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Being as how I'm on leave for three weeks, we (me and jo&stv) just had four days up the West Coast in Riebeek Kasteel, which is a one-horse town whose notional horse is exceptionally beautiful, and is generally pleasingly empty and non-touristy. And very Afrikaans. I had a slightly surreal experience buying inordinate amounts of olive products in the olive place, realising only after the transaction ended that the nice cashier lady had addressed me entirely in Afrikaans, to which I'd responded entirely in English without actually noticing the dual language thing going. Apparently Afrikaans comprehension has settled on me, like lint.

We stayed in the same Air B'n'B we did a couple of years back, the one up on the hillside over the town, with the view from the front porch looking like this:

We did a desultory amount of wine and olive shopping, and walked a bit, and cooked or ate out, but mostly collapsed on sofas or in the pool and read a lot. It was incredibly relaxing and, with the trifling exception of pining for my kitties and the absence of wifi, good for the soul. On the upside, apparently I have enough phone data to read fanfic via a tethered Ipad, although it's probably just as well I was boycotting Tumblr in a marked manner owing to ideological miff. Also, the two latest Naomi Novik novels (Uprooted and Spinning Silver) are brilliant, kick-butt fairy tale retellings and should be read immediately by all right-thinking people. Spinning Silver in particular has a phenomenal, intricate narrative structure and does phenomenal, intelligent things with the Rumplestiltskin tale and male power and Jewish identity. Unreservedly recommended.

Stv also had the brilliant idea of mounting a half-hour's driving expedition to the wind farm which is in the far distance of the house's view. Wind farms always please me enormously in concept, because clean power, but they are also weirdly striking up close. The turbines do the oddest thing to scale: they look huge when you see them in the distance from the house, and then seem a lot smaller when you are ten minutes away, and then when you're right there they are suddenly placid giants dwarfing everything around them. I found the vibe and atmosphere they create to be enormously striking: they have a sort of serene, remote, implacable presence, towering quietly over you while retaining a self-contained distance, calmly spinning in pursuit of their own mysterious ends, to which you are clearly irrelevant. I'm not sure actual humans actually made them, it seems more likely that they are some sort of inscrutable alien entity which simply grew overnight.

I wish I could say the heavenly ray of light in this last one was a deliberate artistic choice, but it was a joyous happenstance.
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The other night I dreamed an alien apocalypse, in which the bulk of humanity had fled or been removed, and I was living alone in a small country house, worrying because the visiting soldiers had gone out to buy beer and hadn't returned and the aliens could arrive at any moment. And while I was waiting I heard a loud engine approaching in the distance, and Tom Hardy arrived in a humvee with his dog, and proceeded to dig through my kitchen cupboards to find a large enough pot in which to give the dog water.

I have no idea. My suspicion is that this about (a) global political collapse, and (b) the fact that Tom Hardy, quite apart from his various roles, appears to be cordially insane. He was cordially insane in the dream, at any rate. I think we may have subsequently gone careering off across the country in the humvee with his dog and both my cats, looking for the military enclave to bring them intelligence. No actual aliens ever appeared, but I suspect they had eaten the missing soldiers.

My life at the moment is rather dull and very, very fatigued, with occasional high spots, most notably last night when jo&stv fed me delectable vegetarian supper out of Ottolenghi cookbooks. While I was familiar with "Ottolenghi" as a word, I hadn't associated it with an actual chef and had vaguely assumed it was a particularly complicated ethnic dish of some kind, along the lines of osso buco or saltimbocca. Both of which would, in fact, also make good chef names. At any rate, the baked minted rice with the olive/walnut/pomegranate salsa was bloody marvellous.

I also have to record for posterity that fanfic high spots can include, in defiance of probability, a Regency AU of the film versions of The Hobbit featuring a genderswapped Bilbo who's a vicar, and several trans dwarves. As yet unfinished, but the voice and worldbuilding are pitch perfect.

My subject line is Franz Ferdinand, currently on rotation in the car, from "Dream again". I record this after having spent twenty minutes fruitlessly trying to find the lyrics under the delusional and probably fatigue-related belief (fatigue stuffs my memory like whoa and dammit) that the song was by the Fratellis, who I see have two relatively recent albums I haven't actually acquired. Note to self.
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There are many, many advantages to living in Cape Town, which is my Favourite Place In The World, but high on the list are two of them we invoked on Sunday: good food, and beautiful countryside. We drove out to Luddite wine farm, up past Grabouw, for a local chef's pop-up Sunday lunch. It's about an hour and a half's drive through beautiful scenery, up Sir Lowry's Pass and among mountains and farms and lakes, o my! We are firmly in Spring in the Cape, and it trotted out a blazing summer day just because, and it was a truly lovely excursion all round. Somerset West notwithstanding. (Somerset West is a small-town-vibey suburb of Cape Town, distinguished mainly by its apparently pathological need to assert its own importance by putting eight or so long-phase traffic lights in a row on the main highway going out of Cape Town. It backs up like a complete bastard. Took us an hour to get through, coming back. Citizens of Somerset West have, I fear, a high background level of minor mishap on account of all the ritual cursings of frustrated motorists).

The pop-up lunch thing is fun because apparently it's perambulatory, and takes place in odd kitchens - this one was the winemaker's own home, with concomitant lawns, and dogs, and interesting architecture and art, and a deliriously wonderful accumulation of mismatched crockery to accommodate all the people. (And an interesting selection of people, too! Apparently a good way to randomly expand one's social circle from unlikely angles). It was an excellent lunch - while we were promised Beef Wellington, apparently there was some sort of critical fumble with the beef, and we got two kinds of lamb instead, a sort of shredded slow cooked thing, and beautifully rare chops; also asparagus and artichoke starters and an amazing pan-fried trout with crispy skin, yum. Luddite also does a very small, very concentrated selection of really superlative wines, introduced during a winery tour by the fanatically dedicated and charming wine-maker. (Defiantly anti high tech, hence the farm name). Grenache noir, who knew? Amazing stuff, apparently very commonly grown in France, but rare in the Cape. Kinda light, and fruity, and a bit jewel-toned.

Part of the enjoyment for me was also that I drove, in my little Beastie car, which made for slightly slow and low-gear assaults on the steeper bits of the pass, with the AC turned off, because she has a very small engine and doesn't do hills well with three people in the car. (Or, frankly, with one person in the car). I love driving, and love having a reasonable car into which I can pack friends; it's also an elegant solution given that my current fatigue levels mean I can't actually drink very much without after-effects, so I may as well be Designated Driver and allow jo&stv to imbibe freely, which they did, to great hilarity. (Also, bonus, driver's music choice rule. When you put my MP3 player on random it reveals there is apparently an over-abundance of David Bowie and Annie Lennox in my music collection, but also occasional outbreaks of Franz Ferdinand, during which everyone bops).

The only problem was the wheel-wobble we picked up on the way back, which I attributed at the time to wheel alignment being knocked askew by the really rather terrible dirt roads on the farm. However, when I trundled the Beast into the tyre place on Monday for an alignment, they gently pointed out the balding front tyre on the point of actual collapse, and gave me a Stern Talking-To about tyre tread, the natural life of a tyre, and the need for replacement. Four new tyres, R4000, second visit to have a caster shift alignment done, whatever the hell that is. (Apparently the Beast was pulling the wrong way for our road camber. It's technical). I was clearly overdue for tyres, I've been driving the Beast for five years anyway, and mostly I'm just profoundly grateful she didn't explode on the highway on the way back. Other than in Somerset West, where she could have exploded with impunity on account of how we WEREN'T MOVING.

Owing to wine, heat and general uselessness I took absolutely no photos. You'll have to take my word for it. Also, my subject line is Omar Khayyam, by contractual obligation when I'm talking about a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and the wilderness.


Tuesday, 11 September 2018 02:03 pm
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Over the last few years stv&jo have variously participated in a sort of bloody-mindedly perverse version of Ludum Dare, which is a game jam, a themed, annual competition to design a video game in 48 hours. While stv and his cohorts have in the past actually programmed a game, some combination of jo&stv have at various points also run a personalised version where they design a board game or RPG to the specified theme, and within the specified time. This is, in fact, how jo and I came, back in 2013, to invent Space Amnesia, which was a LARP which messed with the theme for that year ("10 seconds") to play with the idea of an amnesiac spaceship crew receiving their memories back in short, if not quite 10-second, bursts. We never quite perfected the LARP, but it had a couple of rather entertaining test plays.

This year's August Ludum Dare had the theme of "running out of space", and jo&stv and I and their friend Sara ended up trying the board game version this last weekend, delayed from the actual August date by the fell descent of lurgis. We ended up with a strategic tile-placement game called Space Termites! (the exclamation point is integral and vital).

You are an intrepid space engineer, tasked with building a spaceship in simultaneous co-operation and competition with your fellow space engineers, and hoping you do so well enough to survive the subsequent space termite attack. The "running out of space" theme comes in the reduction of your spaceship size not just by termite depredations, but by your deployment of your fiendish module-folding skills, which allow you to compress and fold back the spaceship you have just carefully built, to retain all necessary facilities and make sure (a) no sticky-out bits are gnawed off by space termites, and (b) it's small enough to be picked up by the rescue vessel. You are scored competitively on how many of your tiles survive. Tiles are placed according to the air/power/water connections, and facilities designated by the same processes, and you end up with something that scorns design regularity (we decided space engineers have no truck with architects) but during various different games did, in fact, amorphously come to resemble a space fish, the Millenium Falcon if you squint, or a Star Destroyer with its front point gnawed off. Unlike this one, which once the termites have finished will look more like a Borg cube.

The game is ridiculously entertaining and rather back-stabby to play, and also weirdly tactical for a basic, silly concept, but it was also absurdly fun to design. It's fascinating to me how incredibly generative limitation can be (which explains, I suppose, why I'm so into highly reductionist genre convention). If someone tells you "design a board game" you flounder, but if someone says "design a board game about running out of space", ideas self-generate in excited flocks and have to be wrangled over heatedly while they bounce off each other and mutate. (It is not entirely impossible that this process was unduly exacerbated by (a) wine, and (b) high levels of postgraduate education among the participants, which means things became at times conceptually dense and polysyllabic.)

And I really think we struck it lucky (or highly intentional and clever. Or both.) with the core concept, because the balance between co-operation and back-stabbing really makes the game interesting, and ramifies out the tactical possibilities in weird and challenging ways. Also, I have to say, there were untold opportunities to make cheerfully mean space engineer jokes. Sorry, engineers. You can laugh when the termites get me.


Friday, 7 September 2018 09:40 am
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A couple of weekends ago we (me and jo&stv) took a weekend off to go up to Wellington, where we spent two nights in a slightly larney AirBn'B on a wine farm, and followed our avowed intent of doing nothing much all weekend. It's amazingly good for the soul, to spend a wet, cold, blustery day high up on a hillside overlooking the valley, with a fire, blankets, books, games, wifi, good food at ridiculously short intervals, and excellent company. Holidays where you don't leave the house, my favourite kind. Also, underfloor heating in the bathrooms, which is a pleasingly sybaritic luxury. And beautiful views.


We did stop for lunch on the drive up, at another wine farm. They had an elephant, of the arty rather than the flesh and blood variety; he was excellent.


I am fortunate to live in an exceptionally beautiful part of the world.
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Last weekend, by my request and in response to a couple of interrupted attempts to get into my front door by unspecified crowbar-wielding Bad Guys, my nice landlord came and installed a solid cast-iron gate in place of the original rather flimsy cheap trellidor. As my front door is right on the road, this was Reassuring. All was gas and gaiters until Sunday morning, when I came home from shopping to discover that the day before I had apparently carefully swapped over the keys on my keyring to add the new security gate key, but in a slightly exhausted daze (I haven't been sleeping well) had madly removed the actual front door key instead of removing the old security gate key. I thus had two security gate keys, one entirely useless and out of date, and no front door key, since it was sitting on the kitchen table, and couldn't get into the house. This simple stupidity was the start of a cascade of errors which unfolded thusly:

  • I have never actually locked myself out of this house before, but being vaguely excessively Boy Scoutish about this (possibly as a side effect of the Lawful Good), I had left a set of my keys with jo&stv. It was by this stage about 9am on a Sunday; the odds were good that they were home.
  • Problem escalation 1: in the early morning pre-shopping daze, I had left my cellphone on the bedside table, so couldn't phone or text to see if they were home. Solveable by simply climbing back into the car and driving through to their house.
  • Problem escalation 2: three days before I had coincidentally said to them, "Hey, you do know I don't answer the door if I'm not expecting someone? so please text first before dropping by", and they'd said "Hey, same, all good". This means that it was fresh in everyone's minds when their doorbell went several times in succession on a Sunday morning without prior warning, and they quite righteously didn't answer. I tried yelling, but they have a high wall and I'm not loud enough to make much impression.
  • Problem escalation 3: ironically enough I actually had the spare keys to their house in my handbag, but couldn't get the gate to open, it randomly sticks in the damp weather and had, with pinpoint accuracy and perversity, nominated today as Off Duty.
  • Problem escalation 4: in a cellphone age, we are ridiculously bound to our phones for day-to-day info. I didn't have my phone, therefore not only couldn't phone, but also had no relevant numbers, because I never got around to putting my hard copy backup into this year's diary. It was a very weird feeling: not only was I not legitimately able to prove I was myself by texting, even if I found a nearby phone I wasn't able to prove I was myself by actually having the necessary contact information. Horrible sense of non-existence.

It was like a domino cascade: one initial tap and the whole thing fell over, slowly, in beautiful stages. I solved it, eventually, by driving up to campus, accessing my computer in my office, looking up Jo's number on the student database and Steve's in his email, and phoning cellphones until someone answered. Sod's Law being what it is, they'd left the house about ten minutes after I did, I should have simply waited, but fortunately they were only one suburb over and came haring back to let me in, so I achieved keyhood and toddled back home, shaken and self-chastising and vowing never to leave the house again for any reason.

Jyn loves the new security gate, incidentally. She has returned to full health not just full of beans, but with an excess, which means that twice in the last two days she's successfully made a break for the road while I was fumbling with unfamiliar locks, and has had to be chased down. Since she goes to ground under the car and refuses to emerge, this becomes tricky and time-consuming. I was rescued this morning by the neighbour, who did by his own admission a stormtrooper impression which had both cats streaking into the house with tails like bottlebrushes, seriously freaked. I'm good with this. Two cats have been run over in that road in the last month and a half, I feel that terror in this context is benign.
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One of those upsy-downsy days. On the downside, the faculty office continues in meltdown, with the faculty manager still off hissy-fitting and the shattered remnants of a once-functional administrative system trying desperately to reconstitute itself in her absence, severely hamstrung by the almost complete lack of institutional memory given how many people have left in disgust in the last year and a half. I have perhaps two and a half actual allies in this whole clusterfuck, to whom I have taken to delivering, of a morning, ceremonial batches of The Chocolate Brownies of Moral Support. (They're very supportive brownies, on the same principle as an empowering lemon bun).

Perhaps as a symbolic externalisation of my designated place in all this, while I was walking down from my car this morning, one of my Cherished Institution's seething population of half-evolved starlings flew deliberately up behind me and whapped me over the back of the head for no adequately defined reason, causing me to stop dead in the middle of the path and ask it "what the fuck was that for?" in tones of pained reproach, while passing students laughed at me. It seemed symptomatic of the whole.

On the upside, the Exam Tent City appears, against all odds, to have survived exam season unenflamed or otherwise disrupted, which is frankly more than anyone expected. (Lovely argument with Jo at dinner the other night about whether or not the Tent City approach can be statistically correlated with the lack of protests, which of course it can't on account of sample size, but I am a narrative rather than a numerical creature and must have plot causality. I do enjoy exposure to other thought paradigms, though, it's exercising to the faculties). Elsewhere, I have spent large chunks of the week moving lost, unhappy students out of other faculties into Humanities programmes, which is a surprisingly low-effort sort of positive validation thingy, it's fairly easy to make them puppy-dog levels of happy about escaping the wrong choice of degree. One of them this morning, after I'd lengthily assisted him to find a path through the ridiculous snarls of the music curriculum, informed me that I was a "delightful human being". That sort of thing definitely helps.

On a sort of lateral, neither up nor down side but definitely a side, this morning I informed the Deputy Dean most nearly concerned with my operations that I was looking for employment elsewhere and might be reasonably expected to resign in the next few months, after which he clutched his head and said "oh fuck no now we're completely fucked and may as well pack up and go home". This was a worrying combination of validating and guilt-trippy, but has usefully reified this actual getting the hell out thing to the point where, well, now I have to find a new job, don't I? the Faculty Exec is discussing my departure. (I have, in a Marked Manner, completely neglected to inform my actual boss, who is the aforementioned hissy-fitting faculty manager, she can stew in her own juice until someone tells her, I care not). I feel that statements of flight are a Good Thing, overall, but it's left me feeling a weird mix of relieved, terrified, and lighter.

My subject line is Franz Ferdinand, to whom I have been listening a lot because reasons, partially reasons attributable to discovering their FFS album, which is a collaboration with an American band called Sparks and is a an FF-ish, louche, lush, burlesquey sort of Threepenny-Operatic sound with indecent amounts of verve and pleasing levels of piano. Recommended.
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Ow. Apparently the concatenation of a lecture-invasion (stressful), a slightly poisonous and anxiety-inducing faculty staff meeting (lots of people passively-aggressively documenting unhappiness, which always brings my shoulders up around my ears) and weird weather (warm berg wind day followed by sudden cold snap and rain) was sufficient to constitute a migraine trigger, because I lost most of yesterday to ow and ick. Tension and pressure changes, yup, that'll do it. Fortunately taking the small high-tech wafer migraine med (the one with the space-age plastic purple box) and sleeping for five hours yesterday morning more or less settled its hash, and I was basically functional by the evening.

This was good because the Dreaded Thak is in town for a flying visit and spent the evening with me, meeting the cats and showing me kid pics and catching up on gossip in both directions. The kind of friends who live on different continents and intersect only at multiple-year intervals but with whom one picks up exactly as though one saw them yesterday, are beyond price. The cats also approve of this random importation of house-guests for the sole purpose of supplying the feline overlords the requisite additional petting, adoration and warm laps.

In completely unrelated news, I badly need a scientific explanation for my current ear-worm, which is Mika's "Grace Kelly", which has colonised my unsuspecting cerebellum for slightly under a week, including surviving a migraine. Like a cockroach. I know and really like this song, it's catchy and boppable and familiar. I don't recognise the title, I have no conscious recollection of ever actually hearing it in the wild, it appears to have arrived in my brain by some sort of osmosis or teleport. Nor do I in any way recognise the name or existence of the singer, who seems to have been generated in a lab with equal quantities of physical and vocal DNA from Freddie Mercury, Mick Jagger and David Bowie under a project description which simply reads "GANGLING", "ENDEARING" and "(POP)". I do not know why this wretched song is so familiar. Maybe it's the Mozart Rossini. (He's stuffing around with Barber of Seville in the lyric line).

Anyway, because the only possible response to an earworm is to pass the damned thing on, like a cold, please do click play.

Aargh. I have edited this to correct my shameful misidentification of opera. Apparently I mentally conflate the Barber of Seville with the Marriage of Figaro when under stress.
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I am in the orientation/registration run-up phase, which is horrible and exhausting, already requiring 12-hour workdays, and uncomfortably like being nibbled to death by very small annoying things, possibly miniature vampire ducks (petty and draining and stupid). The preparation part is not materially assisted by the fact that we've been running an online registration pilot throughout, so what with rugby players and online forms I have been registering students intermittently from the 7th January, and will be doing so until the 10th March. No wonder I'm a bit frayed.

The registration process, the orientation prep and the various other admin tasks have been exhibiting an unusually high level of people doing exactly what my strategic, careful, detailed, widely disseminated notices and announcements have told them not to do, often half an hour earlier. Submitting forms without class numbers. Trying to register when they have deferred exam results outstanding. Arriving in my office for curriculum advice for which I am explicitly unavailable at this time of year. Trying to schedule classes which haven't been approved by the relevant committee. (This was a gosh-darned professor and head of department who clearly did not read the detailed email to which she was replying). Trying to schedule my exam checking meeting on top of the orientation talk-giving commitments during which I'd blocked out my time as unavailable. It feels like trying to herd mutant toddlers in earplugs.

On the upside, Robynn randomly sent me a knitted teacup-warmer in the shape of an owl (or, more specifically, in the shape of an owl cosplaying as my journal icon, although without the umbrella, unless the "#STRESSMUSTFALL" tag counts, which it definitely does, thank you Robynn!), and this morning the mountain was wearing two hats under a moon, because it could.



I will try very hard not to attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by reading failure, and will take what consolations I can get.
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Tumblr is doing a meme where you list the household in-jokes and catchphrases which would make absolutely no sense to an outsider. I have a bunch of family ones for those (my subject line is one, along with more Goon Show quotes than you could shake a sausage at), but actually a really huge bunch which echo around my social circle and which variously date from old CLAW days, the SCA, particular digs experiences, and my own irredeemable tendency to spangle my immediate surrounds with catchy quotes from things I love. If my usual readership has followed me over from LJ, there should be at least one person out there who recognises each of these...

"That grooves my ploons."
"Back, you leechies!"
"Well, you can write that down and stick it to the wall!"
"That's you, that is. That's your girlfriend."
"Magic carpet ride!" (or in fact any decontextualised quote from the Aladdin song).
"I dugged an hole!"
"That's no cat!"
collecting the laundry

My tendency to tell myself "This is not the droid you are looking for" out loud at intervals when fumbling around hopelessly is both far more individual, and far more instantly recognisable.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Aargh. The horrors of reg season (we are now in change of curriculum week, aka "Hellweek") have been materially reinforced by additional circumstances this year, namely student protests, and the fact that I'm chairing a selection committee at the same time. In the latter category, a potential applicant has just written a lengthy rant on the "discriminatory" wording of the job advert, in which he used the phrase "No disrespect, but..." in cold blood. Honestly, don't people stop to think? There is absolutely no way in hell I would give the job to someone with his particularly combative and insensitive attitude, even if his rant was valid, which it wasn't, and he met the qualifications requirements, which he doesn't. The rigours of my role notwithstanding, I still fundamentally like students and wouldn't subject them to that.

In the Department of Student Protests, they're happening, and buses are being burned and shacks built, but so far not on the part of campus where I work - it's all a bit distant and muffled, the focus of protests is housing and not, as we feared, registration. I think the people in the housing offices and Bremner are having a bad time of it, and there's been considerable property damage. But the Rhodes Must Fall movement, who are the perpetrators, have extremely effectively destroyed all the goodwill that actually existed for their message with all this bullshit. Now they're just vandals. Which is an enormous pity, as a lot of what they're protesting about badly needs change. As usual, The Onion nails it in their Tips for Campus Activism - not in the bulk of the list, which applies to a far different and more privileged notion of protest, but in the final item: "Above all, stay strong and never give up the fight! You don’t want to give “the man” the satisfaction of dismantling your demonstration by putting pressure on you or cordially agreeing to your terms." "The man" did exactly the latter, in all the gains achieved last year, and now is patiently doing the former, as protests spiral out of control and the perpetrators are arrested left, right and centre. Overall it's a very sad upshot for a worthwhile movement.

And finally, in all this chaos, once again friends keep me sane. I found a pack of chocolate digestives in my in-tray last week, attached to a card addressed to "O great and mighty Dr T". Upon opening, it revealed the following:

It is an index to the horrors of the last month that I was too fundamentally weakened for the usual yell of grammatical horror. Instead I collapsed in feeble and hysterical giggling, which was indeed the fell intent of the perpetrator. This was Tracy, who apparently bought the card years ago specifically with me in mind and has been biding her time waiting for the precise psychological moment for delivery. She hit it dead-on. It quite made my week.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
So, it appears we have Stealth Wol-Enablers on the recurring pattern. (Normal wol-enablers I have on the recurring pattern and more or less as an epidemic. This is not a complaint.) You may remember the Great Random Glass Wol Mystery of 2009, during which a mysterious glass wol appeared, unsolicited and unexplained, in the front garden, and I adopted him gladly but in some confusion. Many, many years later Laurence & Linda accidentally outed themselves in the comments on a completely different post as having been the not-quite-Breakers And Decorators concerned. Apparently I have lovely friends who give me random, unexpected wols entirely without explanation. Glass Wol is on my mantelpiece even as I type.

Apparently I still have lovely friends who give me random, unexpected wols entirely without explanation. (Whether this is the same friends or different cell of the secret organisation, history does not relate). Yesterday I staggered home from a merry 10-hour day of orientation prep and boss-wrangling, to discover a small, localised outbreak of tiny wols attached to pegs, lurking in my postbox. Thusly:

(Photo, incidentally, the inaugural one on my spanky new smartphone, since apparently even I can be dragged kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruitbat.)

Above wols on pegs are, in the idiom of the modern-day Lydia Bennet, totes adorbs. I went "awwwww" not just because they are totes adorbs, but because the sudden giant lump in my throat made any form of more articulate vocalisation physically impossible. I feel loved, and I have lovely friends. It has been difficult to restrain myself from attending the first day of orientation today with a row of wols pegged to my cleavage in reminder therof.

Thank you, kind Stealth Wol-Enabler(s). You have scattered Uplift and Cheer on a week that badly needed it. I vanish now with the traditional faint squeak into the tentacular maw of Orientation (this year with added terrors in the form of lurking disruption threats and my lectures being recorded), considerably energised thereby.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am up unseasonably early as my sister and niece are arriving back from the UK at an unseasonal hour and I have undertaken to collect them from the airport. I confidently predict that the driving experience will give me flashbacks to playing Fallout, i.e. apocalyptic wastelands devoid of people. A tinsel tumbleweed may roll by occasionally. I shall thoroughly enjoy it.

I had Christmas Eve dinner with jo&stv last night, which entailed savage Polish barszcz (for which I have an unnatural fondness) in its natural habitat, i.e. filled with mushroom dumplings. Later there were pierogi, controversially with added pancetta (Polish Christmas is traditionally vegetarian). It was, needless to say, excellent, and also excellently subversive. Other than that we eschewed all trappings of actual Christmasness, which was curiously freeing. Today I have brunch with my sister and niece, and then trundle on home to play more Fallout while they recover from an intercontinental plane flight (they've just spent 10 days in the UK with my mother). This strikes me as an excellent Christmas plan, mostly because of its singular lack of a lot of actual Christmas. I may roast a chicken later, in a meditative sort of fashion, and watch Return of the Jedi or something.

By way of further creative deconstruction of Christmas tropes, have the Nutcracker performed by hip hop dancers. This made me absurdly happy.

merry seasonal wossnames of your preferred depth and flavour to all!
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Lo these many aeons ago, back in the mists of time, one of the multitudes of DM-ing Andrews of my immediate acquaintance (the polar-explorer namesake one) ran a Rolemaster game. Standardish medieval framework, featuring the usual quotient of ridiculous semi-British humour, puns and insane party antics. I think it may have been that one where Dylan's character critically fumbled a riding skill, fell off, and rolled a 66 crit on the dismount, coming really absurdly close to death. But it also featured the party mind-controlling a peasant, for reasons lost to history, no wait, now I come to think of it it was in order to force him to dig a grave for the messenger we accidentally killed because he came galloping past us in a Suspicious Manner and we critted fatally on an attempt to stop him somewhat less lethally. (He had nothing whatsoever to do with us or our quest and was a mere item of local colour. Andrew being Andrew, his messenger's badge was a small red fish).

Anyway, we forced said peasant to prepare a grave, causing him to shamble up to the party once finished, spade in hand in the approved American Gothic pose, and utter the immortal line, with all the delivery of a medieval Eccles, "I dugged an hole." This became a catchphrase, not just in its original form, but in its somewhat idiosyncratic grammatical franglement, in a manner not unrelated to LOLcats or doge. I wroted an blog post. I wented to an work. Our students hadded an protest. Our protesters also flunged an things at our VC, in a manner which did its damnedest to undermine the otherwise praiseworthily conducted protests and which has been ruthlessly suppressed, hopefully in the Carrollian sense1. But I digress.

All of this is a vague and pointless preamble to the observation that The Jo had another outbreak of mad l33t carpentry skillz, and maded me an TV cabinet2. Thus:

It is a thing composed of equal parts beauty and utility. It is precisely measured to the dimensions of the various bits of my home theatre system and ever-expanding DVD collection, and has wheels and handles and dinky brass clasps on its cunning back compartment to store acres of electrical spaghetti, and it is bringing me much joy not of only of the utilitarian and organisational variety, but of the warm glow of Nice Friends Made Stuff For Me!

I have Nice Friends. But you knew that, since a lot of them are you.

1 "Here one of the guinea-pigs cheered, and was immediately suppressed by the officers of the court. (As that is rather a hard word, I will just explain to you how it was done. They had a large canvas bag, which tied up at the mouth with strings: into this they slipped the guinea-pig, head first, and then sat upon it.)
"`I'm glad I've seen that done,' thought Alice. `I've so often read in the newspapers, at the end of trials, "There was some attempts at applause, which was immediately suppressed by the officers of the court," and I never understood what it meant till now.'"

2 Which seems, in fact, to be a Theme of a certain cosmic inevitability. The Evil Landlord did something similar when I was living with him, constructing me a giant TV cabinet which stored not only the home theatre system, but my entire DVD collection, at least for about a week and a half until my hopeless addiction to media acquisition overran the space almost instantly. It is a source of great sorrow to me that my current living room is no way in hell large enough for the original TV cabinet, and I had to leave it behind, thus necessitating the Joannular carpentry outbreak.

medium armour rating

Tuesday, 26 May 2015 12:24 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I had supper with jo&stv the other night, and Jo had recently acquired a cuddly and slightly Cubist blue velvet elephant approximately the size of an actual toddler, i.e. large enough for its trunk to curl lovingly around your neck when you hug it. Apparently I give off a "needs hugs" vibe, because after I'd spent the entirety of watching Interstellar ferociously embracing said elephant, she insisted on donating it to me wholesale. Now I have a blue velvet elephant. My lovely cleaning lady Margaret, who also works for the aforementioned jo&stv, appears to be somewhat taken with said blue velvet elephant, to the point where she invariably and meticulously centres it on my bed after she's made it, regardless of the fact that I habitually cluster it with my plush Cthulhu and fluffy snowy owl on the chest in the corner. (I'm really not a stuffed toy person. Those I retain have particular and specific meaning and have been given to me by particular and specific people, and their function is more memorial than adorable. They thus don't generally merit bed-space, even supposing I actually were an actual teenage girl.)

Jo and I theorise that Margaret is familiar with said blue velvet elephant from its initial days in their house, and is merely externalising her sense of its multi-household significance.

I have christened him Dorian, via an entirely logical if somewhat opaque process which will only make sense to anyone who plays Inquisition and shares my aesthetic, crafting and party composition proclivities to a reasonable extent. He really is the exact colour and texture of ring velvet. Presumably his Tier 2 additions to attack, willpower and electrical resistance will be of use when I need to apply hugs to my insomnia in the small hours of the morning.

I should add, for posterity, that the current Eskom incompetences manifested as load shedding, are particularly maddening to one whose current leisure hours are whiled away by computer gaming. Even though they're predictable under the fairly well-run load shedding schedules, the blackouts are putting a serious crimp in my gaming, and causing me to retreat into reading somewhat grumpishly. On the upside, I've read a lot recently. Reviews to follow.

We Can Do It!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014 05:44 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It may have come to the attention of my more alert and observant readers that I am a happy, geeky bookworm and have quite a lot of books. Really, rather a lot. Enough that, despite the fact that I moved into this house with eight tall bookshelves courtesy of a munificent Evil Landlord and subsequently imported another courtesy of Pam, I still had seven boxes of unshelved books piled in my study. This, too, after a relatively ruthless weeding process chronicled in these very pages. As far as books go, I am unashamed to admit that I have a Problem.

Fortunately, for such problems there are benevolent friends like Jo, who enjoys, by her own admission, a Project, and who possesses not only power tools and the will to use them, but considerably above basic cabinet-making expertise, an actuary's numerical precision, and more organisational skill and energy than is strictly fair or necessary in this imperfect world. As a result of which there has been, of an evening over the last few weeks, a sort of blur of activity in my living room, resulting in piles of planks, a small cloud of sawdust, and a satisfying and slightly bewildering tendency for bookshelves to arise, phoenix-like, from the whirlwind at a rate a smidgen in excess of half a bookshelf per hour. It has also revealed my own predilection for Handmaidening, if there is such a word: I derive an unholy kick out of facilitating efficient systems, and if Jo behind a power drill is anything, it's an efficient system. By the end of the process the balletic precision of our movements would bring a tear to the eye of efficiency experts. It really makes things go a lot faster if there's someone anticipating the process to hand the cabinet-maker tools, nails, planks, pencils, screws, gin-and-tonic, and that vital bit of stuck-together wood she was using to space shelves, so that she doesn't have to stand up or climb down ladders every two minutes.

It made, I have to say, my feminist wossnames incredibly happy. Not just the self-determination of bookshelf building - and I will look at those shelves for ever after with nostalgic joy because Jo built them and I helped - but something about efficient women with power tools. All Rosie the Riveter. Definitely speaking to that bit of me that's only mostly heterosexual, possibly because the patriarchy.

So I have five spanky new bookshelves, and my books are Housed, dammit, and all we have to do now is work through the mutual and perfectly symmetrical guilt feelings that have arisen because Jo feels bad about me paying for the materials for her Project, and I feel bad about all the time she's spent building me bookshelves. We freely admit that these are entirely irrational feelings that have nothing whatsoever to do with the considerable pleasures and achievements of the process, and that the two impulses do cancel each other out. The gin definitely helps.

And, look! Bookshelves! All full of books! (or, to be perfectly accurate, books and DVDs. I have a DVD problem too. Memo to self: Go digital. But not too digital. Because some things need to be tangible, and you can't help friends make furniture for your Kindle files.)



Friday, 13 June 2014 08:46 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Right, well, thank fuck that's done. I emerge from two weeks with my head down on this bloody paper, having just sent 6000-odd words off to my nice ex-supervisor so that she can confirm my argument isn't actually on crack. I am buggered. I've been putting words onto the damned screen for up to six hours a day for two weeks from the midst of a 15-volume pile of critical tomes, while simultaneously writhing with distaste and hating the universe in general and everything in it in particular, with special reference to African film and all its works. It's been very slow and torturous, and I'm still not convinced I'm safe from being ceremonially lynched by a mob of petulant postcolonialists, but the worst is over. Even if there are giant flaws in my argument I'm now editing rather than writing, and it's the writing which is like drawing blood at the moment. In the unsexy non-vampire way.

I suffer from existential crises when doing this sort of thing. I start disbelieving in my own academic existence, and it makes the writing process really rather hard. At least if there are words on the screen for me to work with I have some evidence in favour of my status as tangible and instrumental. Really, a lot of my life is spent as a sort of a wistful academic ghost.

The particular bugger about this bloody paper has been that I've felt impelled to write it to the exclusion of almost everything else. This means that I have not done interesting things to my nice house (newsflash: I still love living on my own even when I hate the universe because academia), or adequately paid attention to my cat, or done any socialising, really, that hasn't entailed jo&stv battering down my door and either plying me with food or dragging me out. Which means there was really rather enjoyable tango at the Crypt on Tuesday, but otherwise not a lot. It's not that I hate everyone, I promise.

I am also on leave for the next ten days, three of which will include an entirely self-indulgent jaunt to Barholomeus Klip, that luxury farmhouse guest lodge thing with the amazing and practically continuous food. I can't really afford this, I'm pre-emptively spending a chunk of my November bonus, but I decline to feel remorse or guilt. Stuff it. I've earned it. Not to mention the fact that it's the end of the first semester and I'm more than somewhat dead on my feet.

So, how is everyone? Are any other Capetonians cordially freezing to death at the moment, or is it just me? It's been icy, down in the 6-degree range, with snow on them thar hills. The air has teeth.  I have unearthed my Giant Coat of Sweepingness and have been sashaying up to campus every morning imagining I'm Sherlock. It adds a certain useful layer of impatient disdain to the interactions with students. I hope you are all well, and warmer than I.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
ursula vernon axolotl

As the above enthusiastic axolotl suggests (it's an Ursula Vernon, of course), I have moved! The nice removals guys whisked me across to Claremont in three hours flat, and I am tootling around the new place cautiously unpacking boxes and putting down roots. Millyuns and millyuns of thanks to all the lovely people who helped me pack over the weekend and move stuff across on Sunday, and to Jo&Stv for additional endeavours with drilling and unpacking and producing champagne. (I'm not sure if it's a good sign that almost the first things I took across to the new place were (a) gin, (b) tonic and (c) new tumblers, to add to (d) the fridge that was delivered on Friday already.) It's actually a slightly scary place, to be a lone single person attempting a move, and wonderful friends are wonderful. Also, various nice neighbours have come to introduce themselves, it feels like a friendly street where everyone looks out for each other.

I still don't have internet, of course, and, rather than producing this post by sheer power of will, I am producing this post by sheer power of leaving the computer at the long-suffering Evil Landlord's, and diving in at intervals to subdue my Tumblr feed. Telkom have variously told me that (a) they have no ADSL ports free in the area, I'll have to wait until one is freed up, (b) they have no ADSL ports free in the area, I'll have to wait until they install new infrastructure in October, and (c) (via a phone call at 8am this morning as I was struggling awake) they're busy with installing my new line at the moment and will let me know by the end of the week. I am somewhat suspicious about (c), but prepared to be pleasantly surprised if necessary.

I am incredibly tired, bruised, aching in every muscle and joint, somewhat confounded by piles of boxes, and pining slightly for want of cat, as I haven't yet moved Hobbit across. But other than that I'm feeling quietly happy, enormously self-contained, and slightly new.

Subject line is Death Cab For Cutie, who are my current driving music, and who are probably the quintessential quirky, wistful alternative band. They're only very occasionally twee.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Being a grown-up is complicated. The last week or so has been a bit of a blur, during which I've spent more time listening to the dismal help-line hold music of insurance companies, internet providers, security companies and Telkom (ritual ptooey) than I actually care to think about. The new place has a landline, but it's something weird called a pre-paid line and isn't upgradable to ADSL, so they'll have to install a new actual ADSL line. Which they can't do yet, because apparently that area has run out of ports. I have to wait until one frees up. This could take months. Things on the to-do list: gently prod the Evil Landlord to unearth from the depths of his study the IBurst modem which came with the original IBurst package which used to supply our internet, and for which he has been stoically paying for the last few years because he's never got around to cancelling it, despite the fact that we have ADSL and he never actually uses the IBurst. If he can find the modem, I can borrow it until Telkom knits new ports out of their nose-hairs, or whatever it is they need to do. Otherwise there will be internet withdrawal, and it's never pretty. I own my internet addiction with a complete absence of shame.

I suppose I shouldn't point fingers at my Evil Landlord about paying an IBurst subscription pointlessly for, ooh, five years now (I got the ADSL when my dad moved to CT, which was in 2009, so it's been a while...), because one of the more positive upshots of today's earful of hold music was that the insurance company noticed I'd been paying a minor bit of insurance on my old Citigolf for over a year after I sold the car, since they apparently didn't cancel it as I asked when I cancelled the main insurance. They are going to refund me. Possibly I can afford a kettle for my spanky new kitchen. Which is good, because tea withdrawal is possibly slightly more ugly than the internet withdrawal, all things considered.

In the Department of my Spanky New Kitchen, I now have a fridge and washing machine, both spanky. Jo came and hand-held me on Sunday while efficient little ladies in Tafelberg Furnishers steered me expertly to the maximum possible expenditure within my budget. (Salespeople are scary, have you noticed? But both appliances on special offer at around R2000 total off their value). They're delivered on Friday. Removals proper happen on Monday. The kitchen chez Evil Landlord is piled with tottering piles of kitchenware as I negotiate the tricky procedure of extricating my stuff from his. This is not assisted materially by my proverbial cheese-brain, which means any selection process is punctuated with treks down the passage to his study, clutching various items and knitted of brow as I try to remember who bought the damned thing in the first place. (His default is that I probably did. This is one of those generous divorces.) My boxes arrive tomorrow. Saturday and Sunday will be devoted to packing; anyone who wishes to come and assist is extremely welcome, I will feed them tea and/or gin as required.

Also, if you've bagsed books from the giveaway piles, please can we arrange for you to collect them or me to deliver them in the next few days? I'm going to need that floorspace...

Isn't it weird that you can hear a song over and over again until it's part of your general musical background and the lyrics are a pop-culture commonplace, and yet the identity of the singer can be a total shock? Who the hell is Jona Lewie? I always assumed the song was from Men Without Hats or Men At Work or some other early 80s all-male outfit not necessarily with "Men" in the title. But I suppose the 80s were also a bit of a blur.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Life got a bit complicated recently, what with mad fraudulent incursions on my credit card (my bank is on it) and the discovery of potentially dodgy moles on obscure portions of my anatomy (my dermatologist is on it). I am also, reluctantly and with trepidation, looking for my own place to rent, thus disrupting a working relationship with the Evil Landlord which has lasted for 15 years, but which has become a somewhat different space-sharing prospect with another human being in the mix. I'm feeling a bit ... beleaguered.

I shall thus distract myself randomly with random things. We keep a notepad stuck to one of the kitchen cupboards, with a stub of pencil balanced precariously on top of it (it only falls off frequently rather than continuously), for purposes of a running reminder list for groceries. While this normally reads, with a moderate degree of sense, things like "Trolls" and "Eggses" and "Earl Grey, dammit!", on occasion (usually following a Sunday night in our kitchen with added jo&stv) it blossoms forth into what I can only describe as cryptic graffiti. I have taken to carefully preserving these effusions for posterity, and the other day found a whole stash in a random pile of paper on my desk, which I have scanned, and which I reproduce for your delectation. (I cannot reproduce the one that read, in shaky trailing letters, "SEND HELP...", because I left it incautiously on my printer, which this morning grabbed it and madly overprinted it with four different entries denoting the $1 attempts of TENSO COM TOKYO to fruitlessly charge my credit card. I apologise for this careless trashing of a possibly priceless artwork. For a given value of "artwork").

The ones I can reproduce are more in the order of a free-form, possibly avant-garde, artistic riff on the genre of shopping list. Thusly:

fridge 1 fridge 2

"Honey" was actually a shopping list item and is actually in my handwriting. I should hasten to report that as yet Chez Extemp/EL is not graced with flamethrowers, trebuchets, robots of any size or a small cow, although all of the above would be handy for my current sense of beleaguerment. Also, I could do with a touch more surreal in my weekly grocery quests. (If "Trolls" aren't surreal enough).

Have a lovely weekend!


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