In which Richard Armitage helps Servetus avoid hex dump — and how

[At left: This isn’t a dump — they had long columns of letters and numbers — but it’s some kind of mainframe printout from the mid-1970s, the kind of paper a dump was printed on.]

A core dump is the pile of data that used to spill when a mainframe computer dumped its memory, which it did as a consequence of being given an illegal instruction, or one it was constitutionally unable to fulfill, like dividing by zero. A dump preserves an image of everything in memory at the point the error occurred. If I understand correctly, since computers have disc operating systems now, it just spills into a file. Which probably saves a lot of trees. Given our conversation about the novelty (or lack thereof) of Twitter this week, which generated one of those “remember when 48k RAM was a lot?” conversations — probably the equivalent of “I walked to school uphill both ways” in my generation — I was recalling the computer debris of my childhood. In our house a core dump was called a hex dump, and generated a hefty printout, which was also called a “dump.” It was a “hex” dump not because it made a curse (although as a I child I felt like fatal system errors were a real curse on our family life), but because it was generated in hexadecimal (base 16) notation. The smart systems analyst could use the printout to find the fatal error and fix it, so they were used for debugging without monopolizing mainframe time, which was always saved for big batch jobs. When he was done debugging, my dad brought them home from work, and we used the clean side of dumps for drawing and scratch paper and homework. He brought home a lot of them and I remember using them into high school, well after his work computers were using disc operating systems. My dad’s a sort of humanoid wayback machine, and he made a lot of money in 1999 correcting millennium bug problems on legacy mainframe software that no one really understood anymore. Snort. Probably we’ll find a few dumps stacked in some remote corner of the house if we ever have to sell it.

Anyway, I felt this week like my core was threatening to dump. Of course, there’s just life, and professors are terminally behind on every project that doesn’t have a loud, flashing alarm attached to it. This seems like it could be healthy in comparison to the paralysis of two years ago (which preceded the beginning of this blog, and Armitagemania) and the sheer visceral pain of much of the succeeding year, the first year of this blog. I’m not constantly bleating about how much I hurt now, and that’s good, and I should have said that on my blogiversary post. It’s just that there’s always so damn much to be processing, and relatively little time. I’m working a lot less than I used to, but I am sleeping a lot more. I’ve lost a decent amount of weight in the last year, I just noticed when scrounging for a pair of jeans to wear in a week when all of my usual clothes are dirty. I attribute this to a year in which I got enough sleep on six of seven days. So I’m sleeping more and prioritizing getting enough sleep, but it means I spend less time awake, thinking. But not processing stuff as it was happening in the previous decade was part of what beached the ship of Servetus. So herewith a little reflection on how I avoided hex dump this week. Hopefully it’s not as incomprehensible as an actual hex dump.


A too-thin Lucas North (Richard Armitage) watches Elizaveta collect her son in Spooks 7.2. Source:

Every time a hex dump threatens, Mr. Armitage, you provide a safe haven. Thinking about you in your various guises makes certain days of the week possible. Tuesday, for instance. Everything I do meets on Tuesday and I was behind this week. Grading, my usual nemesis. Read a funny post about its horrors that could have been written about me. A prophylactic against a core dump. Five papers, I told myself, and then I’ll allow myself a reread of one of my favorite chapters from khandy’s fiction. It’s usually The Gruinard Project chapter 9, and I read the explicit version on DF (password necessary, let me know if you need one). I think these rereadings stem from my interest in Lucas’s articulation of desire in that piece — the sort of heady mix between Lucas’s unbelievable need for Kate, and his need to maintain control over it. Here, as with so much Armitage-related stuff, I identify with Lucas and not with Kate. But, and it’s an important but, I read the story and think about what Lucas’s face looks like when he comes. Made me think of one of Frenz’s Guy Secrets that’s been on my mind for a while. It’s an invasive question to ask, so I won’t ask it out loud. But I ponder it, and the pondering keeps me occupied and the occupation gives me a jolt of happiness and the brain gets back on track.


More threatening dump, environmental. Terrible weather this week in Illinois and Missouri leads to deaths. A colleague of mine in Kentucky is cowering in the basement of her campus building and facebooking about it as I start to write this post. Made me remember last spring, when Tuscaloosa, AL and Joplin, MO, got it; this year’s it’s Branson, MO, and Harrisburg, IL, and, I see, in the last few hours, northeastern Alabama, again. These parts of the U.S. tend not to get much news coverage even in the U.S.; these people need our prayers and our care. And so, of course, I was thinking about New Zealand in general and Christchurch in particular, when, prompted by Ian McKellen’s facebook page, I learned that Christchurch will not renovate its earthquake-damaged cathedral — too dangerous and too expensive, and it’s still not clear that aftershocks are over or that they can set a sturdy foundation on land that is still moving. We all just keep on living. As a student told me this week who excused himself related to a relative’s attempted suicide, I can’t change what it is. It is what it is. I have to keep on living.

And Syria. I wake up every morning to the news from Syria. When will states realize that this kind of coercion is a sign that the state is already powerless to coerce — and capable only of killing?

May all the fresh mourners of this week, along with all those who mourn, be comforted. May the suffering find solace.


Involuntary dumps threaten when things just won’t compute. The old job won’t leave me behind, really. A kerfuffle in the student group I advised there provoked repeated phone calls from students and the colleague who succeeded me. A grad student called for advice about an issue with her doctoral adviser, who was in my cohort, and that conversation was like ashes in my mouth. Questions about what to do with accumulated mail. Burn it, I want to say. And don’t call. I have three phone calls to make to people from there that I can’t make myself make, some of them fairly pressing. And yet I don’t let go, either, do I? Breathe deeply, Servetus.

And this job. Grading that won’t quit. Gaming my introductory students into finding a book they hated interesting, cajoling them into speaking, telling the shy woman at the end of the row that she’s smart and the class needs to hear from her, subtly braking the keener who always has his hand up before anyone can even think. The grading that won’t quit. The persistent feeling that it’s for nothing, that students don’t want what I have to give, that they’d be happier with much, much less. My fiduciary responsibility to the state to educate them, my own moralistic insistence on performing the task for which I am paid. The inevitable feeling that public education is dead because public sentiment in the U.S. is killing it. The feeling that I am not the person that the people who hired me think I am, although imposter syndrome‘s been a persistent problem for me for years. An amazing financial blow struck at this campus, and yet, my department chair assures me in repeated conversations that my line will be renewed, although the offer won’t come until the state budget passes — naturally, after I’d have to renew my apartment lease. So whatever happens I’m moving in May, potentially into another storage locker. My residence: two storage lockers in two separate cities and a bed in my parents’ house. Another colleague tells me in strict confidence that my student evaluations are considered stellar, they’re probably in the top quintile of this department. Writing my annual report, I read them and sob. Another call from an editor about that ongoing thing that feels like it might strangle me. The review essay I’m writing and the books for it that are pouring in. Servetus the professor is hardly dead. And yet, the investment in this place that would be necessary to stop me from feeling so spatially dislocated feels like too much to make. I bought barrettes this week, deciding by default to grow my hair out again because I don’t have the energy to ask around about who cuts people’s hair well. At night, when I wake up in the wee smalls, I plot to move back to Wisconsin, somehow, anyhow. But in the day it seems like silliness. Bizarre conversations play out in my mind that weigh the attractiveness of public transportation, synagogues, having to teach secondary school for a living, finding a way to work for the federal government, finding a way to work that doesn’t require me to leave my bedroom, wondering what the purpose of work is. A friend says that if I’m unemployed, I should write a novel. I am skeptical.

This all as it is is dissatisfying and dislocating but it’s so much better than what I used to have and crucially, I don’t have anything else yet that’s burning me except maybe the desire to move back to Wisconsin. I always said I didn’t have to do this, there are plenty of things I can do, but is that really true? If so, why can’t I get my act together on pursuing any of them?

“Why?” is always a bad question to ask at midterm, since the only answer is ever a shrug. We’re all tired even to quip, “because!” Spring Break in less than 11 days.


John Porter (Richard Armitage) tied up as Gerry Baxter removes his belt in Strike Back 1.6. Source: Richard Armitage Central Main Gallery

Nice shift of theme, huh? This is what I call “awkward transition” when I grade essays. Yeah, Wednesday, still grading, and John Porter came to the rescue, to warn off impending hex dump. I was feeling like I had exhausted all of the dopamine in the fanfic and needed something more direct. I won’t write what I was thinking here, as I’ve talked about the kinds of fantasies Porter often triggers in me in the past. Let’s just say that I gave Porter some water, but that he spent a little more time on that cross before I helped him down from it. And, of course, once he was down, I took really, really good care of him. The most disgustingly blatant objectification of Richard Armitage there is, reducing him to John Porter’s abdomen and thinking of my fingers creeping across it, provocatively. I didn’t care. Twenty-five more papers graded with your help, Mr. Armitage. My students should be thanking you. I think these fantasies are (also) about grasping power in situations where I feel especially powerless, as when grading. When it’s always too late to fix anything, John Porter helps me take power, if only by ceding it to me in my dreams.


I did take a big step toward personal success this week, although it made me queasy and worried. Queasy about the leap, worried about the future. You may laugh.

One reason that spatial dislocation is hard for me is that I accommodate myself to certain aspects of new housing situations really poorly. I have a severe fear of water. Yes, there was a triggering incident, but in the extent to which it manifests itself in my daily life, it is truly inexplicable and often annoying. I can avoid swimming and boating easily, but in my daily life, it manifests itself as an intense fear of bathing and showering, particularly in windowless rooms. I haven’t been in a bath since 1993. Showering is possible under certain circumstances. The window isn’t the whole story; in general, it’s a bit hard for me to predict where I’ll be able to shower, although once I have showered someplace successfully the whole problem gradually abates — which means that I tend to stay in the same places if I know I can shower there. I rented this apartment thinking the bathroom wouldn’t be a problem, but it was, and it extended itself irrationally to a fear of turning on the light in the bathroom. Yes, I have been getting ready for work every day since the third week of August in a bathroom where I can’t make myself turn the light on.

This is really shaming. All of it. This week I managed to use the shower for the first time, albeit with the light off and the door open.

And I’m going to give up this apartment on May 31, barring a premature contract renewal, in which case I might keep it over the summer even though I won’t be here. Luckily there are no problems showering at my parents’, or none so far. But: Is it going to take me six months again in the next apartment I rent?


And the thing that saved me from core dump on Thursday:

Screencaps from preproduction vlog #6 for The Hobbit. Source:

I wasn’t among those who were disappointed not to be seeing more of him, although of course I’d have been happy to see more of him. I found these glimpses delightful. At first I thought it was because he looked happy, and that does play a role. Servetus loves a smiling Armitage. In line with that, I agree with what jasrangoon wrote about the image of Richard Armitage taking a photograph with his phone, and also with the sentiment about her joy in his new experiences, even vicariously. While it’s been true for a long time, I even tweeted it yesterday: “#richardarmitage you make me nothing but happy” — a kind of thing that’s uncharacteristic for me. Happy would be enough. I can get totally high off a smile from him.

But after I saw the images and the initial wave of euphoria passed, I had an unusually productive evening, and I felt even better and I wondered what had happened, because all day I had been heading for crash. I realized it what it was only a few minutes ago. It’s that in many of these pictures he appears not only to be happy, but to be really focused — moving in a particular direction, involved in a conversation, focused on a particular point. He’s not standing around, or even talking to us — but rather zeroing in on his work and his own interlocutors. It’s interesting to me in the second cap above that the background is focused but he’s just a blur — because he, himself is concentrating on what he’s doing, fully in the moment.

Something about the beauty of Armitage, concentrating, penetrated into the cloudiness of this week yesterday afternoon and prevented another impending core dump by getting me back on track. Desire, power — Armitage gave me those things, too, and they saved me on Tuesday and Wednesday, but yesterday he gave me focus and flow. If these glimpses continue to show that, I can live without interviews.

What I need to fend off hex dump: Richard Armitage, focused, concentrated beauty and artistry, reminding me to stop worrying, focus on what I’m doing right now, live in the moment, cultivate flow. Work is joy. When you do it right, do it beautifully, do it now.

~ by Servetus on March 3, 2012.

18 Responses to “In which Richard Armitage helps Servetus avoid hex dump — and how”

  1. “Work is joy. When you do it right, do it beautifully, do it now.”
    Wonderful! Thanks. You’re so right, nothing feels better than being totally absorbed in work. But sometimes it’s hard to get into that frame of mind. Julia Cameron talks about “falling down the well,” about simply dropping into a state of concentration and flow. I wish I could do that.


  2. I love this metaphor. In fact, I kind of wish I’d had the use of it all last year.

    I don’t know I’ve ever told you before how sad it makes me to know that you can’t stand under the water in the shower and enjoy that flow of warmth. But now I know that you have found an alternate flow of warmth: the RA love that flows from the screen. Ahhhh.


  3. Aaah, Armitage therapy. I know it well. Best wishes for continuing to fight the good fight. I’d say “just hold on”, but it sounds like you’re figuring out what you want to hold on to. Going through a bit of that myself. Got the new drivers license picture and had a major paradigm shift. I’ve got to figure out how to accept the older me and do what is of greatest worth in the time I’ve got left. (as if anyone really knows what that is) We’re all dealing with these eternal questions.

    I agree that work is at least measurable, and when done well, can be a joy. Personally, I’m also working on developing that focus RA seems to have and not multi-tasking. And like you, I do a certain amount of grunt work and reward myself with RA. Just finished fifteen minutes of Spooks 7.7 and have to attack a mountain of dishes.


    • FYI. I used to post here as b6ft, but now I’m just Beverly


      • Thanks for the update on your identity 🙂

        The multitasking problem is a really important one to address. I am happiest when I am not multitasking but I am a good multitasker. I’m trying to train people around me to go back to a response mode from about 1980 when you asked a question and didn’t get an instantaneous reply. What I am finding is that if you don’t reply immediately sometimes people figure things out on their own.


  4. My grandfather used to say”Ora et labora”
    I lost my beloved job and I’m still learning how to take pleasure from household work with considerable help Mr.A. and admirers of his. 🙂


  5. Wow! Serv. Just Wow!
    I can relate to several of your points.
    Cheers! Grati ;->
    P.S. As I was reading your essay, your phrasing had a definite cadence and rhythm for me, as if I were hearing your ‘voice’–like Beat poetry. Also Maya Angelou’s poetry springs to mind. Wow!


    • Thanks, it’s kind of you. There’s a very specific 16th c. author whose rhythms I try to imitate in this kind of writing (and no, it’s not Shakespeare 🙂 ).


  6. […] focus on flow that permits the successful, effective, even perfect completion of the task at hand. As I’ve written, that’s what I get from the glimpses of Thorin that we saw in vlog #6. Not just joy, but the reminder of focus. Work as joy: do it now, do it completely, do it […]


  7. […] to mind the photos that so moved me when they appeared in March, in vlog #6. It reminded me of the flow experience Armitage appeared to be fulfilling at the time, and the power and desire that wa…. In that sense, it was très cool that the photo appeared on the Friday before school. The boots […]


  8. […] Armitage taking a picture with his phone. But the thing that was decisive for me in that vlog was the shot of Armitage being filmed as he wielded his battle-axe and sword, which lifted me up on a ba…. I reiterated it again as a shorter reminder post to myself — Richard Armitage keeps me […]


  9. […] was interesting to me that the scene where this picture appears is one where Thorin is almost completely out of control — with Gandalf and […]


  10. […] lot though by no means all of them here. The state of my apartment. The condition of my teeth. That I can’t overcome my fear of water; that I haven’t found a place of rapprochement with my father. That I can’t grade […]


  11. […] up after yet again not enough sleep, still feeling a little exhilarated, I manage to surmount my water fear and shower. LondonFriend emails to say she’s going to be late. I’m fine with that as it […]


  12. […] the stuff I was thinking about. I also managed to take a really long, anxiety-free shower — water fear has been serious lately. And maybe in light of the heavy load of guilt I’ve been bearing, I […]


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