marnanel: (Default)
some things to know about me:

* I may be wrong and often am. If I am, I would like to know, and learn better. But...
* I hate conflict. If you are rude, aggressive, hostile, ridiculing, I'll probably not talk to you.
* I am aware that I am privileged in many ways; if I show unchecked privilege, I appreciate hearing about it and I promise to take it seriously. I expect the same from you.
* Autonomy is important. I would like to hear your stories rather than tell my own. But if your behaviour involves nonconsensual damage to others, especially children, I am unlikely to be sympathetic (to put it mildly). Anti-vaccination people are specifically included here as people who damage children.
* I love hugs and cuddles, but please don't touch me without asking.
* If I have a panic attack, please hang around. Afterwards I will probably go and hide somewhere for a bit, and then I probably won't cope too well with people talking to me.
* If I'm occupied with nothing but my phone in public, that's probably a way of hiding.
* I hate phone calls. I hate making them, and I hate receiving them. Text or email instead, unless it's urgent, or you've arranged it otherwise. (To my parents: yes, you count as having arranged otherwise. But I still prefer email.)
* My pronouns are they/them, though zie/zir is fine too, and other pronouns are all right where I'm not out as genderqueer. If you get it wrong, that's fine. But don't get it wrong on purpose.
* Do not shout at me. Ever.
* I like reconciliation. If we were friends in the past, I probably want to be friends again. There are a very few exceptions, but you know who you are.
* I like vegetarian food, but I'll eat some kinds of meat if that's all that's available. I'm allergic to uncooked egg (and this includes scrambled eggs, for some reason). Eggs in things like cake are fine. Actually, cake is lovely in general.
* I have a bad habit of avoiding dealing with things I don't know how to handle, especially emails I don't know how to answer. In particular, I love getting fanmail, but I'm rather bad at answering it. I'm really sorry: I'm working on it. I do read it all, and it does make me happy, and I love you all.
* Please don't assume I can pick up on hints, or flirting, or that I know any particular social conventions about conversations; please be explicit. If there's something you can't or don't want to talk about, I will pick it up and worry about it if you lie about the things round the edges in inconsistent ways. I really like it when people talk to me about how they want to talk to me and how I want to talk to them.
* I'll try to add trigger warnings to posts and pictures. Again, if I get it wrong, let me know.
* I have triggers of my own. I may have to leave a conversation because of them. It's a PTSD thing.
* Reciting poetry and singing and scripting/echolalia are coping habits.
* I apologise too much. I'm working on it.

Did I miss anything? Questions and comments and suggestions are welcome.


Nov. 17th, 2015 11:52 pm
marnanel: (Default)
Conversation today:

"This box of firelighters has a picture of fire on it. It's not a box of fire."
"Unless it was flatpack fire. You know, like Ikea FJIRE."
"Oh... that explains why there's a sign outside saying FIRE ASSEMBLY POINT."
marnanel: (Default)
"The peasants have no bread."
"Let them eat cake!" (brioche)

Marie Antoinette didn't actually say that. The story spread because people were so worried about bread, which was the staple food. You might well spend 50% of your income on buying bread.

We were talking about this, and Kit said that the modern equivalent would be:

"Minister, the people say rents are too high."
"Well, they should just buy houses!"
marnanel: (Default)
White poppy

I'm wearing my white poppy again. There's rarely a better day than today to call for peace.
marnanel: (Default)
The Daily Mail is running a story saying that the Church of England makes more money than Starbucks or McDonald's. Even beyond the obvious point that Starbucks and McD's are run for the profit of shareholders, this is pretty silly.

If you don't think churches should exist at all, obviously you're going to think the CofE is handling too much money. Apart from that, though, it's pretty obvious that a large organisation with a lot of expenditure is also going to need a lot of income. The CofE is huge, and puts a lot of money into a lot of things.

It's fair enough to say that this or that expenditure is too high-- the accounts are all public, so this isn't difficult to do. But saying "aha, the CofE claims to be a Christian organisation but has more income than McDonald's" is inane.

Not linking to the article, because the Daily Mail.
marnanel: (Default)

"Want to come up to the Wood? We could play Star Wars."

Martin considered. The Wood was the thin strip of uncultivated land at the top of the school field. The grassed and mowed part petered out in a mild incline before the trees began. It was perhaps a hundred feet long and fifteen feet wide before it met the wire fence that separated it from the gravel footpath, yet to the boys the space was a jungle, the wildest part of their suburban lives. The trees, mostly oaks and birches, alternately towered and stood invitingly climbable; the undergrowth provided hiding places; the worn earth tracks, so adaptable for games, ran the length of the Wood. There was an itching–berry tree, a holly bush whose hollow centre could shelter those brave enough to risk its scratches, and the Dragon, a great fallen log, by turns fortress, stage and spaceship.

"I don't want to," he said after some thought. He'd had the dreams again last night.

"Why not?"

"There's toadstools up there. I hate toadstools." The lie slipped out of him unexpectedly. He weighed it mentally, admiring its lines. "Let's stay here, play tag or something."

His brother shrugged. "I could kick 'em down with my boots. Come on."

Martin followed him: the events had played out like a familiar story. Richard was his younger brother, but Martin always found himself tagging along like a four-year-old. Sometimes at night Martin would keep himself awake pondering the difficult riddles of life; the question of why his brother always took the lead was prominent among these. Even now that he had agreed to play, he could tell before it was ever discussed who would be playing the good guys.

Recently, things had got worse. In the last few months Richard had got himself involved with a particular bunch of kids, too loosely organised to have a name, though Martin thought of them as "Paul's lot". Richard spent much of his free time playing with them, now, and less time with Martin. Martin might have been glad not to be bossed around so much, but in fact nothing appeared to fill the vacuum that Richard had left. Martin spent his breaktimes wandering alone around the school field, yearning for the bell. When Richard was around, things were no better: he seemed to have learned new and still more uncomfortable management techniques during his social climbing.

"We could go to the dragon," said Richard. "We could it for the Death Star."

"Yeah, we could do that..."

The sunlight flecked the earth before them, green under the trees. The birds sang on, unaware of plans to destroy planets. Martin stuck his hands into his pockets and tried not to look at the undergrowth. White blossoms caught the corner of his eye. His nightmares flowed back.

Suddenly, his brother asked, "What are Nastiers?"

"Um." The weight of his dream held onto his mind. "Why'd you ask?"

"Heard you talking about them in your sleep last night."

Richard picked up a stick and began slashing at nettles. Martin watched with mild dread. "Did I say much?"

"Just kept saying it, over and over again. 'The Nastiers... the Nastiers...' and something about the Wood."

Martin shuddered. The Nastiers had first started to grow in his imagination in the spring, when the small heart-shaped leaves appeared under the hedges. Gradually they filled his dreams with their menace, popping up underfoot, filling the rooms, choking the ground, daring him to touch them. By day he had given them wide berths, sometimes even crossing the road. However hard he tried to avoid them, still they filled his imagination.

One day in early summer he had been tortured by the thought of himself lying down to sleep, and waking up as a single great Nastier, four feet across its sickly shining leaf, nodding gently in the aircurrent. He had run out into his garden the next morning, and the plants had flowered, tall spires of tiny white petals topping their towers of leaves, staring him down, glorying in their plantish treason.

"It's just a plant, a kind of plant. I don't like them much," he said. "Those ones."

"You were having nightmares about a plant?" Richard went over and kicked at the nearby patch of Nastiers. He looked back quickly enough to catch Martin wincing. The plants shook and were still.

"It's nothing," said Martin. "Let's go to the dragon."

Soon after they entered the Wood, Martin cursed under his breath: Paul's lot were already there. A few seconds passed before Richard saw them too. He called out to them, and ran off to join them. Martin was alone. He sighed, and walked on towards the seclusion of the dragon.

He sat astride the fallen log, looking out over the school field. With his hands he gripped the bark, tracing patterns in the cracks while his thoughts flowed over him. The voices of Paul's lot were too far away to pick out words. They were as much a part of his peace as the song of the blackbirds. Both reminded him that it wasn't so bad being alone. Sometimes. Maybe. At least Richard wouldn't drag out old arguments with him now, and at least he had space to think.


He looked around for the voice, to both sides, and finally behind himself: Paul was standing at one end of the log, with a grin on his face. Like a long-stemmed rose given to a lover, he held a single Nastier in his hand.

Martin's stomach jumped and twisted. Chills passed over his body. Richard had betrayed him. He scrambled half to his feet and backed away.

The other end of the log lay in a mass of nettles, beyond the edge of the Wood proper. Paul climbed onto the far end and began walking slowly towards him. Martin was trapped: Paul in front, and the nettles behind. Paul's friends appeared one by one, with quiet giggling, then open laughter. They clustered around the far end of the log. A few climbed up behind Paul. Most were carrying Nastiers.

A few weeks earlier, a kid in Martin's class had come in from break with nettle rash over most of his body. Martin's teacher had asked why, and the kid said that Paul told him to jump off the log into the nettles. The teacher asked whether Paul could have told him to jump off a cliff. Martin had been in the Wood that morning. He'd seen it all. The teacher never heard about the pointed sticks.

History seemed about to repeat itself. Martin took a step backwards, almost losing his footing. He caught his breath: Paul's eyes, the leaves of the plant, the plant's white flowers, were all picked out in feverish detail. He's got me, thought Martin. He's got me and I can't get away.

Then with the same strange dream-like clarity, it came to him. His fear was not Paul, but the unnamable terror of the Nastier. If Paul had trapped him, it was only in a prison of himself.

Martin bit the inside of his cheeks to give himself strength. He grabbed the plant from Paul's hand and crushed it. It smelled of herbs, and garlic. Paul took a step backwards in surprise, and slipped. Martin leapt forwards and to the right, landing on the grass ahead of the nettles, and ran as hard as he could towards the school. A few of Paul's lot gave chase in a disinterested sort of way, but soon gave up and returned to their leader.

Martin didn't stop running until he was inside the school, and didn't start crying until he was safely in the cloakroom, washing his hands over, and over, and over again.
marnanel: (Default)
Sex advice from days gone by, according to an old book I have from the 1950s. It's alarming to think that this was being presented by medical professionals as fact. TW for possible mention of rape.

scan of book, text below

"...The main difference is that with boys the sexual urge awakes spontaneously together with the beginning of the function of the testicles. Not so with girls: the woman's sexuality remains dormant until it is awakened by a man. Not by any man, but by the right one, and many a woman grows up, becomes the mother of children, and still remains a Sleeping Beauty. A normal girl whose physical urge has not been brutally stirred up need not and does not masturbate at any time in her life. Masturbation with women is always abnormal. This is not a pious postulate, but a fact; women say they are not interested in it, it means nothing to them, they truly dislike the idea..."


Nov. 3rd, 2015 11:34 pm
marnanel: (Default)
A friend of ours has just been made vicar of a parish nearby, so we went along to his installation service on Sunday-- it was packed. Before the start, the bishop was walking down the side aisle in his cope and mitre. There was a pushchair on one side followed by Kit's chair on the other, making a sort of slalom. He paused, and I heard myself saying, "Don't worry, you can just move diagonally."
marnanel: (Default)
The USB spec has a set of rather wonderful codes for which part of the human body is expected to use the device, as follows:

00 None
01 Hand
02 Eyeball
03 Eyebrow
04 Eyelid
05 Ear
06 Nose
07 Mouth
08 Upper lip
09 Lower lip
0A Jaw
0B Neck
0C Upper arm
0D Elbow
0E Forearm
0F Wrist
10 Palm
11 Thumb
12 Index finger
13 Middle finger
14 Ring finger
15 Little finger
16 Head
17 Shoulder
18 Hip
19 Waist
1A Thigh
1B Knee
1C Calf
1D Ankle
1E Foot
1F Heel
20 Ball of foot
21 Big toe
22 Second toe
23 Third toe
24 Fourth toe
25 Little toe
26 Brow
27 Cheek
28-FF Reserved

Can anyone tell me the difference between 0x03 Eyebrow and 0x26 Brow? I'm also noting an odd lack of codes for USB sex toys.

[List of codes at pp45-6]
marnanel: (Default)
Please, stop telling people that everything happens for a reason. It defies experience. It's pastorally insensitive. Most importantly, it can't possibly be true-- at least within human experience.

Let's assume that this is in fact a just universe. Every good act is eventually rewarded; every bad act is eventually punished. There's a happy ending. But a happy ending is a description of a well-structured story. If you sliced the series of events any other way, you'd have at best an unhappy ending, and at worst just a list.

If we stop reading Cinderella before the end, it's not a happy ending: Cinderella is still crying in the kitchen, or she's lost contact with the prince. If we keep going after the end, it's not a happy ending: life goes on, Cinderella gets cancer, the prince gets Alzheimers, whatever. So also with the universe: humans never see the story except in slices. And the fact that the whole story of time is about justice doesn't mean that there'll be any sign of justice in any particular slice of it.
marnanel: (Default)
1. Elephants have more wit and mind than any other beast.
2. They avoid mice, and run away from them.
3. They do the deed of reproduction backwards, and then the female gives birth in water or in the forest. She leaves her foal where he was born, because of the dragons which are their enemies and kill them. She is pregnant two years, and has sex once, and lives for three hundred years, as Isidore says.
4. Pliny says that elephants are the most virtuous beasts.
5. At the new moon, elephants come together in great crowds, and wash themselves in a river. Then they go home to their own places, but they look after the young elephants and make them walk front of them.
6. When elephants are ill, they go and gather medicinal herbs. Before they use the herbs, they look up to heaven and pray for the help of God, in some religion.
7. Elephants are clever, good at learning, and easy to teach. You can teach them to recognise the king, and then they will kneel down when they see him.
8. If an elephant sees a lost human coming towards her, she will hide, so as not to scare him. Then she shows herself bit by bit, and leads him home. But if a dragon should pass by, she will fight it, and defend the man. She does this especially when she has foals, because she's afraid that the man might come and find them. So it makes sense to lead him out of the wilderness.
9. Elephants always go around together, and the oldest one leads the way. If they come to a river, they send the little elephants over first, in case the big elephants break up the crossing place.
10. Also, elephants are strangely modest. They have sex in hidden places, when the male is five years old and the female between ten and twelve. In that two years she is only fertile for five days. So people in India hide their tame female elephants when they are in season, because otherwise the wild elephants will knock down their houses and stables.
11. Tame elephants are very useful in battles, because they can knock over soldiers, and that's wonderful. They're not afraid of armies. On the other hand, they are afraid of pigs, and they run away if they hear one.
12. Elephants can knock down tall trees in order to eat the fruit.
13. Elephant blood is cold. Dragons like to drink it to cool themselves down.
14. Elephants get cold in the winter.
15. They can wade in water up to their chins, and they can swim. But they can't swim for too long, because they're heavy.
16. Elephants are never malicious, but they are sometimes accidentally cruel or fierce-- for example, if you make them angry, or if you get them drunk. So some people give wine to elephants, to make them fiercer in battles.
17. Elephants keep track of the movements of the stars. When the moon is full, they go to the river, and greet the sunrise by dancing.
[picture of original text]
18. When an elephant is being chased by ivory hunters, it smashes its tusks together and breaks them, so that the hunter will leave it alone.
19. Elephants mate for life. Male elephants never fight over females. In fact, elephants don't fight much at all. But if they fight and one of them is wounded, they put the wounded elephant in the middle of the herd for safety, and defend it more than they defend themselves.
20. If an elephant eats a chameleon, he will go and eat a wild olive tree, which is a remedy against the chameleon's venom.
21. An elephant has a soft belly and a hard back. So when he fights a unicorn, he puts his back towards it, in case the unicorn sticks its horn into his belly.
22. Elephants have very little hair, no bristles, and large, long, thin ears that hang down.
marnanel: (Default)
Kit​ and I are having a conversation about the ITV franchise for Narnia.

"This is Paravel Television, broadcasting a full colour service on the Stormness, Ettinsmoor, and Lantern Waste transmitters of the Independent Broadcasting Authority.

Hello, and a very good morning to you. A quick rundown of this morning's programmes: at nine we have the regional news and weather; at nine thirty, we ask Is Man A Myth? At eleven, The Holiday Programme is travelling to Tashbaan, and Not A Tame Lion at noon rounds off this morning on Paravel."

(And now I'm asking myself whether making a mockup of this for YouTube would be as fun as it sounds.)
marnanel: (Default)
"What does 'great with child' mean?"
"But the sentence is 'Mr Smith is great with children.'"
marnanel: (Default)
I was sleeping in, but the doorbell woke me up. Two bright-eyed enthusiastic girls in their late teens were standing outside. One of them did all the talking.

She: Hello! I'm ___ and my friend here is called ___. We're doing a survey. Would you like to take part?
Me: (blearily) Go on.
She: Do you think morality is declining in our society?
Me: No.
(her friend writes it down)
She: Can you explain why?
Me: I don't have any reason to believe that previous ages behaved any more morally than we do. And if morality does seem to be declining, it may be because of increased visibility and better reporting.
(her friend is scribbling frantically)
She: Right. And what do you think could improve the morality of society?
Me (thinking slowly, still half-asleep): Well... there are many reasons for unethical behaviour, but it seems to me that much of it is due to lack of ability to choose otherwise. If your family's hungry, you're more likely to steal to feed them. And even when things improve, this turns into a habit of behaviour. So we need to reduce social inequality.
She: More freedom for people?
Me: Yeah-- freedom means you have more choices.
She: Thanks. And finally, do you think religion has a part to play in increasing morality in society?
Me (suspicions confirmed): Yes, because in order to play a part in society you have to be aware of your context within it... the big picture, and religion is often a good way to learn to think on that scale. Of course you can get that in other ways, as well-- it's not restricted to people of faith.
She: Thank you. Er, did we wake you up?
Me: Yes, but it's okay. It's not often people get me out of bed to discuss ethical philosophy.
She: This has been very philosophical. Here's a card with some more questions-- we'll be back next week to talk about what you think about those. Is the house next door number ___?

Good luck to them. If they're going house-to-house in Salford asking questions about ethics, I hope to God they stay safe.


Sep. 23rd, 2015 10:27 pm
marnanel: (Default)

Every new word makes someone complain. Here’s how “humbug” was received in the 1750s.

There is a word very much in vogue with the people of taste and fashion, which though it has not even the ‘penumbra’ of a meaning, yet makes up the sum total of the wit, sense and judgement of the aforesaid people of taste and fashion! I will venture to affirm that this ‘Humbug’ is neither an English word, nor a derivative from any other language. It is indeed a blackguard sound, made use of by most people of distinction! It is a fine make-weight in conversation, and some great men deceive themselves so egregiously as to think they mean something by it! – “The Student; or the Oxford and Cambridge monthly miscellany”, 1750

…odious, horrible, detestable, shocking, Humbug. This last new-coined expression, which is only to be found in the nonsensical vocabulary, sounds absurd and disagreeable, whenever it is pronounced. – “The Connoisseur”, 1754, issue 14

Our pretenders to wit is not still more barbarous. When they talk of Humbug, &c. they seem to be jabbering in the uncouth dialect of the Huns. – “The Connoisseur”, 1754, issue 42

[image: “Mint humbugs” by Ka Faraq Gatri. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0]
marnanel: (Default)
Something I said at a party at the vicarage last night:

People ask why I'm an anarchist. The reasons are a bit like my reasons for being a vegetarian. I believe this would be a better world if we gave up eating meat-- and that humanity can't survive unless we do. Once, perhaps, our civilisation was at a stage where eating meat is necessary, but we've shown we've got beyond that now. But now and then, in a world where most people still have to eat meat, I might agree to eat meat too for the short term-- with caution that it doesn't become the long term. It's easy for the best to be the enemy of good.
marnanel: (Default)
Homophobia seems to me as if the straight people are crammed into a small and dimly-lit circular compound, holding on to all the power and hating the queer people outside full of colours and sunshine. Most of us want to break the wall down, stop the hatred, let the power flood out and the colours flood in. But some say the answer is for everyone outside to run away from the sunshine and climb into the courtyard too.

For years before the Stonewall riots, queer people had held peaceful protests asking to be respected in the same way that straight people are respected. Nobody listened. Then the riot happened, queer people fought back, not assimilated and not ashamed. And the wall began to break.

But the wall-climbers haven’t gone away. We’ve often seen LGBT associations forget trans folk in their hurry to climb over the wall into respectability. And this film is selling a lie. The rioters weren’t the acceptable face of gay culture. They weren’t even trying to be.

They lived on the outside.

So do we.
marnanel: (Default)
I've always heard that the idea of "privation of good" was something Augustine came up with. (Summary: evil is not a thing in itself, but only the absence of good-- like how darkness is the absence of light.) But 300 years earlier, Epictetus was saying:

"As a mark is not set up for the sake of missing the aim, so neither does the nature of evil exist in the world." (Enchiridion, 27)

Isn't that the same idea?
marnanel: (Default)
I don't give a damn whether Labour is electable under Corbyn-- the next election's too far off to worry about. What I *do* care about is having an effective Opposition, and that's something I'm certain he can provide. Six PM's questions a week, the chance to choose who's on the front benches, and a guaranteed place in almost every political TV show-- given a year or two, he'll move the Overton window enough that today's estimations of who's electable will be irrelevant.

I don't believe for a moment that Labour can't gain power with Corbyn as leader-- we can't know, because there hasn't been a Labour Party that was much distinguishable from the Tories since the nineties.

No, I don't think Corbyn is the second coming of Marx. I don't think the Labour party is going to do a great deal of good for ordinary people any time soon. I don't believe electoral politics will deliver enough change to fix the system. But I do believe that the parliamentary Labour Party can do more good in the world than they're doing right now.
marnanel: (Default)
HORNE: Well, you might have noticed that round-the-horne dot com is looking a bit drab these days. So I decided to hire a website consultant, and the first one I tried was called "Information Bona Highway".

(FX: shop bell)

JULIAN: Oh, hello! I'm Julian and this is my friend Sandy.
HORNE: I need some help with my website. I found you online...
SANDY: He's been googling us, Jules.
JULIAN: We get so much trade that way, Mr Horne.
HORNE: Do you have much experience in site design?
JULIAN: Oh, we've been at it for years. Back with Geocities and Myspace.
SANDY: Yes. Everyone wanted a bit of Myspace. They were positively queueing up for my top eight.
JULIAN: Tom-- you remember Tom? He was my top.
HORNE: I want my site to look a little less...
SANDY: Nineties?
JULIAN: Passé. That's your actual French.
HORNE: Yes. Would you be available to update it?
SANDY: Oh, you'll be wanting my help, Mr Horne. I'm positively a tiger of web design.
JULIAN: A tiger in the stylesheets.
SANDY: I do everything that's handled by the client. Everything responsive. If you want a nice double-column layout, I'm your man.
JULIAN: He just tweaks his padding-bottom and we're away.
HORNE: I see. Are you both client-side?
JULIAN: No, I concentrate on the back end. Django, mainly.
SANDY: Django! His Python is a sight to behold.
HORNE: Can I run it on Windows?
JULIAN: Oh, no, I swear by Debian.
SANDY: Swears by it.
JULIAN: Nothing else manages my packages so well.
HORNE: And it's more secure, I take it?
SANDY: Well, I must be frank, Mr Horne. Julian's never been much of a dab hand at intrusion detection.
JULIAN: Traitor!
SANDY: Well, it's true.
JULIAN: I can guarantee, guarantee that someone will be probing my ports this evening.
SANDY: Will you excuse us, Mr Horne? I really must go and check his log.


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