baratron: (angry)
Our plumbing is being evil, for the fifth or sixth time since we moved into this house in 2004. When our house was built, it didn't have an internal bathroom. There are remains of an outhouse in our back garden. So the bathroom was, at some point, retrofitted and its plumbing has never worked quite right.

It's been showing signs of distress for a few days now, doing that thing it does of not draining properly. We flush the toilet or run water in the sink, and the bath goes GLUG GLUG GLUG. Not good. However, yesterday when I flushed the toilet, some of the er, effluent ended up in the bath. Which is about as delightful as it sounds.

Richard did a full day at work then stayed up quite literally all night clearing the downpipe with a high pressure hose, and only went to bed at 7.30 am. He is my hero! The poor bugger couldn't eat anything until 6.30 am because he was too nauseated, and I have left Emergency Laundry running overnight else he wouldn't have any trousers to wear to work (and it's too cold to go in shorts).

The problem is not completely fixed since although the downpipe is now cleared, water running through it is not reaching the sewer. As the problem occurs on our property, Thames Water won't help, so we will have to find a professional and (probably) claim on our insurance. Does anyone have the faintest idea how to do this? I mean, regarding claiming on the insurance, we probably just have to find the policy document and ring the insurers with the policy number and details of the work which needs to be done. But where on earth do we find a good professional plumber who handles drains and sewers? Do we ask the insurance company to recommend someone?

To add further complication, our back garden will probably have to be dug up, and it is currently a jungle. I'm hoping my parents might be available in the next few days to get it cleared, although that involves Dealing With My Parents.
baratron: (sleepy)
So tired. It's been a long week.
  • Wednesday - Stayed up way too late to run a new dungeon on the public test server of Elder Scrolls Online on Wednesday.

  • Thursday - Meeting with ZOS devs to talk about the new dungeons. So much talking. I still haven't written up my notes from the meeting for my Guild, and I hope I can mostly remember what was said.

  • Friday - Went to see Ginger Wildheart and Hey! Hello at a funny little venue called the Brooklyn Bowl. It's a bowling alley (?) inside the big o2 tent (formerly the Millennium Dome) which also has bands. Kinda weird but it was very accessible, since the entire o2 was built post-Disability Discrimination Act. They were playing along with another band called Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors who were so good we wanted to get their CD, but it was sold-out!

  • Saturday - Work for my mother, and a huge row because she was being unreasonable (at least in part due to a headache).

  • Sunday - The joys of a new washing machine! We bought our washer-dryer, fridge-freezer and dishwasher when we moved into this house in June 2004, and they've lasted well. The fridge and dishwasher have never needed any work, but the washing machine needed to be repaired five times, with issues ranging from worn motor brushes to a broken wire in the motor controller to a sheared bolt holding the drum in place. A couple of months ago, it stopped drying clothes, and Richard determined it needed a new condensing unit. This wasn't a huge problem considering it's summer and we can dry clothes overnight on the rack. However, then the drum stopped spinning altogether. Richard checked the brushes and the motor controller, and determined it would need a whole new motor.

    Thing is, although he could fix it, there reaches a point in an appliance's lifetime where it seems like throwing good money after bad. Putting a new condenser and a new motor into a 12 year old washer-dryer that seems to be gaining a new issue every couple of weeks? Yeeaah. Also, the sheets for our new bed are enormous, and heavier than our machine was supposed to be capable of taking.

    We've been very happy with Bosch, most of all the fact that you can order parts to work on the appliances yourself without needing to be a registered dealer (very useful when you have your own in-house engineer), so we just went out and bought another of the same without any shopping around.

    However, I am currently struggling with the fact that this new washer-dryer is trying to be more intelligent than I am. The old one had three knobs on the front: water temperature, drying time, and programme. This new one has one big knob and a load of buttons. It has fewer temperatures available for washing, and far less control over drying time (with the options being 15 minutes blow around, 60 minutes with heat, 120 minutes with heat, or "auto"). I'm kinda annoyed that we won't be able to wash our socks on 50 degrees C any more, and that we won't be able to dry the clothes for 25 minutes before putting them on the rack. At least, not without some effort.

    Then on Sunday night, I had a huge argument with Shifty, which continued into Monday and only got sorted out on Monday night. We're okay now, but it was really difficult - there was a lot of him not understanding nuances of emotional stuff because of his autism, and me not being able to find a way to explain it better because it's "just obvious" to a neurotypical person. (Maybe even to autistic people with a bit more experience in relationships.)

  • Tuesday - Woke up too early with a sore throat. Hoping it's just from crying too much. More work for my mother. Photoshop. Argh.

  • Today - woke up too early again, still have a sore throat, sincerely hoping it is allergies and not an infection. Wrote a rant about Funding for special education. Now have to email Shifty's crush to tell her some things which he doesn't seem capable of conveying, as well as confirming that yes, we really are poly. Argh.

So yeah, it's just been exhausting all round and I am ready for a break. Which I don't think I'm going to get anytime soon.
baratron: (Warning: Sick!)
I am back from the Download Festival a.k.a. the Downpour Festival a.k.a. Drownload. It rained. A lot.

Nonetheless, we survived four nights of camping, including sharing a tent with my mother, who has literally never camped before due to a general phobia of everything it entails (e.g. spiders, chemical toilets, dirt under her fingernails, not being able to get properly dry, etc.)

However, due to having been rained on for three days, I now have a terrible cold. Yes, I know you can't catch a cold from being cold - but you can catch a cold from having your immune system lowered and being in close proximity of 85,000 other people, some of whom are carriers of viruses. I have pretty much every symptom known to be associated with colds, including a sore throat, high temperature, coughing, sneezing, blocked ears, all-over muscle aches, and puking. I feel like death warmed up.

Of course, this is a temporary situation and I should be better within a week or so. And I'm not trying to make everyone Give Me Attention considering the terrible news from Orlando over the weekend. But I suppose I feel that if there's one thing worse than living in a world where horrible things happen, it's living in a world where horrible things happen and being unwell. Does that make sense?

Download review will follow when spoons exist. I really do want to type it up because I haven't managed to for the past couple of music festivals I've been to, and I can barely remember Sonisphere 2014 now!
baratron: (Warning: Sick!)
I have a horrible stinking cold. It's nothing exciting, just a summer cold, but I am feeling miserable owing to being feverish on a day which is hot and humid.

My mother had cancer, and as a result of the treatment, has an extremely weak immune system. I told her I was ill & she shouldn't be hanging round here.

So why did she spend over half an hour in my house when I’m shedding virus at a rate of knots and the air and everything I’ve touched is potentially contagious?
baratron: (angry)
Safely home. Got in yesterday morning and went to bed for 6 hours, then Tim & Peter came round to take me out for dinner, then I went back to bed and slept for another 12 hours. I would now be feeling like a human being if my mother hadn't spent the whole day driving me insane.

Today I had a great Need To Be Alone. While I'm usually pretty extroverted, travel knocks me out and afterwards, I just want to be on my own while I recover. It's at least, in part, a chronic fatigue thing - having to deal with other people and take in unnecessary aural input exhausts me sometimes. But she decided to spend the whole day here, trying to organise our damned house before Richard gets home, and failing to take hints. I don't know how much more explicit I needed to be, since "I would like to be left alone, please" wasn't good enough.

To me, being "left alone" means being alone in my house.

To her, it means that she stays downstairs most of the time and only comes up to bother me once or twice an hour :/ I guess I should have said "Please will you go home", but I only just thought of it :/

So she decided I was being ungrateful for her help, when it was her simple PRESENCE that was annoying me. I've been getting progressively more-and-more bad-tempered, and only calmed down in the hour and a half since she left. And I haven't got anything done all day, because I needed alone-time in order to summon up the requisite attention span to do what I wanted.
baratron: (Skyrim)
My mum was sitting watching me play Skyrim today. Except she doesn't really understand how modern games work despite having watched me play it for hours.

"Don't you get bored playing that game all the time?"

I wasn't sure how to answer this, but a friend on irc pointed out that it's like different episodes of the same TV series. So we had a brief discussion about the paucity of locations and characters in the original series of Friends (two flats, the coffee shop, and six people, iirc).

"And I play different characters. Like, this one is a thief, and she was originally an assassin but I decided she wasn't actually evil. So I'm going to make another character who is an evil vampire assassin."

"Oh. Why have you picked those plants?"

"Because you can make potions or poisons from them. They do useful things." [Shows Mum the list of effects for each ingredient that I just picked up, and explains what they all mean.]

"Why did they disappear when you picked them?"

"Mum, when you pick apples off a tree in real life, they're not on the tree any more, are they?" (I didn't mention the fact that in Oblivion, flowers and mushrooms DON'T disappear when you pick them, because the game is Weird.)

"Why are you walking around with all that fish when you don't eat meat?"

"Well, firstly, it's impossible to be vegetarian in any of these games. They haven't invented soy mince yet. And look at my character. She's a bright pink lizard person who can breathe underwater. Don't you think *she* would eat a lot of fish?"

"I like her boots. Can you get me those boots out of the game?" <-- MY MOTHER IS SO RANDOM! She liked the Leather Boots, but the Vampire Boots were even better. Don't ask.

She did ask a really sensible question though, which was how do I decide which items to keep and which ones to sell. So I showed her the prices for each item, and the damage caused by each weapon. She asked whether more expensive weapons were rarer, and I said "Often, yes, but not always", and showed her the special Daedric quest items which I just happened to still have on me because I was on my way to build a new house.

Also, after I bought ground in Hjaalmarch to build whatever the Hearthfire house there is called, she asked how I got the items to make it.

"I dug up metals from ore sites that I found in the ground, and melted them into metal ingots. Then I stood at the anvil and turned them into nails and hinges."

"...But WHERE did you get them from?"

I didn't understand that question, so I just pointed out an ore vein next time I went by one. I guess I should have shown her ALL the pockets of the invisible bag, because I'd shown her Weapons and Clothes and Food and potion Ingredients, but not the Miscellaneous dump where everything else is put.

It's really weird explaining something that's obvious to you and completely un-obvious to someone else :O
baratron: (cn tower)
We're leaving for Zürich in an hour's time. I have entirely failed to sleep, and it's now late enough to even try sleeping. Instead, I'm running a bath, and I've put the oven on to make a hot sausage sandwich. It's damned annoying. Our flight isn't until 11:25, but I have to check in by 9:25 because of having to check in my wheelchair. Ugh.

Switzerland is amazing. I'm looking forward to trains that leave on time. The last, and until now, only time I've ever been in Switzerland was with the Guides when I was 16. Our train broke down and it made the national news. I believe it arrived 45 minutes late. Given that we were from a crappy little commuter town vaguely near London, our trains can be 45 minutes late on a NORMAL day. The train staff were amazed how calm we all were, and we kept explaining that we were used to trains being late, so it was no hassle - and they just couldn't understand ;)

Anyway, I just made an international call to the Swiss train company's disabled assistance line. I was worried because the website says you need to give an hour's notice for assistance requests (which is already an order of magnitude better than the British train companies' 24 hours - and even with a confirmation you can't guarantee the assistance will happen), and of course I don't know exactly which train I'll be on because I don't know when my flight will arrive. It could be early, or late, or some other emergency might happen. However, it turns out that I can get on any train called S16 without needing help, since I can roll straight on. And it turns out to be a double-decker train, so my mother will be super excited since she loves those.

Edit due to late posting: It all worked. Tired now, going to bed.
baratron: (cn tower)
We're off to Zürich on Thursday. Every time my mum has a "big number" birthday, she wants to do something she's never done before, which usually equates to going somewhere she's never been before. I think this is a good policy. We picked Switzerland somewhat at random since the flights were cheap compared to the rest of Europe, and Zürich because it has the highest number of vegetarian & vegan restaurants on HappyCow. Plus I've never been there, either.

So I just endured an exquisitely painful conversation with a random woman at Swiss Air (now branding itself simply as SWISS - but that's a useless company name unless you already know that I'm talking about an airline). I had to call the airline because there's no way to arrange assistance online (really, I did look), and as an online friend said "it has to be as inconvenient as possible". Since it was gone 1 am here, I got connected to some random country where it is still normal working hours, and was asked weird personal questions in an entirely unnecessary way! The conversation went something along the lines of:

"Why do you need a wheelchair?"
"Er, what are the options you have on your screen?" (Expecting something along the lines of
a) Cannot walk long distances, needs assistance through the airport, but can climb stairs.
b) Cannot walk long distances or manage stairs, but does not need assistance on the plane.
c) Cannot walk at all, needs an onboard wheelchair.
)

"Well, is it because you've had surgery?"
"No".
"Or broken your leg?"
"No, it's because I need to check in my wheelchair, so I can't drive myself to the gate!"

Only it went on longer, and was more torturous. We did, eventually, go through the options a, b and c above, but she had to point out that there were already 3 people who needed assistance on my flight, as if that should make a difference to my need for assistance. (Also, only 3 people who needed assistance?)

Then when I explained that although I prefer not to climb stairs because it leaves me in pain, I *can* in an emergency situation, she started suggesting I might need to get a medical clearance! So I pointed out that it's chronic fatigue, I've had it for years, and I've flown all over the place.

And THEN when I explained that I wouldn't need any extra help from airline staff onboard the flight since I'd have my husband with me, she started calling me Mrs Lastname! If I wanted to be booked as Mrs Lastname, I'd be booked as Mrs Lastname rather than Ms Lastname! She had my booking on screen, with Mrs Mother's Name MyLastName, Ms Helen-Louise MyLastName, and Mr Richard SomeOtherName, and I'd given my first name as part of the call! Clearly, if I was Mrs, I'd have Richard's surname rather than mine, or he'd be Mr MyLastName, but...

She attempted to apologise at the end because she realised that she had obviously failed from the mismatch between her questions and my answers, but her apology was so damned embarrassing (due to her panicking and making it up on the spot) that I said "no, no, that's okay" just to finish the phone call!

When booking travel, I don't care where on Earth I get connected to, as long as they have the training to deal with the situation effectively. (Honestly, it's travel, of course you get connected to people for whom it's a sensible time to be at work!). However, if your company does not have a dedicated disability assistance line, then that means that every employee who answers the phone has to know how to ask the right questions in a sensitive manner. Unfortunately, that means that either you need to have really good training (repeated frequently), or a really good computer system with a script for employees to follow. Clearly, this was not the case for this phone call.
baratron: (goggles)
Well, the ultrasound yesterday entirely failed in the obvious and not scary categories. Need to talk to the doctor about it, but I think what I actually have is non obvious and scary. Bah!

There's no sign of any cysts in my ovaries. Apparently they look fairly normal. There are a whole load of small growths in my uterus. None of them are fibroids that should be big enough to be causing pain (I still remember [livejournal.com profile] the_siobhan's Killer Attack Uterus that was twice the size it should have been). However, small growths in my uterus are totally not what I need, given the family history of endometrial cancer which, if accounts from my grandmother are to be believed, may be in the process of attacking my cousin. Godsdamnit!

Endometrial cancer is not hugely terrifying by the standards of cancers, since it's slow-growing, and if it's caught early (and anything under the age of 60 counts as "early") you have a very high chance of recovery. However, my mum suffers horribly from the anti-estrogens and androgens she's on (given that many transsexuals feel better once they have the "right" hormones, it makes sense that the "wrong" hormones would make a cissexual totally miserable), and her thyroid has packed up completely from having her ovaries removed (and her doctors don't seem to be giving her enough thyroxine), and she has osteoporosis, and she's really not very happy or comfortable most of the time. This is not a future I want for myself.

I probably have at least 10 years before I have to start worrying, but it depends on how much pain my lovely uterus decides to give me. And I was really hoping that I hadn't inherited this particular set of genes!

I wish my old doctor hadn't retired. He was really good at putting things into perspective. The new one is nice, but doesn't know me that well. I don't need to hear that the current set of growths are benign because that's how my mum started too, so it's not reassuring.
baratron: (boots)
Last Saturday (16th) I went to the Joan Miró exhibition at the Tate Modern with Tim & Peter and my mum. He is one of my favourite artists, but I didn't realise until I saw the publicity for this exhibition that he was male - I thought it was the woman's name Joan, not a Catalan spelling of the man's name Juan. That's made me slightly sad because it means there are even fewer famous female surrealists.

The exhibition was awesome anyway. Lots of great paintings, plus a series of 50 pencil drawings called the Barcelona Series, which were incredibly inspiring, because I can draw boggle-eyed toothy monsters like that! (Some of them remind me of the Prince and his cousins from Katamari Damacy!). I often feel that modern art "doesn't count" if it involves a level of skill which I'd be capable of, but apparently I disregard this opinion if I really like it?! Hmm. I also really liked the Head of a Catalan Peasant series, especially the one which is a portrait of Richard.

Afterwards we went to Pizza Express, which is a typical thing to do with Tim & Peter, and walked over the Millennium Bridge to St Paul's Cathedral, where I investigated new and exciting ramps in the ground. Oh, and missed the train that I'd booked assisted travel on, due to the lift in Waterloo Station being broken and no one knowing about it to tell me. Had to go ALL ROUND THE OUTSIDE to get in through the level entrance. Grrr!

On Friday (22nd) we went to Devizes to see Richard's mother's grave and also various alive members of his family, namely his father, stepmother, sister, her husband, and nephew. It was VERY VERY SUNNY and we spent several hours outside, walking round the Caen Hill Locks. Well, they walked, I wheeled. Except I got "hilariously" stuck over one of the narrow bridges while Richard temporarily forgot I existed due to taking photos. There were dozens of people around to help me though. Heh.

On Saturday (23rd) I collapsed in a heap and slept for 18 hours, and then we went to see Wolfsbane. More about that later.

On Sunday (24th) Tim & Peter came round and we played Portal 2, and went to Pizza Express, where a waitress we'd never seen before "recognised us". This may be something to do with our tendency to take plushie animals with us to dinner. We get recognised everywhere we go even semi-regularly for this reason.

On Monday (25th) Marcus ([livejournal.com profile] hatter) came round and we went to look at "the trees" in Richmond Park, including my favourite tree. I had an altercation with a bus driver who refused to let me on because he already had "two buggies" occupying the wheelchair space - I pointed out that wheelchairs take priority over buggies and the guardians of the small children moved them out of the way for me to get on. If they hadn't been reasonable, I would have written down the registration number of the bus and got straight on the phone to Transdev (the bus company who runs that route), since it was totally ridiculous of the driver to assume that a wheelchair passenger should have to wait 15 minutes for the next bus when it blatantly says that the space is for wheelchairs! I probably should have done that anyway, but it would have required spoons which I don't have.

Photos of some of these activities to follow in next post.
baratron: (blue)
My mother never stops talking!
baratron: (boots)
Dear gods, I am going insane. Whose stupid idea was it to bring myself to New York even though I haven't finished my coursework, on the basis that I can do my work anywhere? ARGH!

Moaning about my dear family, feel free to skip. )

I am so glad that we didn't try to go anywhere exciting for dinner last night and just went to Better Burger. Because anything done twice is tradition, and I'm now on my fifth trip to New York and... seventh? eighth? tenth? trip to Better Burger. Last night I had a soy burger, smashed potatoes, fruit smoothie and vegan brownie. Fast food that is actually food. Om nom nom.

Okay, I think I've got all the moaning out of my system. Better try to get on with some work.

:O

Oct. 27th, 2010 12:18 am
baratron: (black)
My mother, who "never wins anything", has just won a pair of tickets to see Rammstein.

In New York.

And the tickets have our names on (mine & hers), so they are unsellable. Looks like we're going to New York, then :O

I don't know quite with what money, but she had already bought a pair of tickets for this particular show - and the mark up on them (first Rammstein show in the US in ten years, or something) is high enough that I'm hoping the proceeds will at least pay for her airfare.
baratron: (goggles)
I have five or six livejournal entries in my mental queue to post here at some point. This is not one of them. As often happens, I'm buried in mostly-offline life, and A Thing has happened that's stressed me enough to need to post about it NOW.

Has anyone ever tried the concept of a safeword with their mother?

I'm asking this because I've spent the past 3 days in very close proximity with mine, working incredibly hard to clear out the back room in my house so I can use it as a study. This has been going really well (thanks also to [livejournal.com profile] hatter & [livejournal.com profile] bfo) and it is now usable and quite comfortable.

But about midnight tonight my mother got to the state of tiredness/stress where she started misinterpreting everything I said, and I kept telling her that she wasn't listening properly and it was too late at night and she should go home, and she kept on trying to argue with me despite acknowledging tiredness, and we ended up having an absolutely blazing row which wouldn't have happened if she'd have just gone home an hour and a half earlier like I'd suggested. So now I feel guilty and sad because it seems very, um, ungrateful to have a massive row with someone after they've been helping you sort out junk for three days, but still frustrated because I'd said I needed to be left alone.

So I'm wondering about the concept of a safeword to use with one's mother, with the implication of "No, I really mean no, you are pushing my buttons and we need to end this conversation now!". Of course, it would only work if your mother is reasonably sane, or else her response to the safeword would simply be to ratchet up the levels of emotional blackmail.

In other news (actually, completely related to the above, this being most of the source of the stress), IKEA don't make the sort of units I want, and I don't know who does. They did 21 years ago (when I was 13), but don't any more. This is highly annoying. I have a picture in my head of what I want this room to look like (basically my teenage bedroom, only without the bed), and I don't know how to go about getting it to happen.

It's probably mostly-pointless trying to buy more furniture for this room in any case, because it needs to be completely redone properly - at least one wall has such bad damp in it that paint is actively peeling off, and the floor has a crappy carpet and fails to be flat to such an extent that furniture leans in a multitude of directions. I think we're back to Richard and his legendary Gantt chart of house renovational d00m actually coming into existence before I can get any further. (I'm thinking it'll look something like this, only with far more dependencies. Have to clear the furniture out of the room before we can get the walls replastered, and have to do that before we can think about fixing the floor. But probably have to get the kitchen sorted out first because it's all the same wall - argh!).
baratron: (Default)
I am ridiculously amused that I managed to write a post that had 24 comments before I even got round to looking at it again - and it's about Brussels sprouts ;)

If you had Christmas dinner today, what was it? Richard & I did roast beef, roast seitan, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings (normal & vegan), roast parsnips, carrots, white cabbage, baby corn, roasted red peppers, peas, vegan cauliflower cheese and gravy. (After typing that list, the word "roast" now looks like it's spelled wrong even though it isn't). The vegan cauliflower cheese was terrifyingly popular and disappeared quite quickly - I was expecting everyone to be freaked out by it. Then we had a break from eating and opened presents. My mother has bought us a cuddly polar bear that is ALMOST AS BIG AS ME!! (Pictures to follow). Dessert was, variously, Christmas pudding, chocolate cheesecake or vegan chocolate mousse cake, with cream, custard (dairy & soya) and vanilla ice cream (soya). Om nom nom.

In the morning, Richard has to go to work, even though it's Saturday, and Boxing Day (debatable), and there are no trains. He got an automated email from the server at work saying that the power had failed in the building. So he has to go in and spend about three hours rebooting machines in the correct order so that they can talk to each other properly. Oh, the joys of being a senior sysadmin in a firm that is absolutely dependent on computers...
baratron: (richard)
Back from Berlin now. Well, actually, we got back very late on Tuesday night but I've been too hideously busy to write about it online. Currently we are having a power cut which means no Xbox, internet or lights, so there isn't much else to do other than sit in front of a laptop on battery power. Bah!

The overriding impression I have of the Festival of Freedom is that it was interesting and I'm glad I went, but I can't say that I "enjoyed" it as such. My mother kept bouncing up and down saying "Do you like Berlin? You don't seem to be enjoying yourself!", which didn't help. The main reason I'm not sure that I enjoyed it was because the history is rather grim and upsetting. It's not very pleasant to see how a government utterly oppressed its people for several decades. Seeing things like the parts of the Berlin Wall that still exist and realising the scope of the thing is incredible. You can read about it and see photos, but it doesn't convey the size. (It really was colossally wide - now there are several streets with buildings in what used to be no-man's-land between the two halves of the wall). And it's all very well to have a celebration because it's 20 years since East Germans became able to vote and travel freely - but what of all the countries in the world that still have dictatorships and totalitarian governments?

It's also rather thought-provoking to imagine oneself in that situation. What kind of person would I have been in East Germany? Would I have been one of the rebels, writing the underground newspapers and risking imprisonment or death on a daily basis? Or would I have been one of the rule-abiders, sticking to the law even though it meant repression of spirit? Could I even have been one of the Stasi (secret police), spying on my fellow citizens? It's impossible to know because I wasn't there and didn't grow up in that environment. Certainly I was incredibly rule-abiding when I was at school. (I've always liked to think that in the Harry Potter universe I'd be Hermione Granger or Luna Lovegood - very smart and willing to risk trouble if it was necessary, but really I was more like a Percy Weasley - unquestioning of the rules and determined to follow them because It Was The Right Thing To Do, even if they didn't make sense).

Also, while we were learning about what everyday life was like for "normal people", they were all apparently white, heterosexual and able-bodied. It's true that the Nazis made it very difficult for people who weren't white to live in the country, but we were looking at life in the 1980s. What happened to gay and bisexual people? What happened to disabled people? (Abortions were free for the first three months of pregnancy). What about the mentally ill? The communist government encouraged women to go to work by having huge state-run nurseries, in which children were potty-trained en masse. All of the toddlers would be put on the potty at the same time and they'd all have to sit there until everyone had finished. What happened to children who couldn't manage potty-training with their age peers?

So yes, lots of things to think about, and maybe some things to research when I have the time and feel up to it. I'll write more about what we actually did another time. Also, Richard has lots of photos which may go online eventually. I'll definitely go to Berlin again - it was one of the most excellent places to eat that I've found in Europe. (You think Germany's all meat and sausages? Well, there were tons of vegetarian & vegan restaurants as well!).
baratron: (bi_pride)
The other thing we did for my mum's birthday was go to see the musical version of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I'd asked Richard to get the intermediate price tickets for all 3 of us, but Richard decided he didn't really want to go (musicals not being his thing), and instead got the expensive tickets for my mum & I, as this worked out to be the same amount of money. We had absolutely fantastic seats in the stalls where you could see everything!

The London version of the production has Jason Donovan starring as Tick, which leads to amusing riffs. For example, Adam/Felicia wants to be Kylie Minogue, and Tick says "I always fancied Scott, myself" - which brought the house down. Also, the costumes! The Village People's song Go West was accompanied by cowboys and cowgirls in silver PVC. Another song had dancers dressed as fairy cakes in crinoline dresses. The paper cup that you make the cake in was the crinoline over a hoop. Their bodies and the top of the dresses were the icing, with big dots for Smarties. And their headdresses were like birthday cake candles, which lit up at an appropriate point in the song.

Also, the scene where they paint Priscilla the bus pink to cover up the homophobic abuse written on her was done with many LEDs on the side of the bus, and the dancers dressed as paintbrushes. PAINTBRUSHES! Honestly, whoever came up with the costumes for this show has an amazingly warped mind. The LEDs were then used later for other songs with other designs, like rubber ducks floating on a pond.

I really can't describe how good it was in words. It was just the gayest thing ever. If West End musicals weren't so damned expensive, I'd have gone again already. And I came home wanting to be a drag queen when I grow up, which confused everyone. ("But... to be a drag queen, you'd have to wear high heels and shave your legs and wear make up and do all those other things which you reject as part of 'normal' femininity!").
baratron: (pop'n music best hits)
It was my mum's birthday last weekend (well, I suppose the weekend before last now - 15th), so we went out with her in central London. First we went to Grant & Cutler, the foreign language bookshop, to buy her some German books. We discovered several weird new language-learning techniques, including a course you can do on your iPod, and a course that encourages you to learn German phrases by setting them all to music and singing along. Personally, it seems that my language-learning ability died after school, as I didn't get anywhere with German or Italian at university... but I have a ridiculously good memory for the lyrics of songs. So we bought her the CD and I'm curious to know how she gets on with it.

Then we went CD shopping. We went into Sister Ray, which has historically been the kind of shop that concentrates on electronic, industrial and gothic music - they sell other stuff, but only to pay the rent. If it's weird, on an indie label, and ideally in a language that your average British person would not understand, they'd have it. Even now, they are indie hip enough to still sell paper fanzines, which have more-or-less died out since the internet became a thing that everyone has. I, however, did not get obscure music. I bought albums of classic rock, most of which are hopelessly unfashionable:

Def Leppard - Hysteria Deluxe Edition. Somewhere, I have a tape (paid-for) of Hysteria that I've had since the late 80s. I found it again recently going through boxes and was all excited because I've been wanting to listen to it. But could I find it the other day when I was desperate to hear it? No.

Hüsker Dü - Candy Apple Grey. Many years ago, [livejournal.com profile] bethdeth, who I knew from the Wildhearts Mailing List, gave me a tape of this. It wasn't the greatest quality, like many taped copies of other tapes. My indie-kid credentials have been seriously dented all these years because I never got round to buying any Hüsker Dü albums. Shocking!

Journey - Greatest Hits. I blame Rock Band. Really, I do. Songs of extreme earworm that are right in my vocal range (how did those AOR guys sing so high?).

Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine. Because neither Richard nor I already owned it and it is the best NIN album.

Poison - The Best of Poison: 20 Years of Rock. Again, blame Guitar Hero/Rock Band. I've always had a secret fondness for hair metal and Poison in particular, but I hadn't realised how many good songs they had until being forced to listen to them as part of a game.

Soul Asylum - Black Gold: The Best Of. The Soul Asylum album Grave Dancers Union is in my non-existent Top 20 Albums Of All Time list, and I love all the Soul Asylum/Dave Pirner tracks on Kevin Smith movie soundtracks... yet I've never got round to buying any more of their stuff. I suck.

Velvet Revolver - Libertad. The Last.fm recommendations on our Sonos system keep suggesting we should listen to Velvet Revolver, and so far we've liked all the tracks.

I was almost cringing taking my little collection up to the counter to pay. Surely these CDs would mark me as hopelessly non-indie with no street cred whatsoever? and I was mentally preparing for an argument where I pointed out all the weird and interesting stuff in our collection at home. (Hey, my favourite band Freezepop spent something like 8 years not only on an indie label, but on an indie label owned by two of the people in the band!). And indeed, the young tattooed & pierced guy with strange spiky hair behind the counter said "Oh cool, you have a really good collection here - we were actually going to put that Journey CD on next". I just accepted that comment, and paid my £50.

Halfway down the road, it hit me. He wasn't being sarcastic. Apparently I'm old enough now for the stuff I liked as a kid to be considered retro. I don't honestly know how this makes me feel.
baratron: (black)
Mother's Day in the UK falls somewhat earlier than the international version. Ours is technically called Mothering Sunday and is the fourth Sunday in Lent. I'm always surprised this doesn't apply everywhere, particularly in Catholic countries, but I suppose it's something we made up. Like Boxing Day.

You already know that my mother is Not Like Other Senior Citizens. Her favourite band is Rammstein and she is into all heavy metal and industrial music, especially German industrial. So the ideal way for us to spend Mothers' Day was to take her to see a film about a heavy metal band.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil is about the Canadian metal band of the same name who spent the early 80s opening for big names like Anthrax and Bon Jovi, yet somehow faded into obscurity. But Lips and Robb had made a pledge when they were 14 that they were going to keep rocking forever, and so there they were at the age of 50, with absolutely awful day jobs (e.g. delivering school dinners!!) because they needed to be free for their music. The film is about them, and their families, and still trying to live the dream despite a huge amount of bad luck and bad circumstances.

It really is a fantastic film. It's like Spinal Tap but in real life – hilariously funny in parts, while other bits will have you with tears in your eyes. Newspaper reviews here all gave it 5 stars, and said “If you're passionate about ANY kind of music, go and see this”. To me it's a movie about obsessed men, and heaven knows I live with one of those :)
baratron: (science genius girl)
My mother is nuts. She sent me a text message telling me to check the plant pots for "hungry creatures". And it was 20:14, and dark outside, so I had to take a torch to do so.

Context: my mum does not have a garden of her own and lives 10 minutes away. We do have a garden but aren't desperately interested in gardening. So she grows stuff in our garden for us. It is a compromise which would suit everyone except that she insists on growing plants which snails like to eat. Having been a gardener for decades, my mum thinks that snails are ravenous monsters who must be squashed like bugs. Richard and I are woolly hippies who object to killing things, and rather like snails.

Currently, we are checking the plant pots in the front garden (neat, pretty flowers). If a snail is found, we carry it through the house to the wild back garden, which contains a buddleia triffid (snails can eat what they want). However, there is a certain amount of hassle involved in this and I would like to prevent the snails from getting to the plants in the first place. Prevention is better than cure.

My plan is to shield the plants that we care about with copper and then have some sacrificial plants for the snails to eat. Apparently snails can't/won't cross copper, so I wanted to find out why. SCIENCE! )

[Bad username or site: hoopycat>, number 389 of a long series: @ livejournal.com]HoopyCat's comment about this idea: #soc.bi science fair!

Random other HoopyCat gems from today:
<HoopyCat> being-the-middleman guideline #3: when relaying messages between two people who are geeking out on a topic that's well outside your normal geeking range, put them in direct contact; it will probably result in something cool.

<astra> in our sainsbury's, next to the vegan bouillon, they have CANS of SNAILS
<HoopyCat> canned snail! they keep that next to the potted meat food product here.
<astra> and i always thought it was a special variety of snail that was eaten, but these ones look JUST LIKE the ones in our garden :(
<HoopyCat> i wish to believe that a lot of these items were originally made into canned goods while our world in the depths of the cold war
<HoopyCat> in your fallout shelter, keep canned snails and potted meat on the visible shelves... when your neighbors come over for the tour, they see your canned goods consist of utterly unappealing crap and then decide to build their own fallout shelter
<astra> i like snails
<HoopyCat> 'course, in the event of REAL emergency, you have shelves of good stuff behind a fake wall

*lol*

And the context of the title. )

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