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I have ALL SORTS of feelings about jury duty. I was on a civil case that involved a two-car collision. The occupants of one of the cars (the Plaintiffs) were suing the driver of the other car (the Defendant) for negligence. (The driver of the Plaintiffs' car died, and the Plaintiffs suffered a lot of injuries.) The Plaintiffs' car had been turning left at a T intersection (they had the stop sign), and the Defendant (who had no stop sign) basically ran into them.

This got long. )

I do feel sorry for the Plaintiffs, who were in a terrible accident through no fault of their own, and who may or may not have even been aware of what they were signing up for. I also feel sorry for the Defendant, who got dragged through this awful thing. Be careful on the road, you guys.

Anyway, it was very interesting, I'm glad I did it, although I worried about my job a lot (thank goodness it was my own project I was stepping out on), and it was hard on our family — and if I got called again while nursing (which is very unlikely to ever happen again) I'd try to put it off until I wasn't nursing. Our court is not that friendly to nursing mothers, and only allows you to postpone three months (!) before reporting, but I could probably have reported and asked for a postponement from the judge (and repeated as necessary) until I wasn't nursing/pumping during the day any more, ugh.

[edited 1-14-16 to use the right word, thanks [personal profile] lightgetsin, blergh]
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I was surprised by how many people wanted to know about our new bishop! I'll probably f-lock this after a week or so, for what I think should be obvious reasons. Also, I tried to give some background on LDS structure/theology/terminology, but I've also elided in a bunch of places to make this a more-or-less manageable length; please ask questions if there's anything that you'd like more information about.

First, let me give some background: an LDS ward (congregation) is headed by a bishop, aided by two counselors. The bishop is in the same role as a pastor or minister in a more conventional Christian church, in terms of being the head of pastoral care of the ward, although he does not generally give sermons. (LDS chapel services feature talks given by members of the congregation.) All these positions are lay positions; they are unpaid, and performed by these men (they're always men) in addition to whatever jobs they may have. The bishop is "called" (appointed) by the next level up in the hierarchy, the stake presidency (again, a leader with two counselors; a stake is a collection of wards). It is a rotating position, as all ward-level positions are; the same man who is a bishop today might be a nursery leader next week, or a chorister. (In practice this does not happen all that often, but it does happen.) The bishop position, in particular, lasts approximately five years, give or take a year or two.

There have been plenty of cases of bad bishops, but I've been lucky enough never to have personally experienced one. All the ones I've known have been legitimately invested in helping their people. None of my bishops have given me grief about my, let's say, complicated relationship with faith (which is something I understand has happened to other people); in fact, they've all been really understanding about it.

Our previous and current bishops. )

I now find that I want to talk about something I have kind of avoided mentioning, which is the recent LDS Handbook changes. Cut for length and discussion of a policy I find offensive. )
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January-February-ish meme, sort of! I have some posts I've been thinking about making but have not actually made; if any of these (or anything else) is of interest to you, let me know and I'll post on them in the order they get commented on using a vague algorithm known only to my brain but involving number of votes and how long I think it'll take to write it. My hopeful plan is to do two a week. Synopses in brackets, when applicable.

-Seeing Wicked live for the first time [much preferable to watching a non-live copy; also, a very good Elphaba]

-The Library at Mount Char [interesting and flawed]

-Go Set a Watchman [I loved this; but doesn't stick the landing]

-Hugo-eligible short fiction I've liked (part 2)

-Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton (…if I ever finish it, which may be more difficult now that I have misplaced my Kindle) [LOVE; also the musical makes a lot more sense after reading]

-Hamilton and the Divine Comedy [two things I really love for, interestingly enough, much the same reasons]

-Melody, modulation, harmony, and Hamilton [LMM doesn't really do melody in the way I understand it; I am convinced he thinks primarily in harmony]

-Heinlein's observations about humor as applied to a slightly-ASD 5-year-old [Heinlein should have tested his ideas first]

-Jury duty [Conflicted feelings about the case and also lots of feelings about trial lawyers]

-eShakti [DRESSES AND SKIRTS WITH POCKETS]

-The new bishop (Mormon-speak for minister/pastor) at church [I never knew a new bishop could make so much difference in a ward]

-Something else you will elaborate on in comments

First week January: Yuletide media posts, New bishop
Second week January: Jury duty, Hugo short fiction
Third week January: eShakti, Chernow
Fourth week January: Library at Mount Char, Heinlein
First week February: Hamilton, Wicked
Second week February: Hamilton
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[livejournal.com profile] ricardienne asked, "What were your childhood reading habits and favorite books? Has anything changed drastically as you've gotten older? What has stayed constant? Are there any childhood favorite that you plan to or have already shared with E.? Ones that you don't want to?"

I had a lot of favorite books. I think I would have said for a large percentage of my childhood that my favorite book was The Little Prince. I also — and I realize this is not actually quite answering the question, but it's what I wanted to talk about -- have a short list of books that are labeled in my head with something that happens to Will in The Dark Is Rising (which is not coincidentally on that list), the books for which this is true: the world he had inhabited since he was born seemed to whirl and break and come down again in a pattern that was not the same as before. These are the books for which there's a before and an after in my life; I wasn't the same person after I read them. (I also was lucky enough to get to them at exactly the right point in my life for them to have that kind of explosive impact.) In chronological order:

1. A Wrinkle in Time. This is literally the first book I remember reading. I was sick and my mom picked up a bunch of books from the library that the librarian recommended. One of them, I remember, was Dr. Doolittle, and I went on to read pretty much all the books in that series; but I don't remember the act of reading it. This, I remember: I remember being bored by the first chapter ("it was a dark and stormy night," really? Even at whatever age I was, I remember rolling my eyes at the cliche, not being aware that L'Engle was playing with cliche). I remember flipping idly to the chapter called "The Man with Red Eyes" and being utterly hooked, and reading to the end and having to go back and read the first half of the book.

2. The Dark Is Rising. My fourth-grade language arts teacher had this book (she had the best library ever, and I read a lot of really awesome books that year), with the ugliest cover ever. Also the most boring back cover copy ever: For the twelve days of Christmas, while the Dark is rising, life for Will is full of wonder, terror, and delight. As I remember, that was it! Nothing about the Old Ones, the Dark and the Light, the magical Signs… so I was really not particularly interested in reading it. (And it also made it sound as if Will was, like, three years old.) At Christmas I thought it would be good to check it out because it was a Christmas story. And… and that was that. There's a strangeness to this book, a sense of a very different logic and thought process, a sharp contrast between that and ordinary life, that was unlike any book I'd ever read before.

3. The Tombs of Atuan. This was the first of the Earthsea books that I read. It was in my middle school library, where I went pretty much every lunchtime to escape from, well, seventh grade, and I don't remember now why I picked it up, but I got sucked into the dark world of the tombs. (It is still my favorite of the Earthsea books.)

4. Ender's Game. Yes, yes, I know, OSC is crazy as a loon these days, and I can now see some really disturbing things even in this book, but wow, when I read it at nerd camp as a ninth grader it was a revelation. One of the other kids — I think it was someone I didn't even know that well, but who was hooked on it as well — lent it to me, and I remember basically devouring it, ignoring everything and everyone else for as long as it took me to read it.

I feel the same way, as an adult, about Dante's Divine Comedy, Bujold's Vorkosigan books, Cynthia Voigt's Tillerman series (which I somehow missed as a child, even though I remember seeing them at the library everywhere), and Fullmetal Alchemist.

There are a lot of other books I loved, of course, some of which I love even more than the books above, but which either grew on me gradually or which I appreciated more as time went on, or which I simply love very much, without it being an explosive kind of love. Looking at our bookshelf: the Asimov robot stories; Pamela Dean's Tam Lin; the Narnia books; Les Miserables, of course! The Hero and the Crown; the Riddle-Master books (I feel like I should say something about these, because they're incredibly special to me, but I don't have much to say except… I love them, a lot); Lord of the Rings, of course! These are the ones I read over and over again, so many times I probably have large portions all but memorized.

As an adult, the books that are rather like this for me are, for example, Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia books, which I love a lot but which snuck up on me rather than changed me all at once. Also books like Hild, although I feel like I shouldn't add that to the list until I've read the next two.

I think mostly my reading habits are pretty similar (majority SF/fantasy, but a fair amount of mainstream fiction, and occasional nonfiction; I read more poetry as a child and teen, and scarcely any these days), but the biggest change from my childhood to adult reading habits is that I wasn't picky at all as a child. I would read anything, and I also felt that I had to finish books I started. I read the entire text of both The Mists of Avalon and Anna Karenina, both of which I thought were actually kind of boring and neither of which I would have at all the patience to read today. About ten years ago, I stopped reading doorstopper fantasy, except sometimes for Song of Ice and Fire (and even in that case not really; I skip through and read selected parts). And of course I wasn't nearly so picky about… well… let's just say that I read Piers Anthony. An embarrassingly large amount of Piers Anthony. These days, I do a lot more either not finishing books or not starting them in the first place.

I cannot wait until E. gets big enough for me to share all these books with her. I want to share them all! (Except, of course, the books mentioned in the previous paragraph.) She's… not there yet. We are currently reading our first non-picture book, The Secret Garden, which is another book I love, love, love; and so far her major concerns (really major, I hear about them practically every time we open the book) are the following: a) Why did everyone die of cholera? Do you know anyone who died of cholera? How do you get cholera? Etc. b) Why did Mary not know how to put on her clothes when she was nine? I'm five and I can put on my own clothes! [A valid point, but she brings it up every time, even when we're not reading anything about clothes!] Does she know how to put on her clothes yet? and c) Is the robin going to be in this chapter? All the other things in the text she doesn't seem to engage with, particularly. So, uh, yeah, we've got a ways to go.
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[personal profile] thistleingrey asked about food/recipes I liked!

I really, really like food. I also mostly see cooking as a means to getting yummy food, as opposed to D, who is exactly the opposite -- he enjoys baking for its own sake, but won't necessarily or particularly desire yummy dinner food (he is perfectly happy to eat sandwiches and pizza) -- and these days I tend to gravitate towards recipes that take very little time to put together.

My favorite cookbook in the world is A Flash in the Pan, which sadly is out of print. I love it because it features recipes that are a) relatively fast (although on a given weeknight I'm still likely to resort to pasta or something) and b) feature combinations of ingredients I wouldn't have thought to put together. (Maybe if I were more experienced with cooking I would think of it, but I'm not.) Here is a recipe from that book:

Pear and Sage Pork Medallions )

One more. I adore lamb, and I adore sweet-savory recipes (as, uh, you can see). A long time ago, K sent me a really wonderful recipe for lamb (originally from the NYTimes). I haven't made this in a while. I need to.

Lamb Tagine With Honey, Almonds and Apricots (Mrouzia) )
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[personal profile] morbane asked about something I like in different ways in fiction vs. real life.

I'm not sure if this is exactly answering the question, but I'm going to talk about something I absolutely hate and despise in real life, and which I madly adore in fiction: Conspiracy theories!

In real life, I hate them with a complete and utter passion, because they basically always signal a lack of any kind of understanding of quantitative analysis, the way that science works, and the way that people/governments work. (And if that isn't bad enough, you may be doing harm to me and my family; see rant below.) First, because it seems like this should be obvious even if you don't know how to add: anyone who suggests that there is a vast government conspiracy to cover up something super huge for years and years like lack of moon landing, or whatever, has… well… never worked for the government, and probably has never worked for an organization involving more than a thousand people, or else is completely clueless, because, um, yeah, large bureaucratic organizations don't really work competently enough like that, even though lots of people have bent their energies to the problem of trying to be able to keep things secret. And, of course, if you want me to go completely ballistic, try suggesting there's a conspiracy to give kids autism via vaccination, because excuse me herd immunity I do not appreciate you risking the health of my children, and yes I am talking to you, upper-middle-class scientifically illiterate people I hold responsible for the recent pertussis outbreak in the community in which I live! (1)(Scientific method! Analytical studies! Retractions! Also see my previous note on vast government conspiracies! But mostly: rage.)

Ahem.

In fiction, I eat that stuff up, because "conspiracy theory" in fiction is another way of saying "long-range narrative arc," and it comes hand-in-hand with intricate plotting and worldbuilding, which are things I love more than anything. (And also there are usually a lot of people behaving extremely competently, both the conspiracy-builders — which they would have to in order to get the conspiracy going and keep it secret to begin with — and the people who bring the conspiracy down. Which is also something I really love.) If it turns out that there is a vast conspiracy involving alternate universes? Sign me up. Every time! (Hi X-Files, my first TV vast-government-conspiracy love! Wish you'd been able to stick with it! Hi Fringe, I'm enjoying you a lot!) A vast government conspiracy involving the very foundations of the country being involved in a massive plot? Fullmetal Alchemist for the win! A vast conspiracy involving time-traveling cyborgs? I am so there, Kage Baker!

Anyone have large-scale intricate-plot conspiracies that they would like to recommend? :)

(1) Wow. At the particular swanky private preschool in my community that had the outbreak last fall, seventy-two percent of the kids were opted out of at least some vaccinations, with forty-seven percent not fully immunized against pertussis in particular. Just. This page is not sufficient to contain my rage, so I'll just say: wow.
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(More meme slots available; comment here.)

[personal profile] snickfic asked me to talk about my experiences with Cordwainer Smith. I said a lot in this previous post; this will be a bit more meandering and personal.

Library stacks, Ursula K. LeGuin, CS stories I love, allusions, and James Tiptree, Jr. )

One more thing: I cannot write this post without once again pimping my incredible Cordwainer Smith Yuletide giftfic, The Peaceful Ghost of Old Repose, which is crazy and wonderful and has poetry in it and ALSO A STEALTH ALLUSION CROSSOVER using my Yuletide letter, which I. Just. Also check out the comments, where the author talks about all the stuff that went into it, and alludes to the different meanings of the title <3
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So I am finally catching up with life again, and I thought that maybe I'd try that thing again where you guys tell me what to post about. Following thistleingrey's modification: Pick a week in January, or the first week in February since January is well on its way at this point, and give me a topic -- up to two per week. (If there are extras, I'll throw them into the rest of February.)

Week of Jan 11-17: Cordwainer Smith, fiction vs. real life
Week of Jan 18-24: Food I enjoy eating, ?
Week of Jan 25-31: Childhood books/reading, ?
Week of Feb 1-7: Business process rec/caution, ?
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...and I missed one by a day! Sorry [personal profile] ollipop! Anyway, the question was: my very first music teacher.

As usual, this will be meandering and only tangentially related to the question you actually asked :) This one seems to have turned into "things my parents did right." :)

My aunt, who was a music teacher (and whose four daughters all played a musical instrument, all quite well), gave me a violin for my third birthday. I started going to Suzuki lessons with Mrs. B not long after. I don't remember anything of those early lessons. It was quite frustrating for my mom, according to her. (And now that I have my own kid whom I am subjecting to the same thing, I see what she means, although there are certain circumstances in my case which make it a little less frustrating for me.)

Mrs. B and Mrs. R, whose house was filled with books. )
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[personal profile] thistleingrey asked about something I do in my down time (besides reading/writing).

Well, this month, planning a 4-year-old birthday party (party favors ARGH) and writing these meme posts are sucking up most of my down time :P

But I know that's not what you meant :) And in fact this was the post where I spent the least amount of time deciding what to write about: I expend a great deal more thought and desire and time and money than I probably should on SHINY THINGS (including when I should be thinking about this darned party, ugh). I never talk about this here, and rarely even in RL, because a) I'm not sure anyone who knows me is that interested, b) it just occurred to me that I might be hesitant to talk about it because it's such a sterotypically-girly sort of thing, which... is not a good reason, I should work on that, and c) really the whole point of shiny things is to look at them, and I suck at posting pictures. [Apropos of which, I think I've fixed the picture/post formatting, but if I haven't let me know!]

Many words and even some pictures about SHINY THINGS )
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[personal profile] luzula asked about first fictional crushes, "assuming you've had any." (I'm going to assume "fictional" refers not only to books.)

Ahahahaha. In fact I make a new fictional crush every year or so. My first fictional crushes, I think, were Sherlock Holmes, Spock, and MacGyver. (As a kid, I tended to crush less on literary characters, because I'd more identify with them -- Will Stanton, Ged, Peter Pevensie -- than actually crush on them.) Uh, yeah: when I was a kid, I was guaranteed to fall for any character with analytical problem-solving skills, ideally with an unemotional exterior hiding a deep capacity for friendship, if not love. Nowadays I tend to go for either quiet unselfconscious competency and integrity -- Simon Illyan, Costis -- or lots of shades of moral grey (Cary Agos, Nicholas Rush, Garak). Not sure what this dichotomy says about me. (I do note that the moral-grey characters tend to be from TV and movies, whereas in books I'm almost always drawn to the competent ones. It's hard to do moral-grey in books in a way that makes me fall for the character. I do crush on TV/movie competent characters as well, though!)

MacGyver was clearly the biggest crush. (And Murdoc, the assassin who is obsessed with MacGyver. Yup, I had a crush on him too, although not the same kind -- I mean, MacGyver was the kind of guy you'd want to date, and Murdoc was, well, not.) I can't believe I am admitting this in public... somewhere between elementary and high school, I wrote -- years before I had ever heard the term "fanfiction" -- an angsty MacGyver epic that was many thousands of words long (twenty thousand? forty thousand? It was Many Double-Spaced Pages, that's all I'm saying). Yes, complete with self-insert who all the other characters thought was incredibly smart and attractive etc., although even at the time I drew the line at constructing the self-insert as a major love interest. However, there, uh, may have been a noble angsty self-sacrificing revealing death scene reminiscent of Eponine's. (I had read and watched Les Mis at that point, and it showed.) There was even a time-travel super-conspiracy involved, in which Murdoc turned out to be Tragically Misunderstood (or even better, Tragically Intentionally Misunderstood For the Good of Mankind). This was epic, I tell you.

(There may even be a copy of this great work extant somewhere in my parents' house, but no one except my sister -- who was the intended audience, at the time -- is ever going to be allowed to see it.)
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[personal profile] skygiants asked me to talk about some music I enjoyed.

That... could be answered in many different ways. I considered talking about West Side Story, which I just saw two weeks ago with my sister and absolutely adored, or the Opera in English recordings which I keep mentioning but have never actually written up properly, or Frank Wildhorn (which skygiants has already written up better than I could ever do), or Loreena McKennitt (which I don't really have much to say about except that I love all her stuff). But I will talk about the three pieces of choral music I sang in my college choir that I love the most.

Bruckner, Barber, and Brahms. )
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[personal profile] el_staplador asked about a decision I was pleased I made.

This made me think about dating D for five years. We were both post-college; he was post-grad-school for almost the entire relationship. Four of those years were in a medium-distance relationship (we were about 100 miles apart and saw each other almost every weekend, but rarely during the week). We did not live together for any part of those five years. We were clear that we were both interested in marriage as a long-term plan. I wanted to get married, or at least engaged, for a good part of those five yeras, but D maintained it would be rushing into things.

General wisdom is that if a guy (or girl, for that matter) is taking that long to declare himself (given, of course, that marriage is an important thing for both of you), maybe He Just Isn't That Into You. Or if you look at any advice column/board, the overwhelming advice would be to Dump Him Already. Or if you asked my parents, they wondered if he was really into me as well, often fairly vocally.

We're coming up on eight years married now, and my life is immeasurably more wonderful than it would be without him.

In this case, D was right that we should not have gotten engaged while in a medium-distance relationship, as we really needed to figure out how to live in the same general area. Also, and more to the point, D's personality is such that he just really, really doesn't like making decisions. (Exhibit A: the car we've been planning to buy. Since I really don't care what car we have, and he does, the decision has been up to him. ...Five years and counting.) It wasn't that he didn't want to marry me, it was that he wanted to give the question the weight he thought it deserved. In fact, he still jokes that we rushed into marriage :)

The decision I'm pleased about wasn't to keep dating D, or to eventually marry him (although I'm of course extremely pleased about those too, it's not what I'm thinking about right now): it was to trust him, and trust myself that I understood him, in the face of a lot of messages that were, sometimes subtly, sometimes not-so-subtly, telling me otherwise.

...My sister, on the other hand, was in an almost-three-year relationship that fit the same profile pretty much exactly, and it turned out that in fact he really wasn't that into getting married to her and the optimal solution was to break up. (They're now both happily married to other people.)

So I'm not sure what the moral is? :) I think it is... to listen to myself, whether my self agrees with or disagrees with conventional wisdom. I tend to worry a lot about what society says My Life Ought To Be Like, or to try to conform to what I hear around me stated as This Path Will Lead to Happiness. I'm glad that I got past that, in this case.
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Okay, ALL THE MUSIC IS OVER (except for at D's parents' church, but that will be restful because of probably only having to do one thing at a time, also I may be losing my voice so it may not even be an issue) and I did not die. As far as I know.

To celebrate, I would like to do that meme thing that I keep seeing around and am enjoying reading, only for January. Pick a date (or dates) and give me a topic (or topics).

Dates under the cut. )

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