freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Life feels a bit apocalyptic at the moment, I will probably be having more of those dreams. While it's pleasantly damp and cool in Cape Town and water restrictions have been relaxed a bit, the equal and opposite reaction has been Eskom running out of power - again - and implementing load shedding - again - without warning - again. I mean, they publish it on their website, which no-one ever reads until the lights go out, or at least once the lights have come on again after going out. And they randomly switch between Level 1 and Level 2 - also without warning - which is particularly rife with complication given that the WhatsApp group for my street is prone to excitably and incoherently giving each other conflicting information about which zone we're actually in, which when read off against shifting load shedding statuses can completely obscure all logic and sense for days at a time. Honestly, my immediate environment could probably be serviceably choreographed as French farce right now. I try to plot when the lights are going to die, which they reliably don't when I expect it and do when I'm not expecting it, at which point I sigh, grab a torch and/or the gas stove for tea-making purposes, and hope to hell that the fanfic up on my Ipad at this precise moment is at least one of those 80-000 word epics which will keep me going for a bit.

Load shedding also, of course, happened on campus bang in the middle of our exam committee frantic period, giving us two and a half key hours in which administrators couldn't upload progression codes. Fortunately the essentially reactionary and analogue checking process involves giant printed board schedules and a pencil and the building has large windows, so some aspects of the whole edifice remained functional. But it's an index to the essential insanity of the season that I am, for once, grateful that my annual rant about how this whole process should be done more accurately and less exhaustingly by computers, has never borne fruit. We'd be completely screwed if it had. As it is, I am at the stage of slurring and noun loss which has forced me to reassure three separate colleagues this week that I'm not actually drunk, promise, just extremely fatigued, but the whole thing has been organised with ruthless efficiency and we are on track for final committees tomorrow.

In the middle of the post-apocalyptic whole, it's been particularly surreal to watch the abstract collapse of Tumblr, which has been my fandom and media home, if only in a strictly onlooker capacity, for six or seven years now. The venal and ham-fisted incompetents who contrive to run the site in the teeth of their own unfitness have banned NSFW images, with NSFW being defined in essential heterosexualist, gendered, puritanico-capitalist terms and implemented by an automated algorithm apparently conceived of and executed by actual chimpanzees. They want, of course, to make sure they keep on making money out of the site by selling ads and having the (awful) app in the Apple store. They have shot themselves in the foot with a small tactical nuke, taking out as collateral damage a whole thriving, interconnected and delicate ecosystem of fans, artists, small businesses and social-justice-focused communities who have made Tumblr into a vital living space despite everything the owners (Yahoo) have done to try and sabotage it. Not everyone on Tumblr is into porn or erotica or explicit fanart, but its free expression is a weirdly important thread in the whole ideological identity of the site.

I mean, capitalism is stupid and short-sighted, we know that. It goes for the easy short-term profit in defiance of long-term damage. But what the hell are these idiots even thinking, to alienate their user base like this? They are ejecting, effectively, their actual product. People are making migration plans in droves. (Many of them are coming here to Dreamwidth, which is a silver lining for me because I prefer to blog in this sort of environment and have never quite dared fling myself into the Tumblr stream, it scares me). There is no point in being "safe" for ad sales if the 10 million users have evaporated in shocked distress. Tumblr has its issues, with its community identity as much as with its owners, but its flow and focus and discourse are unique, and they broke it. I am very sad.

(My subject line is New Model Army, because the current state of my personal zeitgeist is tending a bit to the post-punk).
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I had an outbreak of Summer on Tuesday and madly encouraged the nice hairdresser man to chop my hair short, in the interests of getting it the hell off the back of my neck. It's now a shortish bob, which as per usual I will defiantly refuse to blow-dry at any price, and which will thus never look quite as sleek and grown-up as it does when I leave the salon. I've noticed a bizarre thing, though. Yesterday and today have been filled with colleagues being ridiculously and uncharacteristically chatty at me. They bounce into my office to discuss minor points, they engage me in conversation while I'm swearing gently at the photocopier, they laugh at my involuntary word-play in meetings. (I am incapable of professional meeting language. There will be play, and often metaphor, high-coloured, for the use of. Mostly people just look blank.)

I am driven to the conclusion that this haircut is possibly (shudder) ... cute. At any rate, it seems to make me more approachable. I'm toying with the idea of seeing what black-rimmed hipster spectacles do to the effect.

A quick public service announcement: the PC version of Dragon Age: Inquisition is released tomorrow. I pre-ordered it from Origin, on the grounds that it was half the price of the disc version on Loot for the deluxe edition and comes with Cool Bonus Stuff. They opened it for preload on Monday, and, the cardboard-and-string internets of our beloved country being what they are, I have been gently downloading it in the background (and swearing at the resulting slow loads of Tumblr gifs) ever since. We were at about 82% this morning. The gods willing and the geeks don't rise (or the damned cat doesn't climb on the keyboard in my absence and accidentally halt the download again), it should be finished just in time for official scratch-off tomorrow. I shall thereafter vanish into obsessive Dragon Age companion-flirting with a muffled squeak, probably for the next few weeks. Or months. Posts, and actual human interaction, may be a little thin on the ground, and unduly dragon-flavoured. Don't take it personally. With any luck they won't fumble the dismount as badly as they did in Mass Effect 3...

The car music system is still with the Death Cab. We're now in Transatlanticism, which I think is the last album I have on this player. I must acquire more Death Cab, I only have about three of them, and You Can Play These Songs With Chords is worth it for the title alone. For the record, my subject line is from "Expo '86".

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)
It's a curiously powerless feeling, sitting here on the bottom end of Africa and watching the US's utterly venal and corrupt oligarchy calmly and rapaciously affect our lives. Because it does: our culture is global these days, its supply chains and technologies interconnected as intricately as our biosphere, and with as much potential for damage. The current threat to net neutrality is giving me cold shivers, but it's also giving rise to John Oliver's take on it, which is, frankly, beautiful.

Fly, my pretties! Fly!
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I'm on leave from tomorrow until Wednesday for purposes of house removals, so today was my last drive into work from Chez Evil Landlord, a curiously nostalgic process rendered particularly apposite by its entirely schizoid mix of elements. The usual weird Thursday traffic patterns meant I made it to campus blissfully quickly, in 10 minutes with hardly any stopping in the strangely deserted streets, only to have the last three decent parking places gazunked from under my nose by other, marginally more on-time people. This necessitated me, in something of a snit, parking at the unfashionable end of campus where it'll certainly rain on me on the way back to the car. On the upside, umbrella. I do like walking in the rain under an umbrella. It's a tiny but perfectly concentrated illustration of elegant tool-using. Besides, my current umbrella unfurls at the touch of a button with a sort of joyous snap which always makes me strangely happy.

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

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

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

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

antici ..... pation

Friday, 18 April 2014 09:46 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
My fanfic habit is at the hyperaddicted stage where I'm subscribed to a whole bunch of uncompleted fics on AO3. This means, I discover, that I have evolved a particularly happy little "ooh!" of delighted discovery when another email notification pops up in my inbox to say another chapter has been uploaded. Almost a mini-yodel, really. Like a response to unsolicited chocolate, or kittens. With the particular flavour of unexpected joy which comes from the fact that, unlike most of our other common experiences of serial fiction (TV shows, mainly), fanfic comes with no guarantee of regular posting, so every new chapter is a slightly unexpected gift.

And I was thinking that my willingness to wait without guarantee of reward is about love, in the sense of how much I love these texts and am willing to commit to ongoing and erratically delayed gratification, but it's also about the love the writers have for their text, and their willingness to commit time to it on a strictly amateur basis. Unlike a TV series, they have no support structure or financial incentive which allows them to guarantee regularity. My "ooh!" of a fine morning's notification is gratitude for their time, as much as anything else.

I face with a tolerable equanimity the prospect of a four-day Easter weekend, even though within its generous grasp I absolutely have to do some serious work on this damned African fairy tale paper. I'm going to have to man up and confront postcolonialism, and postcolonialism gives me hives. On the other hand, I am deriving some slightly perverse satisfaction from the awareness that the meat and tenor of the paper are in no way going to be a dutiful survey of African fairy tale film, because (a) there ain't much, (b) I lack the time, resources or desire to dig through the arcane minutae of the home film production of a dozen countries which would be required to offer any genuine sort of survey of the not much there is, and (c) I think my approach is more interesting, anyway. Pertinent case studies, that's the ticket.

I am also deriving some small comfort from my Tumblr feed's latest offering of random surreality. I have no idea why this tickles me as much as it does, but it really does.

yo yo ma

The source is a delirious little Tumblog calling itself TL;DR Wikipedia, whose adjacent definition of the Sphinx I also recommend. In bizarrely related news, yesterday's internet eroticism lecture featured a spirited discussion of the concept of tl;dr and its relationship to internet eroticism. Of such things is my life made.

Happy Easter, y'all. In the secular sense of "long weekend". This week's outbreak of unctuous His People billboards featuring "MAN GIVES LIFE FOR OTHERS" as a news headline is making me grind my teeth.

Subject Line Gloss: I am quoting, of course, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, because I can.

still giggling

Friday, 11 April 2014 10:09 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
So, remember the Chris Evans version of 2048 I posted? a few days back? The one which caused certain of my lady friends to go "That game you posted? It's evil! there went Tuesday!", causing me to say, "Well, I did warn you" with some complacence? Celeb versions of 2048 are a Thing right now - I also recommend the one with Benedict Cumberbatch and otters. But absolutely my favourite development in this is the following sequence:

  1. Copperbadge, prominent Tumblerite who I follow because he writes good fanfic, invents the Robert Downey Jr 2048 version, which starts with ickle baby RJDs and progressively ages them as you meld them. Which is probably an obscure metaphor for something, I'm not sure what.
  2. The internet happily melds RDJs for a while.
  3. Robert Downey Jr posts the Copperbadge version on his Facebook page with a comment to the effect of "Damn you, Copperbadge!"
  4. Copperbadge posts a "Holy shit he namedropped me!" comment to Tumblr.
  5. Tumblr melts down.

I love the internet. But its ability to create the illusion that the illusion of the celebrity/fan reciprocal relationship is an actual celebrity/fan relationship, while enormously entertaining to the onlooker, is bloody dangerous. Contemplating the nested and reciprocal validations in that little exchange above is making me slightly dizzy as well as hugely amused.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Warning: if you follow this link you will end up playing 2048 with Chris Evanses until (a) Chris Evans has lost all meaning, (b) life has lost all meaning, and (c) you are curiously soothed and in something approximating a Zen state. I recommend it.

On a related note, I also recommend the new Captain America, which is the Winter Soldier one, and which feels considerably more like a darkish political thriller with good character conflict than it does a superhero movie, badass Nick Fury car chases and multiple exploding helicarriers notwithstanding. I think it's a good film, and an interesting take on the mythos. Also, apparently one can go to see the film on the third day after it opens and still have four people in the cinema, if you choose the 9am Sunday show. I love 9am Sunday shows. They're also curiously soothing. The timing also reduces to a minimum the number of people giving me patronising looks for wearing a Shield T-shirt to a Marvel film. Weirdly enough, it happened to be on the top of my t-shirt pile.

The soothed Zen state has materially assisted the trauma of being back at work after a ten-day break, I have to say. I was aggressively nice both to students and to my Troublesome Boss all day, and only pulled my stitches once. If I have to be wandering around in a post-operative stitched-up state, it's also nice to know that the histology for the bits of flesh they nibbled off me is 100% clear, no dodgy precursor melanoma cells. And fifteen stitches. The nice nurse lady counted them for me. They do them all in a giant spiral single thread, it's terribly neat. I feel like a sampler.

The subject line is Magnetic Fields, although (a) you don't get to the Chris Evans in his underwear until right towards the end of the 2048 game, and (b) I think I may have used that particular quote before for another post. However, I figure that if my life causes me to need subject lines about pretty boys in their underwear more than once in a year or so, I'm probably doing OK.


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