juliet: The towers at Canary Wharf seen from Staves Hill in Bermondsey (london wharf)
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.
juliet: (waveform tree)

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.

juliet: (waveform tree)

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

I have a story in the current issue of Luna Station Quarterly! You can read online for free, or buy an issue in e- or paper form, and there’s lots of great stuff there.

(Direct link to my story.)

juliet: (waveform tree)

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.)

juliet: (waveform tree)

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.

juliet: (waveform tree)

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

Now available for pre-order from Obverse Books: The Perennial Miss Wildthyme, featuring Iris Wildthyme, and a story from me. It’ll be out this autumn, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to reading the rest of the stories.

The cover, by Paul Hanley

The cover, by Paul Hanley

(Should you feel unable to wait for your Iris fix, Iris Wildthyme of Mars, in which I also have a story, is available right now.)

juliet: (Default)
We still do not have permission for our solar panels, although we have an official form planning letter which mostly doesn't apply to us. On Thursday it will have been 3 weeks and thus I can chase the planning officer to find out what the problem is with issuing a certificate stating that our lawful development is, in fact, lawful development. (Gah.) On the upside, Patio Dude has just sent an email saying he'll be round next week (which I sincerely hope means a week tomorrow and not tomorrow, for which I would not be prepared) to take up old patio and install new patio, new fence, and new pergola. In some glorious future year the pergola will, I hope, support GRAPES. (The grape vine already exists, but is quite small.)

Leon is now teaching himself to count in other languages (French, Russian, and Mandarin, so far). The internet has a lot to answer for. He is also keen on rainbows (from a colour perspective, rather than as a meteorological phenomenon), and the bin lorry. ("Taking the things to the recycling, to make them into new things!") In a slightly scary step we have taken away the stereo-pen (ie the baby pen that corralled stereo instead of child) without any incident resulting. I believe we are beginning to enter the "why" phase...

I have been GETTING RID OF THINGS in a middling dramatic fashion, and feeling very good for it. My room looks -- not empty, but the stuff that is there looks uncluttered. And I have now kept my desk actually clear for about 3 weeks now which is an all-time record.

And I have not one but two short story deadlines upcoming, which on the one hand is a good state to be in, and on the other hand, deadlines, writing, editing, etc. Yesterday I read through one of them and thought that it was pretty much OK which always makes me nervously wonder what I've missed or if I have lost my critical edge. (Did I ever have a critical edge? who knows.)

Now to finish sewing rainbow patchwork for Leon's upcoming birthday.
juliet: (waveform tree)

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

I am pretty pleased with this.

Before (June 2011, a month before we moved in):

Eight months later (late Feb 2012, the week before I had Leon!):

One year on (July 2012):

Nearly three years on (May 2014):

Not bad going, really. More photos in the Flickr album.

(Currently it looks quite wintery but I might add a photo in a bit anyway.)

juliet: (waveform tree)

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

Look what came through the letterbox yesterday!

Book cover: Faction Paradox, "Liberating Earth"

A brand new Faction Paradox collection, featuring a story by me, among eight others. I haven’t yet read the others, as it only arrived yesterday, but I am greatly looking forward to them; especially the frame story by Kate Orman.

Available now from Obverse Books (hardback) or on Kindle.

juliet: (Default)
Further to my previous posts musing on getting stuff done and the perils of the ticky-box approach, I have realised another interesting thing, which is that I can find researching and (in particular) Planning a Thing more satisfying than the actual Doing of the Thing.

The thing with planning is that you can research and consider and analyse and generally collate lots of information into a cohesive whole, and then make a considered decision based on appropriate factors. All of which is (I find) quite satisfying. And after that you can work out what needs to happen when[0], and whether you need to acquire anything, and generally, once again, consider and analyse and collate things into a Plan. A Plan is a beautiful thing.

But then comes the actual Doing, which involves hard work (physical or mental) and finding that you forgot to allow for this, that, or the next thing; and often the Doing does not entirely match up with the Planning in outcome either[1]. (Though sometimes it does, and sometimes it is better.)

And yet, Planning without any actual Doing is (probably) (right?) eventually going to be unsatisfying.

I could use getting better at Doing.

In other news, we are (hopefully) going to get solar panels! (They should be Permitted Development but due to the specifics of our covenant we have to get permission and it is proving a little more intricate than I expected. Which, really, I should have expected.) Planning the solar panels was fun, and also takes me one step closer to finishing my Permaculture Diploma which I am now aiming to finish by July. There is, inevitably, Another Plan.

[0] If you are very lucky, there may be a Gantt Chart.

[1] I often find it difficult to start writing something, for example, because in my head it exists in a whole and, it seems, perfect form, which is necessarily going to suffer when turned into cold hard words on paper. I am trying to get better at this. Also that is the point of editing, but it is still sometimes sorrow-making to read back something I've just written and realise just how clunky it is.
juliet: Avatar of me with blue hair & jeans (blue hair jeans avatar)
My investigation in November into "taking more time off" was positive in that I felt better for it, and have tentatively concluded I should do more of that. (Where "that" is "having at least some time where I am not staring down a to-do list".) Actually doing it, as ever, proves harder. I'm experimenting now with ways to fit more work achieved into work days and thus have more time off. As Leon gets bigger (and so doesn't demand me as often) in theory this should be easier as I can be less interrupted and therefore more efficient. I am also hoping that lovely new noise-cancelling headphones will help a bit with focus (rather than, say, listening to everything else that's happening in the house at the same time.)

Read more... )
juliet: (Default)
So last week (or the week before; whichever) I decided that I was going to REST in November. (Where "in November" is defined as "in the bits of November which are not Leon-days and when I do not already have commitments, i.e. only actually about 8 days in total.)

My observations so far:

  • I am not all that good at resting. I keep thinking "right, so what am I going to DO today? what is my GOAL? what do I want to ACHIEVE?" and then having to remind myself that what I am DOING today is nothing.

  • I am really not all that good at resting. My idea of 'doing nothing' is only spending an hour or so doing ticky-box useful things, and then the rest of the time knitting. And reading, which ought to count, except I keep finding myself reading things off the 'I really must read this' pile rather than just fun things. OK, sometimes the IRMRT pile contains unexpectedly fun things (if they were truly expectedly fun I would have read them already; they tend to be things that I might be pleased to have read but are not necessarily restful). But still. I mean, I do like knitting! But I find it curious that it is so difficult not to do something that I clock as 'vaguely useful'.

  • Having said all of that, I have had a couple of naps in the last fortnight, which were great! And I have done enjoyable reading and knitting rather than (mostly) hurtling around the place with the mile-long to-do list, so we will count this as a win.

  • When I have sat down for an hour with the to-do list, the enjoyment of crossing things off the list has been significantly higher than usual, which I found fascinating. Possibly partly because I was limiting the time I was going to spend doing it? Rather than having a whole day (and more...) of ticky-box tasks stretching ahead of me.

  • I do, overall, feel better than I did when I made the decision.

  • I do need to rethink what I'm trying to fit into my normal life at the moment. I have done some provisional thinking on this and will continue to contemplate it next week.

  • I have also done some writing just because I wanted to, which is an improvement on last month when it was all about ticking things off. This was pleasing. Long may it continue. (The interesting thing is finding the balance between the self-discipline of 'show up and write'; the feeling of 'I want to do this and am enjoying the process' (where 'enjoying' also covers 'this is hard work and exhausting but satisfying'); and the bit where you just need to keep on plugging.



Further updates at the end of the month, if I think of any.

Motivation

Nov. 9th, 2014 05:45 pm
juliet: Part of a Pollock artwork in the Tate (art - pollock)
Recently it feels a bit like I've lost my motivation to do things that I am usually intrinsically motivated to do (ie which I do for the fun of doing them). This is particularly true of "hard" things, but yesterday I sat in my room staring out of the window and occasionally checking Twitter for much of the day because I couldn't even see any likely enjoyment from even low-stress things like reading or watching something.

One possible reason for this is straightforward exhaustion, coupled with overwhelm (too much to do, too little time).

But I also found myself wondering if the process of getting better at extrinsic motivation and goal-setting has torpedoed my intrinsic motivation.

There's plenty of general evidence that extrinsic rewards can damage intrinsic motivation. But my own personal extrinsic rewards are of the "tick off an item on my to do list" variety (I get absurdly motivated by a tickybox, especially if it is a real box tickybox not just crossing an item off. I am ridiculous.). Is it reasonable that they might do the same thing as a tenner handed over by another person?

Tickybox motivation is of course just fine for things like doing chores or going to the post office or remembering to send invoices. But with things like writing or making something, the general productivity advice I read is always about setting long-term goals, then dividing them into short-term goals: write x hundred/thousand words a day, get this part of this project done by this deadline, that sort of thing. Sure, without some kind of goal or destination, you don't know where you're going at all. But I've done a lot of this sort of major/middle/micro goal-setting this year for important projects and I find myself feeling steadily less inspired. Which was not the aim.

I am not sure I have a solution. I'm not sure I'm even tackling the right problem. (See above re tiredness.)

My current thought is to come at it from another angle, by heavily limiting the number of genuinely ticky-box things I have on my list each week, according to my estimate of how long they'll take. So I only have x hrs of those things. Then all the rest of the time is for the important stuff, for which I have an overall goal but (in this new approach) no daily/weekly tickyboxes.

However, this is for next month. For this month I am ditching all the important projects (inc Nano, which I only started last week; oh well) in favour of a more important project of "not doing anything in an attempt to recuperate my brain a bit". See above re tiredness and lack of interest in things that previously engaged me. (Obviously this excludes child-care; and I have no paid-work deadlines this month due to doing them all last month.) Radical self-care. I find this a terrifying notion. I will report back.
juliet: (Default)
How is it nearly November?

For the first time in a couple of years I'm probably going to do Nanowrimo again. I spent a couple of weeks getting way ahead on work commitments, as I was expecting to spend October/November/December working on a big project. Big project will hopefully still materialise but hasn't yet, which in turn means that my work time is pretty empty, so I may as well do *something* with it.

I have also been doing a surprising amount of socialising, including a trip to Oxford to meet up with various folk, a couple of dinners with various friends I haven't seen in ages, drinks ditto, a visit to my sister, and yesterday, a very splendid party. Arranging social things is still a lot harder than it was pre-Leon (...obviously...) but in comparison to, say, a year or so ago it is much easier. Which is lovely.

I still miss climbing. I manage to go once or at most twice a month; it's still lots of fun but that's just not anything like the amount I should be doing to get any better. Maybe I should apply my "tiny changes" theory to this, but that warrants its own post.

I am slightly, superstitiously, scared to say this publicly, but Leon, over the last week or so, has been regularly sleeping 5-6 hours at a stretch after going to bed. This is the first time since he was born that he's done anything like that consistently. I don't think I'm entirely feeling the benefit of it yet, possibly because I can't bring myself to believe it / count on it yet. But this may yet mean that "being less exhausted" becomes a marginally more reasonable aim.

(He made up his first story the other day, too, albeit a pretty basic one*; and has suddenly got the hang of piggy-back rides; and grown about 2" overnight. Children are terrifying.)

* "Once upon a time there was a little Leon, with his mama, in the sling. Then they were very tired. So they went all the way home." He was, at the time, on my back in the sling and we were on the way home.
juliet: (waveform tree)

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

Current writing news: Iris Wildthyme of Mars (in which I have a story) is now out from Obverse Press in ebook form and available for preorder (pub date 30 Sept) in dead tree form. The cover art is awesome.

Iris Wildthyme of Mars FrontCover

I haven’t read my copy yet (I am in the throes of a Dorothy L. Sayers re-read; previous evidence suggests that it is useless even trying to extract myself before I reach the end) but am greatly looking forward to it. There are plenty of fine authors in there.

Philip Purser-Hallard, the editor, is also editor of another new Obverse collection, Tales of the Great Detectives (ebook or dead tree pre-order (30 Sept again)). So you might do well to read that one too (as I will be doing) (dammit, I need to read faster).

LonCon3

Aug. 31st, 2014 09:52 pm
juliet: (Default)

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

A fortnight ago I went to LonCon3 – not just my first Worldcon, but my first SFF con of any sort. Given that they were holding it about 20 min tube/DLR ride from me, in ExCel, it would have seemed churlish to skip it. 

There were a lot of panels. A LOT of panels. And I went to quite a few of them. I found myself ducking out of this one 15 min early so I could have a quick break / snack before dashing back for the next slot. It reminded me of when I first went to music festivals (20-odd years ago now) where I would pore over the programme planning how if I left *this* then and dashed over here I could catch half an hr of *that* on the way to *the other*… Another time I might endeavour to take it a little easier and give myself more time for everything else. (I entirely missed the Art Show, for example.)

Having said that, I enjoyed nearly everything I went to, and could happily go back and start over with a whole different set of things. (I missed most of the science track, for example). I have many pages of notes I am not about to type out, but a couple of panels particularly stuck in my mind afterwards (ie came to mind without checking said notes while writing this).
– Race and British SF: a really interesting discussion about who is writing what, where, and why, which left me with a much longer to-read list. 
– Ideology vs Politics in SF: the premise was that ideology (noble ideas) shows up in SF more often than politics (the grubby business of hammering out solutions), probably because the former is in general more interesting to write/read. Lots of discussion about the value of both about writers who do tackle politics, and about the radicalism of imagining a political alternative. 

There was also one talk (on worldbuilding) I left after getting too annoyed by the panelist who invariably referred to a hypothetical character as “he”. A shame as there was good stuff from the other panelists, but it was just too irritating. I cheered myself by getting some dal for a late lunch. 

I saw “kaffeeklatsch” repeatedly on the programme with no explanation, then when I established what it was, was too shy to sign up. Then I found myself sitting next to Stephanie Saulter (author of the excellent novels Gemsigns and Binary, about which I was most enthusiastic at her) at another panel. She mentioned her kaffeeklatsch, which gave me the courage to sign up. I’m glad I did – it was a lovely hour, and I also got to meet and chat to Anne Charnock (whose novel A Calculated Life I have since read and enjoyed), Cindy of Draumr Kopa review blog, and someone from Birmingham SF group whose name now escapes me (oops). Buoyed by this I also went to Teresa and Patrick Neilsen Hayden’s one, which was interesting if less chatty. 

Despite my extensive panel attendance, I also managed to do a bit of socialising with people I didn’t know at all, and thus award myself a Big Gold Social Person Star. (I had a drink with a couple of folk I did know, too, but that is less challenging because I already know that they’re nice.) The fan village in many ways was great from a social point of view – lots of opportunity for mingling – but it was also very noisy (and echoey, being as how this was ExCel and therefore it was inside a big concrete box) which made life harder. I left one thing because I just couldn’t hear anyone, which did nothing for my intermittent social anxiety. 

Sunday I missed most of everything that didn’t involve hanging around in the fan village, as Leon came along for the day. He was delighted with his badge and First Worldcon ribbon and very enthusiastic about running round the ‘village green’ with a hula hoop. He is, however, still not panel-compatible. I went home with him and D at dinner time rather than staying for the Hugos. I was a little sorry, but following it on Twitter over pizza and a glass of wine at home was still pretty exciting, and also involved pizza. A very pleasing set of results. 

(Given how Sunday panned out and that I would have had L with me on Monday too, I somewhat reluctantly stayed home on Monday and missed the final day, bah.)

Brilliant weekend, if exhausting. I would go again like a shot if it ever comes back to Europe. And after over 20 years of being a fan of sorts but never going to a con, I am now signed up for both Eastercon and 9 Worlds next year and greatly looking forward to both. 

juliet: (waveform tree)

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

Hurrah, another story out.

http://www.fictionmagazines.com/shop/realm-issues/new-realm-vol-02-08/

(Only just realised this, despite having looked before, due to their website being a bit counter-intuitive.)

In other news, I have begun revising the novel I’m working on at the moment. It is a bit like trying to put together a really big jigsaw puzzle in several dimensions, when you keep discovering that some of the pieces are missing, and other pieces that aren’t missing are actually from another puzzle altogether.

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