South Park Self

five more things

  • I would not have believed until it happened the sheer level of relief occasioned by the arrival of a new lightning cable for my Ipad. The old one had semi-disintegrated, it had worn at both ends to the point where the only way I could transfer Stardew Valley files between the Ipad and the desktop was to seize the neck of the Ipad end (already taped up with duct tape and toothpicks to keep it straight), wiggle it until it beeped, and then hold it in exactly the right position with my right hand while I frantically and ineptly transferred files on the pc with my left. Also, charging the Ipad entailed laying the cable out in a straight line and moving it millimetre by millimetre until the charge bar went green, then putting heavy things on everything to hold it in place and fence off the cats. As I darkly suspect that the weakness at the cable ends is a deliberate Apple ploy to make us buy more overpriced specialised peripherals, I have wantonly researched and acquired the most durable, by internet review, non-Apple replacement. (FWIW, Anker). *makes rude signs at Apple*.
  • Work is very boring, which I think is a combination of work actually being very boring (we're in the post-curriculum-change-period doldrums), and my state of health - I am still very glandular and sinusey and perpetually exhausted. I think a 'flu bout may be incoming, but in addition, following, weirdly enough, someone's Tumblr post diagnosing pre-serum Captain America, I am mentally resolving to research CVID and go and see an immunologist or rheumatologist or some such fancy specialist. Because the constellation of symptoms was startlingly familiar, and, frankly, bored.
  • Jo&Stv have inveigled me into attending the Grahamstown arts festival in June/July! I have not been for many, many years, the one time I did was in early postgrad, that epic five-person camping expedition with various Andrews and an elderly family VW Combi which blew a head gasket in PE on the way back, stranding five broke students for an extra two nights in the middle of a minor social meltdown. I remember Grahamstown being fun, but cold. Jo&Stv have booked a house and we're flying, so, water restrictions permitting, I confidently expect this to be a far more grown-up event. Also, they are generously standing me the plane ticket as a birthday present, because they're lovely that way and I'm kinda broke.
  • I spent part of the weekend re-reading Katherine Addison's Goblin Emperor, mostly because dragonlady has been blogging her responses, and it reminded me how much I loved the novel. It's becoming a comfort read, that must have been my, what, fourth or fifth re-read? It's incredibly interesting world-building, but mostly it's a deeply emotionally satisfying read in the same way that I find Jane Eyre or Fanny Price satisfying: gentle, empathetic main characters whose horrible experiences of abuse have not eroded their basic core of steely resolve to be decent. I love watching them triumph against the structures and bastard individuals who try to oppress them. It's the kind of vindication of decency that's very consoling in our current state of general global political fuckwittery. I recommend the novel. keeping the names straight will bewilder you, but it's worth it.
  • Gosh, this seems to be sort of working. Go five things structure. Also, it gives me happy early-internet flashbacks to be coding the bulleted list in basic HTML. I used to put up my own websites via FTP and with files coded in HTML in Notepad. Backwards. Uphill both ways. Through the snow. There is something pleasingly structured about HTML tags, I always enjoyed their logic and found it intuitive. Probably because, weirdly enough, of a typing course I did in my last years of high school, which left me touch-typing but also introduced me to very early word processors, all green screen and WordPerfect (remember WordPerfect?). WordPerfect used anglebracket commands rather like HTML, I remember at one point diligently coding substitutions for ten green bottles hanging on the wall to end up with ten purple marshmallows sticking to the ceiling, which somewhat disconcerted the teacher. Of such things is our early imprinting made.


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South Park Self

five things

  • I am stealing a format from Scroob, with thanks, because I am finding it difficult to blog at the moment and I think her five things approach may help. It's a pleasing combination of structured and random, and has the potential to address the almost complete absence of mental energy which is currently preventing me from assembling a sustained post. I am, alas, in the usual post-registration doldrums, the semester has quietened right down with precipitous suddenness, catapulting me from "over-extended" to "bored" on the turn, which always has the effect of shutting my brain and energy right down, possibly into recovery mode. Psyches. So weird.
  • I trundled off to see Captain Marvel with my sister yesterday morning, in my favourite 9am Sunday slot because the maximum of about five people in the movie theatre always soothes my misanthropic soul. I wholeheartedly recommend the movie: at last, a female-led Marvel film, whose female direction, scripting (Kelly Sue DeConnick consults) and costume design were palpable throughout. Not just a worthy female lead, nicely cast and played, but an intrinsically female narrative: her fight is against very male forces who manipulate, gaslight and suppress her at every turn, and her eventual triumph is deeply satisfying. Also, great special effects (her powers towards the end are amazing and very shiny), music (90s!) and humour (her interplay with Nick Fury is gold). Also, flerken. I'm just saying.
  • My personal possibly-flerken are doing fine. Jyn has apparently recovered completely from the Mysterious Mouth Abscess of Doom Which Baffled Vets, and has regained her customary swagger. It was a weird place for an infection, right back on the hinge of her jaw, and we can't work out what would have caused it, there's no way it could have been a bite, animal teeth aren't long enough, unless someone has been breeding sabre-toothed moggies locally. Best guess is that she got jabbed with a bit of stick from one of my potplants, and it got infected. Most mysterious.
  • Load shedding has been temporarily suspended, calloo callay, it was getting very tedious. Although apparently it could start again at any moment. This city is feeling more and more dysfunctional, the current school holiday season is making me realise how incredibly horrible the roads are during rush hour when schools are actually in session. Not just because they're overcrowded, but because road manners have deteriorated to the point where people jump robots almost at will. It's very eroding to my sense of safety and belonging, it feels as though the social contract is dissolving - which, given that the city can't currently supply adequate lights or water, it really is.
  • Tumblr has vouchsafed to me Nathan Pyle's Strange Planet, which is a reflective, poignant, happily strange little exercise in unperturbed defamiliarisation. Go read. And imagine pleasant nonsense.


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South Park Self

kitbull

In honour of Jyn nearly being a large German Shepherd called Max, which might be thought to override my general tendency, despite notable exceptions, to be Not A Dog Person, have the latest Pixar short, which is very, very poignant about pitbulls.



It's very beautifully animated and made me cry. In a good way.

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South Park Self

A CAT IS NOT A DOG

Jyn is home! She was almost a large male German Shepherd called Max, owing to an interesting mix-up when I collected her - it was a slightly surreal conversation with the vet, in which I was feeling a bit too tired and British to correct the vet's wrong pronoun, and there were sufficient overlaps in the cases (operation for removal of large lump in the mouth) that it became apparent only a few minutes in that the vet had identified me as the wrong owner and grabbed the wrong printout. As I assured both the vet and the actual owners of Max, I would almost certainly have noticed, eventually, that I had a large male German Shepherd rather than a small female ginger-and-white cat, at the very latest when he tried to sleep on my feet. But probably when I tried to fit him into the cat-box.

The difference in Jyn is astonishing: she'd been doing, I think, that very feline thing of concealing how awful she was feeling, but even so I hadn't realised how comparatively quiet she was over the weekend until the vet brought the catbox out and Jyn flung herself at the bars, purring like a loon, and I though, oh yes, she's actually like that, isn't she. She has been volubly and physically hyper-affectionate, and spent last night running up and down and shredding Kevin, the doomed leather-covered chair in my living room, a sure sign of joy. I think she's still in some pain, she's only eating in small, cautious doses, and she has a magnificent whisky-and-cigarettes contralto purr owing to having had a tube down her throat while they drained the infection, but she walks with her old swagger and is clearly feeling much more herself. I have serious painkillers for her which I have to syringe down her throat daily, and I hope they help; they certainly render her somewhat stoned, if the size of her pupils is anything to go by. But I know from bitter experience (I used to suffer horribly from abscesses and boils as a child) quite how painful an infection can be, and how much it poisons your whole system, and I remember vividly the huge relief when the bloody thing has drained.

I am now faced with a conundrum, however. This is the third abscess she's had in two years, and the second that has blown up quickly and nastily enough that it's had to be lanced. She can't be fighting, they are only ever out in the courtyard when I'm at home, and I haven't seen a marauding cat in the house in six months or more. She has no access to anything like garbage which might be giving her infected scratches. She was tested for FIV and FLV, she's purportedly negative, and her vaccinations are up to date. Why the hell does she keep getting abscesses? The vet is as stumped as I am. It a mystery.

But I'm hella glad she's back and ok. I don't see how I could have reasonably spotted this any sooner, it was, by the vet's own admission, an abscess in a bizarre and unlikely place, but I still feel like I'm an incompetent cat-owner and it's all my fault.

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South Park Self

lost sheep

Is it just me, or is T. Kingfisher sounding more and more like mid-period Terry Pratchett? (This is, I hasten to add, one of the highest compliments in my lexicon). She has her own very distinct voice, but it exists very much in the same landscape as Pratchett's, the same earthy humanism, irreverence and comic timing. I am somewhat enamoured of the story I've just found, which is The Rose McGregor Drinking And Admiration Society, it's funny and acute and a sock in the eye to the die-away ladies common to balladry.

I am distracting myself with random internet wandering because I have just had to take Jyn in to the vet, she was a bit subdued and I searched her all over for bites and couldn't find anything, and it turns out she has a massive abscess inside her mouth. She's in tonight so they can keep her fasting before they operate tomorrow, and the house has only half its cat count and is very empty.

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South Park Self

my battery is low and it's getting dark

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.

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South Park Self

turf wars

Warning: minor ideological rantage ensuing. If for no other reason than the first week of term, disorganised students are demanding my attention in all directions, Eskom is running random load shedding power cuts again, and I need distraction.

This is a very interesting article on the rise of TERF activism in the UK - TERFs being trans-exclusionist radical feminists. I'm familiar with what I find to be their deeply unpleasant ideologies from hanging out on Tumblr, where salvos in a TERF campaign occasionally come over my dash, in the ongoing TERF attempt to persuade (mostly young) feminists that "queer" is a slur and should not be used. (The above usually accompanied by deft rebuttals from the actual blogs I follow, who are more or less uniformly Sensible People). TERFs don't think that trans women are women, they insist on identifying them by their biologically male bodies, and have a series of frankly paranoid outrages about "male" bodies in female bathrooms and prisons, and the "erasure" of women by the inclusion of trans women in feminist debates. TERFs are, in fact, the Mrs Grundies of feminist thinking, and to my mind they personify a narrow-minded outrage that makes them horribly akin to the closed-minded frothings of the religious right.

I am a little blindsided by how angry and nauseous the whole TERF ideology makes me, it seems to prod me with pointy sticks deep in my personal organ of justice. I think TERFs are motivated by a horrible and toxic mix of rage and fear, and while rage and fear in themselves are probably a valid response to the damages enacted by patriarchal culture, what I can't forgive is the way in which TERFs choose to respond to their anger at and fear of male bodies and cultural identity by turning on the most marginal and already vulnerable people they can find who they see as being part of that male identity. They are, in fact, punching down, with considerable malice.

And their rage and fear comes with a side order of power-tripping and desire for artificially simplified discourse; they are punching down in the service of an attempt to render simple and clear-cut debates about identity and culture which are anything but. That's what the whole dog-whistling with "queer" is about: queer identity is necessarily complex, it demands recognition and celebration of identities and identifications which don't fit easily into the male/female/gay/lesbian boxes.

It's ugly and predatory, to identify an already vulnerable target and go after it with single-minded determination, but it's also blindly hypocritical. Because if women/feminists are damaged and victimised by patriarchy, how much more damaged and victimised are those women who are born into biologically male bodies, and into cultural assumptions about male identity, which make them, whether they like it or not, a part of it? If TERFs are rejecting maleness with such frothing hatred, how much stronger and more difficult is the response of a trans woman whose rejection of that "maleness" entails so much more active and instrumental a resistance of cultural labelling? Trans women deny the male body a thousand times more fiercely than any TERF with a bathroom fixation, and they go through seven colours of hell to enact that denial. Quite apart from the costs of physical transition, our culture is getting better at gender identity only very slowly, and it still encodes gender stereotypically in ways which make it difficult and painful to resist.

I like the linked article's comments about British feminism and its comparative privilege, lack of intersectionality, and links with colonialsim; it surmises that Irish and American feminists have in many ways grown beyond this absolutism because they have been forced to accommodate experiences of subject positions based on race or colonial experiences as well as gender. TERF ideology is possibly so maddening to me because it is so obliviously privileged, but that's an insight into its workings, not an excuse; above all, I find it inherently, unforgivably cruel.

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South Park Self

another dreadful day of fear and toil had come to Mordor

Whew! Hello, abandoned and neglected internets. So... my absence can be explained by the fact that I have been running orientation and registration simultaneously for the last two weeks, which has entailed arriving on campus before 6.30am and leaving after 5 on a daily basis, other than that one day when I ran orientation for three hours, did seven hours of curriculum advice and finished signing forms at 7pm.

I have survived the following:
  • one (1) faculty admissions fubar (500 early offers of places being revoked for non-meeting of admissions threshold in final results, screwing orientation signup more than somewhat);
  • one (1) slightly above minor orientation leader meltdown (I told them to stop doing Something Bad too forcefully and they were hurt and outraged and tried to rebuke me for it, which I resisted in spades (frequent reiteration of "this is a job") because if my own job is doing anything, it's teaching me to successfully hack off at the knees the more destructively narcissistic tendencies of Generation Z*);
  • two hundred and fifty (250) extra students in my second orientation programme, resulting in 500+ students occupying a venue designed to seat 400, leading to droves of them decorating the stairs, floor and back wall;
  • several (3) outbreaks of incompetence from administrative staff resulting in the non or very late arrival of key registration elements (forms, handbooks, signage, queue marshals) to the venue;
  • seventeen (17) trips up or down my Cherished Institution's impressive selection of stairs to migrate between my office and the reg venue, in our jolly January heat;
  • one (1) intervening weekend in which I was completely unable to do anything but lie feebly on the sofa under various cats while simultaneously hosting a varied combination of aches, lassitude and brain fuzz;
  • innumerable (?) instances of the more destructively narcissistic tendencies of Generation Z*, largely manifesting as the touching belief that their particular query or crisis was clearly more important than either the universities rules/requirements or any of the other 5 things I should be doing simultaneously, and that I should be dropping everything to attend to them at length.

So, the problem, as it has manifested over the last six or eight years, is actually that neither millenials nor Generation Z* are, at base, fundamentally compatible in any way with large-scale institutions. Both are lovely generations in many ways - connected, protective, accepting of difference - but both demonstrate, by way of both upbringing and media conditioning, absolute commitment to the central tenet of themselves as individuals, unassailably valuable in their own right. That's lovely, really it is, and probably healthy in all sorts of ways, up until the point where 6000 of them (we have a large faculty) decide that their individuality is more important than our rules, policies, structures or timetables, and that they have a right to be individually accommodated. They are deaf and impervious to the suggestion that it is not logistically possible to administer 6000 special cases, and particularly not when I, a single person with no actual assistance in my academic oversight roles, am acting as the hapless conduit to this expectation.

I am, shall we say, very tired. In the sense of completely buggered. I have a week more of reg and then another week of change of curriculum, which is slightly less demanding but brings its own new and inventive brands of challenge, difficulty and upset. Then I shall crash, probably with an exciting new 'flu bug imported by a globetrotting student from some far-flung corner of the world. Then I shall look for a new job, hopefully in New Zealand or Scotland or Canada, or somewhere else cold. I am done.

* the one with the snowflakes.

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South Park Self

when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world

I am apparently feeling Hamletesque, i.e. melodramatic and slightly doomed, and as though my entire society is permeated throughout by futility and rot. Mood. My helltime of year officially starts tomorrow, when the first orientation programme kicks off, but in fact, it started two weeks ago, when I went back to work, the last week of which has been 10-hour days as I try to fit three weeks of preparation into two, as a result of the inscrutable demon powers of university management having randomly started the semester a week earlier than usual. Not only do I have less time, but large swathes of academia are still on holiday, so a significant proportion of vital logistics emails are dropping into the void like meringues into a black hole, vanishing without echo or response.

I am curiously unaffected by this. Usually I would be desperately micro-managing to make sure the clockwork of orientation and reg are grit-free and well oiled, and becoming increasingly stressed by non-responses and admin meltdowns that appear to threaten the juggernaut mechanism. This time I appear to be shrugging; I honestly don't care if it isn't perfect, as long as it more or less works. I am inclined, on the whole, to think that this is probably a healthy response in many ways, and indicative of the fact that, despite my state of career paralysis and inability to identify and power towards any new goal, I have at least achieved something in that I am increasingly less invested in this job's demands and outcomes. Because, hell, if nothing else, that restores some kind of balance in mirroring the extent to which my Cherished Institution is sure as hell not invested in me.

By way of balm and soothing, and incidentally my mandated Proof of Life and Cuteness to phleep&jo, her previous owners, have a cute picture of my cat. She very much enjoyed the gaps that occurred in my shelving as a result of the merry throw-out I had over the Christmas break.



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South Park Self

duck and cover

This is one of my least favourite times of year: it's the deep breath before all the crazy hits. Orientation is the week after next, a week earlier than usual owing to semester scheduling shenanigans from the Powers That Be, and I am frantically finalising orientation and registration material and logistics while simultaneously fending off almost continuous emails and phone calls from panicky students and, worse, their parents, who absolutely have to see me, only me, in advance of registration to assuage their panic. (Spoiler: they almost universally don't actually have to see me. I have a no-you-don't cut and paste paragraph for emails which I am employing vindictively and with extreme prejudice.)

I hate this time because of the continuous, niggling, inescapable sensation that there's stuff I haven't done yet which is urgent and vital and it'll All Fall Down if I don't. If I operate true to form I'll almost certainly line up all the necessary ducks with military precision in time for Big Giant Events to run smoothly, but the fact that said waterfowl are not yet all locked down assaults me on the astral plane. I am not sleeping well, and having my characteristic recurring dreams about missing vital objects which are leading me to bumble somnambulistically around my bedroom at night, fumbling blindly with cats and cupboards and bedside tables trying to find them. Since they have been, in order over the last three nights, a massively valuable emerald ring, the heavily barded horse for that jousting tourney, and the documents required for my departure into space, there is no actual way I will ever find them, so I seem doomed to sleepwalk fruitlessly until further notice. Or, at least, until the Big Giant Event actually begins, at which point my stress levels, weirdly, go sharply down, as if I haven't done it there's no real point in worrying about it.

On the upside, the undergrad admin office appears to have reconstituted itself as an engaged and functional entity in most particulars, so I hope this will be a Better Year than last year. Oh god it has to be.

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