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I keep remembering -- in the middle of writing an e-mail or doing yoga or whatever -- I've got a ticket for Hamilton! somebody unexpectedly bought me a ticket for Hamilton! and then being filled with delight all over again.

Not only could I not consider that kind of purchase myself right now, I couldn't face the pre-sale process that was happening today (or, frankly, the regular selling process that happens in a couple of weeks) so I didn't expect to see Hamilton until, well, the touring production gets here?

And now I get to go with other excited people, for someone's birthday (when this is better than anything I've gotten to do for any of my own birthdays!), and it's going to be awesome.

Its also going to be next year, so I have a long time to wind Andrew up about how excited I am. He finds Hamilton viscerally unpleasant to listen to, so after years of me having to listen to his music in the excited lead-up to him going to a gig, the boring details of the gig when he comes back from it, and probably some more of the music then for good measure, I may finally have my revenge.


Nov. 10th, 2016 03:03 pm
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Em J has booked and paid for my place as well as hers on a WI camping trip next summer. She'd previously asked me if I was interested because she got a new tent as a birthday present this summer and it's big enough for more than just her. We'd talked about it in the way that you do with things that aren't until next July a few weeks ago, but it'd slipped my mind.

And now she, who's on benefits and has to juggle money so carefully, has found a way to get me a nice thing. "I wanted something nice to come out of today for you," she told me in a message she sent last night.
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I woke up because I was sure I felt the tiny but distinctive pressure of the dog jumping onto, and then moving around on, the bed.

I hadn't done any such thing, of course. We're keeping the dog downstairs again.

But so convincing was the notion, and so relieved was I to have been woken up (from horrible nightmares, for the second night in a row...), that I couldn't resist moving my foot slightly, to where I was sure I'd felt the dog.

Of course there was nothing there. But of course I still felt comforted by the little wonder dog just then, anyway.
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For my birthday present this year, [personal profile] magister bought my ticket to Haunted Studies: The Ghost Stories of M.R. James. We'd been along to the tail end of this last year, when [personal profile] sir_guinglain was interviewing Lawrence Gordon Clark before the showing of one of the things he directed, A Warning to the Curious. We had free wine and it was the first time I'd seen any of those "ghost stories for Christmas" kinds of things (heretical foreigner that I am; I got the box set last Christmas/birthday, though, so I shall catch up eventually and be ever-closer to a proper person, don't worry British friends), so I had a great night.

The venue added a lot to it, too: the conference was held at The Leeds Library...not a public library, a subscription library. It's small and picturesque, a great atmosphere for the kinds of people who go to M.R. James conferences -- be they academics like [personal profile] sir_guinglain and [livejournal.com profile] strange_complex or not, like [personal profile] magister and me. The four of us went along this year, and had a great time.

The four of us all went along to the whole day conference this time, and really enjoyed it. First we heard from the chief exec of the Leeds Library, an unassuming guy who told us about the history of the place -- longest-surviving subscription library in the country, able to be so because it built itself above a couple of shops that it also built, from which it gets some income. As wonderful a thing as it was, I'm glad he didn't seem at all precious about it. "You won't find a white glove in the place," he said, and the books were clearly there to be used. I hate it when you see books on shelves behind glass or otherwise reduced to a decoration, a status symbol, or a way for some kinds of rooms to tell you what they are; it makes me sad to see the books denied their useful purpose. That was certainly not the case here; we even had drinks and lunch (sandwiches and fruit were catered for everyone) in admist all the books. And readers! The library was open its usual hours (just with signs saying the New Room was being used by the conference); people were reading newspapers and chatting and taking books out as we meandered about on our breaks and lunch. By the morning break, I think, [personal profile] magister was already talking about wanting to present a paper next year, and he had a couple of great ideas for one. Conversations about which, and the kind of company and environment I was in, woke up long-dormant English-major parts of my brain and made me probably over-enthusiastically offer to help.

[livejournal.com profile] strange_complex seemed to know most of the people there, through the Dracula Society she belongs to, or I guess just living in Leeds and being the kind of person who'd like a conference about M.R. James...either way there were always friendly people to be introduced to and chat to during the breaks as well. There was also Art to look at, in the form of a work-in-progress Haunted Dollhouse (from the James story of the same name, natch) that lit up and everything, and a M.R. James-themed top-trumps card game called Monsters & Miscreants, which is even more beautiful in real life than the (somewhat-unfortunately-rendered, for me at least) website makes it look. I ended up buying a copy for [personal profile] magister (having to leave my cup of tea in a rush at the afternoon break, having heard that the guy'd almost sold out all that he'd brought with him), and the four of us ended up playing it in the pub (where I couldn't resist a pint of the Ghost ale due to the force of nominative rectitude, and very tasty it was too!)that evening before we had to catch a train back home.

It was a fun game, and it's really beautiful as well. We ended up missing our first train so had time for another pint and a lot more laughing and me shouting things like "Guardian of the Treasure!" which I'm sure made everyone in Foleys think we're even weirder than we are.

My favorite speaker of the day was Jacqueline Simpson, who talked about folklore. She started out by saying that people always expect folklore to be some grand dame telling stories to a collection of children sitting on the floor in her little cottage -- that the best stories are always thought to be two generations in the past, to have happened to our grandparents -- and ended up making me and at least one other person I chatted to think that she should be that grand dame and we wanted to hear her stories. She's also the person who co-wrote The Folklore of Discworld, which I'd read part of a few years ago, the person about whom the story that'd stuck in my mind, from the book's prologue about how Terry met her when he was going through a time of asking everybody in book-signing queues how many rhymes about magpies they knew, got a pause from her and an answer I can't remember but somewhere in the high teens. She was very interesting on the subject of how James's stories fit or differed from Danish folklore, particularly -- the padlocks in "Count Magnus" and the post in "The Rose Garden" are the ones I particularly remember (I meant to write this up much sooner, before I'd forgotten quite so much, but life has not been friendly to me lately).

My favorite part of the day was watching [personal profile] magister wander around the books in the library during all the breaks, eventually inquiring how much membership cost and how it worked. It ended up being one of those things where you can pay an instalment each month....except for the first year, which they want all of up front. I well recognized the kind of problem this left him with -- basically another kind of Vimes's Economic Law of Boots: he could pay the monthly fee easily, but couldn't pay enough to get to the monthly payments in the first place. After I checked the logistics with Andrew, though, I was glad to be able to tell him we could help him out, and that he could pay us back one month at a time. So by the wine reception at the end of this year's conference (there was no director to interview or film to watch this time; there was some kind of video art installation but basically the evening finished a lot earlier this year than it had last), he was disappearing among the books with a much more note-taking air about him, clearly piling things up in his memory to be taken out, and with many hugs and thank-yous to me for helping make this possible.

It was more than worth it to see the look on his face -- plus he's brought me along as a guest twice already now. That I live an impractical distance from Leeds is the only reason I didn't keep the membership for myself; I am in love with that place almost as much as he is I swear. Both times I've been with him to look around, I've eventually had to stop and sit and wait for him because I feel buried under the sheer weight of books I really really want to read there!

Of course I know there are other libraries available -- one at the end of my road now, for which I've even managed to get a library card (not having had one of those since I frequented Withington Library, according to the details on the computer system), but that library's not as big, not as well-loved, and not even as staffed: as with so many things, there's starting to be a big difference when you go private! Which might be there's something of a resurgance in subscription libraries (there is a lovely picture of the room we had the conference in from Leeds Library in that article).

The whole thing had got me thinking there must be a subscription library closer than Leeds...and I should've known having seen the sign for it often enough when I'm in one of my very favorite pubs in the city centre, but it's The Portico Library, which also has public areas like a gallery and a café. I've often thought I should check it out but I haven't yet.

Anyway, [personal profile] magister was showing everyone his M.R. James Top Trumps the next day, he's taken at least his own weight in books out of the library in his many trips there so far, I've not only sped through The Folklore of Discworld (liking it all the more now that I'm able to imagine bits in both authors' voices) but I'm reading other stuff thanks to [twitter.com profile] FolkloreThurs and everything it links to... I think it's fair to say this day left a pretty big impression on us. I'm really glad we got to go.
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I'm writing a book about being an immigrant!

People have already offered me money! Which is hugely flattering and exciting. And lots more people are sharing the link, which is no less flattering and exciting (and slightly less intimidating, really!). Please have a look, and consider helping me out -- spreading the word helps as much as giving me money does! I'm not going to get rich from this, I just want immigrants to be listened to instead of just being talked about like we're not in the room.
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Text from friend:
I meant to send you a "break a leg" type message this morning, but what's suitable for a radio interview?! Twist an aerial? Pop a transistor? 😜
Perhaps it's "get a phone call from the producer frantically asking where you are when you're actually where you should be but not audible to anyone else," because that's what happened to me.

That glitch out of the way, though, it all went smoothly and now I've officially been recorded for a Woman's Hour feature on bisexuality that will be aired...sometime. Possibly December 29th (which was sort of disappointing news for me because I'm out of the country then -- not that I'm an avid Woman's Hour listener anyway but, all the more reason it'd be weird to have to iPlayer it!).

I got to go to the posh BBC studios at MediaCity. I got a little booth to myself, a black pod in the corner of the big glass-walled reception area, an unexpected but efficient set-up: I was ignored by everyone in the building after the receptionist showed me to my little soundproofed cupboard and failed to explain anything other than that the mic was live (which, as I just said, it kind of actually wasn't, even though the little iPad-like screen said it was), and when I was done the mic went dead and I slipped out the door back into the weird world of MediaCity with its identical-looking buldings, wide paths and expanses of concrete to cross, and generally disorienting architecture.

I got a lift home, and nice as it was to see a friendly face, this place is clearly designed to discourage car use because it's very easy to find the tram stop and very hard to find anywhere cars can go (and apparently the parking is exorbitant), but I didn't get too lost trying to get back to the same place I'd been dropped off ("all these buildings look the same!" I said when I got back in the car, resisting the temptation to add "...Doctor" in a whiny Nicola Bryant voice).

It was sort of like a Skype conversation, with better headphones and audio quality (impressive really that they've idiot-proofed it sufficiently to leave randoms off the street to do this on their own). The presenter introduced her three bisexuals to each other by first name, and told me (last to enter the conversation) "I'm Jane Garvey," which momentarily baffled me because of course I know her voice very well. But this time when I said things back to her I wasn't standing in my kitchen making tea; she could hear me! And said things back! And was lovely!

At the end of the conversation, the bisexual she had with her there in the London studio asked me if I was anything to do with Biphoria, because she'd "heard there was a Holly up north," and I was utterly delighted at the sound of this, and laughed as I told her I am indeed that Holly.

I really enjoyed it, even though I'm convinced I sounded like an idiot and got everything wrong. That's how I leave most conversations though, really. I'm never nervous while these things are going on, but afterwards lose all my confidence. I suppose it's still better than suffering at the time, though. It was really fun at the time, though: I remember thinking I'd do this kind of thing every day if I could.
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...because not everybody's placements have been worked out, but I have been told that I've got the one I really wanted, helping on a new exhibition and running a tour suitable for visually impaired people.

Not, as [personal profile] haggis has been saying, because I'm the most enthusiastic, but just because people seemed to have different enough interests that there's only one clash in our whole group, so most people can do the volunteering they most want, which is nice.

I am really pleased; I did end up picking Ordsall Hall as my second place (no one's going there! I feel a bit bad for Ordsall Hall and am wondering if I can volunteer there anyway), and it would have been great too I'm sure, but I had my heart set on this and I'm already looking forward to it in a way I wouldn't be able to if it were anything else.
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All year I've been trying to sort out the registered-blind stuff, and find myself some kind of job or decent volunteering thing, and this week both of those seem to be sorted all of a sudden. It feels weird to not have these things to stress about or feel guilty about not doing. But it's a kind of weird I could definitely get used to.
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"Oh, stop ogling," James teased Jennie. Someone she's been known to admire had just walked away, in the direction back over my shoulder.

"What?" she said indignantly. "I wasn't admiring his bum, I was admiring Holly's tits!"

I do appreciate the honesty of my autistic friends.

That he apparently had no objection to.
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New Horizons is about to wake up!

New Horizons is a NASA mission to Pluto, its moons and even some other Kuiper Belt Objects in the neighborhood that are conveniently located (the Kuiper Belt is a bit like the asteroid belt, out where Pluto is).

As with Cassini, I feel such a strange sense of the time passing: I remember when both were launched thinking about how frustratingly, impossibly futuristic the dates of their eventual arrival seemed to me. Excited about Cassini in 1997, I had no idea what 2004 would be like. New Horizons launched two days before I got married; I think it's safe to say that that feels like a very long time ago!

So much has changed that Pluto was still a planet when New Horizons took off.

Of course, there's no less reason to go there now than there would've been before: I've always been happy with Pluto being a dwarf planet, but I'm still thrilled at this aptly-named mission: even Hubble, which can take beautiful intricate pictures of nebulae and galaxies and suchlike that are billions of light years away, still can only show us pictures of Pluto that are so pixilated it looks like a disco ball.

I'm still learning a lot about New Horizons, like that Pluto's satellites that've been discovered since its launch were given the names Nix and Hydra because they have the same initials as the mission. Also, it'd never really occurred to me that sending this spacecraft as quickly as possible towards Pluto so it'd get there before everybody working on it retired also meant that it would zoom past Pluto pretty quickly! New Horizons is traveling so fast that the actual close-approach part of the encounter happens in an incredibly short period; nearly all of the most important goals for the mission are met in the time from 2.5 hours before to 1 hour after closest approach.

Three and a half hours. After nine years of getting there. Of course, other observations will be going on for many months, but I still think it's incredible that any group of humans can so focus their energy and attention that everything needed to make this happen could be brought together with sufficient precision to make such a thing worthwhile. Like ESA landing a probe on a comet a few weeks ago. It's good for us, every now and then, to remember the far-reaching, forward-thinking organization and detail and ambition we humans are capable of bringing to something that for once doesn't kill or hurt or even make more miserable our fellow humans.


Nov. 3rd, 2014 03:09 pm
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When the plumber asked if he could see the boiler (this was before he wanted to see the gas meter and after he wanted me to turn the heating on), I pointed him at the bathroom. He opened the cupboard and said, "I've worked here before! I recognize the boiler."

I thought that was adorable.

[livejournal.com profile] haggis has earned undying gratitude for sorting out this plumber: she knew he was good and e-mailed him detailing the problem and asking him to get in touch with me. It all went smoothly and as soon as the carpet dries out we'll have a normal house again. (Until the next thing!)

Also today I've finally cut and measured a shelf to fit (and it's still not perfect, but I'm so done with that piece of wood now!), which meant I could empty another box of books, and I lugged a few more upstairs to a vaguely more useful place for them to be than clogging up the living room. And I'm still working on sawing huge bits of wood into useful shelves. And I did a Mount Dishmore of washing-up. And put away laundry.

All this on a day when I was supposed to be taking it easy because I was so sick last night. But the bug seems to have receded, and it's really boring sitting around waiting to get better. At least this way I feel better about the house.
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I've had a rough day. Month. Year.

But that makes the good things all the more precious to me.

And here's one I don't want to lose track of: [personal profile] kaberett is doing a cool thing: introducing any of their friends who ask, in comments, so the rest of us can read about all the cool people they know, maybe make some new friends.

I've enjoyed reading all of the introductions so far (to the extent that I wish I could offer it to my own friends, but I just can't trust myself to have the energy and brainpower to commit to things right now), heartily agreeing with the few that are about people I already know, being intrigued by others I might like to know as is the intention of this thing, but also just delighting in all the positivity, all the good people that there are, all the happiness and support we bring to each others' lives.

But of course, the one about me is best. I shall reproduce it here:
OH WOW I AM SO ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT THIS INDIVIDUAL. We acquired one another via [personal profile] nanila (introduced above), and I am so so glad we did. They're so many flavours of fantastic - they're ex-pat USois living in the UK, and they turn anecdotes about their day into slivers of joy, full of love & wry compassion and beautiful witty observations and geekiness. They are open & generous & heartfelt about things that are hard, they are an extraordinarily good correspondent (after whom I am attempting to model myself, in terms of managing to say "thank you, this is very helpful to me" even if I can't find any other words!), and additionally and furthermore they talk excellently about books, and I am always in the market for more recs.
Oddly I find that "thank you for this even though I have no other words" easiest with [personal profile] kaberett; I don't know why. And I don't write nearly as much about books as I think I should, so I'm bemused as well as glad that this is something associated with me.

But never mind that. I trust you'll excuse me while I go bask in affection and self-esteem.
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My chili is apparently good enough that tonight I've had my second "if you needed to marry somebody so you could stay in the country, I'd marry you" offer, which made me smile.

I am of course happily married and don't need to be married to stay here any more (or indeed to make chili for someone!), but that's hardly the point.
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I don't care if it's only 9:30; I'm off to bed with my new cuddly toy.

(You can tell it's Mercury because it's got silver wings on the back of its red tennies.)
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I thought nothing could stop me being grumpy at the state I found the kitchen in when I got home this afternoon, but the news that [personal profile] miss_s_b wanted to take me to a test match did.
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On the bus home from a day doing boring, shitty things in town, it warmed my little heart to see him say this:
I would normally be very, very glad that there's a torrential downpour now that's finally cutting some of the oppressive humidity that's been making me ill for much of the last week or so.
However, Holly is outdoors, and in a light summery dress, so I am instead feeling sorry for her.
(A lot of people might be surprised to see an autistic person showing empathy, but I'm not because I know they're perfectly capable of it; I was surprised he'd noticed what I was wearing today and remembered it several hours after he'd last seen me. I'm not even sure I knew he could do that!)

So I told him how touched I was, because I know what it is for him to be anything other than rapturous when rain cuts the summer humidity.

And our friends apparently went "aw!" seeing us like this. I noted that it did make a nice change from us being so aggressive toward each other that people worry we're about to divorce, which led to the best comment at all: "Not gonna lie, I saw this status and my first assumption was that you were either having a bad patch, or Andrew had been replaced by a Manhunter robot."
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"And then there was...that guy..." [livejournal.com profile] haggis said, snapping her fingers to indicate it was on the tip of her tongue. We were watching a BBC documentary about chemistry.

"Lavoisier?" I said.

"Yes!" she said.

We chattered on about the topic under discussion on the TV -- Joseph Priestley (I'm so glad [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours said he confuses him with J.B. Priestley, too, because I always worry it's just me who does that...) and his "dephlogisticated air" -- for a few seconds.

Until Jim Al-Khalili said, "...Antoine Lavoisier..." on the TV, and [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours said "Yeah, Lavoisier, you guys just said that. You keep saying everything they say, like ten seconds before they do."

I thought that was a very nice compliment.

(Especially after I'd forgotten a few of the stages in how increasingly-heavier elements are made at the cores of stars, thanks to [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours telling me about this awesome version of the 2048 game. Gordy, my college astronomy teacher, would've been most disappointed in me for forgetting about deuterium, and the different isotopes of beryllium.)
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The takeaway Andrew ordered tonight came with onion rings, which he doesn't like, so I ate them.

But I fear all onion rings will be disappointing after the ones I had with my lunch on Thursday in that pub [personal profile] magister took me to in Leeds.

They were made from possibly the biggest onions I'd ever seen ("If Jennie were here, she'd say that's because they were Yorkshire onions," he said), the batter was perfectly crispy and tasty, and they were mere seconds out of the fryer. James said I'd clearly made the right choice in those onion rings (he'd gotten chips) and I told him to have a couple because even though there were only about six onion rings they were more than I could eat. Some of them were as big as my hand!


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