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Diary of an opsimath

Today was a domestic day. I cleaned the house a bit, did a load of washing, hung the washing to dry, made bread in the breadmaker and made a big pot of soup from whatever I could find in the fridge. Other than that, all I've done is read the internet for rather longer than I ought to have done and processed the rest of the photos from last weekend's trip to London. But those will be for another post.

Home made soup

Current Mood: tired tired

I have finished teaching for the week and due to a chance comment in the Habitrpg Tavern, I found Mark Forster's website. I bought his Do It Tomorrow book a few years ago and found it very helpful. He has more productivity ideas available now and after reading some of his articles online, I had a long hard look at how my Habit setup was working. As a result, I'm trying out Forster's autofocus method on my To-Dos.

My first step was actually to thoroughly weed the list and put some tasks back into ToDoList rather than Habit. I'm also setting up a couple more Dailies so that I'll actually commit to doing extra exercise and improving my Welsh, rather than having them as a sort of aspirational, some day/maybe wish-list cluttering up the To-Dos.

Next step is to actually do some of the To-Dos instead of letting them sit there turning red. (Which is what To-Dos do on Habitrpg if you don't do them, but it's not all bad because when you actually do get around to doing them, you get more xp! Hence it encourages you to finally bite the bullet and Get Stuff Done.)

Current Mood: sleepy sleepy


We managed a flying visit to London last weekend. G had been invited to take part in a workshop on research in education and as I don't teach on Fridays this year, I could go along too. We stayed in the Premier Inn less than 5 minutes walk from Euston Station, so though we travelled down after work on Thursday and didn't arrive until 10:30 pm (train slightly delayed around Birmingham), we could collapse into bed almost immediately on arrival.

I'll post more photos when I can process them, but this was the best of the bunch and is therefore my photo for the 52 week project.

It was a dreary November evening but as we started to cross the Thames, the sun broke through for a moment.

Thames & the Shard

Current Mood: tired tired

I have always in the past bought a poppy to wear around the time of Remembrance Sunday and the actual Remembrance Day on 11 November. But not this year.

It's 100 years since the First World War began and OK, it was a huge and traumatic event. Both my grandfathers fought in the trenches and one nearly died from his wounds. My maternal grandfather may have avoided physical injury, but I don't know what it did to him mentally. But there has just been too much war commemoration this year for my liking and increasingly the Remembrance commemoration is in danger of turning into a jingoistic celebration of militarism.

When the Royal British Legion celebrates the success of its poppy day by saying things like:

"For seven hours, more than 100 serving personnel, veterans and volunteers braved the bad weather to collect thousands of pounds from the public. The Legion’s Poppy Appeal campaign funds direct welfare and support to the Armed Forces community and this year is focused on Forces families."

and support the article with photos of kids carrying giant poppies and wearing t-shirts saying, "Future Soldier," they are not having a penny more of my money. Ever.

future soldier

In the past, the British Legion fund raising has supposedly been for ex-service men and women injured in war. This seems like a definite shift to supporting currently serving Armed Forces personnel, who if they need care and support should bloody well be cared for and supported by their employers, ie the government.

I used to see Remembrance Day as poignant and a reminder that it shouldn't ever happen again, but recent governments seem increasingly happy to drag us into yet more wars, so what, exactly, are we remembering?

Current Mood: sad sad


The only upside to the changeable weather we're having at the moment is that there are a lot of rainbows about.

I snapped this partial double-bow with my phone on Monday.

Changeable weather

The downside to the cold and the rain is that I have turned into a slug again. Other than walking to and from work last week, I have done no exercise. I didn't even take Brith out on Friday because it was pouring down. Must try and do better this week.

Current Mood: blah blah

A couple of weeks or so ago it was revealed that the obnoxious blogger and Tweeter "Requires Hate", aka Winterfox, aka other online names is the sweet, gentle, up and coming new Thai writer Benjanun Sriduangkaew.

If the name Requires Hate means nothing to you, then just ignore this post and scroll hastily past. Whatever you do, don't click here to see a thorough and painstaking catalogue of all the misery and distress she has caused over the past 13 years

I first became aware of Requires Hate and her followers back in 2012 in the LJ comments to Cat Valente’s post about visiting Scotland. I didn't actually comment in that thread, though I watched the argument unfold, but I was one of the commenters in the follow up discussion on Liz Williams' LJ. I was horrified by RH's behaviour and by her total lack of understanding or empathy. My view was only further reinforced when I looked at what she was posting on Twitter. Unfortunately, she drew in well-meaning people who were keen to demonstrate their SJW[*] cred and who failed to see how damaging RH's behaviour was, both to the authors, reviewers and readers that she attacked and to the cause she claimed to support. She also destroyed several vibrant online communities, including at least one that was specifically set up to promote work by writers who weren't the usual heterosexual white guy. People stopped posting because if you disagreed with her, it unleashed a stream of foul abuse and hate speech. You had to be her sycophantic follower, or you were her enemy and fair game.

When called on her behaviour, her excuse was that she was "punching up", claiming that oppressed people can say what they like to fight their oppression and her vicious language was simply hyperbole and that the people she attacked were stupid to be afraid. That excuse seems a little thin, bearing in mind the recent case where stalking moved from online to actual physical harm. Her claims that her victims should have known that it was all just words and she never meant them any real harm is patently ridiculous. And that's ignoring the fact that words can seriously damage someone's mental well-being.

Personally, I felt that Benjanun Sriduangkaew's apologies were just a little too pat. If she thinks that saying "sorry" is sufficient to atone for years of appalling behaviour it isn't. She claims she was only 19 and "very young". The students I teach are a couple of years younger and none of them would think that sort of behaviour was acceptable, so being "very young" cuts no ice with me.

If she truly reforms, stops being a manipulative bully and gets on with being a writer and starts being a more pleasant person to those around her, then good luck to her. People have been complete arseholes and reformed and gone on to lead productive lives. But I will be watching with interest to see what happens next because it seems that she is even now playing mind-games in order to gain advantage from having her appalling past revealed. She manipulates the truth to suit her purposes. If your path should ever cross hers, you have been warned!

I'm not saying, "Don't buy her books." I won't be buying them, because there's too much to read and not enough time and I'd rather support writers who don't have a track record of awfulness. I'm not saying don't give her awards if her writing truly deserves it. But you might like to think about the message an award would send to those she terrorised, many of whom were non-white writers.

[*] For those unfamiliar with the term, SJW = Social Justice Warrior, in other words someone who claims to fight racism, sexism and ableism. Whilst claiming to support those who suffer any form of oppression, Benjanun Sriduangkaew has, by her past actions, seriously damaged a very serious and worthwhile cause.
One of my LJ friends (in a locked post, so I won't link) has been complaining about Halloween replacing our tradition Bonfire Night. This is an expanded version of what I posted as a comment:

Bonfires at this time of year are far older than Guy Fawkes and date back to the Celtic fire festivals. There are echoes in some of the Welsh folklore of ancient human sacrifices too.

I therefore have very mixed feelings about Bonfire Night. I mourn the death of an old tradition. I miss the dark and dangerous Bonfire Nights of my childhood and teens, with the smell of gunpowder on the air and baked potatoes and treacle toffee. However... There were always terrible injuries every year if not actual deaths, which in these more safety conscious days we are not prepared to accept. It was a wild night, at least it was in the working class area of Manchester where I grew up. There was also bullying, intimidation and vandalism. In the weeks beforehand, youths would throw bangers and rip-raps at people in the street and put fireworks through old people's letterboxes. The fire brigade were kept busy in the run up to the actual night due to the rivalry between the gangs who wanted to have the biggest bonfire and would burn other gang's bonfires prematurely in order to ensure they won the contest. Even then, back in the 1960s, there were moves to have more regulated events where adults were in charge. We often went to the church bonfire, which was a great evening with a good display of fireworks, treacle toffee and potatoes baked in the embers of the fire to eat at the end of the evening.

Things change, you can't go back. For one thing there's the practical problem of where the kids would build their bonfires these days, even if you gave them free rein. We built them on bomb sites left over from WWII and bits of waste ground, like the site of the old brickworks and the council rubbish tip, but they've long been cleared away or fenced off and made safe. And also you have to remember that Halloween was originally exported to America from Europe and is therefore simply returning home in a slightly different guise. If it does take root again here, I'm sure we'll soon British-ise again. We'll do it slightly differently and make it our own.

Current Mood: nostalgic nostalgic

I am not doing NaNoWriMo, but I find the NaNo frenzy helps my writing motivation -- which has been precisely zero for quite a while. So far I have:

1) Imported the unfinished novel manuscript from my last serious NaNo attempt into YWriter.
2) Realised that the reason I can't get any further is that I don't know how it ends.
3) Realised that the reason I don't know how it ends is that the plot outline only takes me to the middle of the story.

I need another half-novel's worth of plot!

Current Mood: creative creative

I may, possibly, sort of, attempt some kind of fiction writing during November.

I'm definitely not doing NaNo-proper but as the story I have been gently poking has refused to wake up and cooperate, I thought I'd go back to the one I wrote 30K of during NaNo in 2009. I'm in two minds whether to set a pico-target of something like 100 words per day or just to see what (if anything) happens.

Progress so far:

I have imported the incomplete novel manuscript into YWriter and re-read bits of it.

For years the hazel tree in the front garden has produced nuts, but, disappointingly, when broken open, there was nothing inside. I don't know whether the tree is now sufficiently mature or whether it was due to a decent summer, but this year there were lots of edible nuts! They are rather small, but definitely taste of hazelnut.

Overall it's been an excellent year for the garden, especially considering how little I do in there!

Hazelnuts from the garden

This year we had enough blackberries and jostaberries for jam as well as crumbles and, for the past few weeks, I have had free nuts.

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

Name: Helen
Back November 2014