by Catriona Mills

"Our House" Is Perhaps The Most Perfect Pop Song Ever Written

Posted 19 September 2008 in by Catriona

Feel free to dispute my claim, but I’m sticking by it.

Perhaps the most perfect pop song of the 1980s, anyway. (Although another contender for that title would be “Levi Stubbs’ Tears.” Nick’s vote is for “Just Like Heaven,” and I’m not going to dispute that, either.)

And, really, what is there not to like about Madness?

There were so many of them! There’s a band who didn’t feel that there was any point in restricting their numbers.

Plus, they wrote a gorgeous song about a teenage boy trying to buy his first packet of condoms, but being distracted by his own embarrassment—which made him speak entirely in euphemisms—and by the fact that his neighbours kept coming into the chemist’s.

And, as if that weren’t sufficient reason to love Madness, they also appeared in two separate episodes of The Young Ones, which would be sufficient in itself to make me love them. (Especially since most of the bands who played The Young Ones have since completely disappeared—except Motorhead. That was odd.)

But thinking about The Young Ones led me to Google Alexei Sayle and his biscuit quote, find this:

That’s a Zapata moustache, ennit? He’s Mexican, wasn’t he, eh? Funny, really, you know, Zapata. He starts out as a peasant revolutionary, and ends up as a kind of moustache. Che Guevara, he’s another one. South American revolutionary, ends up as a sort of boutique. Garibaldi, Italian revolutionary, ends up as a kind of biscuit. It’s quite interesting, you know, the number of biscuits that are named after revolutionaries. You’ve got your Garibaldi, of course, you’ve got your Bourbons, then of course you’ve got your Peek Freens Trotsky Assortment.

And then laugh so hard I made myself cough horribly.

But I can’t really blame Madness for that.

Strange Conversations: Part Forty-Seven

Posted 19 September 2008 in by Catriona

ME: I am not sweet!
NICK: You are; you’re a marshmallow, really. (Note: Nick cribs all his lines from Veronica Mars.)
ME: I am not; I’m tough.
NICK: That’s just your tough exterior.
ME: Marshmallows don’t have a tough exterior.
NICK: Roasted ones do.
ME: No, they don’t.
NICK: Look, I’m just working through an idea that I don’t fully understand!

Playing With iPhoto

Posted 19 September 2008 in by Catriona

This is the original image:

iPhoto has a range (a small range) of “effects” options, so I ran a cropped version of this image through some of them.

Fading colour:

Boosting colour:

Something called “Antique”:

It’s all just for fun, really—but looking at these, maybe I should start my own range of saccharine greeting cards? I could just run everything through the “antiquing” function, maybe Photoshop an image of a baby into the photo somehow, and Bob’s your uncle!

Actually, I do like the result of boosting the colour. Bougainvilleas are a good subject for that, since their colour is fairly saturated in the first place.

Interesting Things That Nick and I Discussed in the Shopping Centre Tonight

Posted 18 September 2008 in by Catriona

1. Why chocolate coins aren’t available in the shops until Christmas, even though it’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day tomorrow and, also, chocolate coins are brilliant.

2. Whether memes can be de-memed or memed out. The example we were debating was pirates vs ninjas, which I think has been memed out. Nick suggested it had been de-memed, but I maintain that that construction suggests active demotion, which a brief scan of the Internet suggests is definitely not the case.

3. Whether Nick would be better buying a plain black pirate skullcap, a brown one in artificial leather, or a black one with a curiously smiley skull and crossbones on the front.

4. Whether I could justify buying a long, black, female pirate wig with an inbuilt head scarf. Sadly, we decided that September in Brisbane is probably too warm for a fake pirate wig. Plus, I already have a bright green, ’60s-style bob that I never wear.

It was a pretty awesome wig, though.

5. While Nick was wistfully eying Fallout 3, which hasn’t been released for the Wii, whether people who buy games for consoles they don’t own are engaging in a cargo cult or whether it’s an example of sympathetic magic.

I argued that it’s a cargo cult, since they seem to believe that if they simply build up a critical mass of games, the relevant console will appear.

Nick suggested it was sympathetic magic, but I maintain that sympathetic magic more accurately describes inert protective magics, like teddy bears (which I think is an idea I drew from Diana Wynne Jones, originally).

We got some odd looks during that conversation.

6. Whether Nick was better off buying a (plastic) flintlock that was awesome but inert or a cutlass that lit up and had sound effects.

I argued for both, but was overruled.

The conversations were a little pirate themed, admittedly, but that’s hardly surprising under the circumstances.

My Elf's Adventuring Days Are Over

Posted 17 September 2008 in by Catriona

When your character reaches level eleven in Dungeons and Dragons: Tiny Adventures they face mandatory retirement. (Irritatingly, I didn’t even find out whether she’d succeeded in her last adventure.)

So Saeana’s adventuring days are over. Never again will she inappropriately seduce people in the middle of a fight scene, join a short line of adventurers waiting to enter a castle, or find herself inexplicably in the middle of a Robert Frost poem.

Of course, I have another adventurer, now: Paks, a Half-Elf Paladin. Paks is named after the only other paladin who came to mind: Paksennarion, from Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksennarion, who I really enjoyed as a character. Of course, Paks is a woman, but I figured that Paks really was a non-gendered name.

And the awesome thing about Paks is that I’m allowed to save one item of Saeana’s inventory to carry over to my new hero: I chose my Vorpal Greatsword. (I don’t know whether I should favour the Vorpal Greatsword because of “Jabberwocky” or because of the Homelands story arc in Fables. Maybe both.)

How could you turn down a Vorpal Greatsword? Saeana never used it, because it is a two-handed weapon, and I was addicted to the combination of my Phasing Short Sword and my Thundering Mace. But I couldn’t bring myself to sell it—and now my Paladin can wield it.

It also gives me a chance to be scornful, when he picks up the rewards suitable to a level one adventurer: “Battleaxe, huh? +1 to Attack? Ha!”

Paks seems to be settling in quite nicely, so far. Of course, he’s only midway through his third encounter, but he’s succeeded in everything he tried to date.

But I’m wondering if he’s going to behave the same way as Saeana did. I know paladins aren’t celibate figures like monks, but they are holy warriors.

I don’t think they should seduce halflings in hot-tubs.

I don’t think they should fight the palace guard in order to defend the succubus that they fancy.

I really don’t think they should seduce and then stab tiefling warlocks, no matter how desperate they are to prevent the coming apocalypse.

I don’t know that Paks is as susceptible as Saeana—but I’ll be keeping an eye on him. Sooner or later, I’m bound to come up with at least one adventurer who knows how to keep their mind on the job.

Strange Conversations: Part Forty-Six

Posted 17 September 2008 in by Catriona

NICK: I’ve determined that I don’t like tarragon.
ME: Well, he could be an annoying character . . .
NICK: Tarragon, son of Arathorn.
ME: Have I mentioned that it’s time we watched those again? With the new big television?
NICK: I knew I shouldn’t have mentioned the herb.

Why I'll Never Be A Superhero

Posted 17 September 2008 in by Catriona

Because, frankly, I just like writing lists.

1. I’m not too bad at multi-tasking, but I don’t think I’m at superhero level. If there’s one thing that movies and comics have taught me, it’s that superheroes have an extraordinarily difficult time balancing the needs of earning a decent living and fighting crime.

I suppose it would be easier if one were the kind of superhero who was paid for their services to the city. Or a billionaire playboy. Otherwise, it all seems a little difficult.

2. I don’t have any superpowers. I suppose that this should really have been the first item on the list, since it’s essential to a successful career as a superhero, but the multi-tasking still seems an important point.

3. I’m absolutely terrified of insects. So there goes one way of gaining superpowers.

4. I’m also old enough to be disturbed by experiments with nuclear technology—and that carries over to a disinclination to expose myself to gamma radiation. So there’s another means of gaining superpowers off the list.

5. I don’t think I’m a mutant. I certainly don’t seem to have any mutant powers. Of course, if I were to ask my brother whether I’m a mutant, he’d certainly answer, “Yes.” What is it about little brothers that means that if you ask them a simple question such as “Am I a mutant/stupid/making a huge mistake?” they always answer “Yes”?

6. I have no particular facility with technology. Now, it seems to me that you can be a superhero without having superpowers if you’re either excellent at building gadgets or have sufficient money to hire someone who’s excellent at building gadgets. I don’t fall into either of those categories.

7. I’m actually not that keen on being beaten up. This seems a serious disadvantage.

8. There’s always a risk that one will be seduced by the blatant advantages of becoming a supervillain instead. And, much like the Jager plans in which they lose their hats, that never ends well.

9. I struggle enough trying to stay on top of housecleaning. Can you imagine the difficulties of trying to keep a secret lair clean? Because secret lairs are always in inconvenient spaces: perhaps at the bottom of the ocean (think what the humidity would do to your soft furnishings!) or in a cave (the dust! the spiders!). And the whole point of a secret lair is that it’s secret: you can’t hire a cleaning lady. Although if you’re one of those superheroes who has their own butler, that would make things easier.

10. I’m not terribly keen on appearing in public in my underwear.

11. I’m very clumsy. My best friend’s mother used to say that it was as though I had no sense of the relationship between myself and the outside world. I can see that that might be a disadvantage for a superhero.

12. I suspect that my desire to be a superhero would manifest less as a burning desire to help the helpless at the expense of my own peace of mind (and regardless of personal injury) and more as a tendency to lie around on the chaise longues at Justice League headquarters, sipping margaritas and reading my own press clippings.

Actually, that’s a good idea.

Right, I’m off to find a margarita.

And a chaise longue.

And the Justice League.

Actually, forget the Justice League.

And the chaise longue.

Intending to Read

Posted 16 September 2008 in by Catriona

I’ve been marking, marking, marking—first fifty first-year assignments and now twenty second-year assignments—all while still shaking off a cold that’s given me a hacking cough and an interestingly husky voice. I suppose I could start a second career as a lounge singer, if I never manage to shake off this cold.

I’m really hanging out, at this stage, for the mid-semester break. I’m exhausted and I’m sure my students must be. But that’s still nearly a fortnight away.

So I haven’t had any energy for blogging the last couple of days—though I do feel guilty about that—and I haven’t had much time for reading, either.

I know things are in dire straits when I don’t have time for reading.

But I’ve been intending to read. So the house is littered with the various books that I’ve either rapidly skimmed through (because I’ve read them before, and they’re an easy way to escape) or that I’m intending to read, but haven’t managed to get to.

I’m not counting The Little, Brown Handbook over on the back of the other sofa, because I haven’t been reading that for pleasure.

But next to me I have a Georgette Heyer, because she’s light and easy, meaning I can dash through a chapter as a relaxing activity before sleep. No reading before sleep means a disrupted night, sadly.

And on the back of this sofa, I have five Diana Wynne Jones books: The Year of the Griffin (because I managed to get through the prequel, The Dark Lord of Derkholm, last week), Charmed Life, Mixed Magics, Howl’s Moving Castle (man, I love that book), and Conrad’s Fate.

I did manage to read Conrad’s Fate over the weekend—I’ve owned it for years—in between marking, and thought I’d read through the rest of the Chrestomanci books. Instead, they keep falling on my head when I’m watching television.

And the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Air, is on the washstand in the breakfast nook.

There are also two more of Diana Wynne Jones’s books on the bedhead: Black Maria, which I’ve only read once and want to re-read, and The Pinhoe Egg, her most recent one. I’m partway through that one, but it’s not proving very good bedtime reading, because I’m enjoying it too much. I keep wanting to read more, and I’m not getting the relaxation that bed reading should provide.

(I also have Jacqueline Rose’s The Haunting of Sylvia Plath on the bedhead: I read that as an undergraduate—in Honours year, I think, which would make it a decade ago—and I don’t think I was clever enough then to appreciate it. But I’m too tired at the moment to do justice to it. So it’s optimistically open about three pages into the introduction. I do mean, one day, to read all the main biographies back to back, because the difficulties of writing biographies of Plath fascinate me. But that’s a project for another time.)

Also on the bedhead is Garth Nix’s Sabriel. Now I have read that before and I loved it; I enjoyed it so much that, even though I own both the sequels, I couldn’t bring myself to read the second one, Lirael, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to put it down, and I was supposed to be completing my Masters. Or my Ph.D.—I forget which one, now. The same problem is coming up now: I really want to re-read Sabriel, but I know I can’t spare that much time and that, once again, I’ll have to ignore Lirael. Maybe I should designate those as my Christmas reading? After all, I made it all the way through Susannah Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell a couple of Christmases ago. Lirael shouldn’t be a challenge.

I also have a handful of books about late-Victorian detective fiction lying around, for a journal article that I was writing against the clock and ended up having to abandon when the the cold really took hold. I’ll write it up for another journal at some point, and make a better thing of it, but abandoning it did feel like failure.

So it’s not that I’m lacking the inclination to read. Or the means.

And I’m not lacking the inclination to blog. Or the means, I suppose.

For the first time in, I think, my life, I seem to be too tired to read properly.

It’s a tragedy.

I blame this horrible cold.

But I’m going to have to do something about this, before the entire basis for my sense of self—which is to say, “I read, therefore I am”—crumbles.

I suppose finishing The Pinhoe Egg would be a good start.

Another Lizard Picture; Or, I Still Love My Camera

Posted 16 September 2008 in by Catriona

Sometimes, when they want to catch the breezes as well as the sun—and who wouldn’t, on a horrible, hot day like today?—the water dragons scramble up into the cat’s claw that covers what used to be a yukka, until it flowered:

These vines aren’t actually resting on anything but themselves, and it amazes me that the dragons are willing to rest their weight on something that must rock alarmingly under them.

I think the advantage for this one, which is the smaller of the the two current dragons, is that while he’s up here, the bigger one can’t chase him around the garden.

(Also? I love the zoom function on this camera.)

Live-Blogging Doctor Who: Turn Left

Posted 14 September 2008 in by Catriona

So, there are only two episodes left after this one. And I’m really not in the mood for this episode; I found it intensely difficult to watch the first time around. So depressing. And after a weekend of marking and being horribly ill, I’m in the mood for a more light-hearted episode.

I know!

I could live-blog the Agatha Christie episode. How about that?


Okay. I’ll stick to “Turn Left.”

I mentioned this episode to my mother last week, when we talking about “Midnight” and what a good episode it was. Mam is not at all sure about an episode that is largely devoted to Donna and with very little Doctor. But I liked this one: I’ve come to increasingly like Donna over the course of the season, and she develops in a fascinating fashion here.

But it’s one of the episodes I really . . . well, “enjoyed” isn’t quite the right word, but it will do for now.

(I’ve just had a quick phone conversation with my brother that included the lines (on my part) “How do you walk into a soccer-boot emporium and come out with a new car?” and “How on earth can you not be sure whether you still have that cockatoo skeleton under the seat in your car?” He also reminded me of the time the power cables fell on top of his car while he was innocently driving along, and then told me that the same car was repeatedly kicked by a man who was apparently bleeding very heavily. It’s not every day you have a conversation like that.)

Wow, even the Doctor Who promos sound depressed at the thought of this episode.

Yet another reason to love the ABC (apart from the fact that that was the only station I was allowed to watch, growing up): is anyone else covering the Paraolympics?

Hey, we’ve wandered into Firefly!

NICK: Hey, it’s crude ethnic stereotype planet.

Apparently, this irritated a lot of people. I know the accent on this fortune teller—who played the insect woman in the Master episodes—irritated a lot of people in my living room.

Oh, Donna! You idiot! Why do you keep wandering away from the Doctor. That is never, ever, ever a good idea. And this fortune teller is creepy—and can’t keep her eyes on Donna’s face, even though she’s clearly not supposed to be looking at that chittering sound behind Donna.

Donna, you’re feeling woozy. Shouldn’t this be a hint that you should leg it out of this tent? Even before you start hearing the chittering sound?

Oh, dear: it’s Donna’s horrible mother. And why is this fortune teller so keen on pushing Donna to the point where she turns left instead of right?

Damn, that’s cold: when Donna’s mother tells her that all city men need temps for is practise. Oh, she’s an awful woman. Truly awful.

Okay, this object on Donna’s back doesn’t look that convincing, but I hate insects so much that it frightens me anyway.

Don’t turn right, Donna!

Oh, she turned right. That’s not going to end well.

That’s got to be the longest trailer we’ve ever had on this programme. And Billie Piper’s in the credits! I feel I should be more excited about that.

Christmas! I love Christmas! But which Christmas is this? Is it the Runaway Bride Christmas? I suppose we’re about to find out.

And Donna’s friend can see something on her back—that’s creepy.

A Christmas star? Then it is the Runaway Bride Christmas. Ken Livingstone spends money on Christmas decorations? Red Ken? Surely not! And now the Rachnos ship is starting to shoot everyone. But Donna’s friend can now see what’s on her back, and it’s freaking her out. It’s freaking Donna out a little, as well.

The army brings the star down, but what’s this? UNIT is there. And an ambulance—and a body? A body with a sonic screwdriver? Oh, damn! The Doctor’s dead! (I think that’s Sergeant Dead Meat! Or was that Private Cannon Fodder?)

Rose! Hang on, what’s happened to Billie Piper’s diction? She sounds as though her mouth is too full of teeth—and she seems to have lost the accent, as well. Rose can see what’s on Donna’s back—but she vanished before Donna can challenge her.

And the Doctor’s dead! Damn!

Now Donna’s been sacked—because the Thames has been closed off after the Doctor’s behaviour in the Rachnos episode.

Oops, it’s “Smith and Jones,” now—the hospital disappears while Donna is stripping her desk and insulting the staff: “Cliff, I’d leave you the mouse mat, but I’m afraid you’d cut yourself.”

The hospital is back, but with one survivor—and it’s not Martha. Damn, Martha’s dead, too? No! Yep: she sacrificed herself to save Oliver. Oh, dammit: the Doctor and Martha.

Bernard Cribbens’s right, though, Donna: it is getting worse. (And I see they’ve written Donna’s father’s death into the script.)

Sarah Jane Smith’s body was recovered from the hospital? Oh, dammit! Sarah Jane can’t be dead!

This is the point where I jumped off the sofa and sat half a metre in front of the television for the last part of the episode, hoping everyone would come back to life.

Here’s Rose again—stepping out of an alleyway in a mysterious blue light. I’m not sure why, but I have a sense there’s a mystery here. (Dramatic understatement.) Now why is Rose suggesting that Donna might want to leave the city for next Christmas? And how does she know about that raffle ticket? I don’t blame Donna for not trusting her. I wouldn’t trust her, either.

But Donna does use the ticket, and here she is with her mother and grandfather—and Bernard Cribbens has reindeer antlers on his head. I love you, Bernard Cribbens! (Donna’s father has died at some point before this episode.)

(Is Donna’s mother sharing that bed with her daughter? In that red satin nightie? I’d go for flannel under those circumstances.)

The chambermaid at the hotel can see something on Donna’s back—and she enables Donna to see it. And now the Titanic is falling out of the sky onto central London. Into Buckingham Palace. And the television goes dead just before they feel the impact of the shock.

Damn—a mushroom cloud is rising over London, from the effect of the Titanic’s engines. It’s a beautiful shot, but I’m old enough to get the shivers from the sight of a mushroom cloud.

Refugees flooding out of the south of London, to escape the radiation: Donna and her family are billeted into a house in Leeds.

And this is my favourite bit of the episode: the neighbour woman complaining that a perfectly nice family, who missed one mortgage payment, have been kicked out in favour of southern billets, and Donna descending into northern stereotypes about whippets. Not only does it bring the southern/northern dichotomy sharply to the forefront, but it’s such a complicated exchange: there’s so much going on behind that, about the impact on the south of London and the fact that this will have a devastating effect on the rest of the country.

And the Adiposians take their product into the U.S. since England is no longer available? Dear lord, the bodycount in this episode is high!

Donna’s mother almost breaks my heart in this scene, lying on her campbed, in her coat, in the kitchen of an overcrowded billet, thinking of more people that she knows who are now dead.

The fact that she insists “we’re refugees; we don’t count”—that ties in with the slap last episode from Mrs Cane about the Doctor being an “immigrant.” And perhaps also the tensions about Polish workers that Nick suggested were present in the ATMOS episodes. Man, there’s some complicated stuff coming to the surface in this episode.

And now, speaking of ATMOS, the cars are starting to go mad now, but Britain’s lack of petrol is helping. A soldier has seen the object on Donna’s back, and is threatening to shoot her.

So when Rose turns up in the middle of this, it’s to point out that Gwen and Ianto from Torchwood are dead, and Captain Jack has transported to the Sontaran homeworld. Is he dead, too?

As Nick pointed out earlier, they’ve killed off every spin-off, in this one episode.

The Doctor’s hair isn’t that great, Rose.

So Donna saved the Doctor’s life? I think that’s true—and in more ways than one. That scene with the Rachnos devastated me when I first saw it; that Doctor was implacable. Horribly so. We’ve seen that subsequently—notably in the Family of Blood two-parter—but that was the first time I saw it, and it broke my heart.

The darkness is coming? Damn.

Oh, Donna. Why do you always think that people are mocking you when they tell you how awesome you are?

Nick’s just reminded me that I’m so busy trying to cover everything in this episode that I haven’t been hitting the update button.

England for the English? Labour camps? Oh, shit! I saw what was coming here long before Donna did. And it’s giving me goosebumps, watching it again. Donna’s grandfather knows, too—but he remembers the camps the first time around, too. As he’s just said.

And now he’s weeping, and Donna finally realises what’s happening. Oh, shit—this is awful.

And it gets harder to watch, with Donna’s mother. She’s completely shut down, now. I don’t really blame her: she’s had a hell of a year, when you factor in the death of her husband. But when Donna says she supposes she’s always been a disappointment, and Donna’s mother just says, “Yeah.” Totally flat. Oh, damn—no wonder Donna has no confidence in herself.

That’s an interesting shot, that one, too: as Nick points out, they’d normally do it in deep focus, so that both actresses are in focus. But having Donna blurry behind her mother pulls up all those ideas about Donna losing her sense of self and her world, and the way in which her mother strips her of everything, even confidence, so she’s left with only a brassy aggression that covers a lack of confidence.

And now the stars are going out—so Donna is ready to go with Rose, to UNIT. And Rose has some standing here, though it’s unclear what, since they don’t even know her name.

And there’s the TARDIS! Salvaged from under the Thames—and a shade of the old Donna, laughing delightedly at the idea that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than the outside.

The music’s dropped away here, which gives the scene a kind of dead feeling—though the music comes back when the TARDIS comes briefly to life. It’s dying, in the absence of the Doctor—and I mean “dead feeling” in a good way. It feels static, much as Donna is in this new world.

Rose strikes me as a little unsympathetic in this scene: it’s not the ruthlessness with which she pursues her plans with respect to Donna. I can understand that. But she’s from the same time and the same world as Donna: shouldn’t she be able to see how shell-shocked Donna is by the events of the past year or so? But she’s not really interacting with Donna, not soothing her or even answering her questions. She doesn’t even really seem to see how close Donna is to a breakdown, here.

So the thing on Donna’s back feeds off time? It’s like the blind angels in “Blink,” I suppose. And it’s found a good host in Donna. It makes sense to me that these kind of creatures are attracted to time travellers.

The Doctor and Donna are needed together to stop the stars going out.

GENERAL: This is to combat dehydration.

I love that line. And I love the music in this scene. I don’t know what it is about it that I love, but I love it.

So Donna’s going back in time with equipment cannibalised from the TARDIS. And she thinks this will save her, that travelling back in time will help her avoid Rose’s promise that she will die if she does this. But Rose can’t promise that. And, to give her credit, she doesn’t even try.

So Donna will travel in time, even if she never meets the Doctor.

And here she is in London in the past, before the bomb blast. But she’s half a mile away from where she needs to be in four minutes time. I couldn’t run half a mile in four minutes.

And we’re back to original Donna, arguing in the car with her mother, coming to the junction where she needs to turn left and her mother is bullying her to turn right. And past Donna is running and running, but she’s not going to make it in time.

So she stops. And she thinks. And while original Donna’s mother is haranguing her into turning right, past Donna steps out into the road in front of a garbage truck, causing the traffic to back up, blocking the right-hand turn.

And Rose turns up, and whispers two words in Donna’s ear as she dies.

And original Donna turns left—and time turns back into its original position.

Back on the planet of ethnic stereotypes, the creature falls off Donna’s back and the fortune teller is terrified by Donna’s ability to resist the creature’s abilities.

And, of course, the Doctor turns up then, not being certain that anything has happened, and looking like a puppy seeking out a new friend.

The Doctor does point out at this point that there’s a lot of coincidence around Donna—including more than one parallel world created around her, which is a good point.

Now Donna remembers the messages that Rose has told her to pass on to the Doctor. And the Doctor suspects: he suspects it’s Rose.

The two words? Bad wolf.

Now that’s not good. And now “Bad wolf” is plastered everywhere, presumably a residual effect of the time that Rose spread them through the universe.

The Cloister Bell! Damn! I’ve been waiting twenty years to hear that noise again. That’s a bad noise.

And next week, the first of the two-part finale—with everyone. And a mysteriously familiar-sounding evil chuckle.

And that’s “Turn Left.” Wow, that was tiring. I’m for a cigarette.

Strange Conversations: Part Forty-Five

Posted 14 September 2008 in by Catriona

While I futilely try to get Nick to make me a cup of coffee so I can finish my marking, while he instead fusses around with his new battery charger (and doesn’t that just sum up our lives):

NICK (eventually): I am here to cater to your every whim.
ME: Well, I’m sure that’s what the manual said.
NICK: Now, now, what have we said about you treating me as though I were a robot?
ME: That I should do it all the time?
NICK: Because that would be cool! Yeah, I think I did say that.

Yet More Random Photographs from the Back Garden

Posted 12 September 2008 in by Catriona

But there’s a different reason this time. Nick arrived home this afternoon—where I was lying on the sofa finishing off Diana Wynne Jones’s Conrad’s Fate, which I’ve owned for three years but hadn’t read before, and generally feeling sorry for myself, with this cold—with a shiny new camera.

He’s been dropping hints about this for weeks; it’s a gift for completing my Ph.D. successfully. (I have a nagging sense of guilt that I’d bullied him into a present by being rather cranky when I found out he hadn’t even told his parents about the thesis reports coming in.)

But it’s an awesome camera:

Significantly better than my old one, as the macro shots of flowers show most effectively:

So I spent the evening, before the unexpected storm came roaring in, anyway, running around the garden photographing as many flowers as I could find. I used to love taking macro photographs of flowers, and this macro function is a thousand times better than the one on the old camera.

So I’m rather afraid there are going be more photographs on the blog from now on. But at least they’ll mostly be photographs of flowers and other interesting objects, and not self-portraits.

That’s one thing I can promise: it’s highly unlikely there’ll ever be a self-portrait on this blog.

Strange Conversations: Part Forty-Four

Posted 11 September 2008 in by Catriona

Geek conversations are much funnier when they’re uncontextualised:

NICK: I’ve figured out Defamer’s “Shirley Manson as a urinal” reference.
ME: Right.
NICK: She’s a terminator.
ME: Okay.
NICK: Who finds a creative way of getting rid of a suspicious underling.
ME: So at some point someone urinates on Shirley Manson?
NICK: Or intends to, anyway.

More Random Wildlife Photographs

Posted 10 September 2008 in by Catriona

In the absence of a proper update, I’m offering some photographs of the larger of the two water dragons we currently have in the garden:

Nick and I love the water dragons: in fact, with the water dragons, the bearded dragon who wanders around occasionally, the blue tongue, and the geckos, we have a thoroughly lizardy house.

Sometimes the water dragons wander into the house, and perch themselves on the living-room windowsill looking for insects. Chasing them out is one of my main summer activities. On one occasion, I was working quite innocently in the study, heard a mysterious scrabbling, and thought, “Hmm, that sounds rather like a water dragon becoming stuck in the box of fresh vegetables that was delivered this morning.” Which it was.

My favourite, though, was the enormous dragon who was completely unafraid of people and used to come and lie on the verandah in the sun even when I was sitting out there having a cigarette. During the summer storms, he used to saunter over to the far corner of the back verandah, the bit that gets sun all day, and flatten himself out as far as possible: he’d lie there with his legs stretched out and his belly pressed to the hot concrete and let the rain pour down on him.

That always looked fun.

Then there was the one who used to climb up into the frangipani, stretch himself out at full length, and pretend to be a dragon. At least I assume that’s what he was doing: he used to adopt a sort of noble, far-away look.

And the one that used to climb up the mulberry, scrabble along the guttering, and then throw himself down onto the concrete path, with no apparent ill effects.

This one’s not so tame. But he’s a feisty lizard, and won’t let the smaller dragon come near him. All day, we can hear the scrabbling that means he’s chasing the little one away from the insects.

But he also likes the sun on the back verandah.

And he’s a beauty.

I Will Blog Again, I Promise

Posted 10 September 2008 in by Catriona

I seem to have come down with yet another cold. This is my second cold this semester, which is frustrating me, because I’m rarely ill and this one is weird: I don’t have many normal cold symptoms, but I ache all over and my skin is highly sensitive, which makes sitting or lying down painful and is interrupting my sleep. Frankly, I’d rather just have a runny nose or a cough.

Plus, now is not a good time: I have first-year and second-year assessment to mark—over seventy assignments in total—as well as a journal article that I need to finish by Friday if I’m going to submit it in time.

I doubt it’s going to be a very good journal article, but I’m doing my best.

I’m also still struggling with the Ph.D. submission process, since the proof came out with some fairly annoying formatting issues. These are my fault, rather than the printery’s, and I’m annoyed that I let myself become so frustrated with the process that I didn’t pick them up first time. Now I’m wondering whether it’s possible to cancel the whole process and start again with a new version of the file.

Essentially, I’m a bit beaten down right now and would like a holiday. Even mid-semester break would be nice, but that’s not until after week ten, a full fortnight away.

In the interim, I shall work on thinking up amusing blog posts.

And finishing my journal article, of course.



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