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)
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)
This is an utterly simple, somewhat perverse, ridiculously absorbing mini-game. I think its appeal is a sort of transference: as a cat owner, there's something weirdly seductive in projecting yourself into the persona of the #(*&$*)! feline who wakes you up in the morning by meeping, kneading and knocking things onto the floor. It'll take you five minutes to play and will content some weird, vindictive corner of your soul. Unless that's just me.

In other news, last night we watched Interstellar. While I darkly suspect that I shouldn't be thinking about it too hard, because its manifest plot holes would infallibly present themselves (inevitably, with black holes and time at the heart of it), I very much enjoyed it, and in particular its vision of the creeping, dust-laden, inexorable death of the Earth. But it pushed my annoyed buttons a little in its uncritical adherence to the tired old sf trope of "we stuffed up the Earth, let's leave and find another planet."

Because, see, here's the thing. It's not even about my inner Victorian governess who believes that destructive children should bloody well deal with the consequences of their actions, although she definitely believes that. It's actually a logical problem. We live in a biosphere into which we have evolved over ridiculous amounts of time, and to whose atmosphere and organisms and substances and what have you we are absolutely adapted. Even so, people die every day from anaphlyactic shock as a result of an allergy, a systemic and cataclysmic disagreement with our very own environmental niche, suggesting that we are, evolution notwithstanding, somewhat fragile. However badly we crowd and poison and superheat our Earth, how logical is it that we'll find a completely unrelated planet somewhere the hell out there where the environmental challenges of an alien biosphere are somehow more welcoming than the screwed-up versions of the one we've evolved in? In terms purely of economies of effort and resource, surely it's going to be cheaper and easier and less potentially fatal to simply sort out our own planet? Honestly, I don't get it. I have the same problem with giant artificial environments in space. Earth may be a mess, but there's more to work with than the interplanetary or interstellar void offers, and it's less likely to kill you on the turn if you accidentally break a window.

My subject line, incidentally, is Death Cab for Cutie, since Narrow Stairs is playing in the car at the moment - from "Grapevine Fires", which seems thematically appropriate to all this destruction.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
How do I hate this time of year? Let me count the ways. Apart from the manifest iniquity of board schedules, the exam committee season is distinguished by our exclusion review committee, which I instituted a few years back in a fit of loving nurture of student interests/control freakishness/complete insanity/all of the above, and which is a thoroughly important and worthy exercise in depression and exhausting focus. This year's assessment of every student excluded from any undergrad degree in the faculty via an individual and detailed contextual evaluation of their degree trajectory rescued 11 incorrect exclusions and overturned 24 others in a haze of generosity, but it also took 6 hours of Monday (literally. 11am to 5pm) and spat me out the other end in a state of spindle, fold and mutilation. Here, constitutionally empathetic person, have 6 hours of immersion in all the most lost, endangered and miserable records in the faculty. I am a Very Tired Creature just at present.

In addition, this year's exam season has knotted the muscles in my back and neck to the point where I've been submitting to a physio at regular intervals for the last three weeks, which has helped materially with minor issues like being able to sleep, unhook my shoulders from my ears and not scream when turning my head, while also being excruciating. (Apparently there's an inflamed vertebra in my neck). While the physio has generally been a good experience, the desperate self-control needed not to automatically tense up when a stranger touches me has been rendered more difficult by the fact that she damned well dry needled me. Twice, before I worked up the courage to ask her not to. I don't like being touched by strangers. It's a lot easier when they're medical professionals because my Lawful Good is inclined to trust them, but this mitigating circumstance falls away when they turn out to be addicted to what, as a sturdy rationalist and innate sceptic to whom Ben Goldacre is a patron saint, I mentally classify as "woo".

So, dry needling sounds all medical, but it entails sticking acupuncture needles into knots of muscle tension and, apparently, waiting for the resulting pain and endorphin release to relax the muscle knot. It's effectively acupuncture, although divorced from acupuncture's holistic philosophy thing; while my rather sweet physio vehemently denied that it's in any way acupuncture, a spot of internet research suggests that there's actually a high degree of correspondence between common dry needling and acupuncture points, and dry needling uses acupuncture needles. I don't buy acupuncture. Seriously, I mentally classify it under "wishful thinking" and "mystical self-deception". I really don't think the body works like that. Dry needling is obviously more embedded in an actual scientific discipline, but most of the sources I've read - even the cheerleadery yay-dry-needling ones - admit that studies of its actual efficacy are generally too small to be significant and are often badly designed. Actual clinical effects seem to be marginal, and I darkly suspect the fell hand of placebo in them.

And there's your problem, right there. I don't want someone dry needling me because (a) it's weird and partakes of "alternative" (i.e. bad) science such as I do not buy, and (b) if there's a placebo effect I won't bloody experience it because every nerve in my body is screaming "charlatanism!" at the top of its voice. Which is hardly helpful when the problem is muscle tension in the first place. So I hope I didn't hurt my lovely physio's feelings, she did a damned good job of unknotting my neck, but I could honestly discern no difference between my sessions with and without the needles and she can keep the wretched things the hell away from me.

Subject line from Eurythmics, "Aqua", which I wanted because it has a line about sticking a needle in, but which turns out to have even more appropriate lines which neatly encapsulate my current slightly bristly state.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Here is another entry in the Department Of The Approximately One Million Things That Make Me Cry. "Space Oddity" is a fairly emotional piece of music anyway, considered quite apart from its position in my pervy-David-Bowie-fancying lexicon: it's a particularly vivid and evocative rendition of isolation and loss layered on top of stirring human endeavour. Space is simply emotional, and humans in space hit a deeply-embedded science fictional nerve in my psyche. (Which suggests why it's taking me so long to get around to watching Moon, and also why I really ought to). I've also been following Chris Hadfield on Twitter and Tumblr, as he patiently and systematically humanises the space station project - not so much putting a human face on it, as skilfully using the immediacy and speed of social media to insert us into the experience. It's been wonderful, both exciting and moving - he's an amazing man. He also posts the odd photo of Cape Town from orbit, which makes me ridiculously happy.

He's coming back down to Earth now, and as a farewell has released a version of "Space Oddity" sung, rather well, by himself, in the space station. This is a perfect thing. It's been bouncing around my Tumblr and Twitter feeds all morning, accompanied by righteous squee. It also hits so many of my buttons simultaneously that I've just sat at my desk for ten minutes and cried like a baby.



I've had a rather madly social weekend - book club on Friday, Neil's birthday on Saturday, and a Sunday night dinner I cooked last night with Jo&Stv and Sven&Tanya featuring wine, hilarity and roast chicken with all the trimmings, not to mention a new recipe for chocolate mousse which ... seems to work. All three of these gatherings were not particularly notable in that they featured me, at some stage, babbling enthusiastically about fan fiction, as a result of which Jo was moved to suggest that I actually post some links to these stories for the general enlightenment or bewilderment of my readers. Which is a damned good idea.

As an opening shot, and in keeping with the Space Feels, have a series of really rather interesting AU fics re-imagining the Avengers in a space opera setting. I'm impressed at the creativity of this writer: the way they've managed to take the characters and relationships of the Marvel films and explore them via a rather different idiom but with a sensitive eye to emotional and political resonance. Also, bonus AI politics and Tony Stark as technomancer with nanotech, communicating with JARVIS via a neural implant. JARVIS is simply cool. icarus_chained, Space Electric.

Added bonus: I've managed to shamelessly use both "evocative" and "resonant" in the same post. I blame the Space Feels.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It's clearly fatal to ever tidy up. Or do filing. Because if you do, in a burst of misguided enthusiasm, carefully file the last six months' worth of paper which are artistically piled in your in-tray as a Hobbit-bed, you run the risk of secreting important drunken scribblings so carefully that you can't find them for weeks. Fortunately said piece of paper turned up again this weekend in the course of a frantic scrabble for vital Morrowind cheat notes, and I am thus able to bring you the socio-chemical scientific conclusions which resulted from the entirely uncontrolled experiment of a Star Wars cocktail evening a couple of weekends back.

This was occasioned, by convoluted and lateral routes, by the Evil Landlord's company moving premises again (something they seem to do every couple of years just to test the path-finding abilities of their employees), and the mechanics of the move necessitating that he bring home temporarily his entire collection of Star Wars Lego projects. As he has a deliberate policy of acquiring a new, giant piece of Star Wars Lego every time a major client goes live, building them at work with the assistance of co-workers and keeping them artistically displayed on a spare desk in his office, there are a shitload of these things. We've had a Star Destroyer on the TV cabinet, a Death Star on the corner table and various other bits and bobs (TIE fighter, Millenium Falcon, Boba Fett's ship, etc) in odd corners for a couple of months. The cocktail party was a dual-purpose occasion to which a select group of proper enthusiasts were invited in order to (a) properly admire them, and (b) sample a dubious array of spontaneously-generated Star-Wars-themed cocktails becoming steadily more dubious as the evening advanced. I am cutting this, as it's long and full of photos which may clog Friends feeds. If anyone still uses Friends feeds. Does anyone still use Friends feeds? )

It was a very good evening. My drunken notes also record the following snippet of conversation:

ANDREW: "Where should I put these snacks?"
ME (distracted): "No idea, find a horizontal surface which isn't occupied by a model."
ANDREW (knowingly): "Ah, it's one of those parties."

It really was.

rocking the Lawful Good

Thursday, 7 March 2013 11:14 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Not entirely the highlight of yesterday's day off work doing errands: the doctor at the radiologists telling me, "In the nicest possible way, you have terrible breasts". In his defence, in context it was funny rather than insulting, and he's perfectly right: I have terrible breasts, in the sense that they are infested with cysts and fibroadenomas to an extent which requires a rigorous annual mammogram and attendant ultrasound. (Score! this year they didn't have to biopsy, as apparently nothing much has changed from the last time). Mapping the gazillions of little dark spots makes the sweet radiologist lady mutter to herself and become ferociously intent, and also leads to her telling me, in tones of cheerful surprise, "well, at least there are some areas of this breast which are perfectly normal!" Actually, all the little lumps are apparently entirely benign and may, given that they're sometimes referred to as "breast mice", actually be considered cute.

I should hasten to add that in purely aesthetic terms I am perfectly satisfied with my breasts, thank you, doctor's comments and lack of actual cleavage notwithstanding, and this whole mammogram process is reassuring rather than traumatic, however hard they squidge me (I'm a bit bruised today). My Lawful Good apparently gains contentment and calm from feeling that I am monitoring the Terrible Breasts for potential Evil with the full weight of Science. Science is cool. I love watching those grainy ultrasound images and marvelling at the radiologist lady's skill.

Yesterday was apparently thematically dedicated to Detect Potential Evil in more ways than one, as I had to haul Golux off to the vet for a slightly paranoid check-up of the current scratch on her nose (probably courtesy of Hobbit), which is not healing and which may thus be the first step on the thin edge of the skin-cancer wedge. The vet had to scrutinise with a particularly intense scrute to spot the pre-cancerous crater, but he concurs that it's better safe than sorry, and Golux goes in for the first in three weekly histofreezes tomorrow. Poor kitty. I'd feel more sympathetic if I didn't know perfectly well that the trauma is infinitely less than that of a nosectomy down the line, and she's going to take her suffering out of my hide in meeping and guilt.

All in all, a slightly satisfying day in which we achieved a score of Vigilance 2, Cancer 0. I also booked a driver's licence exam. In a couple of month's time, which is the earliest I can get at the moment, but by gum I booked it. Take that, neurotic procrastination. (Therapist to me, suggestively: "What makes a driving test so painful that you have to avoid it?" Me: "Nothing. Well, I suppose it's undermining my grown-up competence on a fairly fundamental level. Oh, and I can't replace my Zimbabwean one because Zimbabwe is a disaster, which is all about loss. Wait, I'm in tears. Definitely Zimbabwe.") I make yesterday's overall score at Chaos 0, Lawful Good 3, so go me.

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