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Rachael
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Zoe's learning to walk, but quite differently from how Bethany did.

When Bethany was standing holding onto things, if she lost her balance, she used to go rigid and arch her back, so she'd fall over backwards and hit her head. I had to either hover behind her at all times, or accept that she'd bash the back of her head several times a day. Whereas when Zoe loses her balance, she either falls a short distance onto her nappy-cushioned bottom, or sometimes she even lowers herself onto hands and feet in a controlled way. This is just one of many ways in which she's an easier baby than Bethany was.

Bethany's early walking was like riding a bike: moving forward with enough momentum to compensate for the lack of balance, but unable to stay upright while stationary. But Zoe has learned to stand still unsupported, and does this quite confidently, even though she can't really walk alone yet. She's just beginning to move off from standing still, taking a couple of steps, before sitting or squatting down.

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I took the girls to a park after school, and it had a wet play area with sprinklers. I didn't have a swimming costume for Bethany, so I suggested she just wear her knickers, but she wanted to take them off. (I think she dislikes the feeling of wearing wet clothes.) I said that was fine. It's a kids' play area, and she's only four - I might not have let her if she was ten or something. She played happily naked in the sprinklers.

Then I became aware of a woman yelling at me. She was saying repeatedly that it was SICK and DISGUSTING and WRONG to let Bethany be naked. I said it was fine, and it was like at a beach. She asked me if I could see any other naked children there. I had to admit I couldn't (there were some in swimsuits, some in (wet) clothes and some in (wet) knickers), but I said that I'd seen naked children there before, and that there are often naked children on beaches. (She denied this.) I said she was free to not let her kids play naked, and I was free to let mine. She also said "How do you know she's not embarrassed to be naked?!" I said Bethany had chosen to be naked, but she didn't seem to believe me. She kept having a go at me, and shouting things like "Do you ever wonder WHY there are PAEDOPHILES in the world?" (The attitude wasn't that we ought to be able to let our kids play naked but sadly there are paedophiles so we have to adapt to that; she was actually blaming Bethany's and my behaviour for the existence of paedophiles.)

(Esprit d'escalier suggests "If it's an unhelpful distraction for you, I guess she should cover up for your sake...")

Anyway, we carried on playing and minding our own business; and Renata, another mum who I know, came up to me and said she didn't think we were doing anything wrong. Shortly afterwards, Bethany finished playing in the sprinklers and wanted to get dry, so I dried her and put a dress and knickers on her, and it was a bit galling that the woman probably thought that was in response to her criticism (and I know Renata thought that; she tried to reassure me that I didn't need to, and I explained to her that Bethany was finished anyway.)

Renata pointed out to me what I hadn't noticed because I was dressing Bethany: that the shouting woman had lit a cigarette. She was sitting in an area densely populated with people, mostly children, and smoking. We didn't say anything - just talked between ourselves about the hypocrisy - but then she started having a go about Bethany's nudity again ("sick! disgusting! paedophiles!") (even though Bethany was dressed by this point), so Renata and I said we thought her smoking was actually disgusting, and potentially harming the children, whereas Bethany's nudity wasn't harming anyone. She got more worked up and said smoking was "her choice", and if we didn't like it we should effing move. I said, yes, it's your choice to smoke, and it's my choice to let my child play naked, so it's all good and everyone's OK, right? Or I tried to say that, but I don't think she heard anything I said past the wall of verbal abuse.

Poor Bethany was a bit disturbed by it all; she could see that the woman and I were arguing, but I don't think she understood much. She asked me what was wrong, and I said something like "this lady thinks you should wear knickers, but it's OK, you don't have to if you don't want to." So I'm not actually sure if she did get dried and dressed because she was done playing, or as an attempt to stop the arguing.

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2010

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2014

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Zoe's nine months now, and I've been far too busy to make any updates for ages. She's still good-natured and smiley and delightful, but now she wants more entertaining in her own right, and she naps less.

She learned to sit alone quite early, five months, which was really useful, as I could put her down sitting on the floor anywhere and play with Bethany, rather than having to look around for a suitable baby-container to prop or strap her into. I had a couple of very convenient months where she could sit, but not yet move, so she could sit just out of reach of whatever Bethany was doing. Now she's crawling, and cruising (walking holding onto things), I'm much more in the role of a mediator...

She really loves Bethany, though, and is always delighted to see her, and sometimes if she's upset she cheers up more readily for Bethany than for us.

She's doing really well at eating solids. She's not very interested in purees any more (although she likes being fed yogurt on a spoon). She finger-feeds soft milk-soaked cereals like rice crispies and cheerios for breakfast; cheese, bread, bread-variants and halved cherry tomatoes for lunch; things like pasta, rice, mince, vegetable sauces, potatoes and other soft veg for dinner (and her very favourite, discovered last night, cauliflower cheese - she devoured huge amounts), and soft fruit, especially raspberries or bananas, for pudding. This is all without teeth! 9 months and no sign yet.

Sleep is still not brilliant. She usually feeds twice a night and still gets up well before 7. A couple of months ago we decided to try not feeding her between bedtime and midnight - if she wakes then, she just gets water and rocked to sleep - and it seems to be working, as in she now wakes before midnight less often, so next we might try no feeds before 2am or something.

She is really excited whenever she discovers a new way to move: crawling and cruising, but also being pushed on a swing or a ride-on car all make her grin delightedly. She's also learned to clap very recently, and will usually do it in response to "If you're Happy and You Know It," and grin proudly.

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Bethany: I want to wax my legs.
Alex: I don't think you do really.
Bethany: Is this a wax strip?
Alex: No.
Bethany: What is it?
Alex: Um, it's a panty liner.
Bethany: What's a panty liner?
Alex: It's something grown-up ladies need sometimes.
Bethany: I will go and give it to Mummy.

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So I don't follow this kind of thing normally, but I gather there's been a big kerfuffle with the Hugo awards this year, with fans being very polarised along left-right political lines. I've seen accusations from conservatives that the stories by liberals are only in the ballot because they're by liberals, and accusations by liberals that the stories by conservatives are only there because they're by conservatives, and accusations from both sides that people are voting based on political allegiance rather than on the merit of the stories.
Of course there are people on both sides saying they are voting on merit and the other side's stories are just not very good.

My own impression is that there are two fundamentally different kinds of story here, and it seems plausible that most people will prefer one kind over the other, and may well believe the other kind (which they see as inferior) is only in the ballot for political reasons (because it can't be there because of its merit).

What I don't understand, and am curious about, is why this division in taste in stories should correlate so well with the left-right axis of political opinion.

Particularly speaking as a possible exception: I think I prefer what I've seen so far of the conservative-type stories, but I'd identify as a liberal (compared to the general population - especially if that includes Americans - although I may be more conservative than many of my LJ friends).

I'm falteringly trying to put into words what the difference between the two kinds of story is. The conservative-type stories are kind of old-fashioned, conservative in that sense, reminiscent of the stories of a couple of generations ago, and I think both sides would agree with that statement. But that doesn't actually identify the difference.

Here's what I wrote on liv's journal about Opera Vita Aeterna (by the conservative Vox Day): "It has a gravitas, a full-bloodedness, a largeness and significance, that makes most of the others seem a bit trivial and ephemeral." I've also started reading the first few pages of (conservative John C. Wright's) "Awake in the Night Land" and that gives a similar vibe. They point at something greater. I feel like they feed a part of my soul that hasn't been nourished for a long time. They have a grandeur about them which is unironic, either un-deconstructed or reconstructed, I'm not sure yet.

(I'm afraid someone (one of the subset of people who would not refuse to read a story by Vox Day because of his politics) will read Opera Vita after the above paragraph and think "well, it's not all that." I'm not saying that story completely fulfils everything I'm saying, but it evokes it, it reminds me that it exists, and that I once hoped to write stories like that.)

I think the liberal answer to my question (why story preference correlates with political opinion) has to do with diversity. Conservative stories are written by and for straight white men, and deal with their concerns, and liberal ones have a greater diversity in their authors and characters, so explore a greater breadth of topics and issues. Now, I don't think a liberal-type story would become a conservative-type one if you changed the characters to be straight white men, or a conservative story become a liberal one if you made them black lesbians. But I assume that's not the point; I assume the claim is that there's something inherently straight-white-male about the themes and questions of yesterday's stories and of today's conservative-stories. But if my sense of what those stories have in common is at all correct, then that implies the greatness and grandeur I see in them is somehow not the concern of other demographics - which of course I reject.

John C. Wright has a conservative answer to my question. (I've been reading his blog. He is really very conservative; if you're an easily outraged liberal I suggest not reading him.) He says modern liberals have turned their back on objective goodness, objective truth, objective beauty, etc, in favour of the view that all these things are human constructions; and that is why their art is poor and narrow and doesn't point to anything beyond themselves. This is somewhat plausible (if belligerent), but I'm not quite sure why it has to correspond to the political left-right division.

I've always admired the Political Compass, and identify on it as strongly libertarian and weakly left. But I think there's a third axis which is relevant here, which I'll call, with caveats, Realist-Idealist. The caveats are because until very recently I'd have said realist and idealist were synonyms for pessimist and optimist, or even cynic and dreamer, and I'd have called myself an idealist, or a wannabe-idealist. But here I'm using them in a more philosophical sense, as in moral realism or mathematical realism: the question of whether goodness or truth or beauty are real things or just ideas in our minds. (Perversely, counter to the popular usage, it's the Idealist in this sense who's more likely to be a cynic, if he doesn't believe in anything real and views everything through a lens of irony.)

On this axis I'm definitely a Realist, more strongly than I am a left libertarian.

And I think - tentatively - that the key difference between these kinds of story may be that the "conservative" ones are written from a Realist perspective, with the assumption that goodness, truth, etc are real things, which stories can help illuminate; and the "liberal" ones are written with the opposite assumption. (So I've worked out that I prefer Realistic fiction, but in a sense almost opposite to the way that would usually be meant.)

Now I'm thinking about how the realist-idealist axis relates to the Political Compass axes. Because I think I can accept Wright's account of the difference in stories, if we only replace "conservative" and "liberal" with "realist" and "idealist" (as used in this post). But I think, for Wright, realism is the key element of his conservatism, and the other (to me more salient) elements of conservatism are secondary corollaries of it. Clearly Realism correlates strongly with religion, and religion does correlate with conservatism and authoritarianism, albeit less strongly. I am thinking through whether it still makes sense to be a realist and a left-libertarian.

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Poll #1974777
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 14

Which is the better title for a story?

View Answers
The Alchemy of Time
8 (57.1%)
The Alchemy of Time Itself
6 (42.9%)

Does the word "chorion" mean anything to you?

View Answers
No
11 (78.6%)
Yes, so "Chorion" is a stupid name for a character (in a serious fantasy story)
1 (7.1%)
Yes, but "Chorion" is still an acceptable name for such a character
2 (14.3%)


Context: Although I don't seem to have the time/energy/ideas for writing fiction at the moment, I dug out a story I wrote... *looks at timestamp* *eek* ... seven years ago, which I think is quite good, and might try to get published. It has no title; the variants above are taken from a key quote in the story. The former looks like a more conventional title, but there seems to be a trend at the moment for longer than necessary titles, and they do stick in the mind better. There's a major character called Chorion, whose medical meaning I didn't know at the time, but I feel it suits the character, so I'm reluctant to change it.

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I am an Earth Mother...

My natural resources are greatly depleted.
I consist of a ball of seething hot molten rock, enclosed by a thin crust, occasionally exploding at high pressure through cracks and faults in said crust.
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I took Bethany to the park this morning. Once we were in sight of it, she went on ahead, while I brought Zoe in the pushchair.
Then she screamed, and I looked up and there was a largeish dog right by her. I'd seen it and its owners earlier on and they didn't look friendly. I sprinted the rest of the way over with the pushchair, yelling "Bethany! Are you OK? What happened?" and panicking that it had chewed her face off or something.
Bethany, bless her, managed to sob out "The dog came up to me and I didn't want it to!" as I was running to her, so I was reassured that she was unharmed. I scooped her up and hugged her tight while she cried.
I hadn't said anything at all to the dog owners by this point - all my attention was on Bethany and making sure she was OK - but they became angrily defensive and started insisting that nothing happened and she had overreacted and she "needs to lose that fear of dogs." (She's fine with most dogs.) The man brought the dog right up to us, insisting that he was friendly, just a puppy, etc. I backed off, holding Bethany, and asked the man (I think politely, although I was quite shaken) to please give Bethany some space to calm down.
He did back off with the dog, and Bethany calmed down and I put her down. But then the man brought the dog over again to try to get Bethany to pet it and make friends with it. Bethany was saying no, but the man was ignoring her. I defended her, getting between her and them, and saying things like "she's said she doesn't want to." He kept saying "I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to your child." I said that he was ignoring what my child was saying, so I was having to repeat it to him. He became really irrational, shouting things at me like "Do you own that child's brain? Do you control her thoughts?" and swearing, and insisting he was talking to her and not to me (while still disregarding what she was saying). I repeated that I was just repeating what Bethany was saying to him because he wasn't listening to her, but he kept shouting me down. Eventually, thankfully, it kind of fizzled out; I think he gave up and went back to his friends.

There were signs saying no dogs in the play area. Technically the group and the dog were based just outside it, but the dog kept running off and coming into the play area, and the people just half-heartedly told it off, didn't come and retrieve it. But I didn't try pointing any of this out; the man was so irrational and aggressive, he would have just insisted they weren't in the play area and not understood my point.
I thought about telling the police, but I decided I shouldn't because I was feeling so angry with the dog owner and my motive for telling the police would have been vindictive and wrong. But now I've calmed down I think I was overcompensating and I maybe should have told them. Anyway, I'm just really relieved she wasn't hurt.

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I just want to rave about halloumi.

I've known about it for years, but never used it much, because I thought it tasted a bit bland, and there wasn't much you could do with it. You could barbecue it, or grill it and serve it alongside roast veg or something.

Alex is vegetarian, and I am not. My favourite meals are things like stews and curries, preferably with meat, where all the flavours have had a chance to infuse and mingle. Not a pile of vegetables with halloumi sitting aloofly on the side of the plate. I sometimes cook meat meals with quorn, but Alex doesn't actually like quorn that much. He actively loves halloumi.

I discovered last week that you can actually make stews with halloumi in place of the meat. You fry the halloumi first, just like you would with chicken, and it tastes really nice and savoury, and also takes on the flavour of the stew. As a meat-eater I really enjoyed the halloumi version of a chicken stew, and even slightly preferred it to the chicken version!

This versatility of halloumi needs to be better-known, both by people with vegetarian family members, and people trying to cut down on their meat intake. The internet doesn't seem to realise. Even when I googled "halloumi stew" I just got a bunch of recipes for vegetarian bean stews with grilled halloumi slapped on top at the last minute. But now I'm going to make all the interesting stews and casseroles and curries (erm, just in time for summer - oh well) that are meant to be made with chicken or pork or maybe beef, with halloumi.

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