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charlie, computer cat

December 2018




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Dec. 2nd, 2018

charlie, computer cat

(no subject)

As I get closer and closer to the end of term, I'm finding I've got more and more free brain cycles to do things at the weekend, make plans, feel bouncy and cheerful. It's a very freeing thought. Next week should be fairly straight forward because we are having assessment week, so that takes up a lot of timetable time, and although it does involve quite a bit of marking, it's not too bad because it's all quite specific/straight forward marking with a mark scheme. Then there's just the residential to get through. I'm a little nervous about that - I worry about managing the homesick ones - but I think overall it should be a fairly good week if the weather is ok. So close now though!

Nov. 25th, 2018


(no subject)

Somewhat to my surprise, I have found myself actually doing some swimming again over the past few months and rather enjoying it. I rejoined a gym in October on a limited 3 month deal as the nights began to draw in, the weather got colder and Pokemon Go lost it's appeal. Not really with any sense of anticipation, just a grim sense of resignation that it was something that would have to be got through in my own best interests. I originally intended to use the gym/treadmill on work nights and swim occasionally at the weekends, but as part of that I treated myself to a cheap waterproof MP3 player and I've found to my surprise that with that addition, I'm actually quite enjoying swimming at the moment. I started off listening to my weekly politics podcasts in the water on Saturday mornings but have since discovered that Critical Role also makes an excellent companion for swimming, although it occasionally makes me smile too broadly and take in a little unexpected pool water as a result. The other previous barrier I've had - the fact that long term swimming tended to reach a point where I just smelt of chlorine all the time - hasn't yet re-emerged as an issue, so I'm feeling cautiously positive about the whole thing - enough so that I've been looking up alternative pools for the new year when I won't be passing this one on the way home any more, which was the primary reason for choosing it in the first place.

Nov. 18th, 2018


(no subject)

Term crawls on but I was in a better mood most of this week - a couple of good nights of sleep helped, as did some very very soppy cats snuggling up to me. I spent yesterday afternoon going through my book case purging teaching books. Although I have a lot of these, they are mostly either (a) gifts that I never got around to reading, (b) set texts from my qualification or (c) books that other teachers have passed on to me from their categories (a) and (b) when they retired. Lots of them are hopelessly out of date at this point so I ended up with one bag I think Oxfam can sell and 3 that are going straight to the recycling centre. I barely ever read any of them - I never had sufficient energy/desire to and from my position of having decided to cut ties from the profession I look back and wonder if I should have asked myself about my lack of intellectual connection with teaching earlier, although asking that now isn't itself particularly valuable. In fact, trawling through our non fiction shelf reminds me that I very rarely have the energy to read serious non-fiction, although I often find it tempting/fascinating. I rediscovered several history and philosophy texts that I wasn't able to resist buying but have easily manage to resist opening. Maybe I'll start reading some of those in January.

Nov. 10th, 2018

laden coal creature

(no subject)

Ugh. I'm finding the long run up to leaving school really rough. It's really making me dwell on the things I don't like about teaching or can't cope with any more, instead of being able to focus on feeling excited about what I'm going on to. I spend a probably unhealthy amount of time mentally writing long involved think-piece type blog entries about what's wrong with teaching today, although, in common with most of the times I do this, I expect that I'll eventually decide that they contain significantly more pontificating than content and just not post them. I have a literal tally in my classroom (hidden from the children!) where I can cross off the number of days to go. I did have a good time socialising this week though - it was girly, book group and games one after another, which could have been draining but actually was good. I think it helped that both girly and games were small gatherings this time around, which is easier for me to cope with generally. And generally, work has been annoying this week for reasons which are just specific annoying things rather than the generality of teaching and aren't necessarily long term. Hopefully I'll perk up a bit as I get closer to getting out!

Nov. 4th, 2018

webdesigner - chez geek

(no subject)

Things feel like they're changing so fast at the moment that I always have to check on what had happened last time I posted before I start an update! So the last update was written the weekend before half term, when I was still job-hunting. On the Friday of that week, the last day of term, I suddenly got an interview with a company who were very keen to talk to me having just seen my CV that morning and I ended up heading over there straight after school, and then from *there*, straight to Brownies! That was a really good conversation, and I got on really well with them so that seemed very optimistic. Separately, over the Thursday, Friday and Saturday I ended up setting up 4 separate phone interviews for the Monday, which made for a quite surreal day, as we were visiting with my parents so I was taking these calls in between doing sewing things with Mum. Tuesday saw me finishing off a coding test while stopped of in Cambridge to see Alex's family on the way home and nearly all of the companies I spoke to on Monday set up interviews for later in the week. On Wednesday I went back to see the company I saw on the Friday (as well as one other) - again, got on really really well with the people and they made me an offer that afternoon. I dithered about waiting and going to one of my Friday interviews, which had sounded really interesting, but in the end I decided that I wasn't going to find a better culture fit and it seemed likely that the job was going to be a bit wooly, which I felt less confident I could definitely do after my time out of the industry so I accepted and will be starting in January. They're a small marketing company which specialise in loyalty programmes, mostly for businesses selling to smaller businesses. People look politely baffled when I say I find that fascinating but I really do think there's the potential for some really interesting data stuff in there which could be genuinely cool. It's also a good balance of stuff I remember well and am certain I can be good at again very quickly (data feed management) and stuff which is a bit more hazy and has changed rather more since I went into teaching and all in all, I think it will really suit me well.

School has been back this week and been very busy and I spent yesterday slumped on the couch, to tired to do anything really, which really reminded me why I want to leave! The weekend before I'd been really active and cheerful and now I feel pulled down and grey again. Only another 6 weeks to go!

Aug. 14th, 2018


Summer reading 4: The Explorer + rereads

Book: The Explorer by Katherine Rundell
Amount read: All of it - this was an actual physical book so I feel percentages are inappropriate :)
Thoughts: I really liked this. It's a kids book - I would say aimed at 10-13 year olds probably, so not even what I would call YA. It's got a good sense of realism about what it might actually be like to be stranded in the Amazon - it doesn't romanticise it as much as this type of book often do. I found the explorer himself a little more unlikely as a character but not enough to give me a real problem with the narrative. It clips along well and I found the ending affecting, in a good way.
Overall: Nothing of any great depth, but a pleasure to read.

Re-reads of Going Postal, Feet of Clay, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club and Unnatural DeathCollapse )

Summer reading 3: A Skinful of Shadows, Winterglass and Exit West

Book: A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge
Amount read: 100%
Thoughts: I am oddly resistant to Frances Hardinge and I don't really know why. A piece of historical fantasy, with ghosts and characters learning how to come to terms with their own powers should be something I absolutely love. I did enjoy reading this - I thought the concept was interesting and properly unsettling, it clipped along at a really good pace (I read it over an afternoon/evening) and I generally liked the characters, although I did think that Makepeace was a little too willing to welcome random ghosts into her head, or that her fear of the idea was inconsistently expressed, perhaps. I also found the fact that it is mentioned that Makepeace is not her true name and then nothing happens with that faintly annoying. The thing is, while this was all well and good, it just didn't grab me in the way that, say Uprooted did last year. I doubt this is something I'd re-read particularly. Like all her writing, it feels Diana Wynne Jones like but missing some vital ingredient that would make it really take fire. I'm explaining this poorly (not being a proper reviewer, I suppose) but that's the closest I can come to conveying it.
Overall: Good, but lacking something and so not great.

Book: Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Amount read: 100%
Thoughts: I quite liked this! It was super weird and unsettling though and definitely had flaws. I loved the setting, which felt genuinely strange and fantastical. I took a little while to warm to the characters but I did generally quite enjoy inhabiting their point of view for a while. I was totally taken aback by the ending though, which was not what I expected at all - I couldn't decide if it was just a surprising twist that I should take at face value or if it was setting things up for something else that's part of a longer book? It was very short and, by the end, I actually kind of wished it had been longer/wanted to know what would happen next.

I did find the book's approach to gender a little distracting - I couldn't decide whether it was trying to do something clever that I wasn't understanding or if it was just being boundary pushing in places or what. I particularly found General Lussadh confusing - she's referred to by female pronouns throughout but clearly has male anatomy and I wasn't sure what that was supposed to convey to me in terms of the character and or her relationships. I also found the sex included in the story felt a little forced in places, but it is a thing which is hard to write well, so I'm not knocking off major points for that.
Overall: Intriguing. I would definitely read a sequel to this (I wonder if there is one)

Book: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Amount read: 21%
Gave up because: I just found the narrative incredibly stilted and found the air of disconnect that the story (such as it was) fostered unappealing. I picked it up in the first place because I found it in the shared kindle library, saw it was on the Booker shortlist and wondered whether those two things together implied something more interesting than run of the mill literary fiction. I have to say that if it did, it didn't keep me interested long enough to get to it.
Predictions for the rest of the story: Saeed and Nadia get together and try to leave the terrible war torn Middle East for the West but discover that things are bad for them there in different ways.
Overall: Standard issue lit fic without enough heart to grab the attention.

Aug. 1st, 2018


Summer reading 2: Ballad of Halo Jones + re-read of Night Watch

Book: The Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson
Amount read: 100%
Thoughts: Hmmm. I know this is a classic and all, but the first thing I feel like I want to say here is that I found the art style really tough to wade through. I've been consistently surprised, although I probably shouldn't be, by how much difference this makes when reading comics. Some of the pages were really busy and as well as not being aesthetically to my taste, I found some of it genuinely hard to parse and it took me quite while to figure out which character was which.

I wasn't in love with the pacing, and for a lot of the time I felt like I couldn't figure out what the story it was trying to tell was. Some bits really dragged and some bits I got kind of swept along with. If it hadn't been the book group book for the month, I'm not sure I would have persevered with it. That being said, the thing that I did like and found really interesting was something I noticed half way through, which is that the narrative is completely female focused; it's not in any way a feature of the story, but I realised part way through that all the characters are female unless there is a specific reason for them to be male and that reason is usually for them to be in some way a love interest/sex object. I just loved the fact that, just like in reverse in most stories, it's never mentioned, it's not a feature of the universe to be 90% female or anything, it's just that's the way the writer chooses to be focused.

Overall: So yeah. I'm kind of pleased to have read it from an academic point of view but I wouldn't recommend it as a piece of storytelling in and of itself.

Book: Night watch by Terry Pratchett
Re-reading because: Someone on my twitter feed mentioned re-reading this in order to do a podcast on it. I was looking for something to read just to chill out on the garden seat and started The Shepherds Crown, which I found depressing and will finish and post about later in the holiday so decided to switch to this instead.
Thoughts: I mean, in general TP books stand up incredibly well to re-reading because what's amazing about them is his razor sharp understanding of people and his use of language, not especially what happens. This is actually one I didn't love so much when I first read it because I was distracted by the plot, which didn't quite feel right in the setting somehow (I think I mentally associate time travel with sci-fi rather than fantasy) and I have found that on re-reading, I've actually enjoyed it a lot more because I focused in more on the themes and ideas he's trying to explore. I found myself thinking about the fact that although this book focuses on the way that Vimes was created by Keel/his older self but actually doesn't quite acknowledge that Carrot is also key in creating the Vimes of the present - like this plants the seed, but without Carrot, it wouldn't come to fruition or something? The line that sticks in my mind most strongly at the minute is Vimes talking to Ned Coates, probably the most effective revolutionary the book shows us (unless you count Vetinari), when he says "Don't put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again - that's why they're called revolutions. People die and nothing changes." I think it encapsulates what I love about Vimes as a character - that world weary cynicism is something that I think we share.
Overall: If you haven't read any Pratchett, I wouldn't start with this one, but I do love it and if you read it once and didn't quite connect, I would definitely recommend giving it a second pass.

Jul. 29th, 2018

candid-opinion, calvin

Summer reading 1: Europe in Autumn

So, I thought this might be a fun summer project - we shall see, I guess!

Book: Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson
Amount read: 36%. Yes, I am not a completist and will stop reading a book if it fails to engage me enough.
Gave up because: I got tired of waiting for some semblance of engaging plot or characterisation? Or even some sense of the setting? The author is obviously a massive admirer of Le Carre and the book feels so far like he really wants to write a Cold War spy thriller but doesn't want to do the level of historical research that would require and so has decided to hand-wave "OK, there's a Cold War like situation going on!" Unfortunately, that feels like an accurate description of the level of world building that's been done so far, and it really doesn't work for me! I mean, I too have read and enjoyed Le Carre but he doesn't describe the geo-political situation in great detail because the fundamental assumption of those books is that the reader already knows all that and understands the stakes involved. In this, I basically have no idea why Rudi decides to get involved with the transnational 70s spies or, conversely, why they pick him to recruit or what stuff people want smuggled across these borders or why. It comes across as if it's a group of people *playing* at being 70s spies - an impression reinforced by the fact that so far none of them have mobile phones.
Predictions for the rest of the book: Given that I'm not going to finish the book, here are some predictions for what might happen
1. A femme fatale shows up - probably the one from earlier in the story (Marta?)
2. Rudi discovers that the Coureurs are actually the baddies.
3. There's a mole!
4. It turns out it's all some sort of immersive video game experience. This would make the fact that Rudi seems happy to dive in to this life threatening occupation for basically no reason make more sense.
5. It turns out that everyone else is living in Utopia and this is a Special Circumstances type arrangement for the people who *really wish* they were Cold War spies.
Overall: I'm actually too uninterested to even go and read the Wikipedia summary of the plot to find out what happens, something I occasionally do for books I decide I'm not going to finish anyway.

Jul. 8th, 2018

charlie, computer cat

(no subject)

It's too hot to do very much at the moment, which is making school very tough indeed. I am going to be so glad when the holidays start. On the plus side, my tomatoes are just starting to ripen, which is very exciting and there are loads and loads and loads of them so that'll be good. I did write a post about Pride in my head but it is too hot to post it.

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