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The prompt for this month's writing group was "New Year's Unresolutions, or Irresolutions if you prefer. Perhaps it's things you're going to let go off, or stop giving a monkey's about, perhaps it's things that you've no intention of giving up, even though you probably should, or the things you want to celebrate. Anything that isn't a New Year's resolution, or maybe kind of is."

It was such a great idea that I wish I'd been able to do something better with it than say I'm not going to lose weight and I'm not going to KonMari my house, haha.

We talked quite a lot about both things, about the desire for control but also about the judgment and shame and moral values that are put on the state of our houses and our bodies (espeically as women; this isn't a WI group any more but it's still "women writers").

Of course with the Netflix show, talk of KonMari is everywhere and I'd found it incredibly stress-inducing since one of my friends talked about it a lot last year (right before she moved on to talking about weight loss, actually...). It was such a relief to see this come up in the "Unfuck Your Habitat" facebook group I'm on, where while some people were saying aspects of it had worked for them, a lot of people were saying it set off their anxiety, it wasn't for them because they were too poor, too disabled, too neurodivergent. Here I was thinking it was just me, with my weird combination of feelings about all I abandoned when I immigrated here, about living with someone who finds tidying stressful and pruning the bookshelves not just impossible but undesireable...but it's not just me.

But as with everything popular, there is a backlash. The one against Marie Kondo seems to have focused on her advice not to own many books. This one-size-fits-all type of proclamation is a big indicator that she's not talking to people like me, and I'd leave it at that, but people have been absolutely vicious about this and I've seen several memes and "jokes" already and heard of more. Inevitably, these reactions have been racist and sexist to varying degrees, in a way I'm grateful to my Japanese-American friend for calling to our attention.

And even on its own terms, the demonstrative love of books has crossed a threshold into a kind of fetishization, as if books are inherently sacred objects. I heard it called "owning books is a replacement for a personality" on Twitter and that sounds exactly right to me. One of the images-with-words-on I saw on Facebook said "It doesn't count as hoarding if it's books" which I think is terribly disrespectful and far too flippant way to talk about something as serious as hoarding, which is already surrounded in so much shame.

So anyway, I got home from writing group and the first thing Andrew said when I walked in the door was that Book Twitter had so annoyed him about exactly this subject that he'd done something I spent years trying to get him to do and always failing: he piled up some books to get rid of. They're mostly duplicates, and books he realized are really racist so he doesn't want them any more, he said. But it's something! There's a couple dozen books piled up on a chair now, and he did it without me even mentioning it.

He did it, in fact, because he thought Book Twitter had been so racist and obnoxious toward Marie Kondo that even though he knows nothing else about her or her tidying-up system or anything, he did the opposite of what they say just to spite them.

It's an unorthodox motivation to declutter, but I'll take it!
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tl;dr: Andrew has started a podcast! You might like it if you like music! If to support it on Patreon, you'll be helping us out a lot because we had a big drop in household income a few months ago!

That Patreon support would also get you access to short stories he hasn't printed publicly, all the many books he's read -- fiction and non, everything from music writing and science fiction to murder mysteries and historical thrillers -- and any new ones he writes. But he's pouring a lot of time and effort into this podcast now and people seem to like it, so I thought some of you might be interested in that too.

Under the cut, I'm going to quote a long section of a recent blog post where Andrew talks about the motivation to do this project; I think it's moving and interesting even if you don't think you care about any history of rock music. 'There is a wealth of music out there, important, wonderful music that has enriched my life, but it’s inaccessible to many people my age or younger. Without the cultural context, it sounds like a joke. And that’s something that’s going to carry on happening. )

You don't have to give him money to hear the podcast of course; feel free to give it a try and see what you think. It really is a labor of love for him and while it'd be nice if it paid some bills too, the love is clearly already there.
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Andrew says he's aging in dog years so he's nearly six. Sounds about right.

But to his fellow humans, he's forty today! Happy birthday, love.

foot/strut*

May. 3rd, 2018 07:32 pm
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When Andrew and I first got married we had an argument one day where I said "room" and Andrew thought I was saying "rum" and it turned into a comedy of errors because whatever I did he thought they were the same word and I couldn't understand why.

Now I know! Northern English dialects have a feature called a vowel merger. Words that have different vowel sounds in other dialects sound the same, that's what the merger means. For another example of a famous vowel merger, a lot of Americans (including me) will say "cot" and "caught" the same, and most British people say those differently.

So I've learned in the last few weeks, and hadn't gotten around to telling him until now, that this room/rum thing will be a result of the FOOT/STRUT* merger that you get in Manchester.

This has of course rekindled the argument because he still thinks I'm saying "rum" and "room" the same, and he's just tried showing me that "foot" and "strut" have the same sound which is weird because for me they totally do not.

"This is why Londoners write Mancunians as saying 'fook,' " he said, which is a thing I know he hates. I suppose it's like Canadians and "aboot," they know that spelling is not a fair representation.

The whole thing, with the raised voices and the vehemence and all, was enough to make Gary run over and see if we were okay, try to defuse things. He doesn't like it when the humans are upset and he can't distinguish upset-agitated from, like, we're-playing-Scrabble agitated. Or, it turns out, phonetic-variation agitated.

* (Technically these should be small caps but I don't know how to encode that.)
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The dog jumped up onto Andrew's lap and Andrew said "I do wonder what Gary thinks of me," for the millionth time, as he's always curious about the internal state of dogs. "Am I just a useful cushion, or am I his friend or what?"

He might have said some more but I was laughing too much at "useful cushion." Bless him and his endless insecurity.
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Andrew has written a book!
The cover of Andrew's new book: it says "The Basilisk Murders" and "Andrew Hickey" in what looks like handwriting on a white background. In the middle there's a picture of a glass of water, with a goldfish surreally inside it.

The Basilisk Murders is now out in hardback from Lulu, and in paperback and ebook from Amazon (UK ebook), (UK paperback), (US ebook), (US paperback). Those of you with Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library can read it for free — and if you don’t have those, you can sign up for a thirty-day free trial for Kindle Unlimited and read it for free anyway.

I really love this book, it's an Agatha Christie murder mystery only the island belongs to a libertarian and the people who are getting murdered are from the worst corners of the internet. And our heroine is a bi poly woman who's clever, sarcastic and very funny.

I think a lot of my friends would like it. I certainly did, and it seems to be getting a good reaction from a few people who've bought it so far.

Here's the blurb from the back of the book: )

Destroyer

May. 22nd, 2017 09:38 am
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Andrew wrote a book! Set during the second world war, it's a novel about Alan Turing, Aleister Crowley, Ian Fleming and Dennis Wheatley who combine math, magic and espionage in what ends up sounding like one of Wheatley's novels.

This sounds like the last kind of thing I would read normally, but I really enjoyed it! (And I'm not just saying that because sales will help pay our bills!)
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Both the questions I've been asked so far -- How did you get in to being poly? and When did you decide to move to Uk? -- have the same (short-version) answer:

In general? LiveJournal. And specifically? Andrew.

Long version got long! So here's the poly bit. )

And here's the getting to the UK bit. )
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"Hang on a second," I said, starting up the stairs just when Andrew was nearly ready to go out. "I need to get some different shoes."

Trying to catch possible comments before they might happen, I said "I know you only have one pair of shoes because you have one pair of feet, but I can't do that."

"I know you do!" he said, rightly a little defensive at my pre-emptive unfairness. "I don't get it but I don't get a lot of things."

"And do you know why I can't have only one pair of shoes like you do?" I called down from the bedroom where I was buckling pointless but cute little buckles on my sandals.

There was a long pause.

I'd taught Andrew that women have to choose between comfort/suitability and acceptable appearance a lot more in our clothing than men do. I've never had one of those jobs where they mandated high heels, but I've certainly had criticisms for insufficiently-"professional" footwear even at temo jobs (where I couldn't afford new shoes!). Andrew's black brogues from Clarks are the overlap in the circles of functionality and approbation but for women in almost all of society, these two circles of the Venn diagram don't meet.

The pause got almost long enough that I was going to give the answer when two words floated up the stairs: "The patriarchy?"

"Yep!" I said, slapping my knees for dramatic effect as I stood up, feet newly sandaled and ready to take on the world. He got it exactly right; I'm so proud.
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I have a stock answer for anybody who finds out I'm American and asks (out of politeness or incredulity, it ends up the same) what brought me here.

"My husband's British," I say. "And he thinks Manchester is the best place in the world."

1:49 this morning is the first time he told me he was sorry for bringing me here. "I thought when I married you I'd be taking you to a country where you'd be safe."

It broke my heart.

He hasn't stopped apologizing since. And my heart hasn't stopped breaking, for all kinds of reasons but this chief among them.

I love the UK. I love living here. I love being an immigrant, for all its miseries and horrors. I am surprised to find what an integral part of my identity this has become.

But of course, most of all I love him. I love the lives we've worked so hard to build together.

That anything, or anyone, could make him, the naturalized Mancunian who resists all my complaints about the weather and about how nice Yorkshire would be, could make him apologize, is almost as bewildering as it is enraging for me. He's 100% convinced he's brought me to a fascist country, where I'll be less safe as an immigrant, as a disabled person.

Considering, of course, how bad the country I'm from is on such things, I think at first he's exaggerating; my heart doesn't just break but feels like it'll shatter when I understand that he is not.

Goddamn anyone who makes him feel like a failure for marrying me and working so unbelievably hard at keeping us fed and housed and as happy as possible. I couldn't ask for anyone more committed to my happiness than he is -- not my parents, certainly not me! -- and goddam anything that makes him doubt or question or regret that.

Sound facts

Mar. 4th, 2016 12:50 pm
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I just found this as a note on my phone, saved several months ago. No idea why I wrote it. Figured I'd share it.

Andrew's just answered the phone and said "hello?"

Pause.

"HELLO?

"WHAT WAS THAT?

"Does sound have a weight? No."‎

‎I think that might be an even better phone call from his dad than the time he rang to ask Andrew who the singer is that wasn't Roy Orbison.
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The hard sculpted plastic of the facemask bumped into my left shoulder. Then a jet of cool air shot directly into my left ear as Andrew moved slightly shifted position, to give me a squeeze before he turned to face away from me.

Ah, love in the time of CPAP machines!

A friend once described sleeping next to a partner who used one as "Darth Vader in an arctic desert," which does pretty accurately convey the feel and sound of this multimedia experience.

But...somehow, in a nice way. Really! I'm not complaining. Maybe because we both sleep so much better since his sleep apnea has been diagnosed and treated. And at times like this it does liven up a (otherwise really terribly dull and frustrating!) bout of insomnia!

Ten years

Jan. 22nd, 2016 08:40 am
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Here's what Andrew posted yesterday.

Ten years ago today, give or take a time zone or six, I got married. (Coincidentally, so did Holly.)

I’m not very good at talking about my feelings, so I won’t talk about how much I love her, or how lucky I am, or any of that. And the wedding day itself is not one we particularly look back on with any great pleasure — it was less than two months after Holly’s brother died, and she was moving to another continent away from her family, which among many other things made the dynamics of the whole “not losing a daughter but gaining a son” thing rather different, and not in a good way.

But our wedding *was* the occasion of the one actual romantic gesture I’ve ever made, so I can at least mention that.

Holly and I both enjoy the work of the songwriter Stew. I’m a bigger fan, but we both knew and loved albums like Guest Host and The Naked Dutch Painter. These days Stew is a Tony Award-winning writer of musicals, but back then he and his band The Negro Problem didn’t have even the small level of celebrity he does now.

And because of that lack of celebrity, Stew offered an occasional service where he would write and record songs on commission. So — with the financial help of several friends who helped me pay for it as their wedding gift to us — I managed to scrape together enough money to pay for a song about Holly, for our wedding. (This was a major effort. At the time I was working three jobs just to pay off enough debts to get into a position where I could meet the financial requirements for her getting a spouse visa).

Here it is. https://olsenbloom.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/nows-eternity.mp3

To help make sense of some of the less obvious bits of lyric, my wife’s name is Holly, she comes from Minnesota (“the land of ten thousand lakes”), we’d met over the Internet originally (this was back when that was a relatively rare thing), and she was moving from the US to the UK.

I still think it’s a truly great song, and I’m pretty sure I’d think that even if it wasn’t about a truly great person.
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Now that he's endured the Christmases, Andrew's safely ensconced with his laptop at the desk in my bedroom, which I just next to a window. Here are his observations so far:

It's all white! The ground is white and the sky is white. That's all wrong.

There's a bird out there that keeps eating from the feeder and then looking in the window at us like "What? What is that?" and then going back to eating.

That is a fat squirrel. It has a huge bottom. It's shaped like a pear!
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"I'm sorry," I told Andrew after he'd endured a day of pain and feigned neurotypicality for me.

"You didn't invent axial tilt, or the Abrahamic religions, or the capitalist system that gives us only a few days off a year," he reassured me.
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Me: "No, Tories who want to leave the EU, you can't follow me on Twitter."

Andrew: "Just tell them you leave the EU every Christmas and every summer; it's always a good thing to come back!"
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"Southerners don't even think 'good' rhymes with 'blood'!" Andrew announced, no doubt something he learns from the internet he's glued to every waking moment. I've been busy tidying so if there's a context for this I don't know what it is.

When my brain finally gets around to processing this I say, "...They don’t!"

To which of course the only reply is to shout both words, because volume and repetition will solve everything. 

Then a terrible realization dawned on me. "Oh, God, this is gonna be like how you think I'm saying the same ‎thing when I say 'rum' and 'room,' isn't it?" That one went on for ages, and it was such a long time ago -- maybe even before we were married? -- that I hoped we were done with it...

..."for good," I was gonna say, but no. Turns out it's still "for blood"! Ha.

The shape of my mouth is different and everything, I now notice, when I say these words. It wouldn't be the first time my dialect aligns me with the south of England (I prpnounce "scone" so it rhymes with "phone" too). 

I hear a distinction between these two words that he doesn't, and that's fine. Because some people's linguistic capabilities really do develop in such a way that they retain or lose certain sounds; most remain separate but a few that don't get used enough to be worthwhile can get elided together. "Cot" and "caught" sound the same to some English speakers and different to others.‎ There are many and varied examples of this phenomenon of people who hear and speak a variety of languages.

But then there are also people who insist that their way is Right and all others are Wrong and Inferior. 

It's much easier to be one of those, I think, if you basically have always lived in the same place. ‎

"Good! Blood!" Andrew said again.‎ "Goodbloodgoodbloodgoodblood..."‎ ad infinitum until it was time for me to leave the house. Which, thankfully, was only a few minutes later!
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Andrew's learning to touch type.

He doesn't like C. C, he thinks, should be handled by the F finger, not the D finger. (He's okay with D doing E, though. And X.) But he thinks the F finger gets in the way of D moving to C.

"F already has like six letters to do!" I said. "It doesn't need any more work!"

"It's only doing F and R so far," he said.

Aw. Having learned this when I was nine, I had forgotten what it's like for each letter to be its own little challenge, its own individual victory.
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"I must be doing worse than I thought," Andrew said as we were on our way out of the cinema after seeing Mr. Holmes. "I actually started tearing up at the end of that!"

I smiled. "That is not a sign of any problem."

It's a marvelous film, emotionally powerful but no overwhelming, as my anxiety leads me to find so many stories these days. Ian McKellen's performance is so tremendous I think I might have to add him to my usual list of favorite Holmeses -- Merrison and Brett. I never expected that duo to become a trio.
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One of Andrew's tweets from this afternoon says
Improvised a standing desk by putting a chair on the dining room table and putting laptop on that. Using books as keyboard rest
Place your bets on exactly how much damage to property and possessions I can look forward to when I get home this evening!

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