freckles_and_doubt: (Default)

I always have my doubts about whether or not birds of prey really like being petted, but I'd say this one somewhat unequivocally does.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)

I found this on Tumblr, the photographer is Jess Findlay, and he does the most exquisite birds. This seems to be a Crested Owl, which is a South American species I'm not familiar with. They are clearly the Tolkien Elves of the owl world.

I soothe myself with surreally beautiful wols because work is hanging around my neck like a millstone, and I just endured a committee meeting in which the main item was presented by an academic who was so defensive as to be actively aggressive, and clearly expected me in particular to torpedo his proposal. He kept eye contact with me rather than the chair through about two-thirds of his presentation, and leaped on any input I contributed with instant, energetic rebuttals which largely ignored what I'd actually said. I'm feeling a bit battered.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)

Mad storm experiences have distracted me from noting that my weekend away in the winelands was lovely, thank you! Franschoek is really pretty, in a slightly Disney-village sort of way that verges at times on the cutesy. It takes its French heritage very seriously, in a plethora of Frenchy names on farms, roads, shops, restaurants, art galleries (it has a metric buttload of art galleries) and wine. It also has Damned Fine Winefarms and Damned Fine Restaurants as well as superlatively lovely mountains, so I completely forgive it the slightly cut-price rural France effect.

We stayed in an Airbnb for two nights, which was an experience in beautiful farm setting, comfortable beds, good internet, owls hooting in the trees at night, and an otherwise almost complete abandonment of practicality in favour of dubious "designer" aesthetic. Giant wooden chandelier aesthetic. Clunky giant wooden silver-painted monstrous mirror aesthetic. Random plethoras of blocky dog sculpture aesthetic. Dirt-coloured see-through open-weave linenoid drapey chunks of fabric over the windows instead of curtains aesthetic. (Including the window with its sill at knee height right next to the toilet, looking out on the patio by the entrance). Privacy was a complete no-go - one giant room with the bathroom sectioned off, second bedroom in a loft up a dicey and precipitous ladder, with no wall or curtain. (Or light source, for that matter). It's lucky jo&stv and I are very, very good friends, is all. Also: gas stove with oven, but no oven pans. No comfortable chairs. Dodgy electrics (no hot water on the final morning). Bumps in the bathroom floor. Loft shutter didn't latch, and blew open disconcertingly right by my head in the storm as I was drifting off to sleep on Saturday night.

But a beautiful view.


We did Colmant for champagne on Friday afternoon (we ended up very sloshed, the charmingly persuasive tasting dude had a rather heavy pouring elbow), supper at Foliage (excellent but not superlative, fascinating use of foraged ingredients), wine tasting at Topiary in the morning (Topiary has actual topiary as well as excellent shiraz, viz.:


).. followed by wine tasting at Glenwood in the late morning. The excitingly chunky Tuesday wol artwork at the head of this post is in the Glenwood foyer, it's blurry because I was, again, sloshed and was waving the camera around a bit randomly. Score at Glenwood, the wine tasting lady was a Known Associate of Jo's from AfrikaBurn, and gave us free wine as well as a virtuoso tour. Then we had lunch at Bread and Wine, which was, as always, superlative (goat's cheese and hazlenut risotto, and red curry soup with prawns, and roast duck breast, and incredible bread). Then we collapsed for the afternoon, and ate, small cautious amounts of supper at Dutch East, who gave us quite the best gnocci I've had in years, with artichoke and chilli, must try at home. We didn't have room for the deep fried milk tart, but I wanted to.

It was a lovely weekend. I approve of this full weekend in the winelands thing, it allows a quite indecent and sybaritic concentration of food, wine and landscape which is exceptionally good for the soul, if somewhat catastrophic to the bank balance. 10/10, would definitely indulge again.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am loving the slow, whimsical randomness of the XKCD garden, which is still sitting in a tab on my Chrome, gently accreting to no fixed rhythm or timetable. Mine has had a cat on a goat for a while, and a rather pleasing shark-fin in the birdbath, not to mention platform octopi. Today it grew a wol. Every now and then I fiddle with its lighting in a desultory sort of fashion, but it's such slow-motion cause and effect, it hardly feels instrumental. I am still inexpressibly charmed by the whole thing.

My subject line is breaking the David Bowie resolution, because {Weekday} Wol has its own inexorable logic. Not even David Bowie is that surreal. Does it count that I was playing his cover of the Pixies' "Cactus" in the car this morning?
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)
The recent Great Office Migration has come to a temporary halt while various other people play Musical Offices in the background, so I'm half moved back into my old office, with none of my books on the shelves and a noticeboard closing off the spanky new door between me and my colleague, held up by piles of boxes. (Greatest challenge of the whole procedure: trying to impress upon the Powers That Be that a soundproofed office is completely vital to her ability to function as a clinical social worker. They weren't getting it. Eventually we Heath Robinsoned it ourselves).

Having lovingly packed up my computer and carefully boxed all the cables resulting from it, the printer and the fancy Lync-using phone, I have now reassembled everything and persuaded it to work. This took no more than the expected pause for swearing at the telephone set-up help pages (a VoIP phone is fiddly) and at our network protocols, and the worst I had to do was change my campus password, which works with absolutely everything and which had somewhere in the whole labyrinthine process become dissociated so that half of everything didn't recognise it.

However, with everything up and running, and despite my meticulous packing principles, I have one cable left over. It was clearly connected to something when I dismantled it, and everything is running, but there's this cable. One of those fancy new ones with a USB plug at one end and one of those square-cross-section thingies at the other. Probably a printer cable, but I have a printer cable and the printer is working. Where the hell did it come from? Do they spontaneously replicate by binary fission or dodgy entanglements while tangled up in a box? Is one of my students a reverse kleptomaniac? I'm confused.

Failing any insights as to mysterious cabling, have some random linkery. This is a beautifully creepy and poignant Ursula Vernon story that's as much about writing as it is about anything else. And these are Owlvengers, thus neatly encapsulating two of my obsessions.

freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)

The Hidden Life of the Burrowing Owl from mike roush on Vimeo.

This is my favourite thing that I've watched in a long while. Both sad and satisfying, and the disconnect between the voice-over and the action is a thing of beauty.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am extremely bronchitissed, and am dragging myself around in a pale and glandular state pausing only for demented and unnecessarily Gothic coughing fits. Also, my mother goes back to the UK today, or will do if she can persuade herself to untie herself from the leg of the dining room table. (She really doesn't want to go). We gave her larney High Tea at the Mount Nelson yesterday in honour of her 70th birthday next month, but it's hardly a consolation.

Fortunately, for woes such as the above there are marshmallow owls. Marshmowls. A concept so utterly logical it's unthinkable that no-one has thunk it before. I have somewhat repentantly stolen this off a Tumblr blog called Courtart, and suggest you follow the link both to assuage my guilt, and because there's an animated gif version where they bop.

She captions this "The rare, medium, and well-done marshmowls." Of course.


Friday, 6 February 2015 01:40 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Ah, orientation. Today I needed to be in four places at once, all of which were malfunctioning.

  1. Departmental information talks. Classroom facilities had not unlocked the audio-visual equipment boxes. When phoned, they arrived and unlocked half of the audiovisual boxes. They came back and unlocked the other half after I'd phoned them again, while lecturers tapped and fulminated.
  2. Curriculum advice for orientation students. Only two-thirds of the advisors turned up. When I'd rousted out the several who'd gone to semester study abroad registration erroneously instead, because apparently misreading timetables is not the sole purview of students, I had three-quarters of them. The last quarter are still AWOL, which means the queues are horrendous.
  3. Semester study abroad student registration. The international office had told them to come all at the same time for registration, ignoring the careful alphabetical divisions by which we manage the queues. It was chaos.
  4. Readmission appeals committee. The usual minute-taker was wrangling SSA registration chaos, so I had to deliver curriculum reports and take minutes simultaneously. On the upside, there were biscuits.

I seem to have the wrong life, officer. It has been erroneously issued to me. Please remove this inapplicable life and replace it with one which functions properly.

On the further upside, Friday wol is ready for its close-up. Also, glaring accusingly. Because this life is not up to spec.

freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am Randomly Amused this morning.

  1. My lovely new car is a lovesome thing, god wot, but it has a rather cheap and nasty sound system. As a result, I can't persuade it to play music off my MP3 player in any format other than through individual tracks in one ginormous string. This means that when it randomly resets, as it does occasionally if I don't switch the car off in exactly the right order, it starts at the top and works down, playing my musical collection in strict alphabetical order by (a) artist and (b) album title. The last time it did this I thought, right, clearly the Cosmic Wossnames are trying to tell me something, let's just let it. In the last week it has thus played through Arcade Fire and Bed on Bricks in short order and is currently in the middle of the more than elegant sufficiency of Belle & Sebastian which characterises my music collection. I am thoroughly enjoying the resulting slight whiplash, as well as the chance to rediscover odd corners of my musical taste I'd forgotten about.

    The Rules dictate that I don't skip tracks or otherwise disturb the order, other than the obligatory repeat of "Crown of Love" and "Wake Up", because I'm physically incapable of listening to either track just once. (Other than that I have decided, on mature reflection, that "The Suburbs" is probably my favourite Arcade Fire album, possibly because "Wasted Hours".) I'd forgotten how much fun Bed on Bricks are - they're a local outfit of some maturity and skill, not to mention considerable iconoclastic whimsy ("large Nigerian..."), whose overall style is eclectic but sounds at times like Chilli Peppers circa "Californication". And, for no adequately defined reason I haven't actually listened to any Belle & Sebastian for months. They tend to land me on campus in the morning obscurely soothed regardless of how many actual BMWs have cut me off in traffic. Possibly it's the Scottish accents.

  2. I think I posted the gifset of the cute wol bathing in a previous post, probably accompanied by the horrible moist owlet pun with which it was doing the rounds. Someone in my Tumblr feed unearthed the YouTube video which spawned it, which features not only the full bath experience (bathing birds are ridiculously cute, I love the air of ferocious concentration), but the bit where someone dries the bedraggled wol with a hair dryer. This makes me obscurely happy because I have rather lovely memories of my dad doing the same to his peregrines, when they'd been sitting on their block in the garden during a highveld thunderstorm. They do the same thing the wol does, spreading their wings to dry under them. I do like birds.

  3. Obligatory BC content: the Sherlock fandom is currently all up in arms because Benedict Cumberbatch, in an interview, was somewhat patronisingly dismissive of fanfic. (Not that this is anything new, he's characteristically a bit tone-deaf to fanfic issues and tends to make pronouncements which are clearly based on extremely sketchy knowledge; I suppose the fandom will eventually stop having small volcanic eruptions about it on the grounds that exhausting). What's tickling me no end, though, is the beautifully in-character fan responses: the current meme is to pick up on the rather outrageous interviewer phrasing of fanfiction as something which turns Sherlock into "a lustful cock monster". Current games: strategically place "lustful cock monster" into Sherlock dialogue on the "in bed" principle. (On John's forehead in the drunken Rizla game scene. Replacing SHERLOCK in the opening credits. "William Sherlock Lustful Cock Monster Holmes. If you’re looking for baby names.") Design new and ever more pink and sparkly t-shirts, icons and banners declaring "LUSTFUL COCK MONSTER" in defiant capitals and sprinkle them across the internet. Summarise the fic elements he mentions in the article and write actual fanfic to match, claiming that you're allowed because Benedict did. Etc, etc, etc.

    I love this. Apart from the fact that it's given me the giggles all morning (particularly since I teach a Sherlock seminar on Wednesday afternoons and have spent most of the morning making screencaps and constructing a Powerpoint on "His Last Vow" in between internet noodling), this is the essence of fan production. Take an element in the canon text which is clearly not addressed to you (and this is almost always a female "you") and which is ignorant of your actual desires and interests. Appropriate the hell out of it. Comprehensively reject the version of you it enshrines. Recontextualise, reshape and reimagine it in ways which do authentically reflect you, and which incidentally comment somewhat trenchantly on the limitations of the original text. Share and enjoy.

    I keep saying it: fanfic is a political act. The fact that it's enjoyable is almost incidental.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am having Boss Troubles - I have a new one, and she's being hardcore and making me generally rather unhappy. I therefore console myself with wols bathing, which echoes to a curiously disturbing extent a dream I had last night about cleaning new houses and people suddenly finding themselves holding geese and peregrines and wols and things, by some sort of weird teleport process. The below wol also nicely echoes today, which is cool and rainy and somewhat consoling given the suddenly unpleasant spaces of my working life. On the upside, I'm on leave from tomorrow until Tuesday, so can drown my sorrows a bit.

Wols! Abluting! life isn't so bad.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
My mother went back to the UK last night and I'm all depressed. Have some really ridiculously cute wols. Tuesday wols are consolatory, and trying to imagine what circumstances could possibly give rise to this tiny herd is pleasantly distracting. (Other sources of current angst now available in a friends-locked post near you).


This is another of those photos which has erupted all over Tumblr and is traceable back only to other Tumblr posts (Tumblr is turtles all the way down) or to Reddit, also unattributed. In this case it's probably a good thing, knowing the source would probably also explain the tiny herd and destroy the innocent enjoyment of my imaginings.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)

No, really. It's doing that thing Puss in Boots does in Shrek, where it goes all self-consciously adorable and plaintive.

That thing.

The wol link is from the Instagram account of a lovely lady who works at a raptor rehabilitation centre, and who posts many, many fine wol pictures on which I shall certainly draw for future daily wols.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)

I have spent all week wrestling Excel and associated data sources to make sense of lists of at-risk students who need to change programmes. As of yesterday they've all been emailed and the plaintive denials are starting to trickle in. Something about the characteristic post-adolescent student state gives them a fundamental disconnect with reality: yes, I failed everything in the first semester, but next semester will be different! of course it will! by sheer force of belief!

Statistically, it really won't.

It's is actually useful, important, strangely satisfying work I'm doing here, but tired now. I propose to play Oblivion all weekend, stopping only to feed [ profile] first_fallen and [ profile] librsa supper this evening and possibly to enjoy a nice, refreshing Superman reboot tomorrow, because lingering Superman crush from when I was 16. Also, Zod. Plan.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Today I did verily sign my life away, or at least great financial tracts of it, as a result of which I have a New Car. She is cute. And new. She has all mod cons, like a driver's door which actually opens from the inside. And she's cute. And shiny. And new. With the new car smell. I keep having to go out into the front garden to pat her bonnet and confirm that she actually exists and is mine, all mine! (evil cackle). She's a Hyundai I10, which I have been driving near-endlessly during driving lessons and know to be compact and fun to drive.

Mature reflection, i.e. random inspiration, suggests that her name is Minerva, on the grounds that I'm going to inevitably festoon her with wols of various sorts, and besides, Minnie Bannister. Not to mention Minerva McGonagall. I feel the name has good precedent in the feisty lady department.

Here is Hobbit making friends, by dint of touching noses, which he did about three seconds after I parked her.

Minnie and Hobbit

Subject line quote obviously from the Goon Show, specifically The Flea, one of my eternal favourites for its unholy rip-off of Samuel Pepys, and for its depiction of Min and Henry running a flea circus.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Oh, dear. I have just had to immediately apologise for telling the nice third-year student that her request for a waiver of the rule preventing a course load overload so she can graduate this year was a fucking stupid idea. It is a fucking stupid idea, but normally, when not stressed by ridiculous traffic on the way to work, an unexpected Presidential cavalcade in the middle of rush hour (causing Zimbabwe flashbacks, so not fun), a wrestle with audio-visual equipment in my lecture (although, bonus Mass Effect burbling!) and a continuous string of plaintive students for an hour and a half without surcease, I'm usually able to phrase it more tactfully. Fortunately, my Zooborns twitter feed (and [ profile] first_fallen's gratifying tendency to remind me of posts relevant to my interests if I miss them) neatly fills the "break glass for emergency wol" function. Wol babies are quite ridiculously cute. They have tree-trunk legs, and in this case an expression of "You said that. Of course you said that. Honestly." which is either deeply appropriate, or which I'm reading into it on account of expletive guilt.

In other, non-wol-related news, I have started burbling about the more randomly academic side of my life across on my own site, which is its own domain under my Real Life name. (First hit if you google my name). The posts are aimed at my students, but that's where I'll be doing any extended wittering about (currently) fan fiction, computer games and internet culture in general, and probably genre and Gothic in the second half of the year. There may be less elevated levels of blatant fangirling because professionalism, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Annoying day is annoying. Students are disorganised and late and don't read or listen properly, and think they are entitled to whatever they want. There is a certain vindictive satisfaction in forcing them to come to terms with reality (for their own good! because helicopter parents can't shield them indefinitely from the Total Perspective Vortex), but it's exhausting. On the other hand, cute wol is cute.


I feel better now.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
A random Christmas post! happy festive wossnames to you and yours, and have a handful of randomly off-beat semi-Christmassy things.

Ursula Vernon is doing the 12 days of Christmas with things from her garden, but she has posted her usual Christmas image, this one entitled "Fake Christmas tree".

ursula vernon christmas dinosaur

As always with her art, it's the narrative which makes it. "Bob the hamster was pleased with his new Christmas tree. It didn’t drop needles, it wasn’t a fire hazard, and it didn’t look fake like all those cheap plastic ones. It did wander off occasionally, but it always came back when he filled the food dish."

Next year I'm simply putting antlers and Christmas lights on Hobbit.

In a surprise move where it's not actually David Bowie, here's a rather lovely, jazzy rendition of "Little Drummer Boy" off the Charlie Brown Christmas movie. I'm always amazed we never had a family tradition of watching that, my dad was madly into Peanuts. Of course, having an actual TV and video player at any point might have helped.

This was a hot tip off JGL's Twitter.

Finally, things ending in "olly" include "wolly", as in having a lot of wols. [ profile] dancing_crow pointed me to these, which are ceramic versions of all the Doctors as wols. They're ridiculously expensive, which is the only thing preventing me from acquiring Doctors Nine through Eleven posthaste, but beautiful and clearly worth every cent. There's something about the Doctor which visually translates very well to wols, quite apart from the pun on the hooting.


This concludes your scheduled Christmas content. I shall now proceed to have a day as much unlike Christmas as humanly possible by playing Skyrim, mostly because its snowy landscapes make me feel cooler in these damned heatwaves. Bring me another planet, this one is skraaatched.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It is utterly delightful to me that Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the creator of the Middleman, writes Middleman fanfic. Today, a Christmas card which is also a Middleman/Star Trek crossover. Also, the chortling screams of hipster mockery, "flingety-flangety-foom", a Psionic-Level-Obstructing-Telekinesis-Deterring-Extrasensory-Vibration-Inhibiting-Cloud-Emitter, the Phynberg Oscillating Framizam, a legion of angry baobab trees, and Furious Ferrets as hateful harbingers of helium-filled hatred. Alas that this show ended so prematurely. I loved it so.

In other news, Friday Wol wears a hat. Because he can. (It's the feet that get me.) He is also wishing me slightly indignant luck as I go forth to acquire, come hell or high water, a new car today. *girds loins*

The hero of Canton, the wol they call Jayne. Or something.


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