Ow

Oct. 23rd, 2018 10:51 am
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I have a pinched nerve, or as Brits call it a trapped nerve, in my back. I get these occasionally and I thought a day of ibuprofen and feeling sorry for myself would be all it needed. But it appeared on Friday and it hasn't gotten any better. Today, it's gotten worse: it hurts more and all the time. It's impeding my activities. It's making me tired and despairing.

Having any kind of pain always reminds me how much I admire my friends who live with chronic pain, who are always taking industrial-grade painkillers that still don't always bring relief. And yet they remain my lovely, kind, thoughtful, funny, clever friends.

I know that my experience compares to theirs much the way that giving politicians or bus drivers glasses that simulate visual impairment and then making them try to get around: it makes them frightened and wary, it provokes pity rather than empathy. And I don't want to do that. Just as I've developed coping skills and strategies so that my day-to-day life is not the shock and despair that it is to people wearing blindfolds for a thought experiment, my chronically ill friends have skills and strategies I barely understand or recognize.

But I think I do recognize how much energy and expertise goes into their daily life and I think it's good to be reminded of that sometimes.

Word salad

Aug. 16th, 2018 02:59 am
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Just read on the local Facebook group: "We're back this Sunday to celebrate Pride. Come rave with us in an inflatable igloo from midday!"

And honestly the only part of that sentence I'm finding surprising is that someone's having a rave at midday.

Kennings

Jul. 12th, 2018 07:17 am
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Seeing this link to a tweet made me happy and filled me with chagrin for the same reason: because I had forgotten the word kenning.

Happy because I'd been trying to think of this word the other day and couldn't; chagrin because like the tweeter I love kennings. I learned about them in the Anglo-Saxon poetic tradition, which loves alliteration and riddles, and kennings are little phrases that are almost like tiny riddles, and often alliterative with surrounding words in the poem. Like calling the sea the "whale-way" or a body a "bone-house."

I think the love for these extends into modern anglophone culture to the extent that we love compound words like this (and we often attribute their existence or our desire for them to "there must be a German word for this" when of course Old English is way more similar to German than present-day English is).

And as the tweet alludes to, there's a fashion for calling snakes "danger noodles" and so on (the example of this that most sticks in my mind is a goth teenager renaming household objects: "Those aren’t Band-Aids, they’re SKIN LIES." "It’s not a freezer, it’s a DINNER SARCOPHAGUS").

Anyway I was trying to think of the word kenning the other day because I wanted to tell you all I'd thought of one. I was doing laundry and I dropped one of those detergent pod things on the floor. I looked at it there and thought oh I dropped a... and even to myself I didn't know what to call it.

My brain finished the thought with ...soap pillow.

I kinda like that. Soap pillow!

Fresher

Sep. 28th, 2017 11:23 am
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Today I'm thinking about how weirdly well I fit in with the "freshers." No one seems particularly interested that I'm American because they're from all over the world too. So I get no follow-up inappropriate small-talk questions I am sick of answering about why I'm here or how long I have been, or whatever.

They're all confused about everything too so I'm not the only one who can't find the room our class is in or isn't sure if "tutorial" and "seminar" are being used interchangeably or not (spoiler: they are).
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
...where I go to bed because I'm cold rather than because I'm sleepy.

And pull the covers over my head and wait for my breath to warm me up.

Angry envy

Aug. 24th, 2017 09:36 pm
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I keep seeing female-presenting people in wide-legged, cropped trousers and envying them so much I am mad at the strangers because I don't have any. They're perfect for me! Why don't I have clothes like that?

Then I remember It's because you haven't been clothes shopping in years, Holly. Because you hate it.

Oh. Yeah. There is that. Not fair. I'll have to tell myself I can justify new clothes soon, before the ones I like go out of style and everything is skintight again.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
My hands are too sweaty for my phone to register the movements of my fingers.

Usually when this happens I rub my phone or my hands on my shirt to dry things off sufficiently to recover usefulness, but this time my shirt is drenched in sweat and so that didn't work either!

Andrew read me out a tweet a while ago that said something like "My friend asked me if he could charge his cigarette and I said no because I was charging my book. The future is weird." The inability to answer my phone when I'm sweaty seems a similar kind of thing, a problem we couldn't explain to any previous generation of human history.

Elyse

Sep. 26th, 2014 02:08 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)

I'm well pleased with myself: today I managed a bike ride I used to do all the time (to Chorlton, mostly along the Fallowfield Loop) more easily than I remember that being, even though it's been years since I did it and I haven't been exercising that much in the past...year, at least.

Of course, part of this is because I have a better bike than I did then (and indeed I was taking it to Stuart's so he could tune it up and now it's better yet) but it's just possible that I'm not as horrendously unfit as I thought. Which is a nice feeling.‎

Edit: Yeah, it's definitely the bike at least as much as me. It was even easier to get back home than it had been to get there. So I can't take all the credit!

Still I cycled something like nine miles today, and (between not having a bike and it being broken and then just being too mental) I imagine I haven't cycled nine miles altogether in the last three or four years. I feel awfully accopmlished.

hm...

Sep. 4th, 2014 11:04 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Pleased that I managed to feel content and relaxed, spending an evening in by myself (Andrew went to sleep as soon as he finished his first day back at work), rather than lonely and miserable as I'd expect.

I've been worrying the past month or so that that I'm using people/going places as an unhealthy avoidant distraction. Admittedly I'm still avoiding a lot of things I should be doing, but it feels like more of an achievement to do so by reading and savoring the silence than by wittering at unsuspecting chums. It takes a lot for me to feel satisfied with my own company.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Well if I'm going to have insomnia, at least I've got a lovely thunderstorm to entertain me.

A friend from Washington (the state) moved to Ohio a little while ago, and started saying things like "omg, Midwestern thunderstorms!" on facebook. Only then did I appreciate how lucky I was to grow up with such weather.

And this is a particularly good one, too, the kind that makes me wish I had company to share it with, someone whose eyes I could catch and smile in mutual recognition of the brightest or loudest bits. Thunderstorms can be seriously destructive and scary but they remind those of us lucky enough to have them to be grateful of sturdy walls around us, and for the company of people to mutter to about our mutual experience.

I saw the first flash of lightning so long before any other signs of weather that I had time to convince myself I'd imagined it before there was another one. After a good long time of increasingly-frequent flashes, a few minutes apart or so, I started to hear thunder in the distance. No rain, so I could savor the gentle, rolling thunder along with the lightning. Tons of lightning, a proper light show. Gradually louder, and some of the peals go on and on, but it's rumbling rather than cracking and there's still no rain so I don't think the storm can be very close. Just once the thunder is so intimidatingly violent and loud overhead that I don't blame anyone who believes in a thunder god. Then finally there is rain, in a short intense burst of white noise so different from the Manchester rain, which I always say sounds like someone throwing gravel at the windows. Now the thunder seems to be quieter again, receding; we must just be catching the edge of the storm here. The lightning is still filling the world with light every few seconds, eerie in its relative silence -- this is not one of the storms where you can count "one Mississippi..." to see how far away it is -- but the sky is brightening too as we get on. towards dawn. A couple of hours now I've been watching and listening to this storm, and (along with one of my favorite radio stations, which plays ambient/electronica music over Apollo-era astronaut and mission-control chatter) it's held my attention better than any movie of similar length.

Now I think it's gone. I find myself holding my breath, listening for more thunder.

Ah, there it is. Not done yet.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
‎Dear bank:
"ISAs are now even NISA" is such a shit slogan that I can't help but hear it in Ollie Reeder's voice.

And even he would have been ignored or scowled at for such a thing.‎
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Man, I haven't worn this dress since last summer, but I'm sure it wasn't this short then!
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I took the post-late-night-mattress-adventure tea cups into the kitchen, surprised to see how crowded the countertop next to the sink was with similar of their kind.

I just did the dishes first thing this morning, and now most of the mugs are dirty again.

I had to smile when I saw them. It's so nice to have company.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
The shower is leaking, one of our bins has gone missing, the washing machine is making a worrying noise...it's like this flat is trying to drive us away.

x

Mar. 15th, 2014 12:14 am
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
My new phone is so affectionate.

Its typing suggestions are much more comprehensive than my old phone's, which I think was old enough to pre-date autocorrect as the necessity it now seems to be.

So whereas before a single character wouldn't cause any attempt to anticipate what I wanted next, now if I end a text message with an "x", it suggests "xx", "xxx" and "xoxo". And even if need angle-brackets for HTML, the phone's only suggestion when I type "<" is "3".
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I keep thinking I'll take a picture, play Bejeweled until my eyes hurt enough that I'll fall asleep (this is the only game I have on my phone, and this is the only reason I have it), listen to music on a walk, read Facebook on the bus, play an audiobook when I can't read, look up a train time, get a phone number I could really use while I'm standing on a train platform, listen to Sherlock Holmes radio plays to keep my insomnia from waking up Andrew, play 6music without getting out of bed, answer that kind of idly-asked question that no one in restaurants or pubs ever lets lie any more thanks to Google and Wikipedia.

But then I can't. I can't do any of those things, because my phone isn't really a phone. It's enhancing all these areas of my life. Or at least, I think it is.

Now of course I could listen to music on mp3 players (and I have found the shitty cheap mp3 player that mostly I only use on planes, because my phone battery won't last that long and I will want it for other things when I'm on the ground). And I could have an actual separate camera (though I haven't since I got my first smartphone, because I don't care about the quality of the pictures so much as being able to take them at times when I haven't planned my life well enough to have the camera with me). I can just leave the idle curiosity alone. I don't need to resolve all questions about the nearest train station to Llangollen or what it is people are going to see at the MEN (or even what the MEN's called now, because we know it's not that but Andrew's still working on not calling it the Ninex so we're not best-placed to answer this question).

Nearly everything smartphones do is not as necessary as Apple and Google and Samsung and whoever else want us to think they are. Almost everything can be done later, slower, differently, or you won't miss it if it isn't done at all.

Or it's actually good for you not to do it.

The tag I use when I'm talking about being depressed or sad has for years been called "turn the wireless up," thanks to reading Alan Moore misquoting Victoria Wood: "In my day, we'd just turn the wireless up and get on with it." (It's an attitude to depression that I'm very familiar with, and even by using it I'm allowing myself to talk about it without having a tag appear in huge letters on the side of my blog saying "depressed, depressive and depressing" (which is what any more direct label would feel like to me.) The outside world, via radio or smartphone, is a distraction from interior anguish.

The meditation class I took earlier this year didn't lead to me practicing meditation on my own, but it did make me think a lot about mindfulness (as I say in the linked entry). I'm still thinking of it in the terms that I was told at the very beginning of the class:

1) Awareness
2) of the present moment
3) non-judgmentally

At the time, I was thinking a lot about judgmentalness, but when I think about phones I'm thinking about of the present moment. Sending my mind away from my body is good and necessary sometimes (how else would I remember anything, or talk to people who aren't where I am? or write, for that matter) but it can be done too much. It can, now, be done all the time. And for an illustration of why that's a bad thing, here's Louis CK.



(First of all, if you don't know that bit he's talking about in "Jungleland," take ten minutes of your life to listen to it. Don't skip to the end, like all those youtube commenters who are just there because of Louis CK. Let the song build up.)

"You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something," he says. "That's what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That's being a person. Because, underneath everything in your life there's that...empty, forever-empty. You know what I'm talking about? That knowledge that it's all for nothing and you're alone. It's down there. And sometimes when things clear away, you start going 'oh no, here it comes, that I'm alone!' Like it starts to visit on you, you know, just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad."

He goes on to talk about experiencing a little moment of ephemeral sadness (at a bit this song, and that video up there is totally worth watching for Conan O'Brien's amazing impression of Springsteen's guttural howls at the end of "Jungleland"), starting to reach for his phone, and thinking "You know what? Don't. Just be sad. Stand in the way of it and let it hit you like a truck." He pulls over and cries, "and it was beautiful. Sadness is poetic. You're lucky to live sad moments. And then I had happy feelings because of it. Because when you let yourself feel sad, your body has, like, antibodies, it has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. So I was grateful to feel sad, and then I met it with true, profound happiness. It was such a trip."

And it is. Even if it takes me like half an hour to write a text message now.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I wrote this on Facebook in response to someone sharing humorous pictures of anguished-looking people accompanying tweets of people complaining about things.

It's nothing new or spectacular in itself, but because I'm kind of grumpy today and because I had a few minutes waiting for someone, I wrote about why I hate "First World Problems." Here's what I said:

I don't take any pleasure from things like #firstworldproblems or White Whine any more (if I ever did; I hate unhappiness and if I read about someone's and add the feeling that I'm unhappy that the thing they're unhappy about is somehow unworthy of their reaction, that's just unhappiness squared).

One problem I have with it as a meme is I've seen so many people -- mostly women -- use this as an excuse to minimize their own problems, to apologize or even denigrate themselves for caring about the things they care about. I remember one who was berating herself for...something like being sad that one of her kids was sick, and called it a first world problem, which is just sad. This is an issue familiar to parent/child dynamics as long as there have been parents and children!

So I think it's a shame not only that we look for excuses not to be bothered about the things that bother us, thereby encouraging guilt and shame, but also that we imagine we white/first world people are the only ones who ever get to have problems with technology, food, the weather, etc.

What crystallized this latter point for me was reading something Teju Cole said:
I don't like this expression "First World problems." It is false and it is condescending. Yes, Nigerians struggle with floods or infant mortality. But these same Nigerians also deal with mundane and seemingly luxurious hassles. Connectivity issues on your BlackBerry, cost of car repair, how to sync your iPad, what brand of noodles to buy: Third World problems. All the silly stuff of life doesn't disappear just because you're black and live in a poorer country. People in the richer nations need a more robust sense of the lives being lived in the darker nations. Here's a First World problem: the inability to see that others are as fully complex and as keen on technology and pleasure as you are.
I'm not saying the people making some of these tweets are great examples of humanity. Many suffer from a deplorable lack of empathy or patience or perspective. But I don't think that state of affairs is going to be improved at all by us anonymizing and laughing at them, while simultaneously having no apparent idea ourselves of how the first world differs -- or doesn't! -- from the rest of the world.

Hollie

Sep. 4th, 2013 06:44 pm
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I can understand belief in gods, the subjectivity of attraction, the apppeal of stuff I don't like. I understand the influence the yogh has had on English orthography and I understand why atonal music makes people feel unsettled. I even understood once, for a whole afternoon, Cantor's Diagonal Proof.

But I cannot understand how often e-mails from me, with my name in the "from" field and my name at the bottom of the e-mail (and, in many cases, my name in the e-mail address itself) elicit replies addressed to "Hollie." Once or twice I could forgive. Even from someone who's known me for years -- because that person regularly called Jennie "Jenny" too. But this is happening a lot. From different people. Who often get it right at first or in between instances of wrongness, so it's not as if they're hopeless causes.

I can't even tell if I really hate the -ie spelling of my name for itself (but I think I do, ugh) or if I just hate the lack of attention it represents.

Bed

Dec. 31st, 2012 01:34 am
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (down)
Curling up in another Holly's bed last night, I mused on how recent events had taught me that other beds seem to be much better than the shitty buy-to-let furnished-flat one I usually have to sleep in. Back in my own bed now -- I can tell from the pain in my hips -- the same thought recurs.

I'd resolve "to sleep in more different other people's beds" but it'd give you all the wrong impression.

(Anyway, Andrew says we're buying a house in a few months which would, it must be said, fix this particular problem, even as it creates rather more.)
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (calculus)
Sometimes I’ll hear or see someone talk about or do something that I’ve missed out on doing. It can be anything ranging from getting a degree to having a honeymoon to using a Young Person’s Railcard.

Having missed out on all these things -- sometimes irrevocably, sometimes not, but missing out all the same -- makes me feel very young in some ways. Very... undeveloped, maybe. Unfinished, anyway.

Yet most of my friends are older than me, some of them significantly so: it’s stopped being remarkable long ago that I have friends and crushes in their 40s (though the delight of having a boyfriend in his 40s hasn’t worn off and won’t until he stops grinning when he thinks about how he was 17 when I was born).

When I wonder (out loud anyway) about how they put up with me and my blatant immaturity. My amor et hilaritas fail more easily around people five or ten or fifteen years younger than me than any other single indicator I can think of (except maybe shopping). The gulf between me and the generation raised on the internet seems so much huger than that between me and the age-bracket or two above me.

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Holly

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