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Friday, November 21st, 2014 10:49 pm

Aaaa, this blast from the past rolled around on my partner's spotify tonight. So much power pop goodness...I have ~feels~ about this song. ^_^;

Also notable: apparently Weezer did a cover of this song for the movie Cars 2. It's pretty good! They didn't stray very far from the original. =)

Friday, November 21st, 2014 10:06 pm
by Charles Causley

When I was walking by Tamar stream
the day was as sweet as honey and cream.
The air was brisk as a marriage bell.
(Kiss if you must, but never tell.)

When I was walking by Tamar flood
I plucked a rose the colour of blood.
The red ran out and the thorn ran in.
(Finish all, if you begin.)

When I was walking by Tamar brook
I met a man with a reaping hook.
The beard he wore was white as may.
(The hours they run like water away.)

When I was walking by Tamar race
I met a maid with a smiling face.
Out of her eyes fell tears like rain.
(You will never see this road again.)

When I was walking by Tamar lock
I picked a bunch of sorrel and dock,
Creeping Jenny and hart's-tongue fern.
(Days they go, but cannot return.)

When I was walking by Tamar spring,
I found me a stone and a plain gold ring.
I stared at the sun, I stared at my shoes.
(Which do you choose? Which do you choose?)

[I don't know whether Causley thought of the Tamar as magical because it's liminal, but I do. TJAT]

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 08:12 am
For the past few months, I have been playing the Assassin's Creed series on the Playstation. The first part was... not good, but AC2 and AC2:Brotherhood more than made up for it. Loved the gameplay, the story, almost everything.

Since I played AC2:Revelations previously, I have now started Assassin's Creed 3, which is set in America before its independence and I am finding it very annoying so far.

* I didn't at all care about the character I played for the first few hours and never really understood who he was and why I was doing the things I was doing
* That despite an estimated half of my gametime so far being spent watching cutscenes. I am not making this up, there was a mission yesterday where I ran to a house, knocked on the door - cutscene - walked to the stable 50 meters away - cutscene - walked back to the house, knocked, then claimed for about thirty seconds and went back to the stables - cutscene - fight - cutscene. I'd really rather be playing..
* The missions are sometimes really hard, especially the optional goals. How am I supposed to not lose 50% of my health if a wolf attacks me right away? I had to replay a mission more than 10 times yesterday and at that point it's just frustrating.

I think I'll give it a few more hours, but the next part (Black Flag) is already waiting for me at the post office. Where I can't get to at the moment because of the plague, bah.
Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 11:46 am
It's now Wednesday, my body temperature is still above 38°C, my lungs are trying to escape my body through my mouth and when I do something strenuous and dangerous such as getting up I almost faint. My intellectual capacity is barely large enough for watching Netflix (Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and 30 Rock).

Somehow I think tomorrow will see me paying a second visit to my doctor instead of returning to work.

And the cats are nowhere to be seen. Ungrateful little furballs.
Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 02:41 pm
"those are the more bread and butter cancers of the kidney"
Monday, November 17th, 2014 11:41 pm
Gentle Readers
a newsletter made for sharing
volume 2, number 4
17th November 2014: the phoenix rises
What I’ve been up to

I've been missing writing Gentle Readers. During the last month or so I've been dealing with particularly severe depression: getting out of bed has often been impossible, let alone writing newsletters. Many days have come and gone when I said I'd start writing again yet no words would come. But the phoenix has risen and here we are once more. Thank you all for your patience.

I've been reading Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning, and I recommend it. Frankl was a professor of psychology who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp; the first part of the book is a fascinating and disturbing description of his time in the camp. What seems to have kept him going was finding a meaning in his suffering: the knowledge that he was uniquely well-placed to learn about the psychology of extreme deprivation, and that he had to write it up and tell the world. And he realised that this was an example of the general principle that people need to find meaning in their lives to want to carry on, by which he meant a person's knowledge there was work before them that nobody else could do, or that they were irreplaceable to someone else in the world.

Have you read it? What did you think?

A poem of mine


Her soul proclaimed the greatness of the Lord
who dwelt within her belly, and her mind.
The light shines on, the humble are restored,
and food and mercy given to mankind.
That day she saw the everlasting light
she memorised, and treasured up inside,
investing for the fading of her sight
the hope that living light had never died;
till hope itself within her arms lay dying,
a frozen journey, ready to embark,
and nothing more is left for her but trying
to comprehend the greatness of the dark;
yet somewhere shines the light, in spite of that,
and silently she sighed magnificat.

A picture Poussin's painting of shepherds reading "Et in Arcadia ego" inscribed on a tomb.
Et in Arcadia Lego.


Something wonderful

We begin with something not in the least wonderful. Mustard gas is a substance used in chemical warfare; its effects begin to show around six hours after contact, causing painfully blistering chemical burns, conjunctivitis, and potentially fatal damage to the lungs. It works by interfering with the DNA so that cells can no longer reproduce themselves. To put it mildly, mustard gas is seriously unpleasant stuff.

The Allies never used mustard gas in the Second World War, but both the UK and the US were secretly manufacturing it just in case. In 1944, the Americans sent sixty tons of the stuff to their troops in Italy aboard a Liberty (merchant navy) ship named the SS John Harvey, reaching the British-controlled Italian port of Bari in late November of that year. But there was rather a queue, and the John Harvey lay waiting in the harbour for a week: the captain was prevented from telling the harbourmaster that his cargo was dangerous and should have priority in unloading because of official secrecy.

On 2 December the Luftwaffe bombed Bari harbour, sinking seventeen ships including the John Harvey, releasing a cloud of mustard gas to drift across the town. Nobody knows for sure how many thousands of people were injured or killed, again because of official secrecy: the whole accident was hushed up and didn't become public knowledge until the late 1960s. Nor did the doctors treating the injured people know that mustard gas was involved. At this point, the Americans despatched a chemical weapons expert named Dr Stewart Alexander to work out what was going on. His quick thinking identified the mustard gas and saved many lives; nevertheless, he still had to go through many autopsies.

But it was at these autopsies that Dr Alexander noticed something odd: people who died from mustard gas exposure had very few white blood cells, because the effects of the gas had prevented the cells dividing. If it stopped white blood cells from multiplying, might it stop cancerous cells from multiplying as well? Dr Alexander's work led eventually to the discovery of mechlorethamine, a derivative of mustard gas that became the first chemotherapy drug, and thus saved the lives of millions.

Something from someone else

by Hilaire Belloc

As a friend to the children, commend me the Yak.
You will find it exactly the thing:
It will carry and fetch, you can ride on its back,
Or lead it about with a string.

The Tartar who dwells on the plains of Tibet
(A desolate region of snow)
Has for centuries made it a nursery pet.
And surely the Tartar should know!

Then tell your papa where the Yak can be got,
And if he is awfully rich
He will buy you the creature-- or else he will not.
(I cannot be positive which.)


Gentle Readers is published on Mondays and Thursdays, and I want you to share it. The archives are at, and so is a form to get on the mailing list. If you have anything to say or reply, or you want to be added or removed from the mailing list, I’m at and I’d love to hear from you. The newsletter is reader-supported; please pledge something if you can afford to, and please don't if you can't. ISSN 2057-052X. Love and peace to you all.

Monday, November 17th, 2014 06:36 am
My throat hurts. I am coughing, but nothing comes up. And my head explodes in pain when I move my eyes. Guess I am staying home today...

I suppose it's too early to blame my sister who has been been having some form of bronchitis quite often the past few weeks. But I only saw her Saturday and at least the eyes and headache thing has already been lingering around yesterday.
Saturday, November 15th, 2014 09:27 am
For the past weeks, somehow, the issue of being a woman in a male dominated field has often been on my mind. I am in an industry where I am often the only woman in the room. I think in terms of actual software developers we make up about 10 percent. And after over 4 years, it's getting to me.

So the ESA shirt story has been getting to me. Hit me a lot harder than I thought possible. And other than many articles I read about it, my problem is not so much "why would he wear that on TV and not realize the impact" but "why would he wear that to work and not realize the impact".

I have coworkers who wear nerdy shirts. I wear them myself sometimes. That shirt would make me completely uncomfortable at work. Just... No.

Too many feelings.

I might lock this entry later.
Friday, November 14th, 2014 05:53 pm
So I discovered an interesting anomaly in the Dreamwidth stats recently.

One of the things I do is keep historical daily copies of the raw stats file for Dreamwidth, which is updated daily. I've been collecting this file automatically every day since September 2010, and today I decided to take a look at today's file.

One thing I noticed was that the number of accounts with a birth date listed that would put them at 5 years old seemed to be really quite high compared to its surrounding data. While the number of accounts "aged" 6-12 totalled 107, the number of "5-year-olds" alone totalled 259.

It's worth noting at this point that you can't create an account if you put in a birth date that would indicate that you're below 13 years old, because Dreamwidth doesn't want to have to deal with COPPA. In other words, to have an account listed as any age between 5-12, you'd need to have created the account with an earlier birth date and then adjusted it after creation to be the birthdate you wanted it to be.

I decided to take a look at the historical copies of the stats file. The biggest part of the rise seemed to have taken place mostly in April-May 2014. At this point I plotted a graph to show the statistical anomaly, which internally I felt very conflicted about doing. (Without knowing why the graph was plotted or seeing the data, it sounds very creepy to plot a graph plotting the number of accounts with a birth date indicating they were 5-12 years old over time.)

My first thought was that these must be bots or RPers. I shared it with Dreamwidth's IRC channel and we all pondered over it, before [personal profile] pauamma realised what must be happening.

It turned out that what we were seeing was basically a replay - much diminished, mind you - of the growth Dreamwidth experienced in open beta when it started in April 2009 - 5 years ago! Some of the accounts created then must have set their "birth date" to be the date of the journal's creation - an account birth date rather than the user's birth date. We hadn't noticed before now because the stats file only goes down to 5 years old, and even though there were accounts in closed beta, the figure wasn't high enough to particularly notice before now.

What I'm saying is, we basically missed Dreamwidth's fifth birthday, if we take "birth" to mean the start of open beta. Dreamwidth is officially five years old!