freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Right, so, another year, another crisis. LJ has just relocated all its servers to Russia. This means that LJ blogs are likely to come under Russian censorship, but more instrumentally, apparently Russian LJ users are jumping ship in droves, and there's a fairly high chance that the site will go under for lack of custom. I have mirrored the entirety of the extemporanea archive at Dreamwidth, where it's freckles_and_doubt. (This was because some evil-minded individual has nicked the extemporanea title on Dreamwidth; on the upside, freckles_and_doubt was what I initially wanted to call the blog but was prevented from doing by LJ title limitations).

So I fear that, suddenly and without warning, this has become a Dreamwidth blog rather than an LJ one; I will post from Dreamwidth, and crosspost to LJ with the comments disabled, at least until the point where it's clear my itsy bitsy audience has made the migration. Please update your RSS feeds accordingly! If you want to comment, do so on Dreamwidth, please, and with my apologies if LJ is easier for you. Dreamwidth does cheerfully support OpenID. It's also a fan-created and fan-driven site which has been the alternative to LJ for a while, with any luck it won't have the wobbles of shifting ownership that LJ has had to endure.

I have been on LJ for almost exactly 12 years, my first post was at the end of January 2005. Blogging generally has declined a lot from its heyday in the oughts, and the LJ community has shrunk a great deal, but it was a safe and happy internet home for a long time. Dreamwidth feels very similar, but it's still the end of an era, and I'm sad.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
We have Schrödinger's Protests, apparently. They only exist if they're observed, or possibly if they observe you, i.e. if you happen to be in the building at the time that the protesters happen to be congregating. Up until then, we are not in a state of protest: campus is quiet, and somewhat short of students as many of them are confused, terrified or grabbing the opportunity to bunk and haven't come to campus at all. If protest happens, dozens of students singing harmonious protest songs erupt into the building and set off the fire alarm, at which point either lock your door and pretend you don't exist, or if you choose to submit to observation, are gently but firmly escorted out of the building, briefly, to stand around for a few minutes until the focus point shifts again and you can drift back indoors and resume the placid course of non-protesting life. It's a bizarrely intermittent existence, and is playing merry hell with teaching, which is exhibiting equal parts distraction, confusion and uglification. (Tracy: hugs).

The whole has not been materially assisted by my techno-jinx, which is attacking my car. Two weeks of intermittently closed campus has led to a number of days at home, going nowhere and feverishly refreshing email, the website and my fast-compounding WhatsApp network. As a result I haven't driven the Beastie much, and her battery isn't charging. I was very tense about Monday, and braced for protest horror horrors (which fortunately didn't actually materialise), and climbing into the car to have it make a series of unpleasant coughing noises in lieu of starting, really didn't help. Except when it did, as waiting for the jump-start people ended up delaying my arrival on campus by a couple of hours, thus neatly avoiding the road closures, which all packed up and went their merry way at about 10am. I have had a rinse and repeat this morning, and have just returned from an expensive little trip to the Hyundai service people, who replaced the battery and, it being six months out of warranty, charged me merrily for it. Now at least I can reliably arrive at campus on time tomorrow to be turned back by the barricades. Yay.

By way of distracting myself from the political insanity of my current context, a word on the political insanity of America. Not even Trump, although I have to record for posterity my glee at Trump being pwned by Clinton in the debate. (See also: Shimmy Song). Do you know that the US gun laws, in their NRA-funded money-grubbing madness, prohibit the use of any computer database to track gun ownership? So everything is on hard copy or microfilm, and has to be searched manually. There's an amazing GQ article which chronicles the bloody-minded determination of the gun ownership records office to be halfway functional in the teeth of one of the world's most warpedly biased constraints. It warms the more administrative cockles of my heart. The rest of it (the non-administrative cockles) are being chilled by the sheer number of unrestrained firearms in America.

(My subject line is Bowie's "She'll Drive the Big Car", which is one of his more melancholy and contemplative numbers off Reality, and something of a favourite of mine.)
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.

grrr, aargh

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

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

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

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

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

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

the game's afoot

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



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

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

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

I don't think it was actually a bad lecture in the end, even if we were all peering through the gloom. But my leg hurts.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am once more computer- and internet-enabled! This has taken four entirely unnecessary days, given that (as usual) the problems were very simple and I could have sorted them out myself if I'd only known.

  1. The computer problem wasn't the graphics card, it was a boot-up problem which for some bizarre reason hinged on a defunct wireless card. If you unplugged the wireless card it booted up fine. Since I connect the desktop to the router with a cable, the wireless card is entirely redundant and has in fact never been used (mostly because I could never get it to work, making more sense in retrospect than it ever did at the time) and we simply left it out.
  2. I should have been able to tell that it was a boot-up problem because of the missing beep when it tried to boot up. It transpires, however, that for some reason my computer doesn't actually beep when you boot it. Something has cruelly silenced its beep. Or it has my bronchitis, one or the other.
  3. The internet problem was because the router randomly reset itself to my old Imaginet package rather than the new one. I have no idea what caused this. I'm perfectly capable of configuring a router myself, but couldn't do so because I had no functional computer to which to attach it. Next time my computer dies I'm going to check the router first, since it apparently has these random fits of self-definition.
  4. Hmmm. I don't ever appear to have named this computer. My old one, the one who got stolen after a service career of continual revolving upgrades over approximately a decade, like a dwarven axe, was called Mnemonsyne. My netbook, before she too was nicked, was Tiamat. I need to think up an appropriate female goddess stat.
  5. Having sorted out all of the above (except the name), I couldn't access approximately half of my usual websites without incurring a security warning. Which turned out to be for https sites, which it categorically refused to load on the grounds that Unspecified Evils (possibly the usual aetheric bears) would steal my data if I did. Apparently https sites consider you to be suspect anachronisms if, for example, the technician who diagnosed your wireless card problem managed in the course of it to reset your computer clock to somewhere in 2007. Updating the calendar made all the little security warnings and red padlocks go the hell away, with the result that I have now managed to subdue my rampaging Tumblr feed.

I am please to be imagined in a triumphant pose, with my booted foot on the neck of the technojixary beast. Like a questing beast, or more accurately the exact opposite of a questing beast. Far from questing after it, you rather wish this one would go away, as it breathes down your neck and muddles your technology until you manage to work out which end of the sword is the pointy one and slay it.

In celebration, please have some deliriously funny BBC radio satire (more accurately, a radio sketch show called “Lewis Macleod is Not Himself”) on the eternal nature of the Freeman/Cumberbatch cinematic duo. The one about The Office, The one about the moose, The one with the cocktail stick. *fairy tale harp chords* [medieval choral chant] Ben-ne-dict Cum-ber-baaatch!
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I suppose I'm due for an outbreak of my techno-jinx, it's been lurking in hibernation for a while, but the emphasis is on the "lurking" - it's an undead horror that will never truly die. I have been without home internet since Wednesday morning, my existence bound by the sad contemplation of that doomful little red blinkenlight on the modem. My helpful Imaginet geek checked all the widgety connection thingummies, and the problem is apparently Telkom doing "routine maintenance" on the lines in the area, by which I assume they mean they're digging up the perfectly functional network and replacing it with something they crocheted from palm fibres while high. Techno-jinx 1, me 0, Telkom their usual 32 956, while cackling.

They may well have sorted it out since Wednesday, but I have been unable to check, on account of how my computer monitor abruptly stopped being able to talk to the actual computer sometime on Wednesday night, right in the middle of a high-stakes Dragon Age battle. Intensive operations swapping out monitors and connection cables suggest that it's not either of them, so I somewhat amateurishly diagnose that my video card has died. Either that, or it's a more pervasive problem with either the power supply or the RAM or the hard drive itself, which is preventing the poor creature from booting properly at all. Since it can't get as far as talking to the monitor either way it can't tell me what's actually wrong, which is a horribly helpless sort of position to put me in. These days I can usefully solve a good 70% of my computer problems by the power of random semi-competent fiddle, creatively channelling the Evil Landlord and various ex-boyfriends, and Google. Not this time, clearly. Techno-jinx 2, me 0, Telkom still cackling in the background because still no internet, which means my perfectly functional IPad is useless for internet-withdrawal-placation purposes as the wireless doesn't work. Curse that cloud computing, anyway.

It's entirely possible that this dual techno-failure was a signal from the Cosmic Wossnames on high that I need to get my butt back to work after ten days of sick-leave - certainly I have been far more motivated to actually leave the house when I can neither noodle around on the internet nor play games. I am thus back in the saddle, placating the swirling black clouds of internet withdrawal by virtue of my work internet (although my Tumblr feed is pretty much out of control as reading it full-time is not compatible with student advice or doing any actual work), and plotting to take the hapless computer in to the nice Korean geekpersons at Cafe Viva this afternoon. I am also way ahead on my tv-watching and reading, which means I have finally cracked open Parade's End, of which I have been somewhat scared in my weakened state as it looked heavy and possibly tragic. In fact, it's both tragic and absorbing, and exquisitely made, and is providing a horribly addictive plethora of compelling characters and amazing set and landscape porn. Last night I also combined the high-class BBC period drama with a completely random and uncalled-for acquisition of Chinese takeout, all on my own, just because I was grumpy and could. It turns out that techno-jinxen, if not placated, can be more or less forgotten with sufficient crispy duck with pancakes and Benedict Cumberbatch being Noble in spades. Thus Techno-jinx 2, Telkom infinity, but me 1.

In the context of all of the above I record, for posterity, my delightful discovery in the course of looking up "blinkenlight" to confirm that it was in fact spelled thusly and did indeed mean what I though it meant. Namely, the Wikipedia article on same, which reproduces in its entirety that beautifully Goonish conglomeration of mock-German warning sign which is one of the most elderly of tech memes, and whose existence I had entirely forgotten about. When confronted with a rampaging techno-jinx, horned and clawed, it is as well to remember that DAS KOMPUTERMASCHINE IST NICHT FÜR DER GEFINGERPOKEN UND MITTENGRABEN! and to RELAXEN UND WATSCHEN DER BLINKENLICHTEN. If I can get them to blink. News at 11.

broken telephone

Saturday, 16 August 2014 12:05 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Telkom was designed by Kafka. It's the only explanation that makes any sense at all, if "sense" in any sense can be said to apply to Telkom. I have chronicled before the unlikely sequence of events which has led to my acquiring ADSL in the teeth of the odds. I suspect, however, that I am still suffering the lingering, ghostlike traces of the particular screw-up which led Telkom to register my order twice, and then fail to do anything about either for several weeks because of apocryphal lack of ADSL ports. I've had two Telkom technicians arrive abruptly out of the blue in the last week, both swearing up and down that they're here because of a fault logged for this address by my landlord, who lived here six months ago, on a phone number which isn't any of the three I've had since I moved in. Their system, I suspect, not content with the extreme numbers of real faults Telkom systems throw out, is hallucinating completely new ones just for fun.

At any rate, this morning's technician was somewhat bizarrely well timed, as I had just woken up, made tea, fed the cat, sat down at my computer and discovered, after some swearing, that I was utterly without either internet or a phone line. Just a dull buzzing sound, as of distant demonic bees. I was faffing around trying to remember which fault reporting line works from a cellphone when there was a knock at the door and there was a technician, apparently summoned out of the aether by Telkom's telepathic awareness of my need. If my need was to have a completely different line repaired for someone else, that is, which it really wasn't. He obligingly fuffled around a bit, prodded the local junction box, and informed me that it was probably a fault in the underground cable and couldn't be sorted out without a proper fault log. He did, however, provide me the SMS number for logging faults, which I immediately phoned.

Ten minutes later I had received five text messages all saying "A fault for this phone number has already been logged", and two saying "A fault has already been logged from this cellphone number." None of the seven iterations of this are, needless to say, true. I then received the actual acknowledgement which allowed me to report "No service", and a nice text message assured me it would be sorted out within two days. I expect this to have as much relationship to actual reality as any of the above interactions, i.e. none at all.

In the meantime, though, please note that my landline is an ex-parrot for the time being, you'll have to use my cell. I do have internet, by virtue of the fact that I never got around to returning the 3G dongle to Claire, on whose head be many blessings because re-activating the 3G is saving my sanity. Not money, but definitely sanity. Email may be the safest bet given cell reception in this area.

I should never have introduced my techno-jinx to Telkom. The results are horrible to contemplate. I am also darkly suspecting that at least some of the recent shenanigans are a sadistic Telkom response to the fact that I cancelled my data package with them last week, and will move back to Imaginet, sobbing in gratitude, at the end of the month. I'm being punished for my lack of customer loyalty. While laughing rather hysterically at the idea that Telkom could actually expect loyalty from its hapless customers given the horrors it inflicts on them, I will survive the next few days solely because of the awareness that if my service goes down again, I phone the Imaginet helplines rather than the Telkom ones, and am immediately (rather than after a 35-minute wait) put through to a lovely geek whose job it is to sort it out. At least one of them professes to rather enjoy shouting at Telkom. That's customer service.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Because it's traditional, that's why. Also, weirdly enough, happy Alan Turing's birthday. I am very much looking forward to the new film about his life, not only because Benedict Cumberbatch.

I have horrible 'flu at the moment, which is a bit of an unkind way to finish up 10 days of leave. They were a very nice 10 days of leave, we went up to Bartholomeu's Klip again, and then I fuffled around the house for several days generally relaxing enough for my body to realise, "Right, we're run down!" and pick up lurgis. On the upside, I'm too out of it and generally disgusting to be at work, and Telkom have just left having performed mystic wossnames in my living room which have, miraculously, and in defiance of probability, resulted in a fully operational phone line (albeit with a different number to the one they first gave me), and ADSL. Apparently they dealt with the lack of ADSL ports in the area by creating me one, presumably out of cardboard and string or thin air or the tears and cusses of frustrated customers. Negotiating their helpline and mutually contradictory updates over the last month has been a deeply unpleasant experience, and I shall wait only until the end of the month before joyously cancelling my Telkom internet package and fleeing back into the welcoming geeky bosom of Imaginet. Imaginet's helplines are things of joy and relief.

I should dig up my Bart's Klip photos and blog about it. Yup. Getting right onto that, once I've stopped floating gently around the house in the 'flu-ridden state which means I don't quite connect with anything, ever. It's entirely unproductive but surprisingly pleasant.
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.

I came, I saw, Ipad

Sunday, 10 March 2013 07:10 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
The Great New Year's Eve robbery relieved me of Winona, my netbook, whose petite Goth self I sincerely mourn. In a bizarre and unprecedented move straight out of left field, however, the insurance has actually paid out for more than the replacement cost of a low-end netbook, as a result of which the whole "resistance is futile, you will be assimilated" thing has kicked in, and this morning I toddled forth (with Jo&Stv for moral support and hand-holding) and acquired myself an Ipad entirely within the bounds of the insurance proceeds. While I still regard the whole Apple cult-edifice with a fair amount of distrust, I also feel that I badly need to acquire tablet and touch-screen skills, on account of how my tech cred is slipping and I'm becoming obsolete. So far I have resisted Itunes, which I loathe with a passion born from actual experience, but I have ordered the cute keyboard-case thingy that Claire had, which looks as though it'll make actual typing actually possible.

It's all very exciting, and I am not significantly deterred from my geeky "new tech!" dance of joy by the inevitable intervention of my personal techno-jinx, which promptly stalled the setup of the new Ipad by two hours while it meditatively downloaded and installed an OS upgrade. This is, alas, simply par for the course. It's all working now, and is offering me a friendly and intuitive interface with which I am becoming rapidly acquainted. I'm taking suggestions for a name for the new creature, though - I'm reverting to "Cupcake" in moments of stress, which is simply silly. (As in, "Please don't do this to me, cupcake!" in tones of plaintive despair).

I forgot to do month-end quotes again! I am a bad academic. Herewith the intellectual debts for February, which is fortunately a short month in which I haven't blogged much owing to thing, and have descended to actual originality in subject lines more than once.

  • 4th February: I quote a newspaper headline from E. Nesbit's fairy tale "The Deliverers of their Country", which features alarming plagues of dragons infesting Victorian Britain strictly according to the dictates both of Darwinian evolution and of the St. George narrative. Also notable for beautiful Victorian magical tech in the form of the Tap-Room, which controls the weather. One of my favourites, and I really must buckle down and write that damned Nesbit paper.
  • 12th February: a line from Thomas Moore's "The Fire Worshippers", which is one of the four poems in his Oriental romance Lalla Rookh, a marvellous concatenation of swooning emotion and sultry, exotic atmosphere. Also the poem which features the famous bit about dear gazelles gladding maidens with their soft black eyes, and thus a source from which I am frequently driven to quote more or less ironically in the context of students.
  • 14th February: a quote from Nimona early in the web-comic, while she's fangirling all over Sir Ballister Blackheart's villainy and trying to persuade him to take her on as a sidekick. Nimona rocks.
  • 23rd February: Tony Stark in the Avengers movie, as any fule kno, trying to dodge a call from Coulson. I'm madly amused by the Life Model Decoy reference, as it's one of the recurring elements in the comics which they use to retcon character deaths and behavioural weirdnesses - LMDs are S.H.I.E.L.D. robots programmed and constructed to replace and be controlled by actual people, and thus to serve as a plausible decoy for attacks. A beautiful narrative kludge, in other words. We like those.

Today I celebrated the new bookshelves by relocating a swathe of my sf collection and opening up shelves to store my DVDs, which have outgrown their cabinet by a factor of two, which is coincidentally the factor by which, it turns out, my collection of superhero films outnumbers the fairy tale ones. This possibly suggests the need for a change in my academic focus. I'm down with this.
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The Lake District is very beautiful - the perfect balance between the neat, green, patchwork fields with their drystone walls, and the far more rugged fells which prevent everything from being just too safe and cultured. I totally get why the Romantic poets were mad about this place. I've been staying with my mother since Saturday in Sedbergh, and we've been driving around the lakes - Windermere on Tuesday, Ullswater today, and home through Kirkstone Pass, which is stunning. It's been overcast and dampish, my perfect kind of weather.

This is Windermere:

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On Tuesday we also went and wandered around Muncaster Castle, which is pretty tourist-trappy and is not an actual castle so much as a mansion with delusions of crenellation:

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... and which was selected almost entirely by virtue of its owl sanctuary. I share with my mother my obsession with owls, which I discover makes us strigiphiles. They have owls from all over the world, including several species I've never seen before.

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Points for spotting the second owl in this photo. Thursday wol is definitely a ninja.

A quick heads-up: the wireless connection in the school where my mother works refuses to acknowledge the existence of Winona, my netbook (it insists she isn't adequately virus-protected, which is bollocks). This annoying fact, coupled with the inevitable corollary that I forgot to bring with me the password which allows me to access my mail on the web, means I can't get into my usual email, and am thus doing all email contact via Gmail. If you've emailed me over the last week or so and I haven't replied, that's why. Sorry. Try Firstname.Lastname@gmail.com.

hack, slash

Saturday, 31 March 2012 11:00 am
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There's this unruly bugger somewhere in Russia or the Ukraine or whatever who routinely hacks my website, specifically the one in my actual name where I keep my teaching pages - it's a WordPress site, which is apparently tantamount to sticking a huge banner reading "HACKERS WELCOME!" over its front page. Since one of the things I teach is a section on vampires and the internet in a History of Eroticism course, it's clearly being targeted by a sort of "hur hur hur" juvenile whose so-called "thought processes" are rendered even less functional than usual by the mere mention of the word "sex". He (and I say advisedly, it feels very maladjusted-juvenile-male to me) habitually overwrites the index.php, to replace every page in the site with a GeoCities-style black page featuring some scantily clad female, often of the vampiric persuasion, in a vacuously available pose, while scrolling inscriptions in various languages crow pointlessly about his own cleverness in hacking me. It's the virtual and textual equivalent of some awkwardly skinny and acne-ridden dude in a too-tight speedo flexing his nonexistent muscles in the vain and delusional belief that it renders him the cynosure of feminine admiration. Sad, really. And bloody annoying, because it's my professional page in my own identity, and doesn't really create a very good impression if a colleague looks me up, which they actually may do given that I have three conference papers accepted for this year.

Stv used to exterminate these little cockroaches for me, but I've just moved my sites out of his hosting ambit, which means I can no longer meep at him about it, but conversely in the last few days have become involuntarily far more proficient with basic WordPress functions. I am now perfectly capable of rewriting the index.php when necessary, it's very simple, and caused me a certain amount of vindictive satisfaction to reverse things in moments when the bastard hacked me for the inaugural time on the new servers yesterday. It won't, of course, sort out any nasty backdoors or other bits of code the Juvenile Hacktwit has left lying around on the site, so a large chunk of this weekend is going to be spent working painstakingly through various sites which detail how to protect oneself from this sort of attack, and fiddling accordingly while desperately hoping I don't break anything.

It occurs to me, however, that the high concentration of computer proficiency among the witterers may be useful in providing an answer which I couldn't actually find on Teh Internets. The stat counter thingy on my site identifies robots.txt as one of the most frequently-hit resources, which is interesting as diligent search suggests that, unless it's tucked away somewhere really counter-intuitive, I don't have a robots.txt file on the site. (Which is apparently quite fine, since malign bots ignore it and hackers use it as a pointer to the stuff you don't want them to see which they therefore really want to see, so it all seems a bit pointless). The statcounter insists that the hits are all real people rather than bots. My question is, what are these people looking for? Are they simply checking for the aforementioned "private" bits of the site, or is there some other nefarious purpose? Enquiring minds want to know.
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You know, it's not just the gentle weekly suggestions of my therapist which are starting to make me realise I don't have enough faith in myself. Remember the sad death of Winona, my netbook? She refused to switch on at any price, and eventually by determined trial and error I worked out that her on switch was defunct. I resolved to take her around to her supplier sometime and demand medical attention, and there the matter languished.

Then last night we were role-playing, and the conversation rambled around to matters technogeeknical, as it does, and I had myself a brief, ritual "dead Winona" lament. Whereupon Andrew H-S agreed that yes, it did sound like the on switch was buggered, and why didn't I just open it up and fiddle around a bit, he's seen me fix stuff he can't fix? (On mature reflection I think he must mean that one weekend away in Wilderness with the gang, over a decade ago, when I fixed the broken toilet flushing system with a brass brazing rod and the jeweller's pliers I carry in my handbag, and we spent the rest of the weekend rather drunkenly deciding who we'd like with us come the apocalypse, on grounds of random skills. I made it because of my ability to fix flush toilets. We decided, if I remember correctly, that we were pretty much screwed in genetic terms, we're all bespectacled geek types and our offspring would probably be blind within two generations. We also, for no adequately defined reason, ended up deploying Thakky's husband in a string bikini with a Bowie knife as a boundary patrol, and keeping David in a cage for breeding purposes as he's one of the few of us with 20/20 vision. It was a fairly drunken weekend).

Anyway, fired by this passing testament to my abilities, I just disassembled selected portions of Winona with the Philips screwdriver I keep on my desk, jiggled the switchy bits, blew carefully into the whole thing to remove dust and accreted pocket universes, and screwed it back together, whereupon it booted first go. She is now sitting on my desk meditatively downloading Windows upgrades. I feel smug, and also maddened beyond belief that I didn't trust my own instincts and bloody well do that first off when the problem manifested. Honestly. Two minutes of fiddling and a Philips screwdriver. Think of all the ritual Winona laments I would have saved.
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When I went to see my doctor last week in re the exhaustion levels, I subliminally expected her to tell me to buck up, stop whinging and simply get on with my life, taking it slightly easy if at all possible until I'd regenerated some health. (It's easier in Dragon Age). The result of her unexpectedly concerned response is to somehow have given me permission to be ill: "take a week and a half off work" appears to have allowed me to stop pretending I'm not exhausted all the time, as a result of which I'm rather more than semi dead and very, very glad I don't have to drag myself up to campus. The mind is an odd thing. Also, her image choice ("you're starting to live off your capital") is really sticking with me in an extremely cautionary way. Things To Do This Week: rest. Also, wrestle boss in re extended leave.

Since ill health is boring, have some linkery of various degrees of joyous-makingness, depending on your personal proclivities.

  • For dance fans, fashion fans and fans of very nifty editing, this ad may hit your buttons with the cheerful octopoid multitudinosity with which it hits mine.

  • For players of Dragon Age II, particularly the girly ones, Fenris cosplay! Amazing costume, and the dude has the necessary level of elven emaciation going, but I have to say, the I Have My Arm Around Felicia Day Effect notwithstanding, he's way too cheerful for strict verisimilitude.

  • For music lovers of approximately the same vintage as me, and/or who cherish a fondness for 80s dance music, Goth or New Wave, She Wants Revenge. I had never heard of She Wants Revenge before [livejournal.com profile] matociquala linked it. How did that happen? It's like Bauhaus mated with Sisters of Mercy and had the offspring raised by Depeche Mode. It seem to make it slightly redundant to have actually gone through the 80s.



    In other slightly happy-making news, the problem with Winona seems actually to be the On switch. If I dig my fingernails under it I can persuade the thing to switch on for about five seconds and start to boot up, although it won't stay on. I don't want to fiddle any further because the rapid on/off cycling can't be good for the hard drive, but at least I have a diagnosis, if not a solution.
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Woe! I was reclining peacefully on the sofa last night watching Eureka, and got a sudden yen to discover where I'd seen the geeky café chef before (answer: the Toyman on Smallville, this series seems to be stuffed with Smallville alumni), and when I tried to switch on Winona she imitated the action of the brick and refused to respond in any way at all. Plugging her into the mains makes absolutely no difference. The ON button simply doesn't do anything. Taking the battery out and putting it back in again also doesn't do anything. I have so little experience with laptopoid objects, I have no bloody idea what's going on. Is there a secret handshake or something similar of which I am blissfully unaware? Help!

I should also add that I'm really enjoying Eureka, which I cheerfully admit is not quality television, but which offers sufficient in quirk, zan, mad science and slightly off-the-wall moments and characters to keep me happy. It also, after a discussion with [livejournal.com profile] maxbarners revealed that he and [livejournal.com profile] smoczek hated it, vouchsafed me the sizzling insight that tastes in bad/cheesy television or movie are infinitely more personal and individual than those in the good versions. It's wierdly akin to Tolstoy's statement that "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." High-quality cultural product has far more norms in common than low-quality: whether or not you buy into a cheesy series is about the particular and personal buttons that it presses, rather than any objective sense of its worth as an artefact. Which is fine by me. I'm defiantly enjoying Eureka, in pretty much the same way that I enjoy puppies and kittens and chocolate éclairs.

And, while we're mentioning the Russians, however tangentially, last night I dreamed that I was a small boy escaping an oppressive Russian regime with the assistance of friendly townsfolk, who put me on a train with my giant trunk. This turned out to have been filled, behind my back, with young men being smuggled out of the country, which I assisted by carefully covering them with my coat and wiring the trunk shut. Dream-history does not relate whether they escaped or not, but I don't think I was stopped or searched. Also, I'm tending to blame China Miéville.
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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.)
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Why is LJ only displaying one comment on any post? Too weird. I feel as though I'm on a strictly-enforced diet or something. You may only have ONE! I darkly suspect the laughable university bandwidth. (OK, a brief, random, 90-second power cut has apparently sorted them out. Shorted them out. Whatever).

In other news, I love Joanna Russ. I've just acquired, via the magic of interlibrary loan, a copy of her book of feminist criticism, which rejoices in the title of Magic Mommas, Trembling Sisters, Puritans and Perverts and has a cover in blushing shades of pink and purple. Given the subject matter, this offers a level of incongruity which is making me giggle. She places her finger, with her characteristic acerbic accuracy, on the disquiet I feel with the whole cultural machinery which expects women to wear make-up, heels and other artificial beauty ages as an index of worth or (in a business context) seriousness. Her comment: "What [this] also always means is giving off signals of the availability of your energies, time, emotions, and resources to men, that is, your loyalty to the patriarchal order" (p. 13). I really, really feel this about make-up, in particular. I feel like I'm subscribing to the patriarchal newsletter.

Hmm, I still haven't seen Thor, owing to near-terminal hermitage, and am thinking of trundling off to the Waterfront this evening or tomorrow evening for the 8pm show before it vanishes off circuit. It seems like the kind of Action Popcorn movie that should be seen big-screen. Any takers? Or do I exercise the Solitary Splendour again, not without girly glee? I like watching movies with friends, but I also like watching them on my own. There are, as they say, no actual down sides here.
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In the Department Of The Approximately Three Million Things That Make Me Cry, Earth/orbit flute duets between astronauts and rock dinosaurs are a new acquisition. At least this one doesn't happen routinely. It's also, despite the fact that I cherish no fondness whatsoever for Jethro Tull, incredibly cool. (Via Making Light). Also, hooray for Yuri Gagarin. My geek starsign is The Astronaut.



In other news, I have just spent a happy half-hour searching Penny Arcade for Dragon Age references, the which I now actually get. (Especially this one, which for no adequately defined reason cracks me up.) This is to make up for the fact that EA celebrated my acquisition of my new computer by importing my techno-jinx into its servers, which thereafter refused to recognise my downloaded content (or anyone else's downloaded content) as valid. Sodding DRM. But you have to respect my techno-jinx. It thinks large. The servers are, fortunately, up this morning and my extra content is happily enabled, which is probably just as well as I was at a level of rage and frustration which might have powered the techno-jinx into a re-enactment of Y2K.
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As a by-product of the ongoing attempt by [livejournal.com profile] tngr_spacecadet and cohorts to inculcate me into Lotro, I watched the Doctor Who Christmas special the other night. (It was in the Briefcase of Doom, the which contains the two portable hard drives [for a slightly Heath Robinson value of "portable"] which contain the Lotro install, that it may not cripple my bandwidth allowance. For which relief, much thanks. Also, nested parentheses.)

Anyway. The Doctor Who Christmas special was a happy discovery. I've been slightly disappointed in the Stephen Moffat incarnation this last season, it's been a bit whiffly and more than somewhat prone to the Russell Davies brand of giant galloping emotional excess in clumsy symbol form. Certainly nothing as good as "Blink" or "The Girl in the Fireplace". Clearly producing a series causes inherent disintegration of the plot-fibre.

But I loved "A Christmas Carol". It's vintage 11th Doctor - he really is quite endearingly off-the-wall, both in content and delivery, and manages to be madly quirky and individual while maintaining continuity with Tennant's version. (Thus, incidentally, making me realise that there really wasn't much continuity between Ecclestone's version of the Doctor and Tennant's). It also demonstrates the happy-making fact that Moffat fundamentally gets not only time travel, which we knew, but A Christmas Carol itself. I am a pervy Dickens-fondler at the best of times, and have also spent chunks of the last eight years or so teaching A Christmas Carol to second-year lit students on an annual basis, and I have considerable investment in the novel and more than the usual quotient of opinions.

Moffat nailed it. What the Dickens ghost trope is, first and foremost, is a time machine. The supernatural element in the novel is a plot device which allows him not only to access past and future with vivid immediacy, but to compress a lifetime's worth of experience, insight and emotional change into one night. It's not realistic for Scrooge to reform instantly unless something non-realistic is driving it, and the Tardis is a beautiful replacement for the Spirits, the more so because time-hopping is allowed literally to change history and memory, not just insight into them. The ice-stored people are a lovely embodiment of theme, both Dickens's and Moffat's: emotional stasis, cold-heartedness, refusal to change. And the fish, while a mite mundane for my taste, are beautifully weird and occasionally enchanting.

This episode made me giggle frequently and cry at least once, although that last void where prohibited by viewer not actually being a hopelessly over-emotional dingbat. I am inclined to be sanguine about the new season, which is providing cool and interesting trailer images, notably the Doctor playing up to a Stetson.



I will also be inclined to write about it frequently, for as long as LJ holds up, which isn't much, at the moment. The tendency of its servers to exist in a supine condition is beginning to get my goat. Please note that this blog is currently mirrored on WordPress, at http://docinatrix.wordpress.com/, although with a fraction of its actual personality as I haven't been able to migrate the comments. If the urge to blog hits me while LJ is whups, fellover, I shall probably pop up over there instead, ultimately permanently if they don't bloody sort this out. Pshaw.

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