; we're fixing the cataracts because they are an additional vision problem, one not correctable with eyeglasses.

Also, I have apparently decided not to get the toric lens (to fix astigmatism) in my right eye, but I'm going to hold off on telling Dr. Lazzara, because they need that decision a week before surgery for the right eye, so around March 5th.

(This post is mostly so if I go "wait a minute" three days from now, I can look it up.)
!markup

What I read in January, basically copied from my "booklog" tracking spreadsheet:

Becky Chambers, *Record of a Space-Born Few* This isn't exactly a sequel to *A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet* but is set in the same fictional universe. This book is set almost entirely on the Exodan fleet. There are intertwined narratives, and mostly the characters are trying to help each other, but the different threads didn't feel as connected as in *A Closed and Common Orbit*. This one also has more conventionally shaped families (parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses) than the family-by-choice of her first novel. (One piece of the plot is about someone looking for family/a place to be, which goes badly wrong.)

Nick Lane, *Life Ascending* A book on evolution in the form of ten chapters on what Lane thinks are the ten most important "inventions" in the history of life on Earth, including DNA, the eukaryotic cell, and death. Fun; bits that stuck with me are that the DNA-to-amino acid coding isn't random, and (the claim) that eukaryotes are descended from a fusion of an archaeon and a bacterium, based on biochemistry shared with each kingdom. The chapters are on The origin of life, DNA, Photosynthesis, The complex cell, Sex, Movement, Sight, Hot blood, Consciousness, Death. I'm not convinced (and would want to read more, at least) by his argument for the evolutionary value of death, or how that connects to possible life extension, but yes it's a question worth asking.

Margery Allingham, *Sweet Danger* Another of the odd Campion books, this one with a tendency toward Ruritanian adventure--odd artifacts to prove the claim to a fragment of Balkan coast, and the village doctor is a sinister figure who fancies himself a black magician.

Martha Wells, *Artificial Condition* volume 2 of The Murderbot Diaries, very good. Murderbot finds some other non-humans to talk to/work with, though not trust, and adamantly refuses modifications that would make it in any way sexual or gendered.

Rex Stout, *Before Midnight* Reread of one of the Nero Wolfe novels, this one holds up pretty well.

(That's four books and a novella,)
In an online discussion of someone who wasn't sure about going to their father's upcoming birthday party, one commenter suggested sending a "happy birthday" telegram to the party, to be read aloud. Another person asked whether that was still done, meaning the "reading it aloud" part.

No, it's not, at least not in the United States; Western Union got out of the telegraph business in 2006.
I'm playing with page designs/layouts again, partly because I wasn't happy with what I had, and partly because I'm having trouble focusing on more verbal things, and seem to have overextended myself a bit yesterday and the day before, so want something not too physical.

(I've changed it several times in the last few hours, not counting small tweaks to color palettes.)
Tags:
How old are you?
55, which doesn't feel much different from 54 or 53

Tattoos?
Four: a cardinal (hence my username) on one arm, a heyiya-if in a loosely "tribal" armband on the other, a coelacanth on my belly, and some violets and a bee on one leg. (I'm using the tattoo userpic on this post, since I don't have a good purple-hair one.)

Ever hit a deer?
No.

Ridden in an ambulance?
Yes, a few times: keeping someone company after she fell and broke something; between hospitals in the middle of the night right before my gall bladder surgery; and last year because I'd passed out and [personal profile] cattitude and the EMTs he'd called thought I needed looking at even though I came around quickly.

Sung karaoke?
No, nor plan to.

Ice skated?
When I was a kid; I never got very good at it, but recall enjoying myself, except that the rental place could never find skates in my size, and even the ones my parents bought me were too narrow to be really comfortable. (Given what [personal profile] adrian_turtle has since told me about her brother's problem with feet narrower than expected for boys, if I ever try again I will insist on being given a boy's/men's skate.)

Ridden a motorcycle?
No.

Stayed in hospital?
Once, for a couple of nights, the time they took out my gall bladder. (Chronicled in lots of detail on DW [and LJ] back in 2008)

Skipped school?
Not that I can remember.

Last phone call?
Cattitude, sorting out what groceries to buy.

Last text from?
The pharmacy, which wants me to pick up a prescription.

Watched someone die?
Yes, my mother's husband. This was utterly expected, and I thought I was flying over for a funeral. Simon's death was more prolonged than expected, so I spent some time sitting with her, and him, at the very end, as well as supporting her through the funeral.

Pepsi or Coke?
Pepsi if I need caffeine and neither hot nor iced tea is an option. I don't like either, but Pepsi is more tolerable.

Favorite pie?
Peach, if I can get a really good one (which is rare). Apple, blueberry, and mixed-berry pies are also good.

Favorite pizza?
I'm tempted to say "white pizza with clam, from Pepe's," but I haven't had that in probably twenty years, so let's go with Thin-crust with pesto base, from Mod, with toppings including roast asparagus (seasonal).

Favorite season?
I don't really have one.

Broken bones?
chipped bone in my wrist, in college, if that counts

Received a ticket?
No. (As with the "hit a deer?" question, the answer is no because I don't drive.

Favorite color?
Purple, and I like jewel-tone blue, purple, and green more than other shades of those colors.

Sunset or sunrise?
Either is good, but I'm more likely to be awake for sunset.
Tags:
combined because I've already made three posts today

I sewed two buttons back onto my clothes yesterday, one on my all-purpose cardigan and one on the black silk shirt, and I think that's the last sewing until I get my new, improved eyes.

I finished editing a machine learning paper this afternoon, and sent it to the client, with an invoice. She has already paid it; the time stamp on the Paypal notification was *three minutes* after I sent her the email. I think that's the fastest a client has paid me, and will be a hard record to beat.

Having spent a couple of evenings unable to find anything on my kindle that I wanted to read, when the King County Library told me yesterday that the ebook of *Artificial Condition* (the second Murderbot story) was ready, I grabbed a half dozen other things, semi-randomly, to allow for a variety of moods. I have no idea if this will work, but couldn't think of a reason not to try it. So far, I am happily reading Murderbot, and just picked up two hardcover books I'd had on reserve at the Somerville library.

The neurologist's office called to say the insurance company has approved the Ocrevus. Next, the specialty pharmacy will call me, I will say that yes I want this medication, and they'll send it to the neurologist and we can schedule the infusion. (I think my OK is necessary because I do have a small copay for the drug.) a small fee for the drug.) I want the first half-dose is February 5 (which gives a few days slack between the second half-dose and the cataract surgery), and based on what they said today, I'll have more than enough time.
!markup
I just heard from my eye doctor's office. One (?) of the eye drops I will need to take isn't covered by my insurance. So they are sending me coupons (she should have handed them to me Monday, but didn't think I'd need them). When I get them, I should call the company to activate them (this may be three calls, one for each medication). Then I take them to the pharmacy and tell them that the 12/31 expiration date doesn't natter, because they company hasn't gotten around to printing new coupons, and they can call the pharmacy to confirm that.

This reminds me of @siderea's post about the hidden cost, to patients, doctors, and everyone else involved, of all sorts of pointless medical paperwork. I also know some of the insurance paperwork is meant to delay things so they can hold onto the money longer, and maybe the person will get better on their own, or change insurance and then this company won't have to pay for whatever it is, or die while waiting for treatment.

Single-payer would be fairer, it would produce better health outcomes, and it would free up enormous amounts of time that people could use doing actual useful work, or playing, or even sleeping.
redbird: photo of the SF Bay bridges, during rebuilding after an earthquate (bay bridges)
( Jan. 23rd, 2019 08:26 am)
"it works, but I don’t love it. So I really appreciate you pointing this out and allowing me to flip the script – I don’t have to love it, because it works." — JMegan, commenting on a Captain Awkward thread

(The specific context here was communication styles in a relationship.)
It hasn't been a good couple of days for outdoor activity (cold and windy, with icy sidewalks). So I spent a bunch of time this afternoon walking round and round in the apartment building hallway. This isn't remotely interesting, but it's a dry, flat surface with good traction, at a comfortable temperature. I walked fast enough to get my heart rate up a little, which I haven't been doing much in the last several months, because I want to spare my hips. It feels less risky when, if I need to stop, I won't be more than a couple of dozen steps from my front door.

This is in addition to an assortment of exercises, most of them at least related to physical therapy (ongoing maintenance, at this point), almost all of which I do in my apartment, and track on a spreadsheet (to avoid both overdoing accidentally skipping things).
Tags:
!markup

I saw my eye doctor today. First someone measured my eyes so they can figure out the appropriate replacement lenses to use for my cataract surgery. Then I discussed that, and other aspects of the surgery, with Dr. Lazzara.

@cattitude came with me, for moral support and to help make sure I didn't forget anything important. It's very cold right now (4°F/-15 C), and the buses are running on a Saturday schedule, so we took Lyft both ways. That worked fine except for having to back into a driveway to avoid someone who came the wrong way up the steep, narrow one-way street next to our building. (She blamed her GPS and then claimed not to speak English.)

The measuring was less uncomfortable than I had feared/expected; it mostly involved looking into, and being photographed by, a variety of high-tech machinery. They dilated my eyes a little, but not enough to make my vision blur much.

There will be eye drops both before and after the surgery, including an antibiotic. Dr. Lazzara warned me of the risks of the surgery. cut in case you're squeamish )

I will need reading glasses even after the surgery on both eyes is done; over-the-counter reading glasses might be sufficient. The tricky bit will be the time between having the first and second eyes operated on; some patients just remove one lens from their eyeglasses, and I may well do that for distance/walking around. (We discussed whether to leave me with just near-sightedness or just far-sightedness, and his explanation for fixing the far-sightedness seemed to make sense at the time, but what I remember of it doesn't, and I may call back and ask about this again.

They will send me home after surgery with a shield to cover the eye in my sleep for a week or so. I asked about wearing it during the day as well and he said that would be fine; given my tendency to absently rub my eyes, this would almost certainly be a good idea.
I was walking forward on a moving bus yesterday, stumbled, and landed on/across a bench seat. I don't think I'm seriously hurt, but this left me with several bruises. I iced the ones on my calves as soon as I got home, but that was ten or fifteen minutes later. I tried soaking in a hot bath, which did help, but first I discovered that the stopper in our bathtub no longer works, and had to improvise something with a plastic bag and a ceramic rice bowl. medical details )

A night's sleep helped some, enough that I walked down to Davis Square with [personal profile] cattitude this afternoon, because walking and daylight are good for me, it was sunny and mild (for Massachusetts in February, 5°C/42°F), and the forecast for the next few days isn't promising.

I had been vaguely considering going to the Women's March on Boston Common tomorrow, despite the cold, but decided against that almost immediately after getting hurt. I probably will go to the Winter Farmers Market tomorrow morning and see about more vegetables, smoked fish, and maybe some interesting bread and/or cheese. (That market is one of the best things about living in this bit of Somerville.)
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