2011: A very, very brief review

Everyone’s doing it, so I’ll join the bandwagon.

2011 basically sucked for me. I won’t lie. Any year that has an emergency hospital admission in the first month and the diagnosis of a severe chronic illness is never going to go well. I’ve spent most of the year on steroids and now take a ton of pills and injections to keep things at bay.

While the UC diagnosis did at least finally give me access to lots of help and doctors who are eager (and wonderful) carers for me, it did also make my life a bit more complicated and I ended up cancelling most of the trips and fun plans for the year due to flare-ups. When you add in all the things that I couldn’t do due to my back, you end up with a year that did not have many trips or fun days out and consisted of a lot of hospital trips, tests, needles and bad news.

Thankfully the last six weeks has been better: I’m in remission (I hope, we need to discuss the recent stomach cramps in the new year) and my back has eased off a lot since late November.

I’ve written a bit during December, for the first time in months, and my Christmas has been so much better than last Christmas.

All of this gives me hope that 2012 is going to be a lot better than 2011. So here’s to the end of a sucky year and the start of what will hopefully be a fantastic year!

A Year in Review (knitting, fandom and RL edition)

This has been one of those years that wasn’t specifically awful and wasn’t specifically wonderful either. There were some good high points, some nasty low points and the end of the year hasn’t been what I wanted. Overall, I’m hoping that the memories of the high points will overwhelm the memories of the low points.


2010: A Year in Review (books edition)

A year in books

My 75 in 2010 thread: http://www.librarything.com/topic/94956

This has been the first time I’ve ever kept track of my reading and I’m quite proud that I managed to work through 79 books during the year, particularly when I think about the stuff that I’ve been reading that I couldn’t find a way to include in the list. I have to say, this has definitely been a good year for reading.

Highlight books of 2010 were:

Swordspoint – Ellen Kushner
Old Man’s War – John Scalzi
All the Windwracked Stars – Elizabeth Bear
Spirit – Gwyneth Jones
The City and the City – China Mieville
The Wizards of Caprona – Diana Wynne Jones
The White Road – Lynn Flewelling
84 Charring Cross Road – Helene Hanff
The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

These are the new-to-me books that I can honestly say have stayed with me and inspired me. Not all of them were easy fun reads (All the Windwracked Stars was a particularly tough one) but they’re ones that I’ll not forget as the years go by and I suspect that I’ll be looking for other things by those authors. Only two authors (Bear and Flewelling) were ones that I had previously read and several of the books came from recommendations in the 75 books group on LibraryThing. So far, everything that I’ve read based on recommendations from that group has been excellent and I’ve got a number of things queued already to read next year.

I really can’t decide whether 84 Charring Cross Road or The City and the City were may favourite reads of 2010. I loved them both, for very different reasons, and the writing is phenomenal.

Plans for next year

I’m doing the 75 books challenge again next year and I’ve already got ideas for things that I want to read during the year. As part of the 75 book group, I’ll be doing an Austen-athon through the year trying to read all of Jane Austen’s books. We’re starting with Sense and Sensibility, which is a re-read for me but I adore it so it should be fun.

I got Soulless by Gail Garriger and The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey for Christmas and they are both definite January reads because I’m really excited about them. Between my birthday and the order that I’m putting in to use up some Chapters vouchers, I should also have some new Mercedes Lackey books that I will be devouring. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson is on my Kindle, so that will also be a January read I suspect.

Beyond that, I’ve got a groaning wishlist of things to track down and I’ve got Mount TBR to work my way through next year. I’ve also picked out a few non-fiction books from my shelves that I want to go through:

William Rufus by F. Barlow (a biography of Willian II of England, who died in a hunting ‘accident’ and intrigues me)
The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation by Ian Mortimer
Knights Templar in Britain – Evelyn Lord
Britain in the Middle Ages: An Archaeological History by Francis Pryor

Yeah, my non-fiction reading tends towards medieval history more than anything else and these are books that have been lurking on my shelves for over a year so I really want to tackle them.

I’m already really excited about my 2011 reading!

You can follow along here, if you’d like: http://www.librarything.com/topic/104810

Self image thoughts

So, there’s this issue that I have. A self-image thing. People regularly tell me that I’m stupid for feeling this way, but bear with me and I shall explain.

I am not pretty and I am not beautiful. It doesn’t matter what I look like, that is the way that I feel about myself. I’m plain and frumpy.

For me, beauty isn’t really about physical features. There are people that I think are utterly gorgeous who aren’t conventionally pretty, but their clothes sense and flair just *work*.

These people are not me.


Weighing in on the healthcare debate

I’ve been trying to stay quiet on the American health care reforms/NHS debate because it’s a subject that makes my blood boil so quickly.

Instead, [info]calapine said it for me: http://calapine.livejournal.com/569192.html

And in the same language that I’m tempting to use πŸ˜€

While the NHS is the most visibly attacked system for most British people, the conservative right is also using the Canadian system as an example of how terrible socialised medicine is. I remember people asking me when I moved, “What are you going to do about health care when you’re in Canada?”

I think this was largely because most people assume that Canada has the same system as the USA. Don’t get me started on the English perception of Canada as either the 51st State or a frozen Arctic wasteland populated by penguins. I’m serious about the penguines, yes. Geography, people. Learn some.

The Canadian system, in many ways, is what I think the USA will be going towards if they ever do get true universal health care. Here all the hospitals, doctors etc. are ‘private’ and the government pays their bills, administered via a couple of large insurance companies. Kind of like government funded health insurance. Some provinces charge a (very small) monthly fee, waived if you’re on benefits, Nova Scotia doesn’t. And if you have permenant residency here (either through PR or citizenship) then you’re entitled to that free care in NS from day 1. Some provinces have a wait period of 30 days when your originating province has to cover you. Slightly more complicated to sort out, but still not costing the user to access health care even during that wait period.

There are a few things it doesn’t cover: dental and drugs (unless you are 11 years old or under), eye care and extras like private physios. Although your doctor can refer you for hospital physio if you can’t afford private physio. Er, so it’s just like the NHS is that respect πŸ™‚

Nova Scotia is also one of the first provinces to bring out a government drug plan. Each year my earnings are assessed and they work out how much I can afford to pay in drug costs. When I reach that ‘cap’, all my drug costs are paid for by the government. So there’s no chance that cancer will bankrupt me even if I need $40,000 of treatment. Oh, and all drugs administered in hospital are paid for no matter what happens. So, basically, a hospital stay won’t cost me a cent.

All the funding for this is administered through private insurers. Doctors and hospitals submit their bills to the insurer and are refunded, the government refunds the insurers. No need to get pre-authorisation for a procedure or drug because the government will always fund it (apart from the above exclusions).

Do I have private medical insurance? Yes, through my work. It pays for nice extras like a private room in a hospital, dental, money towards glasses and alternative therapies such as private physio, accupunture, chiropracty, a great drug plan etc. Nothing that’s essential to my healthcare, but nice-to-haves. The eye care is awesome because that’s just the NHS doesn’t pay and nor do most private insurance plans in the UK. In other words, private insurers aren’t out of business here. And I’m not thousands of dollards out of pocket every time I dislocate a joint, need surgery or get an infection. My family doctor sees me and doesn’t present me with a bill at the end. Same with my specialist. This is despite me having pre-existing conditions.

It’s an excellent system, just as good as the NHS, and that’s why my blood boils every time Republican conservatives scream about the dreadful care, the impossibility of implementing it and the harm it causes. Right now, my uncle is in hospital due to congestive heart failure and a pulmonary embolism. They’re doing an excellent job and there was never any debate about whether he’d be seen. And when he eventually dies, nobody is going to be left with a huge hospital bill to pay.

Sun, sea and sand

Best Friend in America arrived on Thursday and we had a fabulous visit. I was sad to see her go yesterday 😦 Flights between our cities are so insanely expensive that we’re making plans to meet up somewhere in between (maybe Toronto or New York) next year. The cost of flights plus hotel room will actually work out less than the cost of a flight between our cities. It’s insane.


On Friday, I managed to work through lunch and get out of work early so I hightailed it home to pick up BFIA. She’d spent the day reading, playing with Kate and Annie and going for a short walk. Apparently I live in a really lovely place πŸ™‚ The weather was gorgeous, warm and sunny, so we went down to the beach and spent lots of time paddling in the ocean and walking along the beach. I really must remember to do that when the weather is good πŸ™‚ Then it was off for yummy sea food for supper followed by a cup of tea with my aunt, who was eager to finally meet the fabled BFIA!

On Saturday we set out for a drive down the coast, planning to visit Lunenburg and Mahone Bay. Incredibly, I didn’t get lost! There was a craft fair at Lunenburg so we ended up with rather a lot of fudge and jam πŸ™‚ We ate sandwiches on the waterfront and watched the sailing ships. Then we hopped into the car and drove back to Mahone Bay where we had tea (and amazing chocolate shortcake) at the Biscuit Eater Cafe and I got to pop into Have A Yarn. I emerged with some 2.5mm Addi circs, some 4ply alpaca to make something for a friend’s baby and a skein of Tanis sock yarn in a gorgeous shade of blue – score! The drive back to the city was smooth and easy, despite the Paul McCartney concert, and after a bit of time to read and relax at home we went out for a sushi supper.

BFIA’s main comment was “OMG, it’s so fresh!” She adores shrimp and my sushi place does amazing shrimp tempura. I’ve never tried shrimp tempura rolls before (although I don’t know why!) and I may have discovered a new favourite πŸ™‚ We skipped dessert at the restaurant in favour of the insanely indulgent ice cream that I had at home and, sadly, concluded that BFIA will have to visit me if she ever wants that ice cream again as it’s a local store brand. Heh.

Sunday was grey and rainy, so we decided to have a lazy day at home. We did venture out long enough to check out the local touristy gift shops and pick up some Tim Horton’s (she needed to see why TH is so popular here) but mostly we read, watched TV and played with kittens. Supper was pizza and salad, which was just right and it was great to just sit around gossiping.

I took a long lunch yesterday to take her back to the airport. Apparently she’s gone home with tales of beaches and amazing food, to persuade her husband that they need to take a trip back here because he’ll love it. Yay!

It was great having her to visit and I’ve finally been able to persuade an old friend that moving here was a great decision. So many of my friends don’t really know why I’d wanted to leave England and can’t understand that I don’t miss it. Of course, BFIA is probably the most likely to understand seeing as she left England years ago and now has a wonderful life in America. Perhaps if I can bring other friends over to visit and show them what my life is like, they’ll understand better.

I suspect that the weather probably helped πŸ™‚ This place in gorgeous, sunny weather is amazing. The days of fog and ick get a bit wearing and it’s harder (but not impossible) to get out and enjoy the beach and the scenery. But BFIA pointed out that the ocean is always pretty spectacular whatever the weather, and she’s right πŸ™‚

I’ve been thinking a bit about the move this weekend. When I was planning it, everyone kept reminding me that it wouldn’t solve all my problems and I shouldn’t expect to suddenly be amazingly happy just because I’d moved. So I set my expectations for how the move would affect me pretty low and it’s turned out to be a much bigger thing in the end. There weren’t any problems that I was running away from when I left, but I did leave behind a crappy job and a country that I didn’t feel offered me much. Coming here, I’ve gained a great job, better prospects for housing and life quality, surroundings that I love and a new group of friends that I love spending time with.

I’ve got a new life that’s quite different from what I had in England and, despite all those dire warnings, overall I’m much happier and more content than I was. So actually it has been the fix that everyone was warning me it wouldn’t be – how amazing is that?

Amazing women of fandom

This isn’t a meme yet, but I suspect that it’s turning into one and I couldn’t resist. This was posted in [info]fandomsecrets over the weekend and triggered a huge discussion of female characters in SF. [info]misscam‘s response here was brilliant and I’ve now seen a few people list their amazing, strong female characters so I had to join in.

Donna Noble, Doctor Who. I am so predictable, but she’s one of the first characters that comes to mind. She’s strong, she learns just how brilliant she can be, she doesn’t take anything lying down and in Turn Left we saw that all she needed was circumstances to find her inner-awesome. It’s not dependant on the Doctor. I still haven’t forgiven RTD.

Ace McShame, Doctor Who. She killed a Dalek. With a baseball bat. She blew stuff up with homemade explosives. She got ridiculously excited about rocket launchers. She killed Cybermen with gold coins and a sling shot. She could be so incredibly vulnerable (see Curse of Fenric, Ghostlight et al) but always came through it stronger. It seems entirely appropriate that she was destined to become a Time Lady if the show had continued.

Tegan Jovanka, Doctor Who. She accidentally wandered into the TARDIS and, after he initial WTF-ness, proceded to be awesome and help to defeat the Master. Yes, she spent the first few adventures trying to get back to Heathrow, but when she was given the chance to stay on Earth, she didn’t. She was loud and bossy and sometimes rude, but she was brave and caring and funny as well. Bonus points for leaving team TARDIS when she needed to, rather than getting killed or left behind by accident.

Sarah Jane Smith, Doctor Who and SJA. It is hard to express the sheer awesomeness of Sarah Jane. She’s smart and brave and curious, which is how she hooks up with the Doctor in the first place. There are times when she’s scared, but never times when she lets her fear get in the way of doing what needs to be done. OK, yes, there were a few poor fashion choices (pink dungarees? Seriously?) and the writers needed to find better cliffs for her to fall off so that it looked slightly less lame to be rescuing her from small hillocks, but I blame that on 70s TV budgets. In the recent series she has matured but still saves the world regularly with a sonic lipstick. She’s a mother, not just to Luke, and she isn’t afraid to let her chicks go out there and save the world as well.

Susan Ivonova, Babylon 5. There are no words to express my love. Susan doesn’t take crap from anyone, she stands up to the biggest, nastiest aliens out there and she can be sort of diplomatic if she has to be. Although she is very much attached to her Russian heritage and that can inform her ‘diplomacy’ at times. She sleeps in slinky nightwear and could probably drink Garibaldi under the table, if the vodka was good enough. I think Ivonova was the first character that I wanted to “be” when I was a teenager.

CJ Cregg, The West Wing. My mantra for the last few years has been “I want to be CJ when I grow up”. TWW is filled with wonderful female characters, but CJ outshines them all. She’s smart and sassy and strong, at times she can be a total dork, and Josh is afraid of her even if he won’t say it out loud. Her conscience regarding lying to the press is what kept her out of the loop sometimes, but she’s got the strength of character to overcome that when she needs to as Chief of Staff. I want to be CJ when I grow up.

Miranda Bailey, Gray’s Anatomy. She’s tough and scary and really short, but she can do all that and be a caring person at the same time. Is some of that scariness to overcome the disadvantage of being female in a male profession (and really short)? Totally. Do I care? No, because she’s tough without turning into a man in skirts and can be beautifully feminine with pride.

Hermione Granger, Harry Potter. Try to imagine what it must have been like for her those first months at Hogwarts. Yes, she’s excited about the magic and the spells and the history and all, but underneath? Who wouldn’t be terrified to discover that everything you thought you knew about the world was wrong. She doesn’t curl up and cry or run away, she grasps everything with both hands and doesn’t flinch when Harry and Ron’s adventures sort of roll over her. By book 7 she’s the one that knows what to do and puts things together. She survives terrible things and comes out more awesome. Where would Harry and Ron be without her? Probably dead, with Voldemort ruling the world.

Alanna of Trebond and Olau, Tortall books. For the first two books she’s disguised as a boy and through that discovers what kind of woman she wants to be. Then she goes out into the world and is awesome for the second half of the series. She can compete on equal footing with the boys and finds ways to compete when her size is against her. Despite the early years disguised as Alan, she never becomes a man in skirts character. Her romances are sweet and about strengthening her rather than becoming an attachment to a man.

Kerowyn, By the Sword and other Valdemar books. She’s tough and smart and she has a magic talking sword. Kero knows what she wants and she does it. She’s also able to accept it when life takes unexpected turns and take full advantage of new opportunities. There aren’t many female mercenary characters out there and they are often the hard-bitten, faintly nasty sort of bit-characters that appear as opposition to our hero. Kero is the herione and she’s brilliant for it.

Connie Beauchamp, Holby City. Not SF fandom, but HC has a teeny tiny fandom out there somewhere, I’m sure. Connie can be a complete bitch, a caring friend or a loving mother. She can be all three at once sometimes. Husband betrays her? She sniffles for three seconds and then goes for revenge. Connie can be more ambitious than is good for her, she hates being reminded of her roots and she makes bad decisions for bad reasons as often as for good reasons. We’ve watched her use men to further her career, but we’ve also seen her heart broken when she allows someone to see her vulnerability so we understand her. She’s a character that is fun to watch because even when you’re hating her, you know that you’ll love her again in two weeks’ time.

I know that I’ve missed a few and people will probably remind me of them as soon as I post this, but these are the immediate ones that come to mind. So who are your strong, amazing female characters?

ETA: OMG, how could I have forgotten Buffy? And Faith? And Willow? Hell, the entire female cast of Buffy deserve their own accolades. Then there are Kira Nerys and Jadzia Dax from DS9, although Dax is slightly more problematic because how do you classify a symbiote currently in a female body but previously in a male one?

Six month emigraversary thoughts

As of today, it is now six months since I moved to Canada. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown! There have been ups and downs and the winter has not been easy, but overall it’s been wonderful and I’m absolutely certain that I made the right choice to do this. It’s been a huge learning experience in more ways than I could ever have imagined.

Things I have learned:

Work meanderings and other babbles

I think that I have figured out why there aren’t really any work tales here. Usually my LJ/blog is filled with tales from the triumphant to the stupid (er, usually more of the stupid than anything else) as well as the usual fannish stuff, medical stuff and knitting.

I think the problem is that I’m not emotionally invested in this job.

This is not to say that I’m not doing my best or that I don’t want the job, but I don’t care about it yet.

Although I often hated my old job, often got impatient and angry at the stupidity and bureaucracy and insanity, deep down I cared about the impact of my job. I can clearly remember thinking, during my first week, that I would never care about how many cans of baked beans there were on the nation’s supermarket shelves and yet by the end I really did care.

The thing that made the difference was that the person who couldn’t find the thing they needed wasn’t some faceless stranger, it was my Mum. She was the person who would have to go to other shops, wasting precious time, because my store couldn’t supply her with the soya yoghurt and soya milk that my father uses. Making sure that the basics (and not so basics) were there became important because my mum didn’t have the time to hunt across the county for the half dozen different things she couldn’t get at the store this week.

The reason that I often got so frustrated by my old job was that it was often company policies that made my job so much harder and I knew that my work had a direct impact on the stores in the real world.

There isn’t that personal connection yet, that sense of impact if things go wrong, with this job. I’m looking forward to getting that sense because, as stressful as it could be, I think that it’s a part of what makes me good at a job.

This morning I received the letter from my new rheumy with my appointment. It is first thing in the morning on the day that the cats get spayed. I’m starting to suspect that this could be a complicated day.

There was also a message on my answer phone asking me to call my doctor’s office. I’m seeing her next week anyway, so I’m not sure why that message is there. If anything has shown up in my bloodwork, surely she’d wait until next week? Nothing can be that serious. Oh, well, I’ll call her and she can bill the government for the five minutes it takes her to tell me that my bloodwork is fine. Ho hum.

My parents arrive on Monday. I’ve kept the house tidy and clean, but I suspect that I’ll be having a cleaning frenzy anyway. The insane part of me wants to prove that I can cope perfectly on my own.

The sensible part of me knows that all I’ll achieve is lots of back pain from overdoing things, but how often do I listen to the sensible part of me?

I bought lots of sparkly decorations for the tree we will be buying when they get here. Miss Kate Crow has already decided that she likes sparkly. How is she going to cope with shiny, sparkly and lit-up?

Health care and socialised medicine: a dilemma

Today I went for the bloodwork that the new doc insists I need before getting a new prescription for my painkillers. I’ve got no objection to doing it because it probably is sensible to monitor me – if my kidneys do pack up, I suspect that detecting it before symptoms appear is better than after.

I’m a very firm believer in state health care. You might call it a religious fervour, almost. My grandparents went bankrupt at least once (that my mother knows of) due to the costs of caring for two children with osteogenesis imperfecta, one with rhuematic fever and a thyroid disorder and all the common childhood ailments before there was socialised medicine in Canada. Nobody should have to go bankrupt and sell their home to pay for the treatment of severe illness in their children. It’s why my mum ended up in England: my grandmother was a war bride so she used her British citizenship to move the family to England when Mum was 17. The NHS was able to offer free care for the boys with OI, decent schooling for the one young enough to still need it (he’s now the owner of his own company despite severe disability – all that free care gave us a high-earning and high tax-paying man so I call that triumpth) and when my grandparents got sick they were able to afford their own treatment.

As a believer in state care, I didn’t feel right about the idea of paying to have my bloodwork done just to save a bit of time so I went down to the local hospital very early this morning.
Er, I may be paying the next time. It wasn’t that it was a bad experience – the nurse was good and efficient when I finally got through and the bruising isn’t too bad. It’s just that it took nearly two hours to be seen and, despite being there before the sun rose, I was still very late to work. Yes, my work gives me paid time to attend to medical issues but I don’t want to take advantage of that in case I need more frequent appointments later in my employment. There is no way to know how I will be in a year or two, after all.

A girl at work has told me about a place that takes evening appointments and apparently I can even pay to have a nurse come out to me at home – I could work from home for a day, take a ten minute break while the nurse is there and not lose any work time at all.

The question is whether I can bring myself to pay for a service just for the convenience. There is a part of me that worries that paying for normally free services so that they fit into my life will, over time, allow governments to charge for those services as standard ‘because people are willing to pay’. I’m already watching the UK government attempting to introduce elements of private medicine to the NHS template and it makes me sick. As the USA finally wakes up to the immorality of people going without care because they cannot afford it or losing everything after a cancer diagnosis, am I undermining the ideals of socialised medicine by considering paying for services that can be provided as quickly (if not as conveniently) by the state?

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