South Park Self

5 signs of a growth industry

  • Today I Grew As A Person. My planned Grahamstown jaunt with jo&stv is happening, it transpires, on top of our mid-year exam committee process, and I won't be able to make a key meeting. This caused me, when I realised I'd misread my own calendar, about .0003 seconds of guilt, remorse and knee-jerk trip-cancellation response, after which I strangled the impulse at birth and wrote a quick note to the Dep Dean regretting my absence. He replied with a declaration of woe and inability to continue without me, to which I sent a calm, reasoned, implacable rebuttal gently pointing out that it's ridiculous in the extreme for the faculty to rely completely on me for this sort of thing, I am neither unique nor irreplaceable, and in fact a number of senior advisors can do pretty much what I do, only slower, and with more recourse to the rulebooks. And they'll never learn to do it faster if I'm always there to do it. Which, being fundamentally a lamb and a good dep dean, he acknowledged was a sensible insight. So I don't have to do FEC, calloo callay, and can proceed to Grahamstown as planned. Heh.
  • We chose Grahamstown shows to book yesterday, by dint of comparing notes on the things we'd separately circled in the programme, and it gave me a beautiful re-enactment of Book Club Panic, that horrible sensation where I was always terrified everyone else would hate my selections and think they were terrible books. Which, in a display of Therapy Tools my ex-therapist would be proud of, I paused to acknowledge as a fear, patted kindly on the head, and thereafter ignored, succeeding by dint of considerable self-discipline to circle exactly what appealed to me without second-guessing myself in terror. And when we compared notes it was a lovely discussion and we had circled huge amounts in common, because apparently jo&stv and I, if not actually a hive mind at this point, really do spend a lot of time together in a way that is very much driven by common tastes. And now I'm all excited and really looking forward to this.
  • We also watched the first three episodes of Good Omens last night, which was a delight, Neil Gaiman did really good there. I would say it was a sign of personal growth that i kept my comments about the slashy subtext to a minimum (honestly, Aziraphale and Crowley is a delightful 6000-year romance, too OMC for words) except that I think Jo beat me to most of the good ones, so maybe the personal growth is just the result of the pre-empting of temptation by displacement. Things I particularly adored, other than the ship: the opening credit sequence, the pitch-perfect casting, the embedded in-joke references, the tightening of the novel's slightly sprawley plot. The whole thing made me really happy.
  • I can now report that I have been Officially Turned Down for my first job application for a New Zealand post, which is a sign of personal growth (or possibly the apocalypse) in that I applied at all. It's certainly further than I got with the career-change process. Apparently continuing in academia in a different country is fundamentally less terrifying to me on some level than trying to change careers in this one. Who knew. Now that the ice is broken I think it'll be easier to apply for others. Watch this space.
  • I finally grew a spine enough to tackle my music collection, which has been an utter disaster for nearly two years owing to the fact that the ham-fisted technoprimates who installed my last new hard drive stuffed up copying over the files, so half the music files were empty. Since the vast bulk of it was ripped from CD, re-creating it was going to be a massive undertaking. Fortunately I discovered last week that I had apparently, at some stage, copied the majority of the collection onto my work hard drive, where it languished unlistened to since my current office confirmation means music is unduly audible to my co-workers. In the last week I have acquired two large flash drives, copied, rationalised, converted about half of it to MP3s, and backed it up in two separate places. Currently updating my car MP3 player to play something other than the same 10 artists I have cycled obsessively through for years. Definite personal growth.

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South Park Self

an indeterminate number of things

  • Struggling a bit with what I think is a sinus problem, still doing that irritating thing where I randomly wake up in the morning with a pounding headache and nausea, and pretty much lose the day. New exciting symptom: my ears are ringing. More or less perpetually. It sounds like a distant, frenetic cricket, speeded up, and possibly mechanical. I am very tired and glandular and headachy.
  • On the upside, I have also randomly discovered that I am one of the small minority of people who can deliberately flex a weird muscle in their inner ear to make a sort of low rumbling sound. It's very odd. I do it by slightly tensing the hinge of my jaw and, strangely enough, the edges of my tongue. Bodies are odd. Mine particularly.
  • I have found a replacement for Stardew Valley, which I have played repeatedly until all meaning ls lost. My Time At Portia seems to have been constructed by systematically mining Zelda, Stardew, the Fallout 4 building mechanism, Minecraft, Yonder, and probably others I do not ken, for their cute and enjoyable features, and then cobbling them together into a sort of small-town cartoon post-apocalypse. I am not enamoured of the character design, which is unwontedly stereotypical and a bit grotesque, and I don't think the writing is quite as strong as Stardew, but it's a thoroughly enjoyable and immersive playing experience, and hits all my "systematically building things" buttons with fair enough accuracy that I am finding it difficult to stop playing in order to go to bed, despite my frankly ridiculous levels of exhaustion.
  • Winter has hit! it bucketed with rain all Sunday night and into the morning, causing Cape Town traffic to instantly seize up, as is its rainy-weather wont, and the cats to gravitate either to me or the new fluffy blanket on the bed, of which they seem to approve. You can tell that the weather is getting colder because they have buried their status-jockeying differences to almost, but not quite, cuddle.

    Jyn has done that kitty-growing thing where I blinked and suddenly she was larger, burlier and very clearly adult when a moment ago she was slim and teenaged. The status-jockeying is clearly because Pandora's grasp on the Top Cat position is shaky and doomed. You can tell from Jyn's expression, which is faintly smug.</il>

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South Park Self

five shall be the number of the things

  • It is fortunate that this particular period of the year is characterised by holidays (Easter, Worker's Day, voting day) which means I just had three four-day work weeks and another next week, which is just as well as fatigue is kicking my butt. I am feeling on a more or less ongoing basis as though I'm coming down from a codeine hangover, which is profoundly unfair given that I never got to enjoy the actual codeine high. Possibly the Vitamin B injection is wearing off. Fortunately the next one is scheduled for this coming weekend. Maybe it'll help.
  • University Open Day didn't help yesterday. While I can now deliver detailed, reassuring, technical, occasionally amusing curriculum talks in my sleep, and possibly do on any given night, and emerged from Saturday's with a vague sense of "hell I'm actually good at this", they are draining, the student questions are draining, the huge crowds are hella draining, and the traffic congestion on campus both arriving and leaving raises my homicidal misanthropy levels to beyond draining and straight into "beaten with sticks and then chewed". Also, I have an uneasy suspicion that my talk may have cordially outshone the efforts of the actual acting dean, who spoke immediately before me. While I have undoubtedly seduced a small but real number of otherwise vacillatory students into Humanities study, it may not have been a politically acute move. Then again, I really don't care.
  • The weekend tried to add to my exhaustion levels by presenting me with a recalcitrantly blocked drain at home, affecting drainage from the loo and all other water-based conveniences, but fortunately an innocent question to my right-hand neighbour to see if he was affected and thus locate the blockage, had him leaping into his garden with random plumbing equipment and effectively, if only after half an hour of swearing and ominous "glub" noises, unblocking it. Note to self, I owe the man booze or chocolate cake or something. The process has also revealed that there is no actual drain access visible in my courtyard, which transpires is because the landlord buried it under the astroturf.
  • I have been whiling away the afternoons at work by writing a book chapter on fairy-tale adaptation, which is actually inching forward respectably. This is courtesy of the discovery, about halfway through the first sentence, of the incredibly freeing and energising effects of apparently having decided, subliminally on some level in the last year or so, that I am kinda done with this being-a-serious-academic racket, will never be a serious academic, and possibly don't actually want to be a serious academic anyway. This means that I don't have to worry about what Those Real-Academic Bastards (nebulous, unspecific) think, so can simply write this damned thing to say what I want to say, rather than saying what I think I ought to say. It is enormously, astonishingly, freeing, and bestows upon my characteristically wibbly and self-doubting self a strange element of confidence. It may also, paradoxically, be quite a good piece of analysis as a result. Go figure.
  • Holy Hand Grenades notwithstanding, it occurs to me that Five Things don't actually have to be Five Things, they could be Four or Three things, or Six; rather like the paper-writing, no actual authority is involved, when you get down to it. However, adding this comment has indeed brought this day's random selection up to five, so it's not really that great a strike for freedom. Oh well.

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South Park Self

another five things

  • I spent five days over last weekend pretty much flattened with a sinus thing, which manifested as killer headache + killer nausea, necessitating three of those days spent pretty much lying flat and wishing gently for death. It's a beautiful catch-22 - I wake up with the headache, which I can't medicate without eating something first, and I'm feeling too sick to eat. The anti-nausea meds take a while to kick in, and then kick me in the head so I sleep like the dead for about five hours, but I'm pretty good at wedging a quick slice of toast and two anti-inflammatories into the tiny window before I pass out, and when I wake up the headache has at least receded somewhat. But it wasn't a happy five days. 0/10, would not recommend.
  • Origin, that evil organ of the EA evil empire, celebrated my return to health yesterday by losing my entire games library, which is annoying as I'd been distracting myself during the illness bits in which I could actually remain upright by re-playing Inquisition. All of Mass Effect and Dragon Age, gone, as if they never existed. Then Origin had a hissy fit, booted me out the login, and refused to let me log in again. The usual tech-support Google search revealed numerous other people who've experienced the same thing and received only mockery and condemnation at the hands of the EA helplines. I am horribly struck by the ephemeral, conditional and precarious nature of the "things" we "buy" when such things are virtual constructs and we are simply licensed to access them at the whim of giant, profit-obsessed corporations. I hope a complete Origin re-install this evening sorts it out; if not, I may be forced to rush howling at EA's giant, oblivious ankles with an axe.
  • While sick, I re-read Katherine Addison's Goblin Emperor three times in six days, it seems to be pressing very specific buttons which require ritual re-immersion. On mature reflection, I think that this is because it's an intrinsically and topically anti-Trumpian narrative. The Current Disaster in the US presents the scenario of an old, complex, sophisticated structure designed to provide checks and balances on the presidential figurehead's running of the country, which has been subverted with pinpoint precision by inserting a venal, amoral toddler into the figurehead position, allowing him to co-opt, bypass and pervert the system. Goblin Emperor is an exploration, in utopian mode, of an old, complex, sophisticated structure designed to allow the figurehead (the Emperor) to run the country for the benefit of its nobles, which is joyously subverted, with pinpoint precision, by inserting an outsider, someone who has survived an abusive childhood while remaining an actual cinnamon roll, into the figurehead position, allowing him to co-opt the system into serving basic decency rather than privilege and control. I cannot sufficiently stress how satisfying it is; the more so because the novel does a more than decent job of exploring race issues through a fantasy lens. Also, for the record, Goblin Emperor fanfic appears to attract high-level writers, ability-wise, and is lovely.
  • I made Irish stew for jo&stv last night, because someone mentioned it in a fanfic and I suddenly had a jones. I used this recipe, mostly; the Guinness gives it a rich, dark gravy with a slightly silken texture, it's marvellous. The Jamie Oliver version does this weird thing with greaseproof paper, damped and scrunched on top of the stew for the first hour of cooking, which I've never come across before; presumably it's to keep moisture in, but it seems oddly specific. Why scrunching? why moist? It a mystery.
  • I hope everyone had a lovely Easter weekend! I really needed the four days off, I am still glandular and headachy after the sinus thing. My faculty also, in a hitherto unknown display of staff-centredness, closed us down at midday on Thursday, giving everyone an extra, informal half-day off. It transpires that the undergrad admin office has always done this, but no-one has ever told me about the tradition, with the net result that my unit has spent the last decade obliviously working the full pre-Easter Thursday. I am somewhat miffed about this. Fortunately my line management has just moved over to the Dean rather than the faculty manager, and the Dean's secretary is somewhat mama-bearish about staff privileges, so she carefully informed me and we all buggered off home early, rejoicing. The next three weeks are also four-day weeks, owing to voting day and Mayday public holidays, so hopefully I shall continue to gently recover. Maybe.

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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


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


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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