South Park Self

from feudal serf to spender

By way of rewarding self for the horrors of this year's remote reg and orientation experiences, I ordered myself Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and have been playing it in the evenings as far as possible given the various outcomes of the daily war between myself and Pandora for occupancy of my gaming chair. Apparently I can only occasionally seduce her away by deploying the heated blanket on the sofa. We have arrived at a semi-compromise, below:

I am enjoying ACNH, although not deliriously or obsessively, and have, shall we say, Notes.

Pottering happily about a landscape harvesting, planting, building or collecting things and meeting small, domestic goals is very much my jam when I'm tired and stressed, see obsessive re-play of Stardew Valley, incursions into things like Littlewood and My Time At Portia, and my fondness for the buildy bits of Skyrim, Fallout IV or Yonder. ACNH is more of same, although through the console lens rather than the PC, and is thus Different - less textured, less character-driven, and its cutesy aesthetic is occasionally grating. (Yonder and even Portia did it much better, IMNSHO, in the sense of being more Zelda-like, less childish).

I am enjoying, in a qualified sort of fashion, the pottering about, although its grindiness becomes repetitive a little too quickly. The writing, while in the facile sort of class appropriate to the genre, is occasionally amusing and wry. I do become a bit weirded out by the visuals, the fixed perspective is frequently frustrating and the horizon effects are frankly trippy, in the sense that ACNH denizens apparently live on a cylindrical world with a radius approximately the width of a football field. The way things move over the horizon is odd. But overall it's rather pretty and occasionally, when the art team have been let loose on a night sky or sunrise, beautiful. (Also: desperately enamoured of the museum.)

I also think I am losing potential texture and depth because I don't do co-operative play with Real People, that's not what I game for, so huge tracts of the game which are designed for island visits and social interaction with other players, are simply closed to me. (And the inbuilt assumptions around interaction infuse the gameplay rather unacceptably. Cannot, because of lack of above, complete fruit and flower collections! Maddened!) And the characterisation of the NPCs is superficial enough that it doesn't in any way substitute for the Real People interactions, and really makes me miss Stardew Valley.

Which all sounds unduly negative, but I have been playing several hours a day for the last couple of weeks, and am deriving quiet enjoyment from it, so there is clearly a lot here to enjoy despite the minor deficiencies. (I am also developing a marked habit of playing for an hour in bed in the mornings when I wake up, with tea and cats, because Switch, and it's definitely not a bad way to start the day).

What I am not enjoying at all, because I don't think they're satirising them strongly enough, is the unabashed capitalist underpinning of it all. I live in a late-capitalist hellscape, I do not need such to be faithfully and only semi-critically replicated in my gaming, thank you. ACNH is very much about Things, it's a densely populated landscape full of highly specific bits of furniture and clothing and decorations and appliances and useless modern tchotchkes, which you collect in large amounts. Even worse, its achievement and quest mechanisms are expressed in a miles/rewards/tokens system which forcibly reminds me of the one I rejected, with extreme prejudice, from my medical aid - little mini-quests all carefully calibrated to force you to grind, and sell, and buy, and grease the wheels of the whole system.

And Animal Crossing works on a system which makes you borrow money to build things; hell, you arrive on your idyllic island and the managing company immediately turns around and stiffs you with a large bill you spend the first part of the game paying off. It turns out that owing money, which gives me hives in the real world, also gives me virtual hives in gaming. I hate owing money, and you can't do anything - build, move things around - without paying large sums for it. (I am simultaneously replaying Littlewood because ACNH has given me an overwhelming desire for a fully, freely landscapable map at whim, as often as I like, without penalty).

Although it's inevitable for the glossy large-scale popular product of a massive and powerful corporation whose design techniques are clearly aimed more at marketing than at narrative fulfilment, I really, really hate that this game quite unabashedly normalises capitalist assumptions and structures and, ultimately, entrapments. The cute island getaway setting is not an escape from capitalism, it's merely another set of images in which to replicate capitalist pressures and trappings, buy and sell and borrow and consume. (And don't get me started on turnips. I think the empty notional money manipulation of the real-world stock market is vicious and immoral and disgusting, and it's not suddenly cute and acceptable because your abstract coup markers are now knobbly vegetables).

Part of the whole setup is clearly semi-satirical, in that the company characters who run the islands are caricatures - raccoons with their little grasping hands, and Isabelle as a sort of overly and superficially smiley corporate doll. But it's a nod and wink sort of jokiness which renders these corporate figures both innocuous and intrinsic - that's just, the game says, how things are. They're a bit dodge, but you can't resist them or overturn them or choose not to interact with them. They underpin everything. Capitalism, the game says, is the only game in town. And it's cute! don't worry about it! just play it! we all do! it's all there is!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is both training wheels and pabulum for the capitalist serf, and while it's a reasonably entertaining sort of gameplay amble, about the best thing I can say about it, re-reading the above, is that it's apparently energised me into rampantly politicised Marxism in two weeks, which is not bad going, given my levels of exhaustion and usual state of jaded political lassitude. Huh.

(My subject line is Preachers, "Motorcycle Emptiness", because apparently the only possible response to corporate capitalist cute is Welsh anti-capitalist semi-punk). This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

we didn't start the fire

oooh, yes, this blog thing, yes. *blows dust off it in the traditional fashion*. I knew I was forgetting something. Well, probably I'm forgetting lots of things, on account of how it's been a hellish couple of months and I am exhausted enough to have a small, limp, cheesy sort of thing in place of a functional memory. But it's more or less over bar the irritating mopping up. I survived, by dint of two months with 10-hour days and no weekends off, the translation of registration for 5000 students and orientation for 1400 into brand new remote processes designed by a giant, slow, inefficient bureaucracy and implemented by self with hindrance from same during conditions of global pandemic. I didn't even kill anyone, although the temptation was enormous at several points. I also tallied up my overtime hours this week. From the middle of January to the middle of March I worked 270 extra hours, counting extra-long days, evening stints and weekends. I am feeling, shall we say, somewhat entitled to my current state of exhaustion.

So, I had a lovely rant semi-written about last week's inbox full of sustained hissy-fit by a parent-of-student who is incensed because offspring doesn't make the cut for their programme of choice, and has been spamming the faculty hierarchy with increasingly self-important rants accusing all and sundry, but me by name repeatedly, of inefficiency, discrimination, racism, ignorance, despicable conduct, cruelty and what have you. Plus threats of legal action. And I was more than somewhat annoyed about all that, but then yesterday happened, and suddenly it all seems trivial and petty. I suppose the university catching fire would, in fact, deliver a nice hot cup of perspective.

I always vaguely expected my Cherished Institution to be burned down by angry students, not by rampaging bush fires, but that's nature for you. Table Mountain has significant fires every couple of years, we have stuffed the fynbos cycles royally by not allowing it to burn naturally at intervals, so when it does go up, there's all this deadwood and it's a ferocious blaze. There has been ash falling even out here, a suburb away, and the whole city is full of smoke, my eyes and breathing are feeling it.

But none of the previous fires on the mountain have actually affected campus - this time there were fairly serious winds, and the fire leaped onto campus in weird pinpoint strikes, and down over the freeway. Yesterday we lost three buildings (Jagger Library, the Botany building, and a middle campus smallish residence), and saw fire damage to others. The palm tree outside Fuller Hall went up like a torch, it was horrifying. We evacuated all the students from residences because of the smoke and ongoing threat, and there were awful pictures of little trains of them trekking through various suburbs with suitcases. The university apparently found beds for everyone in various hotels, and the community in general has been rallying magnificently with donations and food and what have you, but it's still a lot.

I have been part of this university for my entire adult life: here for undergrad and two grad degrees, and then working here both part time and full time thereafter. The Jagger library, with its special collections section, was where I spent a fair amount of time writing my PhD, it had a fantasy/sf critical collection which we started when I was chairing the Tolkien Society, and the lovely librarian used to order in good fairy-tale texts for me. It's all gone: the pics were horrible, the old building with all its windows full of flame. Some of the more fragile and valuable collections were in fireproof rooms under the library and are mostly OK, but we've lost a bunch from the African Studies library. The building is across the road from my office, which feels uncomfortably close, but it also feels as though a part of my own history has gone up in flames. Yesterday was awful, increasingly disbelieving doomscrolling through all the social media pics, and the weirdest sense of unreality - as if a year of COVID wasn't bad enough, now this? some kind of cosmic joke. The library going was a gutpunch, I spent a lot of yesterday afternoon in helpless tears.

This image of the sign to upper campus, which I've screenshotted from a media compilation on Youtube, really got me:

I suppose, now, we go on doing what we've been doing throughout the COVID crisis: what we can. Assess, replace, try to make it work in spite of everything. I hope the university has really good insurance. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

what DO they teach them in these schools?

We have nearly finished processing the returning student registrations, which means that currently we are doing the last-minute ones concurrently with orientation and registration for the new students. This is not an auspicious year in which to begin your university career: we are teaching largely online this year, and the remote format is going to give these kids a really shaky start to university learning, and absolutely nothing of the real university experience, which is as much inadvisable friendships, inadvisable drinking and hanging out on the Jammie steps between classes as it is actual academics. Bugger COVID, anyway.

Part of my excessive hours over the last few months has been spent cobbling together a virtual version of the usual four-day orientation programme, which has been exhausting and fiddly and at times seems to offer insurmountable obstacles, like the general inability of a large subsection of the student body to read and retain information from anything longer than a tweet. I think we have a comprehensive and largely accessible body of material here; the difficulty is in getting them to actually read it. I need a virtual version of pushing a kitten's nose into a saucer of milk, stat.

At any rate, the draft registration forms submitted for advisor checking over the last four days have revealed a subset of students who have clearly read, understood and taken to heart, and who offer nearly perfect forms requiring only minor tweaks; and a much larger subset of students who have clearly done none of the above. Exhibits in the second category including such gems as:
  • A long lament about being confused and unable to find the orientation site, to which confusion I can absolutely attest in that said lament is being submitted on the orientation site;
  • A little clutch of submissions on the form for the wrong programme, which is bewildering me because I have the forms very carefully set up so that students can only see or access the ones for their actual programme; I think they must be swapping them with each other, in lieu of the usual orientation week swapping, via the usual teenaged excitable groping, of exotic doses of 'flu from the four corners of the earth;
  • Several submissions which have completely ignored semesterisation, and presented me with a curriculum with seven courses in one semester and one in the other;
  • Those particularly inventively error-ridden forms which have tried to sign themselves up, variously, for English Masters-level courses, or Engineering maths, or a random practical course in tuba;
  • The deliriously indecisive young lady who submitted two forms, one for the BA degree, one for Social Science, including entirely separate and different majors and courses, and left absolutely no indication (a) why the duplicate, or (b) which one she actually wants. I am still puzzling over what she was trying to do.

I mean, I know the info is there. About half the students seem to find it OK, to a greater or lesser extent. Others... don't even try. Some of the kids are all right. Is that enough? This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

you and your arithmetic, you'll probably go far

There is a student in my inbox with whom I have had an email exchange lasting (counts them...) NINE emails, during which I have tried patiently and unavailingly to get him to tell me a single, simple fact: what exact curriculum change is he trying to make? He has managed, over the repeated emails, to completely ignore this, sending me cheerful two-line answers in which he variously tells me all the inventively wrong things he has tried to do to make this mysterious thing happen and which haven't worked, and I cannot tell him what the right thing to do is because he WILL NOT TELL ME WHAT THE CHANGE IS! Given that I am sending increasingly annoyed emails with careful caps, underlining and bolds to try and make him focus on the question, I am being left floored and slightly breathless at the magnitude of the reading comprehension fail he is demonstrating. Honestly, he'll never survive a liberal arts degree if he can't read a simple question. And I'm very close to the point, given my current 12-hour days and 300-odd emails daily, of simply not answering any more. Because really.

Registration continues to melt down gently, we now have 70% of students having submitted, two days before the deadline, and have processed 65% of those. The proliferation of both reg submissions and queries to my inbox is being echoed, in more concrete terms, in my home environment, by various insectoid and other incursions, which likewise give the impression of scurrying masses imperfectly contained and erroneously misdirected. The cockroach outbreak has, merciful heavens be thanked, been more or less contained by the efforts of the landlord, who replaced the rotted sink backboard (thereby revealing millions of the little fuckers nesting madly in the rotting wood, as I had darkly suspected) and then made merry mayhem with cockroach insecticide all down the skirtings. I have a few desperate stragglers, but they are punch-drunk and staggering, and I dispatch them with extreme prejudice, and the kitchen no longer skitters when I switch on the light suddenly at 2am owing to sleepwalking, weird noises or the sudden need for the loo.

The more recent problem is the hitherto flourishing violet I had in a pot in the passage, which suddenly, a week ago, went all lacy-leaved on me instead of its previously happy and stalwart green, and I picked a couple of caterpillars off it, muttered strange gardening oaths, and though nothing more of it. Except the leaves continued to get lacier, and I rooted through them a bit to find more caterpillars, unearthed one or two, and eventually got the hell in and rustled the whole plant vigorously. Upon which there was a sort of squidgy, squirming shower, and about 20 browny-green caterpillars in assorted sizes, from mini to Economy, were left writhing disconsolately on the tiles. I have done that twice more on two subsequent days, to diminishing returns, and I think I may finally have eradicated them all, but really. Butterflies are pretty and all, but there are Limits.

Oh wait. 9-email student has just got back to me, via a futile and error-ridden detour through the Law faculty, with the final, grudging admission that he wants to move to Law, and a wild and exaggerately favourable reading of his eligibility for same in terms of school-leaving scores. I have disabused him of his various misconceptions, and am left reeling slightly at the though of the havoc his particular brand of wilful misreading could wreak on the innocent law profession. Lawks.

(My subject line is, of course, the Inchworm song, which I know through Danny Kaye on the Muppets, and re-watching the gentle sweetness of which has just soothed a lot of my irritation. On Youtube. My caterpillar infestation isn't nearly as cute.) This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

To ensure lasting immunity, doctors recommend destroying a 2nd Death Star some time after the 1st

Oh thank fuck, that was The Pivotal Point. The moment, in this whole registration/orientation clusterfuck, where I have created and made accessible pretty much everything that will allow both registration and orientation to function, at least after a fashion. Guidelines are written and uploaded to a shared drive, people are recruited and trained, websites are poised to go live and have lots of people with access to them, troubles of various sorts have been shot, the whole shaky edifice has rumbled into motion and is tottering onward. If I am eaten by the cats tomorrow, or abducted by aliens, or succumb suddenly to COVID, the processes will be less efficient, and a number of people, some of whom deserve it, will have to work a lot harder to compensate, but the whole thing shouldn't fall over.

If I do suddenly disappear, incidentally, you will be able to tell it's the alien abduction from the absence not only of me but of the cats, the computers and my book collection, and also probably from the fallen placard in the back garden, the one lying forlornly amid the scorch marks on the astroturf, and reading, in Plaintive Italic, "TAKE ME AWAY FROM ALL THIS". You can imagine me waving to Perseverance and Ingenuity as we cruise past Mars, because Perseverance's adventures are making me very, very happy. (Tracy, sorry, I owe you a WhatsApp, I keep getting sidetracked by crises).

My subject line is from XKCD's Death Star theory of viral immunisation, which is an absolutely beautiful act of symbolic conflation and possibly my favourite thing to happen this year so far. (Also, the Star Wars narrative has a particular and horrible application to my twin Death Stars of registration and orientation: I kill one, then simply have to start from scratch and kill the other). If the aliens don't, in fact, abduct my willing self, and this benighted country ever gets it together to vaccinate me, every time I wander incautiously into public spaces I will fondly imagine hordes of tiny X-wings going "AAAAAAAAAAA!" and scrambling in droves to battle incoming evil. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

I do not want it, it is skraaaaatched

Not my favourite moment in completely not my favourite time of year in a completely ungodly horrible year in anyone's terms anyway.

We are
(a) running remote registration too slowly, because students don't follow instructions, so we have processed a third of our returning student cohort in three weeks and have only a week left to process the other two-thirds, which explains everything you need to know about my 12-hour days, and
(b) last night, after two weeks of wrangling in which the Law faculty tried to make me do the data crunching and I, fortunately backed by the full and pleasingly territorial might of our faculty manager, refused, I could finally release the list of students accepted for the Law major, about which said students have been bugging me with increasing fervour for three weeks, only to find that
(c) when I woke up this morning, it was to an inbox full of indignant students not selected for Law despite clearly meeting requirements, because the Law faculty, in a probably unconscious display of the if-I-do-it-really-badly-they-won't-make-me-do-it-again trope so beloved by domestic spats the world over, had completely screwed up the data, at which
(d) my internet promptly went out, which after half an hour on the helpline and crawling under the desk to diagnose the fibre box, and establishing that Octotel was suffering from either "problems" or "scheduled maintenance", was accompanied by
(e) the water going off, because the landlord spent two days this week rendering my hideous workload even more hideous by banging, scraping and SOMEONE IN MY SPACE KILL IT WITH FIRE, in order to install a prepaid water meter, for which
(f) he gave me absolutely no documentation, which means I've spent odd moments in the frantic week trying to work out how to prepay on insufficient info based purely on the brand name of the water meter packaging he left in my recycling, and working through the tiny prepaid amount he actually preloaded into it, culminating in
(g) this morning: no water, no internet, so no way of getting water, and no way to access the steadily increasing public relations disaster in my inaccessible inbox in addition to the massive pile of work I have to do this weekend.

Fortunately the internet came on again at lunchtime, and unlogjammed the logjam, so I am watered, internetted and have with consumate skill and dexterity placated the students by blaming Law entirely and being very sympathetic. (They're nice kids. I posted the list the instant it was finalised, which was at about 9pm last night, and three separate students emailed me a heartfelt "thaaaaannnk yooouuuuu!" with varying vowel extravagances in both the thanks and my name, they have all been incredibly anxious about this, hence the late night announcement). And I have to say, typing up the above Itemised List of Inexorable Doom made me giggle hysterically, because good grief.

But I am a very, very tired thing. My Monty Python subject line serves to describe both my life in general, and my voice in particular, which is evincing that gravelly octave-drop so characteristic of exhaustion. Come, oh, the end of March, when this is all over, I am going to assume the horizonal position and not move for several years. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

things I have learned about translating a registration process for 5000 students to remote format

  • No matter how organised you are and how much forethought and planning you show, the bulk of your time will be spent waiting for other people to do their necessary bit.
    • Corollary: my Cherished Institution is a particularly slow and inefficient bureaucracy with, at present, really poor leadership, I am beyond tired at negotiating Academic Life Under COVID perpetually on the back foot.
    • Further corollary: the remote reg infrastructure has been cobbled together under pressure and inadequately tested, and is buggy as all get-out.
  • Translating a registration process to remote format is actually about tech support.
    • Corollary: students and academics require approximately the same amount of tech support, and are equally prone to simply not reading instructions.
    • Further corollary: tech support people really do say "Have you tried turning it off and on again" before they say anything else. As a reluctant and inadvertent tech support person I have a cut-and-paste paragraph for "Please exit the service request and, when you re-enter, click once and wait rather than clicking multiple times."
    • Really annoying corollary: students apparently do not understand folder structures and will email incessantly about not being able to see the file because they have not clicked on the subfolder.
  • 11-hour work days in 7-day work weeks are actually a lot easier when you can do them from home.
  • Zelda is very soothing to the soul, even in its current strict one-hour-a-day ration for unwinding purposes, and even though IANACG and am still very bad at the timed and dexterity challenges.
  • Teams meetings are still exhausting but are somewhat leavened by the moment's amusement when Pandora is loudly and volubly sick in the background while I'm running training. I am unsure of the etiquette here, Emily Post, I laughed and apologised: should I have rather politely pretended it wasn't happening?
  • The three-week period in which I heavily tranquilise myself in order to survive the double gut-punch of orientation and registration is even more essential under remote conditions, consolations of working from home notwithstanding. The gentle muting Trepiline perfoms on my emotional reactions is essential in the not-ripping-heads-off-idiots stakes, and also gives me blissful insomnia-free eight-hour nights when I sleep like the dead. Better living through chemistry.
  • COVID has underlined the vague sense reg always gives me: hell I'm good at this. I have wrestled, and am wrestling, these giant unwieldy processes into something like functionality through sheer bloody-mindedness, structural thinking and main force. My parts are going well. The bits out of my control, not so much. It's an impossible job, which makes it take a little longer, is all.
This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

one day, when the tonguin' is done, we'll take our leave and go

Apparently we are in another part of the pandemic where we are singing about the dark times, and I have learned a new random collection of words, which is "TikTok shanty fandom". It is curiously pleasing that the TikTok sea shanty fandom exists, and that it randomly builds multi-part shanty versions which disparately add a voice or instrument line in a fine spirit of emulation and community. The version below of the current viral sensation "Soon may the Wellerman come" loses me a bit when it adds the canned beat and starts remixing, but it's the best quality edit of the first part I can find. (Also, the first bass addition, the cheerful blonde dude in the cap who basically started all this, has a completely phenomenal bass voice).

This is a bloody catchy piece of music, and I love what the communal treatment has done to it, but it's also fascinating and faintly horrible that it's become a viral meme at this point in time. I mean, yes, it's catchy and we're all bored, and it's also communal and we are all relying on each other very heavily through the internet to beguile us through this crisis. It is curiously akin, in its creative/collaborative spirit, to making bread. But it's even more interesting in purely thematic terms.

This is a whaling song. It arises from the nineteenth century whaling industry in New Zealand, major participants in which were the British Weller brothers, who built and lost a small empire in Otago in the 1830s, both running and supplying whaling ships. The Wellerman, with his "sugar and tea and rum", is bringing supplies to the whalers while they pursue their whale, and while they look forward to the day when the whale is caught and "the tonguin' is done" (tearing the blubber off the dead whale in strips, eeuw).

But there's a lot more going on here. The accounts I've been able to find are either "yay NZ industry" or "boo dead whales", and comparatively few mention the fact that the whalers were not salaried, they were paid in supplies, in fact, in the "sugar and tea and rum" carried by the Wellerman. Who was thus both boss and supplier, in a little closed and incestuous loop which gave all the power to the Wellers, who did indeed grow rather rich on whaling and supplying whaling ships, at least before the whale-oil bubble collapsed. The song is about entrapment, the ship hooking and endlessly being dragged by the whale, the whalers endlessly bound into the work/eat cycle of their moneyless employment, which ensured they couldn't actually easily leave it, because they could build up no savings on which to do so. "The Wellerman" is the whaling version of the coal-miner's "Sixteen Tons" - another day older and deeper in debt, I owe my soul to the company store. It speaks, under its jaunty tune, to pandemic and lockdown because of that claustrophobic sense that you can't get out.

It also implicitly speaks to our current late-stage capitalism, and its absolute disregard for the wellbeing and prosperity of the workers it exploits. The whalers under the sway of the Wellerman are desperately akin to the Amazon wage-slaves who are slipping into poverty while Jeff Bezos accumulates billions. While I love the song and its communal expression, it has also made me incredibly depressed, because it suggests that there is something fundamentally broken and intrinsically unlearning about humanity: nearly two hundred years ago we were not only slaughtering whales, we were exploiting the workers so a tiny elite could make money, and we're still doing it. Slavery, and indentured service, and exploitative and inhumane companies who care about money and don't care about people and deliberately locked them into service so they couldn't escape, are baked into our cultural DNA. I hate that. I hate that America is still fighting to implement a minimum wage which has been fought over for so long that it's no longer a liveable amount. I hate that the "New South Africa" notwithstanding, there are people digging in our bins every time we put them out, and the divisions between our poverty-ridden rural or township citizens and the wealthy commercial or political classes are huge and growing huger. We've always done this, how can we stop doing it?

It's giving me a micro-version of the grief and despair I felt when America elected Trump: that there is a segment of humanity - capitalists or Trump supporters - whose thought processes are so alienatingly inhumane to me that I can't feel any sense of connection to or kinship with them. And their inhumanity is dominating the directions our culture takes, precisely because it is exploitative and uncaring, and tramples the people who feel otherwise. And it's a lot of work for a sea shanty to be doing, but we're all trapped in this, working endlessly at awful, destructive jobs for which we are paid insultingly and from which we cannot escape, because the system has put us there and keeps us there deliberately. All we can do, apparently, is sing about it.

Aargh. And I'm tired and in the middle of exam committees and virtual registration, and losses and dissolutions are characterising my social circle, and I have a sinus headache, and it's hot, so probably I'm more pessimistic than I should be. But aargh. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

cupboard love (/sarcasm)

I have been working my way gradually around the kitchen cleaning out cupboards and evicting beetles over the last couple of weeks (it's tiring and annoying and I have Zelda to play, so I've been doing it a bit at a time rather than as a single massive clean-up, which possibly means they're moving in behind me as I go, but honestly I can't.) And on Sunday I reached the large crockery/booze cupboard under the kitchen counter, and moved everything out and cleaned it obsessively, and boxed up things I never use to take to the charity shop, and rearranged it all neatly, and it was extremely satisfying.

And ten minutes later, when I had returned to my righteous tea-drinking and Zelda-playing, there was a weird, muffled, sliding crash from the kitchen, and I did a reflexive button-mash and died (again) by falling off a rock into a mudpool (sidebar: fucking Trial of Wood), and swore, and went to see what had happened. And nicely-distributed selection of the little plastic brackets holding the shelf in the newly-cleaned cupboard had popped out of their holes, dropping and tilting the shelf so that everything slid down to the end. Mercifully nothing actually broke, because that was the booze end, and there's a fair amount of liqueur as well as wine in there, and the mess would have been epically sticky. So I had to take everything out of those cupboards again, as a result of which my kitchen has spent two days looking like this:

I know these damned shelf-brackets of old, they randomly pop out all the time, they're tiny cheapy plastic things, and have worn their holes too large because they're drilled into chipboard and don't have any sort of plug or housing. And when I texted the landlord to check if he's okay with me getting a damned carpenter to put proper supports in, he remained true to his slightly kludgy DIY ethic and said, oh, no, you don't need to do that, you can put paper around the stud, or glue it. So I said, fine, if you're okay with me gluing the little buggers in, so be it.

So I have propped the shelf up on random bits of thing, and carefully collected the supports, and wrapped every stud in paper (bits of printer label, so they stick), and then glued the hell out of it with copious quantities of wood glue, with which I managed to refrain from sticking Jyn to the woodwork as she had to explore the nice new empty shelf expanse and have her nose in everything I was doing. And after I let it dry overnight, I lowered the shelf carefully back onto the supports this morning, and nothing popped off. As I should bloody well hope, after all that, it should be rock solid. I have just finished rearranging everything (again!), and my kitchen is clear, and the counter open, and I propose to go and make myself coffee walnut cake by way of self-congratulation, and also reward for having spent the last week checking board schedules, and also fortification for the next three days of exam committees.

Several things have emerged from this:
1. The damned landlord half-arses half his renovations, it's maddening. Everything's done cheaply and not quite well.
2. Having clutter all over my countertops and table for two days appears to make me very twitchy and slightly grumpy, I hate clutter.
3. My overall fitness is actually a lot better than it was a couple of months ago, apparently my not very serious exercise routine over the last six weeks or so is actually working in terms of being able to crawl around and get up off the floor and angle myself into cupboards to hammer recalcitrant shelf supports.
4. Jyn was really enjoying the empty shelves, while I was putting everything back she was seething around my ankles and growling at me!
5. I need to find a worthy recipient for all that booze, I can't actually drink at the moment, even a glass of wine gives me a serious headache the next day, and there's only so much I can use for cooking. And it's not as if I can entertain, because pandemic. Sigh.

I was very close to simply hiring the next door neighbour to do all of the above, it was a pain, but clearly sheer bloody-mindedness prevailed. I am triumphant. And also annoyed. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

people are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it

In an unprecedented move blindsiding everyone except anyone with a brain who's been watching Trump in the last four years, MAGA goons today attempted to occupy the Capitol, in order to disrupt Senate ratification of the election results in favour of Biden. Two things about this.

One: cruising through my various social media feeds today, I am struck afresh by how much we seem to be living in a clichéd and not very well written science fiction dystopia.

Two: the attempt to disrupt congress and force an electoral decision in Trump's favour appears to have been half-baked at best, conceptualised by idiots as an idiot gesture, and fizzled without achieving anything except unnecessary death and destruction, and to unnecessarily underline the extreme and terrifying fragility of American democracy as a system, and the depth and ferocity of the country's social divides. Which, frankly, could happen to anyone, nationally, and has been exemplified all over the globe in the last hundred years or so, see badly written sf dystopia, above.

But the pointless gun-toting posturing of the invaders is actually an irresistible parallel to the delightful video I actually wanted to post today, whose wantonly inept robots exemplify all of the above flailing futility with considerably more innocence and charm.

This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.