As Fr Daniel had other places to be this morning, we had a visiting celebrant today, and since she had enough on her plate getting to grips with an unfamiliar ceremonial, I was asked to step in as cantor for the Alleluia. I'd had enough warning about this that I was able to ask CN to turn half my piano lesson the previous week into a singing refresher, and that helped me feel a lot more confident. Despite being frightfully anxious, I think I did a pretty decent job, and I might ask about possibly doing it more regularly, so I can work on getting over my nerves.
We continue to settle in to the new house. We still lack a functioning dishwasher, and have slightly more furniture in the spare room than we actually need, but apart from that we've done all the urgent jobs, and are starting to move on to the longer term nice-to-haves. Today I put together a new standing desk, which I'm hoping will have the twofold effect of being good for my back and shoulder tension, and discouraging me from wasting too much time hitting refresh on social media.
By coincidence, both times I've done this the films have been about the lives of women born in the nineteenth century. A couple of weeks ago I went to see A Quiet Passion, which about Emily Dickinson. I'm not generally a big fan of biopics, and to be honest, this reminded me why; you can't really compress a real life, with all its messiness and lack of narrative coherence, into an hour and a half and make much of a film, so it felt oddly episodic and didn't really seem to know what it was trying to say. I also felt that it didn't really manage to convey the passing of time; the opening scenes feature a younger Emily, and then there's a sequence where the younger versions of the characters are gradually morphed into the older versions, but once that has happened the film spans a period of 25 to 30 years with no sense of any real change or aging. As I often do with films purporting to depict real people or events, I also spent a lot of time wondering whether the filmed sequences actually bore any resemblence to the real life of Emily Dickinson, or were simply Terence Davies' imaginings. (Mainly the latter, I think; he has been quoted as saying he was seeking 'narrative truth' rather than factual accuracy.) It felt rather lacklustre (despite fabulous costumes) and certainly didn't leave me feeling I know any more about Emily Dickinson than I did when I went in.
By contrast, yesterday I went to see Letters from Baghdad, which is about Gertrude Bell. This takes a very different approach; it mainly consists of Bell's own letters, read by Tilda Swinton, over a montage of photographs of and by Bell and old film clips. The only fictionalised element is the inclusion of various 'talking heads' of Bell's family, friends and colleagues, though even in these cases it's clear that least some of the comments are based on letters and diaries. It's clearly the result of painstaking and dedicated archive research; it's a beautiful and interesting film, but it's very definitely a documentary rather than a drama, and I think I much prefer that to films which attempt to dramatise actual events, which always ends up fictionalising them. I'd recommend it highly.
It must be great to be the person in charge of the Tory smear campaign, because you have to do so little work of your own. Just nudge out a little bit of disinformation and wait for the circular firing squad (motto: ‘the good is always the enemy of the perfect’) of the left to pick it up and deploy it far beyond any reach you might have managed yourself. Having tested out the appratus on Tim Farron, which has now – despite the voices of many LGBT people – got elements of the left denouncing him as though he spends his weekends out with Westboro Baptist Church, we’re probably getting close to the time when the opposition research they’ve been doing on Jeremy Corbyn for the past two years finally gets deployed. It’s not as if we didn’t know from the US that a well-coordinated smear campaign can turn everything about a candidate upside down, but the sheer amount of material they can dump on Corbyn.
In short, if you’ve been cheering on the attacks on Farron, then be prepared to experience the same thing happening to your leader. It’ll make what happened to Miliband last time and Clegg in 2010 look like nothing.
In other Lib Dem related news, Tim Farron has ruled out the possibility of joining a coalition with either Labour or the Tories, which you would think is what all those people who were saying the party would go into another coalition with the Tories would want to hear, but it turns out that just because he’s said something, that doesn’t mean anyone has to actually accept it. I’m starting to think there are some people out there who have decided that they’re not going to listen to anything he or the Liberal Democrats and will denigrate the party regardless. Like Clegg before him, he could come out tomorrow and announce a cure for cancer, and the legions of keyboard warriors would soon be at the barricades to tell us how it shows he hates people dying of heart disease.
Right, that’s enough Lib Dem ranting for now, let’s talk about polling instead. One thing that characterised the 2015 general election was the inordinate amount of time people took to discuss every new opinion poll as it came out. Every night on Twitter was a countdown to the day’s new polling coming out, which would be dissected in detail, plugged into one of the election calculators, while each of the seeming dozens on polling aggregators and prediction sites updated their figures, and we all discussed which of the models might be the most accurate. Then the result came in and it turned out that all the polls had been out throughout the campaign and all those hours we’d spent discussing them during the campaign had been a complete waste of time.
So, what with that and the referendum, you’d think we’d have learnt our lesson and to an extent we have as there aren’t (yet, at least) the plethora of sites devoted to election number-crunching but it’s still been interesting to watch political Twitter grind to a near halt as the latest polling results come out and everyone pounces on them to dissect them. Sure, there might be some interesting things in them (Scotland could be without a Labour MP for the first time since 1906, for instance) but turning the entire discussion about the election into a discussion about what the polls say about the election didn’t work out too well for us two years ago, so why are we content to watch it happen again?
OK, that’s all for today, time to catch up with the new series of Versailles so I can use it as an ill-advised metaphor for analysing the French Presidential results tonight. Does Louis XIV represent Macron, the young man challenging the way power is used in France; Fillon, the traditional Catholic values of the nation; Le Pen, the appeal to a France that controlled its borders; or Melenchon, because the Sun King wanted a France that was unsubmissive to the rest of Europe? Or is it merely a nicely-made TV programme, the background to which reveals interesting things about Franco-British media relations? All hot takes can be catered for, once we get an idea of the results come in.
From CBC's Sunday Edition: Michael Enright on the Gumpians vs. the Trumpians.
Things that have allowed me to get to this point:
1) fixing some of my writing-avoidant habits. Writing code isn't so very different from writing anything else, and if you can find reasons for not writing, you've found reasons for not programming.
2) exposure to more ad-hoc standards of coding. I can look like a Top Pro (TM) just by actually remembering to name things nicely and writing a line of comment. Bonus points for actually remembering to stick the thing in a VCS. Extra bonus points for a DVCS.
3) acceptance that basically I'm never going to carry lots of important language syntax around in my head. I will look it up in the language reference, and that's completely OK. No-one's stalking me as I write, complaining that I can't remember the syntax for opening files; I can just look this shit up.
4) and searching Stack Overflow for your error messages is absolutely a-OK. We live in an age where we're not limited by the storage capacity of our squishy brains, we can outsource this to silicon and that's completely fine. I may end up remembering some of it, because remembering Really Pointless Shit is what I do, but I'm under no obligation to do so, and not remembering it doesn't make me a bad person.
5) Having observed Proper Programmers (TM) programming in my general vicinity, a lot of time is spent swearing at computers, complaining about shitty error messages and poorly-documented libraries, wailing that the bloody program doesn't work, groaning that they fucked up something small and now the bloody thing doesn't work again etc. Unless it's something completely straightforward for the programmer, this happens quite frequently. The difference between them and me is how much they can get done in the 20 or 30 minutes between the expressions of frustration, and that's obviously something that improves the more you practise it. This makes me feel less bad about spending time being generally depressed about how my program's not working, since the natural state of a computer is not to work until you hit it with a bloody big stick.
6) (related to 5) When I did my OU degree, basically I could Just Do the exercises for most of my programming modules. I'd follow the instructions, the thing would work, and lo, I would be a happy stoat (if slightly bored). It wasn't until my distributed systems module that I ever got to the point of having a mistake more serious than a misplaced semi-colon or unclosed brace - I managed to cause my computer to try to open infinite copies of Firefox and a SQL database owing to a badly-formed while loop. I thought that then writing things that didn't work was a massive failing in my understanding, and that Real Programmers wouldn't have this problem. I didn't realise that the natural state of a program is it not working, and that Real and Proper Programmers did indeed pass through a stage where their code didn't work, it's just that lots of them experience this when they were ten, and you couldn't do quite a lot of things. Also, Stack Overflow teaches us that hardly any programs work these days until you've looked up how to do it on Stack Overflow (as far as I can tell, this is the only way to learn how to do web programming). Programming is (eventually) a really good way of learning that you don't know how to do a thing yet, but that it is probably fixable.
7) While I don't have excellent coding skills yet, I do have a bunch of high-level skills about how things fit together that means I can imagine how different bits of a complex system affect other bits. I can prove to my satisfaction where problems are going to be intractable, and not worry when it turns out to be really difficult.
All of this means that I can sit down and write a short program to check things (plus test data sets), and this took me less time than it would have done three years ago, even though I've not written much code since I started my current job.
If it was you, please delete it. Please don't let people like this harvest your address book.
If you took what you think is a nice photo of me and want to let me have a copy, I hear that email is fairly good for that sort of thing.
2. Two Fridays ago, a friend and I went to the Great Canadian Theatre Company to see 1979, a play by Michael Healey. Call it an educational and satirical tragicomedy with a side dish of horror using Joe Clark's last night as Prime Minister of Canada as a framing device.
The side of horror comes in the last half-hour with a debate between Clark and Stephen Harper...whom Healey's script places in the Centre Block when, in historical fact, Clark would still have been working in Imperial Oil's Calgary mail room. But Healey must have needed that debate badly; his computer-assisted slide show accompanying the actors' performance asked the rhetorical question: "What the hell?"
The horror comes from that debate, a debate over the soul of Conservative political ethics, over the future of Canada. Marion Day's performance as Harper - yes, a woman played Harper, deal with it - hit the right combination of youthful enthusiasm, "don't mind me" false humility, nerdiness and creepy ambition.
3. I went to the Science March in Ottawa-Gatineau on Parliament Hill yesterday. Hoping to get photos uploaded to my Flickr account later in the day, house chores permitting.
4. More as I think of it. Possibly in separate entries here On the DEWLine later on...
The people on this list are not all people I agree with all the time, but they are all people you find things out from following, and they are all civil (none of them will start frothing at you for differing with them, although if you attack them they're perfectly capable of defending themselves or blocking/muting you).
- Journos and Pundits:
- Jen Williams - I'm with Gadsden on this, Jen is the best political journalist in the UK right now. Mancunian focus, but covers national stuff too. Forensic with information, and does proper investigative journalism as well as straight reporting. If you only follow one from this list, make it Jen.
- Samira Ahmed - freelancer who pops up all over the place, often Radio 4. Her twitter feed is exactly the kind of blend of politics and geekery I love.
- Jessica Elgot - Grauniad politics correspondent. This is where you go for straight Westminster bubble news, as it happens.
- Emily Maitlis - Presents Newsnight and tweets about politics a lot. Easier on the brain than following BBCLauraK.
- Marina Hyde - absolutely brutal yet hilariously funny political columnist.
- Judith Moritz - BBC North of England correspondent. Was astoundingly good on Hillsborough, among other things.
- Susan Hulme - presents Today In/Yesterday In Parliament on Radio 4. Excellent coverage of stories some others don't pick up - recent example being the gay concentration camps in Chechnya.
- Isabel Hardman - writes for the Speccy on politics. Also very good on mental health issues. Not to be confused with Oakeshott, who is Wrong Isabel.
- Joanne Douglas - Yorkshire politics, with a focus on Huddersfield. Like Jen Williams, Joanne digs deeper and goes harder than most local paper political journos.
- Neil Nunes - yes, that's right, the sexy-voiced radio 4 continuity announcer. His twitter feed is a source of news stories that I don't see a lot of links to, but are usually very interesting.
- Actual Politicians:
- Ruby Chow (lib dem) - Ruby is refreshingly blunt and very precise. I like her a lot.
- Zoe Kirk-Robinson (Tory, and Leave campaigner) - look, you've got to have at least ONE Tory leave campaigner, and Zoe is the most reasonable of them that I've found.
- Hollyamory (lib dem) - Holly is an LGBT campaigner and an immigrant, and thus has a pretty unique perspective on electoral matters. Always worth reading.
- Sophie Cook (Labour) (and football) (and photography) (and LGBT TV)
- Dipa Vaya (Lib Dem) - lib dem diversity officer and all around Good Egg
- Caron Lindsay - (lib dem & unionist scotpol) - sorry to be having so many Lib Dems on this list, but I can't link you to my absolute favourite SNPer ScotPol account because she's friends-locked. So here is the editor of Lib Dem voice instead.
- Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin (labour) - editor of Left Foot Forward blog. Good on internal Labour stuff and things to do with Ireland/Northern Ireland/Intersection between the two.
- Caroline Lucas (green) - worth following for both internal green stuff and attempts to reach out cross party.
- Non-Party-Affiliated and Other Interested Bystanders:
- Writers of Colour - this is another absolute essential, as far as I am concerned. Often combative, but always justifiably so when they are. I have learned so much and re-examined so many of my own thoughts from following them.
- Number Cruncher Politics - run by Matt Singh, and full of lovely graphs and ananlysis.
- Shoni - a lot on intersectional racial stuff. Very left wing.
- Ellavescent - absolutely essential for both disability and trans rights issues. Is "A Pox on All Their Houses" politically, so can sometimes be a bit rude about party politics. She's got very good reasons for being so, though.
- Milena - generally awesome on politics whether there's an election on or not; Milena is also an immigrant and can't vote in the general election. She's tweeted eloquently about how bloody awful that is.
- Shappi Khorsandi - stand up comic and president of the British Humanist association. Manages to be pointed yet hilarious about politics, both party and non, on a regular basis.
My own morning inner monologue:
* How are you making it, Teressa? How are you still alive and waking up each day, even if it means sleeping all day, or crying and trying to crawl away from the darkest thoughts, or watching tv in the deepest malaise you've ever known?
* Honest answer? The brutal, honest answer?
* Yes. I want the honest answer, brutal as it may be.
* Truthfully, I don't know. I honest-to-god don't have any clue as to how I'm "making it." I guess I figure that feeling hopeless about the future implies a future to BE hopeless about.
* Is that enough?
* It has to be.
* Okay. Okay. If that's what it is, then that's okay.
I have an affinity with moorland wilderness which dates back to my teens when I first visited Dartmoor.
Bodmin Moor is infinitely strange with a mix of 19th century industrial relics and neolithic stone circles.
It's a real place of legend and magic!
( More pics behind the cut: )