freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It's Spring! While this does tend to invoke my winter-fondling, Scroogelike, homicidal misanthropy, now with added sneezing, I still can't help rejoicing in the mad sprouting of my container garden (freesias!) and the way that the plane trees down the avenue are all leaping into that pale, misty, hopeful green. It's the first warm day in a while, and I've just walked down to the post office in front of the first spring outbreak of Jammie 101, i.e. scads of students whiling away free periods (or bunking lectures) by sunning themselves on the Jameson Hall steps.

I have fond memories of those steps. They were the site, in my second year of undergrad, of large tracts of my new, shiny, springlike social life, which I found with the roleplaying crowd after a first year composed entirely of being a mouselike girly swot. The roleplaying crowd used to colonise the bottom right-hand pillar thingy at the side of the steps, and sit there in a little gaggle of Gothy black which on a good day was clearly visible if you looked up the hill from Main Road. Since we were all pale Gothy types I'm amazed we didn't catch more horrendous sunburn than we actually did. Possibly Goth complexions actually repel light-waves.

The combination of spring-new and nostalgic was weirdly replicated in my lecture this morning, the first of the semester. This entailed the dubious privilege of 45 minutes on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein without benefit of slides, as someone had left the computer set up to a dual-monitor setting which produced nothing but exciting wibbly waves on the data projector screen, and I could not for the life of me find out how to reset it. (Even subsequent Googling for tech support is coming up empty. Someone's done something very weird to the set-up). Since I was talking very much about Frankenstein as myth and visual icon, this made it somewhat challenging to rewrite the lectures on the fly to encompass the complete lack of visual aids, but on the upside I can babble enthusiastically and reasonably intelligently about Gothic lit on no provocation whatsoever so it wasn't too hard. I did lament the opportunity to show pictures of Julius Malema with suggestions that he's Zuma's Frankenstein-creature, though.

One of the slides was of Goth types in costume, as a way of linking Gothic literature to something more visual and contemporary, and like Jammie steps, it made me horribly nostalgic for the above-mentioned undergrad days. If anything at all were to tempt me back into make-up (which it isn't going to), it would be the chance to do the full-on heavy-mascara exotic-eye thing, with curly bits, à la Gaiman's Death. Because make-up isn't quite the same signifier of cowed patriarchal identity if it's performance art.

I used to be a Goth, but I got better, but sometimes I still miss it. Even if - or possibly because - it's fundamentally incongruous in the context of spring.

(My subject line, incidentally, is e e cummings, because Spring has had the damned goat-footed balloon-man on my brain all day, although this isn't "{In Just]-", it's from Spring is like a perhaps hand, which is also beautiful. I love e e cummings. I acquired him at approximately the same time that I acquired Goth and a social life. That shit is hard-wired.)
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Things you do not expect to see on a respectable campus while trotting off to the library for your important pile of Girly Swot books (subset: crash course in African cinema): live horses. Six of them. Tethered in the shade against the columns of the old Student's Union, peaceably chomping. There's something fairly major filming on campus at the moment, the place has been a madhouse: the stairs have sprouted fake extra columns and exotic greenery and weird screens positioned with arcane precision. I parked my car next to and partially under a giant cherry-picker boom sort of thing this morning, and there are approximately three million acres of random, presumably desperately important cabling snaking down the avenue, tended by skinny grip types in Bauhaus t-shirts. Actual African film, in fact. Curiously appropriate.

It's too bloody hot for serious thought (what's with February heatwaves before Christmas? Not Cricket), so have a random linkery round-up, I need to clear these tabs.
  • If you go to the UK Vogue page and type the Konami code, extremely entertaining things happen when you keep on hitting A. Random internet easter eggs ftw.
  • For some demented reason this ridiculous Boba Fett love story really amuses me, possibly because of the way the sarlacc is drawn. The rancor BFF one is also cute.
  • Sherlock fandom is in a tizzy because of the Caitlin Moran faux pas (I never liked the wretched woman, her book is actively irritating) - she had the inexpressibly tone-deaf bad taste to pressure/trick the lead actors into reading erotic fanfic aloud at a screening. Daily Dot has a good summary. It really isn't safe these days to try and taunt subcultures you perceive as geeky and pitiable, they end up having way more power and self-awareness than you expect. I cannot help but be amused, though, at the cosmic inevitability of Moran attempting to sabotage Sherlock and failing dismally. It is, after all, simply an enactment of the Doyle plot. (Sebastian Moran is Moriarty's sniper sidekick in canon, if your Sherlock geekery is a bit rusty).
  • Random fanfic recc! I am currently actually re-reading The Least of All Possible Mistakes, which is a rather well-written and often laugh-out-loud funny Sherlock fic featuring a Sherlock given to entertaining tantrums and a Mycroft/gender-swapped-Lestrade relationship which is both amusing and real. The fandom fascination with Mycroft fascinates me. I blame Mark Gatiss entirely.

I finally sent out the Boxing Day braai email last night, after more than average levels of procrastination and forgettory. If you weren't on the list but usually are it's probably because of my cheese-brain, please drop me a reproachful line.

The subject line is the Konami Code, which as a concept and a catch-phrase as well as a random bit of esoterica has always amused the hell out of me.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
God, but horrible things happen to students. I have just sat in a readmission appeals committee for six hours, giving curriculum input on all these poor kids. Apart from the usual transition shock and the need to struggle through the challenges posed by finance, housing and travel issues and the truly appalling academic grounding provided by all too many of our schools, we have today contemplated the lives of young people suffering date rape, violent rape, assault, theft of laptops and books, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, unplanned pregnancy, serious illness, hospitalisation, AIDs diagnosis, estrangement, the illness and/or death of sometimes multiple family members, bizarre legal wrangles, learning disabilities, social stigmatisation, victimisation, stalkers, and the occasional curse. I can identify what I call a "depression transcript" at a single glance - the horribly revealing slow slide from competence into lower marks, a few fails, and finally the long, telling strings of absences. A day like that, you start wondering if anyone ever succeeds at anything at all before the inevitable nastinesses get them.

I want to have several cups of tea, a good cry, and an evening of vegging out on the sofa in front of something incredibly Hollywood and fluffy. Except I can't, because they stole the TV. It'll have to be the old fallbacks, viz. Skyrim and fanfic. Anything that distracts from the feeling of complete helplessness in the face of evil.

If I meep and tremble at odd stimuli a bit in the near future, please don't hold it against me. I have too high a bloody empathy stat for this job, is all.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
OMG it's February. On the upside, this means that the horrors of January are over; the worst of orientation was actually Wednesday. Orientation is like a giant, juggernaut mechanism that is at its most stressful in the preparation stages. You have to check it very carefully as you assemble it, because from the moment you press "Go" and it lurches into inexorable action, it's bloody impossible to either turn or stop. We count ourselves lucky if only a few bits fall off and no-one gets crushed.

If anyone gets crushed, it's usually me. When not being a giant inexorable juggernaut, the orientation/registration period is a volcano god, into whose smoking crater I am routinely and sacrificially flung on an annual basis. I have, however, changed my religion: this will be my last orientation. I have lined up in my corner a happy conglomeration of Deputy Deans and Faculty Managers and what have you, who are unanimous in their support of my waving flag which says "THIS DOESN'T WORK!" in giant, flaming capitals. Next year I will hopefully only be running registration advice, which is quite demanding enough on its own, thank you, and giving the odd orientation talk, which means that I can actually do the reg advice thing properly. The most stressful aspect of the whole juggernaut beast is that I'm an ineradicable control freak, and not being able to perfect the mechanism makes me mad. In both senses.

The whim has come upon me to instigate a monthly blog feature, namely a quick round-up of the sources for my subject lines. This has been inspired by [livejournal.com profile] pumeza's confession that she never recognises any of them, which is sad, because their context and source is often worked quite carefully into the theme of the post. (Involuted subject lines are a personal vice. You'll just have to deal.) Also, I'm an academic, and should attribute sources. January's subject lines are easy, because, after starting strongly with Firefly (still haven't forgiven Joss for Wash) and the ubiquitous David Bowie ("It's no game"), I segued off into unrelieved Goats, with one lateral foray into Buffy on the post I friends-locked in the interests of slightly sensitive orientation subjects, and another into Roger Whittaker for no adequately defined reason. Hmmm. Repetitive Joss there. Warning: I don't think I yet have Goats out of my system.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I sometimes stop to wonder if any of my readers could possibly be interested in the trials and travails of large-scale administration, and then I think that, if nothing else, there's always schadenfreude. Besides, it's an interesting challenge: if I can be entertaining about advisor timetables, then NOTHING is beyond me, the world is in my grasp! (insert Evil Overlordian cackle here as I rub my hands in Glee, the new unguent. Unguent is one of those words which looks as though it should be related to cows, don't you think? It always makes me think "bovine", probably by loose association with "ungulate". Which is a word I will never again be able to use without thinking of its dexterous employment in iambic pentameter by Adrianna at an SCA event. It's orientation and I'm exhausted. Can you tell? I'm free associating).

Advisor timetables are not in themselves interesting, unless you wish to contemplate the joyous dexterity with which I now use Excel counting functions to allocate sessions even-handedly. What is interesting is the outcome of distributing said timetable and waiting hopefully in the venue for the first session of the first day. Half the advisors turned up. Various frantic emails later, we have no less than four grovelling apologies for having misread the timetable. Advisors are either academics or senior grad students, and I have to say, it's not the grad students who are defaulting to basic first-year timetable nitwittery. Tom Lehrer is wafting gently through my head ... "ivory-covered professors in ivy-covered halls." Clearly the ivory tower is actively detrimental to certain basic competencies, she says primly, and with commendable restraint.

Today's magnificent item of administrivia is not advisor timetables, however. It's the faculty handbook. The faculty handbook is the essential compendium of information on majors, programmes, courses, timetables and curriculum rules. You cannot run registration without it. Registration starts on Monday. You also can't really run curriculum advice without it, except that I am given, as an advisor wrangler, to anxiously digesting as much information as I can think of into handy-dandy handouts, which I distribute to advisors as a sort of nervous reflex. This is fortunate, as we've been running orientation advice sessions for two days without the handbooks. The printers have failed to deliver, despite being scheduled to do so last week. They have promised delivery "today" on, at last count, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week, and every day this week. This morning we let loose the dogs of war, namely our most fearsome deputy registrar, aimed at the throat of the MD of the printing company with pinpoint precision. The upshot? This afternoon the printers delivered sixty-two boxes which, upon examination, proved to contain not the undergrad handbook, but the postgrad. Postgrad students register in about two weeks' time, and there is absolutely no use whatsoever for the handbooks until that point. Of the undergrad handbook, not a sausage.

I'd be tearing my hair out, except I'm a sort of blank, resigned space where I simply shrug, and make contingency plans. There's something curiously relaxing about a catastrophe which is not your fault and is utterly out of your control.

(We're back to Goats for subject line surreality. Goats will print itself on the inside of your eyelids in soothing pastel tones while you sleep.)
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Consolations of this job: spending fifteen minutes putting the fear of wossname into merry students convinced that they can combine a Student's Representative Council position with, for example, the insanely heavy demands of a PPE degree. I’ve seen a lot of these lately, because the student affairs dept has intelligently taken to requiring a curriculum advisor to assess candidates in curriculum terms and give them a stern Dutch Uncle talking to before they can proceed. I have a sinister little “your marks will drop” speech all worked out. Lots of these kids will be fine, they’re solid students evidently possessed of a work ethic as well as a civic consciousness, but others are a lot more borderline. It is my fervent hope that the ones who proceed with an SRC position in the direct teeth of my warnings will at least have enough fear of wossname percolating their systems that they might contrive to be reasonably vigilant about keeping on top of their work.

Today has, in fact, been insanely productive. This is the direct result of, yet again, giant squid gnawing on Seacom cables, which is my placeholder explanation for any failure of internet access on campus. The bandwidth chart has looked like this all day:



- making me feel mildly seasick to contemplate, for reasons quite apart from the internet withdrawal systems and more connected to inner ear fragility. However, I have been forced in the absence of web browsing to actually do some work. Bother.

I am, however, gnashing my teeth rather less than usual as I feel I’m owed a technojinx outbreak. I am still mildly stunned that, after a month of cowardly delay owing to my fear of losing internet access, I last night finally disconnected the ADSL modem to replace it with the brand spanky new wireless one. It connected first go – all the little blinky lights blinked on within about thirty seconds, enthusiastically. As an encore, Winona found the network first go, and the wireless key in fact unlocked it without any trouble other than that occasioned by my slightly hamfisted typing. I am forced to accept that when my sweet Imaginet geeks say the router is pre-formatted, they bloody well mean it. Also, Achievement Unlocked: lying on sofa watching TV and simultaneously looking up random guest stars because they look vaguely familiar).

This, of course, means that I have a spare, entirely functional ADSL router (four-port non-wireless) lying around the house, and will be very happy to put it up for adoption to a good home. Leave bids in the comments. (Not monetary ones. No payment necessary.)

down came a blackbird

Wednesday, 3 August 2011 11:51 am
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Goshdarnit, it would have to be the morning I arrive at work late (owing to a detour to allow medical vampires to extract their weekly quotient of blood) that a helicopter crashes on middle campus. I saw all the police vehicles milling about and deploying flashing lights as I drove up the hill, and vaguely wondered what the hell was going on. (My amorphous sort of thought was "government bigwig giving lecture", which says somethingorother about something, not sure what). Pics here. Not a hugely serious crash, no-one dead, pilot injured, but those are some extremely expensive-looking helicopter bits lying all over the road. Also, I am unrepentant about my basely but typically human desire to have seen the crash. It would have been some innocent excitement to my day.

Talking about black airborne things and disasters, I am also apparently under siege by starlings in my office. There's a large starling population on campus, and they make a good living off rubbish bins, litter and occasional sandwiches straight out of the hands of unsuspecting students. They also occupy the buildings with careless insouciance, leaving bird crap all over halls and lecture theatres, and betraying a thoroughly fiendish and unavian intelligence in their ability not to hurtle into closed windows, but to flip derisively through appropriate gaps. Possibly a junk food diet has caused unnatural mutations. Also, Hitchcock. She says darkly.

I left my window open while I was in a meeting yesterday, and a pair of starlings clearly flew into the office while I was out and had a good old explore, leaving bird crap all over student forms, important documents, my offical faculty stamp, and a random selection of Sookie Stackhouse novels I was lending to a student. (MA thesis on vampires and immortality). Miffed, I closed the window to leave only a tiny crack open, upon which the two culprits immediately spent the rest of the day sitting outside and craning in through the crack to look at me reproachfully, whistling rude things to each other about my lack of compassion. Honestly, they're more like cats than birds: that absolutely narcissistic self-will, and desperate need to be in a space simply because they're being excluded from it. (cf Hobbit outside the bathroom door). Starlings always remind me of Todal.



This is not a good photo, they move around a lot. Either that or they have stealth technology which blurs them.

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