2014-12-20 02:48 pm

...

Part of my (what [livejournal.com profile] barakta calls) "criptax" was paid today by me not noticing in Asda that one of the things I'd bought didn't make it into my bag until I got home.

I fucking hate that Asda has been taken over entirely by self-service tills because I'm so shit at them and they stress me out so much. And today it was super crowded and I felt under pressure to get out of the way before I'd had a chance to notice I'd left something behind.

It only cost a pound and it was the least important thing I'd gone to buy, but I'm still unduly upset. Probably didn't help that the short walk to Asda and back was full of cars trying to run me over.

I'm feeling, somehow, particularly "blind" lately and it's really getting to me. I'm finding it really hard to manage how miserable I am about this objectively tiny thing.

But I'm about to go out to my own birthday party, and I've rarely been more ready for cake and friends and silliness than I am now. That'll be good.
2014-12-19 04:13 pm

Today

There's a lot of "I'm done with work for the year!" joyousness being mentioned on my facebook, which is fair enough really! But it makes me a little wistful that I don't have a job to be on holiday from, or even any plans except to make a cake for my birthday party tomorrow.
2014-12-18 02:30 pm
Entry tags:

Dress up

I ended up on the same train into town as [livejournal.com profile] softfruit this morning. When we got to Piccadilly, I think she expected us to go separate ways, but I said I was getting a tram, too. (I didn't have far to go, but it was raining and I was trying not to look as much like a drowned rat as I normally do.)

She was surprised because she'd assumed I was off to see [personal profile] magister, because it's Thursday, so I explained I was on my way to a job interview.

She said she'd noticed I was dressed up but figured it was a sign that my relationship is still at the stage where I dress up for dates.

A reasonable enough assumption, perhaps (I think it's cute that, though I try not to make a big deal of it, my friends all seem to assume my Thursdays are spoken for), but it made me laugh, because I never dress up for dates! Our first date I didn't even expect to be one, and by the second one I was dressed in my grubbiest clothes, smelling of bleach, trying to fix the kitchen sink. After that I figured there was no point trying to pretend I'm anything other than a scruffbag.
2014-12-13 02:22 am

So that's nice.

Actually got to lie in bed with Andrew for a bit, both reading before sleep. It's the kind of thing I think is normal because my parents do it, but we never do. It's just so rare that we go to bed at anything like the same time. And it's only recently I've been getting back to having the focus or concentration to read.
2014-12-10 09:48 pm
Entry tags:

VisiBIlity

I've volunteered to write something on bisexuality and disability, for a big project in which I would be one tiny cog (just how I like it!).

It's taken a lot longer than I'd hoped, but my problem isn't writer's block or that I don't know what I want to say, or anything -- as soon as I saw the possibility, I knew the basic shape of what I wanted to say, and even had the kind of punny title in mind that bisexuals seem to find endearing/mandatory.

No, my problem has been that I've realized that pretty much everything I think or write is, it turns out, about bisexuality or (my) disability. These things inform all my thinking. It's hard to pare my brain down to anything like an acceptable word limit!

But it's fun to try. I am getting there.
2014-12-09 03:27 pm
Entry tags:

OFFFS (the extra F is for "further")

When we left our hero, she'd gotten absolutely nowhere in her attempts to claim benefits.

So I finally got around to ringing the number the job centre lady told me I had to -- which turned out to be HMRC, who use a horrible voice-activated thingy to filter your calls to people, which of course didn't understand my accent (wouldn't want to have these foreigners paying taxes now, would we?), not helped by the fact that I had a non-standard issue. But then, don't we all.

Anyway, HMRC didn't see what the problem was; my name and NI number and other details all checked out fine for them, but they did have to update my address, which is probably useful, and said they'd send me a letter confirming my NI number, which will come in handy the next time something like this happens, I suppose.

And then (as I anticipated in my comment to [livejournal.com profile] barakta), of course there's no continuity of procedure between bits of the government, so I got to ring up the DWP again to see if I can get anyone to do what the phone call a week ago would have been about had they gotten any further than my sodding NI number.

Which means I was on hold for ages -- the whole time being chastised about how claims made online take preference over claims made over the telephone (so if you don't have the internet you're SOL, I guess!) and stressing that this line was only for [whatever I'd confirmed lately that I wanted, two or three times: yes I am a new claim, yes it is jobseekers' I want -- only to be then asked the same thing again as soon as I got a human on the phone. It's so clear that this system is set up for the ease of the people working in it, not the people using it.

Anyway, this human despite her impenetrably Lancashire accent ("Why do you keep talking like that? What's gone wrong with your accent? You all sound all... English. You've all developed a fault!") definitely told me she can find no record of my claim and I have to start over again.

[livejournal.com profile] greyeyedeve will tell you it took a whole afternoon, a lot of help from her, many cups of tea and lots of sarcasm to get me through this process the first time. That I have to do it all over again is just making me tired and sad now.
2014-12-09 10:10 am

31

I bought my last Christmas present yesterday, but I still somehow didn't quite feel like I was done yet.

I just chalked the feeling up to free-floating anxiety looking for something to latch on to -- a very plausible explanation! -- until I looked at the date today and realized.

It's my brother's birthday today. Getting him two presents was just part of my Christmas-shopping routine. So much so that I already had money put aside for that year's by the time he died (which, unable to contemplate spending on anything else, I ended up giving to charity), about two weeks before his birthday. The next year, I found myself veering toward his favorite store in the mall, before I realized and stumbled back to the direction I'd been walking in.

There's so much routine this time of year. So much that's the same as every other year, whether we think of it as tradition or torture. Thus some small part of my subconscious always nags at me that there's something incomplete, something we haven't done yet, someone we're still waiting for.

But we'd always be waiting, and we can't do that. Life goes on, and so too must we, but to what?
2014-12-07 12:47 pm
Entry tags:

Baseball in December

Sometimes I think that I've found something perfect for me at just the wrong time in my life. Like the night James and Andrew were talking about their Desert Island Discs, all the bands James listed were my absolute favorites...when I was about sixteen. if it were possible for me to like him more than I do now, it'd have been then, when I was not only in love with the same kinds of music but also convinced that music tastes were a perfectly good personality test and sign of compatibility. (But both our lives were so different that long ago, not even counting the miles between us, that I'm much happier that we met each other when we did.)

And recently I've become aware of another such thing, thanks to [personal profile] silveradept: there's a Baseball Tarot!

We don't have to go back quite as far for this, but seven or eight years ago I was reading a lot of stuff that made me intrigued by stuff like tarot (especially Promethea).

And while combining baseball and tarot never would've occurred to me, as soon as I heard about it, it made sense to me. I've long said that baseball is the highest concentration of narrativium this side of the Discworld. And if Promethea taught me anything, it's how useful it is to be able to map stories from one context on to another. And I am convinced that baseball's continuing appeal stems partly from how it fosters storytelling, how easily it lends itself to metaphorical renderings of our microcosms and macrocosm, somehow full of rules and yet inspiring poetry in people who'd otherwise never attempt it. Baseball is large, it contains multitudes.

Anyway, [personal profile] silveradept is writing about the Baseball Tarot, one card each day so far for December. I've been meaning to tell you all how much fun I'm finding these posts to read, but actually I'm glad I didn't get around to it until today, because today's makes some great wider points about performing patriotism and the importance of taking a break, to let both mind and body stretch out a bit.

Which goes nicely with this blog entry I read this morning from a friend of mine, about how hard and how important it is to just notice what's going on and how we're doing instead of always rushing to analysis and activity to keep ourselves from getting bored or uncomfortable.
2014-12-06 10:36 pm

Alice, Ralph, Lorri and Rex

New Horizons is about to wake up!

New Horizons is a NASA mission to Pluto, its moons and even some other Kuiper Belt Objects in the neighborhood that are conveniently located (the Kuiper Belt is a bit like the asteroid belt, out where Pluto is).

As with Cassini, I feel such a strange sense of the time passing: I remember when both were launched thinking about how frustratingly, impossibly futuristic the dates of their eventual arrival seemed to me. Excited about Cassini in 1997, I had no idea what 2004 would be like. New Horizons launched two days before I got married; I think it's safe to say that that feels like a very long time ago!

So much has changed that Pluto was still a planet when New Horizons took off.

Of course, there's no less reason to go there now than there would've been before: I've always been happy with Pluto being a dwarf planet, but I'm still thrilled at this aptly-named mission: even Hubble, which can take beautiful intricate pictures of nebulae and galaxies and suchlike that are billions of light years away, still can only show us pictures of Pluto that are so pixilated it looks like a disco ball.

I'm still learning a lot about New Horizons, like that Pluto's satellites that've been discovered since its launch were given the names Nix and Hydra because they have the same initials as the mission. Also, it'd never really occurred to me that sending this spacecraft as quickly as possible towards Pluto so it'd get there before everybody working on it retired also meant that it would zoom past Pluto pretty quickly! New Horizons is traveling so fast that the actual close-approach part of the encounter happens in an incredibly short period; nearly all of the most important goals for the mission are met in the time from 2.5 hours before to 1 hour after closest approach.

Three and a half hours. After nine years of getting there. Of course, other observations will be going on for many months, but I still think it's incredible that any group of humans can so focus their energy and attention that everything needed to make this happen could be brought together with sufficient precision to make such a thing worthwhile. Like ESA landing a probe on a comet a few weeks ago. It's good for us, every now and then, to remember the far-reaching, forward-thinking organization and detail and ambition we humans are capable of bringing to something that for once doesn't kill or hurt or even make more miserable our fellow humans.
2014-12-05 12:11 pm
Entry tags:

Coarse and brutal

A friend -- a proper friend, not just in the fb sense -- posted something on facebook about how immigrants might be "fleeing their homelands" but shouldn't break the law of the country they're moving to. "Get the help and support you need, but don't take the piss," he says. (Or something pretty close to that anyway; he deleted it before I could respond, which is why I have to vent my pent-up aggression here.)

Christ. If only it were as easy as "get the help and support you need." This friend has had a terrible time with the NHS. He used to work with unions. He's been posting stuff about austerity being hard on the poor and disabled, the U.S. police system being set up to kill black people, and other ways that our governments are happy to treat their own citizens...and yet he thinks immigrants can "get the help and support they need," just like that?!

The Home Office's backlog of asylum requests is horrific (and the process itself is inhumane even when people get to it). The Home Secretary has removed the questions about the Human Rights Act and how to claim benefits, and replaced them with questions about kings and queens and what a Christian country Britain is, from the test all non-EU and non-Commonwealth citizens need to take if we want tostay here. The leader of the Liberal Democrats, a party I joined for being the pro-immigration one, is proud of a policy that stops access to interpreters during things like driving tests. Even Paddington would have a hellish time moving here.

Even if UKIP never form a government, they're already getting what they want: Britain is doing a damn good job of making itself a country no one wants to move to. One of my favorite bits of that article is:
The political stage is peopled with characters who wouldn’t get past a script meeting in Emmerdale: the woman who has an abortion at 28 weeks because she’s suddenly not that into the idea; the perfectly well person who would rather fake debilitating depression than get a job; the homo economicus who goes to a food bank even though he can afford food, because it’s free.
To this we must add the immigrant who has help and support to follow all the laws of her adopted country, who can fit perfectly into a racist, bigoted, xenophobic system of laws, who chooses to 'take the piss" anyway.

Here's my other favorite bit of that article:
The only people making the case for immigration are doing so on the basis of their tax receipts and how much business depends upon them, which is code for “depends upon low wages”. Who would go to a country that talks about foreigners like that? What does it say about how they see their own people, that their politicians can make a business case but can’t make a human case?

The only thing maintaining the flow of migrants is that nobody reads the Daily Mail until they arrive, and only then do they realise how coarse and brutal our politics have become, how pessimistic.
I shared this link on Facebook when I first read it. A friend shared it on her wall too, calling it "sad reading." Maybe for her, an old-school British leftie, but writing it isn't what makes it so. I read an article more or less like this a couple of times a year, and while I'm always glad when they're there, that's nowhere near enough. It's not going to get any better until some kind of critical mass is reached, of clear-eyed compassion rather than uninformed fear looking for easy targets.
2014-12-02 05:32 pm

OFFS

So a jobcentre lady called me, and I know it's to go through the application I filled in online yesterday for JSA and arrange an in-person appointment.

It was about a whole thirty seconds before she told me the NI number on my application was wrong.

My first reaction was actually facepalming and saying "Oh no, not this again." I had a whole bunch of shit the first time I tried to claim benefits, which was part of the reason I spent two years not getting any. I was told contradictory things by every single person I talked to, about whether they had an NI number in their records for me at all, how to find out what it was if there was one, and how best to get one if I didn't have one.

I spent ages on the phone chasing down these frustrating things I was told, even having to get that other great bastion of British kindness and infallibility, HMRC, involved at one point. I made at least one trip to the jobcentre after somebody told me that I did, defying current expectations, have an NI number but they couldn't tell me it on the phone but only face-to-face -- and of course when I got there, the people said they had no record of any NI number for me.

It was the worst kind of bureaucratic hell, and I couldn't believe I'd been dropped in it again.

When I asked to confirm that what was written down was [what I have been led to believe for the last few years was my NI number], in order to eliminate the possibility that it was just a typo or something, she said "I can't tell you." She can't tell me what I wrote down yesterday! I might have gotten a little bit sweary at this point. When a despairing "Why not?" escaped my lips, she floundered a bit and eventually said "We just can't." I had been expecting some bollocks about data protection or something, because that's what I usually got told, but to not even be worth lying to only irked me further. Then she said "Don't you remember what you wrote?" Like this was my sodding fault! I said yes I do! It should have been [what I'd told her before]. I repeated it a couple more times. So by that point I'd lost hope that it was just a typo. I should be so lucky, as to have something so easily dealt with.

I used this number when I complained to the DWP about the treatment I got the last time around. I was allowed to buy a sodding house with this NI number, for Christ's sake.

"The thing is, without your NI number, we can't continue with--"

"I know!" I couldn't help interrupting. "I am already on my second NI number since I moved to the UK because this happened before!"

Clearly knowing that I was not someone she had to deal with any more, her accent slid back in and her speech got more informal as she dropped a bit of her professional persona and fobbed me off with a phone number I'm supposed to call tomorrow morning -- but since she didn't tell me who I'd even be talking to or what I was supposed to expect from them, you might say that my hopes for this are not very high.

I was really sure it'd be better this time. I was really sure that I couldn't possibly replicate some of the horrors of the last time I tried to claim benefits. And here it's starting out just the same goddam way, again.
2014-12-02 09:56 am

Tuesday

So, here's what I said was my accomplishment for yesterday:
Finally started the grim process of signing on, throwing myself on the dubious mercies of the DWP a few months later than our bank balance could afford, but as soon as my mental health would possibly allow. I've only begun the process and it still made for a draining, miserable, headache-inducing afternoon.
I have a lot to say about my job-hunt and jobs and work, and what I want to, can and should do with my life (and whether there's any overlap between those three things)...but I'm just way too tired for that right now. I've swung back to insomnia from hypersomnia (it's always one or the other, lately) and I had an incredibly demanding (though good!) weekend before this grimness yesterday, so this is all you get for now.

I just wanted to say I still feel pretty rubbish today, which I think it might be related to all of this, and there are a ton of difficult or dull things I should be doing today but so far I've only been able to eat leftovers and watch DVDs, and feel small and lonely and cold.
2014-12-01 11:30 pm
Entry tags:

Empathy exam

When Andrew got home from the cinema, he told me "...and my mental state clearly isn't very good."

Since he didn't elaborate, I wondered how he'd determined this. Then I remembered what he'd been to see, The Muppet Christmas Carol. "Did you cry?"

"Little bit," he said. "When Tiny Tim died."

"Everybody cries at that!" I said. "That's not a sign of a bad mental state!" I mean, I'm not doubting that he is feeling bad, if he says he is. But a few little tears shed at the demise of Tiny Tim aren't themselves a cause for concern. The good that humanity manages to do for itself is often motivated by such tears as those.
2014-11-30 07:27 pm

Zombisexual

"Today," slacktivist says, "is the birthday of Mark Twain, a day to be celebrated with jokes, stories and hallowed irreverence."

You can't have Thanksgiving celebrations in Britain on Thanksgiving, because everyone has to work. So I made the turkey and pumpkin pie and everything today, and while it may not have borne much resemblance to the traditional Thanksgiving celebrations -- well, actually I'm glad it didn't! -- I unknowingly picked an apt day for it, because there were certainly jokes, stories and irreverence along with our plates and cups of good cheer.
2014-11-26 11:43 pm

Ah yes, I remember this...

We've reached that point in the year where I'll go to bed not because I'm tired, but because I'm cold.
2014-11-25 06:31 am
Entry tags:

I was sad to wake up.

Had a dream where I was basically in Ender's Game, but with lots more bisexuality.

Which, of course, made it way better.

I got an armored jetpack suit! And I got to kiss a girl! A few of them, actually. I'm kind of surprised that my subconscious thinks I'm so fanciable!

Ah well. Time to go back to bed.
2014-11-24 11:52 pm

Nine years

The article by a woman whose daughter died a decade ago, which I wrote about recently, also left me with a bunch of chilling yet wonderful resonances, my own small heart being articulated and understood on a large scale in a way that was both painful and yet somehow really good for me. Here are the bits that I had stuff to say about )
2014-11-24 07:40 pm
Entry tags:

Anything you say can and will be used against you

I thought I was doing pretty well today, but it turns out that's only until I see some friend-of-a-friend on the internet saying that seeing U.S. English (on U.S. websites!) is cringeworthy or that American dictionaries aren't "real" (so what are they, then, ghost dictionaries?).*

Some variation of which has happened like six times today. None of it was directed at me personally, but still it's hard not to feel attacked after a while, and it only gets harder to bite my tongue and not rage at strangers who'd think I was crazy because they were, after all, only joking!

I did manage not to say anything to any of them. But I had to tell someone.


* Don't get me wrong, I certainly think U.S. English is incorrect for some situations, but I don't like blanket statements about how wrong it is and how awful that British people ever have to be subjected to it.
2014-11-23 12:46 am
Entry tags:

Okay, turns out I know nothing about the history or politics of Canada

So they call it a "Senate" in Canada, but it sounds like it's just the House of Lords!

I'm embarrassed by how surprised I was to learn this, especially in a conversation in the pub with a Canadian who, y'know, thinks highly of me.

At least they don't have bishops in the government!

But man. I need a good recommendation for a book about Canadian history and/or politics. They didn't teach me anything in school.
2014-11-21 01:17 pm
Entry tags:

Most remaining "cows"

On the day of the Cumbria Mega-Shark I said that I didn't want fanfic for TV shows or movies, I want it for engineering.

Turns out, fanfic for science is pretty fun, too.