The “year in cities” approach to summarising a year is something I adopted from Jason Kottke many years ago. Again, I’m reminded how much I miss Dopplr. If only Tripit were pretty/nice to use.

Abroad

  • Praia da Rocha, Portugal
  • Amsterdam, Holland
  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • Wellington, New Zealand
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • New York, New York, USA
  • Portland, Oregon, USA
  • Stockholm, Sweden*

We had a couple of brief stopovers in Singapore, but since these were just a couple of hours and we didn’t leave the gate, let alone the airport, I’m not counting them as a visit to the city itself.

UK

  • Newcastle, UK**
  • London, UK**
  • Manchester, UK*
  • Bristol, UK*

Previous editions: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.

* denotes multiple trips
** denotes places I lived; in a “rented a room or bought a house/flat” way rather than a “oh god how many nights will I have to stay in this hotel room” way

This should be the dawn of a new equality. Stop inadvertently marginalising people.

This is a brief, important plea.

It it truly wonderful news that we now have something approaching equal marriage in the UK. It is brilliant that same sex couples can now marry in England and Wales. It’s disappointing that the details for those in existing Civil Partnerships who want to upgrade/convert to marriage haven’t been figured out yet, and that it throws trans* people under the bus, but still, it’s progress.

So please stop fucking it up by calling it “gay marriage”.

Equal marriage isn’t just for those who identify as lesbian or gay. There are a LOT of other folks who are going to benefit, including those who are bisexual, queer and those who prefer not to self-label at all. [Edited to reflect that there are real issues in the current same-sex marriage legislationthat make it definitely not good for trans* and genderqueer folks, in particular the concept of spousal veto]

Being in a same-sex relationship doesn’t make you gay. I’m a lesbian, my wife is bisexual. Being in a committed same-sex relationship doesn’t change that — that’s like saying someone is asexual when they are not dating. If you insist on calling our marriage “gay” then you are marginalising her, insisting that her identity is defined by our relationship.

That’s not cool.

So please, let’s call this what it is. Equal marriage, which enables same-sex marriage. Or y’know, just marriage. Marriage between people that love each other & want to publicly commit to each other, who no longer need to worry about whether or not they will be denied legal recognition based on their sex, or sexual orientation.

Let’s celebrate equal marriage. But let’s not do so by marginalising even more people. Surely we’ve had enough of that?

[This was originally posted on Medium, but I am self-archiving per the Tao of Tantek]

Why equal marriage matters to me

(cross-posted from the wonderful Medium because it’s important to have your own copies too, however great a community is: original)

I was a child without a future.

Don’t get me wrong, I had all the advantages. I was bright, got excellent grades. I’d been born white in Apartheid South Africa, experiencing incredible (undeserved) privilege. I was likely to get a full scholarship for university. I had a stable home life.

But I was facing the endless drudgery of working and going home to an empty life stretched out ahead of me. Painfully alone, forever.

I didn’t want that.

I remember contemplating suicide for the first time before I even hit my teens. How different I was became increasingly apparent from about the age of ten. The girls in my class started to get giggly around the boys, to dumb themselves down (in SA at that time, girls weren’t meant to be smart and smart girls definitely weren’t attractive).

I was bemused. I mean, boys were alright. Some of my best friends were boys. But this sudden attraction my classmates were feeling? I never felt it, never comprehended it.

And with puberty came planning. Futures, weddings, girls scribbling their names with their crush’s surname appended. Idle, childish daydreams, but central to conversations all around me.

I couldn’t imagine anything worse. Marrying a man I didn’t love? Enduring sex I didn’t want and could never enjoy? I decided very young that I would rather die.

And so my planning became razor blades, hoarding pills, finding secret hideaways where I wouldn’t be discovered until it was too late.

Dark years. Hard to write about, even decades later.

So how am I here today?

Xena.

Yes, that’s right: Xena, Warrior Princess.

In the relatively early days of the Internet, I discovered Xena messageboards. They gave me a lot of things: terminology for the things I felt, an explanation for why I found the show so compelling despite its ridiculously low production values and hilarious accent combinations (all medieval Greeks spoke with Kiwi accents, doncha know?), tentative new friendships. Exposure to a bunch of people in other countries, some just as backward as my own, some more progressive.

Interestingly though, the vast majority of us were in places where it wasn’t good to be gay: America, Africa, Australia.

The most important thing they gave me though was a friendship with a woman twice my age. She lived in Austin, Texas, with her partner of more than a decade. They were happy together, had a house, a business and a pair of adorable dogs.

I honestly had no clue this was an option.

Hearing about their life together was like being released from a tiny iron cell, coaxed outside and invited to look at a view that stretched out beautifully for miles.

I wouldn’t have made it out of my teens without knowing that view existed. I’d have been a statistic, part of the horribly high LGBTQ teen suicide rate.

In Apartheid South Africa, there were no visible, happy gay folks. We weren’t equal in the eyes of the law or society. I couldn’t daydream about marrying my dream girl, draw hearts round the names of my crushes. Marriage wasn’t an option for people like me. Happiness wasn’t an option for people like me. And it really felt like living wasn’t much of an option for people like me.

So if you’re bemused about the fight for marriage equality, wondering why it matters? It’s not just about giving folks equal rights and responsibilities. Not just about protecting our children and our families. Not just about legal and societal recognition and equality.

It’s about giving kids a future to believe in, too.

So, I’ve been living in central London Monday to Friday for the past 6 months. It’s been an interesting experience — particularly since I was REALLY not much of a London fan before now and it was one of the things I was most nervous about when I took the new job.

It’s been a real delight getting to know the London I’d never seen before. Previously I’d only ever visited for the day, or the weekend, or sometimes (on one particularly awful trip from Bath to Hull — yes, Hull!) just passing through.

I Love…

  • Walking around. It really is a different city on foot!
  • Sheer variety of food — having three different Vietnamese places to choose from ON MY WALK home is ace.
  • Hearing half a dozen languages being spoken — just on my walk to work in the morning 🙂
  • Being able to pop along to loads more tech/geek events

Still Not So Sure About…

  • People not liking it when you smile at them. Seriously people, it’s OK to smile! Stop looking at me like I’ve escaped my strait jacket ;-P
  • The Tube.
  • The smell. Do you eventually get used to it, or is that why so many more people smoke?

Some Favourites So Far

  • Hawksmoor — for seriously good steak and a nicely affordable lunchtime/early evening/late evening 3 course meal option
  • Fleet River Bakery — good coffee, nice atmosphere (if a little crowded/noisy sometimes) and Most Excellent breakfast butties
  • Banh Mi Bay — their grilled chicken & pate Vietnamese baguettes are proving very hard to resist
  • Sen Viet — best pho I’ve found in London so far
  • The Diner — really tasty hot dogs. And a burger that comes with pulled pork on it. Oh and the pancakes are good. And the ribs. The Diner fries (cajun spiced) are to die for… *Homer Simpson drool noise*

OK, so seems most of what I like about London is the food. Other suggestions?

Head on over to Geek | Manager for some very exciting news: http://blog.geekmanager.co.uk/2012/04/16/joining-the-revolution/

2011 was not my favourite year. Frankly, it sucked. My immune system recovered after 6 years of severe sleep apnoea had beaten it into the ground. Sounds like a good thing, right? I thought so too, but it meant scar tissue started forming from injuries during those years & nasty stuff started happening. And that the allergies I thought I had grown out of came back like a bad sequel. Prawns 2: This Time There’s Anaphylaxis!

So 2011 will sadly always be the year in which I suffered 28 shoulder subluxations, 2 full dislocations and the permanent removal of shellfish from the menu. Add to that deaths in the family and I’m sure you understand why I’m glad to see the back of it.

I don’t usually do new year resolutions and certainly not public ones. I’m a big believer that it’s our habits that make us – and habits are best changed one at a time, rather than in the traditional big bang, guilt-inducing approach that is enshrined in crappy magazines across the land. For more on the sustainable habits approach, check out non resolutions advice from Dan Pink via Buster Benson.

That said, I’m going to change some major things in 2012. This is going to be a rocking year.

I am going to:

  • Get back to doing what I love and loving what I do
  • Write more, both code & prose
  • Participate more in my community. Geekfolk, I have missed all y’all. Let’s do lunch/coffee/Barcamps/SXSWs/werewolf/geeks-with-guns/stuff yeah? I’ll be looking for you all on Lanyrd and turning up more. Come say hi!
  • Figure out this hypermobility/EDS thing and *kick its arse*

So 2012? Watch out, I’m coming to get ya!

Some of you know that I’ve been having trouble sleeping over the past couple of years. Actually, more accurately, having trouble *staying* asleep. Only being able to sleep for an hour or two before waking got annoying enough that last November I checked into hospital overnight for a sleep study for an uncomfortable night covered in electrodes.

What they found astonished me. I wasn’t just waking up every hour or two. I was stopping breathing over 75 times an hour — waking each time so that my breathing restarted, without being aware of it. They have diagnosed severe sleep apnoea. The condition wasn’t necessarily a huge surprise (anyone unfortunate enough to have had to share a room or even house with me knows my snoring is pretty epic – my dad is just the same) but the level of severity was.

They immediately gave me a CPAP machine which forces me to breathe during the night by blowing a gale through a mask at me. The effect has been pretty much immediate — the first morning I felt infinitely more awake and I have a huge amount more energy than I have had in years.

The weird thing? You’d assume that having had no REM in over 18 months, I’d *know* just how tired I was. But I really didn’t. I’d occasionally fall asleep in front of the telly, but otherwise I experienced hardly any daytime sleepiness (one of the key symptoms of the condition). But having had some decent sleep over the last week since I was given the machine, I can suddenly feel the difference. I have more energy, I feel smarter, more awake and much more balanced.

Net, my one and only resolution for 2010: To sleep more and get more done.

Any of this sound familiar, either for you or someone you know? The Sleep Apnoea Trust has a decent FAQ section, more info available at NHS Choices.