Cold cats

While I’m uploading photos, a couple I forgot to upload with this diary entry:

The hail still on the ground on Sunday morning:

Proof that it was seriously cold – Ming and Saffy actually snuggled up to each other to keep warm!

Hail and well met

We were woken last night at around midnight by a very dramatic thunderstorm, with almost continuous thunder and lightning, and incredibly heavy hail (they said on the news today that there were marble-sized hailstones – I wasn’t going outside to check!) In the morning, there were still patches of unmelted hail on the ground – I think winter has just arrived.

Our usual last-Sunday-of-the-month breakfast this morning – the usual crowd (lytteltonwitch, awhina and meerkitten, natecull, and non-fiction) were there, plus freesia, a British bookcrosser on a one-year working holiday in New Zealand. She’s been living in Wanaka for the last few months, but came up to Christchurch for the weekend, so came along to breakfast to meet us all. The rain and hail came back while we were in the cafe, but we had a very pleasant morning sharing books and stories, so that our “breakfast” actually went on well into the afternoon. I took the m-bag books (listed in yesterday’s diary entry, so I won’t repeat them here), and quite a few of them got picked up, so my bag theoretically was a lot lighter coming home. “Theoretically” because of course I picked up a few more books (yes, I know, my TBR pile is already tottering, but they all looked so interesting!):
Gardens of Fire by Stevan Eldred-Grigg
Coral Island by RM Ballantyne
Sun Dog by Monique Roffey
The Savage Girl by Alex Shakar
The Actresses by Barbara Ewing
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

The rest of the afternoon and this evening were spent on the knight and lady embroider. It’s getting there slowly – if I can spend a few hours on it tomorrow, I should get it pretty much finished. I hope…

Got another catch from the convention: The Cat on the Doverfell by Tomie De Paola was picked up in the Arts Centre, and is now in Australia.

Catches

I forgot to add – had a few good catches over the past week:

Crisis on Conshelf Ten by Monica Hughes was caught in Akaroa, Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy was caught at the hospital (I released it in the botanic gardens, so it had travelled, but not very far!), and Through a Brief Darkness by Richard Peck, which I released in The Boardroom cafe in October 2003 was caught in another cafe nearby. And most exciting of all, Shards of Alderaan by Kevin J. Anderson was caught in Auckland by someone who works for a Christian radio station – he PMed me and told me he was so taken by the Bookcrossing idea that he mentioned finding the book on his radio programme, and so did his friend at another station! So lots of good publicity for Bookcrossing there!

Also, Good Wives by Louisa M Alcott that catsalive caught from me at the convention and then released in Queenstown was caught, and Neuromancer by William Gibson, which I sent to lovemylife in the USA, and which she passed on to someone else who released it into the wild, was caught by an anonymous finder (it’s great when a book with a bit of history gets caught!). Skyring‘s been up to his usual watery tricks with Two Against the Tide by Bruce Clements, which he caught off me at the convention (he said on the forums that it actually got washed up on shore pretty quickly, and he saw some people picking it up – they just haven’t journalled it yet), and the cheat book has had some interesting entries recently… (with much attendant speculation on bcnz and BC-AUS as to who exactly is responsible for them)

M-Bag

The m-bag from nekki2976 finally arrived this week. It was HUGE!!! The poor postman almost ruptured himself lifting it out of the van (as did MrPloppy when he brought it inside!) A few of the boxes inside had come apart in transit, but luckily none of the books were damaged. And what a treasure of books inside! It took me all night to journal them all, and I kept finding ones I wanted to set aside for myself. I was reasonably restrained though, and only put nine on my TBR pile:

Celebrity Cats by Larry Wright
Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Crocodile Bird by Ruth Rendell
Off the Map: The Curious Histories of Place Names by Derek Nelson
The Da Vinci Code (illustrated edition) by Dan Brown

MrPloppy grabbed up The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka, and most of the rest of the books are going to our breakfast meeting (I’m trying to remember not to call them meetups any more, but I haven’t found an alternative term I’m happy with yet – “meeting” sounds too formal, really) tomorrow:

The Paintbrush Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla
It Takes Two by Devra Newberger Speregen
The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
It Came From the Cafeteria by Peter Lerangis
The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla
The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
Cliff Notes for The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne
The Outermost House by Henry Beston
Surrender the Pink by Carrie Fisher
Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee
The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve
Too Many Notes, Mr Mozart by Robert Barnard
The Exile by Pearl S Buck
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Satyricon by Petronius
The Blue Last by Martha Grimes
Night Work by Joseph Hansen
The Alienist by Caleb Carr
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie
The Associate by Phillip Margolin
Brady by Jean Fritz
The Secret by RL Stine
My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
When Darkness Falls by Shannon Drake
Lake in the Clouds by Sara Donati

Plus there were three sets of multiple copies of the same book. I’ll probably take one copy of each along to the meetup just in case someone wants one, but I’m hoping to do something special with the rest… I won’t say what just yet, just in case it doesn’t work out, but watch this space…

Six copies of 100 People Who Changed America by Russell Freedman; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6

Seven copies of Six Plays by Lillian Hellman; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7

Thirty-four (!!!) copies of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19; 20; 21; 22; 23; 24; 25; 26; 27; 28; 29; 30; 31; 32; 33; 34

The m-bag

Ming checks out the strange American smells on the m-bag

Inside the m-bag – books running loose!

The m-bag unpacked – loose books, boxes of books, and scraps of cardboard that once were boxes (I’m still trying to work out what unnatural cheese is…)

My stash of books from the m-bag

The rest of the books

In other news, only a few days until MrPloppy leaves for the UK, so I’ve been hard at work on the embroidery for his brother’s wedding. Nearly finished now – I’ve finished the bottom section, and done most of the outline for the top section. All that remains is to finish off the outlining, fill it in with the pattern, and then add their names and the date of the wedding (which I still haven’t plotted out…) Lucky this is a long weekend! (I’ve just got to avoid the temptation of playing The Sims all weekend – MrPloppy bought me the University expansion to keep me occupied while he’s away, and it’s brilliant fun – I was playing until some unmentionable hour last night, and I’ve already had my first Sim graduate, and now I’m trying to get her a job that matches her degree, but the only jobs on offer are completely unrelated… (hmm, just like real life, really!))

Currently reading: Like You, Really by Kate Flannery and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Meetup drama

No, not our Tuesday night meetup, that went without a hitch as always – in attendance were me, Alithia, lytteltonwitch, non-fiction, natecull, Cathietay, daveytay, and awhina, I released several books (The Case of the Cottingley Fairies by Joe Cooper, Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, Cats are Better Than Men by Beverly Guhl, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling, Gump & Co. by Winston Groom, and The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare by Lilian Jackson Braun), and caught one (A Rhinestone Button by Gail Anderson-Dragatz). No, where the drama came was the next morning, when I awoke to find this email from Meetup.com:


Subject: An important announcement from Meetup.com

Hi Meetup Organizer —

We have some important news to share with you about new features and required monthly Group Fees.

To learn more and get your special discounted rate, click here:

www.meetup.com/changes

Sincerely,
~The Team at Meetup.com

Required monthly Group Fees? First I’ve heard of that. I click on the link, and discover that we’re going to have to pay US$19 a month just for the priviledge of using the meetup.com website (but it’s ok, because they’re giving us a discount for the rest of the year, so it’ll cost us only US$9 a month). Now at first sight, that’s not too bad. US$9 is about NZ$15, but split between the 10 people we’ve been getting at the average meetup, that’s only a couple of dollars each a month, which sounds affordable. But then I think about it a bit more (and spend some time reading the reaction on meetup.com’s forums (warning, that thread is incredibly long (55 pages at last count), but interesting – worth reading if you’ve got a spare hour or two!)), and realise that the way they’ve set the system up, I’ll be the one (as organiser) who has to pay the fee each month, and then try and get the money back from the rest of the group. And the more I think about that, the less I like it – I hate being responsible for other people’s money at the best of times, so I’d have to set up some sort of elaborate system of accounts just to reassure myself I wasn’t cheating anyone (and anyway, why should I do meetup.com’s bill collection for them?), and what happens if people don’t want to pay, or we have a slow month when only a couple of people turn up to the meetup – does that mean I have to pay the difference myself? And what about my struggling to get off the ground cross-stitch meetup? That’s only got 7 members, and so far only lytteltonwitch and I have actually turned up to meetups – will we have to carry the cost of that between us until we get more members? (and what are new members going to think when they turn up to a meetup and the first thing I do is ask them for money?).

Anyway, the upshot is I decided to step down as organiser for both my groups on 1 May (which is when we have to start paying). I sent all the members emails explaining what was happening, why I didn’t want to be organiser (at least through meetup.com) anymore, and saying that if someone else wanted to take over as organiser, I’d happily support them, or that if the group wanted, I’d keep organising meetups, but through the Bookcrossing forums or the bcnz yahoo group, not through meetup.com. So far all of the responses to my email have been of the “Don’t blame you for stepping down, we should move to yahoo” type, so that’s what we’re doing – we’ll use the yahoo group for planning and announcements, and just live without meetup.com’s RSVP feature (which wasn’t that useful anyway, because not everyone would remember to RSVP).

I did get one victory out of meetup.com though – I complained about the fact that I’d paid a membership fee to meetup.com for “M+” membership (which gave you things like the ability to email other members), and they’d automatically converted that to a group membership without asking me – the first I knew about it was when I clicked on the link about charges and saw a note at the bottom that said:


As an Organizer with M+ membership:
Your M+ membership has provided financial support for all Meetups. Thank you! In recognition of your support we want to give you something special. We’ve automatically upgraded your account to cover Group Fees for the groups you currently organize until your M+ membership expires on September 2, 2005. After that, you can access a special 2005 rate of $9 (over half off!) currently available to non-M+ Organizers.

Now I objected greatly to that – it wasn’t so much the fact of my membership being credited to the group (if the group had wanted to stay with meetup.com I would have happily donated towards the costs), but that I had paid for one thing (a personal membership, with benefits for me), and meetup.com had supplied something completely different. I pointed out the injustice of it, and said I would have liked to have been offered the choice of either having my membership transferred or getting the pro-rata portion of my membership fee refunded. I seriously expected to get ignored, but no, I got an email from one of the staff apologising, and offering a refund! (I’ve replied to him, saying that yes please, I will take the refund (by this time, it was clear the group wouldn’t be staying with meetup.com), but I haven’t heard back yet… I suppose they’re busy dealing with a lot of complaints right now!) Of course, I made sure as many people as possible heard about the offer of a refund – I’d hate to be unfairly advantaged by being the only person who thought to ask 😉

Oh, and another cool thing – Bookcrossing used to have a very prominent link to Meetup.com on one of the side-bars, with a blurb about how Bookcrossing groups were meeting up each month all over the world. I say “used to”, because I posted a request on the Features Requests forum, asking for it to be removed, because I predicted not many groups would be using meetup.com after this. I really only posted it because I was angry (although I did think up some constructive suggestions while I was typing it, so added them as well), and didn’t expect anything to happen. Within a couple of days it had 70-odd replies (first time I’ve ever got a thread on the Hot Threads sidebar!!!), almost all agreeing with me, and yesterday Ron removed the link and replaced it with a link to the yahoo groups!

So, changes all round!

Hmm, I’ve just thought – I posted a “meeting report” on our messageboard on meetup.com, after a request from one of the members that couldn’t make it to the metup. Seeing as the group will probably be deleted from the site after I step down (because meetup.com have said they’ll start deleting any groups without organisers, and I can’t see anyone else volunteering), I might just repost it here:


One of the people who couldn’t make it tonight asked if we could let her/him know what we discussed at the meetup tonight.

Well, there was the proper talking about books and bookcrossing stuff: we shared our opinions of all sorts of books and authors – from DH Lawrence (would you give Lady Chatterley’s Lover to your mother to read?), to JK Rowling (pronounced “rolling in it”), to the trashy science fiction of EE “Doc” Smith and Edgar Rice Burroughs, to joke books (which don’t do it for NateCull); Alithia shared the excitement of a recent catch; we all admired from afar Skyring’s Monopoly board releases in London; the geocachers amongst us shared navigation techniques (aparently, geocaching really does count as Bookcrossing-related, because you can release books into geocaches); there was some discussion about potential sites in Addington for a second OCZ; a few of us made plans to go and see mothercat in a play at the end of the month; and we all agreed with Awhina’s suggestion that we have the next meetup at La Porchetta in Riccarton (as long as she books it!).

And then there was the gossip, which I’m not allowed to tell you about. So I can’t tell you about Cathietay’s wedding and the entrapment her husband; I’m not allowed to tell you about the problem with Lytteltonwitch’s breast or her self-fulfilling lovelife (when it comes to men she can please herself); I certainly can’t tell you about Awhina’s relationship with schoolboys, or that she’s requesting birthday presents for the 10th of November (apparently Douglas Adams has the answer to the ultimate question of just how old she’ll be); and as for the relative merits of men from Stewart Island and Middlemarch, well the less said about that the better!

And of course, there were books all over the table free for the taking (although they weren’t being snatched up quite so quickly as they usually are – I think we’re all still suffering from towering TBR piles after the convention!)

In other words, just a normal meetup – no particular agenda, just wide-ranging chat on any topic under the sun, from spam to school sports (and how to avoid both).

In other news (yes, there is some), I got another catch from the convention: Numbers of Things by Helen Oxenbury, plus a catch for a book (Skeleton Crew by Stephen King) I released at the Hoyts on Moorehouse Ave nearly two years ago, and which resurfaced this week at the University! I wonder what adventures that book has been on in the meantime?

Progress report

Now that the convention is over, I can get on with the other things that have been demanding my attention (like work, but that’s too boring to mention here). In particular, I’ve been focussing on getting the knight and lady embroidery finished for MrPloppy‘s brother’s wedding. I’ve only got a few weeks until MrPloppy leaves for the UK, so I’ve been spending as much time as possible working on it.

Progress pictures:

The bottom section is half-finished now, and then I’ve only got the top section to do (which I’ve left until last because I need to rearrange the pattern slightly to fit their names in). So hopefully I’ll get it finished in time…

The other thing I should be concentrating on is studying for my Historical Linguistics test in a week’s time. The actual techniques of historical linguistics that we’ve learnt aren’t so much of a problem – I’ve pretty much got the hang of them – but I’ve discovered that I’ve forgotten most of the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet – a system of symbols used for writing words phonetically, so that every symbol stands for only one sound (unlike say English, where the same letter can stand for several different sounds – e.g. think of the sound of “c” in “city” and “cat”, or “g” in “goat” or “enough”) – it’s very useful for comparing words from different languages). I’ve learnt it before, of course, for other linguistics courses, but the problem with studying part-time is that I tend to have a couple of years’ gap between learning things in one course, and having to reuse them in another course, while for my classmates the preceding course was only last year. So it’s actually about 3 years since I last had to seriously use the IPA, and I’ve found to my dismay that I’ve forgotten huge chunks of it. So guess what I’ll be spending the rest of my day doing? Yep, sitting in the sun with my textbook, going over and over the IPA chart and trying to remember that /j/ is a voiced palatal approximant (what normal people would call the “y” in “yellow”) and /x/ is a voiceless velar fricative (the “ch” in the Scottish pronunciation of “loch”)…

Currently reading (apart from my textbook): The Case of the Cottingley Fairies by Joe Cooper

A couple of non-convention catches

Phew! I’ve finally finished writing up the events of the last week (well, apart from the fact that I’ve just remembered I promised Bookczuk that I’d write an article for the newsletter…), so now I can get on with other things.

But first, a couple of exciting catches overlooked in the excitement of the convention:

Footsteps on a Drum by Robert Mendelsohn is continuing its travels around the USA – still only anonymous finders, but it’s travelling!

And From Scenes Like These by Gordon M Williams has been caught, seven months after I released it on Stewart Island!

Currently reading: Between Chapters by Nicholas and Stevan Cvjetkovich