freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Last night's fun discovery in Mass Effect: Andromeda: if you are buggering around poking things in the fancy new outpost you've just set up on a planet you've just carefully won over in the teeth of extreme resistance (Kadara, and may I add, Reyes, you bastard!) and you accidentally hang around for too long on the bit of platform you didn't realise was a landing pad for shuttles, a large, enthusiastic shuttle piloted by your own Initiative people will arrive at speed out of nowhere and land on top of you, squashing you terminally flat and causing the fateful "! MISSION FAILURE" screen to flash up over your recumbent corpse.

I find this a particularly pleasing piece of essentially random verisimilitude, it made me giggle madly. It also caused me to mentally construct micro flash fanfic depicting the probable reaction of the poor benighted shuttle pilot who thus accidentally took out their own Pathfinder, who is the colonisation trailblazer, terraforming on-switch operative and the Milky Way travellers' only hope for survival. "Embarrassed" doesn't even begin to cover it. Probably a quick header into the nearest sulphuric acid lake would be the only decent response.

We have one of South Africa's merry conglomerate public holiday clusters coming up, Thursday for Freedom Day and Monday for Workers' Day, and I have taken Friday, Tuesday and Wednesday off with a sensation of palpable relief. I have had the same bloody sinus headache for several weeks now, it drifts in and out randomly, and I am conscious of a deep-seated need to do nothing for a week or so and bond with my new kitten. Next week is the ten-day vac, so it's also even possible that not too many students will actually explode in my absence. And if they do, someone else can deal with them. At this point in the proceedings I am astonishingly unmoved at the prospect.

My subject line is Hillaire Belloc, the dreadful story of Rebecca who slams doors, and meets her Inevitably Gruesome End at the hands (shoulders?) of a bust of Abraham. The poem has been circling my cerebellum gently since the Andromeda Incident.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
In my defence, my absence from Teh Intahwebs over the last couple of weeks has only partially been because of Mass Effect: Andromeda, although quite a lot of it has, indeed, been the result of kicking happily around another galaxy making dubious romance choices and taking out nasty alien fascists with elan, vindictive efficiency and a sniper rifle. The rest has been because the current bone-deep exhaustion which is still afflicting me after the worst registration season I've ever experienced, morphed into a sinus infection which laid me low for most of last week. I'm still a bit wan and floaty, drifting around in an exhausted disconnect which leaves me feeling as though my feet are not quite touching the floor, and with neither the energy nor the brain for Being Entertaining On The Internet. Patience, I tell myself. Soon, soon, I will have sufficient ducks in a row to quit the hell out of this job and find something that doesn't require me to ritually sacrifice myself on an ongoing basis. After which I may once again be something resembling a person.

Several days at home with a sinus infection did, on the upside, allow me to play significant quantities of Andromeda, which I am apparently 57% of the way through after just under a hundred hours of play. (I'm an extremely completist player). Initial impressions as follows:
  • Hell, it's pretty. The planetary landscapes and cool spacescapes are beautiful in the extreme. The Obligatory Ancient Departed Civilisation, known as the Remnant, have left the landscape littered with incredible subterranean vaults which are all black marble and weird shapes and gravity wells and giant, shadowy spaces stretching down and away. They're breathtaking.
  • They have given us jumpjets! A significant proportion of my gaming time is spent going "sproing!" and "whee!". Also the Nomad, which is an update of the old Mako, which means you can drive around planets at insane speeds while your party bickers, and which is ridiculously enjoyable.
  • All the old familiar races have followed us to a new galaxy, which weirdly presents only two new ones, one of which is the bad guys. The others are the Angara, who are sort of cuddly, collectivist, blue-and-purple lion-lizards who are extremely endearing.
  • The combat and skill and crafting structures are a maddening combination of limited and opaquely complicated. You can do some cool stuff. Eventually. To some extent.
  • The scenario and worldbuilding are... interesting, but, as Penny Arcade noted, a bit in the arena of a young and foolish vintage. This is clearly a comparatively inexperienced writing team, which is the result of them sectioning off Mass Effect to another Bioware location and leaving the experienced writers in Edomonton with Dragon Age. It shows - the writing is generally a bit patchy, plot and characterisation largely unexciting despite some good moments. I'm rather attached to the female Ryder, who's written as a bit wry and deadpan, but a lot of that is her voice, with which I am seriously enamoured: slightly alto with a throaty catch. The NPCs are almost all a bit bland. I'm finding myself making dubious romance choices because not even my Lawful Good can stomach the oatmeal of the "nice" characters. (On the upside, one of the dubious choices is voiced by Natalie Dormer, which may or may not be implicated in the selection process).
  • The fandom is dissing the animation all over the internet, and they have a point. There is a lot of the laziness and superficial glitz which characterised DA2: the game has, for example, made all the NPCs in each non-human race the same face, with vaguely different face-paint. This is, to say the least, disconcerting, and causes brief moments of paranoid conspiracy as you try to work out non-existent connections, but it's not nearly as disconcerting as the facial animations, which manage, in a burst of rare genius, to be of regressively awful quality which puts them back somewhere before ME itself. The original ME didn't try to get fancy and thus avoided the uncanny valley issue into which MEA consistently and with pin-point accuracy tumbles. Characters in this game have some really weird lip movements.
  • I am, probably as a result of contextual imprinting over the last couple of decades, extremely uneasy about this game's colonial agenda and its ecological implications. To date they're not being thoughtfully dealt with.

Also, you have an AI, whose voice alerts you to environmental hazards and resource gathering opportunities and input requirements to an extent which swings wildly between being useful and being repetitively redundant to the point of infuriation. Hence my subject line. It is probably a tribute to the actual good parts of the game that I'm still invested and enjoying it despite hearing the above in a clipped British alto twenty or thirty times in a half-hour burst of driving madly around sand dunes.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Gawsh, but midsummer has a terrible effect on me. It's been stinking hot for the last few weeks; today's random gentle rain had me leaping out of the house with glad cries, stoked for the day in a way I haven't been in months. (Tracy sent me an email this morning with a tongue-in-cheek closing instruction to "have a sparkly day!", which made me giggle but is possibly more relevant than it's been in weeks). I am useless in the hot weather; my brain shuts down, my energy drops, I pull in my horns and set myself to endure rather than actually living. I don't go anywhere or do anything, and find myself shying away from social engagements of almost any sort.

Part of the Reverse SAD Effect is also, I think, because of the shape of the academic year and the fact that my horrible confluence of orientation and registration duties hits me just after the year begins. It's a bit later than usual this year because of our disrupted academic schedule after protests, but in a way that's simply drawing out the horrible anticipation. Part of the reason I tend to curl up hedgehoggily and pretend I don't exist when a social invitation comes my way at this time of year is because I am internally braced for a four-week period in which demands will be made on me more or less continuously by several thousand people, and some sort of unconscious personal barrier is springing up protectively to husband my energy. It doesn't help that the demands slowly ramp up from the moment I get back, so I've been registering more or less wall-to-wall rugby players since Monday last week. (Rugby players make a really solid wall. And also, for some reason, almost uniformly attempt to register without bringing writing implements of any sort. I assume it has something to do with the size of their hands).

I suppose what all this is saying is a sort of lateral apology to my friends, and to many missed social opportunities lately: I promise I don't hate you. I'm just hoarding spoons.

(Subject line is New Model Army, "Green and the grey", which was playing in my car, but coincidentally also describes today's weather.)
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I had to dig back through blog posts to write the Hobbit elegy, and it's both weird and strangely satisfying, to re-visit my own life like that. Words, I get high on them, and that's some good shit at times. Also, given that my personal neuroses tend towards the aargh-I-do-not-exist-or-if-I-do-I'm-not-important end of the scale, it's even salutary and probably good for the soul, to be reminded that my own experiences and feelings and insights do exist, and may be valid. Sometimes I find that hard to believe.

What did leap to the eye, though, was the association of the annual board schedule rant with flanking posts bemoaning my state of health. Because, yes, apparently I do mark the year-end process annually by picking up some sort of lurgi, which then rampages over my hapless form for anything up to weeks. I did three days of board schedule checking over the weekend and Monday with a weird intermittent sore throat, which turned on Monday and Tuesday into a full-blown viral thing that knocked me flat for most of Wednesday, fortunately neatly sandwiched between the unavoidable meetings I had to attend on Tuesday and Thursday. The whole horrible season culminated in a five-hour meeting yesterday, after which I staggered home at 6pm, ate something random, prodded the cat and collapsed into bed. I feel considerably better this morning after, ooh, count them, eleven hours of sleep. I have one final meeting on Monday, after which I go on leave for three weeks, and damn the torpedoes. Anything vital in the way of orientation and registration prep can damned well wait until January. Dammit.

Cape Town is hideously hot, I have stress eczema all over my throat, and the attendant braai smoke from today's public holiday is inflaming my sinuses. But! I have three days in which to do nothing. The garden is burgeoning, my flame lilies are in flower again, the cat is asleep on the sofa making cute meeping noises in her sleep, I have a large iced coffee on my desk, and I have randomly acquired the wherewithal to make cherry chocolate trifle for supper tonight, just because I've bloody well earned it after the last week. It's not all bad. I'll take it.

(My subject line is from the Magnetic Fields, "Chicken with its head cut off", the title of which is the only part of the song which is actually in any way relevant to this post.)

cold tired fingers

Monday, 4 April 2016 03:11 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Gawsh, this blog thing, I'd forgotten. It has been a Somewhat Medical couple of weeks, with the minor op for the Weird Finger Bump followed by a lurgi and a doozy of a glandular resurgence, which means I've been flattened and faintly choked for about ten days. Seriously, minor sinus/throat infection thingy and it feels as though a horde of inept vampires have been chewing on my neck, enthusiastically but without much actual skill. They are too fumbling to break the skin, but my current levels of flattenedness suggest they're draining blood by some sort of vampiric osmosis. I'm still somewhat exhausted, despite two full weeks featuring exactly two days of work. It really hasn't been an easy six months on campus, I think we're all feeling the tension.

On the upside, the Weird Finger Bump turns out to be a cartilage tumour, which is a benign/non-invasive thingy known technically as an enchondroma, which is a lovely word that bears repetition just for the monk-like chanting effect. Also, I'm associating it vaguely with camels, or possibly the inner wibbly bits of plant cells. I have a neat 3cm slash in my finger, which meekly dissolved its four stitches in a week and is otherwise inoffensive, although it was bloody and rather painful for the first week and large tracts of it were blue and yellow from bruising from the local. The hand, it transpires, is unduly full of nerve endings. On the upside this kind of tumour has a very low chance of recurrence. It has also been headed off at the pass from its purportedly characteristic party trick, which is to grow gently into the bone until it's exerting enough pressure to fracture it. Foiled! Foiled, I say!

I have, regrettably, been a complete and total hermit for the last two weeks, because exhaustion, and my apologies to all the lovely people I haven't seen much of. On the upside, I have played entirely through Knights of the Old Republic and about two thirds of the way through the sequel, which has contented the Star Wars jonesing more than somewhat, and has incidentally revealed the following:
  1. Narrative clearly trumps graphics any day, these are really old games with really clunky visuals, and I'm still absorbed. I have also recently played Bioshock 3 and Dishonoured, both of which are really pretty, and neither of which I have finished because bored and railroaded. Or, in the case of Dishonoured, undue up-front fridging.
  2. I am at a level of expertise with these games where I recognise the actors' voices (because Bioware really has recurring favourites they keep using from game to game) within about half a sentence. Since they have cunningly seeded the love interests with the voices of, respectively, Kaidan and Cullen, my two go-to romances from ME and DA, I'm basically doomed, romancing anyone else feels like infidelity. On the upside: Carth.
  3. Dear sweet whistling Chadra-Fan, but the plot of KOTOR2 is a hot mess. It really has too much plot, insufficiently controlled, and its quest structures bugged way beyond hell and gone. Not a quality construction, although productive of a certain player curiosity which propels one through the high levels of wtf in sheer curiosity as to how this whole insane edifice is ultimately going to shamble, clanking and groaning, to a conclusion. My prediction: bits will fall off.
  4. Lightsabers. LIGHTSABERS!!
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Occasionally I wonder if I actually, you know, have a brain, because possibly going in for an MRI (very minor, there's a weird bumpy thing on my finger that the specialist couldn't figure out) was not an intelligent thing to do only a week after discovering, courtesy of sports traffic, the exact parameters of my problem with being hemmed in. I'd thought it was crowds. Enclosed spaces have never really been an issue; I rather like caves. But when they put me on my face on the table with my hand strapped into a complicated box thing, and roll me into the MRI tube with strict instructions not to move, it turns out I have a small, perfectly formed panic attack. Weirdest feeling, lying there hyperventilating with my heart rate climbing and sweat breaking out all over my body, and my whole being consumed with the desperate, flailing urge to MOVE! at any cost, preferably to thrash and plunge and make a break for it. Flight or fight. It's very odd, knowing it's completely irrational and being completely unable to switch it off.

Fortunately, I am addicted beyond redemption to random link-following on Teh Internets, and a couple of weeks back it was something-or-other that mentioned, in passing, that flight-or-fight responses can be short-circuited if you focus on a breathing pattern where you breathe in for a shorter count than you breathe out. Which I read at the time with a certain degree of scepticism, thought "Huh. Probably woo." and promptly forgot about, until it was recalled by the desperate realisation that a quick sedation was in the offing unless I did something. And, huh. Turns out it's perfectly accurate. Breathe in for count of two, hold for count of one, breathe out for four. It was enough to manage the panic and gradually, over about fifteen minutes, bring it down to something perilously close to trance state, which was fortunate, because they kept me in that bloody thing for over an hour. Apparently fingers are merry hell to scan, small and fiddly and difficult to hold still; they ended up having to pump me full of dye to see what was going on. When I finally emerged I was slowed down and pleasantly calm to slightly stoner levels - in sharp contradistinction to all my muscles, which were in spasm from being motionless for so long.

MRIs sound incredibly Millenium-Falcon for the high-tech things they are - there's a great deal of banging and thumping and ticking and weird "whum-m-m" noises, and that bit where it mutters "muh-muh-muh-muh-muh" to itself very rapidly. They stick you in earplugs before shoving you into the innards, which is somewhat merciful, it's very loud. It's also very varied; an image seems to be built up as a composite, which entails scanning at varying degrees of current through the electromagnet, and it responds with a fair repertoire of noises. Possibly the most frustrating part was not being able to identify what exactly the machine was doing with each different noise it made. Generally I enjoy high-tech medical equipment, and will demand explanations of what's happening with a shameless mongoose interest, but you can't ask questions if you have to lie motionless and focus on your breathing so as not to freak out completely. "For Science!", I kept telling myself, but I'd prefer to know what Science.

It also makes very cool pictures with way better resolution than an x-ray, and reveals that I have a weird body which won't do things in any standard way. I have a lump, slowly growing larger, just above the middle knuckle joint on my middle right-hand finger. It's been there for years; it's briefly agonizing if I bump it, even lightly, and has started to ache randomly even when I don't. The MRI doctor was Baffled, Watson, Baffled! - he said it might be a "very complicated ganglion", which is a nerve cluster lumpy thing. Or a cyst, because it takes dye, which suggests there's fluid there, although it's also too hard for a cyst. The orthopaedic surgeon is concerned because it's grown large enough to start pressing into the bone, which will eventually weaken the bone and invite random breakages and things. He's hauling said Mysterious Lump out on Tuesday just to be safe, probably with an element of frustrated curiosity with which I completely empathise. Apparently I am scheduled for One Minor Op Per Year until further notice, and this is mine for 2016. At least it's interesting.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Well, that was... salutary. Things I never realised about myself, courtesy of not being a sports fan. Which I didn't need to realise, I know I'm not a sports fan, but a by-product of my sublime indifference to organised or team sport of any stamp is that I'm blissfully oblivious to major sports fixtures happening in Cape Town. Which is a problem when Newlands stadium lies directly between campus and home and the South African cricket team is playing Australia.

It took me exactly two hours to get home yesterday, a trip that should take ten minutes and even in rush hour seldom takes longer than 20. I left campus at 4.30pm, and finally pulled up outside my house, wrung, exhausted and hysterical, shortly after 6.30. During that time I had circled repeatedly between Observatory and Wynberg in a desperate, unavailing and increasingly surreal attempt to cross the railway line. Every single route over the line was blocked by congested traffic for a minimum of three blocks, moving a car at a time and generally sitting without moving at all for anything up to five or ten minutes. Not quite a gridlock, but almost, its ground-to-a-halt effect exacerbated materially by the single-minded selfishness of Cape Town drivers, who will fill up an intersection even if they're not able to move out of it, thus blocking it to cross traffic when the light changes.

Normally this sort of traffic congestion is a matter of biting the bullet and inching forward; you'll get there eventually, painfully slowly, and probably having given your road-rage vocabulary a brisk evening constitutional. What this is not apparently compatible with, however, is my borderline crowd phobia which, it transpires, is mostly a desperate terror of being hemmed in. I've always hated rush hour: sitting in traffic is one of my fairly reliable fatigue triggers, and it appears that the exhaustion is actually the result of subliminally suppressing panic attacks if I can't move, can't leave, can't see a way out. (This in retrospect also explains that overly dramatic episode in undergrad when I passed out in the middle of the Zimbabwe border post, which is always heaving crowds).

Yesterday the non-moving traffic endured long enough, repeatedly, that I could no longer suppress the panic response. I kept trying to turn away from build-ups, feeling my control slipping, my hands shaking, my hysteria mounting, and only ended up spiralling myself tighter and tighter into congested roads, with my options narrowing inexorably. At one point I ended up stuck in a byroad in Claremont near the station, hemmed in by taxis, shaking and crying hysterically, with concerned passers-by offering me water and otherwise mostly exacerbating the problem by looming at me. When I finally wriggled free I'd circle round to find another route, only to run into further rows and rows of bumper-to-bumper cars. It was like one of those repetitive nightmares where you can't get out, you keep coming back to the same spot, you're trapped. After a while the repetition becomes a sort of hellish hallucination. You feel as though you'll be doing this forever, over and over, trying to get through, always blocked, home and tranquillity and a door to exclude the world a sort of faint, mirage-like image which clearly doesn't exist in any real way.

Halfway through this process I gave up and tried to go back to campus to sit in my office for a bit (trial and error having established that sitting by the side of the road in the car didn't help at all). This wasn't the best move, because (a) going back to campus after you've left for the day is a nasty déjà vu feeling that itself feels like a nightmare entrapment, and (b) there was some sort of student activity - protest, demonstration, march, flash mob, who the fuck knows - filling up the roads, inevitably triggering further phobic reactions. I turned round and re-entered the hellscape. I finally wriggled through via Kenilworth, it now being late enough that the booms were up, took a tranquilliser, ate something, I forget what, it didn't seem to object so probably wasn't one of the cats, and fell into bed by 9, more or less shattered. It was, all in all, a horrible experience - made worse, I think, because heavy traffic is also a prime example of non-working, irrational, eco-unfriendly civilisation and we should damned well do better than this.

I am enlightened, however. I have identified a trigger. My tendency to arrange my work life to avoid rush hour, which I've always treated like a preference, becomes an imperative. I shall espouse the religion of the long way round if it looks for a microsecond as though build-up is happening. I shall also become au fait with major sports fixtures and arrange, preferably, to leave the country for them. For a nice, open desert full of absolutely nothing, but especially not people or cars.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Trying to survive the second-last day of registration with what seems to be a migraine building, and a turned ankle from randomly falling over in the tearoom. I am doing everything very slowly and painfully, and at a distance of several miles, mostly while gently wishing for death. Not usually a good sign in my personal psyche when my hands don't actually belong to me. Students are looking at me sideways, as I dredge up responses for them in a monotone, and are very gentle in their questions before skittering off, showing the whites of their eyes. Possibly this is a new self-preservation technique I should consider: imitate the action of the zombie. Huh.

However, my day has been (in a cautious, slow-motion sort of fashion) made by the demonstrated ability of our Dean to deliver a deeply satisfying smackdown in the case of (8) in my previous post's litany of complaint. Student concession request righteously refused, with a nicely trenchant two-sentence rebuke about (a) previous illegal registrations which were (b) not actually authorised as the student claimed they had been, while noting that (c) this current refusal did not in fact represent victimisation by staff members who were simply applying the rules as they were meant to, not to mention (d) the overall illegitimacy of getting Dear Daddy to complain to the Dean on your behalf. It was comprehensively annihilating. Sometimes I love our Dean. He has a compactly and good-humouredly ferocious aspect that's slightly like the better class of bull terrier.

The exigencies of the day, and of attempting to post, were rudely interrupted at "annihilating", above, by a random and unheralded power cut; the lights have only just come on, having flung registration into chaos for two hours. It transpires, in the interim, that my current state of incipient-something-nasty leads to complete melt-down when faced with the usual doe-eyed student who fixes me with an accusing gaze and says "You said you'd email me back yesterday, it was about a transfer", and simply repeats "But I emailed you!" like a refrain when I try to extract further details. Because I have dealt with fifty transfer cases in the last few days, and no, I don't remember her, and no, I can't access my email to check, because no lights, and yes, I probably failed to answer yesterday because I finished signing reg forms at 6.30pm and shambled home in a state of incapacity. I have a large bite mark in the back of my arm, because it was that or thump the wretched child.

My subject line is "Five years", which is approximately how long this registration period appears to have taken; it was either my brain hurting, or the line about "went off her head, hit some tiny children", and it's not quite that bad yet.

arrrrrrrrrrrrgh

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 09:30 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Today is one of South Africa's myriad public holidays, which is fortuitous, as this year-end process has been extra special sparkly hell because of the exam delays from the student protests, and that, in combination with having dropped the anti-depressants, means that I am exhausted beyond belief. I shuffled into the undergrad admin office yesterday to wave a form at someone, provoking an announcement of "Jessica's a zombie today!" by another member of the office staff whose existence simply hadn't registered on account of my only possessing the energy for singular focus. I am doing that annoying thing where I'm waking up after eight hours of sleep feeling as though I've just staggered into bed after a hard day's ferret-juggling while simultaneously doing Irish dance. In lead-weighted boots. Through knee-high treacle.

So while today's public holiday is fortuitous, it has not been a morning characterised by unrelieved serenity and peace. The cats woke me up at 6.30 via Hobbit's patented "stick both front paws and all his considerable weight into the tender area just above my hip, in a marked manner because he wants breakfast", causing me to erupt upright in bed, swearing. This flung my left calf muscle into a particularly vicious cramp, necessitating screaming, writhing and strange contortions, during which the cats left the bed in disgust. For additional Feline Overlord points, one of them had thrown up next to my bed overnight. Having subdued the recalcitrant calf muscle, I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and, given that I wasn't yet wearing my glasses, placed my right foot firmly into the catsick. We draw a tactful veil over the expressive commentary of the next few minutes. The cats came out of hiding only about half an hour later, when the blue haze to the air had subsided and I'd filled their food bowls and promised faithfully not to kill anyone.

It is, however, probably a good thing that I was awake already, as that circumvented further homicidal rage when various neighbours simultaneously decided to take advantage of the public holiday with a spot of home and garden improvement. At 8 sharp they started variously (a) sawing down trees in their front garden (outside in the road, to the right, with added negative points because I don't hold with cutting down trees), (b) trimming the hedge with something petrol-driven (over the back wall, accompanied by domestic argument as to who should be cutting what where) and (c) embarking on major DIY projects with electric saws, drills and cheerful whistling (over the back wall to the right). At eight am on a public holiday, mark you. The whole thing is forming a sort of modern contrapuntal soundscape, question and answer, the snarling mechanical equivalent of a spirited debate. As one dies down, another starts up. (The tree-fellers are winning, mostly out of an almost internet-troll level of sheer vocal persistence). The noise is simply indescribable, and so far above outrageous that all I can do is giggle helplessly as yet another bit of heavy machinery cuts in with "and another thing...!" in tenor or baritone whirring.

I shall turn the sound up high and play Fallout 3 at them. It's been the kind of morning where pinpoint accuracy in shooting the heads off evil mutants with a sniper rifle is beyond cathartic. Also, two more days of work and then I'm on leave for two and a half weeks, and there is neither sufficient calloo nor callay in the world to adequately respond to that.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Blarg. Apparently the inevitable upshot of the Interesting Times on campus is that Lurgi Strikes Britain. Not surprisingly - I am carrying a buttload of transferred student anxiety, given the number of queries I'm dealing with, and while I haven't been conscious of extreme amounts of stress, clearly it's nibbling away subliminally. I've been at home since Monday with the usual merry trifecta, head cold becoming sinus infection becoming full-on glandular resurgence, so I'm somewhat dead on my feet. Also, Sid the Sinus Headache is having his merry way with my hapless form to a quite unfriendly extent. Cue a lot of sneezing followed by clutching my head with cries of agony. The bugger with sinus headaches is that they're bloody pressure-sensitive, which means ixnay on coughing, or getting up suddenly, or bending over, or sneezing. Particularly sneezing.

Campus has pretty much calmed down: exams are in mid-session, and have run smoothly apart from one aborted attempt at disruption earlier this week. It was a small group of protesters who, I think, are a lunatic fringe who've refused to accept the (considerable) concessions made by university management in response to the protests. They were Suppressed, and the disrupted exam resumed. Score one for Order. Although we've seen a second crop of panic from students who were just keeping it together, and whose fragile hold on sanity was somewhat shattered by the threat, however averted, of a new round of shutdowns. I have been dispensing lots of reason, calm, procedural nitpickering assistance and virtual "there, there"s and patting. This whole thing has brought out my latent vaguely maternal wossnames like you wouldn't believe.

Mostly the discernible effect of student anxiety has been a sharp drop in their ability to actually read properly, which I have to say does not bode well for their exams. The university has issued a blanket option of deferring exams until January, no questions asked, "aargh protest freakout" accepted as valid motivation; and a couple of ways of achieving this, one of them online and clearly kludged together as an on-the-fly response, which means it only works within certain narrow parameters. I have been disseminating info and FAQs regarding all this via email, mostly because the Registrar's office issues their fiats gnomically and with a fine, detached disregard for their real-world ramifications, putting me more or less in the position of a Talmudic scholar continuously interpreting Scripture. Any announcement I make to our faculty's undergrad students is a clarification or update very carefully written to fill in the gaps. It will infallibly generate at least five emails almost immediately, from students asking me to give them exactly the information I have just given them in the announcement. This clearly isn't about information, it's about panic and the need for reassurance, which means the Maternal Wossnames do not permit me to yell at them for not reading properly: instead, I patiently re-explain. Usually via the medium of cunningly-personalised cut and paste, as there are limits even to my pseudo-maternalistic patience.

I am doing Good Work, apparently; there is a happy little clutch of tearfully grateful emails in my inbox, variously from students and their parents, but all that nice validation notwithstanding, ye gods I'm tired. And headachy. And snuffly. And contemplating with a certain lowering dread the upcoming end-of-exam season we are now having to do three weeks later than normal in a hurry, thereby compressing my orientation prep into a significantly tiny nutshell. What does not kill me makes me stronger. Let's hope.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am generally very happy with the results of halving my anti-depressant dose, I am feeling my Sensitive Frondy Antennae connecting more and more with the world, in a good way. (Higher levels of cuddling my cats, and, metaphorically at any rate, my students, in the sense that current curriculum angst levels are very high and I'm getting an unholy kick out of being sweet to the gazelles and materially improving their overall states of happy). Most of the reduced-dose side effects - headaches, insomnia - are very manageable, and are giving me hope for stopping completely in a couple of months. Less manageably, the other side effect seems to be the unleashing of some bastard into the Personal Settings menu to crank Dodgy Memory up to 11, presumably while cackling wildly and twirling the villainous moustache. (For no adequately defined reason I am ascribing the villainous moustache and bastardhood to a knob-twirler of indeterminate gender skewing more female than not, but whatever). As a result, over the last few weeks I have forgotten the following:

  1. Repeatedly, to finish annotating my Masters student's dissertation. Every time I happen upon the item in my to-do list I am shocked and horrified, and set off immediately to open the file and finish, which lasts approximately a nanosecond before I forget again and get sidetracked.
  2. Repeatedly, to reply to my mother's last email, and/or Skype her. This becomes lost somewhere between sitting down at my home computer with the thought of "Right, must email mother," and actually scrolling back to the email in question.
  3. Repeatedly, to do something - anything - with the post I picked up from Phleep's campus postbox. It's sitting on my desk at home. I should give it to Jo(ty), or open and scan and email it, but I keep catching sight of it, thinking, gosh, must do that now, and immediately forgetting about it.
  4. Despite being rather pleased and excited by the topic (Frankenstein as science fiction), to prepare my Monday lecture. I'm repeating last year's lectures, but like to re-read and tweak my notes and refurbish the Powerpoint with reference to any new movies which have come out since last year. (Age of Ultron, as it happens. Totally a Frankenstein narrative). I set aside Sunday afternoon to do this, completely blanked on it, woke up early on Monday with a sudden shocked recollection, and had to do a hack job in 20 minutes. Although I scored a round of applause at the end of it (it was the final lecture in the series), so it can't have been too bad.
  5. In a complete and total sense which is somewhat alarming, the actual context and topic of the fairy-tale paper I thought I was writing. It has a whole media studies dimension I had blanked entirely, and on which I am not authoritative in any real sense, not without considerable reading for which I do not have time. Digging out the original email to read the topic was a nasty shock. I have had to withdraw from the project, causing angst and guilt, and rendering the Vladimir Propp library expedition null and void.
  6. In a complete and total sense which caused me to unsuspectingly answer her reminder phone call with a happy sense of gosh how nice to randomly hear from you what's up?, Jo(ty)'s Mount Nelson tea party. I was looking forward to that, if only in the vaguest and most futuristic sort of way. The discovery that it was actually last Saturday and halfway over when she called, was something of a distressing blindside.

Looking back at this lot, in fact it's not entirely about memory or even procrastination, most of those are things I quite like doing - it's about fragmented attention span and tendency to sidetrack. I spent most of Saturday morning vaguely reminding myself that I hadn't seen Jo(ty) in a bit and should invite her over to dinner and a Pandora-inspection and visa-shenanigan support session, which was presumably the desperate and futile attempt of my subconscious to alert me to the tea-party thing. If I'd had the capacity to follow the thought to its logical conclusion I might have remembered. But apparently not so much. Presumably my brain chemistry is registering its disapproval at no longer having its norepinephrine and dopamine levels moderated. Given that Wellbutrin is sometimes used to treat ADHD, possibly an attention-span response to reduced levels is not unlikely.

I just hope it equalises soon. My brain is all too frequently a soft, cheesy thing, but it's mine and I need it. Also, as a Public Service Announcement: if I've undertaken to attend some sort of Social Shindig in your company in the near future, it may be wise for the nonce to send me a reminder email, as I cannot in any way guarantee that I'll remember to check my diary.

well, I'm back

Monday, 28 September 2015 01:05 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I've been on anti-depressants since just after the Great DVT Experience (so nearly four years, in fact, gawsh), and I got lucky: Welbutrin was a good match first off. It kicked my energy up out of its chronically fatigued depths quite handily, and also smoothed out the wild moodiness which was plunging me into fits of homicidal rage or utter despair more or less randomly. (Possibly life-threatening illness after-effects, possibly hormones, possibly my not-career, possibly the residual effects of the unrelieved horribleness of my father's death and associated miseries. Possibly just me and my brain chemistry.) Welbutrin was a tiny chemical god. It made it possible to live something not unlike an actual facsimile of life.

Unfortunately, it turns out that it has long-term side effects. The smoothing effect on jagged emotion spikes settles in for the long haul, and slowly, inexorably disconnects you from actual feeling. I ended up breaking up with my therapist a couple of months back, for various reasons which are a long introspective post in themselves, but partially because therapy was becoming this soul-rotting succession of interactions in which I groped unavailingly for actual feelings with which to connect. Sadness? Nope. Self-hatred? Nope. Anger? Definitely nope, I've never been good at anger at the best of times. I was trying to come to terms with things through a thick glass wall, and getting nowhere. I have a lot of respect for the therapy process, and got a lot of good out of it, but it does need some sort of grist to its analytic mill.

So I consulted my lovely GP, who confirmed that the emotional muffling is a known anti-depressant side-effect, and a month ago I madly downsized my dosage by half. Immediate effects have been to slightly up my shouting-at-the-cats quotient, and materially up my shouting-at-stupid-videogame-AIs quotient, but primarily it's revealed that the Welbutrin, sneaky bastard, has been suppressing my dreams. I'd vaguely attributed the gradual slide into a quotidian dullness of nightly landscape to, I dunno, increasing age, or the humdrum nature of academic admin, but apparently halving the anti-depressant dose unfettered my subconscious from an unsuspected level of hideous chemical thrall. Which is delightful, because I was missing my vivid dream-life something 'orrible.

The moment of realisation came when I woke up on Saturday morning having just dreamed a Baroque pillared mansion in which I was for some reason running a major corporation. The dream-mansion was further enlivened by the presence, sitting on the steps outside, of a judicious mix of several of my male friends with most of the more obscure male cast members of Sherlock, singing exquisite four-part a capella harmonies in serenade to Ashley Williams. Ashley is a Mass Effect squad member who's always annoyed me (she's religious and anti-alien) and who I only managed to retain in my latest game by dint of having played through the trilogy twice in quick succession, which means my residual annoyance at being dumped by Kaidan on the first playthrough was recent enough the second time round that I summoned up the resolution necessary to sacrifice him rather than Ashley on Virmire for the first time ever. (Non ME-players can ignore that bit, it'll make no sense). At any rate, I have no idea why they were serenading Ashley, I've never romanced her and never plan to. But it was a quality rendition; as I rocketed past in heels, bent on unspecified corporate shenanigans and trailed by a phalanx of secretaries, I recollect being highly impressed.

Last night I dreamed an arrival via horse-drawn carriage at a mansion in the woods; given the unspecified older male companion who was wafting around somewhere, it's remotely possible I was Jane Eyre. I spent most of the dream being alarmed and scurrying for cover as the mad woman with the shotgun crawled up the outside walls to get at the second-floor windows, and eventually woke myself up with my heart pounding, which I haven't done in years. As drawbacks go, I'll take it. Fear of dying horribly means at least you're alive.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Aargh, HR Evil Overlord tendencies are still in the ascendant, whole day in a faculty team-building workshop yesterday. I was utterly dreading it and had approximately 4 hours of sleep the night before because stress insomnia, but in fact it wasn't as bad as I expected: up at Rhodes Memorial, lovely view, activities not as asinine and embarrassing as they can be in this sort of thing, and while the lunch was entirely mediocre, the seething undercurrent of re-structural resentment among a certain sector of the staff was not actually on display. This was a huge relief. I am not good at loud groups of non-close friends for a whole day, and I am abysmally terrible at surviving same with added underlying tension, on account of being a slightly Delicate Flower with hypersensitive frondy antennae which quiver and curl up in the presence of underlying tension.

All things are, however, comparative, and the context of Teambuilding Workshops was fairly salutary given that I had to abandon it early in order to trundle off for a doctor's appointment to have the annual Girly Checkup. The annual Girly Checkup is habitually rife with invasive indignity, so it was a nice balance of terrors that allowed (a) relief at leaving teambuilding exercises early even despite the medical horrors, and (b) said medical horrors being less horrific in that at least they weren't teambuilding exercises and were over quickly. Also, my gynae is a lovely, chatty Scottish woman who's always good value in the area of amusing earthiness.

It transpires, however, that I have an outbreak of polyps which have to be removed via minor surgery, requiring general anaesthetic but not an overnight stay. I am mentally framing this as the approximate equivalent of dusting out the inevitable cobwebs which result from the decision not to use all that baby-housing space for its biologically intended function, and am materially unfussed over the whole thing. Also, usual bonus science-is-cool squee over the doctor's possibly TMI description of the surgery (now with bonus surgical cameras!) as much as the ultrasound which is now a routine part of a check-up. Medical technology has been upgrading in ridiculous leaps and bounds over the last decade, as measured by the ever newer and cooler tech present in medical consulting rooms when I visit. Dentist's X-ray machines are now built into the chair and don't require the whole separate room and technician hitting the switch from behind the lead-lined wall. The gynae now has her very own ultrasound, and my dermatologist maps my moles with a fancy mole-mapping suite of camera and software. Now if they could only find a way of doing a mammogram without having to actually squidge my bits...

This aspect of living in the future makes me very happy. Also, the usual round of flossing guilt from my last visit to the dental hygienist caused me to finally say "stuff all this" and acquire an electric toothbrush, and I bizarrely love the damned thing. Apparently it tickles my Lawful Good to have a small, buzzing robot entity militantly police my tooth-cleaning activities in strict 30-second increments.

Science is cool. That is all.

Subject line is Legion, the Geth character in ME2. I like Legion, I wish we got to recruit him earlier.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Hooray, I appear to have mostly kicked this ridiculous bug, although it had some slightly excessive death throes yesterday, in that I spent the day with a thundering sinus headache and nausea. Felt like a hangover, actually, although I don't think I drank enough at dinner on Saturday night to merit an actual requires-hair-of-dog scenario. (Dinner on Saturday night was lovely, usual excellent food at Frere's, and Claire's New Man has been duly met and subjected to rigorous scrutiny. She's allowed to keep him, although we reserve the right to suppression in the Carrollian sense if he keeps on inspiring stv to new depths of awful pun.)

The weekend was rendered slightly surreal partly by the need to spend most of Sunday horizontal and not moving much (which the cats loved), and partly because I'm suffering Mass Effect romance angst (ME2, narked all over again by Kaidan dumping me, but can't work out if I want to romance Garrus or Thane in the resulting fit of pique1) but mostly by the fact that I upgraded my home computer to Windows 10 via their spanky and slightly pushy auto-update download thingy, and liked it. I am not generally a Windows fangirl, but the update process was ridiculously smooth and took under an hour to download, reinstall and update, all quietly to itself and with minimal intervention from me. And I really like the look and feel, it's clean and spare in a way that grooves my personal aesthetic ploons no end, and word on the street is that it's less of a resource hog than earlier versions, although admittedly that's not saying much because bloatware. Also, its boot-up chime is way cuter.

There was, of course, the inevitable moment of microhomicidal rage when the install initialised with a range of tickyboxes all defaulting to "send Windows all the deeply personal information all the time including shoe size, favourite brand of tea and fanfic kink preferences as well as everything else ever", but there's a certain vindictive satisfaction in unticking the whole damned lot of them. I do realise that it's probably still reporting on my cat-macro preferences, celebrity crushes and typing speed quietly in the background, but Windows. And the penalty of being an uncharacteristically early adopter (Robbi made me do it) is that Chrome is bugged for Win10, although I have cunningly circumvented its complete refusal to load by accidentally clicking on "open new window", upon which it loads normally like a lamb. *jazz hands* Computers!

In other news, it's Monday, but I have brightened the morning by typing up a beautifully concise, pointed and slightly bitey rebuke to a more than usually flaky student who's been attending courses blithely all semester without actually being registered for them. Apparently she expected the actual admin realities to gradually coalesce out of the air and settle on her, like dandruff. In addition to the administrative satisfaction inherent in booting her off campus, it's calm and quiet and rainy after way too much sun and heat this weekend, and I have Earl Grey and a slice of coffee walnut cake, and a new coat my mother made for me, and I'm almost not snuffling at all any more. Also, this epic Twitterquest was still open in a tab from last week, and it made me laugh all over again. I'll take it.

(My subject line is a more than usually convolutedly related Inquisition reference which I shall leave in beautiful obscurity because I am Mysterious, or possibly too lazy to explain the multiple layered points of tangential semi-logic.)

1I'm very fond of Thane, but have a sneaking suspicion that going for the doomed tragic assassin is possibly a little self-destructive. Although at least it's not Jack. Or Morinth. In other news from The Department Of Computer Gaming As Therapy, I expect to grow as a person any moment now.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am at home today with 'flu, as I am phlegmy and disgusting and shouldn't breathe on anyone, and moreover have a head full of cement. Also, I need to hold Hobbit's hand a bit, he got beaten up by the neighbourhood tom again this morning, and is wandering around all subdued, with matted fur and covered with leaves. I think the bastard must have rolled him in a flower bed.

So, being at home, it's vaguely synchronous that Tumblr is currently doing a meme about how many houses you've lived in over your whole life. I like the mental exercise this offers, and am doing it just because. Answer, as far as I can remember: 13.

  1. I was born in Bulawayo, so the first house I lived in must have been the one on the research station up in the Matopos hills. (My dad was in agricultural research so we moved around a lot between research stations). I remember the red cement floors and the terraced garden and the view across the valley.
  2. The hardboard cottage in Harare my parents lived in briefly. I think I have a memory of this, it entails a darkish living room with rough walls inset with stone, and an arch.
  3. The first house on the research station outside Fort Victoria, which is now Masvingo. It had a huge kopjie behind the house, where we used to find glass beads in the sand, and a rather twisty, dark forest with a narrow path through it to the house next door where we went to play with a girl called Kate.
  4. The second house on the same research station, during the Rhodesian War so with security fencing around it. There was a giant mulberry tree in the back garden, we used to play under it. We had bantam chickens which were pets, and my dad's pointer had nine puppies who used to seethe around in a pen at the back. There was a "swimming pool", actually an old reservoir with no pump or filter, it used to go absolutely green and fill up with leaves and frogs.
  5. The house in suburban Harare where we lived for a year while my dad was finishing the biometrics for his PhD. It was very weird to me, being very ordinary suburban in style; we had a TV for the first time in my life, there had never been reception on any of the research stations.
  6. The house on the research station outside Marondera, with the lovely trees in the garden, and owls hooting at night. We had rabbits and tortoises, and that's where we acquired the rescued baby owls we raised to adulthood, thus starting a lifelong fixation which makes giving me presents ridiculously easy. The garden had this weird stage area at one end, a bit raised with a bamboo hedge for wings, we used to do amateur theatrical thingies with the friends from next door.
  7. The house my parents bought in Harare when my dad left research - it was the first house they'd actually owned. It was an ex farmhouse, long and rambling, and had been done up by the previous owners, who had the unfortunate shared characteristics of being DIY fiends and rather slap-dash, so it leaked and bits fell down. Huge garden, we grew popcorn and kept goats. If you stood on the front patio and looked down the garden to the fields, you could draw a line with a ruler at goat head height under which no green thing grew.
  8. I'm not counting the couple of stints in digs rooms during undergrad, variously in my aunt's house in Newlands (tense), and Tom's mad mother's garage in Bergvliet (very dirty). The first house I rented myself in postgrad was the digs in Twickenham Rd I shared with Michael, who was a roleplaying crowd friend. It was my Honours year; I was broke, breaking up with The Bastard Ex-Boyfriend From Hell, and on the whole rather broken, and I really can't blame Michael from moving out in a marked manner. The house had absolutely no furniture bar a bed, stove, desk and kitchen table, and was consequently rather good for gothy parties with lots of dancing.
  9. After a disastrous year in a flat with an anal-retentive semi-friend, the next house was the Osborne Rd digs of legend and song, variously with Michelle, Dylan and a different Mike. Those were slightly insane and very enjoyable years. Highlights included that legendary party with both gluhwein and cheese fondue, and, possibly not unrelated, ripping up the ancient and horrible carpets in favour of the lovely pine floors. We had a parade of cats who mostly expired or moved out mysteriously, including Pixie and Polonius (black siblings), the dreaded Widget, her five kittens, and finally the legendary Fish.
  10. After Dylan's mother reclaimed the house, I spent a couple of months in a different house with Michelle and Michael, who were by that point a couple; it was white and clinical and in Harfield Village.
  11. Then Mowbray, three years in an old Victorian on the railway line with Donald, who was a bit laissez faire as home owners go and declined to upgrade the security in any way. After about the fifth burglary was actually an armed robbery, I moved out. Donald is a psychologist and saw clients in the front room; it wasn't particularly compatible with my tendency to run about three different societies (roleplaying, SCA, tai chi) from the house simultaneously.
  12. The domicile of the Evil Landlord, for fifteen years. Good lord. I don't need to tell you anything about that if you've read my blog at all...
  13. My current house, which is unlike all of the above in being mine, mine, mine and never leaving. Which is a catchphrase from the Michelle/Dylan days.

    I have lived in lots of houses, she says with exemplary obviousness. Can anyone top that total? On mature reflection, while I have lived with lovely people on the whole, I really like being on my own.

    (My subject line is from the Brian Eno/David Byrne album, which offers pretty much the definite anthem on this theme unless you count Madness).

grrr, aargh

Tuesday, 12 May 2015 02:57 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Last night was deeply annoying, because (a) lights, none, and (b) so many legs! As well as (c), residual Age of Ultron grumps.

I am narked with the City of Cape Town because they confirm a load-shedding session so much at the last minute. I checked the loadshedding page four times yesterday, and every time it was "load shedding suspended until further notice." Then they cut us off at 8pm, at the point where I'd assumed we were safe for the day, right in the middle of the first episode of Daredevil, which is a new Netflix series which is doing a slow build thing that definitely doesn't need to be arbitrarily suspended. Although, in retrospect, having to feel my way across the living room in the pitch dark was at least thematically appropriate. (I'm reserving judgement on Daredevil for the nonce, I kinda like what they're doing, it's gritty and real and Charlie Cox is marvellous, but it's currently moving very slowly and I hope they sort the pace out a tad).

"So many legs!" is a quote from Cole in Inquisition upon meeting the giant albino spider which lives under the Crestwood keep. There was a sudden, huge and inexplicable spider in the corner of the bathroom last night, just above the shower. Arachnids are clearly evil because they choose to manifest (a) in the moment when the room is illuminated by flickering candlelight which most efficiently conceals them in shadows until you're really close, and (b) in the room in which you are most likely to be wandering around naked, and thus unprotected from arachnid multi-hairy-legged scuttling by any form of civilised armour. Bastards. Having stripped completely and wandered towards the shower, I spotted the spider, thought, "Hell, no", backed away slowly and went to bed unwashed, shutting the bathroom door behind me so the wretched thing couldn't infiltrate the house. It was gone this morning, hopefully out the window rather than into a dark bathroom corner from whence it can more unexpectedly pounce. I am a wimp, but somehow it all seems more horrible when you're trying to eject spiders without the benefit of electricity.

I have worked out why Age of Ultron annoyed me so much. It's not actually because of the final, headcanon-ruining upshot of the story. It's because absolutely none of the narrative and character arcs which led to that outcome felt earned, deserved or properly explored. I could adjust my headcanons if the film gave me any bloody grist whatsoever to my imaginative mill. But it doesn't: the romance isn't substantiated, the death isn't justified in any thematic sense, the departures are glossed over, the whole thing feels like random events cobbled together randomly, rather than an actual plot. Joss can do so much better, and I tend to agree with this article, which argues that the Marvel meta-marketing drive has constrained the director to the point where he is completely hamstrung in trying to give the story any sort of satisfying shape.

Also, while Joss Whedon is definitely still my master now, I can't help thinking that his particular brand of feminism, which resides mostly in strong female characters, is in a weird sort of way slightly out of date. He was groundbreaking at the time with Buffy and Firefly, but levels of feminist awareness have overtaken him - simple strong female characters simply don't cut it any more, we need a more pervasive critique which the Marvel straitjacket certainly doesn't permit. (See: leaked CEO email giving a demonstration of beautifully spurious logic: bad female-led superhero movies bombed, therefore all female-led superhero movies are bad and will bomb. To which we answer, succinctly and pointedly, "Ben Afflek's Daredevil". Because really.)

In other news, my mutant foot has died down to its usual shape and is only rather red and mottled. Antibiotics and two days with my feet up have settled its hash onetime quick. Now all I have to deal with is the nausea occasioned by the antibiotics...

the game's afoot

Thursday, 7 May 2015 04:26 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
My ridiculous body is officially ridiculous. I mean, seriously. It's not normal for the human form to damage itself or randomly disintegrate quite as readily as mine appears to, or to make mountains out of arbitrary medical mole-hills quite so dramatically. My current context looks something like this:



i.e. this post brought to you courtesy of typing awkwardly around Hobbit on an Ipad from the sofa. I am under strict doctor's orders to remain at home for two days with my feet up, which is actually considerably more boring and annoying than it sounds. This is the result, ultimately, of PMT. PMT makes me even more klutzy than I am normally, which is considerably. On Saturday afternoon I got out of my car incautiously without checking, and narrowly missed bashing my door into the car pulling in to the parking space next to me. In dodging, I dug the corner of the car door viciously into the calf of my left leg, producing a three-cornered tear which bled like a bugger. Being used to this sort of minor injury as the result of having the approximate grace and co-ordination of a drunken pet rock, I cleaned it up, patched it with the plaster I carry in my handbag for precisely this sort of occasion, and toddled off to enjoy tea with various lady friends.

By Monday evening my left ankle was somewhat red and swollen, and I thought, huh, all that standing around when teaching. By Tuesday evening it was imitating the action of the angry puffer-fish and was incidentally excruciatingly agonising when I stood up. Last night ditto. When I limped off to see my nice doctor this morning after a more than usually bedevilled lecture, she rolled her eyes (which she does at me a lot, I've noticed) and diagnosed a bacterial infection and cellulitis. I am imbibing antibiotics and anti-inflammatories in measured doses in addition to the enforced foot-elevation, and am forced to admit that, systemic response to infection being what it is, I'm actually feeling rather crappy. This is not assisted by the fact that the Screaming Agony Death Type Three which occurs every time I clamber off the sofa and stand up, is identical to that which I experienced under the dread DVT experience, and is giving me unpleasant flashbacks.

I think the Cosmic Wossnames are out to get me, frankly. This morning's bedevilled teaching experience went as follows:
1. Plan elegant and arresting lesson around powerpoint slides.
2. Arrive just before lecture to collect data projector from department office, to discover that it's locked and the nice secretary lady with whom I booked it is off at a meeting for the next hour.
3. Arrive in class having spent three flights of stairs mentally rewriting lesson plan so it doesn't rely on the powerpoint.
4. Realise on entering lecture venue that 16 out of 20 class members have a laptop in front of them. Hah! I can put the slide show on the course website and they can download it and follow along. Technology!
5. Realise that I have the slideshow on my Ipad, and there's no way of uploading to the website from an Ipad.
6. After much technical confabulation with various students, arrange for slideshow on my Google Drive to be accessible to student with normal laptop; he downloads it and, after I've logged into the course website as me, we upload the file.
7. As the students are starting to access the file, the lights go out, because loadshedding, and all their internet connections collectively die.
8. Hysterical giggling, because what else can you do. I opened the lecture with a quick dissection of all of the above in terms of (a) the themes of these lectures, which are along the lines of the power, accessibility and all-round sexiness of Teh Internets, and (b) the technical definition of irony.

I don't think it was actually a bad lecture in the end, even if we were all peering through the gloom. But my leg hurts.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Apparently you can take the girl out of the SCA, but... If you don't read Mallory Ortberg, on The Toast or on Twitter, you should, she offers an extremely high class of batshit lateral. The latest of hers to do the rounds, Two Medieval Monks Invent Bestiaries, is a particularly fine specimen. The traditional Earl Grey was snorted through the traditional nasal appendage.

I am still at home with bronchitis and a lovely, hacking cough which causes Hobbit to dash terrified from the room at frequent intervals. My nice doctor has torn her hair slightly, prescribed an asthma pump, and booked me off for the whole week. I am playing an awful lot of Inquisition. Random investigation (occasioned by a weird game corruption which Teh Internets seem to think is the result of having too many different saved games) suggests that I am not, in fact, powering my way through a fourth playthrough (Qunari mage, female, romancing Josie), it's actually my seventh1. I appear have spent a certain proportion of the last few months playing Inquisition in a fugue state. Also, I am now good enough at the damned thing that I'm wandering through on an elevated difficulty visiting areas in the wrong order so I fight things a good 6 or 7 levels higher than I am, and I'm still cremating them with some efficiency.

Finally, this blew my mind. Metallica cover, plunging me straight back into my Honours year, aargh nostalgia. All-girl band. Aged 9 to 14. Watch the drummer in particular, she's bloody good and she rocks.



1 Human rogue (dual wield), female, Cullen; Elven mage (rift mage), female, Solas; Human mage (knight enchanter), famale, Cullen; Elven warrior (sword/shield), male, Dorian; Elven rogue (archer), female, Cullen; Human mage (knight enchanter), male, Dorian. I am not, apparently, compelled to monogamy as much as I am in other iterations of Bioware games, although there's a certain Cullen and Dorian theme emerging. This is because Inquisition is beautifully written, far more so than earlier DAs, and I genuinely like and respect a much higher proportion of these people. (Dorian is entirely endearing, and Cullen's character arc over three games is very nicely drawn; both achieve the balance of damaged/conflicted with likeable which earlier DAs have largely flubbed). Next up, Dwarven rogue, female, (dual wield, still my favourite class), probably Sera. Blackwall annoys me and Iron Bull is frankly terrifying.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am extremely bronchitissed, and am dragging myself around in a pale and glandular state pausing only for demented and unnecessarily Gothic coughing fits. Also, my mother goes back to the UK today, or will do if she can persuade herself to untie herself from the leg of the dining room table. (She really doesn't want to go). We gave her larney High Tea at the Mount Nelson yesterday in honour of her 70th birthday next month, but it's hardly a consolation.

Fortunately, for woes such as the above there are marshmallow owls. Marshmowls. A concept so utterly logical it's unthinkable that no-one has thunk it before. I have somewhat repentantly stolen this off a Tumblr blog called Courtart, and suggest you follow the link both to assuage my guilt, and because there's an animated gif version where they bop.



She captions this "The rare, medium, and well-done marshmowls." Of course.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
My mother is visiting from the UK, which is lovely, and Cape Town is even behaving weather-wise and giving her some sun. (She does not enjoy the British climate). However, the myriad grotty little buggers who comprise her charges at the school where she works apparently gifted her with a merry end-of-term chest infection, so she's been coughing a lot and losing her voice. She's coming out of it. Now I've got it. It hurts to breathe, and my voice is becoming progressively more throaty and baritone. Blargh.

I'm consequently even more spacey than usual, which means that I distinguished myself last night by (a) attempting to head off to a Secret Soirée gig at jo&stv's at 6.15 under the firm delusion that the actual time was 7.15 (fortunately mother restrained me), and (b) completely omitting to bring the ticket with me. Fortunately the nice girl on the door knew me (she's a Humanities student, apparently. Many years of curriculum advice do have their perks.) and let me in anyway. Secret Soirée is fun, you contract a favourite local band to come and play in your living room, encourage all your friends to buy tickets, and the organisers throw it open after a certain point for random strangers to sign up. This meant that the gathering was a lovely mix of strangers and friends, with the obligatory sprinkling of People I Taught Once, People To Whom I Have Given Curriculum Advice, People Who Were Friends Of My Housemate Lo These Many Moons Ago, and People Who Look Suspiciously Familiar Because I Have Probably Seen Them At This Band's Previous Gigs. Cape Town is a very small, very incestuous community, really. Anyway, Mean Black Mamba. Blues/rock, with an entirely phenomenal drummer. Lovely gig, I'm sorry I had to leave early on account of Lurgi. And I hope the dog has recovered, she is not apparently a blues fan and felt the need to give some of the songs an aggressive barking. Everyone's a critic.

I should also record for posterity the slightly surreal start to the week, which was the house alarm technical guy phoning me to cancel our appointment (I need to replace an alarm sensor with one which does not fire every time Hobbit yawns) on the grounds that he'd been bitten by a spider. This is somewhat close to the bone as I'm still playing Inquisition and its giant spiders have a characteristic scurrying motion which gives me the screaming abdabs, but the poor guy sounded completely weirded out by the occurrence. Spider bites hurt like hell and can be utterly debilitating, but presumably he feels that it's not entirely consonant with his manly dignity to be incapacitated thereby. Alas.

I should now resume my scheduled croaking-at-students, the angst levels seem unusually high this morning. On the upside, someone yesterday emailed me after a consultation to say they were "inspired by my professionalism", so there's that.

(Subject line from Belle & Sebastian, "Funny Little Frog", which occurred to me because of the frog in my throat).

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