welcome home

Sunday, 16 April 2017 10:28 am
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
There has been a void in the house since losing Hobbit: apart from the way I miss him, Pandora has become more needy and demanding as an Only Cat. So the plan was always to acquire a second cat, and in the inscrutable way of the Cosmic Wossnames, that void has been filled. In ginger and white, even. Danielle has been feeding three feral cats at her workplace, and while she was doing that the other evening, a complete stranger stopped and asked her if she wanted a kitten. Apparently a friend had brought the kitten as a gift for the stranger's grand-daughter, who was staying with them and had subsequently gone back to Joburg and left the kitten behind. I leave as an exercise to the reader the necessary Homicidal Rant about people who give animals as gifts to children, as though they were stuffed toys without associated needs or responsibilities.

Anyway, apparently the Cosmic Wossnames manufactured me a kitten. Given that she's skittish, feisty and was clearly abandoned by people who should damned well have known better, this is Jyn.

20170415_103444 20170414_092927

She's been in the house for a couple of days, and is a sweet and affectionate creature despite the slight skitishness; she has an adorable line in chirrups, trills and Harley Davidson purring, and a well-defined tendency to climb on my desk and bite my chin while standing on the keyboard, causing some serious outbreaks of tactical disaster in Andromeda. She has incredibly soft fur, and a particularly heavy arrangement of fur over her eyes which gives her a slight and endearing frown.

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Pandora is in what can only be described as an Epic Snit. She's furious. She divides her time between trying to slaughter the kitten by sticking her paws under the study door; staring, growling and actively going for her if I put them in the same room; and sitting in the back garden with her back to me, sulking. I am spending my otherwise restful long weekend in something of a war zone. If I'm never heard of again, it's because Pandora has eaten the kitten and buried my body in the back garden.

annus horribilis

Saturday, 31 December 2016 11:18 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It's a bit tricky to do a Year In Review for a year which featured the collapse of the South African tertiary education system, America deliberately electing Jabba the Hutt and Britain trying to saw its own leg off in an effort to detach from the mainland. One's personal milestones and experiences seem somewhat irrelevant. On the other hand, Jabba the Hutt isn't in power yet so at least I don't have to write a Year In Review that has to include actual rancors nuclear war. I still think it was prescient of me to have discovered Fallout in the last couple of years.

2016 has been a complete bitch. Academia has become neither safe nor secure; nor, in fact, has the world at large, as the West's ugly underlying bigotries have leaped to the fore in a flurry of political and ideological regression. Some sort of weird demographic, possibly a complicated metric intersecting my age, the bleak political climate, the modern music and film industries and the spread of information in a media age, has absurdly concentrated the death of icons into the last year so that it feels as though 2016 has been prowling the ranks of the particularly beloved with a scythe. And my cats, past and present, keep dying. Looking back, it's the most that one can say that we've survived the year without actually retreating into a bunker or the foetal position under the bed.

In the more personal sense, the student protests, and the concomitant chaos and difficulty in campus administration and teaching, have crystallised my dissatisfaction with my job. Our faculty team has been in a state of flux, with my difficult boss driving change hard enough that people are leaving in droves; I like the team which is emerging (except aforementioned boss, who I still feel I have to placate), but the work is steadily becoming more difficult and demanding, as is the academic landscape as a whole. I don't think I can be here for much longer. In particular, I don't think I can continue to endure my job's drain on me personally: I am socialising less, am continually exhausted and avoiding groups of people, I dive back into my house at the end of every day and lock the door behind me with a palpable sense of relief. I miss my friends. I don't have energy to deal with them, but I miss them anyway. And I am feeling very Zimbabwean under the current university experience: it feels as though it could mean the kind of wholesale political crash which lost my parents everything. Change may mean a change of country, if I can possibly swing it. It may also mean a change out of academia. Academia has not been kind to me for a long time, but this year it's been actively cruel.

So the annual scorecard is a bit depressing, and looks as follows:

Things achieved by me: survival under difficult circumstances. Resolution for radical change in my work life. Increasing political skills in self-protection and boss-evasion.

Things not achieved by me: healthy social levels. Exercise. Job satisfaction. Change.

Losses: Hobbit. Todal. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Sheri S. Tepper, Carrie Fisher, numerous others not quite so iconic to me. The ivory towerness of the ivory tower. The global plot.

Things discovered by me in 2016: Growing flame lilies. A proper phone, and, not unrelated to same, Avengers Academy, Uber and WhatsApp. Stranger Things. Fallout and Star Wars fanfic. MRI scans and cartilage tumours. KOTOR. Gougères (via Claire). Machete Order. Check, Please!, and ice hockey generally (!). Demisexuality. Cornbread. Reading on Kindle. Jessica Jones. OT3s. Feline kidney cancer diet restrictions. Political despair.

Things rediscovered by me in 2016: Star Wars. Drarry. Student protests. Postcolonial despair.

Resolutions for 2017: try to resist various flavours of despair. Change, adapt, survive. Socialise.

The year has been enough of a bitch that it's difficult to say "Happy New Year" without it sounding sarcastic. At the very least, may 2017 be less dreadful than we're all afraid it's going to be.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
My gosh-darned microwave oven is making weird noises. Not, may I add, the kind of weird popping noises you often get from (just as a random example, nothing at all to do with my non-best-practice) reheating rice uncovered. Nope, this is, somewhat alarmingly, a weird noise it makes to itself quietly in the corner of the kitchen when there's nothing in it, no-one has pressed "go" and in fact I haven't used it for days. It's a staticky sort of crackle that sounds like a miniature and slightly meditative geiger counter. It is, I have to say, enormously disconcerting when it happens spontaneously in the silent kitchen next to my bedroom at 4am, particularly when I've been playing a lot of Fallout.

I noodled around on the internet and found a Youtube clip of someone else's oven doing exactly the same thing:



Gawsh, I thought vaguely. Gawsh, that microwave looks exactly like mine. Which it is. The same model. The one you can find by googling for "Russell Hobbs microwave oven fault", which turns up the Daily Mail article about that model being recalled for its potential to spontaneously combust. Gawsh.

Fortunately the noise has always sounded suspiciously like a mini Tesla coil to me, which says electrical short and arcing; I have been following a simple principle of unplugging it at the wall when I'm not actually using it, and that usually settles its hash within a few seconds. (Also a bit disconcerting that it continues crackling for a bit after current is removed, which is very like that weird electrical car problem you sometimes get in older models, when the car continues to idle for a few seconds after you've cut the ignition. Because demon possession, apparently.) But I should probably really stop using it on strict principles of self-preservation and not accidentally electrocuting the cat. It is, of course, out of warranty by now, and the model was clearly never actually recalled in this country. I see a new microwave in my immediate future, sigh. Probably not by Russell Hobbs.

The Dire Straits ear-worm, incidentally, comes free with my subject line at no extra cost. You're welcome.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am slightly saddened that the Great Year Of Subject Line Bowie Mourning is still in force, as really this post should be entitled "Into each life some rain must fall". On the upside, the actual subject line I chose does come from possibly my favorite track on Blackstar, "Girl Loves Me", which is bouncy and catchy and written in a sort of frangled Clockwork-Orangesque mad post-apocalyptic vernacular1, which is not unapposite to my week.

The Cosmic Wossnames are gonna mess with me, is who. I am on leave. It's lovely. I'm catching up on sleep, and apparently all I need to do is to leave work for my dream-life to swing back into nightly focus with an audible click. And in my personal value system, shaped as it is by a drought-scarred Zimbabwean childhood, actual rain falling into my life, as it has done for the last few days, is cause for rejoicing. It's been bucketing, and cold, and the cats and I have been congregated around the contented purr of the gas heater for large swathes of time. I would prefer, however, if the otherwise much-enjoyed precipitation could refrain from precipitating actually inside the house.

So the bathroom sprang a leak on Tuesday. A little one, in the corner, where it rained gently on the towels. My nice landlord came round on Thursday and spent several hours tromping around on the roof, doing mystic passes with sealant and cloth coverings and what have you. This appears to have been something of a catastrophic fail in the DIY department, one of those epic fumbles that made everything worse, because Saturday's heavy rain revealed that the original leak had multiplied its output by a factor of ten, the bathroom had sprung two additional leaks in solidarity, and there were another series of sinister plopping noises in the living-room ceiling. Plus one small, diffident leak from the skylight contributing intermittently and with mathematical accuracy to the center of the carpet. I have no idea what the hell he did up there, but the roof really didn't like it. I await, somewhat damply, his no doubt shamefaced return to make good.

In retrospect possibly the leaking roof was inevitable, because I've been playing Fallout 4, which is littered with destroyed houses and makeshift shacks all with gaping holes in their roofs. But I can't even retreat from the deluge into more literal, if abstracted, postapocalyptic ruination, because the Cosmic Wossnames' two-punch sabotage followed its own inexorable logic: if I take ten days of leave and download Fallout 4 as the gaming project for said time, two days into the leave my computer will awake bright and early to an existential crisis in which it has convinced itself that it doesn't have a graphics card. Crawling in emo denial under its metaphorical bed, it will paralyse its own functions to the point where it not only wholesalely refuses to admit the existence of the graphics card on which it has been happily playing Fallout for two days, it will also reduce its screen resolution to a lowly 800x600 and refuse to change it at any price.

I dunno. It's distinctly possible that my computer is hallucinating it's Kylo Ren; if this is the case, hopefully the nice geeky types at my local computer shop will apply sufficient therapy to disabuse it of this misapprehension. If it's not, in fact, hallucinating and the (brand new, circa two days after the Inquisition release date) graphics card has in fact died, I apologize for the Kylo Ren slur and reflect, with some satisfaction, that at least the damned card is still under warranty. Either way, hopefully my computer returns to my bosom today, and I can stop this ridiculous half-existence where I experience the world through an IPad and my phone. Blarg. Any errors in this post are entirely attributable to the IPad's over-zealous and unduly American auto-correct. The verbosity is, however, absolutely my own. It's been over-watered.

1 Actually, subsequent research suggests it's half Nadsat and half Polari, which is something of an enchanting mix.

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)
It's now officially registration season, in that I have now gone through the ceremonial annual benediction of an incensed parent shouting down the phone at me because their offspring is unhappy with an answer I gave her. Ten minutes. Continuous anger. Refused to let me get a word in edgeways to explain or otherwise. Reduced me, as is traditional, to tears, because I'm exhausted and reserves, not so much, and I eventually said "I'm sorry, this conversation is inappropriate and I am ending it now," and put the phone down. I hope that's my one for the year, any much more is going to erode me to a sort of soggy indeterminate thing which simply collapses sadly when more pressure is applied.

Registration/orientation this year has been particularly fraught and filled with loathing, but has been infused with additional merriment by a number of external factors apparently sent by the Cosmic Wossnames expressly to try me. Viz.:
  1. Heatwaves. Hideous sticky heat both during the day and at night, leading to irritability and insomnia and the desire to emigrate immediately to Canada in a marked manner and never return.
  2. Building operations. In my building, in surrounding buildings, in buildings around where I usually park. Noise, dust, paint fumes, scaffolding, unavailable venues, weird extrusions of fencing which block off whole scads of parking places so that parking, already a bugger on this semi-vertical campus, is now a thing of nightmare and sin. I've had to park on a yellow line on two separate days, because there simply wasn't any option, and despite the fact that I am hardly alone since campus has been festooned by similarly benighted motorists parked in every odd corner where they specifically shouldn't, that sort of thing niggles wearingly all day at a girl's Lawful Good. Also, my horrible complicated day last week was further complicated by the sudden discovery that none of the bathrooms in the building were operational, because renovations. Taking a bathroom break between the two meetings for which you are double-booked is not actually possible if the bathroom is in, so to speak, another castle.
  3. Load shedding. Eskom, bless its inadequate electric socks, is running out of power, and while it's being pretty good about sticking to a timetable and advertising the random swooping in and out of load shedding periods, orientation is quite complicated enough without suddenly having to evacuate 450 students from a pitch-dark lecture venue. (Not that I've actually had to do that, but the constant fear and planning wears on the nerves a bit). Also, I am prone to be denied vital tea supplies at strategic moments. This is not a good thing, at this time of year. Homicide results. I drove home last night from dinner in the pitch-dark of load shedding at about 9pm, and it was surprisingly weird and slightly freaky. On the upside, candlelight, and that cute solar-powered lamp thingy Vi gave me. And the excuse to retire early to bed and read Inquisition fanfic cunningly pre-loaded on my cunningly fully-charged Ipad.
  4. Political shenanigans in the faculty office, leading to administrators backing me into corners for twenty minutes at a time to have a full-scale meltdown about how awful the boss is being. I have personally experienced the boss as actively detrimental to morale and am full of sympathy, but I don't have time to make reassuring noises for twenty minutes while students pile up, mournfully puppy-eyed, behind me. The administrative processes behind reg have been somewhat under par this year, because everyone is unhappy and freaked, and it really doesn't help.

My car music trekked through New Model Army and into OK Go, who are generally happily bouncy but from whose lovely depressive ballade "The House Wins" my pleasingly surreal subject line is taken. I love that song: tuneful, wistful, bleak. "You don't have to be alone to be lonely, you might as well give in ... the house always wins." I've subsequently ploughed through a plethora of Pixies and am into Seu Jorge, because apparently I am materially soothed by acoustic David Bowie covers in Portuguese. As one is.

Now I go forth to wrangle advisors for change of curriculum next week. Aargh. This all cannot end too soon.

AWOL

Friday, 6 February 2015 01:40 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Ah, orientation. Today I needed to be in four places at once, all of which were malfunctioning.

  1. Departmental information talks. Classroom facilities had not unlocked the audio-visual equipment boxes. When phoned, they arrived and unlocked half of the audiovisual boxes. They came back and unlocked the other half after I'd phoned them again, while lecturers tapped and fulminated.
  2. Curriculum advice for orientation students. Only two-thirds of the advisors turned up. When I'd rousted out the several who'd gone to semester study abroad registration erroneously instead, because apparently misreading timetables is not the sole purview of students, I had three-quarters of them. The last quarter are still AWOL, which means the queues are horrendous.
  3. Semester study abroad student registration. The international office had told them to come all at the same time for registration, ignoring the careful alphabetical divisions by which we manage the queues. It was chaos.
  4. Readmission appeals committee. The usual minute-taker was wrangling SSA registration chaos, so I had to deliver curriculum reports and take minutes simultaneously. On the upside, there were biscuits.

I seem to have the wrong life, officer. It has been erroneously issued to me. Please remove this inapplicable life and replace it with one which functions properly.

On the further upside, Friday wol is ready for its close-up. Also, glaring accusingly. Because this life is not up to spec.

EasternScreechOwl
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
The cosmic wossnames have an entirely dubious sense of humour. Not really because they gave me the crisis on top of two days of unrelenting sinus headache, although that was a bit cruel, but rather because their contribution to The Soundtrack Of My Life was so beastly appropriate. I've been trying to deal, over the last 24 hours, with a student who wandered into my office late yesterday afternoon with what I can only amateurishly diagnose as a psychotic break in full operation - an angry voice in his head, a spirit haunting him, the inability to give me his name, the works. I asked him to wait outside my office while I made some calls, and he wandered off and was subsequently undiscoverable. Fortunately he wandered back this afternoon, and I managed to persuade him to allow me to stick him into my car and take him off to the nice psychologists. They have subsequently hospitalised him.

I must confess to being a bit shaken, because the car trip was probably a bloody stupid thing to do under the circumstances, however vaguely calm the student seemed, but I was a little worried that the "he" in his head might take exception if I simply called an ambulance. However, I don't think that the Cosmic Wossnames needed to have timed my car sound system to launch into the Magnetic Fields' "I wish I had an evil twin" as soon as I started it up.

My subject line is, of course, from the song in question, and nicely encapsulates my complete sense of helplessness in the face of this sort of thing. I'm really not trained for it.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I'm on leave from tomorrow until Wednesday for purposes of house removals, so today was my last drive into work from Chez Evil Landlord, a curiously nostalgic process rendered particularly apposite by its entirely schizoid mix of elements. The usual weird Thursday traffic patterns meant I made it to campus blissfully quickly, in 10 minutes with hardly any stopping in the strangely deserted streets, only to have the last three decent parking places gazunked from under my nose by other, marginally more on-time people. This necessitated me, in something of a snit, parking at the unfashionable end of campus where it'll certainly rain on me on the way back to the car. On the upside, umbrella. I do like walking in the rain under an umbrella. It's a tiny but perfectly concentrated illustration of elegant tool-using. Besides, my current umbrella unfurls at the touch of a button with a sort of joyous snap which always makes me strangely happy.

The Great Trek Onwards has not started well, on account of how the nice Eco-Box people cavalierly neglected to deliver the boxes that were supposed to arrive yesterday afternoon. I dashed home from work to sit twiddling my thumbs for two hours, fuming gently. A pained phone call this morning reveals that the nice efficient administrator-lady who confirmed the delivery was in fact off work yesterday, causing, apparently, the whole place to gently grind to a halt without her. They're delivering this afternoon, with profuse apologies, but it's lost me an evening's packing. And the Evil Landlord can't find the Iburst modem, which means I'll probably have to do something expensive with 3G in order to survive a couple of months without internet while Telkom finds its arse with both hands. Sigh.

If things come in threes, that should be it for the nonce: I've also discovered that I've been blithely and unnecessarily paying for two internet contracts for a year, on account of how the technician concerned neglected to tell me I needed to actually activate a new one which I'd thought was a data top-up rather than an entirely different contract. The accounts department refuses, apologetically, to refund me, and I can't even rant about it because the whole thing was at least partially my fault. Sigh. A refund would have been nice. I could have bought an even spankier kettle.

However, on the upside, the EL is evincing a disturbing and guilt-inducing tendency to insist that I migrate from his place taking with me a broad selection of the fitted bookshelves he's had installed over the years, which will at least partially solve the "explosion in a bookshop" problem which necessarily attends my perambulations. But it seems an excessive sort of housewarming gesture. I have habitually assuaged my conscience on his installation of bookshelves for my benefit by assuming that he's making improvements to his house rather than pandering to his housemate. My Lawful Good is kicking in, with a side order of Calvinist guilt. Which will not, in all likelihood, prevent me from taking the bookshelves, as he points out he's never going to have that many books or Lego models to display, but still. There is angst.

I have now neatly earwormed myself with "Little Boxes", which is a deceptively sing-song and highly political song I associate very strongly with my childhood, not only because the Pete Seeger version was still played on the radio, but because it was one of my dad's favourites, he used to sing snatches of it when being cynical about modern urban existence. My family was never big on the modern urban existence. Growing up in the bush will do that to you. In a good way.

eeeeeeeeeeeee!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013 11:50 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
That, dear readers, is not the squeal of brakes screeching to a halt. Au contraire! That is the ecstatic squeeing sound of an Exemporanea who is, for the first time in about ten years, a legal driver. Because this day I did, finally, after over a year of more angst than you would have believed possible, utterly pass my driver's licence. Verily. That bitch is passed. I have the bits of paper and the state of post-traumatic wibble and the inky thumb to prove it.

For those of you who haven't been following along at home, the driver's licence saga has been epic and full of angst and woe. I passed my test in Zimbabwe when I was sixteen, but never got around to obtaining the SA licence based on it after I took out SA citizenship. When the hedge-trimmer bastard stole my wallet, I had no way of replacing the Zim licence because even if the Zim bureaucracy wasn't a nightmare Cthulhoid thing of corruption, devastation and despair I'm no longer a Zim citizen. I had no option but to retake the licence from scratch, which means (pauses for ritual shudder) K53.

K53 is a bitch, and the task of overwriting 25 years of bad driving habits with the ritualised observances of the K53 cult is severely not trivial: fighting to conform to K53's rather rigid demands has made me feel utterly useless. But in a weird sort of way that wasn't the problem. The problem was the extent to which being forced to re-prove my basic adult competency absolutely did my head in. Seriously. I have issues with being a valid grown-up at the best of times, courtesy mostly of the unpleasant things academia has done to me, and you have no idea how infantalising it is to regress to that adolescent status, and to feel that a basic skill you've taken for granted for decades - and that represents not just competence, but power over your own life - is suddenly illegitimate. This is the second time I've taken the test, and no-one but my therapist knows that I was taking it, or that I took it a first time and failed it about a month ago. (I should add, for posterity and in the spirit of gloat, that I failed it the first time in the yard, because I was freaking out. This time I passed the yard test without a single negative mark.) It was painfully obvious that I would be utterly unable to deal with casual driving test mention in conversation, and that any incidence of someone giving me the slightest bit of teasing about it would probably end literally in tears. Honestly, I have not been rational on the subject.

But now I'm a grown-up again. I can buy a new car, and hopefully the chance sighting of a traffic cop will no longer excoriate my lawful good soul in guilty anticipation. And if another wretched hedge-trimmer steals my wallet, I can replace the licence with only the standard level of bureaucratic irritation (and also, I have to say, without having to invoke another whole set of issues about Zimbabwe, and exile, and loss).

In short: wheee! There shall be righteous gin this evening, celebrating not only my legalisation, but the fact that I managed to drive the EL's car for six months without a licence and without hitting anyone. Also, if anyone needs a recommendation for a really good driving instructor, mine was bloody brilliant.

The day's fanfic rec is all about the cars, naturally. And robots, because Tony Stark's bots are simply cute. Still on the copperbadge kick, this one is Steve and Tony and Dummy on a road trip. Robot Trip. Fun.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
So, that techno-jinx is alive and well and feeling free to infect anything remotely technological in my immediate vicinity on a more or less random basis. I'm driving the EL's car at the moment, his old Elantra, as achieving a new car without a valid driver's licence is proving bloody difficult. Today, on the way home from shopping, it picked up an extremely flat tyre on the far corner of Rondebosch Common from our place. Interesting points about said flat tyre fall into place with a sort of inexorable, bloody-minded beauty:

  1. I am generally perfectly capable of changing a flat tyre, with the trifling proviso that my buggered left arm gives me limited strength for wrestling two-handed with anything that's been fastened very tightly. Like, just for example, wheel nuts.
  2. Oh, and like the weird screw fixture thingy which appears to fasten the spare tyre onto the bottom of the boot in the Elantra. Can't budge it. Immune to swearing, hitting with heavy things and every ounce of muscle I possess. In the Changing The Tyre stakes, I have fallen at the first hurdle.
  3. My exertions are lacking a certain element of confidence given that it's not my car and I'm not even sure I'm swearing at the right fiddly bit.
  4. A further lack of commitment is evinced in my sneaking memory that the spare tyre on the Elantra is actually the wrong size, anyway.
  5. I cannot phone the EL and check any of the above because he's in the garage industriously crafting pewter, and he doesn't hear the landline ringing from the garage. Nor does he have his cellphone with him, because Evil Landlord.
  6. A half-hour process of swearing at the immovable screw fitting, interspersed with intervals of phoning both lines repeatedly or sitting in the car frantically googling "change Elantra spare tyre" on my phone, is rendered rather more horrible by my sneaking awareness that as a good feminist and marginally self-sufficient person I should damned well be able to sort this out for myself.
  7. The knowledge that the EL is perfectly capable of sitting in the garage for upwards of hours at a time peaceably pewtering, adds a slightly despairing note to the whole proceedings.
Eventually I got the hell in, locked up the car and stomped home across the common, arriving, as the bloody cosmic wossnames would have it, just as the EL had emerged from his pewter session into the house. He confirms that my memory is perfectly accurate and the spare tyre wouldn't have fitted, anyway. Despite the fact that I wasn't even particularly homicidal, he then volunteered to go and sort it out, i.e. remove the flat tyre and pick up my three big heavy bags of shopping, which I'd left stashed in the boot, an offer I gratefully accepted.

I need a cup of tea. Or a gin. Or a cup of tea and then a gin. I like this plan.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)


I am touched and cheered by Tweenbots, which is a sort of art installation thingy comprising small, basic, ambulatory cardboard robots placed in public places with no more than forward motion and a flag which brandishes their destination. They almost always arrive, because passers-by rescue them from being snarled up on curbs and potholes and things, and point them in the right direction. It's a curious piece of mental sleight-of-attitude, that the mere possession of motion and purpose should flip our inner switches from "this is an object" to "this is a fellow being". A small cardboard robot placed in a park simply to wave its arms about would probably be stolen, but one moving of its own volition seems to merit empathy and compassion, the respect due a fellow traveller.

We respond to agency, I think, because that's what we desire for ourselves, but it's vaguely hopeful that a significant proportion of random passers-by also feel the need to protect that agency in those less powerful than themselves. At least when it's in their immediate vicinity, and the action required is so simple and finite. Starving children or pilloried rape victims on other continents are a distant, complex horror against which our any action - a donation, an outraged letter - seems minor and futile, but in rescuing a cardboard robot we restore and enable in one gesture its complete and perfect purpose. We wish life could be so simple.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I would blog about our lovely weekend away, except (a) I don't have the energy to dig up and post the photos, (b) I need to do the traditional start-of-month acknowledgement of sources, and (c) I'm too damned upset about Iain Banks. Apart from being one of my favourite sf authors who falls into the China Miéville category of "clearly way more intelligent than I am", Iain Banks is a lovely man and doesn't deserve sudden short-term terminal cancer to the solar plexus. And while one tries not to turn this narcissistically to one's own pain, after Terry Pratchett this is just too damned much. Not only are they two in my top 5 of authors-whose-every-work-I-will-read-despite-anything, they're both highly intelligent, culturally aware and likeable people who utterly don't deserve this, and both of whom I have met. I haven't met many of my sf/fantasy icons. In fact, I think the two of them are it. I actually got to chat to both of them beyond a quick signature. If this is the upshot, I'm going to try and avoid meeting any more, the cosmic wossnames apparently take that as a signal to hit them with something unpleasant. If I ever see China Miéville in the flesh I'm going to run like hell in the opposite direction. (Which, to be fair, I might well do anyway. Intimidating man.)

I'm being very bad at this blogging thing at the moment, I don't seem to have the energy. However, a few actual posts were perpetrated in the month of March, with attendant convoluted subject line references, as follows. (I include the actual wording of the subject line as an innovative addition to these little round-ups by special request of the Jo).

  • 7th March: "rocking the Lawful Good". This doesn't need attribution, it's not a quote, and if any of my readers don't by this stage get the D&D alignment reference and its particular application to my psyche, I give up.
  • 8th March: "the interconnectedness of everything". This is actually a partial paraphrase of Dirk Gently, I never remember the exact wording accurately. (Apparently it's "the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.") I must re-read those, they're fun, and Douglas Adams can't blindside me by suddenly pitching up with something terminal on account of how he's already dead. This is at least predicable.
  • 10th March: "I came, I saw, Ipad." That was a horrible piece of lame wordplay and I should be ashamed. Also, I very much doubt that Julius Caesar ever actually said "Veni, vedi, vici". It has "apocryphal" written all over it. The Ipad, on the other hand, is a marvellous gadget and I'm really enjoying it, even if the lack of actual hard drive, as a concept, makes me flail around a bit.
  • 15th March: "! GET! KNOCKED! DOWN! butIgetupagain". Now I have the bloody Chumbawamba ear-worm again. Thanks for that, meticulous referencing. That wretched song ("Tubthumper", for the sake of full attribution and in case you weren't paying attention) is more damned fun than it has any right to be.
  • 17th March: "this vast and brooding spirit". Oh, now, that's interesting. *waves the Red Flag of Over-Analysis Alert*. The quote is from the poem about Cecil John Rhodes which adorns the Rhodes Memorial, and which incidentally also formed the basis for a more than usually way-out Call of Cthulhu module I and Bumpycat wrote back in the day, featuring Rhodes's negative energy centred on the memorial as a blot on the fabric of reality which opened portals to Bad Stuff. (I don't do postcolonialism, except apparently in my role-playing modules, where I've done it several times). It's also a misquote, owing to the extreme dodginess of my memory: the actual phrasing is "the immense and brooding spirit". The post is talking about Batman and whinging about the excessive broodiness of The Dark Knight Rises, so as a subject line it's fairly apt, but I remember typing in the (mis)quote more or less as a knee-jerk and then being tickled by how actually appropriate it was to my argument in the review. The full poem reads: "The immense and brooding spirit still / Shall quicken and control. / Living he was the land, and dead, / His soul shall be her soul!" In terms of Batman's identification with Gotham and the upshot of the movie, that's pretty much exactly it.
  • 19th March: "meanwhile, he has built a remote-controlled duck". Actually attributed in the post: quote from the article on useless machines which had endeared itself to me at the time. Even more pleasingly surreal out of context.
  • 26th March: "I have a bad feeling about this...". This was a post about a Star-Wars-Lego-themed cocktail party. If you do not recognise the quote you are no friend of mine, and need to slink off into a corner somewhere and consider your sins. Good grief. (We had the first movie playing silently during the party, causing a lot of us to sit around watching it and supplying either the actual dialogue, or new, improved dialogue (mostly Stv). When everyone had gone the EL and Sven and I watched The Empire Strikes Back and argued about abysmal Empire tactics on Hoth. I love my friends, and am fairly confident that none of you are currently sitting in a corner considering your sins).
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am inexpressibly charmed both by the article on useless machines BoingBoing linked today, and by the article's last line. There is absolutely no logical reason to build either a machine that only turns itself off or a remote-controlled duck, and the concept is thus enormously attractive. I disagree with Arthur C. Clarke, who apparently wrote (as per the above article), that "There is something unspeakably sinister about a machine that does nothing — absolutely nothing — except switch itself off." It's not sinister. It's a beautifully concise expression of absolute and bloody-minded dedication to function in the face of all odds - what the article calls "purposeless purity". It's about identity, or at least about something about identity that I instinctively feel is important.

On a slightly less abstract note, these are very beautiful re-imaginings of contemporary films as artefacts of another time. I'd totally adore to watch Peter Sellars in Groundhog Day, and I need this Fritz Lang 2001 poster on my wall.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
'Tis the very bloody time of year, when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world. No, wait. The bloody time of year is definitely true, it being Orientation Season, but the yawning churchyards and drinking hot blood bit probably has more to do with the vampire lectures. Contagion, on the other hand, definitely.

So, I'm on Day 2 of our first orientation programme, which means last week was a nasty stressful flurry of preparations. I'm currently giving a minimum of an hour and a half of curriculum talks daily, not to mention general programme wrangling, shouting at lecture venues full of students, and talking the OLs down from biting each other. In addition I am gearing up for registration, which means two separate advisor training sessions this week and a desperate attempt to bend space-time sufficiently to fit them all into a timetable. In a somewhat shortsighted gesture about which I am deeply unrepentant, I also offered to give Summer School lectures this year, which means I'm burbling about vampires for an hour on the first three evenings of this week, giving me something of the order of 13-hour days.

So yesterday ran to wrangling students (30 mins) plus curriculum talks (90 mins) plus introducing Herzog's Nosferatu to a slightly bemused collection of silver-haired seniors (20 mins) plus an advisor training session (2 hours) plus a lecture on vampires (1 hour). Today, rinse and repeat, minus the movie and the training and plus an additional hour-long orientation session. My traitor body has, of course, celebrated all of the above by acquiring quite the nastiest throat infection I think I've ever had, causing me to fight my own voice continually to actually produce sounds, and to spend most of last night unable to sleep owing to the wild temperature, coughing and general all-over-body aching. It is actually such an exquisite and pinpoint instance of abysmal timing, I'm rather floored. Currently taking bets on whether or not my voice will advance or retreat for all the large-lecture-venue projecting I have to do in the next few days. Thank heavens for microphones.

The vampire lecture last night went well, despite being unusually contralto, and caused me innocent joy by being precisely and exactly the right length. I've stuffed up the length of my last few conference papers so badly, I was beginning to lose faith in my own judgement. Also, producing powerpoints featuring near-endless strings of pretty vampire boys (for SCIENCE!) was rather fun.

Edited to add: Buggery. I've just had to cancel tonight and tomorrow night's lectures, on the grounds that my voice has slithered backwards down my throat, clawing desperately, and I'm not capable of more than a sort of strangled wurbling noise in place of actual communication. Tomorrow's orientation and training lectures are going to have to be given via the medium of interpretive dance. Honestly, it would be altogether less disruptive and painful if I broke my leg at this time of the year rather than losing my voice.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Can't talk, orienting. Although, in fact, most of my orientation duties are in the morning, leaving me the afternoon to catch up on all the registration and curriculum advice duties. Yay. I am taking ten minutes out to blog in a spirit of defiance.

Today has started with one defunct sound system in the main venue (NSLT, huge, my voice is croaked from projecting without amplification), one batch of venues discovered to be under construction, another batch of venues discovered not to have been booked when they should have been (not, may I add, by me), and a sharp downpour of rain at precisely the moment when we needed to shepherd 400 students across campus to different venues. Score points for cosmic cussedness, Cape Town weather, and entropy. We have dealt with all these crises with becoming grace, and are currently operating ruthlessly on time. *waves rude finger in direction of cosmic wossnames*

Upsides: students get cute, spiky hair when wet. Like puppies. Also several very good t-shirts today, the one which sticks in my mind reading "With great moustaches come great power". (Wearer, naturally, clean-shaven). And another one simply stating "BLACK IS BLACK", which seems a little Zen. However, Sod's law dictates that the two departments with the biggest first-year courses should be the ones who have failed to respond with the names of speakers for Thursday's info sessions. I have sent four different emails since November last year. I'd be tearing my hair out, but, kismet. If they aren't there, they aren't there.

I have never before tried the simple expedient of running orientation while hopped to the gills on anti-depressants. I recommend it. There's a sort of serene detachment. It works.

(Subject line? still Goats. Eighty three percent of known Goats are soothing to the soul).
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
If we needed any evidence at all that the Cosmic Wossnames are actually vaguely Cthulhoid entities prone to either nasty mockery or blind indifference, I could demonstrate it from my experience of January every year. Thusly:
  1. I'm running orientation and registration simultaneously while fighting off admissions and curriculum queries from new students, returning students, excluded students, late-applying students (hopeless this year, we're well over capacity), random students, plaintive students, and the parents, friends, well-wishers, dogs and aunts of all of the above. (Especially the aunts. Aunts of students are demonstrably even more crazy than the parents). I'm, in effect, doing three people's jobs.
  2. By inscrutable cosmic wossname, a whole bunch of dearly beloved friends have birthday in January, necessitating participation in shindigs and jamborees of all descriptions.
  3. January is the month chosen by my Cherished Institution to deploy their own Army of Deconstruction for wide-ranging building tasks. I can't leave my office window open for air at the moment because of the nice man with the jackhammer on the scaffolding just outside it. And,
  4. We have heatwaves. This week has been infernal, brain-melting, incandescent hell.
In addition to all of above, I arrived at work at 9am yesterday, worked like a frantic thing until 4, dashed off to have my hair cut, went home, worked like a frantic thing until 11pm, and then fell into bed. I don't think my state of health is actually up to this sort of thing, I'm more or less useless this morning.

Meep. However, the subject line is, as usual lately, from Goats. Read Goats. It prevents your ice-cream from melting. (It also drives you crazy when you read the entire archive and arrive at the end to discover that it stops, mid-plot, in 2010. However, I have forgiven it).
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Hee. There's a meme. Memes are usually lame, but this one made me laugh. Gacked off [livejournal.com profile] matociquala:

Pick up the nearest book to you.
Turn to page 45.
The first sentence describes your sex life in 2012.


The nearest book to me is a Sookie Stackhouse, Dead in the Family, which is on my desk at work so I can lend it to a student. (Vampire thesis, with digressions into random fun reading). This is already auspicious, but the first sentence on p. 45 is too beautifully fortuitous for words: "You're assuming taking a Were as your date would be offensive...?" I am still chortling. Apparently 2012, while allowing something vaguely resembling action, will not in any way mitigate my frequently catastrophic taste in men. However in general personal terms this actually represents an improvement, so I'm not quibbling.

Today, apart from slightly kinky prognostications, is definitely looking up. A random encounter with my physician this morning on the way back from a blood test has allowed him to formally permit me to both stop the Warfarin, and remove the @^$%@#^$% compression socks which are the bane of my existence in this wretched hot weather. (They are really non-stylish with sandals). My effervescent glee at this release is in no way mitigated by (a) the list of prohibitions and warnings regarding future air travel (pshaw, easy, I can do all that), (b) the prospect of an hour and a half in the dentist's chair this afternoon (implant), (c) the cost of said implant and crown, only partially covered by medical aid (total string of numbers represents fabulous amount with more zeroes than God) or (d) the fact that unspecified builderly dudes of noxious ilk have apparently chosen today as the site of their spirited attempt to undermine the building from beneath, using pneumatic drills. Also, student admission and curriculum angst is on the rise, as is traditional for this time of year. I laugh at all that, and wriggle my toes in ecstatic freedom.

The subject line, by the way, is from Goats. As have been the last three, and as they will be for the foreseeable future. Read Goats to avert the apocalypse. (And to foster particularly trippy dreams. Last night I dreamed a giant, boiling stormcloud over central Cape Town, turning the sky black except for a heavy, thunderous green on the horizon. I stood in the garden and watched as the cloud front advanced on Rondebosch with brutal speed, trailing tentacular cloud tendrils amid which giants stalked. It was fairly epic. I woke up vaguely trying to put up magical shields.)
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Cape Town is ungodly hot today: honestly, those of you in sub-zero temperatures in the northern hemisphere, I'll swap, any time. 36o today. I had to go out to Fish Hoek, where the entire world and their favourite armadillo were seething around on the beach, shoulder to shoulder, sizzling gently. Heatwaves in bumper-to-bumper traffic are not fun. Also, we apparently have two more days of this, and I go back to work tomorrow. In addition to being a small limp melted puddle of thing, I tragically have to take my mother to the airport in an hour or so, after way too short a time of The Holiday That Virgin Atlantic Screwed Up. Fortunately I'm too heat-stressed to work up a good head of steam on railing bitterly at the cosmic wossnames.

Despite all this I'm actually in a ridiculously good mood, as a direct result of the fact that the Evil Landlord has finally managed to negotiate his post-Australia-return insane work schedule to actually see me for more than three and a half minutes in passing. He bought me a sonic screwdriver for Christmas. Apparently Australia has lots of sonic screwdrivers, who knew? It's the Eleventh Doctor's one, it has a blue light and an extendy claw bit and makes the proper sonic screwdriver noise and everything. It's regressed me approximately to a five-year-old in a state of unholy glee. I would be a sad geeky fangirl, except that I'm an extremely happy geeky fangirl. Next up, those USB memory sticks shaped like a Tardis. They go "vworp vworp". In not entirely unrelated news, which of you fellow happy geeks scored the Christmas Special? I need to wave my sonic screwdriver at it.

*wanders off to re-attach barbed wire and resonate concrete*

retrospective

Friday, 31 December 2010 12:45 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
That was 2010, that was. Now it's old and grey and tottering towards the finish line while 2011 sits in the wings and plots. At the end of last year I said that 2009 had made me sad, and politely requested 2010 to pull its socks up. In a weird sort of way it's sort of complied. Given that my major resolution for 2010 was "survive", I can pretty much say "mission accomplished", but it wasn't much of a mission.

I lost my father this year and, however merciful his release was from his horrible illness, losing a parent is something of a major life event. His death has freed me to start getting my life and finances back on track, but I think I'm still trying to absorb the implications of his absence; it all feels strangely distant and unreal, as though he's actually live and well and pottering around France somewhere. I suppose that's almost inevitable, when the relationship I've had with him for the last ten years has been across distance and with infrequent contact. Loss takes a while to sink in.

The usual scorecard:
  • Things achieved by me this year: a conference, a published paper, a serious amount of academic validation from complete strangers. Paid-off debts to bank and sister. A house in France, and an actual tenant in it. Survival of giant renovations. A far more vicious stranglehold on this job, it's starting to become routine, and to give me something approaching headspace, making it vaguely possible that I will be able, in the near future, to think of it as a day job and do more interesting things around its edges. A reasonably effective management plan for life with chronic sinusitis/glandular fever, although I'm still working on the "while not whinging about it" part.
  • Things discovered this year: Star Trek, Smallville, Plants vs. Zombies, Catherynne M. Valente, tempura batter, Death Cab for Cutie, Echo Bazaar, Scott Pilgrim, Transmetropolitan, Fiasco!, netbooks, how to cook fillet, Microfiction.
  • Things not achieved by me: as usual, fleeing the country, crushing academia beneath my booted heel, enough writing, enough exercise. In addition, I have not seen enough of all my friends; I've retreated into a sort of exhausted hermitage thing where I socialise only if someone actively pulls me out with hook and line. I've missed everyone.
  • Resolutions for the new year: trample job under my booted heel and find more energy for more interesting things, including headspace in which to write. Do some bloody exercise. See my friends far more actively and often. Travel more.

2010 had extremely horrible moments, but I think its overall arc has been slightly upwards. I am cautiously hopeful about 2011. Tonight a small gang of us see in the New Year in our traditional fashion, which is to cook giant, elaborate meals on the distributed plan while imbibing alcohol freely and allowing the conversation to wander hither and thither at will. I hope that you all have equally pleasant prospects for the evening, and that 2011 will bring you wonderful things.

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