Amsterdam – Canal Barge & Rijks

Aug. 22nd, 2017 10:36 pm
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
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On the previously mentioned trip to Amsterdam, the bloke and I stayed on a canal barge in the Westerdok.

This was the much bigger cousin of the holiday barges that pootle up and down our Worcestershire canal. The main bulk of the hull served as the home of the bloke who ran the B&B. We were in the wheelhouse, overlooking the canal. The docks seem to serve as pretty much permanent moorings for the barges in this area. Each one had a small garden, and there was even a floating children’s play area.

It was surprisingly quiet given that the location is a mere 15 minute walk from Centraal Station. We could hear a distant roar of traffic, but mostly we heard the hangry cheeping of two adolescent coots and the occasional quack of a duck. We also found a great crested grebe nesting a few boats down. It was definitely brooding, as we never saw the nest unoccupied.

Urban great crested grebe nest
The nest itself was a rather wonderful construction, being a mix of urban rubbish and plant detritus, with a few hollyhocks artfully arranged around the edges. The grebe had two female mallard bodyguards, who immediately came to circle the nest at a careful distance, giving me the side-eye when I hopped down on to the dock from the pavement to take photos.

The barge proprietor tiptoed in every morning to leave us breakfast on the table next to the wheelhouse. It included a bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice, muesli, yoghurt, and hardboiled eggs nested in knitted cosies. Much as I wanted to sleep in, the prospect of getting that into my belly when I heard his footsteps got me out of bed pretty early both mornings. We received so much food at breakfast that we were able to make sandwiches from the bread and cheese to squirrel away for later. We ate these in the Vondelpark on the first day, and for supper on the second after the lunch at Rijks.

Apart from the sheer pleasure of walking around Amsterdam, we also indulged in a trip to a Michelin-starred restaurant for a very belated birthday treat for me. We spent three and a half hours eating lunch at Rijks, which is next to the Rijksmuseum. The bloke had mentioned that it was my birthday when he made the booking. As a result, in addition to our pudding, I got a white chocolate candle with sorbet and a little message inside. We sampled both white and red wines, all by Dutch winemakers “from everywhere in the world” (e.g. New Zealand and South Africa).

Photos from Rijks behind the cut.

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Aug. 22nd, 2017 12:00 pm

Interesting Links for 21-08-2017

Aug. 21st, 2017 12:00 pm
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The Blood is the Life for 20-08-2017

Aug. 20th, 2017 11:00 am
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Marks and Spencer and the National Autistic Society have launched a school uniform range aimed at the parents of autistic children. Note that I say aimed at the parents of autistic children, rather than aimed at autistic children. All the blurb is to do with how easy it is to put on, and how hardwearing it is. The subtext is that it's designed for kids who can't dress themselves. This is clearly aimed at parents.

The other way you can tell that actually autistic people were not involved in this is that if you ask any autistic person what is most important for them in clothing they will tell you it's the fabric it's made of. Many autistic people have comorbid eczema, and a lot of those that don't have sensory issues, which mean that fabric and texture are hugely important in clothing. Something that is in contact with your skin all day needs to be made of something non-irritating; that almost always means 100% natural fibres. Cotton, or bamboo, or silk, or modal. Sometimes wool, but sometimes not. NEVER SODDING POLYESTER. And some of the clothes in that M&S range are 65% polyester. And of course it's very wearying that the only clothing specifically designed to be worn by autistic people is school uniform, because nobody of above school age is autistic, and no autistic child ever wears non-uniform clothing. AND they've "removed pockets for comfort". I have never known an autistic person who didn't want MORE pockets, as long as they are made from 100% natural fibre too.

So what would clothing for autistic people actually look like? Well, from the conversation on twitter today:
  1. Clear, obvious fabric labelling on the rack/shelf. While most of us just want everything 100% cotton, some of us prefer other natural fabrics like linen, and some actively prefer viscose or modal. Some of us can cope with silk or wool, some can't. Every single one of us, though, would like to see fabrics clearly, obviously labelled on the rack, without having to go hunting through the clothes for a tiny illegible care label.

  2. No polyester. Not even a little bit. Not ever. No, not even in linings.

  3. Linings are important! Linings are the bit that is actually in contact with your skin, so they need to be all natural fibres too. Note, though, that this does not mean you can take a garment made out of something horrible and line it with cotton and it will be OK - outer fabrics need to be touchable too.

  4. Care labels to be made of the same fabric as the clothing, not scratchy plastic.

  5. Elastic to be covered with the fabric the clothes are made of, not left to be in contact with your skin.

  6. Flat seams! Or even NO seams!

  7. For Cthulhu's sake, SOMEBODY make some bras we can wear! It is really, really, incredibly difficult to get hold of cotton bras, to the extent that I have considered making my own. And even if/when you DO find them, they are covered in non-cotton frills and lace and fripperies. And have stupid care labels made of plastic right in the middle of your back.

  8. Comfort and fit are much much more important than being on trend. I saw an article the other day that low slung waist trousers are coming back into fashion and actually cried.

  9. Moar pockets, on everything, especially women's clothes - but again, made of the same fabric as the actual clothing

  10. Stop saying things are "cotton touch" or "cotton feel" or "cotton rich". All this does is bugger up searching for cotton things. And actually, make your website searchable by fabric. That would be amazing.
And a clothing store for autistic people?
  1. Would be lit sensibly, not with migraine-inducing lighting.

  2. Would have the afore-mentioned obvious, clear clothing labels on the shelf/rack.

  3. Would sort by size and colour as well as style.

  4. Would have assistants that wait to be approached rather than badgering you the second you enter the shop.

  5. Would not have music at all (many many autistic people love music, but find music that they don't like intensely irritating; whatever music you play some of us will like and some won't) and would ideally have sound baffling so that other people's conversations are not intrusive.

  6. Would open from (say) 12 till 8, rather than 9 to 5. Autistic people are more likely than others to have odd sleep patterns and/or working hours.
Now, if some kind banker or venture capitalist would like to give me a wad of cash to make this a reality... And to M&S and the NAS... I do appreciate that you're trying, and I don't wish to appear ungrateful, but if you consulted any actually autistic people in fomulating that clothing range it's not immediately obvious. Please, please, bear in mind the priorities of actually autistic people, not the parents of autistic children, when making clothing that the autistic people are actually meant to wear. Remember the phrase: nothing about us without us. Thank you.

WELL

Aug. 18th, 2017 02:27 pm
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[personal profile] hollymath
I've deleted the post I wrote this morning when I was certain I wouldn't get on the linguistics course, because it would look stupid now that I have been offered a place!

It still has to be sorted out but I'm making Andrew do all that stuff because I don't actually understand how clearing works. But I had a phone call with a nice person from the department who seemed surprised when I was surprised she said she would like to offer me a place on the course, heh. I don't think I composed myself very well during that conversation, but she didn't change her mind anyway!

Holy shit, you guys, they're letting me do linguistics at Manchester University.

Starting in a month!

I've already enlisted the help of [personal profile] barakta who knows a lot about financing and disability stuff, which is awesome, but really I have no idea how to go to university in this country.

I was pretty sure this wasn't going to work. Not for impostor-syndrome kinds of reasons, real ones. They didn't hide how hesitant they were about me: because I didn't take AP classes (my poor rural school didn't offer any, though I spent all my high school life being told I should have been taking them and I think that'd have worked far better for me anyway), I didn't take the SAT because I'm from the Midwest and was looking at colleges in the Midwest, I didn't have the grades in college because I was so fucking mental but still years away from realizing it.

I was sure this wasn't going to work. Because that's what happens to me: I can do things but can't prove I can do the things. Same with job interviews all the time.

Everyone on Twitter is happy, bless them all, but it still hasn't sunk in for me.
nanila: little and wicked (mizuno: lil naughty)
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Poll #18711 Eye candy
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 49


Which?

View Answers

Vin Diesel
9 (18.4%)

Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock
18 (36.7%)

Yes, yes please
9 (18.4%)

Fast AND furious, hurr hurr
7 (14.3%)

No thanks, fit bald men aren't my thing
15 (30.6%)

I have a really short attention span. What was the question?
8 (16.3%)

Cake, anyone?
23 (46.9%)

Ticky!
18 (36.7%)

More fodder for the book!

Aug. 18th, 2017 10:52 am
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[personal profile] hollymath
Yesterday morning I saw I'd been tagged in a tweet where Andrew linked to this, saying "Jesus Christ. By this standard, @hollyamory and I are in a 'marriage of convenience.'"

The article is about a High Court ruling saying that a "genuine couple can enter in a marriage of convenience." Even people who are in a real relationship, not seeking a "sham marriage," can apparently be told that they can't get married because by doing so one of them would attain an "immigration advantage."

Which, yeah. Is exactly what Andrew and I did. With no other avenue of study or work open to us in the mental/physical/financial state we were in at the time (or indeed at any time since), the only way for us to stay in the same country was to get married.

As I pointed out in a series of angry follow-up tweets, the only reason we needed an "immigration advantage" is because being poor and disabled have been declared immigration disadvantages. Marriage is the only route available to current non-EU citizens who don't make £35,000 a year. (Maybe one day that (or its successor at a no-doubt higher salary threshold) will apply to non-EU citizens too.) This is not the fault of any people getting married.

This is not the fault of people getting married.

You may start to see now why I hate the Home Office, why I am the unusual rat who jumped on to the sinking ship of Brexit Britain. Andrew and I both really don't want to but also can't move to the U.S., and there's no other country that will have us both. So if we're going to stay in the same country, it has to be the UK. So I want to feel as secure in that as possible.

When I started talking about this on Twitter, a lot of my friends pointed out that marriage is a legal status so of course people are going to enter into it for legal reasons: tax, inheritance, child guardianship, lots of things. In the UK, increasingly few people get married solely for religious reasons, so legal elements are going to be part of the decision for a lot of people. Yet it's a bad thing if any of those reasons are immigration-related?

Increasingly I'm realizing how much higher a standard immigrants are held to than the native citizens of not just the UK but certainly the U.S. too (where, y'know, immigrants and visitors actually have to say they're not Nazis!) and no doubt other countries as well. It's so frustrating to see this everywhere.

The Blood is the Life for 18-08-2017

Aug. 18th, 2017 11:00 am
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Getting stuff done

Aug. 17th, 2017 09:17 pm
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I've had a better week this week anyway, but it's also been a busier one.

Monday and Tuesday I got a lot of stuff done around the house: caught up with everything that I let slide over the weekend while I was away and the week or so before when my mental health had been too bad. We're at only normal levels of disorganized and cluttered now, and while it's kind of sad that feels like an achievement, at least it's an achievement.

Tuesday I got a key and directions for feeding a friend's cats while she was away for a couple of days. She kindly paid me very generously for this, which was completely unexpected but so nice. I was worried I'd forget but I didn't! Even managed to feed them at about their usual times, except it was a bit later this morning because I slept badly last night.

Yesterday I had a meeting of the VI steering group I'm no longer running. The team manager who gets paid for it is sorting out the meeting dates and telling everyone about them, which honestly I think works better anyway. I feel bad I'm not doing it, especially since I'm interested in other volunteering things -- at this meeting I met someone from the Disabled People's Access Group who says I'd be good to join in some other stuff she does that did sound interesting to me.

On my bus ride there, I got to hear the finished product of a great fanfic audio story that I did one of the voices for. I wasn't too cringeworthy and the story turned out great. I really hope there are more stories in the series, partly because it'd be fun to play my one again, partly just because I want to see what happens.

Yesterday Andrew also got further in applying me for this university course; he actually talked to the clearing people. They asked for a scan of my high school diploma, which since it's at my parents' I was worried would be quite a challenge, but my dad's e-mailed it over this evening and said it was easy. Well done, clever parents!

This morning I had another meeting about a totally different volunteer thing. It's at Manchester Museum, involves some really cool technology and senior people who are very keen to get the expertise of visually impaired people. I am super excited. That probably won't start for a month at least, so at exactly the same time as Lib Dem Conf and this uni course if I get on it and so I am sure that will be fine. No really, I will make it all work.

And this afternoon my friend Mary was in town, which I hadn't known about until a couple of days ago. She's usually near Norwich so this is quite remarkable. I hadn't seen her in more than a year, since the weekend of falling in the river in Oxford (sadly you can't see the pictures right now; I still need to figure out how to get them off Photobucket and to somewhere useful). A train derailment (not hers!) meant she got in a bit later than planned but we still had time to rush around finding somewhere still open where she could buy euros for her trip to Ireland tomorrow and have dinner in a pub. Battered halloumi and chips for both of us (but I swapped my chips for sweet potato fries because sweet potatoes are great and regular potatoes are not). She'd never had halloumi like that before! We bitched about politics and she taught me some Irish words (I will probably forget them again, like I did last time, except not the one for "penis" because it has a joke as a mneomic device).

Saturday is the "Bi Takeover for Pride" event at the LGBT Foundation, which honestly I am treating like another bit of BiCon, down to going along to see people I know who are going as much as I'm there for any of the workshops. So that should be nice.

So yeah. Good week. Glad to know they're still possible.
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[personal profile] andrewducker
Monday is my birthday, and to celebrate Jane is going to show me around Paris for a long weekend. We're off tomorrow morning, and arriving back on my actual Birthday (Monday), which is _also_ the anniversary of the first time she hugged me (after she came to the airport to meet me off the plane back from my trip around the Southlands).

I arrived home to discover that she had made this wonder in the living room:


And I am looking forward to being allowed to open any of the things underneath it!

(Jim is being left with strict instructions that he is not allowed to eat any of the boxes. Or the tree. Or be sick on any of them. Or peek inside.)

Interesting Links for 17-08-2017

Aug. 17th, 2017 12:00 pm
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The Blood is the Life for 17-08-2017

Aug. 17th, 2017 11:00 am
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Vienna: Tiergarten Schoenbrunn

Aug. 16th, 2017 01:27 pm
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
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Fish
Keiki squats down to look at the fish in the polar bear enclosure at the Vienna Tiergarten.

The Schoenbrunn should definitely make the top ten of every visitor attraction list of Vienna, if not the top three. It’s the gigantic former summer palace of the Hapsburgs, and the grounds alone merit at least a half-day stroll to explore fully. There are gardens, fountains, hidden playgrounds, an enormous glasshouse full of palm trees, and even a zoo.

Despite having visited the Schoenbrunn grounds many times, I’d never been to the zoo, which is allegedly the oldest in the Western world (founded in 1752). Now, with two small children, one of whom is animal-obsessed, I had good reason to go. The children and I set out early one morning to travel via the Viennese underground to the palace.

Humuhumu was keen to learn how to navigate the transport system. She got very good at spotting the way to the correct train lines, and proudly announced when the next train would be arriving after we got to the platforms.

It took us 45 minutes to get from our temporary abode to the Schoenbrunn and, conveniently, it was just about Cake O’clock when we arrived. We detoured around the palace entrance and stopped off at an Aida Konditorei, a chain of inexplicably pink cafés that serve extremely nice cakes, coffees and hot chocolates (apart from the one near the opera house – avoid that one; everyone who works there is sick of tourists and very grumpy).

We walked into the Aida and chorused “Guten Morgen” at the round-faced, unsmiling woman behind the counter. She broke into a beaming grin and showed us to the table next to a tiny play area containing toys and books, which the children pounced upon. (Throughout the trip, I encouraged the children to greet everyone we met in German, to say please and thank you in German, to order their food using the German words and, when I felt confident in my knowledge of the right phrases, I coached them to make requests in German. I was astonished at the abundance of goodwill toward us that this produced.) Humuhumu ordered her hot chocolate and cake in German, and was rewarded with an additional pink meringue, which she received with an unprompted “Danke schoen”. When we left, Keiki crowing “Wiedersehen” over my shoulder with his dimpliest smile, the server came out from round the counter and gave each of the children an extra biscuit, which, to be honest, they didn’t really need after all that sugar!

Full of energy, we bounded into the grounds of the Schoenbrunn and raced around whilst waiting for the grandparents to join us at the entrance to the Tiergarten (Zoo). As vast as the Schoenbrunn grounds are, they are not big enough to house a comprehensive collection of the world’s animals, so cleverly the Tiergarten is focused on a limited number of species and provided them with luxurious accommodation.

Keiki and Humuhumu loved the place, particularly Keiki. Once he spotted the meerkat enclosure, we couldn’t get him to finish his lunch. Neither could we readily tear him away from the penguins. In fact, Granddad had a bit of a job keeping Keiki from clambering into their pond to join them. We communed with the seals. We watched a polar bear chewing meditatively on a traffic cone. And, of course, Humuhumu found a climbing wall and had to try everything.

It was a wonderful place to spend a sunny afternoon, and we will certainly return to the Tiergarten on our next trip to Vienna.

Further photos beneath the cut.
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Interesting Links for 16-08-2017

Aug. 16th, 2017 12:00 pm
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The Blood is the Life for 16-08-2017

Aug. 16th, 2017 11:00 am
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