freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Gawsh. *blows dust off blog*. Apparently I am not in a blogging space, much, right now, which I attribute to the inevitable fog of exhaustion with which the hell-time of my year enfolds my luckless person. In this particular iteration my post-registration punch-drunkness is manifesting partially as extreme glandularity and frequent nausea, but mainly as my weird insomnia problem, wherein I wake up for no adequately defined reason at anything between 3.30 and 5am, and can't get back to sleep. This is leading to a fair amount of early-hours lying in bed while tea-drinking, fanfic-reading, playing Stardew Valley on the Ipad (not uniformly a seamless port, I have to say, bits of it are wonderful and large tracts of it are annoying me) and haplessly providing a human mattress to my felines, who appear generally to approve of my new hours. It also means I spend a fair amount of time wandering around vaguely and bumping into things, because sleep deprivation.

Last night there actually was a proximate cause, in the form of a pestilential mosquito who managed to get into the net, probably through one of the holes the cats have made in it while climbing unco-ordinatedly up the bed, and who dive-bombed me relentlessly until I woke up, activated light and vision, and stalked and crushed him horribly. The horrible sticky heat of the last few weeks may also, I think, have implicated in the sleep-failure; I hope the current trend of misty, moisty mornings and random gentle precipitation will gradually soothe me into somnia. (I also have to randomly shout-out to whoever it is who writes the weather descriptions on AccuWeather, they clearly become easily bored with "sunny" and "pleasant" and escalate into "agreeable, "delightful" and, by way of gnomic I-Ching style epigram, "after a cloudy start, sun returns".)

Jo pointed out the other day how bad a litany of despair my last few blog post subject lines have been, and registration hell-season notwithstanding, it's a fair cop; today's, of course, replicates the ostensible final words of the Opportunity rover, who ground to halt in a sandstorm a few weeks back after exceeding all lifespan expectations by just under fifteen years. I have empathised to a large extent with the internet's outpouring of anthropomorphising woe over a collection of metal and circuits to whom we attributed not just agency, but character, specifically dedication and gallantry; I particularly like XKCD's take on it. The human tendency to ascribe personhood to the non-human and then pack-bond relentlessly with it, is probably one of the redeeming features of our species. If we could work out how to force certain privileged subsets of us to apply that impulse to certain less privileged subsets of actual humans, we'd be golden.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Completely bizarre faculty board meeting yesterday, in which a senior professor attempted to railroad an item through the agenda proposing that the faculty remove all meat products from all its official functions, on the grounds of cruelty to animals. I cannot get my head around how he could possibly think that an article of personal/moral belief was at all appropriate to the faculty's official academic forum. As far as I'm concerned, it's the approximate equivalent of standing up in a faculty meeting and insisting that everyone embrace Jesus because it's the right thing to do. I am more than somewhat miffed that (a) he should force me to become a captive audience to his personal crusade, and (b) that he should demand consideration of something that affects the personal freedom of everyone in the faculty via a forum in which I have no vote. Dirty pool. And egregious grandstanding, to boot: he can have had no hope whatsoever that his horrible little proposal would have been accepted by faculty. He was making a point, possibly against the current dean with whom he butts heads regularly, but he was so out of line as to be in the next army entirely. (Kudos to our dean, though, for standing his ground with remarkable good humour in the face of rampant idiocy).

I admit, I spent most of the half-hour argument (the entirely faculty, who tend to the vociferously opinionated, leaped on board with vigour) alternately cringing in my seat and suppressing a desperate desire to stand up and suggest that the proposer was occupying exactly the same conceptual position as that horrible little court official in America who's just been jailed for refusing to issue marriage licences on the grounds of gay marriage being Wrong. But unfortunately I have to work with the man, and he's already obstructive enough.

At any rate, there was enough tension in the room that it put the whammy seriously on my tension-sensitive frondy antennae, and I spent a horrible insomniac night with my stomach in knots, unable to get to sleep until something around the order of 2.30am. Then Hobbit, bless his little white socks, chose 5.30am to start a half-hour of thumping and mad dashes through the house, which I'd somnambulistically attributed to sheer joie de vivre until the sudden, terminal, agonised squeaking made me realise he was actually dispatching, somewhat lingeringly, a large rat. (He left the corpse on the floor next to my bed, neatly laid out at an exact right angle in precisely the spot where my bare feet touch the floor as I stagger into the upright position. I am equally touched and horrified by the tribute). I was just drifting back to sleep after that when Pandora, as is her occasional wont, decided that 6.30am was the perfect time for the exercise in purring, kneading and climbing on top of me repeatedly which she is occasionally prone to. Sleep, apparently, is for the weak.

As I was leaving for work the feline tribe had cornered a second rat under the passage curtain, and were sitting around said curtain in attitudes of homicidal alertness. I was running too damned late (see 3.5 hours of sleep, above) to institute a search-and-rescue mission, and besides, I don't get too protective of rats. Two in one night suggests a plague ship may have docked nearby. If the cats wish to leap protectively into the breach, who am I to judge? Particularly given my slightly up-in-arms state of bristle at the mere concept of denying them the right to their carnivore natures. Because the Cosmic Wossnames have their own weird sense of humour, and arrange events in amusing thematic juxtapositions just because they can.

I am going to opera tonight - Merry Widow, Africanised production, should be fun and interesting and good for my sleep-deprived soul. My subject line is not Lehar. My subject line is, of course, Flanders and Swann.

my cat hates me

Saturday, 8 November 2014 08:43 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Things Hobbit has killed recently:

  1. Two geckos.
  2. Several moths and a sort of demented cranefly thingy, loudly, at 2am.
  3. The sleeper chair in my study, repeatedly.
  4. The living room carpet, repeatedly.
  5. My hand, repeatedly.
  6. My left foot, when I incautiously moved it under the blankets at 4.30am this morning. (I awoke abruptly, flung my calf into cramp, leaped out of bed with a startled yell, ejecting an even more startled Hobbit in a graceful arc to the floor, and then couldn't get back to sleep at all. I'm a little frayed. However, possibly we're even on that one, he's still sulking at being suddenly and summarily ejected from the bed.)
  7. An assortment of cat toys, including The Glittery Ball With A Bell In It, The Strange Feathered Fish, The Multi-coloured Gerbil Of Paradise and The Drug Hedgehog.

Things Hobbit has failed signally to attempt to kill in any sense whatsoever:
  1. The black-and-white local feline who wanders at intervals into the house to steal Hobbit's food and play with his cat toys.

Things that, in addition to Hobbit assaulting my feet unexpectedly in the small hours, are stuffing up my sleep patterns something 'orrible:
  1. The fine-tuned ear I have developed for the black-and-white local feline eating Hobbit's food in the small hours because I've forgotten to hide the food-bowl in the cupboard when I went to bed. The distinctive crunching noise is apparently absolutely distinguishable from Hobbit's own version, presumably on the Mothers Recognising Their Own Babies Crying principle, and can wake me out of a sound sleep and/or interestingly trippy Sherlock dreams in about a second flat. (Apparently filtering Sherlock through twenty second-year critical essays on same will do weird things to the subconscious). I feel somewhat as though I am living under siege. It's boring. And very bad for the sleep patterns.


Do not trust the look of innocent enquiry. While he is not actually killing the sleeper chair in this photo, neither is he defending the house against marauders of the black-and-white feline persuasion. (And what's with the recurring black-and-white motif, anyway? Pre-Macavity the marauding tomcat Chez EL was also bicoloured chiaruscuro. Apparently it rots the moral fibre). Rather than admiring Hobbit, who is currently being obnoxious on all fronts, pray admire the cushions, Wol, for the use of (courtesy jo&stv) and Girl Genius, for the use of (courtesy EL).
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I think I'm getting better at this, possibly because therapy. The student can tell me about her depression and anxiety as a result of her mother committing suicide at the end of last year, and I can be sympathetic and practical and hold off dissolving into tears about it until the poor child has actually left my office. The other student earlier this morning was about her brain-damaged mother and death of two brothers, and I also managed to not actually cry even though she was. Empathy makes me, in general, pretty good at this job, but it's a bugger.

There was a Teaching & Learning conference on campus yesterday, around which I wandered for most of the day, attending sessions which looked randomly interesting. It was all a bit surreal as I had approximately 3 hours of sleep on Sunday night, owing to (a) the inexplicable and unprovoked insomnia which prevented me from actually being able to get to sleep until 2am, and (b) the cat incursions at 5am which woke me rudely up from an already slightly fitful slumber. (Wake up to characteristic "thump thump thump ... THUMP" which means the drug hedgehog is being tossed around and killed inventively, with acrobatics. Listen for several minutes, thinking, damn, Hobbit, must you truly discover your inner kitten in the middle of the bloody night? Gradually realise that, in fact, Hobbit is sprawled along my shin, and has been since I woke up, which means the bloody neighbourhood tom has broken into the house in order to play with Hobbit's toys, which is frankly just rude. Particularly since he clearly ran off with it when I erupted out of bed to chase him away, I found the wretched thing in the back courtyard this morning and was impressed, despite myself, by the fact that he somehow managed to elevate himself through the bathroom window with the toy in his mouth without dropping it. I shall have to lock up the toys as well as the food when I go to bed).

At any rate, being sozzled on sleep deprivation is not a bad way to enjoy a conference of this nature, the subject doesn't call for dense theory so I could follow the good presentations and it was pleasingly easy to switch off for the bad ones. (I took my Ipad along, and whiled away the bad presentations reading porn. Fanfic is dashed useful as it looks like bland text on the page if anyone sneaks up behind you and looks over your shoulder.) I think the lack of mental energy was also good for subduing the angst levels, which tend to elevate somewhat in the presence of all these amazing, engaged, reflective teachers who are paid to do it properly and have time to theorise it instead of having to tack small remnants onto the back end of the admin job. Sigh.

My car music system has finished up the Belle & Sebastian and is merrily engaged with Crowded House, who have the inevitable side effect of making me sing along to about two-thirds of the tracks. Also, to regress mentally to my Masters years, when I shared the digs with Michelle and Dylan and the former addicted me to Crowdies. Still a slut for catchy. Also, music is absolutely and inescapably about memory and association. As stv would say, context!
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I've managed, over the last few months, to get back into something of an exercise routine, which is a bit erratic at present owing to potential heat-stroke, but averages out at a brisk walk around the Common every second day and is making me feel exponentially better about life on a number of fronts. Exercise, who knew? It takes about half an hour, striding as fast as I can, which represents a speed at which I frequently overtake other walkers and have been overtaken precisely twice by walkers since I started the whole routine. (I'm overtaken by runners all the time. Given the high prevalence of wildly fit people who belt around the spanky new track around the Common, this is extremely motivating on purely scenic grounds.)

Since it's still heat-wavy and I had a truly appalling night last night, I walked this morning, brisk exercise being extremely good for sleep deprivation, muscle tension and the grumps. This adds a merry layer of smugness to the pleasures of the exercise, since I was the only walker present at all. There were runners and a couple of cyclists, but apparently Christmas raises the exercise-commitment threshold to the point where only a sprinkle of Serious Exercisers bother. And, of course, me. Basking in the temporary and entirely illusory categorisation. Far less grumpy than I was when I started.

One of the minor joys of the Common route is the City of Cape Town's outbreak of noticeboards, which erupt on all four corners of the Common to instruct the civic-minded exerciser of the Rules. Apparently we aren't allowed to sleep, drive, dump, smoke, sell, dig, pick flowers or chop down trees on the Common. We are also officially mandated to smile at all times. I rather enjoy this. Something about a ridiculous happy face with full civic authority.


I suppose this is a rather long-winded and roundabout way of saying Happy Christmas, all you witterers, I hope it's a good one and pleasingly relaxed, as well as being based in more sleep than I had. By way of Christmas cheer for all those of you with similar fangirl proclivities who haven't yet seen it (and with a tenuous and entirely wayward puppy linkage via smiley faces), the BBC has released a Sherlock teaser for the new episode on 1st January. I'm pretty much in the zone where I don't do Christmas presents these days, but this is a good one.

freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Last night I dreamed that I was faced with the difficult choice between re-training as a doctor and re-training as a sailor. I went the doctor route (alongside Jo, sorry, Jo, it's probably about your family), and after a few slightly frantic scenes of digs cooking with fellow med students, woke up feeling vaguely terrified about having to learn chemistry again, and wistfully sad that I couldn't have both sets of skills. Something about knots and ropes and setting sails with technical verve. General hatred of my work life notwithstanding, it's not actually as bizarre as it sounds to say that wistful doctor dreams are almost certainly the result of reading really quite an unlikely amount of Sherlock fanfic over the last month or so. The strangely fetishised things that fic writers do to John Watson as a deceptively cuddly BAMF! are ... strangely fetishised, actually.

I also blame the fact that I randomly woke up at 3.30am on Monday morning and couldn't get to sleep again, as a result of which I wandered through most of yesterday on four hours of sleep in an exhausted daze which didn't, for some reason, prevent me from giving a really rather good double period tut on Dracula, to which even my cabbage class responded fairly well. Then again, I probably didn't need to demonstrate the fact that I can babble entertainingly about vampires and gender roles and Victorian anxieties literally in my sleep. (In this case with added postcolonialism at no extra charge, on account of dodgy Eastern European reverse invasion of London by degenerate lowlifes). However, it didn't help to be woken up promptly at 3am this morning again by Golux being heartily sick on my bedside rug. I did manage to get back to sleep this time, but the free pass she's currently getting on horrible behaviour on account of her nose cancer is wearing a little thin. Especially since the nose cancer has retreated, for its own inscrutable reasons, to a small black spot rather than a giant black sore, which is either sinister or encouraging, I'm not sure which.

We have set a date for the vetination of Macavity early next week, following a slightly drunkenly uproarious session of dinner and cat-fondling at our place on Sunday night. Currently the major challenge is going to be preventing Carlo from exiting stage left with a two-for-one ginger ex-tom deal, he seems rather taken with Hobbit. Put down the floofy ginger kitty and back away slowly, say I. He's a slut anyway, and doesn't mean it.

Subject line a quote from "Life on the Ocean Wave", which is one of those saccharine little Victorian ditties I blush to say I know entirely through the bastardised versions occasionally perpetrated by the Goon Show. On the other hand, a hasty lyric search suggests that them saccharine Victorians can seriously turn a stirring phrase.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Good lord, my sleep patterns are horrible. Last night I was totally, absolutely and completely uninterested in anything resembling this strange "sleep" of which you speak until about midnight, at which point I forced myself to put down the Avengers slash and back away slowly. Then I spent large tracts of the rest of the night wandering somnambulistically around my bedroom looking for small, random but earth-shakingly vital items on the floor that I could never find, possibly because Hawkeye was hiding them, the sod.

Today I am hallucinating Hobbit in the corridors of the faculty. It's disconcerting. (Alternatively, in this morning's somnambulistic haze I absent-mindedly packed Hobbit and brought him up to campus without noticing. Hmm. Theory. He's probably off somewhere conducting a quiet war with the deputy Dean's fluffy black dogs.) Also, I have spent a lot of today convinced it's Tuesday. Which, apparently, it isn't. Wednesday, yes? It feels more like Tuesday, but my diary begs to differ.

I have also just spent 45 minutes talking down a student who has backed her curriculum into such a corner that even I, with years of creative curriculum finangling behind me, can see no way around her inevitable exclusion. It's depressing to be confronted by a situation in which your curriculum-wrangling superpowers don't function, although conversely given the sleep dep it's not entirely surprising. However, in mitigation of this I appear to be wearing a Girl Genius trilobite pin, which I also have no recollection of putting on this morning. It's cool.

I finally banished "Me and Bobby McGee". Thank FSM.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I woke up on Friday morning with "Me and Bobby McGee" on my brain, where it has remained throughout the weekend. I grew up with the Kris Kristofferson version, which I actually prefer to the Janis Joplin; Janis gets a bit strident for my taste, although I love her whisky-soaked huskiness. I have attempted to exorcise the earworm by hauling out my guitar, which I haven't touched in about a year, and (after a rather extended tuning episode, gosh I have neglected the poor thing, it was about a minor third out of tune) footling around with the song's slighty basic chords and pluck pattern, but it's still rattling around my skull. Currently I have the Kristofferson version on repeat. It may be helping. I wish, however, that my brain wasn't so damned random with these things. I mean, please. Bobby McGee? Honestly. I haven't heard the damned thing in years.

I am feelin' nearly faded as my jeans on account of my sleep patterns, which appear to have been woven, over the last few days, by that spider they gave the caffeine to. I'm twitchy and insomniac, and when I do get to sleep I have nightmares: last night was notable for multiple wakes in which I crouched on the end of my bed saying "please don't" in accents of pitiful terror to the man with the rocket launcher. In retrospect I think he may have been Agent Coulson, which is sad, as I'm fond of Agent Coulson. Phooey. Tonight I shall mix a double dose of the sleeping tabs with a shot of rum, and damn the torpedoes. Bored now.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Oh, dear, it's that time of year again: the time when a giant fun-run of some sort comes pounding past my bedroom window at 6am on a Sunday, causing really quite transcendent quantities of sleepy swearing, and a wistful longing for caltrops. They never bloody warn us about it, possibly in perfectly rational fear of the caltrop response. The road outside is all festooned with cheery, inspirational billboards inciting runners to greater heights in the name of health and charity, which as far as I'm concerned they absolutely don't need, being ridiculously cheery as it is. Nothing like wakening from a sound slumber to the strains of pounding feet, panting, and loud, jolly interchanges of exhortation and mutual support. Bastards. On the other hand, about half of the posters opposite our gate appear to have been ripped from their backing, which suggests that some of the runners find the slogans the precise opposite of inspirational. Heh.

It was all doubly ironic this year, as I'd just hung a new curtain in one half of my bedroom window, its darker fabric a deliberate attempt to cut out more light so I can sleep later in the mornings. Doomed. Sod's law for you.

Right, annual mini-rant over. I shall now return to the bosom of Dragon Age II, which I have rediscovered under the twin spurs of not enough sleep/concomitant lack of brain, and vague political interest. I'm playing a male Hawke, as I'm interested in seeing how it changes companion and NPC interactions. Today's fascinating geo-political ramification: apparently I'm much happier with playing non-Lawful-Good if the avatar is male. This is undoubtedly about reduced levels of identification, I caught myself thinking "Gosh, this guy looks like a bit of a bastard, let's go with the smugglers this time round." Hmmm. I suspect Anders gets knifed, too, if I last that long. Fascinating.

In other news, the house smells deliciously of gammon simmering in cider, in preparation for ham rolls to have with popcorn movies this evening. Rude awakenings notwithstanding, I am having a Good Day.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Sleep! I love it! it knits up the ravelled sleeves of wossname. It's therefore been a bit of a bugger that I haven't slept properly for months, being given to insomniac lying-awakes-until-midnight, random 4am-wake-ups for no adequately defined reason, and, most annoyingly, a horrible tendency to wake up at 6.30 sharp every morning in sublime disregard of the fact that even on a work day I don't really need to be ambulatory any time before 7.30. (I'm beginning to suspect that Hobbit may be fiendishly prodding me awake with feline mind-waves just because). I am consequently a little frayed. Also, I'm not remembering my dreams, which causes me active distress.

Part of the not-sleeping is probably because the road to reunion with the gym has been rocky and intermittent and horribly spiked by Dragon Age, and I'm not getting enough exercise. Part of the not-sleeping is probably angst. Excessive tea-consumption may also be implicated. But a lot of it is because the mattress on my bed is probably in excess of a decade old, dating back to the antediluvian period when [ profile] friendly_shrink and [ profile] egadfly were married and sleeping on it. (And incidentally accounting for the fact that it's an extra-length bed, which gives my toes wonderful quantities of wriggle room and has my vote). Thus, in a rare moment of active agency, a week ago I went forth and ordered a new mattress from a random but high-class mattress establishment.

Weird thing: I know my old mattress was ancient and too hard and not entirely ideal, although I was used to it and wasn't conscious of discomfort. But the morning after I ordered the replacement, I woke up with a sore back, and continued to do so for the week and a bit before the new one arrived. Clearly the simple action of arranging to acquire a new one constituted notification and permission to my back, which promptly went "Oh, right, now that you mention it I've been horribly uncomfortable and it's ALL YOUR FAULT, *martyrdom*." Psycho-somatic doesn't even begin to cover it.

The new mattress arrived yesterday, and was inserted into the bed with insane efficiency by clearly highly experienced mattress wranglers, who also took the old one, presumably out back to shoot it. The new one is a hard mattress (which I prefer) with that softer surface on it so your hips don't dig in, which means it's like sleeping on a steel-boned fluffy cloud. I had a wonderful night's sleep. My back is much better this morning. I confidently expect The Return Of The Trippy Dreams any time now, although the disruptions to routine and day-length of an Australia trip may put a dent in that somewhat.

But I also have to report: buying a mattress is weird. It entails wandering around the shop and solemnly lying down on all of the ones the nice salesman person recommends, contorting at his command into exploratory attitudes while he earnestly briefs you about technical mattressoid subjects. Lying on a bed talking to someone is an uncomfortably intimate sort of thing. The context in which you do it is really only with a lover (or in hospital, I suppose, although the vibe is very different). I could see a niche for strange pervy mattress salesmen, which fortunately this one absolutely wasn't.

In other, non-mattress-related news, Wednesday Wol has a stupid expression. Courtesy of stv. Because he knows me well.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I arose betimes this morning, owing to the ungodly necessity for a dentist's appointment at 7.30am. I'd be more bitter about this hideous intrusion into my righteous vacation oversleeping, except that (a) it was the only time available because my dentist is very popular, which is because he's very good, which is curiously reassuring quite apart from his lovely chairside manner; (b) when I'm still fuddled with sleep is not a bad time to have to endure sharp pokey things in my mouth, I'm honestly not noticing much; and (c) as a reward for virtue, he pronounced my teeth absolutely fine and cleared for Christmas. Take that, cosmic wossnames!

I then bounced around like a completely mad thing and achieved enormous amounts, including the last of my Christmas shopping, a visit to the police station, and the proofing and delivery to the graphic design company of the final vacation-infesting work project I needed to hunt down and kill. This last was disgustingly filled with layout errors - I'm red ink to the elbows and feeling vindictively satisfied. I am by no means a layout professional, but I've done quite enough of it in an amateur capacity to become extremely testy on the subject of ham-handed hacks who ignore the logic of header levels and don't bother to re-format tables after they've stripped the coding from the Word doc. In revenge, they're going to have to deal with the efforts of my minion who formats indents with a long line of spaces. Hah. Also, people still do that? Good lord.

The police station was for an affidavit, which was annoying in the extreme, and makes me rather regret my own Lawful Good tendencies. I'm really very Lawful Good. I pay my television licence annually, on time, despite the fact that I honestly think the last time I watched anything on TV was about three years ago, just before that big winter storm wrapped the TV antenna in knots and stuffed the reception. When my dad moved into frail care I goodly acquired him a separate licence. Now that he no longer needs it I haven't renewed it, which means I'm receiving increasingly querulous and threatening text messages from SABC, invoking legal action. It transpires they won't call off the lawyers until they have a copy of the death certificate, plus a signed affidavit from me testifying to the fact that the TV wasn't mine and has been given back. I am effectively being punished by acres of red tape for the fact that I'm obeying the rules - if I'd followed the general principles of about ninety percent of my South African brethren and hadn't bothered to license the wretched thing, I wouldn't have to go through this. But Lawful Good prevails. Bugger it.

It does, however, explain why I'm getting such an unholy kick out of Smallville - I'm onto Season 2, which is giving me giggling fits at intervals for no adequately defined reason. Superman, as superheroes go, is really the definition of Lawful Good. Smallville is a cute puppy, really short on brain but adorable and affectionate and inclined to chew your shoelaces. It deserves a post of its own, which I shall perpetrate in the none too distant future. Because I can. Besides, Superman. Or at least Clark Kent.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
So much for the good intentions, such as the road to Hell is paved with. Allegedly. Went to bed early on Friday night in a spirit of Sid-appeasement, couldn't sleep because the nice cleaning lady is in the rising phase of her "put too much softener in the washing up" oscillation, and my sheets made me itch. (I shall remonstrate gently with her on Friday, and itching levels will sink until she starts forgetting again. However, in a sneaky move I have also diluted the fabric softener even further. Like watering the whisky, only more legitimate and rather less sacrilegious). It was an annoying night. Not much sleep.

I re-watched Sherlock Holmes on Saturday night and thus went to bed slightly late, planning to sleep in. What happens? the annual fun run that pounds past my window sometime in November every year, chose to pound past at 6am. On a Sunday. Currently this fun-run phenomenon is making me glad I'm a role-player, and thus have the mental furniture necessary to think wistfully of caltrops. (A spirited supper discussion last night arrived at the conclusion that they'd have to be (a) giant caltrops, to go through cushioned running shoe soles, and (b) invisible, so the runners can't dodge them. Further endeavours in this direction are currently stymied on grounds of practicality. SEP field wanted, cheap). All in all I am very short on sleep, and found it very difficult to wake up this morning. Also, dire forebodings are possibly borne out: I have a sinus headache this morning. We braaied last night. Suspicious. Very suspicious.

I can, however, thoroughly recommend the experience of reading the entirety of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes corpus before re-watching the film. I loved the film first time round: its vision of Victorian London is very vivid, appropriately noisy and grimy, and full of almost Dickensian life. I also enjoyed its interpretation of the characters and of the Holmes/Watson dynamic. I have to say, a great deal of the above is actually there in the stories, implicitly or explicitly. Holmes as an action hero is not too much of a stretch: he refers to his skills in baritsu and singlestick at various points in the stories, and there's also reference to him winning a bout against a prize-fighter at a boxing club (in The Sign of Four - although probably a gentleman's boxing club rather than the fight ring depicted in the film). Watson, however, is always the one with the gun, and the assumption is that he's there as muscle.

Holmes is a master of disguise in the stories, frequently taking in Watson with a persona; his personal eccentricities, including clutter, untidiness, depressive and reclusive episodes, cocaine addiction and the tendency to shoot holes in his mantlepiece, are spot on (see, particularly, "The Musgrave Ritual" for Watson having a little domestic whinge to himself about his room-mate's living habits). The marrying-Watson-off thing is perfectly correct, it happens very early in the stories, and many of them are either told in flashback to the time when Holmes and Watson shared rooms in Baker Street, or involve Watson taking time off from his wife and practice in order to accompany Holmes on an investigation. To my enormous pleasure, the film is sprinkled with decontextualised but appropriate quotes from the books, including the comment about Watson's "grand gift of silence", which has always been one of my favourites. And, finally, in the broadest thematic terms the plot of the film is the same as the plot of The Hound of the Baskervilles, which makes me very happy.

I quibble, however, with Irene Adler. I think it's absolutely not cricket to give Holmes a love interest: the stories consistently and unambiguously portray him as intrinsically celibate, if not sexless. While Irene Adler is "the woman" to Holmes, she's only marginally present in the stories, and their connection is intellectual, not emotional: she's a worthy opponent, not a love interest. Watson specifically notes that "It was not that [Holmes] felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind ... as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer" ("A Scandal in Bohemia"). I adore RDJ's Holmes, he's a compelling creation, but he's more vulnerable and considerably more human than Doyle makes him, and no more so than in his weakness for a woman. Irene Adler in the film thus falls into my "Osgiliath/Faramir" category of fan irritation at adaptation choices. Phooey.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Oh, dear, it's a Red Bull day - or at least a V day, given that [ profile] wolverine_nun introduced me to this rather more palatable equivalent, and there's still a can in my cupboard. I'm very stressed at the moment, and it's exacerbating my insomnia to new and baroque heights. Last night I became convinced that my bedroom smelled funny, with a sort of sharp, chemical pong, as though a local factory had suddenly ignored all pollution controls and was emitting something sulphuric and slightly charcoally. My throat closed, my eyes streamed, I coughed and sneezed, and sleep, laughing cruelly at the sleeping pills I fed it, eluded me quite. I wandered around the house for ten minutes trying to isolate the smell, and couldn't smell it anywhere else. When I went back into my bedroom, I couldn't smell it there, either. I think I may have dreamed it, in that half-asleep hypnagogic state which is all I achieve for about four hours at a time when insomniac, and my sinuses obligingly jumped on the bandwagon. I finally got to sleep around 3am. It was ugly. And I have to be enthusiastic and inspired about the Harry Potter movies for an hour and a half this afternoon. Aargh.

However, by way of consolation, Randall Munroe has updated the Map of Online Communities, which I would still give to my internet culture students if I thought they'd get a fraction of it. Sigh.

The V is making me feel rather more awake, but now my teeth are furry. Phooey.
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Hmmm. Last night I dreamed I was in some sort of totalitarian state with a Vaguely Victorian feel to it, climbing through dilapidated skyscraper tenements in order to discuss anarchic revolution plans with bands of youths in colourful top hats, and later loading the car so the pregnant lady and her teddy bear could escape. (She didn't, although it's always possible the teddy bear did.) I diagnose a steady diet of Echo Bazaar on top of a week of almost wall-to-wall student queries, preparatory to next week's first week of term.

The first week of term is known colloquially as Hellweek to curriculum advisors, on account of the tendency of every single undergrad student plus their droogs, dogs and incontinent porcupines to randomly drop and add courses throughout the week. The inalienable right of the common or garden student to change their minds is enshrined in our faculty vision, but it's a bloody exhausting process. On the upside, once I've suitably wrangled this complicated timetable for 40+ advisors into something like order, most of it won't actually have to be done by me, leaving me to deal with only the particularly demanding, labyrinthine or eccentric cases. Hmmm. There's a flaw in my reasoning somewhere.

I am very tired. Did I mention that I'm tired? Five days of continual demands from non-notice-reading students are very tiring. On the upside, Friday! I seriously need to sleep late for a couple of days, although with the Hobbit's new tendency to climb onto my chest and bite me lovingly when he wants breakfast, this may be Doomed.

Mostly, though, I think I'm depressed because everyone in the whole world except me is at ComicCon. Phooey.
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I don't know if it's the weather (which continued hot until about five minutes ago, when it started raining, yay!) or the various levels of Unfortunate Event in my immediate vicinity, but dagnabbit, I'm sleeping badly at the moment. Stress always goes straight to my sleep patterns, which burgeon forth into weird dreams, hypnagogic hallucinations, sleepwalking and my current infliction, insomnia. Tried to sleep last night from 10pm onwards. Couldn't, other than snatches of a light and uneasy doze punctuated by the cat climbing on me, and perambulation. Got up four times: (1) arose with sudden conviction I had to be somewhere and do something important; donned dressing gown upside-down, got to door before realising the urgency was entirely delusional; (2) car alarm went off randomly and for no reason, got up to check house wasn't being carried away bodily by burglars (apparently not); (3) repeat of sleepwalking episode, but with other dressing gown on inside-out; (4) random rain started, got up to close windows, whereupon the rain stopped. I think I finally drifted off somewhere around 2.30am, waking up just before 6 for no reason known to science. I am inutterably frayed today. Therefore, I shall console myself by talking about random interesting books.

This lot is all Scroob's fault. One of the huge advantages about bloggery is the way that it acts as a sort of life record: it makes you realise precisely why all those eighteenth-century ladies wrote journals, in case they ever needed to remember the exact day on which they were so rude to the Duchess of Plin at the garden party, and who was listening. I quite often resort to my own deathless prose in order to work out when I was doing what where (although not whom), and in one of those forays recently stumbled over the comment in which Scroob recommended The Spellman Files. I'm not sure why I didn't follow up the suggestion at the time, but I've just finished the first two books in the series and am about to embark on the third. I'm captivated, mostly by horrified fascination mixed with amusement and narrative glee.

Lisa Lutz's The Spellman Files is a sort of demented private investigator/dysfunctional family saga, following the antics of Izzy Spellman, who has been working for her family's private investigation firm since she was a child. The upshot of her less than normal upbringing is a set of bizarre, offbeat yet perfectly logical interactions with the world: the family is basically amoral, or at least otherly moralled, completely bats, absolutely lacking in social inhibition, narcissistic, pragmatic, unscrupulous, manipulative, paranoid, very tightly knit, and hilarious. The genius is in the writing, though: the whole thing is beautifully delivered in a sort of deadpan case-report tone that makes extensive use of flashbacks, interrogations, recordings, evidence analysis, footnotes and Izzy's own OCD tendency to make lists. (The ex-boyfriend list is genius. I really have to admire a girl who can assess new male acquaintances in terms of their ex-boyfriend possibilities.) Bonus in-text fangirling of Get Smart, which I really ought to watch one of these days just in solidarity and because CONTROL and KAOS are so magnificently silly1, and the new Doctor Who. I love these books. Borrow them from me. Get your own.

1 Good lord, I've just realised that Get Smart used to be on TV in Zim when I was a kid - I vividly remember its opening sequence with the long series of doors, which caused me to collapse giggling when watching the opening-glass-doors opening sequence of Hot Fuzz, which is a movie that's too bloody knowing for its own good. Also, Rowling's Ministry of Magic dropping-phone-box entrance is so a rip-off. In Hot Fuzz it's an homage, in Rowling it's a ripoff. Pay attention.

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Phooey. More Cape Town fires, this time on Devil's Peak, which means the campus is being persistently buzzed by helicopters grabbing water from the university dam. It all feels a bit post-apocalyptic, what with the 'copter noise and smoke and all. On the other hand it's been all wind and cloud for a couple of days, with that cold, heavy air that's more like a liquid than a gas. Autumn is here! I feel better already.

I'd be happier, though, with more sleep: am contemplating an Infernal Bunny Machine for disposal of my alarm clock, it's causing me active pain to wake up every morning with the bloody thing beeping while it's still dark outside. In my ongoing love affair with sleep, light is the sinister seducer breaking up the happy love nest.

Work has calmed down to the point where I can amble off and do more interesting things occasionally. I have to go into town to collect my visa this morning, which means I'll have an excuse to drop by Naga and see how many closing-down-sale items I can cram into a small corner of my credit card. This evening I plan to gird my loins, empty my bladder and take myself off to see Watchmen. Watch this space.

white nights

Tuesday, 25 November 2008 12:03 pm
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In the Department of Random Idioms Acquired From FSM Knows Where, is anyone else familiar with the term "white night" to describe insomnia? It also, of course, describes the deliriously cheesy (in the Young Brie category) 80s movie with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines, about escaping from Soviet Russia: I remember the movie primarily for the Lionel Ritchie theme tune and the frankly marvellous mid-film pas de deux of the two dancers, somehow melding classical ballet with modern/tap moves. However, she says, skilfully resisting the seductions of sidetrack, Teh Internets seem to think that "white night" in the idiomatic sense is a translation from the French, and means a night spent without sleep, presumably related to the near-polar-latitudes experience of midsummer nights when it never actually gets dark.

All of this suggests that I can't actually define last night's experience as a "white night", being as how I went to bed at ten, slept until two, woke up in a state of mad alertness and couldn't, despite application of cocoa, Terry Pratchett and soothing visualisations, get to sleep again until somewhere in the region of 4.30. Then my alarm went off at a quarter to six, causing some unladylike vocabulary to manifest. I am headachy, disoriented and annoyed; also, trying to arrange computer lab sessions over four programmes with three kinds of training or test for each of 1200 students in five potential labs is making my head go round and round.

And, in the Department Of Things Not To Do When Trying To Establish Academic Cred: consistently refer to Kipling's Just So Stories throughout an English department seminar when you really mean The Jungle Book. Phooey. On the upside, bonus academic waffle points for successfully comparing McCarthy's The Road with Gaiman's Graveyard Book in one epic, thematic analysis.
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Hah! Ursula Vernon shares my guilty fondness for The Chronicles of Riddick. I love that movie, it's so perfectly and excessively ridiculous, and I can never believe that it's actually taking itself seriously. As she says, Evil should always be Art Deco. Also, Goth as all get-out, and mostly undead. In a bizarre coincidence, I ordered a copy last week, together with Pitch Black and the Ang Lee Hulk. Because I'm that fangirly. (And, apparently, fascinated with giant abs).

The eagle-eyed who are also able to interpret LJ's fascinating take on global time zones will be able to detect that I type this at 6.30am, from my campus office. I randomly woke up at 4am this morning with a dose of aargh-my-life-is-buggered, and once my heart-rate had slowed, could not get back to sleep. (Actually, I blame the phase of the moon - I seem to do this sort of thing far more often when it's close to full). Normally I'd make tea, ensconce myself in my study and commune with Teh Internets for a couple of hours, but guess what? No computer. So I'm at work, conscious of the warm, smug, superior glow which comes from being able to email one's superior a chatty reminder with a time-stamp of 6am.

My mother arrives from Abroad tonight. There is rejoicing. Also, as usual she carts with her about half of Amazon UK. Please chalk the relevant pentacles on the soles of your feet posthaste, to assist in my sustained occultic effort to make sure customs doesn't ding her for the import duty.

And, just for the record: todays XKCD? Rude. Also, not true of my field. I've never taken deconstructionists seriously, which possibly explains the toxic wastes of my academic career. Undiluted deconstruction is not literary criticism, it's narcissistic intellectual malingering.

Last Night I Dreamed: I was leading an expedition on board old sailing ships, to access some fabulous buried find on an island somewhere. Breaking through the roof led to a huge underground room stuffed with the treasures and artefacts of some bizarre religion involving giant jewel-decorated statues of interest to the SCA. Strange forces attempted to stop us, but no dice. Later, jo&stv moved into a new house in a shopping centre, in which Naga was operating out of their front room.
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Since the damp, Cthulhoid, rotting-wall status of my bedroom is inducing lung-rot, I have been sleeping in the guest room for the last couple of months. This circumstance may, in retrospect, have something to do with the sharp rise in my bizarre sleep-walking behaviour - probably not unrelated to the fact that two out of the four guest-room walls are lined with books, and my vulnerable, sleeping brain is being warped by a combination of the seepage from all that pulp, and basic L-space.

Be that as it may, one of the many drawbacks of this relocation is that the Evil Landlord now sleeps on the other side of the wall, instead of at the other end of the house, and is thus peculiarly placed to ask me searching questions the next morning about my sleep-walking habits, since apparently he can hear me thundering around the room. This, however, works both ways. The other night was rendered particularly surreal by awakening sharply at about 2am to hear the not particularly dulcet tones of the Evil Landlord, raised sharply from the other side of the wall, in agitated litany, thus: "Fish! Fish! No, Fish! Fuck!"

I rolled over in bed, muzzily wondering if this was:
(a) Fish licking his ear;
(b) Fish landing heavily and unexpectedly on a tender portion of his anatomy; or
(c) Fish throwing up on his bed,
and, judging by the levels of anguish, plumping for (c). Then I went back to sleep.

(It was (c). O my prophetic soul, etc.)

I am immeasurably comforted and gratified by the outbreak of commiseration, consolation and constructive advice in the comments on my last post. Thank you, witterers all, I feel a lot better. The Usual Sunday Evening with the Usual Suspects (jo, stv, Friendly Psychologist) also helped a lot, especially since putting the three of them together on the sofa and liberally applying Long Island Iced Tea is productive of something perilously close to street theatre. I'm going to bed now. Maybe the room will stop spinning if I lie down.
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I don't fall asleep easily. Habitually I lie awake for anything up to an hour before drifting off, while a random succession of thoughts drifts through my hyperactive head: ooh nice warm bed, did I put the car away, have I set the alarm, pillow's all lumpy, get off my foot, cat, bother, didn't send that mail, gosh that novel was weird and depressing, darned ADT guys talking in the road, Evil Landlord really clomps down the passage, get off my other foot cat, bugger didn't finish the marking, what's that weird noise, why isn't it the Tardis in my back yard, mmmm Dr. Who. Etc. Then I eventually drift off. Except Tuesday night, when the bloody process went on from about 10pm, when I went to bed, until at least 1.15 am, which is the last time I remember looking at the time, punctuated at uneven and unpredictable intervals by AAARGH NO BUGGER OOH MY LEG'S IN CRAMP. And hopping heavily across the floor trying to uncramp it, while swearing and falling over the cat.

Then I fell asleep, at some unspecified time post 1.15am, and spent the rest of the night sleepwalking.

I don't walk far when I sleepwalk (which I actually do quite often): I usually leap madly out of bed and rush to the door, waking up somewhere en route, possibly because, yet again, I've fallen over the cat. (There's a theme here). On Tuesday night I was having repetitive instances of my favourite anxiety dream, the one where there's some incredibly intricate, complicated piece of machinery behind the walls of the room. Everyone has assumed I have been looking after this on a regular basis for years and years and years, but in fact I have, with a sickening, sinking rush of guilt, only just realised it's there. (Tuesday's one had controls in the curtain rail, which means a couple of times I woke up standing on my bed fiddling with it. And falling over the cat).

Not having done the delicate, sustained, imperative things I should have done always leads to dire consequences in these dreams. On Tuesday night it was an inexorable sort of robotic contraption that, as a result of my failure, snapped automatically into action to make both my parents walk away from me very fast, backwards, enmeshed in the toils of some irresistible machine. I came to at least twice standing in front of the door tying my dressing gown cord, all ready to rush after them. Those moments are always a bit weird, it takes me a couple of minutes to actually wake up enough to identify the imperative as a dream, and to allow me to crawl back to bed* and more or less drift off into enough sleep to re-start the nightmare.

This went on until 4.30 am, at which point I suspect my battered psyche had decided enough was enough, and refused to go back to sleep on any terms. I got up at about 5am*, finished the marking, sent the e-mail, fed the cat and spent ten minutes gazing wistfully out into the back courtyard wishing the Tardis would arrive and take me away from all this. Then I went up to campus and gave a spirited impression of a total shambling zombie giving a first period tutorial on Neal Stephenson. I think I may have referred to the author as Iain Banks throughout, but fortunately none of the students were awake enough to notice.

If there's a god of sleep, he has it in for me, is all I can say. Last night I doped myself silly with cough mixture and 'flu meds, and slept like the aforementioned god had belted me over the ear with a sock full of sand.

* Falling over the cat.


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