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Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017 12:26 am

Posted by languagehat

Monica Mark reports:

On Monday, BBC World Service launched a Pidgin service, unveiling a website and radio bulletins that will run entirely in the lingua franca spoken across West Africa.

It’s the BBC’s biggest expansion in 40 years, and means the broadcaster will join the ranks of local stations that already reach audiences of millions through speaking Pidgin — a mashup of English, Portuguese, and a bunch of local languages.

“Pidgin is the language spoken among so many people across West and Central Africa and for the first time we will be connecting with the next generation of speakers. Pidgin is the common thread in the region,” BBC editor Bilkisu Labaran said.

There’s a nice little video featuring the presenters talking about how excited they are (“We don land gidigba!” = We’ve finally arrived!) and a selection of pleased tweets (“Una welcome @BBCAfrica , noting better pass dan say person hear tory for him own language. May your town crier reach every village square!”). Here‘s a related BBC story about Pidgin, with some examples, and here‘s the Pidgin news website (lead story at the moment: “Nigeria: Rats chase President Buhari from office/ After over 100 days of medical vacation, President Muhammadu Buhari still dey work from home because dem say rats don spoil im office”). Good for them!

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 05:32 pm
Astronomers Without Borders eclipse glasses donation program

don't throw away your eclipse glasses! mail them to Astronomers Without Borders, or deliver them to the nearest organization (most likely a local school) collecting them for AWB, so that students in South America and Africa can safely watch the next eclipse!
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 02:46 pm
Yesterday afternoon I was in a weird mood--I thought I was going over to [personal profile] goshawk's house for an hour or so to cuddle with her cat and do some writing, but I ended up wanting to be alone to think and brood and sleep, and ended up skipping dinner and staying until ten PM. The cat was glad, since he's lonely without his human, but I'm still not quite sure what's up with me. Then I went home and ranted about the adults involved in the Indigo Children idea, which was very soothing.

I nailed today's job interview, or else I've never nailed anything in my life. I want the position desperately. But they said they'd take "a few weeks" to decide. Siiigh.

On the upside, Mom was able to afford to pay someone to come in and drywall my kitchen and bathroom. So yes, everything there is now covered in drywall dust, but once I clean it off I get to paint and make things look actually inhabited.
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 06:38 pm

Spotted this the other day and then forgot to mention it:

Sex Festival in Tunbridge Wells.

Actually, not in Tunbridge Wells, which evokes images of orgiastic goings on in the Pantiles amidst a crowd of the local denizens being Disgusted.

In fact, in a wood nearby.

'People living in the area have expressed concern over noise, parking and decency': which is almost in the fine tradition of the inhabitants of Hampstead not minding so much about the actual cruising taking place at the famed gay cruising grounds of the Heath, but that they were leaving litter.

A local farmer reported 'Locals that hadn't bought tickets posed the biggest problem for event organisers, with hundreds of people trying to get in on the action'.

A man was found dead and a woman unconscious at the campsite this morning: while all the reports namecheck the festival, it sounds as if it was over by then. The report in the Telegraph suggests that it is possible that fumes from a barbecue were to blame, and the death is so far described as unexplained. But obviously, all reports are going to mention the kinky sex party.

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 01:19 pm
While I am reading Permanent Ink I would also like to Rec it! For some reason it didn't much hype as Illegal contact, but I'm just enjoying Permanent Ink a bit more. The cover is fantastic and the writing is consistent.

For those of you who like Daddy Kinks and age differences this might be the book for you.

I'll update this post to add in a small review once I'm done, but so far so good!
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 01:21 pm
The blood bank emailed me: A+ donors needed. (Guess my blood type.) It has in fact been over eight weeks since I donated last.

Problem: I am fucking moving. I do not have enough physical cope as it is. Blood donation knocks me the fuck over!

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 12:15 pm
Hello! Another book so another post!

I've recently finished Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell and I pretty much loved most of the book. It's a contemporary sports romance between a football player and his Personal assistant. It's cute, funny, and sexy. Santino has the best way of writing asshole characters that you really can't help but love. He's also a Sass Master which heavily reflects on Noah. Most characters were rounded out really well, even the side-ones who you expect to be just douches.

The book also offers Bi-representation in case you're looking for more Bisexual main characters.

New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.

Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin's timeout is over…
Read more... )
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 04:54 pm
Link: Depends on party
Location: Anywhere in the world if you're a UK citizen
Deadline: Varies, but there will be some this autumn
Time estimate: 15 minutes
Requirements: money / mental / personal information / decision-making
Anything else: It may be a while until the next general election, but local elections can make a difference to people's lives. Joining an imperfect party and campaigning for change from within is usually easier and more effective than starting a new party from scratch or trying to get an independent elected. Being a member for a few months before the election gives you opportunities to help influence things when it comes, whether that's by voting within the party for a particular person to be the party candidate for your area, putting forward or voting on topics for policy discussions and campaigns, or by getting information about ways to volunteer and increase voter turnout.
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 11:57 am
I need extra hands around here. Preferably attached to strong arms, steely spines, and sturdy legs, with a head on those shoulders that can intuit what I need to happen better than I can either intuit or explain the things.

In lieu of this (because TELEPORTER!!! *shakes fist*, and also all my immediate family are Occupied Elsewhere today):

Would any y'all who believe in and understand how to accomplish the "sending healing energy over a distance" thing please do the thing for me? Not necessarily healing, though I wouldn't exactly say no to that; strength, resilience, anything that you have to spare at the moment and that you think I could use in order to get all my stuff moving-ready and the apartment sparkly clean. Protective and cleansing energies would also be welcome.

If you want to do a trade, drop me a comment with a prompt: a single word, a brief phrase, a song lyric, an evocative image. After I'm all moved, I'll stitch all the prompts into a story and post it for all y'all to see. :)
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 05:33 pm
Why google this forever when I have actual North Americans who can help me with this stuff. Can anyone tell me what these birds are? I am assuming that all four are cardinals - 3 males and 1 female - but I would appreciate confirmations/alternatives.

under cut to spare you )

ETA confirmed :)
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 09:46 am
*waves to somebody who may not wish to be named* So many coffees! Thank you!

Can someone—who has got more brain to think of google terms than I have presently got—point me at moving-out checklists? Apartment-departing–specific if possible?
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 08:12 am
Colin West ([twitter.com profile] CWestMcDonald), Nnamdi Asomugha and and Matt Ruskin from the film Crown Heights stop by the studio, and President Obama’s former Drug Czar, Michael Botticelli, joins to help listeners understand the opioid epidemic from a health and policy standpoint. DeRay processes the world after Charlottesville with Brittany, Sam and Clint. Birmingham mayoral candidate, Randall Woodfin ([twitter.com profile] WoodfinForBham), joins DeRay briefly to discuss the biggest issues facing his city.

Find the pod here or wherever you get your podcasts.
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 09:13 am
Happy birthday, [personal profile] elisem!
Monday, August 21st, 2017 11:25 pm

Four weeks ago today, we welcomed Sylvia Dawn into the world! I got a lot out of reading other people's birth stories as we prepared for Sylvia to arrive, and so I'm sharing ours in the hope that someone else will benefit from it in some way, whether they're preparing for a birth themselves or are just curious about our experience.

Sylvia's due date of Monday, July 17 came and went without much fanfare. I had an appointment with Kavita, my midwife, that day, and she checked my cervix and reported that I was one centimeter dilated (out of the standard ten centimeters that one's cervix must usually dilate before one can push a baby out). It's apparently common for the cervix to dilate a centimeter or three during late pregnancy before labor actually starts, so it didn't mean much that mine had begun dilating. Still, Alex found it very exciting that Kavita was able to poke a finger in and feel the top of the baby's head through the amniotic sac ("You're the first person to touch our baby!"1). I couldn't tell that my cervix had begun to dilate (and I couldn't feel anything unusual or painful during Kavita's exam), but I was happy that my body seemed to be preparing for labor and birth.

My parents arrived in town two days later, on Wednesday the 19th, but they didn't come to visit us yet. Their plan had been to come see us a day or so after I gave birth, and they wanted to leave us some space until then. They got an Airbnb in the next town over and found tourist activities to occupy their time. I was on leave from work, and I puttered around the house, cleaning and organizing things. A friend had asked me a few weeks previously if I had been "nesting" yet, and I hadn't been sure what that meant. "You mean, like, buying stuff for the baby?", I had asked. "No," she'd replied, "I mean, like, organizing the spice rack." The week starting with Sylvia's due date turned out to be when the "nesting" thing finally kicked in. I did not organize the spice rack, but I did construct, bake, and freeze two pans of enchiladas. I like to cook, but cooking and freezing food in advance is not typical behavior for me!2

On Friday the 21st, I lost my mucus plug, the small glob of mucus that fills the cervical opening during pregnancy. I never imagined that I would be excited about a glob of yellowish mucus in my underwear, but I was pleased to have another sign that my cervix was beginning to open. I excitedly texted my mom, who said, "Are you sure your water didn't break?" (Yes, I was sure.) Like me, my parents were eager for things to move along, and by now they were running out of tourist things to do. My dad finally announced that it was ridiculous that they'd been in town for several days and not seen me yet, and that they were coming over the next day, which was Saturday.

On Saturday, we all went out for a nice brunch together, and then we spent the afternoon at home, where I gave my parents a tour of all the many baby accoutrements that we'd been given by friends and relatives.3 At some point in the afternoon, I noticed that I seemed to be having some watery discharge. I called Kavita, worried that it might be a slow leak of amniotic fluid. She told me that she'd come over around 8:30 the next morning and check on me. Eventually, my parents headed back to their Airbnb, and some time later, Alex and I went to bed.

Around two-thirty in the morning, I started to feel what were...well...I thought they might be contractions, but I wasn't entirely sure. How is a first-time birth-giver supposed to know what a contraction feels like, anyway? I knew from the childbirth class that Alex and I had taken that during early labor, contractions would last less than a minute and would be between about seven and twenty minutes apart, and that this stage of labor could last for a long time, possibly days. But, although I was sure I was feeling a sort of discomfort that was new to me, I couldn't put my finger on how long the contractions were, nor how far apart they were. I got out of bed and googled for things like "can't tell when contractions stop and start", to not much avail. I downloaded a contraction timer app and tried using it, but that wasn't particularly helpful, either. Eventually, I decided to call Kavita to let her know what was going on, although I didn't think there was an urgent need for her to come over yet. She told me that she would come over sometime the next day, but that instead of coming at 8:30 a.m. as she had said previously, she wouldn't plan on any particular time and would instead wait for another phone call from me. At that point, I think I went back to bed and tried to sleep, with mixed success.

Around seven in the morning, I still couldn't tell when the contractions were starting or stopping or how long they were, but I was beginning to have an increasing amount of lower back pain. I took a hot shower and put on a loose-fitting dress, then moved restlessly around the house, trying different ways to sit or stand and googling "when to call midwife". After reading one too many stories on pregnancy forums from people who waited too long to call the midwife and regretted it, I began to get worried and decided that I really wanted Kavita to come over soon. I woke up Alex and asked him to call Kavita for me; I suppose I felt like I'd been calling her too often and that she might think I was crying wolf, and that if the call came from Alex, she might take it more seriously. Kavita asked Alex for more information on what had been happening for the last few hours, to which he truthfully answered that he didn't know, because he'd just woken up. I think the fact that Alex had been asleep was a sign to Kavita that I was still not very far along. She had Alex put me on the phone and confirmed that I could still talk through a contraction, then gently explained that she didn't think I needed her to come over yet (and that this was really the sort of situation that called for a doula -- which I didn't have -- and not a midwife). But I was nervous and asked her to please come over, and she acquiesced and arrived at our place an hour and a half later. I had gotten back in bed and was lying on my side and pressing a hot water bottle against my back. Kavita immediately noticed that my lips looked dry and admonished me to drink more water. She checked the baby's heart rate, which was 130 bpm, just as it had been throughout most of pregnancy.

Then, Kavita got out a TENS unit, a small battery-operated device for treating pain with a low-voltage electric current. We had very briefly discussed this thing in the childbirth class, but I hadn't actually tried it out during the class, and had felt a bit skeptical of it at the time. Kavita showed me how to use it: there were four small, flat electrode pads that attached to my lower back with a very sticky adhesive, and wires ran from the pads to a small handheld device that I could use to control the intensity of the current. The handheld device had a big, easy-to-press button that would toggle between two settings: a lower-intensity, pulsing setting and a higher-intensity, steady one. Kavita explained that I could leave it on the former setting when I wasn't having a contraction, then push the button to switch to the latter setting and get more pain relief during contractions. We set it to about a third of the maximum intensity, and it felt great -- a bit like someone was massaging my lower back with warm hands. Turning it up more than that began to feel more prickly than therapeutic, so I left it at the one-third setting. Having gotten me situated with the TENS unit, Kavita left for a while to take care of some other errands and appointments.

The TENS unit was awesome. I left it attached to my back pretty much continuously for the next twenty-four hours, only taking it off a couple of times to take showers. Not long after putting it on, I felt comfortable getting out of bed and walking around outside a bit with Alex. I also sat on our exercise ball for a while, and I ate a sandwich that Alex made me and did my best to drink a lot of water.

The contractions were gradually becoming more distinct and more uncomfortable, and I really appreciated having that button to push and turn up the TENS unit whenever I had a contraction. I wouldn't say that it took the pain away, exactly, but it provided an effective distraction from the pain, in the same way that scratching an itch distracts from the itch. Most importantly, having the button to push made me feel like I was in control! It occurred to me that my earlier questions about when exactly my contractions started and stopped could be answered by looking at a log of data from the TENS unit: a contraction could be said to start at whatever point I got uncomfortable enough to press the button to switch to the steady setting, and it could be said to stop at whatever point the discomfort lessened enough that I pressed the button again to switch back to the pulsing setting. I remember wishing that the TENS unit talked to my phone and provided that data (notwithstanding the serious security and privacy implications that such an arrangement would have), or at least that there was some kind of logging facility so that I could show the data to Kavita.

Throughout the day on Sunday, Kavita checked in periodically via phone or text message, but I didn't have much to report. I knew that it was a good idea to keep moving during labor, but I found I was most comfortable lying in bed on my side, with the TENS unit on my back, and sometimes with the hot water bottle on top of that. Kavita had brought her birth pool (the brand was "Birth Pool in a Box") over to our house some time previously, and Alex got it inflated and set up in our spare room (soon to be the baby's room!) and put a tarp under it. We didn't start filling it with water yet, though, since it might be some time before we actually used it. I was very much looking forward to getting in the pool, but Kavita had said it wasn't time yet.

By the early evening, my back pain had become more intense, and by now it was obvious when I was and wasn't having a contraction. Alex ordered a pizza, and I remember trying not to make any noise while the delivery person was at the door. I wasn't interested in eating any of the pizza. When Kavita returned that evening, I had sort of draped myself over our exercise ball on the floor of the bedroom and was rolling around miserably. Kavita determined that I hadn't been eating or drinking enough, and she fed me some yogurt with a spoon. I asked hopefully if it was time to get in the pool yet, but she felt that the pool should be more of a last-resort pain relief technique -- the equivalent of an epidural, if I'd been in the hospital -- and that I still wasn't nearly far enough along that it should be necessary. She didn't want to check my cervical dilation yet, either, because she suspected that the number wasn't what I wanted it to be and that hearing it wouldn't do me any good. I felt like a wreck, but Kavita told me that I looked like I was coping quite well. This wasn't particularly encouraging to hear, though -- if I could feel this bad and still look like I was "coping well", I was worried about how much worse it might be possible to feel!

As a substitute for the pool, Kavita suggested getting in a hot shower. I was reluctant at first, because I didn't want to go to the trouble of getting undressed and then dressed again; I ended up half-solving that problem by simply not getting dressed again after the shower. On the way to the shower, I had a painful contraction and had to stop and and sort of hang from the top of the bathroom door frame and groan for a while. I was glad that Kavita was there to see me having some really painful contractions -- I wanted her to see that my pain was real.

Alex moved the exercise ball into the shower -- where, happily, it just barely fit -- and I sat there on the ball and didn't get out for almost an hour. I had begun to have some abdominal pain in addition to my back pain, and Alex brought me a large plastic cup so that I could pour hot water on my belly as well. Sitting on the ball in the shower, with hot water pouring down both my back and my front, I could almost pretend that I was immersed in the warm birth pool, which was where I really wanted to be. It felt good. I made low moaning noises when contractions came. Kavita, knowing that I still had a lot of laboring to do, insisted that I keep taking in more calories, and she fed me the rest of the yogurt right there in the shower. When I got out of the shower, I felt much better. I'm sure both the shower and the calories played a role.

It was getting to be late at night, and Kavita prepared to spend the night on our couch. She and Alex arranged to take shifts so that someone would always be awake with me, but in practice, there were times when they were both asleep. I didn't mind at all -- I wanted them both to be well rested, and I knew that I could wake them up if I really needed them. I spent most of the night either in bed with the TENS unit, or back in the shower. Alex was very tired, but he was worried about me being alone in the shower, and he insisted on getting up and going into the bathroom with me and bringing me juice to drink. In one photo he took, timestamped 1:58 a.m., I'm sitting naked in the shower on the exercise ball, water pouring down on my back, nonchalantly drinking grapefruit juice from a cup with a straw with my eyes closed, as if that's the most normal thing in the world to be doing in the shower at two in the morning!

Monday morning arrived. I had re-attached the TENS unit to my back after my last stint in the shower, and I'd fiddled with its settings and found that if I left it on the steady setting all the time (rather than switching back to the less intense intermittent setting between contractions) and turned it up to two-thirds of the maximum intensity -- a level that had felt uncomfortably prickly the previous day -- then it provided enough of a distraction from the pain that I could get through my contractions without making any noise at all. That was good, because Alex was now sleeping more or less peacefully in bed, and I wanted him to have a chance to sleep. He woke up long enough to help me get situated in the old armchair in our bedroom, TENS device in hand, surrounded by pillows, my phone, and the by-now-indispensable hot water bottle. Then he went back to sleep, and I settled down in the chair to wait for whatever came next.

A bit later, around eight in the morning, Kavita came in to check on me. I told her that with the TENS unit cranked up, the pain was quite manageable as long as I didn't move from the chair where I was, but that I didn't think I was making much progress. My contractions -- although it was now quite obvious when I was having one -- still weren't all that frequent or regular; some were only five minutes apart, while others had a longer pause in between. I asked again if she wanted to check my dilation, hoping that I might somehow be wrong about my lack of progress, but she still didn't think there was much to be gained by checking at that point. She said that if by that afternoon or evening there hadn't been progress, we could think about ways to induce labor, which might or might not include going to the hospital. Then she headed out briefly for another appointment, leaving Alex (who was still asleep in bed) and me alone in the house for a while.

For me, this was an emotional low point of labor. I'd now been having contractions of one kind or another for more than twenty-four hours, but I didn't seem to be making much progress. I felt that I must not be particularly close to giving birth, or Kavita would have cancelled her other appointment and stayed. I was frustrated with myself for not making progress, and I was afraid that I'd end up having to go to the hospital for a chemically induced labor, which sounded really unpleasant.

Around ten in the morning, my friend Jessica texted to ask how I was doing, and I told her the same thing I'd told Kavita. Jessica asked if I was in a "get on with it" mood or a "nice to have a break" mood, and I responded emphatically, "I would love to get on with it, get to transition and get in the pool." ("Transition" refers to the part of labor when the cervix dilates its last few centimeters, after which it's time to start pushing the baby out.) Jessica asked if there was anything I could do to make my contractions faster or more intense. Thinking about that brought me to a turning point: I realized that if I wanted to make progress, I needed to get my ass up out of that chair and do something about it. And so -- very slowly, painfully, and resentfully -- I dragged myself to a standing position and made myself go walk around the house.

I remembered that grabbing the top of the bathroom door frame had been helpful during a painful contraction earlier, and so I decided that I'd take a stab at hanging from the pull-up bar mounted in the doorway to Alex's and my office, which was right next to the door to our bedroom where Alex still slept. I found the birthing stool that Kavita had brought over the previous day, carried it over to the pull-up bar, and tried positioning myself with my hands on the bar, my right foot on the floor, and my left foot up on the stool, still with the TENS electrodes on my back. I had one or two strong contractions in that standing position, stronger than the ones I'd had been having sitting in the armchair. Then I had a contraction that felt stronger still -- and then my water broke, suddenly and explosively, all over the floor! The splash it made was loud enough that Alex jumped out of bed with a yelp. I was elated -- finally, a sign of progress!

My contractions started to become more regular, more frequent, and more intense. I was so delighted to be making progress that I didn't mind the pain. I kept telling Alex how happy I was. I didn't feel much like moving from my position on the pull-up bar with my foot up on the stool, so I stayed right where I was while a now-very-much-awake Alex got a towel and handled the rather disgusting task of mopping up the amniotic fluid around my feet, which was clear with bits of grayish-brown meconium in it. Happily, most of the fluid had gone onto the wooden floor of the hallway, where it was relatively easy to clean up, instead of onto the carpet of the office or our bedroom. Then Alex called Kavita, who was already on her way back over.

It was around this time that the TENS unit stopped being effective for keeping me quiet during contractions. I asked Alex to close all our windows so that the neighbors wouldn't have to hear my moaning and groaning. He was reluctant to do that ("You know what? Screw 'em!"), but I insisted. When Kavita arrived a few minutes later, I was still hanging from the pull-up bar in a most undignified way -- naked, smelly, groaning, and soaking in bodily fluids -- but in much better spirits than I had been when she'd left just a couple hours previously. Kavita decided that it was finally time to check my dilation, which she was able to do right there where I stood without making me change positions. I was absolutely thrilled when she reported that I was eight centimeters dilated, and even more thrilled when she told Alex that it was time to start filling up the birth pool. She also checked the baby's heart rate, which was holding steady at 130 bpm.

I had a couple more intense contractions while Alex and Kavita proceeded to use up all of our hot water filling the pool. Alex helped me get in the pool, which felt wonderful, but it still wasn't quite as warm as I would have liked, so he and Kavita started some pots boiling on the stove to get more hot water to pour in with me. I kept asking for more and more hot water, and they kept pouring more in -- until, abruptly, it was very hot and I had to take my hands out of the water to regulate my temperature. They also brought me water, juice, and soup. I didn't feel hungry, but Kavita told me to eat anyway.

It was now around noon on Monday, and I was imagining that I "just" needed to finish dilating and that I would then push the baby out and give birth right there in the pool. (It's called a birth pool, after all, not a labor pool!) Even with the nice, warm pool, those last two centimeters of dilation were the most physically painful part of labor. My back pain was now gone, but it had been replaced by even worse abdominal pain. When I had contractions in the pool, I heard myself make noises I'd never made before -- inhuman-sounding noises that I can't characterize as a moan, a groan, or a yell. In particular, I made a noise that was almost like a yodel. It had two distinct pitches that alternated very quickly, and it was loud! When I yodeled, Alex sometimes sang along with me or drummed a beat with his hands, until I asked him to please stop doing that. Meanwhile, Kavita sat on the floor, knitting a baby hat, completely unperturbed by my yodeling. She'd seen people go through transition hundreds of times; this was nothing new. (I asked her later if I had even been especially loud, and she was like, "Nah.")

I tried a position where I was on my knees in the pool, leaning forward over the edge of the pool and squeezing Alex's hands tightly during contractions, making my loud yodeling noise. When I didn't have his hands in a death grip, Alex held a cool washcloth to my head and gave me sips of water. At one point, Alex asked me if it was the worst pain I'd ever experienced. I didn't answer the question at the time, because another contraction was starting, but yes, it was. The blister on my toe during mile twenty-three of the marathon I ran in 2009 had been pretty bad, but the difference between that and this was that during the marathon, I could have stopped running if the pain became intolerable, whereas with labor, the only way out was through.

After a while, Kavita suggested that it might be a good idea to get out of the pool. I wasn't very happy at the prospect, because I figured that that meant that she thought it would still be a while before I actually gave birth. I'd really been hoping that once I got in the pool, I wouldn't get out again until I had a baby! Besides, I thought my abdominal pain would be unbearable if I got out the pool. But Kavita felt that since this was my first time giving birth, it would be easier for me to push the baby out if I got out of the pool and had gravity working in my favor.

It took some time for me to be convinced to get out of the pool. Alex asked me if I wanted to get out, and I got upset at him, saying, "You're asking me to choose between one kind of pain and another kind of pain!" (Weeks later, I happened to be reading one of our books about pregnancy and birth, and I came across a section that had advice for people on how to help their partners get through transition. One of the pieces of advice was, "Don't ask her questions." Hah! Quite so.) Finally, though, I was willing to get out, and Alex and Kavita helped me make my way out of the pool and lie down on the bed. It was around this time that Shannon, who was Kavita's "backup" midwife for this birth, arrived to help. I was lucid enough to say hello to Shannon, who I hadn't met before. I couldn't help being amused at the situation: "Hi! I'm naked, wet, smelly, and groaning in pain. Nice to meet you!" Shannon, of course, took all this in stride, as any experienced midwife would.

Kavita checked my dilation and reported that I was nearly at ten centimeters, and that there was only a tiny rim of cervix around the baby's head. She asked permission to push back the cervix, and I said to go ahead. I've heard people report that this is excruciatingly painful, but I honestly didn't feel anything at all. It's possible that my abdominal pain was strong enough that I just wasn't noticing any other kind of pain. In any case, Kavita was able to push back the last bit of cervix without much trouble, and she said that I was clear to go ahead and start pushing.

This should have been welcome news, but I found that I didn't feel any sort of urge to push. I attempted a few pushes, but I didn't understand how I was supposed to use my contractions to help me push effectively, and my abdominal pain persisted. I let out a few loud yells. These weren't like the inhuman-sounding yodeling sounds I'd made before, which had come purely from a place of pain. Rather, they were recognizably human sounds, and I was really yelling more out of fear and frustration than out of pain. I think I was afraid that, after all this time and effort, I wouldn't be able to carry out the last step and actually push the baby out. As I was yelling, I caught a glimpse of Alex, and the look on his face in reaction to the sounds I was making was somewhere between "concerned" and "impressed".

Thinking that perhaps a change in position would do me good, Kavita and Shannon helped me out of bed and got me seated on the birth stool. I had a difficult time sitting in the way they wanted me to, though: they wanted me to plant my feet widely, but I wanted to curl my legs up under me in reaction to my abdominal pain. Adding to the tension and frustration was the fact that Kavita was getting worried that it had been a while since I had peed. I had been drinking lots of water and juice, but the last time I could remember peeing had been in the shower the previous night.4 Kavita and Shannon put a bowl under me on the stool and suggested that I try to pee in the bowl, but I didn't feel the slightest urge to pee. I felt overwhelmed with everything that I was being asked to do: I didn't know how to push, I couldn't make myself pee, and I didn't want to move my feet. I told Kavita and Shannon that the birth stool wasn't working for me and that I wanted to curl up in bed again, and they helped me return to bed, telling me that I was doing fine and that it was okay to take a break. Kavita checked the baby's heart rate again; still 130 bpm, just like always, with slight speedups during contractions. Kavita pulled Alex aside, and I overheard her quietly telling him that there could be several hours of labor still to go. I tried to come to terms with that unpleasant reality.

Alex curled up next to me in bed, while Shannon and Kavita rubbed my feet gently. I pushed ineffectually a few times, yelling again in pain and frustration, and one of the midwives -- Shannon, I think -- suggested that I try to use my voice as a tool to help me work through and take advantage of the contractions: with each contraction, she said I should try to bear downward with my diaphragm, making a low, loud, sustained sound. I began trying to do that, and Kavita and Shannon encouraged me, telling me over and over that I was doing "great" and "amazing". I wasn't sure if I was really accomplishing anything or not, but their words made me feel better. In the choir I sing with, we spend a lot of time working on breathing, stretching, and exercising the lungs and diaphragm, and I'd like to think that all of the time I'd invested in doing those exercises helped me during this part of labor.

The midwives predicted that sooner or later I would start to feel some pressure on my rectum from the baby's head, as though I needed to poop, and that I would be able to use that sensation to help me push. A few contractions later, I indeed started to feel as though I needed to poop. I announced to the room, "I've got rectal pressure!", to which Kavita and Shannon responded with cheers. For me, this was another turning point of labor. Pushing out a baby wasn't something I had ever done before, but pooping? That was something that I had a lifetime of experience with! I told Kavita and Shannon, "I'm literally just going to try to poop whenever I have a contraction." They seemed to be on board with that plan.

After a few pushes, Kavita suggested that I should try sitting up and making use of gravity again, but I didn't want to return to the birth stool after my unpleasant experience sitting on it earlier. Instead, I decided to try sitting on the toilet. (I was trying to poop, after all.) I went down the hall to the bathroom, closed the door, and sat. The room was relatively dark, quiet and cool compared to the rest of the house; it felt good. I told myself that this was simple: all I had to do was try to poop, and that's exactly what I did. Somehow, my abdominal pain melted away, and with each contraction, I just did my best to poop. In fact, a few small nuggets of poop did plop out into the toilet, and I felt damn proud of each one of them. I may or may not have happily announced, "I POOPED!", loud enough for Kavita, Shannon, and Alex to hear from down the hall.

After a while, Kavita came in to check the baby's heart rate (which was still at its usual 130) and see how I was doing. She was concerned that I still hadn't peed, and she added to the toilet water a few drops of peppermint oil, which, she explained, would dilate my urethra and help me pee. She also thought that I might want to try a different pushing position. I told her that what I was doing seemed to be working well and I wanted to keep going with it for a while, and she left with some reluctance.5 The peppermint oil didn't help me pee, but it did smell nice.

I continued laboring in the bathroom by myself. For me, this was the most satisfying and pleasant part of labor. The amazing thing about it was that with each contraction, I felt pressure, but not any pain. A contraction would start; I'd exhale and push downward as though I was trying to defecate; and after several seconds of that, I would feel a tremendously powerful pressure -- but not pain! -- well up inside of me, and it was as though my body took over pushing for me for several more seconds. After perhaps forty-five minutes of that pattern repeating every few minutes, I started wondering if I was making any observable progress pushing the baby out. I reached down between my legs to see if I could feel anything different -- and felt the top of the baby's head bulging out of me! I was astonished, and called out excitedly, "Kavita, come feel this!" Kavita confirmed that the baby was starting to crown, and she quickly helped me get up from the toilet and waddle bow-legged down the hall to the bedroom, where Alex and Shannon were waiting.

From this point on, things moved very quickly. Kavita suggested that I climb up on the bed on my hands and knees, but that seemed like too much effort, and I was eager to get on with it and push the baby out -- so I just bent over the side of the bed, resting my forearms on the bed with my rear end in the air and my feet on the floor. Behind me, I heard Kavita say, "That works, too!" I had a contraction and pushed, hollering loudly, and behind me, I could hear Alex saying, "I can see the head!" I didn't know if he meant just the top of the head, or the whole head; I hoped it was the latter. It hurt a lot, and I said to Kavita, "Please, pull her out!" Kavita told me, "You need to push her out!"

Behind me, Kavita and Shannon were telling me to take deep breaths and push slowly. For some reason, though, I felt as though I ought to push the baby out as quickly as possible. It wasn't any kind of physical urge to push quickly; rather, it was a mental one -- some ill-conceived notion I had that the baby would come to harm unless I got her out in a big hurry. I didn't want her to be squashed up in the birth canal for any longer than necessary. (I wasn't thinking about harm that might come to me if I pushed quickly.) Also, in the childbirth class, we had seen a couple of birth videos in which babies had seemed to me to come flying out at top speed, and so that was the mental picture I had. Besides, I was just really, really eager to be done giving birth! All things considered, I probably pushed a bit more forcefully than I should have.

After another push or two, Alex exclaimed, "I can see her face!", and now I knew that her whole head was out. She was in occiput anterior position, that is, head down and facing my back -- the preferred position for birth. As Kavita and Shannon later explained, though, she had her head lifted slightly from her chest in what is apparently known as a "military" presentation, which may have made for a tighter squeeze. (It's more common for the chin to be tucked to the chest.)

Suddenly, Kavita and Shannon were telling me that I needed to flip over onto my back. I was surprised at this instruction -- everything I'd heard and read about birth had said that the all-fours position that I was already in was preferable to lying on one's back -- but now was no time to argue about it! With both Kavita and Shannon helping me, I managed to flip over astonishingly quickly, and was now lying with my back on the bed, legs hanging off the side of the bed, and feet on the floor. From that position, I just pushed once or twice more. I'm not sure if I pushed her out by myself or if Kavita did some pulling, but I don't remember this last part being especially painful or taking very long at all, and at 5:40 p.m., Sylvia was out! Kavita later explained that Sylvia had had a "tight shoulder", and that it in my case it was actually the act of flipping over that had dislodged the shoulder, and that the fact that I happened to end up on my back instead of start out on my back wasn't as important. (I'd be interested to hear from other people who've had similar birth experiences, since my understanding is that it's a lot more common to move into an all-fours position to resolve a tight shoulder, instead of out of that position like I did. I'm no expert, though!)

Right after she came out, I remember just lying there for a few seconds in exhaustion, amazement, and profound relief that it was finally over. (I was apparently also bleeding profusely, not that I noticed or cared at the time.) Then there were about twenty seconds of furious activity: Kavita and Shannon had laid Sylvia down on the bed next to me and were using an Ambu bag to inflate her lungs. She looked healthy and pink -- she was still getting oxygen through the umbilical cord, which was still attached to my placenta and pulsating -- but had not yet started breathing on her own. I looked over and saw her whole tiny body lift up and convulse in response to the incoming air from the bag. Shannon turned to Kavita and said, "Call 911?" (Alex later said that he almost fainted when he heard that.) I was asking, "Is she okay? Is she okay?" Kavita exhorted, "Touch her! Talk to her!" I reached out and grabbed her tiny, chubby thigh, saying, "Sylvia, Sylvia, Sylvia! I love you, Sylvia!" Alex was next to me, doing the same, and a few moments later, Sylvia took her first gasping breaths on her own and started to cry, obviating any need to call 911.6

Kavita and Shannon put her on my bare chest -- warm, soft, pink, wriggly, and covered in slippery vernix and an appreciable amount of (my) blood. They laid a receiving blanket on top of her, but the room was extremely warm as a result of my insistence on closing all the windows hours earlier, and so the blanket was hardly necessary. I hugged her to me, stroking her damp, fuzzy head. Her nose and mouth were buried in my breasts, and I worried that she would suffocate, but Kavita and Shannon told me that she would be fine. They kept saying how good her color was and how big she was.7 Her one-minute and five-minute Apgar scores were seven and nine, respectively -- a strong, healthy baby!

After a little while, Kavita and Shannon reminded me that I still needed to deliver the placenta. I told them that I didn't think I could do any more pushing, but even as I was saying those words, one last contraction welled up, and I was able to painlessly push out the placenta, along with yet more blood. (The placenta is now frozen solid in a bag in our freezer. I've promised Alex that I'll bury it in the back yard and plant flowers or something over it at some point.) Kavita squeezed the umbilical cord a few times to get the last of the blood in it to Sylvia, then clamped the cord and asked Alex if he wanted to cut it. He emphatically declined, and so Kavita cut the cord.

I held Sylvia for a while longer, then gave her to Alex, who took his shirt off so that he could have skin-to-skin contact with her, too. Although holding her myself for the first time had been indescribably great, looking at Alex holding her was somehow even more emotional for me. She was taking quick, shallow breaths, and Kavita suctioned mucus from her nose and mouth with a bulb syringe a couple times, but for the most part, she seemed extraordinarily healthy and vital, even making a valiant effort to hold up her head (which most newborns don't do until they're a month old or so). A bit later, I breastfed her for the first time -- another amazing feeling. Shannon fussed over me, tucking a pillow under my elbow so that I could relax my arm while feeding her. Shannon was concerned that she wouldn't nurse if I wasn't relaxed, but I've found that she nurses quite enthusiastically whether I'm relaxed or not! While we nursed, Shannon gave Sylvia her first shot, a vitamin K injection in her thigh, and she didn't even flinch.

Kavita and Shannon stayed for several more hours, taking care of me8, measuring and weighing Sylvia, making notes for their own records, and cleaning everything up.9 I took a shower; Alex gave Sylvia her first diaper; we all had something to eat. Eventually, Kavita and Shannon packed up and left, and Alex, Sylvia and I settled into bed for our first night as a family of three.

Welcome, Sylvia! I'm so glad that I got to bring you into the world in this way, the way I had wanted, and I'm excited for us to get to know you in the months and years that lie ahead.

  1. She would probably have been the first person to touch our baby in any case, considering that she's, you know, my midwife.
  2. Womenshealth.gov says that "For some women, a flurry of energy and the impulse to cook or clean, called "nesting," is a sign that labor is approaching."
  3. We have piles and piles of new or almost-new clothes that people have given us. At this rate, we won't have to buy any clothes for her until she's in kindergarten. We've also been given bottles, diapers, a bouncer seat, slings, receiving blankets, toys, books, and loads of other things, only some of which I suspect we'll ever actually use. I'm sure we're going to be paying it forward next time a local friend has a baby!
  4. Not only did I pee in the shower, I peed directly on the exercise ball -- the same exercise ball that is currently in my child's room. Deal With It.™
  5. Later on, Kavita told me that she'd thought I actually looked "too comfortable" on the toilet, leading her to believe that I must not be pushing effectively, which was why she'd suggested trying something different. I was comfortable, but she turned out to be wrong that I wasn't pushing effectively!
  6. Apparently, around ten percent of newborns "require some assistance to begin breathing at birth", with around one percent requiring "extensive resuscitative measures". "Extensive" measures include "intubation, chest compressions, and/or medications"; using the Ambu bag did not count as "extensive". I asked Kavita later if she thought this had been a close call. She told me that if the bag with room air hadn't worked, then they would have given oxygen, and if that hadn't worked, then they would have done chest compressions (by which point they probably would have called 911 as well). Both Kavita and Shannon have infant CPR training, which, happily, they didn't have to use. I doubt that things would have gone any better than they did had we been in a hospital, and they might have been worse
  7. At this point, I didn't yet realize that I had delivered an unusually large baby, but when Kavita weighed and measured her a couple of hours later, she was nine pounds and ten ounces, and 21 inches long. At the pediatrician's office four days later, we found out that she was at the 97th percentile for height, 95th for weight! Huge babies don't run in my family, nor Alex's, but I know that I ate heartily and took lots of vitamins during pregnancy, and that extra week in the womb probably didn't hurt, either.
  8. I had a not-too-huge perineal tear, which Kavita thought would probably be fine without stitches, and I elected not to have any. Her more immediate concern was that it had now been something like fifteen hours since I'd peed. My bladder was huge and rock-hard, and it was preventing my uterus from moving back into its proper place. Unfortunately, I still didn't feel any sort of need to pee. Once I could stand up without feeling lightheaded, I tried going to the bathroom a couple of times, to no avail. Finally, Kavita ended up giving me a catheter (which was quick and painless) and got an impressive amount of urine out of me in a short time. I'm happy to report that a few hours later, my body finally remembered how to pee.
  9. We had put a waterproof mattress pad on our bed to protect it from blood and other bodily fluids (with the bed made with clean sheets underneath, so that after the birth we could just peel off the mattress pad and everything on top of it and have clean sheets to sleep on that night), but since I had actually given birth hanging off the side of the bed rather than on the bed, most of the blood had ended up on our bedroom carpet. Shannon got a bottle of peroxide and set to work scrubbing all of the blood out of our carpet. By the time she was done, only a slightly discolored spot remained.

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 03:32 am
Today I contributed to two radio shows in Toronto*, experienced a total solar eclipse on a beach in Tennessee, and tomorrow I’m off to see Elvis.

Somehow my life took a surprising turn but I am not complaining. I think I am still less confused than the poor bat that went hunting in the middle of the eclipse just to find itself back in full daylight a minute later.

*the francophone community is tiny, as in, we all know each other, pretty much. A facebook friend I met through the school our kids attended together saw my post about going to Nashville. She works for Radio-Canada (the French side of the Canadian broadcasting company), and she messaged me with a kind request to call the morning program in Toronto to share my experience, which I did. And then they asked if they could call me again after the eclipse and I said yes. (And then I got emails and messages from good friends who heard me on the radio, because the community really is that tiny).

from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2xmOJid
Monday, August 21st, 2017 07:06 pm
( You're about to view content that the journal owner has advised should be viewed with discretion. )
Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 12:32 am

Posted by languagehat

Michael North does a splendid historical investigation at Guernica of Ezra Pound’s famous slogan; as I said at MetaFilter, where I got the link:

At first I thought smugly “Ha, I’m an old Poundian, I know where he got it,” but it turned out I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did (and I didn’t realize it was Hugh Kenner who called attention to it). And of course fais-le de nouveau means “do it again,” not “make it new,” so, as happened so often with Pound’s slapdash scholarship, an error sheds brilliant light. Here’s a nice bit from the essay:

The most significant fact to emerge from this history, though, is also the most obvious: Make It New was not itself new, nor was it ever meant to be. Given the nature of the novelty implied by the slogan, it is appropriate that it is itself the result of historical recycling. This was a fact that Pound himself always tried to keep in the forefront by using the original Chinese characters and letting his own translation tag along as a perpetual footnote. The complex nature of the new—its debt, even as revolution, to the past, and the way in which new works are often just recombinations of traditional elements—is not just confessed by this practice but insisted on. This is what makes the slogan exemplary of the larger modernist project, that by insisting on the new it brings to the surface all the latent difficulties in what seems such a simple and simplifying concept.

I wrote about a similar phenomenon, also involving Pound and ancient Chinese literature, here.

Monday, August 21st, 2017 07:26 pm

Cross-post from my archive.

Fandom/Arc: Nirvana in Fire, In Every Time and Season
Characters/Pairings: Jingrui/Yujin, Lin Shu | Mei Changsu, Meng Zhi, Xiao Jingrui, Yan Yujin
Summary: Jingrui is finding himself drawn back toward a military position, after fighting at the northern border, and Yujin follows along, as he always has, despite his own reservations. Along the way, the two of them get into trouble, politics, and eventually a deeper understanding.
Meta: Drama with Politics and Romance, and also a Sprinkle of Porn, I-4
Wordcount: 18777

Very few of Yujin's reservations had ever held up in face of Jingrui's smile. Not when they were little and stealing sweets off Aunt Jing's table (with her amused connivance, Yujin had realized years later); not when they were a little older and Jingrui had dragged Yujin everywhere after their glamorous, if also sometimes alarming, older cousins; not when they'd come of age and Jingrui hauled Yujin out onto the roads to wander the country with that very same smile. He could barely imagine leaving Jingrui's side, at this point. So there was really nothing else to do but elbow him back until they managed to shove each other into the shallows, laughing.

Candles Lit at the Doors )
Monday, August 21st, 2017 04:04 pm

It's the weekly report on the state of triage in Firefox-related components. I apologize for missing last week’s report. I was travelling and did not have a chance to sit down and focus on this.


The components with the most untriaged bugs remain the JavaScript Engine and Build Config.

I discussed the JavaScript bugs with Naveed. What will happen is that the JavaScript bugs which have not been marked as a priority for Quantum Flow (the ‘\[qf:p[1:3]\]’ whiteboard tags) or existing work (the ‘\[js:p[1:3]\]’ whiteboard tags) will be moved to the backlog (P3) for review after the Firefox 57 release. See https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1392436.

**Rank**   **Component**                  **2017-08-07**   **This Week**
---------- ------------------------------ ---------------- ---------------
1          Core: JavaScript Engine        449              471
2          Core: Build Config             429              450
3          Firefox for Android: General   411              406
4          Firefox: General               242              246
5          Core: General                  234              235
6          Core: XPCOM                    176              178
7          Core: JavaScript: GC           —                168
8          Core: Networking               —                161
           All Components                 8,373            8,703

Please make sure you’ve made it clear what, if anything will happen with these bugs.

Not sure how to triage? Read https://wiki.mozilla.org/Bugmasters/Process/Triage.

Next Release

**Version**                               56      56      56      56      57    57     57         
----------------------------------------- ------- ------- ------- ------- ----- ------ -------
**Date**                                  7/10    7/17    7/24    7/31    8/7   8/14   8/14       
**Untriaged this Cycle**                  4,525   4,451   4,317   4,479   479   835    1,196      
**Unassigned Untriaged this Cycle**       3,742   3,682   3,517   3,674   356   634    968        
**Affected this Upcoming Release (56)**           111     126     139     125   123    119        
**Enhancements**                          102     107     91      103     3     5      11         
**Orphaned P1s**                          199     193     183     192     196   191    183        
**Stalled P1s**                           195     173     159     179     157   152    155        

What should we do with these bugs? Bulk close them? Make them into P3s? Bugs without decisions add noise to our system, cause despair in those trying to triage bugs, and leaves the community wondering if we listen to them.

Methods and Definitions

In this report I talk about bugs in Core, Firefox, Firefox for Android, Firefox for IOs, and Toolkit which are unresolved, not filed from treeherder using the intermittent-bug-filer account*, and have no pending needinfos.

By triaged, I mean a bug has been marked as P1 (work on now), P2 (work on next), P3 (backlog), or P5 (will not work on but will accept a patch).

A triage decision is not the same as a release decision (status and tracking flags.)


Age of Untriaged Bugs

The average age of a bug filed since June 1st of 2016 which has gone without triage.


Untriaged Bugs in Current Cycle

Bugs filed since the start of the Firefox 55 release cycle (March 6th, 2017) which do not have a triage decision.


Recommendation: review bugs you are responsible for (https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/page.cgi?id=triage_owners.html) and make triage decision, or RESOLVE.

Untriaged Bugs in Current Cycle Affecting Next Release

Bugs marked status_firefox56 = affected and untriaged.


Enhancements in Release Cycle

Bugs filed in the release cycle which are enhancement requests, severity = enhancement, and untriaged.

​Recommendation: ​product managers should review and mark as P3, P5, or RESOLVE as WONTFIX.

High Priority Bugs without Owners

Bugs with a priority of P1, which do not have an assignee, have not been modified in the past two weeks, and do not have pending needinfos.


Recommendation: review priorities and assign bugs, re-prioritize to P2, P3, P5, or RESOLVE.

Stalled High Priority Bugs

There 159 bugs with a priority of P1, which have an assignee, but have not been modified in the past two weeks.


Recommendation: review assignments, determine if the priority should be changed to P2, P3, P5 or RESOLVE.

* New intermittents are filed as P5s, and we are still cleaning up bugs after this change, See https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1381587, https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1381960, and https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1383923

If you have questions or enhancements you want to see in this report, please reply to me here, on IRC, or Slack and thank you for reading.

Monday, August 21st, 2017 05:39 pm
White House staffers and Republican leaders debate what to do about Trump as he keeps a shrinking base and loses the rest of the country. Then Politico’s Eliana Johnson ([twitter.com profile] elianayjohnson) joins Jon, Jon, and Tommy to talk about Bannonism, Trumpism, and the future of the Republican Party.

Get the pod here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Articles (& a poll) discussed in this pod
WaPo article by [twitter.com profile] danbalz here

Axios piece that they excoriate WH staffers over here

Marist poll with okay-looking #s in the Midwest here

That NYT piece about a Trump voter who STILL supports him that fails to mention she was a fucking Trump delegate lmao, here

Nate Cohn NYT piece from over a week ago, ALSO about how Trump voters who still support him, here

Politico piece about Bannon here
Monday, August 21st, 2017 10:13 pm

Mirrored from Suns In Her Branches | Kiya Nicoll.

At the moment when the light returns, flaring bright and blinding, the breath comes back, too, all in a rush. It is not that the breathing stopped through the peculiar gloom of it, but somehow it was not enough, there was not enough air, something subliminal and only noticeable in the moment that it disappears.

The light comes back. Perhaps there is a deep and instinctual part of the spirit that holds its breath, not sure whether that would be the case.

But the light comes back. The light comes back and everything seems different, now.

Slowly, slowly the sense of normality reasserts itself. The quality of the light goes… natural… so quickly, by comparison, returning to some sense of the expected, the everyday.

But there is still the knowing. Knowing that one has gone down into the dark, through the dread of it, down into the dark and seen the wonders there, and has come back.

With the light.

Monday, August 21st, 2017 05:44 pm
Many thanks to everyone who donated over on my Ko-fi page. ♥♥♥

I'm still going to be putting up a virtual garage sale post later in the week, after I more time to go through things and get a list together, but thank you! I very much appreciate it.

If any of you would like a fic from me as thanks, just leave a comment or send me a message. As long as it's a fandom that I'm familiar with, I'd be glad to write something for you.
Monday, August 21st, 2017 03:12 pm
1) Writer's Block.

I last posted here last Sunday. There's been plenty to say since then; I just haven't found the words to say it all with until now.  Somehow, today's events brought some clarity even as the sun has been slowly going obscura all across America on a live feed.

The important part first: we're fine. For the past week, we've been closer to capital-F Fine than we've been in quite some time. But getting there was a long, strange trip.

Some detail )

It was a sobering (see what I did there?) and terrifying experience, yet it had to happen one way or another. We'd drifted onto the fuzzy, dangerous line of self-medicating to deal with both physical pain and other life stresses, and rather than working on solving the underlying problems with those, we wound up taking things out on each other.  Since this happened and we came out of it okay, I've had any number of moments where some Stupid Little Thing would've gotten me angry, or down on myself, and instead I just said, meh. (Okay, I might have cursed once or twice before the meh, but it didn't escalate from there.)  And last Monday, when I was at my lowest watching and worrying about whether Eleanor would be okay? I still had to go to court and get back to work when that was done, and the court appearances and my half-day of work either side of it were among the best I've had in quite some time.

Since then, we've had any number of good experiences.  I followed through on two of the new pieces of business that I picked up that Monday, and finally got My Last Real Estate Deal Ever, Promise over its biggest obstacle.  Eleanor went back to her foot doctor and is scheduled to have bone spurs removed from both feet in October.  We tracked down and watched an absolutely goofy movie that a friend recommended to us. She had good experiences with people at work and in her religious practice.  We replaced, and I just received the replacement of, the digital camera she's done so much good work with.

And then the sun went out.

2) Sunblock.

No, I never saw a thing outside here- but I followed the moon's coming and going across the face of the sun through the NASA livestream, from Oregon to Idaho to Kentucky in the past hour or so.   I have friends and co-workers who traveled hundreds of miles to get into the "totality zone" for those few precious minutes.

Meanwhile, for whatever reason or no reason, it's again been a very good Monday. Emily texted us early this afternoon to tell us she's already been promoted at work after just around three months- to executive assistant for her chapter's CEO.  I sent her a congratulations, but was able to send even more than that, because my previous text of the day was from the producers of Hamilton.  I've been on their ticket-update email list for ages. Unfortunately, the scalpers are on that list, too, and every time I've tried to get in on the first day of a new block opening up, there were only $3,000 resale seats available.  To combat this, they tried a new method this time: verifying the individual requestor's mobile number on Saturday for a presale today. I just got in under the wire to register, and apparently the scalpers couldn't buy enough burner phones in time, because amazingly this morning, I got a code, and next thing I knew I had two seats for this coming March in The Room Where It Happens:)

I offered them both to Em and Cameron; if he can't go, I'll take the kid myself; it's a matinee this time, so we'll plan it for a stayover after the show, to be sure of getting on the train home the next day.

So all in all, it's been pretty good, as general and local apocalypses go.  Not that I'm encouraging them, but I am encouraged that good things have still been happening.

3) Blocking Nazis.

The intervening week also brought plenty of developments in the division and healing of our nation after the previous weekend's events in Charlottesville. I don't discount how much the anger and frustration from that situation might have fed into both of our states of mind at the end of that weekend- but since then, we've witnessed near universal condemnation of the supremacists, and of the Cheeto who virtually remained the only one not to condemn them completely and consistently. We saw one of the white supremacists shown the door of the White House. And we cheered as the good people of Boston outnumbered and outshamed this past weekend's contingent of white supremacists to the point of rendering them irrelevant- with no violence to speak of.  After such a showing of hate, it was good to see love winning again.
Monday, August 21st, 2017 07:29 pm

Actually it was yesterday, rather than today, that I spotted this work recently made available through the good offices of Project Gutenberg:

William Carpenter, One Hundred Proofs that the Earth is Not a Globe (1885) -

- and I can't see that he entirely manages to give a plausible explanation for eclipses, but then he does think that the sun is a lot smaller than those there astronomers declare, and goes round the earth...

We do feel that Alfred Russel Wallace would have been better employed than debating with members of the Zetetic Society.

One is - a little - intrigued at what was published in Flat Earth journals (o, say, do, that it was Flat Earth hymns such as feature in Kipling's The Village That Voted the Earth Was Flat...)

But I was fascinated by this, in that Wikipedia article on Flat Earth Societies:

In 1969, Shenton persuaded Ellis Hillman, a Polytechnic of East London lecturer, to become president of the Flat Earth Society; but there is little evidence of any activity on his part until after Shenton's death, when he added most of Shenton's library to the archives of the Science Fiction Foundation he helped to establish.
The lengths to which librarians will go to add some particularly rare and choice material to their collection.

Monday, August 21st, 2017 05:38 pm

Posted by thebloggess

You know how on Friday I wrote about how we couldn’t find any eclipse glasses? Well I decided to go old-school and make a pinhole camera and then this happened: PS. No makeup, sweaty, hair in a pony tail, being … Continue reading
Monday, August 21st, 2017 12:11 pm
I am still raising money for auto repairs. More urgently, I would very much like to be able to buy pizza and coffee to keep me operating all week while I'm frantically packing and cleaning for moving, instead of making coffee and assorted meals.

All fiction requests will be delayed until Tue Aug 29 at the earliest. Please say how urgent all divination requests are; if they are not urgent, they will be similarly delayed. Etsy orders I'll get out the door promptly. If you want to commission jewelry or artwork, we can talk, but the same delay applies. Redbubble orders are on Redbubble's schedule.

If you signal-boost this and let me know you've done it, I'll do 100 words of fiction to your request, one small art to your request, or one divination card-equivalent—no earlier than Tue Aug 29.

Fiction to Buyer's Prompt
Current Etsy will be put on vacation Thursday
Older Etsy will be put on vacation Thursday
Monday, August 21st, 2017 10:05 am
Last week was just a floppy week. Did laundry, did some chores, made my annual eye exam appointment with the VA, went to a delicious Indiana Jones themed brunch at The Mint, joined a new Elfquest RP group since River Twine finally decided to call it quits after over 10 years (RIP)... you know, the usual XD

Currently at Bethlehem, PA at 10.00am: Partly cloudy
Temp: 76F (feels like 76F)
Humidity: 69% (dewpoint 65F)
Pressure: 30.20"
Winds: Calm
Forecast: Partly cloudy, chance of afternoon thunderstorms, high 85F, low 70F

Last week was pretty nice up til the end, when the temps went up and we had some severe thunderstorms roll through. This week is going to be warmer yet for much of it, cooling down markedly by the weekend. Yay for cooling down!

Art du Jour:
So the new Elfquest RP I've joined is Oakleaf Holt, and I have already adopted (and drawn XD) a character there! Meet Lichen. ^__^ He's a trapper and tracker the Wolfriders tribe, a bit of an introvert, and hits all my character sweet spots. XD

On My Plate:
Tags and Other Writins:
  • From One Trickster to Another (ItNotM)
  • Some Light Research (ItNotM)
  • Putting The Band Together (ItNotM)
  • All On A Summer's Day (ItNotM)
  • ORP -- PUFFS v. STUFFS (ItNotM)
  • The Lady in White (ItNotM)
  • Promises (ItNotM)
  • Three Tribes, One Holt (Oakleaf) x2
  • All Bark and No Bite (Oakleaf)
  • Celebrate Good Times (Oakleaf)
  • All the Single Laddies (Oakleaf)
  • continue with scribalry practice
  • list stuff on Ebay
  • reading: A New History of the Picts (still -- I haven't picked it up in awhile XD)
  • reading: Parsival, or A Knight's Tale
Weekly Things Checklist:
  • Thing Arted: Lichen!
  • Thing Writed: nothing
  • Thing Cleaned: dishes and catbox and laundry and recycling and trash
Today is Total Eclipse Day! We're only getting something like 75% totality here, but it should be good enough to get a nice pinhole image of it. Any of you lot in the path of totality? Lucky buggers if you are. XD The rest of this week should be otherwise excitement-free, just chores and tagging and art. XD
Monday, August 21st, 2017 09:20 am
Happy birthday, [personal profile] kerrypolka!
Monday, August 21st, 2017 10:35 am
Which I come at from the point of view of someone who has only seen Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, and the first episodes of Daredevil (which I might one day catch up on) and Iron Fist (which I definitely will not).


Spoilers for all episodes of The Defenders )
Sunday, August 20th, 2017 09:02 pm
I would like to state, for the record, that I seriously hate having finances that are in a state where all it takes is one unexpected larger expense to send me panicking. :-/

So, yes, it's looking like my tentative plans to make it to PAX Unplugged are crashing and burning at the moment. And there's a very good chance that I'm not going to have enough money to cover some bills that will be popping up in the next 2-3 weeks, which means I'm probably going to be going through my belongings and putting up another virtual garage sale post in the next few days.

Mainly because the universe fucking hates me right now. Apparently, at least.

It's been awhile since I posted it, so here's my Ko-fi page if anyone has an extra couple of dollars to spare. If anyone makes a donation, I'd be glad to try to write you a short fic in a fandom that I know. And, like I said before, I'll probably be posting a bunch of books and DVDs (and probably some other stuff as well) for sale in the next few days if anyone's interested in such things.
Sunday, August 20th, 2017 07:35 pm
The spouse reconnected with his former therapist via Facebook instant messaging this weekend. They got to talking about current events.

"I counseled a member of a neo-Nazi group once," the therapist said.

"Did you learn anything useful about the movement?"

"This particular fellow was a victim of childhood sexual abuse. I think that was the root of his rage," the therapist said.

It makes me wonder how things would be different if American mental health care were in better shape.
Monday, August 21st, 2017 12:16 am

Posted by languagehat

Manchán Magan writes about “the lost language of Ireland’s landscape”:

Do you understand the sentence: the banbh was hiding out in the clochán from the brothall? Or how about: I took the boreen over the bawn and down the congár through the cluain beyond the esker to fetch some dillisk on the cladach.

The language we use to describe landscape, farming and the natural world in Ireland is changing so fast that a person can be aged to within a few decades by their understanding of a single sentence. Your grandfather would likely know what biolar, caonach and bundún mean; while you probably understand bawn, kesh and crubeen, but your children mightn’t understand any of these. They mightn’t even know what a gandal is, or have ever been chased by a furiously hissing one.

The English spoken in Ireland (Hiberno-English) even 40 years ago was so speckled with residual Irish words that it can appear today like another tongue. Each of us holds fond memories of words our grandparents used that are now largely meaningless. Cróinín always held a particular fondness for me – it means the first run of small autumn salmon; and branar, which refers to a stretch of broken lea. Nowadays, even the English word “lea” is understand by few: in Britain it refers to meadow or arable land, while in Ireland it normally describes land that has been ploughed, or grubbed before seeding. As to what “grubbed” means, well, that’s a whole other story.

If you’re wondering, collop is “the old count for the carrying power of land” (“The grazing of one cow or two yearling heifers or six sheep or twelve goats or six geese and a gander was one collop”), and fíbín is “the running of cattle caused by the sting of a gadfly.” It’s a great read, and it quotes PW Joyce, the great-great-uncle of Trevor Joyce, who sent me the link — thanks, Trevor!

Sunday, August 20th, 2017 08:44 pm

Bread: on Monday, Greenstein's 100% Wholewheat Loaf, made up of ordinary strong wholemeal/wholemeal spelt/einkorn flours. Tasty but a bit crumbly for some reason.

Saturday breakfast rolls: the adaptable soft roll recipe, 4:1 strong white/buckwheat flour, dried blueberries, maple sugar.

Today's lunch: quails, which I cooked yesterday as they were well pushing their use-by date, according to a recipe from Clarissa Dickson Wright. The Game Cookbook, only that used fruit chutney, which I did not have, so used damson jelly instead, roasted in foil at Mark 3 for 30 minutes: not bad. Served with sticky rice in coconut milk with lime leaves, buttered spinach, and asparagus healthy-grilled in olive oil and splashed with aged organic balsamic vinegar.

Have started the overnight rising version of the bread recipe in Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking, which I haven't made for ages.

Sunday, August 20th, 2017 10:04 am

[I can't believe I'm saying "Canon in the 'It is not easy to explain, she said'" Overwatch AU, but, well, this is the fourth story in this set, so, I guess it's an actual second AU now. AO3 link.]

[It is helpful to know that Widowmaker (in canon, and here) has a tattoo on her arm which incorporates the French word for "nightmare."]

It is not easy to imagine, thought the Widowmaker, propped up a little on pillows but between her two lovers, Lena, Tracer, sprawled along her right side, hands and arms jumbled about everywhere, like always, and Emily, Kestrel, on her left, arranged so neatly, even in sleep, even halfway through the night, even after turning over a few times, always tucked back in like the little hawk, her namesake in battle. Not even when it is real and in front of me.

She took one of her long, slow, deep breaths, and felt her heart beating, even more slowly than usual, so calm, so quiet, so at rest.

Were Gérard and Amélie like this? she wondered. It seemed impossible. Not just because that was only two, and this was three, and therefore obviously so much better, and not just because they were human, baseline human, with childhoods, and growing up, and stumbling about blindly until they figured how to make a life - though that last part, she finally understood, at least, a little - but because this, this perfection, it, too, seemed so impossible, so to conceive of it happening twice? Ludicrous. Foolish girl, she smiled to herself, it could not have been so... this.

It had taken some time to come up with a bed that the three of them could share. Widowmaker's low body temperature meant she needed similarly lower temperatures for real comfort, particularly in sleep, and both her lovers were so very warm. It'd been Angela's idea, a mattress made of medical thermal control columns, temperature regulated, sensing who lay where, and adjusting, automatically.

The doctor had got a paper out of it - modified to discuss burn victims and others with particularly sensitive skin - and had done fairly well from the patent rights. But Widowmaker didn't care about that. Widowmaker cared that she could sleep with her lovers whenever she wanted to, and whenever they wanted her to, and it would just work.

She breathed in the scent of her brown-haired love, the teleporter, nuzzling down a little into that silly, tossed hair. Unimaginably wonderful. She shifted just a little, carefully, and did the same of her red-haired love, the flying officer, and the scent was so very different and yet so much the same. So wonderful.

And softly, so softly, her breath caught, and water pooled in her eyes, and she sniffed, not wanting to, but she still did, and she tried to stop herself, to stop the tears, but that just made her laugh, just a little, and trying to stop that, too, made more of all it it happen.

Emily awoke, blinking, but lay still except to look up towards the sniffling. "Sweet? What... are you crying?"

"No," whispered Widowmaker. "Yes."

"Oh, love, what's wrong?"

"Nothing. Go back to sleep." She laughed a little more, shaking again, and from Lena came a little "mmf?" and she blinked those big brown eyes that Widowmaker could see so clearly even in the low light.

"You too. Go back to sleep."

"Wuzzit?" said Lena, awake enough now to attempt words, but still, at least half asleep.

"But what's wrong?"

"Nothing," sniffed Widowmaker. "Nothing. Nothing." She leaned over and kissed the half-asleep Lena on top of her head. "Everything is wonderful," and then did the same for Emily.

"Why're you crying?" asked Lena.

"I am... so happy," said the blue assassin, half-sobbing, smiling, confused, but not caring. "I..."

She stopped, and her eyes opened wide.

"I found it," she whispered.

"What?" asked Emily, reaching up to run her fingers through Widowmaker's hair.

"Yeah, love - what?" asked Lena, reaching up to do the same from the other side. Her hand met Emily's, and she smiled, as their fingers intertwined.

"Perfection." She brought her two lovers tightly against her, laughing, crying, all at the same time, the emotions, they are too much she thought, gasping, but that is also perfect. "This perfection."

Lena blinked. "You mean... like before? At the beginning, when you were made? But... here, now? ... with us?"

Widowmaker nodded, not being able to put it into better words. "Everything is so beautiful."

"Oh my god."

Emily chuckled. "You're beautiful too, you know that, right?"

"Love, no, she means it. Losing this is why she left Talon."

"Yes," whispered the spider.

Oh. Emily hadn't been there when the assassin had told the story, but she remembered it, and how it affected Lena. "And now you've got it back?" she asked.

"Yes," nodded the Widowmaker. "It is... different. But better." She sniffled. "Everything is so beautiful."

"Is any part of this bad?" asked Emily, a little worried, a little unsure, a little amazed. The assassin's body always carried tension, tension she could feel in her muscles, feel almost in her skin. And she did not feel it. It was... gone.

"No," breathed the Widowmaker. "Oh no, oh, oh no. It is wonderful. I am so happy."

"You sure?" asked Lena.


"Completely sure?" asked Emily.


"Good," said Lena, as the three snuggled back in together, and the three of them slowly drifted back to sleep.

What would my makers think of me now? wondered the spider, as she slid back towards her dreams, laughing, to herself, just a little. And then when she did sleep, she slept smiling, finding her dreams new, and happy, and not unlike her life now, found, new, and happy.

She would need to change her tattoo. No more nightmares. None. At least, not, for now.

Sunday, August 20th, 2017 03:19 pm
Productivity is a distant dream today. So instead, I'm going to start documenting my London trip, which was amazing (A-M-A-Z-I-N-G).

3 days )
Sunday, August 20th, 2017 12:28 pm
Happy birthday, [personal profile] gmh and [personal profile] ravurian!
Saturday, August 19th, 2017 10:21 pm
Extinguished by [livejournal.com profile] shivver13
Fandom: Doctor Who
Pairing/Characters: Ten, Donna
Rating: G
Words: 550

Author's summary: Another day, another alien vulnerable to common household objects.
Author's notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] who_contest's drabble challenge, "Eyes".
Sunday, August 20th, 2017 03:51 am
As far as I can tell, Kentucky is pretty and people are very friendly. They keep talking to us even though we understand maybe 10% of what they say. We mostly nod and look benevolently confused and vague in return.

Waiter: where are you from?
Me: Canada.
Waiter: but where exactly?
Me: Toronto.
Waiter: oh, well, you’re not too bad. Them Quebec people, I can’t understand a word they say.

from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2uTUwiv
Saturday, August 19th, 2017 01:25 pm
On ep 2 and the scene where DANNY CANNOT EVEN MAKE A DENT IN LUKE IS AWESOME I ALREADY REWOUND IT TWICE. (and booed when his fist got all glowy)


Further spoilers )

Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter are the total MVPs. And they have such great chemistry! Charlie Cox is all right. Finn Jones is terrible, tho.


Fandom, if I don't see a whole lot of white-hot femslash between Alexandra and Elektra, I'm going to be VERY disappointed.

ETA LOL, I am once more out of step with fandom because I enjoyed it. Everyone else seems to think it sucks. T says he liked the individual series with more character depth better, that this kind of bounced around with all of them, but says he also enjoyed it. I liked all the bits where Danny was useless (carried like a sack of spuds...repeatedly! tied to a chair....repeatedly! he was like Dawn being the Key in S5 Buffy!). Matthew, you are such a COMPLETE FAILBOAT. I want fic of all the support system people in that police station saferoom complaining about the idiots in their lives, and the lousy coffee. Also more Colleen/Claire please. I want Trish to sidle up to Karen and start networking about reporting. Black Sky!Elektra is totally Bucky, except Matt is a failboat. I liked Élodie Yung so much better in this than in DD S2. There were some nice character moments -- Colleen and Claire, Elektra in Matt's bed, Danny and Luke ("Trust me, I'd rather face a dragon than Jessica Jones any day") -- but not really enough.

T: You know, I had forgotten so much of that second season of Daredevil....

MOI: And it's all coming back to you now?*

T: Yeah, kind of flooding in, actually. The ninjas and the hospital attack and how they weren't really alive and all that.

MOI: This is one case where my shit memory is a blessing.

ETA 2 A few more of my thoughts in [personal profile] monanotlisa's comments here. and at musesfool's. [personal profile] igrockspock also has some good thoughts (SPOILERS). Any other posts about the show? Is anyone doing any roundups? I hate how all the "commentary" seems to have gone to Twitter.

*yes of course I'm referencing the song
Saturday, August 19th, 2017 10:39 am
A week that began with marching ends with marching orders. Larry Wilmore ([twitter.com profile] larrywilmore), Gaby Dunn ([twitter.com profile] gabydunn), and Langston Kerman ([twitter.com profile] LangstonKerman) join Jon to discuss the latest White House shake up and the fallout from Charlottesville. Plus GOP operative Tim Miller ([twitter.com profile] Timodc) stops by for a new segment called "The Cuck Zone" and Jon learns in real time why a Kardashian is on the rant wheel.

Get the episode here or wherever you get your podcasts.
Saturday, August 19th, 2017 01:00 pm
Belovedest has mentioned a few times that it's hard to get your hands on a nice meat pasty around these parts. I contemplated the matter and asked a few questions.

At length, it seemed like it was a good day to try.

My reliable source for understanding the principles behind what I'm cooking is Serious Eats. So I read through the pie crust stuff again. (Incidentally, the site is a clickbait hole for DELICIOUSNESS.)

Clickbait: http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/03/science-of-pie-7-myths-that-need-to-go-away.html

Science: http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2011/07/the-food-lab-the-science-of-pie-how-to-make-pie-crust-easy-recipe.html

Recipe: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/07/easy-pie-dough-recipe.html
2 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces; 350 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces; 280 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pats
6 tablespoons (3 ounces; 85 milliliters) cold water

I looked at the amounts involved.

There was no way that I was going to be able to fit all that flour and butter into my food processor, which is an attachment to my stick blender. I looked closely at the amounts.

It so happens that the ratio of cups of flour to sticks of butter is 1:1. So I decided that I could make a test batch, one cup and one stick. The salt and sugar is less important, and in fact the sugar is kind of not what I wanted for a pasty dough.

I put 2/3 of the flour together with the butter and a bit of salt, then added a little water and more of the flour. (Probably not how I should have done it.) Then I mixed it in a larger bowl with a little more water. My hands are rather hot, so I tried to cool them down with ice.

I wrapped it up in cling wrap and let it cool off in the refrigerator. I pulled it out a few hours later, and quartered the dough. I saw that it had distinct stacked layers, like a good steel blade. I was thrilled.

I rolled it out in the best tradition of my mother, between two sheets of parchment paper. (There is no rolling pin in this kitchen. I used a glass.) I stuck it back in the refrigerator, still between the sheets, to wait while I prepared the filling. (Parchment paper and waxed paper are easier to handle than cling wrap, for this.)


This was not a Cornish pasty. [personal profile] wohali said something about a chicken curry pasty, and I went "Oooo!" and she advised that you can use pretty much any chicken curry recipe, just dryer than usual.

I went for it.

My basic chicken curry is chicken plus a brick of golden curry sauce plus assorted vegetables, and oil as needed. This time I decided to cook the chicken thigh meat so it would be easy to separate from the bones in my multifunction fancy rice cooker, along with some spiced oil left over from a previous recipe, and some dry onions. I cooked the vegetables and the curry brick separately, only combining them all (and some potato flakes to sop up water and oil) at the end. My partner is much better at handling chicken meat in all its phases than I am, and stripped the meat from the bones before I mixed them together.

I did roll it too thin, and I let it get too hot when filling it.

Despite the holes, I stuck the crust together with egg wash, and egg washed the outside. (I used the leftover egg wash to make a little bit of curry scrambled egg, which my partner ate on top of their salad.)

I'd wisely said that if the food was not going to be ready by 10pm, we should eat something else. The pies came out of the oven just as we were finishing chicken nuggets, but we still had enough room to test half a pie each.


I will be making these again. And the dough process is relatively simple with the tools at hand, so my partner (who can follow a recipe, but isn't yet the cocky ass in the kitchen that I am) may wind up learning the process too.

I put together a bit of sweet pie dough just now, and it's chilling in a ball in the refrigerator. I'm thinking that some fruit pies might be in order...
Saturday, August 19th, 2017 07:25 pm

Posted by languagehat

A couple of months ago I reported on Nikolai Pomyalovsky’s Мещанское счастье [Bourgeois happiness]; now I’m on the sequel, Молотов [Molotov]. Forewarned by my earlier experience, I decided to post about this one before it went off the rails; now, halfway through, the plot is about to kick in (a father is going to force his daughter to marry a man she doesn’t love and doesn’t want to marry), so I figure it’s time. Pomyalovsky is excellent in his unique way, but plot is not his forte.

What he’s very good at is observing Russians and their society from an unusual angle and writing about it and them convincingly and entertainingly (in this he resembles Pisemsky). The book begins with a description of a large Petersburg apartment building and its inhabitants: the most important and richest people on the middle floors facing the street, the somewhat less important ones on the middle floors facing the courtyard, the poor but honest on the top floor, and the poor and dishonest (with their connections to nearby Haymarket Square) below street level. In one of the better apartments lives the Dorogov family that is the focus of the novel (along with Molotov, of course). There is a long passage explaining in detail how this comfortable bourgeois family took a century to arrive at its current status, having started with a man making bad shoes and a woman making bad pies; his description of the constant striving to squirrel away every spare kopeck and keep the children profitably occupied until they can be married off reminded me strongly of the recent TV series “Victorian Slum House” (which I highly recommend). What is particularly remarkable here is that he neither condemns nor idealizes any of this; he presents this middle stratum of society (minor bureaucrats, lesser administrators, doctors, the occasional artist or writer) as being just as important and interesting as any other, if mostly limited in their views and ambitions. It’s very refreshing after reading so many stories about aristocrats and serfs; Russian culture in general has been hostile to the petty bourgeoisie.

After that, Pomyalovsky focuses in on Nadya, one of the Dorogov daughters (she was mentioned in the earlier novel as a childhood friend of Molotov’s). She spent years at a boarding school for young ladies that is portrayed with a horrified intimacy that suggests the author had a sister or good friend who had done time in such an institution. The hypocrisy and brutality make the reader ache in sympathy (wealthy girls are treated with kid gloves, of course, while the poor are punished by being put in straitjackets and having to spend prolonged periods of time on beds in the “infirmary”); Nadya rejects it all spiritually but has no desire to be treated like the openly rebellious girls, so she keeps her head down, does her tedious classwork, and waits. Here is a passage from this section (the Russian, available at the link above, begins “Не диво, что Надя встала в стороне от этой жизни”):

No wonder Nadya stood aside from this life and waited impatiently for the time when she could return to her family. When she complained to her parents, they told her “There’s nothing to be done, you have to be patient”; needless to say, such admonitions did nothing to reconcile her with the people around her. She endured, kept to herself, behaved circumspectly, watched her every step so that she would not (god forbid) somehow wind up in a straitjacket, and she never did, but malicious people sensed that she was afraid of them and did not like them. “Well,” you ask, “why didn’t she make friends?” But think about it: how could she make them? The closed-in life, removed from society, the lack of those interests common to all mankind — these things created artificial, false, institutional characters.

For instance, in this environment there flourished what is called adoration. This is not friendship, not caprice, not children’s games or imitation of older people — it is a false development of the growing need to love, a development inevitable in a closed institution, and from this misfortune there is no salvation even by henlike decorum and manuscripts softened by a woman’s hand. They adored teachers and visitors. It might happen that a girl would be attracted to a father, brother, or other relative who visited her friend, and she would lavish all her caresses and love on her friend if she resembled her guest even a little. And they adored girls with a manly face, tall girls with loud voices and courageous characters. The adoring girl would keep on her breast a ribbon belonging to the one she adored, would kiss books and notebooks she had touched, would take delight in kissing her, would drink the water remaining in a glass she had drunk from, would write love letters and arrange to meet her in corridor or bedroom. If the adored girl did not return her love, she would weep, pine, suffer visibly and grow thin. Sometimes a girl would have twenty such followers.

The strangest thing of all was that the schoolmistresses themselves, while maintaining a henlike morality, made it possible for their favorites, most of whom had lent them money or had influential relatives, to see and talk with their adored teachers. And in this period of adoration many of the girls, wanting to seem interesting — and some of them from some diseased organic disposition — would eat chalk and coal, drink vinegar and ink, suck on plaster, bricks, and slate pencils… In all this there was very little that was divine or unearthly and a great deal that was purely institutional, created by a life set almost completely apart from society.

All this has been familiar stuff since, say, the 1920s, but it must have been fairly shocking in 1861.

Probably the most original and interesting character is Molotov’s artist friend Cherevanin, who is dissatisfied with himself and life and whom Molotov tries to talk into getting away from his worthless, drunken companions and leading a more orderly existence. At one point Molotov says “In our day it’s shameful to drink,” which leads to a discussion I found striking enough to translate at length (the Russian starts with “Покажи-ко ты мне хоть одного отсталого человека”; the passage after the break “О ком же заботиться, для кого хлопотать?”); it begins with Cherevanin speaking:

“Show me even one backward person.”

“All the devotees of olden times are backward people,” answered the surprised Molotov.

“He’s poking into olden times! Listen, it’s our own age that created them — those olden times never existed, they’re new olden times… If our grandfathers came and looked at these olden times, they wouldn’t recognize them, they’d start to spit at them and wouldn’t have anything to do with them. It’s only in this age that you’ll find these olden times… What kind of olden times are they, anyway? They’re a novelty, a product of contemporary life, the latest hour, the present moment… And it turns out to be another empty word, of which there are so many in the world, a dialectical trick! Who has been left behind by the age?

“But aren’t there new people and a new life?”

“You think so?! Who on earth doesn’t know that? Everybody now alive was born in our age; they didn’t crawl out of graves or return from the other world, and they’re all living a new life. For example, up to this point nobody has lived as I’m living, and nobody had the outlook on life that I have. If you’re talking about drunkenness, well? That’s not something out of olden times, it’s new, progressive…”


“Who should we worry about and take trouble for? Aren’t we toiling on behalf of the future generation? That’s another dialectical trick, a point of lunacy, high-minded nonsense! We often hear the best people say they’re working for the future — isn’t that strange? I mean, we’re not going to be around then, are we? Is the future generation going to be grateful? But we won’t hear their gratitude, because our ears will be stopped by earth… But no, the future generation won’t even be grateful; it will call us names, because it will have gone beyond us, it will be squeezed in its strivings by people of the former age — that is, by people our age, who think like us. And everything we call backward was advanced in its day, fresh, bold, and it fought in its turn with long past routine of which not even the rumor has come down to us. Even those old men of bygone days were called by the flattering name of Voltaireans, even though they too just idled their lives away. And our time will pass! For all you know, the very youngest generation, the one that’s sitting on school benches now, might already be feeling some awkwardness in relation to us, and is cultivating a protest against you. Are they going to live just like you and me, nurse the same ideas? Is it going to move forward or not? And mark my words, when people your age are pushing sixty and you, with God’s help, have risen to a high rank, you’ll squeeze the younger generation, you will, really… It’s customary in this world that as soon as a son gets old enough to have a son himself, he starts to curse his father. Eternal moving forward makes old people feel full; we get so used to the good things we’ve already gotten that we lose our taste for them. We make use of all the goods that have been prepared for us, but we’re still unhappy; it’s just like our bellies — we fed them yesterday, but they don’t remember that, today they’re asking for bread again. People get what they’re after and they’re satisfied, but then, just look, new questions, new desires, new forces rise up, and the old life squeezes the younger generation, because a person can’t live two lives. And the new generation will get old in its turn, and will start constricting the strivings of our grandchildren. Our grandchildren will make our great-grandchildren cry, and so on to infinity. What absurdity! Let’s drink, shall we?”

“To the future generation?”

“To all generations, because they’re all the same. Is the younger one better than the older, or the older better than the younger? Is either of them happier, more moral, more reasonable? They’re all the same!”

It’s often the talkative cynics, like Prince Valkovsky in The Insulted and Injured and Baron Charlus in Proust, who are the most memorable characters.

Incidentally, I’ve picked up some random bits of Russian culture, like the wedding song “Исаие, ликуй” [Isaiah, rejoice] and Daziaro’s establishment publishing and selling art graphics; you can see a bunch of examples of the latter here, and they give a good idea of midcentury Petersburg.

Addendum. Remember what I said about Pomyalovsky presenting the middle stratum of society as being just as important and interesting as any other? He makes that very explicit in this passage. Molotov and Nadya have been talking about love, he insisting that it exists and she saying it exists in books but not in real life. Then she says:

Maybe there is love in the world, but only for the élite. You have to agree, Yegor Ivanych, that there, in the books, people don’t live the way we do, they don’t have our customs or our beliefs; most of them live without working, without worrying about their daily bread. They’re all landowners — there’s the landowner-hero and the landowner-poet. They have different strivings, different proprieties, the whole environment is different. They suffer and rejoice, believe and disbelieve differently from us. We don’t have duels, girls don’t go to balls or meetings, men don’t want to transform the world and they don’t suffer from not being able to do it. And we don’t have love, either. […] The barin [member of the gentry class] is described with noticeable sympathy, even if he’s a worthless person; education and circumstances are different, everything is on display; furthermore, the barin is always in the foreground, and the bureaucrats, priest’s wives, teachers, and merchants always turn out to be good-for-nothings, disgraceful people, they play a humiliating role, and — it’s funny — the story is often told in such a way that it’s their fault the barin is bad or suffers. Maybe the environment I was born in is disgraceful, but it’s not completely dead… One way or another, you have to seek out the good side of your own people. Otherwise, how can you live?

Может быть, и есть любовь на свете, […] да только для избранных. Согласитесь, Егор Иваныч, что там, в книгах, люди живут не по-нашему, там не те обычаи, не те убеждения; большею частию живут без труда, без заботы о насущном хлебе. Там всё помещики – и герой-помещик и поэт-помещик. У них не те стремления, не те приличия, обстановка совсем не та. Страдают и веселятся, верят и не верят не по-нашему. У нас нет дуэлей, девицы не бывают на балах или в собраниях, мужчины не хотят преобразовать мир и от неудач в этом деле не страдают. У нас и любви нет. […] Барина описывают с заметной к нему любовью, хотя бы он был и дрянной человек; и воспитание и обстоятельства разные, все поставлено на вид; притом барин всегда на первом плане, а чиновники, попадьи, учителя, купцы всегда выходят негодными людьми, безобразными личностями, играют унизительную роль, и, смешно, часто так рассказано дело, что они и виноваты в том, что барин худ или страдает. Пусть безобразна среда, в которой родилась я, все же она не совсем мертвая… Так или иначе, а надо отыскать добрую сторону в своих людях. Без того жить нельзя!..

Saturday, August 19th, 2017 12:00 pm
Dear Amy: My daughter and son-in-law are expecting their first child. My husband has a granddaughter, but this will be MY first grandchild. My husband and I have been together for more than 16 years and have helped raise each other’s children.

I love his granddaughter and I don’t want her feelings to be hurt by announcing on social media that I am expecting my first grandchild. She is 8 years old and knows that I am her father’s stepmother, but I still don’t want to hurt her. Whenever she comes over, my husband and I both spoil her (like grandparents should), but she has always favored her “Papa.”

The problem for me is that I am much younger than my husband, and I didn’t want my social media friends to think that I was old enough to have an 8-year-old grandchild.

How can I say that I am expecting my first grandchild without making her feel like she doesn’t count?

— Grandma to Be

Dear Grandma: I appreciate your sensitivity about this situation, but I have news for you — you are already a “Grandma.” You have been one for the past eight years, and for you to try to find a way to deny this now that you are about to have a “real” grandchild in your life is all about your own vanity.

Your young granddaughter wouldn’t be the only person surprised (and possibly hurt) by the revelation that she isn’t your grandchild. Her parents, especially the parent you “helped to raise,” would likely be quite wounded.

I could also venture a guess that the reason your granddaughter has always favored her “Papa” is because you are signaling to her in a variety of ways that she is a placeholder for the real grandchild who will someday come along and claim your heart.

I became a grandmother quite young — at least it seemed so at the time, because I wasn’t prepared for this life stage. But family comes to you in different ways and at different times, whether or not you’re ready (or “old enough”) for it.

And so now the thing to do is to take to social media to announce your joy at the birth of your second grandchild.
Sunday, August 20th, 2017 12:25 am
they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and i keep on remembering