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25 April 2011 @ 08:37 pm
If you had to give up swimming, skiing, hiking, or biking for the rest of your life, which would you choose, and why?

I wonder if it's occurred to the person asking this question that some of us have faced this situation for real. It seems to me to come from a place of supreme able-bodied privilege to A) assume that everyone is able - or at least potentially able - to do all these things, and B) that giving them up would be a choice, and not something forced upon one by illness or disability.

Because of my disabilities, I've been medically advised never to attempt skiing, I found it impossible to learn to ride a bike (although not for lack of trying), and I no longer have the ability to hike. The one thing I have left is swimming, which I love, and having to give that up for any reason would be devastating.

ETA: It appears I'm not the only disabled person who thought this question was insensitive.
Title: Fathers and Sons
Author: Surya
Fandom: ST:Ent
Category: Slash
Pairing: Archer/Reed
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~6000 words
Archive: Yes to Warp 5 and suryas_fiction
Disclaimer: Enterprise and Star Trek belong to Paramount. No profit was made from the writing or publication of this fan fiction story. No breach of copyright is intended.
Spoilers: Chapter 1 - 1.12 Silent Enemy, Chapter 2 - 1.16 Shuttlepod One, Chapter 3 - 2.03 Minefield.
Summary: Jon discovers he can’t always rely on first impressions, Malcolm learns a few things about his captain, and Trip sees the whole picture.
Betas: Many thanks to the fabulous SueC and ShiShi.

A/N: I originally started writing this story after reading several Archer/Reed stories in which Malcolm’s parents, especially his father, were cast as unloving or even abusive. It isn’t my favourite fanon trope, so this story is part-parody, and part alternative interpretation.

Fathers and Sons, Chapter 1Collapse )
13 December 2010 @ 10:06 pm
So I've been away from LJ for a while, mostly hermiting/hiding because of Bad Stuff at Work, which I Don't Want to Talk About.

But on Sunday, for the first time in nearly 2 years, I woke up to find a character in my head telling me a story.

So without further ado ...

Title: Aquaphobia
Author: Surya
Fandom: Enterprise
Category: Gen
Character(s): Reed
Beta: SueC
Disclaimer: Malcolm Reed, Enterprise and Star Trek belong to Paramount. No profit was made from the writing or publication of this fan fiction story. No breach of copyright is intended.

Before entering Starfleet, Malcolm undergoes a psychological examination.Collapse )
20 July 2010 @ 10:49 pm
I've decided to scale back my Livejournal activities. It's become a huge time-sink, and I want to claw some of that time back to do stuff like swimming and *ahem* writing.

So, to that end, I've rationalised my friendslist to focus on fandom/writing, and real-life friends. Mostly I've removed communities and feeds, but if you're one of the few real people I've de-listed, please don't take it personally. It doesn't mean you've offended me or that I hate you - just that our interests have diverged.
27 June 2010 @ 02:17 pm
So, having had no response to my email, I've just phoned Tate St Ives. I was met with an automated menu with EIGHT options, only the last of which offered the opportunity to speak to a real person.

Which took me through to the voicemail of Zara Deverueax, Business Manager, and I'm not even hesitating to name her, because her outgoing message said she was off sick until Tuesday and then cut me off.

I'm not impressed. Not impressed at all.
26 June 2010 @ 10:27 pm

I'm taking a trip down to St Ives for a few days next week, and one of the things I really want to do is visit the Tate gallery. As with a lot of organisations, they have a web page dedicated to 'accessibility', which mainly focuses on access for people who use wheelchairs and/or who have sensory impairments. As usual, at the bottom of the page, there is an invitation to 'just ask' if you need any further information (and we all know that usually works out SOOOO well):

If you have any access questions please contact us:
Call: +44 (0)1736 796226

As it happens, I do have a few access questions, so on Wednesday I emailed them the following:

Good afternoon
I'm intending to visit Tate St Ives next week (week commencing Monday 28th June), and I have a disability which means I cannot walk far or stand for more than a few minutes.
I have looked at your website and found some of the information there very helpful, but I'm hoping you can provide me with some additional information to help me plan my visit.
1. Please can you provide me with a map or floor plan of the gallery (.pdf would be the best format), or failing that, can you tell me how many floors it has, and how many rooms on each floor?
2. I note from your website that you provide stools for disabled visitors. Unfortunately these will be of little use to me. Are there any areas in the gallery, other than the cafe, where proper seats are provided?
3. I note that the cafe has both a 'lunch menu' and an 'afternoon menu'. Can you tell me the times between which the full lunch menu is available?
4. Depending on the size of the gallery, it may be necessary for me to split my visit over more than one day. Does your normal admission ticket allow me to do this? (Many visitor attractions - e.g the Eden Project and the SS Great Britain - offer this facility when patrons gift aid their ticket price.)
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely

Now, I don't think these are particularly difficult questions, although none of this information is provided on the website, at least as far as I can see. They're the kind of questions any visitor might ask, and I'd expect any member of staff to be able to answer them off the top of their head.

So, four days later, what response have I had?

Nothing. Nada. Sweet Fanny Adams.

So what exactly is the point of telling people to 'just ask' for access information, IF YOU'RE GOING TO IGNORE THEM WHEN THEY DO?

[I was going to phone them this afternoon, even though it's not my preferred method of communication, but unfortunately my Mum called for a chat and I missed my opportunity. I may still do it tomorrow. But I shouldn't have to.]
14 June 2010 @ 11:21 pm
This has happened to me a couple of times recently, and it's really annoying.

Have you ever bought something, and been really pleased with it, and you tell someone about it, and they go, "Oh, you didn't buy it from Crap Shop, did you? They're crap. You should've bought it from This Other Shop."

Because I've already bought it. I've paid for it. I'm happy with it. Why do they feel the need to tell me the place I got it from is crap (in their opinion - in both cases I'd used the shop before and had no problems)? It'd be different if I'd asked for advice about where to get it, but I didn't.

I just find it irritating. And kind of rude. Almost as rude as asking how much you paid for it and then saying, "Well you could've got it cheaper at This Other Place."
Current Mood: pissed off
13 June 2010 @ 08:19 pm

I've been watching ITV's 'Lady Sleuths' weekend, and during an episode of Miss Marple, of all things, I suddenly realised why I find Jack Davenport so sexy.

It's nothing to do with the way he looks (although he is quite easy on the eye, and also ... hairy chest). But he has exactly the kind of voice that gets me hot and bothered. (This used to happen with I guy I worked with, which was ... embarrasing.) Whether he's being trans-Atlantic in FlashForward or Mockney in Marple, the timbre is low and rich and does interesting things to my insides.

I think this gives me an excellent excuse to track down copies of This Life, Coupling and Ultraviolet. Although nothing in the world could induce me to sit through Pirates of the Carribbean for a second time (nor it's sequels for the first). Kiera Knighley's insipidness is so powerful it entirely overrides the sexiness of both Johnny Depp and Jack Davenport.

A poster on one of the atheist communities I belong to recounted a story last week about being accosted in a car park by a man asking for money. The thing I found interesting about it was the following:

"My wife expressed interest that whenever anyone approaches us for money it distresses me much more than her. Her position is that the person asking for money doesn't deserve any, so it doesn't matter what he or she says, and she moves on. I explained to her that the reason it distresses me is that the whole pitch, whether religious or not, is based on an appeal to pity/responsibility/guilt, and that, whether religious or not, many of us do feel responsible for the well being of others, such that when I see someone on the verge of attacking that vulnerable point of mine, it does stress me. It is hard for me to resist such an appeal, because I do feel great care and compassion for others (what one could call "my good nature" or "my morality"), and I do feel a responsibility toward my fellow creatures. It's difficult for me.

I fear those who abuse the good nature of others (who knows what else they might do, if they feel no compunction against abusing my good nature?) and must steel myself against their abuse."

The wife’s approach is harsh, but consistent – no-one deserves her help; she doesn’t offer anyone charity. The husband however feels he should help his fellow humans, but only those he deems ‘deserving’. The source of his stress, his feelings of vulnerability, and his fear of being ‘abused’, is that he has no means of determining whether someone approaching him deserves his help, so in the end he behaves in the same way as his wife. His fear of being ‘abused’ – of making an error in determining whether a particular person deserves his help – overrides his ‘good nature’ and he too refuses to help.

The notion of the ‘deserving poor’ – and the corollary, that there are some poor people who don’t deserve our help – has been with us for a long time. Our entire welfare system is based on it, and we spend a lot of time and money developing complex tests  and enforcement systems to try to ensure that no-one receives a penny more than they ‘deserve’. (The tests are of course a fallacy – and in fact exclude many of the most ‘deserving’ people, simply because those are the people least able to negotiate the obstacles placed in their path.)

But what happens if we let go of the idea of the ‘deserving poor’? What happens if we say, everyone is deserving. What happens if we say, someone asking for help must have a reason, so who am I to say that reason isn’t good enough? Why do I even need to know what that reason is? Isn’t the fact that they’ve asked enough?

My personal morality is based on one simple principle: I try to treat others as I would hope to be treated myself. It’s a morality based on compassion, on empathy, on kindness. So I try to help people – by giving my money, my time, my skills – whenever I can because I hope that if some day the chips are down and I’m really in trouble, someone will help me. It’s not an entirely selfless philosophy – I recognise that my first duty must be to look after myself, because if I don’t I won’t be in a fit state to help anyone else. (That includes looking after my personal safety, so I for that reason I probably wouldn’t engage with someone who approached me in a car park. Certainly not if I was alone.) But that aside, I don’t ask myself whether a person ‘deserves’ my help. I accept that I have no means of determining that. I accept that if someone is asking for my help, they must have a reason, and if that reason is good enough for them, it’s not up to me apply tests or make up my own criteria to decide whether they really need it. The fact that they’ve asked is enough for me.

Does this leave me open to ‘abuse’? Yes, of course. Except that it’s only abuse if I choose to see it that way – if I choose to believe that some people are not ‘deserving’. If everyone is deserving, there can be no abuse. And besides, if I give my money or my time to someone who doesn’t really need it, how does that harm me? It doesn’t. That was money or time I would have given to someone anyway. There is a possibility that I could have given it to some who needed it more, but I’ve already accepted that’s not something I can determine. I’d rather put my effort into actually helping people than devising tests to determine which people need it more.

With imperfect information there is always a risk of making an error. But ultimately it comes down to this: I would rather make the error of helping someone who doesn’t really need it, than the error of not helping someone who does.

And those are my atheist ethics.

29 May 2010 @ 10:58 am

For the first time in my life, I've failed to submit the final assessment for a course.

My final assessment for my OU course had to be in on Friday, and I didn't do it. Literally, didn't even start it.

I'm comfortable with the decision, actually. Although it's compulsory, this particular course won't contribute to the final classification of my degree.

I just feel there was far too much material to cover for this part of the course - four chapters in 2 weeks. I was only skimming it and by last Sunday I had still only covered three chapters out of four. I didn't have any time to assimilate the information, and with all the crap going on at work at the moment my ability to concentrate in the evenings is practically nil.

But I've never been a Bad Student before. Feels strange.


29 May 2010 @ 10:35 am
I read a report at work the other day which quoted a 71% failure rate for weighing machines. And then it mentioned how many machines had actually been tested.



So working that 71% back, they tested seven machines, five of which failed. Now, 5 out of 7 is still a pretty shocking failure rate, but I’m not going to talk about that. I’m going to talk about how misleading it is to quote that failure rate as a percentage, and how misleading it is in general to use percentages when you’re dealing with very small populations and samples.

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics produced by innumerate people.Collapse )

tl;dr – It really annoys me when I see the results from very small samples expressed as percentages. It’s misleading because it exaggerates the importance of small fluctuations in the data. So don’t do it.

... but today I caught him in the act!

I waited in for the postman this morning because Amazon had notified me my order was on its way and I didn't want to miss it and have to traipse all the way to the sorting office to pick it up.

So at about 9.40 I heard something come through my letterbox, but nothing as heavy as a book hitting the floor. So I went out into the hall, and on the floor was:
1) a letter from British Gas, and
2) one of the little red 'we tried to deliver, but you were out' cards.

'Huh,' I thought. 'I was right here. It's unlikely I heard the letterbox, but not the doorbell.'

I went out to the landing and saw that the postman's little cart was still parked out by the fountain while he delivered to the other flats, so I nipped downstairs (bare feet and all), and sat beside his cart until he came back.

I said: 'You left this, but you didn't ring the bell, did you?'
He said: 'Uh ... I thought I did ... sorry, I must have forgotten ...'

So I got my parcel. But 'forgot' my arse. You don't 'forget' to ring the doorbell, and then stand and fill out one of those little cards. No, I think he's trying to save time on his round by not bringing the parcels in at all. I think he just fills out the cards and delivers them, hoping nobody will notice.

But on the upside, I have the first 3 Harry Dresden novels.
07 May 2010 @ 10:13 pm
So we have a result. Kind of.

The Tories have won 306 seats out of 650, which is not enough for an overall majority. Labour won 258 seats, and the LibDems 57. The remaining 28 seats are distributed among various nationalist and minor parties, including the Greens' first ever parliamentary seat. One constituency didn't vote yesterday because one of the candidates died during the campaign. They'll vote at the end of the month.

A Labour-LibDem coalition still wouldn't have an overall majority, and even if the nationalists and Greens came on board as well, they still wouldn't have a working majority. The only coalition that would give a sensible, working majority would be Tory-LibDem, so I'm not surprised that David Cameron is in talks with Nick Clegg. But that's not what I voted for. I voted for the LibDems to keep the Tories OUT, not to let them in. Any yet I see the sense of this. Clegg is now the power-broker. I only hope he doen't sell himself too cheaply. The only alternative is for the Tories - or even Labour - to try to form a minority administration.

But there's another story behind those figures, and that's the story of the popular vote.

While the Tories won 306 or 47% of the seats, they only got 36% of the popular vote. Similarly Labour won 40% of the seats with only 29% of the popular vote. And the party that really lost out here is the LibDems, who had a whopping 23% of the popular vote, which netted them a measly 9% of the seats. And if ever there was an argument for proportional reperesentation, this is it. The disparity between these two figures is enormous, and demonstrates that our simplistic, archaic first-past-the-post system is fundamentally unfair.

Of course, there are many different types of PR, and it's impossible to tell what result some of them - Single Transferable Vote, for example - would have yielded in this election. But just looking at the distribution of votes for each party tells us we need to reform a system that was designed for another age.

PR would also allow for a much more equitable representation of minority views, which is probably mixed blessing. Once again, in this election the Greens won their first ever parliamentary seat, but neither UKIP nor the BNP won any. However making the number of seats proportional to the popular vote would have given the Greens 7 seats, UKIP 20 and the BNP 12.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds it disturbing that a party like the BNP is achieving around 1-2% support, not in just a few places, but across the board. Likewise UKIP's support seems fairly consistent at aroud 3-4% across a great many constituencies. I actually find it more disturbing that they find enough people willing to stand in so many constituencies. But I think we have to acccept that people hold those views, however unpalatable they may be. And those people have a right to be represented, just as much as the people who vote LibDem or Green.

ETA: The overall turnout was 65%, but I can't help wondering what the results would have looked like if everyone had voted. In fact, I'm wondering what they'd have looked like if everyone who was still queueing when the polls closed at 10pm had been allowed to vote.

ETA2: Table of results, for anyone who's interested.
Party% voteSeats Won# of seats proportional to % vote 
Liberal Democrats23.057150
Sinn Fein0.654
Plaid Cymru0.634
Ulster Conservatives & Unionists (New Force)0.302
English Democrats0.201
Alliance Party0.111
Traditional Unionist Voice0.101
Respect-Unity Coalition0.101
Christian Party0.101
Independent Community and Health Concern0.101

07 May 2010 @ 08:46 am
While the national result still hangs in the balance, the LibDems have retained my constituency with an increased majority over the Tories.

This is the result I wanted, and it's very satisfyting to know I played a part in it. This constituency was number 29 on the Tories' top 100 target list, because previously our LibDem MP only had a majority of around 500. Now we've increased that to nearly 4000. Essentially about half of the people who whould normally have voted Labour voted tactically for the LibDems instead. I've never lived in a marginal constituency before, so it's great to feel my vote really counted this time.

While I'm glad we mobilised in favour of the LibDems this time, I wish it had happened sooner. I wish we didn't have Tory-controlled County and Borough Councils that are cutting services whenever they can get away with it.

And it's still technically possible for the Tories to get an overall majority. I hope they don't.
06 May 2010 @ 11:40 am
I didn't get up to Scotland yesterday, because it was shut.

OK, Glasgow airport was shut, and my flight was cancelled. I didn't feel like trying to rebook for a later flight to Edinburgh and possibly having that cancelled too, so I'm having a few days relaxing at home, and I'll go up to see the parents later this year. Probably by car.

So I'm having a few days relaxing at home. Getting the boiler fixed. Getting another cortisone injection into my hip. That sort of thing.

Today I'm reliving last year's Fedcon, watching the DVD. It's really noticeable watching the opening ceremony, how much we missed Marc B Lee this year as MC. Marc gave everyone their moment of glory, including the academics (who I don't think even got to speak this year?). Marc knew these people, and what they'd done. Ed Wasser this year was a pale comparison.

Oh, and guess who appears in the DVD opening titles? sal_at_home, nx_01hreod, and my good self, standing in the registration queue.
27 April 2010 @ 06:41 pm
My voting papers arrived today.

Normally I vote in person on polling day. I love doing it. It's almost like a religious ritual: going to a special place, going into the booth to mark my paper, folding it neatly and posting it into the box. But this year I'll be up in Scotland at my parents' on polling day, so I'm voting by post for the first time. I can vote any time between now and next Thursday.
24 April 2010 @ 02:11 pm
... or it'll bother me all weekend.

The pool where I swim has two lanes marked off in the mornings - designated the 'fast' lane and the 'slow' lane. People self-select which lane they're going to use. I swim in the slow lane, along with the other people swimming a moderate breast stroke, a few older men doing a slow crawl, and faster swimmers doing float-work.

The lanes are wide enough for two people to swim in opposite directions (in the slow lane we swim in an anticlockwise loop), with just enough space in the middle to overtake if you're fast enough to catch up to the person in front of you. (Although personally I think if you're having to overtake everyone in the slow lane, you should probably rethink your lane choice.) However occasionally someone - and I'm sorry, but it's invariably a man - will decide he's had enough of swimming breast stroke and want to do a fast crawl length. And does he switch over to the fast lane to do it? No, he barrels down the middle of the slow lane, not looking where he's going and not caring whether there might be other people trying to overtake coming in the opposite direction.

So, here's what happened this morning. I'm swimming along, minding my own business, and the slow lane is pretty empty, with maybe only half a dozen people in it (just the way I like it). And I've just turned at the shallow end, and I'm maybe a third of the way up the pool when I realise that someone is pounding down the lane towards me at a fast crawl on my side of the lane. There's nothing I can do except stop and put my hands out in front of me to protect myself from getting slammed into or punched in the face.

I'd lay money he didn't even notice me until he swam at full tilt into my hands.

At which point, do you think he stopped and apologised for swimming straight into me? On my side of the lane? Do you think he made sure I was okay, that he hadn't hurt me? No. He starts mouthing off, claiming that a) he was in the middle of the lane, not on my side, and b) I had dunked him!


If that's how he swims, I only hope he doesn't drive.
Tags: ,
07 April 2010 @ 09:07 pm

... ok, forgive me, but I only do this once a year. Call it my 'Spring Collection' if you will.

It's really difficult (and expensive) to get swimwear that fits my bust, so buying a swimsuit is another once-a-year event. And I absolutely refuse to buy anything in boring black.

A couple of yeas ago I got a swimsuit that I really loved. It was expensive but it fitted really well and was a gorgeous shade of blue. I've worn it and worn it, and now the elastic has gone and the lycra has perished so the top is all baggy and virtually see-through.

So anyway, I went looking for it again, but they seem to have stopped making it, so I had a look on the manufacturer's website and found this:

It arrived to day and it looks fabulous on. The top has an integral bra and is even nice enough to wear as a ... well, a top, if I feel like it.