oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Finished Amnesty, and I think that was a good ending: not descending into grimdark but not fluffy-bunnies either, in keeping with the general tenor and a small note of hope.

Also finally finished The Strange Case of Harriet Hall and really, this is yet another 'neglected Golden Age detective novelist' that one can see why, really.

Catherine Dain, Dead Man's Hand (1997), which is the one where our protag has reached a place where the reader can see that perhaps the author did not quite know where to go next, which is the problem when you have a protag who changes and grows and is affected by the things that happen... I also started Dain's Angel in the Dark (A New Age Mystery #1) (1999), which failed to grab me and went into the donation bag. (Apparently there was a #2 in this series which I shall not be seeking out.)

And then I fell down an Amanda Cross rabbit hole, no, I don't know why, it just happened, they were on the shelf and I succumbed, I'm not even reading them in any particular order: Honest Doubt (2000), The Edge of Doom (2002), An Imperfect Spy (1995), The Puzzled Heart (1998), A Trap for Fools (1989), The Players Come Again (1990). And my sense is that Cross/Carolyn Heilbrun was having fun with these and being playful and not caring if they adhered to the Detective Club rules or even had a murder in them and was using that strategy of writing in genre so that she could do the late C20th version of 'o, it is only a novel' while having plots in which noxious professors get defenestrated, women bond &/or find life after unsatisfactory marriage, etc.

On the go

Amanda Cross, Poetic Justice (1970) - this must be one, I think, I bought somewhere like Sisterwrite or Compendium Books, way back in the day.

Charlotte Lennox still on the go.

Up next

Apart from more Amanda Cross, I have, I think, somewhere, a couple of collections of Heilbrun's essays.

oursin: Picture of Fotherington-Tomas skipping, with words subversive male added (Subversive male)
[personal profile] oursin

Because usually when people are talking about the problem of BOYZ in the educational system and under-achievement, it is all about defeminising the curriculum and catering to their masculine needs and so on.

Well this guy, 'who shaves his head and has an East End accent' is, I suspect, secretly Basil Fotherington-Tomas: Boys will be boys? How schools can be guilty of gender bias. Too many teachers think boys can’t do as well as girls, says the teacher on a mission to change attitudes.

There’s a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude that plays into a narrative that says boys produce more testosterone, and that’s why they fight and punch, that’s why they don’t sit quietly in lessons, that’s why they’re harder to control, that’s why we have different expectations about what they can do.” But the hormone system is much more complex than such a binary reading reveals; and for every study that links bad behaviour and testosterone, there’s another, says Pinkett, that suggests it’s more about environment than biology. “The ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ philosophy neglects two key facts: firstly, that there are more similarities than differences between the sexes, and, secondly, that our brains are plastic and changeable, especially during the early years.” What teachers have to get past, he says, is the belief that if a boy doesn’t comply, doesn’t hand in homework or is misbehaving, that it’s because he’s male. “We need to stop ourselves: because maybe whatever is going on isn’t, after all, because he’s a boy. And it’s that realisation that can free pupils from stereotypes, and give them the chance to do what everyone wants, which is truly fulfil their potential.”
There’s a danger of treating boys differently and patronising them, says Roberts. “So, for example, you’ve got a boy you think doesn’t like reading, so you decide to pander to his love of football and give him a book about that to read. But in narrowing your expectations, you’re narrowing his. It’s the same with, for example, teaching boys about Shakespeare by concentrating on the sword fights or the fighting: it’s like we’re hoodwinking them into learning, and it doesn’t work. What we need is a big shift in ethos: too many teachers believe boys can do less, they don’t think boys can succeed as well as girls at school. I don’t think it’s about watering it down: it’s about having high expectations for boys as well as for girls.”

The content being taught is also relevant, and connected, of course, to everything else. “The English curriculum is unfairly and disproportionately dominated by men, and many of them are deplorable men like Macbeth and Dr Jekyll. And Dickens: a lot of his writing is unsavoury. So we need to challenge that in school, and we need to think about issues around sexist male behaviour and violence in the texts they’re reading.”

Go, guy!

(no subject)

Apr. 23rd, 2019 09:20 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] damnmagpie!

Peacock on the lawn

Apr. 22nd, 2019 09:18 pm
nanila: me (Default)
[personal profile] nanila
I'm finding it increasingly difficult to post given how long it's been since I last posted publicly. I miss posting every day. It also doesn't help that we're on holiday in rural Norfolk where the internet speeds are generally terrible no matter what method you use, so even uploading one photo is a tooth-grindingly tedious affair. And since I'm on holiday, the weather is good, and I brought my dSLR and favourite lenses, I'm taking a looooot of photos. Therefore, I'm going to cheat and post the same photo I posted to a community, because it took so flippin' long to get it on Flickr.

Peacock on the lawn
The warm weather has seen the overwintering imagos emerge from their hiding places. Keiki and Humuhumu found this peacock (butterfly) on the lawn, soaking up the sun and sipping from the daisies. We also found a tatty comma and a bright brimstone. There are a great many freshly hatched cabbage whites, orange tips and holly blues battling feistily over the burdock flowers.

I was pleased to hear the distinctive call of a cuckoo, which was a comfort given that their numbers have been declining for many years, though we haven't managed to spot it yet.
oursin: Cod with aghast expression (kepler codfish)
[personal profile] oursin

Goodness knows of the bonkersness of the people who get grassed-up on Ask A Manager there are, I fear, depths still unsounded, because every time one thinks it can't get any worse, lo and behold, something else comes along, and well, WOT??!!

My boss wants us to go on an all-day rafting trip. There is a new director with (okay, these would always be red flags for me) 'outgoing personality', 'emphasis on team-building events. And during a corporate conference there will be 'an all-day rafting trip as a break-out event'.

(Am I being perhaps too bleak in my thought that this is like the famed Hancock episode 'The Bowmans': 'Oh look, they do all have fallen down the old abandoned mineshaft'?)

The person who has posed the question to AAM has already raised the issue of being a weak swimmer and not comfortable around deep water: the director's response was what does not kill us makes us stronger 'she’d rather see me focus on how to meet a challenge rather than how to get out of it'.

Do we think that 'With your shield or on it' is really a suitable management strategy for the current era? Or indeed, playing chicken to test people's commitment and dedication?

AAM has pointed out that enquirer is very likely not the only person for whom there may be access/H&S issues.

(no subject)

Apr. 22nd, 2019 09:17 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] mme_hardy and [personal profile] polyamorous!


Apr. 21st, 2019 08:19 pm
oursin: Frontispiece from C17th household manual (Accomplisht Lady)
[personal profile] oursin

No bread made during the week.

Friday night supper: a rather nice, though I say it myself, sardegnera with salami.

Saturday breakfast rolls: basic buttermilk, 3:1 strong white/buckwheat flour.

Today's lunch: cinnamon aubergines, which turned out v nicely (I thought they might have got a bit burnt, but not), okra and purple sprouting broccoli simmered in coconut milk with ginger puree, minced green coriander (cilantro) and fish sauce (a little bland - perhaps needed more coriander &/or fish sauce), and sweet potato crinkly oven fries.

Bread tomorrow, I think.

(no subject)

Apr. 21st, 2019 12:27 pm
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] ankaret and [personal profile] lexin!
oursin: image of hedgehogs having sex (bonking hedgehogs)
[personal profile] oursin

Bedroom confidential: what sex therapists hear from the couch.

We confess ourself unimpressed at the entirely false dichotomy set up that in Ye Olden Dayez what sex therapists saw was physical problems, and now what they see are 'bio-psycho-social' difficulties.

Aphrodite knows, I wish somebody would set to and research the history of sex therapy in the UK, because it is a Different Story from that in the USA, and I know where the bodies are buried where a whole lot of extremely pertinent archival material may be found. But my distinct sense is that they were working on a fairly holistic (though I doubt that back in the 1950s they would have used that word) model, what with calling on the insights of the Balint Method and so on. It was by no means mechanistic. See also this blog post re a friend of mine's research on a particular woman doctor's work in marital counselling in private practice in the 1950s.

So there's that about The Past.

And as far as physical problems go, these seem fairly prominent in contemporary consultations, what with the prevalence of ED and 'increase in women with vaginismus'.

And in the realm of plus ca change, or maybe things are even going backwards

For all the talk of lifting stigmas, therapists say uniformly that, for many people – even the majority – sex remains a taboo. Moyle points out that society is still predominantly heteronormative and kinks are not openly discussed. “We’re in this really weird paradox where everybody looks like they are having sex and is talking about sex, but the realistic, normal conversations are not happening.”

Even at the individual level, Lovett says conversations today are no more frank or open than they were in the mid-1980s. Buchanan finds there are more barriers than there were 15 years ago. “A bit of me is still surprised by people’s ignorance around their own bodies and their partner’s,” says Knowles. More pragmatic, robust sexual education is sorely needed.

Books read in March 2019

Apr. 20th, 2019 11:37 am
nou: The word "kake" in a white monospaced font on a black background (Default)
[personal profile] nou

As discussed last month, I’m redirecting the energy I previously used for providing content warnings into writing a little bit about what I thought about the books.

(This isn’t why this post is late. There was minor Medical Drama involving unexpectedly low iron levels and some rather unpleasant tests to try to find out why — short version is my internal organs are fine, we still don’t know where all my iron went, but iron tablets are magic, and that’s good enough for me.)

Definitely recommend

Swordheart, T Kingfisher. I somehow wasn't expecting this to be a romance. But it is! As well as fantasy. I’d read it again.

The True Queen, Zen Cho. I loved the first book in this series (The Sorcerer to the Crown) and I love this one even more. Dragons! Powerful older women! Wit and banter that are actually funny! And other reasons to love it that would be SPOILERS.

The Martian, Andy Weir (re-read). I keep confusing [personal profile] bob by referring to this as “the potato book”, but honestly the POTATOES are the thing I love about it. There’s at least one potato reference that made me laugh out loud simply because of its precision and dryness (which may or may not have been intended by the author). Some of the book is a bit clumsy (the stereotypical German, the insistence that humanity never leaves anyone behind when it’s set in the near-future with no indication that the problems of poverty, famine, institutional racism, etc have been fixed) but overall I like it and may well read it again.

Maybe recommend

The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie (re-read). Hercule Poirot mystery with an unreliable narrator. I'd read this before many years ago so knew the twist, but enjoyed trying to figure out where the gaps in the story were and how it was all managed. The thing with Agatha Christie is that you can be reading along quite smoothly and then suddenly there's half a sentence of casual and entirely unnecessary racism, anti-semitism, ablism, etc, and then it goes back to being an interesting detective story. (Some of her books are worse than this, with the racism or rape-apologism embedded in the plot — I will never read Nemesis again.)

Clockwork Boys and The Wonder Engine, T Kingfisher (re-read). I decided to read these again after enjoying Swordheart, as they’re all set in the same universe and although I didn’t enjoy these two all that much the first time round, many other people seem to have loved them so I thought I’d give them another go. Still not my favourite: too much sexual longing, plot very slow. There are individual lines that are hilarious, though.

The King Must Die, Mary Renault (re-read). I read this when I was a kid and was absolutely astonished by it. It's still very readable, but although I'm aware of how pioneering it was in terms of retelling the Greek classics, I much prefer the more recent and less male-oriented works like Circe.

Wouldn’t recommend

The Valley At The Centre Of The World, Mallachy Tallack (DNF). This was just kind of boring. Also, there were too many short, choppy sentences that kept pushing me out of the story. I tried to work out if there was some pattern to these, some reason for them, but either there wasn't or it was too subtle for me. I got 27% of the way through and kept finding myself wishing I was reading something else, so I stopped.

The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman (DNF). This was kind of the opposite of The Valley in that it's all action and very little scenery. I again got fed up of it around the 27% mark and stopped reading.

Hot Money, Dick Francis (DNF). Not enough horses, too many unpleasant rich people. I stopped reading at the point where one of the main characters stated that a disabled person would have been better off dead.

Infomocracy, Malka Older (DNF). It's the future! Everyone has Wikipedia installed on their Google Glasses, police push their way through crowds by poking people with plastic triangles, and global elections are conducted with wards of exactly 100,000 people each. I decided not to buy this after reading the Kindle sample, so I don't know if the author ever explains what happens when someone dies or reaches voting age.

City Of Lies, Sam Hawke (DNF). I tried really hard to finish this! I should have liked it! It describes food and plants and technology, and has disabled protagonists! But I found it very boring and a little sanctimonious, and I kept forgetting which of the two POV protagonists was the current one, since aside from their disabilities and jobs they were fairly indistinguishable.

The Shipping News, Annie Proulx (re-read) (DNF). I read this years ago and remember liking it, so I thought I'd give it a re-read, but unfortunately I've also seen the film so was unable to get Kevin Spacey out of my head.

Flying Finish, Dick Francis. I appreciate that he included reproductive justice activists, but also hormonal contraception doesn't work like that. I liked all the detail about how you transport horses by air. But generally this isn't great. Too much about the perils of communism.

A Is For Alibi, Sue Grafton. This book is really weird about people's bodies, especially fat bodies. Aside from that, it's a fairly generic detective story with added tedious heterosexualling.

(no subject)

Apr. 20th, 2019 11:31 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] forthwritten!
oursin: Illustration from the Kipling story: mongoose on desk with inkwell and papers (mongoose)
[personal profile] oursin

I know there's probably entirely justified concern about what information Facebook is gleaning about people who use it - and even if my use of it is pretty minimal it would still be problematic to give it up when there are people in my life who do use it as their primary means of contact.

But I have been lately been given to wonder exactly how granular and detailed is the information that is gleaned, and, okay, I daresay my adblocker is blocking ads so I'm not seeing these anyway, and I've gone into the ads settings and turned off just about everything that might be deployed to advertise things to me -

Which hasn't stopped, once or twice over the past weeks, sponsored advertising posts popping up in my timeline WOT, but after I have spent some time clicking to hide these, the hint appears to be taken...

But, anyway, in the wholly Point Thahr: Misst stakes, when I go into Settings/Ads/Preferences/'Advertisers', and find a whole swathe who come from 'contact list added to Facebook', they are 99.9999 recurring US-based, most of them realtors, with a tiny sprinkling of health-related organisations. And I go through, and I delete them, or at least remove them from view, and wonder Y O Y? how pointless is that? given that my location is one of the few bits of public-facing information available?

Or is this a subtle misleading? and in fact I am being bombarded with subliminal wombattery, because their algorithms have noted that what I post is mostly wombats? and I am being lulled into a false sense of security?

oursin: The Delphic Sibyl from the Sistine Chapel (Delphic sibyl)
[personal profile] oursin

Apparently there was some hoohah lately about people's degrees not matching up with their A-level results?? and people doing better than their A-level grades might have suggested so it was grade inflation? (whether there was evidence of the converse, and people with smashing A-level results and mediocre degrees, deponent knoweth not).

And I feel this fits in a bit with my post earlier this week in that it is weighted to one moment of shining early promise...

Years ago, I read somewhere about somebody who had, after a perhaps not very starry start, become an internationally renowned expert in, I think, educational theory, had published widely in the relevant peer-reviewed journals and with top publishers, won awards etc: and applying for some post, somebody on the panel looked at the c.v. and said, 'huh, they only got a 2.2 from [might have been a polytechnic? anyway, non-elite institution]'.

Okay, with the numbers of sly hoaxers there are in the world, perhaps it is a necessary check on people being who they say they are to have them put down educational information from decades ago, though I very much doubt this sort of thing gets checked ('Did XY attend your school and did they take and pass Geography O-level in year in question?') But there comes a point when the exact grades at least should no longer matter?

I also think of those young persons of promise who perhaps did something - a first book or whatever - that was considered a major achievement and the precursor to very great things indeed and basically either never got the second album together at all, or it was not quite all that.

Or, they got some cushy post and sat back. Or didn't even get the first book out in spite of being considered sure to do great things.

While others do not really hit their stride until much later - this is not, I think, the same as those women artists who have to wait until they are 90 and all their male competitors and critics have died off to be recognised, I'm thinking more of people who get it together, not entirely unlike oneself, in the middle way of life. And possibly not having given any particular signs of remarkable shiny promise.

I think there are lots of different trajectories possible, and I'm not sure that whooshing upwards like a rocket from the get-go is a terribly encouraging model to have in front of one.

oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Finished A Duke in Disguise - I thought the early sections dragged a bit, or maybe I am just a bit impatient of that particular kind of UST going on and on. But pace did pick up. Also title is a little bit misleading as he's not so much in disguise as unknowing? Also some slight improbability given what we learn about the hero's sexual experience... But, on the whole, the usual page-turner.

Catherine Dain, Luck of the Draw (1996), still waiting on replacement copy of Dead Man's Hand, no 7 in the series.

However, while waiting, embarked on Dain's later series, Death of the Party (2000), which feature an amateur sleuth (actress turned therapist in LA) and found it very generic compared to the Freddie O'Neals: so DNF and that and the second in the series have gone into the charity shop bag. I suspect the other one of hers ('A New Age Mystery'), if I have it, I think it's somewhere about, is likely to be similarly disappointing.

Re-reads of Gail Godwin, Father Melancholy's Daughter (1991) and Evensong (1999), very good but although I felt I wanted to reread these, somehow not quite hitting the spot where I'm at at the moment.

On the go

A bit more of Charlotte Lennox, and pottering on with The Strange Case of Harriet Hall - I have sufficient curiosity to find out the resolution of the mystery, especially after the most recent plot twist, not to abandon it entirely, but it's not exactly an edge of the seat page-turner, so it gets put aside a lot.

Lara Elena Donnelly, Amnesty (The Amberlough Dossier #3), which turned up yesterday: as twisty as ever.

Up next

Dunno: maybe a bit more going through the crime shelves in a picky and critical fashion?

(no subject)

Apr. 17th, 2019 09:17 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] linzer and [personal profile] shezan!

Going and being Hystorykle Context

Apr. 16th, 2019 07:42 pm
oursin: Drawing of hedgehog in a cave, writing in a book with a quill pen (Writing hedgehog)
[personal profile] oursin

For the after-lunch session* at a day event of current practitioners. (I leave the exact field as an exercise for the reader, but no, I did not take dear Sid with me, I am large, I contain multitudes).

I believe the town in question has some notable attractions, but by the time one has got there, found the venue, had a much needed coffee, encountered the organiser, had lunch, strutted one's stuff, etc, one is more inclined to the not entirely straightforward journey homewards than flaneusery involving cathedrals etc. (Especially after getting up rather too early after a not entirely brilliant night's sleep.)

I will say that for a journey involving changing (both ways) at Cambridge, the Cambridge travel curse did not strike, perchance because the event itself was not there, and in fact, coming back I made an earlier connection than I could have hoped to the fast Kings X service.

Still exhausted.

*Or light entertainment element...

(no subject)

Apr. 16th, 2019 07:43 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Hsppy birthday, [personal profile] girlyswot!
oursin: George Beresford photograph of the young Rebecca West in a large hat, overwritten 'Neither a doormat nor a prostitute' (Neither a doormat nor a prostitute)
[personal profile] oursin

In an article in The Observer yesterday (it's part of a piece about sexism and women in advertising but my own interest in this particular remark is pretty much tangential to that) the following comment:

The work I find most damaging is that which sneaks sexism in under the cover of progress. The Fearless Girl sculpture funded by State Street Global Advisors is installed to stare down the Charging Bull in Wall Street. It was lauded as the definitive statement against inequality, but the concept itself is offensive.... [M]y main issue that it’s a little girl and the fight for equality is against women’s contribution being minimised, infantilised, made to feel small.

I'm not sure my own feelings are precisely about that but about the over-valuing of the girl, the young, the unspoilt, as well the cuteness/aaaawwwwww factor.

(And thinking of that, thinking of the virgin sacrifices for the Minotaur...)

And this may be me being An Old and A Curmudgeon, but representing female resistance thusly seems to me a bit coming from the same place as the 'getting girls into STEM' (or whatever) rather than thinking about the WOMEN who are already there, and the men who suddenly get very agitated about the condition of women when it's going to affect their own daughters (like that bloke whose identity I forget who had apparently never interacted with a person of that sex before and had apparently found his daughter floating in a basket of reeds down the river for all the sense one got that she had been begotten in a standard union. Or maybe done a Pygmalion and carved her from marble...).

This is probably not quite the same thing as the endless recurrence of lists of Fab New Novelists/Whatever Under 30 or Coming Young Things but honestly, sometimes one would like to see something about people who are finally making the breakthrough at more advanced years and maybe after a certain amount of failure and discouragement. But also places a premium on freshness.

(no subject)

Apr. 15th, 2019 09:18 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] eglantiere!


Apr. 14th, 2019 08:13 pm
oursin: Frontispiece from C17th household manual (Accomplisht Lady)
[personal profile] oursin

Bread made during week: Greenstein's 100% Wholewheat Loaf, 50%:50% wholemeal/wholemeal spelt, v nice.

Saturday breakfast rolls: brown grated apple, made with half and half white and wholemeal spelt flours, and malt extract.

Today's lunch: venison steaks au poivre, i.e. rubbed with a cut garlic clove and then with crushed Bristol blend peppers with a few coriander seeds and left for a little while and then panfried; served with baby new Jersey Royal potatoes roasted in goosefat, padron peppers, and spinach done again according to the recipe in Dharamjit Singh's Indian Cookery: even without any added water there was a fair amount of moisture to cook off, but this is very tasty (butter, salt, ground ginger, a little sugar).


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