Older blog entries for hypatia (starting at number 384)

More fun with Fedora

Still going with Fedora 20 and my new X1 Carbon. I’ve decided it’s dangerously light. What if I got really annoyed? I could throw it quite far!

Linux does add something special to the new laptop experience after all, dodgy support for hardware for the first months I have a new laptop. I foolishly believed I had finished the install just because it booted and I could use a web browser and send email, but I kept noticing new problems as time went on.

First, the laptop’s screen (her name is Irian by the way, because I name them for female wizards, which, well, spoilers, but I do like Tales of Earthsea and you should read it) is very high resolution. GNOME tries to detect this and (essentially) make all its screen elements extra big to compensate. The trouble is, I usually use an external monitor which doesn’t have 2014-grade DPI (it’s 24″ with a , and GNOME doesn’t detect that, so things were being displayed on the external monitor extra big as well. This can be reverted with:

$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface scaling-factor 1

But that now means that when I disconnect my external monitor, everything on my laptop screen is eensy teensy. So switching between my laptop display and the external monitor involves plugging or unplugging a cable and a command line interaction. Judging from the discussion on bug 1025391, the task of figuring out when to apply what scaling factor is no mean feat, but all the same, it’s annoying that it’s been handed to me.

Second, speaking of external monitors, this is what happens when I boot now: the machine starts. My laptop screen goes black. My external monitor displays a featureless grey, ie, the background colour of gdm but without any content whatsoever (ie, it doesn’t display a list of users or a login prompt… just featureless grey). I have worked out that I can hit Enter, type my password, hit Enter again and then it will log me in, which is an improvement over the previous sequence which was “swear, pull out monitor cable, force a reboot, log in without external monitor, reconnect external monitor”. I’ve run Fedora 20 on my previous laptop and this didn’t happen, so I presume again there’s some specific hardware support issue where Fedora+gdm can tell I have an external monitor but not to the point of actually displaying a login prompt on it.

Meanwhile, I mentioned before that it wouldn’t resume from suspend and that I needed to upgrade the BIOS to get that fixed. There are a few ways to upgrade the BIOS within Linux but they all seemed horrifying, so rebooting into Windows was, in theory, going to be the way. However, as foretold in the prophecy, I didn’t have dual boot working in this new UEFI+Windows 8 utopia. In fact I still don’t, because I get a “cannot load image” error trying to boot Windows 8 through grub, and that error seems to either mean (a) you have Windows 8 and Fedora installed on separate physical drives (no) or (b) you shouldn’t be using grub but could maybe use one of a number of other bootloaders maybe because secure boot something something I don’t even. I messed around with this sort of thing until my eyes bled, and eventually resigned myself to going through the BIOS’s menus to boot Windows (ie, press Enter to interrupt startup, press F12 to get a startup menu, select Windows, it’s not that bad). I only use Windows for upgrading the BIOS and communicating with the Australian Tax Office on behalf of my business in any case (because you haven’t lived, died, and died again until you’ve tried to get the Australian government’s AUSkey authentication working under Linux, but I digress). I can deal with the BIOS menus for those cases.

The BIOS update went fine though, and now I can suspend and resume. And while I was in Windows random nagware immediately fired up to ask me to hand over my email address so as to confirm my subscription to a million anti-virus and anti-malware bundleware things that come pre-installed, so that certainly reminded me why it is that I don’t use it.

Standard disclaimer: I still don’t want tech support and no, I’m not going to file bugs. My Ubuntu-using days, in which you file a bug and the only response is having to extensively reconfirm it exists every three to six months for three years lest it be closed has pretty much cured me of bug-filing. I like shouting into the void on my own domain now.

Syndicated 2014-05-20 12:55:24 from puzzling.org

Well, here we are (the key of WordPress)

After much, much too long, I’ve finally stopped hosting puzzling.org on a custom CMS that only I was using. It’s now on WordPress.

I’ve owned the domain since 2000 and this is the first time it hasn’t been run on code I wrote myself, even though my enthusiasm for maintaining the software that ran it disappeared at least five years ago. However, so did my enthusiasm for migrating it, so the code had to soldier on for a bit.

This is the final piece of a (slight) simplification of my web presence that’s been ongoing for about that same five years. Here’s the rundown:

  • mary.gardiner.id.au is my professional website
  • puzzling.org remains the home of my personal “online diary” (it was a couple of years old before I even heard the word “blog”) and also of the kind of content that used to appear at lecta.puzzling.org. All the content from lecta.puzzling.org has been imported.
  • incrementum.puzzling.org is my parenting diary, separate partly for tone and partly for historical reasons (I had a lot of childfree-and-child-bored ‘net friends at the time V was born, not so many now…)

Syndicated 2014-05-19 11:23:07 from puzzling.org

New laptop blues

At a previous employer, my husband, who worked from home as a developer, was given a new laptop every three years, since it was his primary work tool. One of his colleagues, after going through the hassle of setting up a new laptop, apparently opined that he wished he was getting a new coffee machine or something similar.

Speaking of which, hello from my new Lenovo X1 Carbon, likewise my primary work tool! It’s amazeballs. It is the size I like (14″) while having the weight I’ve always coveted and previously associated with

But, oh, the setup.

First, I've never had a new laptop that entirely worked with Linux, and this one is no exception. It doesn't resume from suspend (looks like this is bug 1084742 and I’m going to need to update the BIOS, so writing this entry has already paid off!). And sheesh moving my working environment from one laptop to another is a monumental pain. Especially when I’ve just reinstalled my Linode for the first time in about a decade, in order to install a 64 bit distro and thereby be able to use their SSD offering.

If you look for how to do such a thing on the ‘net, you get a few possibilities.

Use some kind of scripting/automation of the installer to get exactly the right packages, your config files set up the way you like them and such. I maintain a small number of Linux machines: three (hetrogenous) Ubuntu servers and a Fedora laptop. That’s, in my opinion, about three too few to find it worthwhile to, eg, semi-manually maintain a list of all the packages I need, work out the common versus custom bits of their config files, and such-like, especially when I reinstall so seldom. By the time a reinstall comes around, I can guarentee you I will have accidentally busted my automated install config through lack of testing, or the entire software stack I was relying on for the automation has been discontinued for years.

Copy /home and /etc to the new machine. Yeah, don’t do this.

Well, /home is basically OK, as long as you check the user ids carefully. (Fancy that, some people still run multi-user systems.) But don’t wholesale copy /etc. It worked OK for the Linode, once I edited /etc/fstab to mount the new drive configuration and chowned a bunch of things in /var to account for some of the user ids changing. Which was silly of me and which isn’t really what you’d call working, but it works now.

It was a monumental disaster on Fedora though, because I don’t speak new-fangled Linux. Specifically, I have no idea how one mounts LVM partitions from the command line and had to rely on Nautilus for it, and it turns out that if I, eg, move a new file in over the top of /etc/postfix/main.cf, SELinux won’t let it read it any more and I have to either understand SELinux or invoke random magic commands found on Google that probably amount to “disable SELinux and mail my SSL private key to the NSA while you’re at it”. Or I could understand LVM and SELinux of course, and that would be what I’d do if rebuilding a laptop wasn’t a 3–5 yearly task for me. Once again, whatever I learned will be thoroughly out of date by the time I next need to apply this knowledge.

And separately, there’s the package installing problem. Basically, both Debian-verse and Red Hat-verse systems both now have package managers that track the difference between “this package was installed at the administrator’s request” and “this package was installed as the dependency of another package”. But neither of them, as best I can tell, can export this reliably to a second machine, which means that on my new Fedora laptop, both Firefox and libwhatever.something.the.millionth are treated as sacrosanct “installed at the administrator’s request!” packages and I’m stuck with libwhatever.something.the.millionth forever, because I used rpm -qa. (There’s attempts at getting only the right packages out of the package manager, and the leading solution is now busted to the point of giving about 200 errors and then telling me I’d only ever installed 10 applications on my old Fedora install. You see what I mean about this stuff aging.)

Use some other operating system. Judging from commentary on the “yay, a new lapt— shit, a new laptop, now to spend three days of my life spinning my wheels on reinstalling all my favourite apps and redoing all my config” situation I’ve heard from Windows and Mac-using peeps, I get the impression this is a universal problem.

Use some magical program where one points at an existing laptop and say “make it like that one!” Dreamland. Although you’d think it would be something of a market advantage for Linux, which typically is agnostic on which packages you use (as long as they are open source and have certain trademark properties, admittedly, browsers are an issue here).

But I’d use the hell out of a desktop replicator, if one existed. Or even something that reliably dumped my package status including the “installed as a dependency” distinction, plus gave me some hints as to which bits of /etc I probably want.

Standard disclaimer! I’m not after any of: requests for further information for debugging purposes, exhortions to file bugs, or explanations of how to do anything with LVM and SELinux. I can figure out where to look that up when hell freezes over or it becomes a paid job of mine, one or the other.

Syndicated 2014-05-19 00:41:14 from lecta

Travel tip: Wentworth Falls Lake

I’ve frequently had cause to try and meet people in the Blue Mountains in a kid-friendly place, and I’ve found it surprisingly hard to do so. There’s teeny playgrounds of various types. There’s all the big tourist attractions which might work for older kids but about which mine couldn’t give a damn.

After poking at a map for a while, I discovered Wentworth Falls Lake, which seems to hit a decent amount of criteria for people with little kids. There’s two small but not uninteresting playgrounds, a number of fairly level and even paths, picnic tables scattered about, electric barbecues and a sheltered eating area, general space, and a decent-sized (albeit unfenced) bit of water to please the eye:

Wentworth Falls Lake

I’ve apparently managed to catch the train past this about 50 times without realising that it was a place worth remembering.

Note: it’s in the town of Wentworth Falls, it’s not at the actual falls. It’s on the north of the highway, the falls are on the south.

Syndicated 2014-05-12 02:34:12 from lecta

Not the Sydney Project: Questacon

This year is my son’s last year before he begins full time schooling in 2015. Welcome to our year of child-focussed activities in Sydney… only without the Sydney bit this once.

We rudely interrupt the Sydney Project to bring you a Canberra attraction: Questacon. In short, Questacon works nicely for V in a way that the Powerhouse did not, probably because it’s pretty shameless about catering entirely to children, complete with buttons, lights and hard hats.

We were there on a very busy day: the Saturday of the Easter weekend, the middle weekend of NSW school holidays. It was merely obnoxiously busy; I guess being used to Sydney crowds was helpful. That said, we did get there at 9:15, just after it opened. And as it was, the admission tickets to Mini-Q, the under 6 area, which is in limited numbers sessions on busy days, were only available from 11:30 onwards. I think they’d completely gone by about 10:30 in the morning. Go early, go often.

We’ve been once before, about a year ago, and Questacon was a hit to the point where for some time afterwards he asked to “see the science again!”. It took him longer to warm up to it this time. Much like last time, he shot through Measure Island without engaging. It took him a while to settle into Wonderworks, eventually getting interested in the Energy Machine and Frozen Shadow. Much to my disappointment, he’s never given a toss for my precious Harmonograph. (Much of Wonderworks has been there since I was a kid. Questacon’s exhibits are surprisingly timeless in their appeal.)

Best exhibit

Andrew and I and his father were very taken with the Cloud Chamber, which is in its own little-visited room from the steps between Wonderworks and Awesome Earth (closed for renovations), in which subatomic particles leave continuous trails through a cloud of vaporised alcohol. Andrew is keen to bring a banana next time. V was not willing to stand still for a story about how all the time, everything is being hit with tiny tiny particles moving at high speeds. Perhaps not one for the littlies.

V’s favourite exhibit is pretty unique to him. He can roll ping pong balls down a ball rollercoaster for about an hour at a time. Other children come, roll five or ten balls and go. He stays. We only extracted him with a promise to return after.

Blue tunnel

Next up was one for the watching adults, Excite@Q. V was most naturally drawn to the blue tunnel, and he was one of several smaller children jostling under Whoosh to grab a scarf and stuff it back in the wind tunnels. But we were there for one thing: to see our four year old agree to do Free Fall. I wrote about this elsewhere:

It’s a horizontal bar suspended over a very steep slide. You hold the bar. You let go. You drop freely for three metres or so before hitting the slide and sliding to the floor of the room.

The ride is, as you’d hope, very into consent. You go to the top. You get a briefing about how it works. You are told, repeatedly, that it’s OK to say no. And the day we were there, about three quarters of children did say no. (It’s a bit of a study in gender performance actually. Adult men by and large grab the bar, drop themselves down to dangle, let go and are done. Everyone else takes far far longer.)

V loves slides and heights, and so we asked him if he wanted a go. He said yes. He was dressed in the safe suit for it (I guess no risk of catches or tears), he waited in the queue and watched child after child look at the drop and shake their head and walk back down the stairs with an adult for a hug. Andrew took him to the top. He got the chat about whether he wanted to say no. He gave them a puzzled look. He got his instructions. He took them very seriously.

He held the bar:

Preparing for free fall

He dropped his weight from it:

Dangling

He looked down:

Looking down

And he let go:

Fall

He seemed to have fun, if a mystified about why this was such a very big deal.

Vincent the builder

After Free Fall, his ticketed time for Mini-Q came up. I didn’t go in, but apparently it was all construction all the time in there.

Finally, for bonus points, I put my camera down somewhere in Wonderworks, and someone found it and handed it into staff. “People who come to Questacon are generally very honest,” the information desk staffer told me, although somewhat spoiling the effect by saying she’d been tempted to keep the camera herself.

Cost: $23 adults, $17.50 children 4 and over, younger children free.

Recommended: yes, has something for the jaded adult radioactivity fans and the child who wants to drop from extraordinary heights, wear a hard hat in a playground, and roll ping pong balls down a slide for an hour alike. Try not to go on holiday weekends, and try not to leave your camera lying around.

More information: Questacon website.

Syndicated 2014-05-06 00:03:40 from lecta

The Sydney Project: Powerhouse Museum

This year is my son’s last year before he begins full time schooling in 2015. Welcome to our year of child-focussed activities in Sydney.

This was our second visit to the Powerhouse Museum, both times on a Monday, a day on which it is extremely quiet.

Bendy mirror

The Powerhouse seems so promising. It’s a tech museum, and we’re nerd parents, which ought to make this a family paradise. But not so. Partly, it’s that V is not really a nerdy child. His favourite activities involve things like riding his bike downhill at considerable speeds and dancing. He is not especially interested in machinery, intricate steps of causation, or whimsy, which removes a lot of the interest of the Powerhouse. Museums are also a surprising challenge in conveying one fundamental fact about recent history: that the past was not like the present in significant ways. V doesn’t really seem to know this, nor is he especially interested in it, which removes a lot of the hooks one could use in explaining, eg, the steam powered machines exhibit.

We started at The Oopsatoreum, a fictional exhibition by Shaun Tan about the works of failed inventor Henry Mintox. This didn’t last long; given that V doesn’t understand the fundamental conceit of museums and is not especially interested in technology, an exhibit that relies on understanding museums and having affection for technology and tinkering was not going to hold his attention. He enjoyed the bendy mirrors and that’s about it.

V v train

I was hoping to spend a moment in The Oopsatoreum, but he dragged me straight back out to his single favourite exhibit: the steam train parked on the entrance level. But it quickly palled too, because he wanted to climb on and in it, and all the carriages have perspex covering their doors so you can see it but not get in. There’s a bigger exhibit of vehicles on the bottom floor, including — most interestingly to me — an old-fashioned departures board showing trains departing to places that don’t even have lines any more, but we didn’t spend long there because V’s seen it before. He also sped through the steam machines exhibit pretty quickly, mostly hitting the buttons that set off the machines and then getting grumpy at the amount of noise they make.

Gaming, old-style

He was much more favourably struck with the old game tables that are near the steam train. He can’t read yet, and parenting him recently has been a constant exercise in learning exactly how many user interfaces assume literacy (TV remote controls, for example, and their UIs now as well). The games were like this to an extent too; he can’t read “Press 2 to start” and so forth, so I kept having to start the games for him. He didn’t do so well as he didn’t learn to operate the joystick and press a button to fire at the same time. He could only do one or the other. And whatever I was hoping V would get out of this visit, I don’t think marginally improved gaming skills were it, much as I think they’re probably going to be useful to him soon.

Big red car

We spent the most time in the sinkhole of the Powerhouse, the long-running Wiggles exhibition. This begins with the annoying feature that prams must be left outside, presumably because on popular days one could hardly move in there for prams. But we were the only people in there and it was pretty irritating to pick up my two month old baby and all of V’s and her various assorted possessions and lump them all inside with me. I’m glad V is not much younger, or I would have been fruitlessly chasing him around in there with all that stuff in my arms.

Car fixing

It’s also, again, not really the stereotypical educational museum experience. There’s a lot of memorabilia that’s uninteresting to children, such as their (huge) collection of gold and platinum records and early cassette tapes and such. There’s also several screens showing Wiggles videos, which is what V gravitates to. If I wanted him to spend an hour watching TV, I can organise that without leaving my house. He did briefly “repair” a Wiggles car by holding a machine wrench against it.

Overall, I think we’re done with the Powerhouse for a few years.

Cost: $12 adults, $6 children 4 and over, younger children free.

Recommended: for my rather grounded four year old, no. Possibly more suited to somewhat older children, or children who have an interest in a specific exhibit. (If that interest is steam trains, I think Train Works at Thirlmere is a better bet, although we cheated last year by going to a Thomas-franchise focussed day.)

More information: Powerhouse website.

Syndicated 2014-04-16 03:41:59 from lecta

The Sydney Project: Art Baby

This year is my son’s last year before he begins full time schooling in 2015. I’ve therefore decided to embark on a self-imposed challenge to go and do different child-focussed activities in Sydney and review them!

Art Baby is a preliminary Sydney Project entry, because it wasn’t an activity for preschoolers! Instead, it’s an activity for carers of babies, who tour the Museum of Contempoary Art with their babies.

Entrance to the Museum of Contemporary Art, nighttime

by Robert Montgomery

Mostly, it’s a short (45 minute) tour of one of the exhibitions (it was Volume One today), and the fact of having babies in tow is largely irrelevant. (Most of the babies today were two or three months old, much too young to do much touching or exploring.) I very much enjoyed our tour guide, who significantly contributed to the artworks with some background about each artist, and with her personal reactions to the art works. Fine art has really grown on me in recent years, as I’ve come to understand many genres — fine art in this case, but not it alone — as a conversation, and that you need to come at it with a cheat sheet that brings you up to speed on the conversation. A good tour or audio guide is the way to go with fine art museums, given that I’m unlikely to ever follow the conversation as a practitioner or serious student. Today’s tour, by an art educator and artist, was an excellent insider briefing.

The baby-relevant part of the tour is the conclusion in the Creative Learning room where the older children would do the Art Play (3yo and under) and Art Safari sessions (3–5yo). This includes a piece specifically commissioned for the children’s room, a child-safe and welcoming artwork for them to interact with. (Much of the museum is an attractive nuisance for children, with many bright, changing objects that they must not touch. It’s a shame. This adult would like a museum of fine art you can beat upon.) Afterwards, everyone has coffee (included in the price) and goes their separate way.

I’m keen to trial Art Safari with my 4yo now.

Cost: $20 plus booking fee.

Recommended: yes. It’s a good introduction to the MCA collection, and the timing is suitable for people with babies in tow. You could also just attend a normal tour, of course, but sometimes it’s fun to be part of a WITH BABY market segment.

More information: Art Baby website.

Syndicated 2014-03-18 23:24:13 from lecta

Sunday spam: muesli bars and gummy snakes

Muesli bars and gummy snakes are what I ate at about 7am before my recent 9am childbirth… thus thematically appropriate for this small collection of links, some of which I’ve had sitting around for a while.

Using WOC in the Natural Childbirth Debate: A How-To Guide.

If you are a progressive in the Natural Childbirth Movement (or any other, for that matter), use Africa City women to promote the idea that “natural is better.” Talk about women who toil in the fields, squat down to give birth and return to picking rice. Or peanuts. Or anything else that can be picked. After all, the women of Africa City are resilient! Strong. So strong that they do not even require support from the other women of Africa City. Or medication. Or comfort. This example–of giving birth in the field–illustrates how over-reliant “we” have become on useless technology. Of course, you don’t expect “us” to be quite that strong. We are not beasts of burden, after all…

If you oppose the Natural Childbirth Movement (or any other, for that matter), use Africa City women to remind “us” of how bad “we” used to have it, before all of our live-saving medical advances. If women die in childbirth in Africa City, it is only because they lack the Modern Technology we should be grateful that every last one of “us” has unfettered access to. Use infant mortality statistics from the most war-torn countries to argue why a healthy woman from Portland shouldn’t give birth in her bathtub with a midwife who carries oxygen and a cell phone. Redact all mentions of Africa City women who are not hopelessly impoverished. Ignore those who are systematically abused with Modern Technology, sacrificed as Guinea pigs on its altar. All bad outcomes in Africa City are due to the lack of Medical Technology, never unrelated to it, and certainly never caused by it.

Early Labour and Mixed Messages

The emphasis on hospital as a place of safety whilst also encouraging women to stay away results in some very contradictory messages and ideas (please note these statements do not represent my own views)[…] We are the experts in your labour progress, our clinical assessments can predict your future labour progress… we will send you home if you are found to be in early labour… if you then birth your baby in the car park it is not our fault as birth is unpredictable[…] This is a safe place to labour…. but you can only access this safety when you reach a particular point in your labour… preferably close to the end of your labour i.e. you should do most of it on your own away from safety.

Warning for discussion of pregnancy loss. The Peculiar Case of Miscarriage in Pop Culture

Miscarriage is a tricky cultural thing, pop culture or not. It’s a deeply forbidden subject, much like many other things deemed ‘mysteries of womanhood,’ like menstruation, like pregnancy itself. People don’t talk about miscarriages and that discouragement means that many people aren’t aware of how common they are, let alone how devastating they can be. When people lose a child, they can reach out to their community for help and they are given space and time for healing. When they lose a fetus, they’re expected to keep it to themselves.

Sadly, sometimes pro-choice people can be the most vehement about this, concerned about blurring the lines between fetus and child, and saying that claiming a fetus is morally or ethically equivalent to a fully-developed, extrauterine human being could be dangerous. This makes the mistake of applying broad strokes to the issue, though. Legally, of course, a fetus should not be equivalent to a child. Personally, however, losing a wanted pregnancy is an intensely emotional experience and it can feel on some level to the parents like losing a child, with the added burden of not being allowed to acknowledge it, talk about it, or ask for help.

Syndicated 2014-01-19 01:18:38 from lecta

A year with orthokeratology

A year ago, I did something that’s very rare for me, I made an expensive impulse purchase. Specifically, I was fitted for orthokeratology lenses. These are a vision correction technique: hard contact lens you wear while you sleep, that mold your cornea into a corrected shape so that you don’t need to use vision correction while you’re awake.

I have mild myopia (-1.75 left and -0.75 right, I think) and very mild right-eye astigmatism and I’ve had vision correction since I was about ten (initially only for my left eye, my right eye only became measurably myopic about 5 years after that). I’ve worn glasses and contact lens each about half the time. I like contacts better than glasses but still find them annoying when they are dry or one gets stuck to the wrong part of my eye. I have enough medical and surgical anxiety that I’m not going to be interested in surgical correction any time soon. So that was the appeal of orthokeratology.

To cut to the chase, while I’ll keep wearing them now I have a good fit, my recommendation is mixed at best.

The first few days and weeks were not promising. The problem with anything that’s supposed to be “uncomfortable” or “take some getting used to” is determining when something is actually wrong. So when I first put my lenses in in the optometrist’s office and my eyelids slammed shut in agony over the top, I figured it was par for the adjustment course. In addition, it took a while to achieve good correction, I think a week or more to be reasonable and another week or two until I tested as having an acceptably negligible prescription. During this time, in transition, I couldn’t use my glasses either. So in the evening, it was a question of putting them in and then immediately staggering upstairs feeling my way to bed while my husband probably cooed lovingly at his loyal un-painful glasses. It’s also, as you would think, not especially easy to get to sleep when your eyes are trying to alert you to their imminent death, although once I was asleep I tended to sleep well and wake up with them adhered to my eyeballs (once they seal on, it hurts less). The crisis in the mornings seemed to be more that they adhered too well, and the force required to get them off tended to flick them around the bathroom at random and I’d get stressed and need to get Andrew downstairs to help me find the lenses (replacement cost is multiple hundreds of dollars).

Which reminds me, these require touching your eyes a lot more than soft contact lenses do. Getting them on involves applying them straight to your pupil, and getting them off is done (most easily) with a little suction device, again, more or less applied to the lens over the pupil. Getting them off sounds like it should hurt, but it doesn’t, it’s just a slight pulling sensation. But a large number of people cannot bear to touch their eyes, or at least not very much. That is, at least, a caution to many people. This wasn’t something I was asked about or warned about at all; luckily I am very able to touch my eyes, but it seems like I should have been asked.

Once the teething pains, as it were, were over, I had a nice few weeks of naked daytime eyes. Even Andrew briefly expressed envy, swimming at Waikiki, that I could see everything and also not have to worry about losing a lens in the water. It wasn’t to last long, as on that same trip, one morning I woke up with my eyes in agony. The only relief I could get, even slight, was to keep them open behind very dark glasses for most of the morning. I put it down to bad cleaning and made a note to be extra careful.

But it kept happening, with increasing frequency. On the fourth or fifth time, back in Australia, I ended up at the optometrist. He couldn’t find anything wrong other than dryness… and that my vision correction was weakening badly to boot, so I wasn’t even getting much for the pain. He wanted me to stop wearing them. He doesn’t seem to be a terribly good communicator; all I could get out of him was a vague promise that I wouldn’t be out of pocket. I got a call a few weeks later to come and pick up new lenses. He wasn’t even around so I didn’t really know what the deal was until my next check up: it emerged he’d actually done a fair bit of work phoning different suppliers trying to find lenses big enough to cover my (of course) enormous corneas, thinking that probably the fit was actually the issue.

Sure enough, the bigger set of lenses have solved the problem of the mornings of extreme pain and dryness. They were also never as painful as the first set, despite several weeks break before starting to use them, which makes me wonder if the level of pain inserting the first set was always a bad sign. (But then, “may take some adjusting” and “may be uncomfortable” means “don’t complain for a while”, so they’ll never know.) The correction is pretty good; I actually have to be careful with the right eye not to wear a lens every night because it’s easy to overcorrect. I wear the left one about three nights in four and the right one one or two nights in four. It’s more of an artform than I’d like, to be honest.

Given the initial pain and the lengthy adjustment period, I think with hindsight that I wouldn’t choose to start the process, which is why I am hesitant to recommend it to others. Most reviews I’ve read have had better experiences, although the only other person I know who tried it had to give it up entirely because it caused such bad night blindness it wasn’t safe for her to drive (not a problem I’ve had). Proceed with care.

Syndicated 2014-01-07 22:07:18 from lecta

The Alphabet Sufficiency: brief reflections

At the beginning of the year, I was indirectly responsible for the creation of the formidable Alphabet Supremacy project, which has just wrapped up. Jono and Bice have a few reflections on it at mid-year (Jono, Bice) and end-of-year (Jono).

I was frankly jealous, and, trying to know my limits, created a more limited project, the intended six week Alphabet Sufficiency. This resulted in five weeks worth of posts from me, and I think four from Martin Pool (who shared them in a non-public forum). Mine were:

Of these, my favourite by far is the acceleration one. I can remember writing it: well past the deadline, from a hotel room in Honolulu, while experiencing the second-worst case of jetlag I’ve ever had, with Andrew no doubt wondering about my priorities in reconstructing the web walks I’d been detailing to him for the month prior, rather than sleeping.

As expected, priorities were a problem. At the beginning, I wrote:

If the amount of personal change and variability of energy levels I experienced in 2012 continues I will be living in a leper colony on the Moon by December 2013.

Not as it happens, but I will be wrapping up the year with one more degree and one more child than I started it with. Those entries are over February, March and April this year, during which time (on top of my job) I made the “minor corrections” needed to complete my PhD thesis (this resulted in 20 pages of additional text, about 10% of the length of the final document), took my hopefully one-and-only overnight long haul flight in sole charge of a distressed toddler, and visited California for a long and intense week of planning for the Ada Initiative. If Martin had given a prompt for the final week, it would have been due the week I found out I was pregnant again (a week which involved, I think, three sudden medical appointments to plan my pregnancy care in light of a pretty weird medical history).

If I recall, Martin suggested that we start the project ASAP because neither of us was going to get less busy. While this was perfectly true, from my end this probably suggested not starting the project at all, because I really didn’t have time for it.

I began the year feeling like “write more” was the resolution least suited to me of anything I could possibly resolve. I’m ending it feeling the opposite. The most obvious thing that founding a business, study, illness, pregnancy and parenting have taken from me in the last two years is writing. On the other hand, I don’t think that for me personally, resolutions or competition are the way to get it back. The only way out is through. When I have stability, I will pause for breath, and I will write. Ursula Le Guin says:

What inspired you to be a writer?

Learning to write, at five.

That is not quite true for me (in no respect do I claim to be comparable to Ursula Le Guin, which as a small benefit makes me a less testy interview subject) but my relationship with writing is something like that. If there is time and energy, writing is something I will do.

As for the specifics of the project, one-word prompts are surprisingly difficult. Over on Dreamwidth at the moment, some people are taking a prompt a day for the entire month (I am not, for reasons you can infer), and, looking at the prompts, I can easily imagine it would be easier by far for me to write a response to “tell me about a day you spent in your favourite city” than “City”. I found this just as bad for a words I chose: “Kin” was by far the hardest prompt. Having stumbled at the gate, “Acceleration” and “Favourite” were very deliberate pitches to something I was thinking a lot about at the time anyway (general relativity and the plot of Toy Story, respectively), in an attempt to construct a gimme for myself. Despite the superficial difficulty of never having been to Montreal, that was the easiest entry to write: I suspect that the more concrete the word, the easier the writing.

If I was to take on such a project again, it would be more like the interview meme or the December meme, with far more detailed prompting. One word prompts are a very hard place between writing about whatever the hell I feel like, and writing to a prompt. I’m waiting to see what the next baby is like before committing, but there’s always the possibility of the “parent to newborn pretends to be well-rounded” meme (results: one, two, three, four, five). Stand by.

Syndicated 2013-12-17 05:00:43 from lecta

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