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Ditching LJ

Like quite a few other people, I am treating LJ's new user agreement as a reason to stop crossposting on Dreamwidth. (If you're reading this on LJ, I am [personal profile] juliet on DW.)

I'm not sure yet whether I'm going to delete my old content or not; they have backups, I assume, after all. I probably won't delete the account altogether.

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Cold feet

This winter I conducted an Experiment on my feet, specifically: how long into the winter and in what conditions can I (comfortably; this wasn't intended as an experiment in foot-related suffering) continue to wear sandals?

Now it's spring again (at least here: there are daffodils in full bloom and I was cycling in a T-shirt again yesterday) I can probably declare the experiment finished and draw appropriate conclusions. Which are:

  • Anything above 10oC and sandals are perfectly comfortable.

  • Anything below about 2-3oC mark is definitely too cold, even if dry. This only happened on a very small number of days this year, though it was an unusually mild winter.

  • 3-10oC depends largely on how wet it is; if it's wet underfoot or actively raining then it's likely to be chilly, although at the top end of that range might be OK anyway, depending on what sort of mood I'm in and how long I'm likely to be out.

  • There is a difference between 'walking the dog' (or other walking-around-outside activity), 'going somewhere indoors by public transport', and 'standing around in a playground'. If I'm mostly going to be on a bus/tube and then indoors, sandals are fine even getting down towards the zero mark. If I'm standing around in a playground (especially if wet), boots might be wiser even if it's closer to 10. Walking the dog I'm only out for 30 minutes at a time anyway so even if it's chilly I'll probably cope. (When it's freezing that's still long enough to be properly uncomfortable, though.)

  • If cycling rather than walking then your feet don't move enough to keep warm; toe-coverings required. But in fact I've been wearing bike sandals all year round for about 8 years now and just wear waterproof socks with them. This is obviously a fashion disaster but if I'm going somewhere where I can't just take my shoes off on arrival (which in general I prefer if at all possible[0]) I carry proper shoes with me.

  • Fewer people than I would have expected appeared to either notice or comment on my footwear choices, even in the middle of December.

So it has been very informative!

There was a purpose to this beyond scientific experiment; my knees are happier when I wear sandals than when I wear boots, so the less time I spend wearing boots the better. I am pleased to discover just how feasible it is to minimise boot-weeks.

[0] I just don't much like shoes! The RFH don't mind you wandering around without shoes on. I got told off in the British Museum once, also on a train when walking between carriages.

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Tales of the Civil War — out now

Mirrored from Juliet Kemp.

Tales of the Civil War, another City of the Saved anthology, is available to buy now and shipping in physical form now-or-very-shortly! It’s edited by Philip Purser-Hallard and contains stories by Kara Dennison, Kelly Hale, Louise Dennis, Helen Angove, Selina Lock, and me.

Book cover, text "The City of the Saved", "Tales of the Civil War", "Edited by Philip Purser-Hallard". Behind the text a comic-style drawing of various people supporting/grabbing/fighting over a flag.
Cover art by Blair Bidmead

For a taster, try Kara Dennison reading part of her story, ‘The Tale of Sir Hedwyn’.

My copy hasn’t come through yet but I am greatly looking forward to everyone’s stories.

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Tea/coffee meme

1. How do you like your coffee?
Black (due partly to influence of partners -- Pete in particular is heavily down on adulterating coffee -- and partly to the fact that soya milk doesn't generally work well in coffee). But I drink it at all only very rarely.

2. How do you like your tea?
Just normal tea (theft) with soya milk, and occasionally a smidge of honey.

3. What's your favourite late night beverage?
Water. Can't drink tea after about 7pm or coffee after about 3pm if I want to be able to sleep at bedtime. I like hot chocolate in theory but not that often in practice (and it's a faff to make properly, with a saucepan of milk, and less tasty made with water).

4. If you could only drink one thing for the next week, what would it be?
Water-with-a-splash-of-apple-juice. I would be sad to miss out on a week's worth of tea though.

5. If you were on vacation, what would be the first thing you'd drink to celebrate?
I would probably open a bottle of wine that evening, but often going on holiday happens in the morning when it seems a bit early to be drinking booze.

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Air pollution

I've been thinking about air pollution a lot lately. Tower Bridge is shut for Not Falling Down Works, and the resultant tailbacks across South London seem to be making the air significantly worse than usual. Anecdotally, as I walk down to the Jamaica Road*, the air starts tasting weird and my throat starts feeling weird.** The onset of this (I've lived in this area nearly 15 years and I don't usually have problems) precisely matched up to when the bridge shut. It would be hard to argue that there's not going to be more pollution: same number of journeys, give or take, all taking longer so generating more airborne crap. Other S Londoners of my acquaintance have noticed the same; an asthmatic friend is particularly struggling.

But are there figures? Not really: annoyingly, there's no roadside monitoring station anywhere near here, although in 2015 most of the nearby stations to me exceeded the Air Quality Strategy objectives, and it's looking the same already for 2016 even before Exciting Tailback Autumn really got going. This street-by-street map looks more useful but is a "now-cast" only (right now, at nearly 7pm on a Saturday, which shouldn't be super busy, it's at the high end of 'low' on Jamaica Rd; the notes state that 'low' levels of pollution may in fact be higher than is good for your health). I will come back to it on Monday morning. Without a very close monitoring station I do wonder how accurate this is, but looking at the nearish ones would still be informative.

Hopefully this particular batch of badness will improve in December when the bridge reopens. But London's air quality is pretty horrible at the best of times. Checking my postcode on the 'annual levels of exposure' map (data from 2013) they give rates for four pollutants:
  • NO2: my house high end of 'passes' range (37 microgrammes/m3); Jamaica Road well into 'fails' (~67 mcg/m3).

  • Ozone: my house 40 mcg/m3; Jamaica Road a bit lower as apparently ozone reacts with other pollutants so is lower close to busy roads.

  • PM10: my house passes at 25 mcg/m3; Jamaica Road not quite up to the 'fails' range at 31 mcg/m3.

  • PM2.5: my house passes at 15 mcg/m3; Jamaica Road higher but also passes at 19 mcg/m3.

This does not fill me with confidence for my respiratory health (and all the other consequences of breathing in lots of pollution).

Short of moving***, I'm now wondering if there's much I can do about this on my own behalf. (I have already commented on the current London Clean Air study, and have contributed to various similar campaigns over the years to try to fix the actual problem.) Some years ago I tried a facemask for cycling but as the Guardian discovered more recently, these are basically very uncomfortable. It's also worth knowing that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the pollution risks. So whilst a mask might make the air less icky to breathe, it makes walking or cycling around the place more unpleasant in other ways.

In terms of long-term health consequences, the main suggestion from the London Air people is "avoid busy roads" as levels drop rapidly away from them (as seen with my house vs the Jamaica Rd). That's mostly doable. There's some evidence that consuming more antioxidants (e.g. lots of vitamin C) can help protect against the long-term health consequences; I've also seen "more omega-3 fatty acids" suggested (flax oil, hemp oil****). Won't actually stop me coughing, but as "more vitamin C, more omega-3" is a pretty risk-free dietary change, probably worth doing.

The best solution though is probably for Sadiq Khan to get on with making the air actually less vile. I believe the current plan has various aims for 2020. Here's hoping.

* One of the major east-west arteries south of the river; in particular it leads to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, which is dealing with a lot of the redirected Tower Bridge traffic. Three minutes walk from my house.
** I'm also getting headaches again and sleeping badly but these might be related to one another and not to the unpleasant air.
*** Though basically to get all that much better than here I would have to move right out of London, not just a bit further out.
**** Or fish oil for non-vegans.

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Mancunicon 2016 — book recs

Mirrored from Juliet Kemp.

Note: these are not books that I am recommending personally, because I haven’t read any of them yet. They are instead books that other people at the con talked about sufficiently enthusiastically that I now want to read them. Some of them are on my (now much larger) to-read pile, either in dead tree form or electronically; some aren’t yet.

First up: two people I know had book launch parties at the con! David L. Clements released his collection of short stories, ‘Disturbed Universes’ (from NewCon Press); and Siobhan McVeigh has a story in the collection ‘Existence is Elsewhere’ from Elsewhen Press (scroll right down for buying options). I heard various of the authors reading extracts from their stories in this book at the launch and they all sounded great.

The rest of my recs are from the Feminist Fantasy panel:

  • Jo Walton ‘Lifelode’ (annoyingly, it seems to be out of print, and expensive second-hand)
  • The Chinese myth series Dream of Red Mansions
  • Elizabeth Gouge (note that not all of her books are fantasy)
  • Octavia Butler ‘The Wild Sea’
  • Someone mentioned the Green Knowe series of children’s books, which are sort-of historical fantasy. I read them as a child (a long time ago now) but am now minded to have a look for them the next time I’m in the library and see how they’ve held up.
  • Tanith Lee
  • Lois McMaster Bujold ‘Paladin of Souls’ — I have read this one and it is GREAT. Very strongly recommended.
  • Kate Elliott — both fiction and non-fiction. (Just looked at her post about her own books/series and am now wondering how I missed all of this for this long. Looks great!)
  • Mary Stewart — Merlin trilogy
  • Andre Norton ‘Year of the Unicorn’. (I should probably have read this already…) (but I haven’t, so.)

To enlarge your (my) reading list further, E. G. Cosh (who was on a panel with me and is v cool) has a recs post too.

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Furthest Tales of the City

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

Look what arrived in the post for me!

Furthest Tales of the City

Stories by some splendid writers including me:

Furthest Tales of the City contents

I haven’t read it yet as it only arrived yesterday, but am greatly looking forward to it. Some of the titles look especially interesting, but I may have to start with Helen Angove’s story.

(Buy it here from the publishers, Obverse Books, in paperback or ebook form.)

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Permaculture Diploma presentation

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

I’ve finished my Permaculture Diploma (all the designs and so on are up here)! I’ll be doing my final presentation at the London Permaculture Festival this Sunday, from 11:30-1:30. There are three of us doing a bunch of mini-talks and chatting to people about urban permaculture and the diploma, so it’s not just 2 straight hours of being talked at.

Come along if you’re free; there’s loads of stuff going on at the festival as a whole, and if you’re at all interested in permaculture it’s well worth going.

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