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(Untitled) Below are the 30 most recent journal entries recorded in the "A zero-width positive lookahead assertion" journal:

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July 6th, 2015
11:30 am

[Link]

Non-alcoholic non-sweet pub drinks
Yay! A non-political post for once!

People who don't drink alcohol: what do you have in pubs? Do you all have sweet teeth? I'm an alcohol drinker, but a) I have friends that aren't b) I worry about a culture that stigmatizes non-drinkers c) I'm a lightweight so I will often want to be drinking something other than booze.

I'd kind of like to see drinks that roughly sit in the "beer" niche:

■ non-alcoholic
■ non-sweet-tasting* (at least less sweet than Coke or J2O)
■ "long" drinks, quaffable over an evening, ideally not hot.
■ moderately Exciting, more so than a cup of tea or a soda water
■ profitable enough for a pub to be happy selling it

At home I'm mostly drinking tea (black tea with milk, or fennel, or nettle) or water. I prefer sour/salty/umami/bitter flavours to sweet, on the whole; I see astringency (that mouth-drying property that you get from tannins in tea) as a good property for a drink to have. Spicy is good. Fizzy is OK too.

Some thoughts: Virgin Mary is a savoury-ish drink depending on its condiments; iced teas tend to be fairly sweet but needn't be so in principle; milkshakes likewise. If you go too far in the umami direction you end up with stock or soup, which is lovely but not very pub-ish. V8 I should probably try next time I'm somewhere that sells it, maybe that's what I'm after, but it's only one product. De-alcoholized beers ISTR as being fairly insipid, but it's been a while.

* (it's about the flavour, not the biochemistry, so I count Diet Coke as being just as sweet as Coke). I don't ask that such a drink be "healthy", just that it not be syruppy, although I'd prefer something that doesn't rot my teeth too much

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July 2nd, 2015
10:47 am

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On Discrimination and Borders
Racism has a bad image, and quite right too. It's not that it's been eliminated, but that its social acceptability is such that even the BNP pays lip service to Not Being Racist. The very existence of the phrase "I'm not racist but…" is testament to how widely everyone, even massive racists realise that racism is probably not the ideal policy to cling to in life.

But. It seems to me1 that the lines of acceptable discrimination have been drawn such that it just so happens there's no problem at all with discriminating based on place of birth. The UK does it, just about every other country does it; the idea that it's legitimate to say "if you were born here (and/or if your parents were) you are One Of Us and you have these rights and entitlements and may come and go freely, otherwise you are a Foreigner and Not Our Problem" is fully normalised in mainstream political thought.2 We happily abridge the freedoms of myriads of people because they weren't born here. This cannot be right.

I can see absolutely no principled reason for this that wouldn't also amount to an extremely racist justification. I can see many pragmatic reasons for allowing this state of affairs to continue; but working backwards from pragmatic reasoning to a principle is exactly as bad as saying "our economy would collapse without slavery, therefore let us posit that the group we are enslaving are subhuman" (if you think that's too extreme then I would argue that this is merely the most graphic and most recent example of the injustices perpetrated by the mindset).

In the short term I would prefer we accept the cognitive dissonance of saying "this policy is immoral but we will stick to it for pragmatic reasons except in cases where people absolutely require refuge" than maintain the current pretence that there is anything morally acceptable about it. In the longer term, we should work towards (minimally) fully open borders and citizenship on demand for residents of any state3. I would argue that there are pragmatic advantages to that situation too - in particular in terms of increasing economic parity between regions. But even if there were no such advantages we should pursue this goal anyway, on purely principled grounds, just as abolitionists believed in their cause regardless of its undoubted economic impact.

[I considered giving here lots of examples of how the implementations of immigration controls are evil in practice, but actually the point I'm trying to make is that the very concept is evil in principle]

1Yes, I know I'm not anything like the first person to realise this.

2I don't even know of a word or short phrase that means "discriminating against someone based on their place of birth"; there's a lot of pernicious nitpicking by people who hold to this that "oh, it's not really racism because 'people from X' aren't a race", and yeah, OK, it's not exactly racism, but it's ALSO BAD so your argument is crap. [ETA: [twitter.com profile] abigailb suggests "Nativism" which is pretty close, but I would like a word describing the phenomenon of discrimination, not its political application, so as to be able to say e.g. "Nativism is a political doctrine based on _____". ETA2: "Xenophobia" is pretty damn close and well known, so maybe we should leave it at that for now. ]


3I have no major problem with the existence of national governments - just as Leicestershire and Lincolnshire have different local governments but there is no suggestion that people born in one shouldn't be permitted to travel, reside, or work in the other.


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June 30th, 2015
12:30 pm

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Lib Dem leaderhip - How I'm voting
Here be internal Lib Dem politicsCollapse )

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June 22nd, 2015
09:07 am

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Shark Brain
New term, courtesy of [personal profile] kht: shark brain

The bit of the brain that doesn't understand probabilities and goes "ARGH IM GOING TO BE EATEN BY SHARKS" on the basis that it's not a physical impossibility that one can be eaten by a shark, to which one needs to (politely and respectfully) say "Dear brain, while I might get eaten by sharks if I went swimming off Cape Town wearing a bacon bikini, it's not actually very likely when I live in a landlocked county and have a sharkproof lock on my front door; also the last fifty times you said ARGH IM GOING TO BE EATEN BY SHARKS it did not come to pass, and so my estimate of the probability on that basis is low".

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June 2nd, 2015
05:19 pm

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Incredibly reticent recruitment post
The Liberal Democrats have a leadership election going on. Anyone who's joined by the close of nominations - 4pm on the 3rd of June (tomorrow) is entitled to vote.1 Since the election, over 15,000 members have already joined.2

Whenever you join, you can help make Liberal Democrat policy in a number of ways - through your local parties, you can propose policy motions to national and regional conference; you can vote on policy at conference — this is how policy gets decided; and there are many settings, formal and informal, in which you have a chance to persuade others in the party of your point of view. New members with no formal role in the party can and do address the conference in debates.

This post might be aimed at you if:

■ You think that the party is the closest aligned to your political outlook
or
■ You think the party is good, but not perfect on all things, and would like to move it closer to your ideal. Internal disagreement is a feature, not a bug, and it makes internal democracy more robust.
or especially
■ You think the party was good up until 2010 and then lost its way in coalition — this is my view and, as far as I can tell subjectively, the majority view within the party too. Change is now inevitable. As a member, you can help shape that change.

■ You feel the statement of values that forms the preamble to the constitution is something worth signing up to.

■ You'd like to help campaign for keeping the Human Rights Act, for staying in the EU, against the Snooper's Charter and other security overintrusion, and for constitutional, economic, and political reform.

If you already have decided that there's another political party that you'd rather work within - good luck, and fight the good fight there, this isn't where I'm going to try and convince you to quit.

If you think that the party is nowhere near your views or unredeemable after coalition: consider this post not to be addressed to you. TL;DR: the post is "if you support the Lib Dems, this is where I tell you why you should consider joining", not "this is where I tell you why you should support the Lib Dems"

If you are interested in joining the party, you can do so at http://www.libdems.org.uk/join




1 So far it's a choice between Tim Farron and Norman Lamb, both of whom I think are people of integrity, and both of whom I trust to take the party to a position much more representative of its ideological and historical roots than the last five years of coalition.

2 Most are new to the party; about 20% have been members before and are re-joining.


Comments: this is basically a post for people who are more-or-less aligned with the party who may want to discuss reasons to join or not to join, the way the party works internally, and maybe the leadership election. It's not the space to argue that the party is terrible, that the coalition was terrible, that another party is terrible, that the UK's electoral system is terrible, or that I am terrible. Really.

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May 30th, 2015
09:50 am

[Link]

Pre-emptive anti-troll note
It seems I ought to do this since he's now plagued about a dozen of my friends' LJs/DWs and it's only a matter of time until he picks on my comments: Steven Kitson is not welcome to comment on any posts on this blog, and should consider himself asked to refrain from doing so.

(For those of you for whom this makes no sense: lucky you.)

Crossposted from Dreamwidth here. Comments not enabled there either.

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May 11th, 2015
12:58 pm

[Link]

A note against despair
The Conservative party have some nasty policies, and have made some nasty promises, and a lot of changes could happen in the next parliament that are pretty grim — and certainly there are a lot of positive changes that are much needed and will not happen.

But we should remember that they have a majority (even before a single by-election) that makes Major's in 1992 look generous1. And this is a party that still contains David Davis, Ken Clarke, Sarah Wollaston, Nadine Dorries, Peter Bone — all flavours of awkward squad, left and right (relatively speaking, anyway), authoritarian and libertarian, europhile and europhobe. A lot of the policies are going to end up watered down, or defeated, or quietly swept into a disused filing-cabinet. Putting the right pressure2 on the right MPs to convince them might well help. Campaigning in whatever opposition party you're a member of3 to help the Conservatives see they can't count on their majority next time will certainly help. Joining organised pressure groups like the Open Rights Group, Shelter, and Liberty will certainly help.

.


1 There's a chance that on some issues the DUP / UUP / UKIP might come to their aid, yes. But all these parties are small, UKIP sees them as the enemy on a lot of things, and having to rely on the DUP may well require of them some unpalatable quid-pro-quos. There's also a chance that on some things - the Snooper's Charter, for instance, some Labour MPs will support them. This just means that there's a broader target that needs pressure (from within and without that party).

2 I personally believe that the right pressure is often more "I'd be more likely to vote for you if you do X than if you do Y" rather than "OMG all Tories are evil scum" even if the latter fits the facts better. But y'know, maybe there's a good-cop-bad-cop routine in there or something.

3 As I've said in a previous post, I'm in the Lib Dems and I think you should consider joining and making the party better and stronger — but if you're better suited to another party, please help make that party better and more effective instead.


ETA: and there's always the House of Lords there as well…


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May 10th, 2015
08:02 pm

[Link]

On left-wingity, right-wingity, and the Lib Dems
Everyone else, as Andy Hinton says, is doing a Where Do We Go From Here post, and there's something that I need to get off my chest, so here's mine.

[personal profile] miss_s_b points out that (among many other things that the leadership got hideously wrong during coalition) the policy of applying to be the Rizla you can't slip between the Labservative parties is a horrible one. I think this is for three reasons:

■ Pragmatically, the Hotelling Model predicts that there's absolutely no votes in being stuck between two parties playing that game.

■ Politically, it's stupid to define yourself in terms of other people's policies. What's the point in looking like some kind of me-too triangulator?

■ But most of all, ideologically, that's not where we belong. I've seen a few people say "we're not left-wing, we're not right-wing, we're not centrist, we're Liberals", appealing to the two-axis model, and suggesting that the liberal-authoritarian axis is the only one where we need to take a position. While I acknowledge that the left-right axis isn't a perfect model and certainly isn't the only axis that matters, I think this is a mistake.

Among our statement of principles is: "The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity".

How left-wing should we be? As left-wing as we need to be to make no-one enslaved by poverty.

I don't think the answer is a socialist "as left-wing as we can possibly be", but a pragmatic "enough to achieve this goal", (which surely is much more redistributive than we are now1). I think that we should see taxation and state intervention as very necessary evils to address the bigger evils of poverty and inequality. All things being equal we should not have the state intervening; but all things are not equal.

If the Labour Party is to the left of us, fine. And if the Labour Party is to the right of us, fine. Neither of those should let us be deterred from taking a pragmatic attitude, that enslavement-by-poverty is something that we can and should eradicate2, and the right policies are those that will get us there.



1 If you think that currently there's not significant levels of poverty, or that the solution is to starve the poor harder until they're more motivated to work harder, please just go away. If you have a convincing argument that there are other measures that government can take that will have a similar effect on relieving poverty, then yes, that's something to consider subject to evidence.

2 I know there's going to be argument as to which definition of poverty to consider; I'm prepared to have that argument at some later point; it surely needs to be had. Also I know that there's more to left-right than just redistribution-to-relieve-poverty — but I trust you will forgive me for not tackling all of politics while standing on one leg.

PS: If you're not currently a member, but feel that you would like to play a part in helping ensure that the party takes a position that you approve of, joining before the end of May will enable you to vote on the next leader, as well as help make party policy through its internal democracy: http://www.libdems.org.uk/join


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May 9th, 2015
11:46 pm

[Link]

TINY HIPOES
(http://adambernard.net/img/tineyhipoes_coloured.png if the embedding doesn't work)
Another one based on http://www.terbildraems.com/

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April 20th, 2015
12:28 pm

[Link]

Science fiction & fantasy short stories suitable for English lessons
I spent the weekend with a friend who is an English teacher (that is, teaching literature to native English speakers, not teaching English as a second language), and in talking about texts, it emerged that their school doesn't really have much in the way of science fiction / speculative fiction / fantasy taught at any point, and they thought that it might be nice to study some for an upcoming short-story set of lessons, but they were not as conversant with those genres as with more traditional literature. So, I asked on Twitter (see first comment), and will ask again here, since I know any number of you are involved in SFF fandom, and because it makes a better repository for discussion:

What SFF short stories would you recommend for an English teacher to study with a class of 13-14-year-olds?

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March 27th, 2015
02:46 pm

[Link]

I haven't done a ridiculous poll for a little while.


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March 25th, 2015
03:12 pm

[Link]

Can anyone who's better at websearching than I am find anywhere that's retailing small (maybe A3-A5ish) pieces of http://www.onlyone-pro.com/tennage/ ? I have a project in mind that could make good use of that stuff!

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March 14th, 2015
06:27 pm

[Link]

Octopot!


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01:25 pm

[Link]

I wasn't sure, so I put a knob on *both* ends.
bugshaw requested a gerbil wizard.



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February 6th, 2015
01:22 pm

[Link]

Does anyone else use (or want to use) this Scrabble clone? I'd like to see about playing against a human one day. It's unofficial, FOSS, non-geofenced, and doesn't need Facebook.

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January 25th, 2015
07:34 pm

[Link]

Heraldic lion on tea-break.
A lion restant Or a teapot Proper pourant atop a beanbag Ermine
A lion restant Or a teapot Proper pourant atop a beanbag Ermine

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January 23rd, 2015
02:44 pm

[Link]

Shuffle things meme
Take this list, remove a thing, sort it by how much you like the things, add a thing at the top, a thing in the middle, and a thing at the bottom (preserving the sortedness, pedants):

(most liked)
Thermal underwear
Nessie Ladle
Steam locomotives
Maths
Twitter
Porridge
Undercooked Aubergine
Eating paper
Running away from zombies
Getting up early
Tidying
(most disliked)

(from http://damerell.dreamwidth.org/87540.html)

ETA: I have tried to add things which are not *universally* loved/hated; I feel putting "Orgasms" and "Genocide" on there would be kinda boring...

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January 3rd, 2015
08:48 pm

[Link]

MIND YOUR ANKLES
Via [personal profile] nou:

When you see this, make a post in your journal or in a community. It can be anything: a crosspost something you've posted on Tumblr, a few words about the last thing you read/watched, or just a "Hi, how is everyone?" Then go read your f-list and leave at least one comment.


A number of you have already seen my new year's greeting
thusCollapse )

So, have a chilociraptor as well.

Because you always wondered what a chihuahua/velociraptor crossbreed would look like

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December 27th, 2014
05:15 pm

[Link]

For general reference: to make a list in Facebook with all your friends added to it.
(this is all at-your-own-risk, but it seemed to work for me.)

⁂ Create empty list. (go to https://www.facebook.com/bookmarks/lists and click "Create List"; then give the list a name but not any members and click "create".)
⁂ View list.
⁂ Click "Add friends to list" button. A popover will appear listing all your friends.
⁂ Paste:
javascript:elms=document.getElementsByClassName('checkableListItem');for(var fid in elms){if(typeof elms[fid] === 'object'){elms[fid].click();}}
into the address bar. The browser might strip the "javascript:" at the beginning; type it back in manually if so.
⁂ Press Enter.
⁂ Click the "Finish" button at the bottom of the popover.


(the purpose of this is that by looking at the list, no entries will be filtered away, and it will always be most-recent-first)

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December 26th, 2014
07:40 pm

[Link]

Electromechanical Yule Goat
I drew an Electromechanical Yule Goat, cos someone mentioned it and I wondered what it'd end up looking like (answer: Mmmmehhhhhh. Beep. Beep.Collapse ))

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December 25th, 2014
05:16 pm

[Link]

If you have ever felt the need for a platypus riding a dragon, this is your lucky day.


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December 21st, 2014
10:39 pm

[Link]

Dragon ourobouros, with ice cream
Dragon ourobouros, with ice cream

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November 7th, 2014
02:03 pm

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Vegetating.
Copied from a rantlet I made in a comment elsenet, agreeing with the proposition that the "tomatoes aren't really vegetables" is just silly

I get really* cross about the fruit/veg thing

a) Clearly (to my eyes) the botanic definition of a fruit is only tangentially relevant to the culinary definition. We can do this. We have polysemy, we have shades of meaning. It's OK.

b) Even if the botanic definition were useful, why would "fruit" not then be a subset of "vegetable" (which would presumably be defined as something like "all edible plant (or plant-and-fungal) matter")?

c) Even if fruit were not a subset of vegetables, why on earth would you assume that fruit and vegetables have got to be disjoint? Just a miserably narrow gastronomic outlook?

d) Why do people always go on about tomatoes, and not cucumbers, mange-tout, pumpkins, courgettes, aubergines, rhubarb, and so forth?


* for a small value of "really"

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October 20th, 2014
04:38 pm

[Link]

Lowering the tone
[[Category:Things You Can Do With A Bassoon]]



(there is a somewhat more sedate interpretation here)

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October 14th, 2014
03:39 pm

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QOTD, because I love this one.
How good one feels when one is full — how satisfied with ourselves and with the world! People who have tried it, tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented; but a full stomach does the business quite as well, and is cheaper, and more easily obtained. One feels so forgiving and generous after a substantial and well-digested meal — so noble-minded, so kindly-hearted.

It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon, it says, “Work!” After beefsteak and porter, it says, “Sleep!” After a cup of tea (two spoonsful for each cup, and don’t let it stand more than three minutes), it says to the brain, “Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!”

After hot muffins, it says, “Be dull and soulless, like a beast of the field — a brainless animal, with listless eye, unlit by any ray of fancy, or of hope, or fear, or love, or life.” And after brandy, taken in sufficient quantity, it says, “Now, come, fool, grin and tumble, that your fellow-men may laugh — drivel in folly, and splutter in senseless sounds, and show what a helpless ninny is poor man whose wit and will are drowned, like kittens, side by side, in half an inch of alcohol.”

Jerome K Jerome

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August 27th, 2014
04:03 pm

[Link]

Cambridge flat
So, does anyone know anyone who might be interested in renting a nice two-bedroom (or one-bedroom, one-study) flat off Histon Road in Cambridge from about the end of September/beginning of October? (I'd much rather let to a friend or friend-of-friend, and I'd rather not have to deal with any Bastard Letting Agencies).

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April 23rd, 2014
11:41 am

[Link]

Calendars
It has been pointed out that today is not ecclesiastically speaking St George's day. The dragon breathes easier.

dragon safely in mug of tea

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April 22nd, 2014
10:44 pm

[Link]

Apparently LiveJournal is no longer open-source (though http://www.livejournal.com/code/ remains contradictory).

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April 6th, 2014
08:02 pm

[Link]

Pantydraco
I found out last week there was a Welsh dinosaur called Pantydraco. How could any red-blooded pun-prone Anglophone resist?



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March 21st, 2014
08:19 pm

[Link]

Misophonia.
I wonder if my reaction to sniffing noises constitutes misophonia*. Basically, the sound of someone sitting there sniffling (for instance when they have a cold but no tissues) brings out approximately the same level of reaction in me as the sound of someone retching continuously does in (as I understand it) more or less everyone. Headphones & loud music are quite useful when it's a colleague sitting at the next desk :(

*Not to be confused with misophagia, which is eating tasty tasty fermented soya and rice paste.

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