Fiddly bits

I definitely can’t compete with Kimi’s fantastic needlework, but here’s the latest progress report on the topiary garden:

This final tree is proving as fiddly and annoying as predicted, with loads of colour changes (it only uses 5 shades of green for the leafy part I’m doing at the moment, but it still manages to have just a stitch or two of each here and there), and it seems like every second stitch is a fractional. Oh well, at least it isn’t very big, so the torture will be over soon. And hopefully it will look really impressive when I finish (I say hopefully, because the pattern I’m using was actually supposed to be four separate pictures, but I thought they’d look better all together in one picture. I charted out the spacing between the trees to try and get the distance between them looking right, but how something looks on a chart is never the same as how it looks stitched, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that when I look at the finished product (it’s on a scroll frame at the moment, so there’s never more than one and a half trees visible at a time, so I haven’t seen the whole effect yet) it’ll look how I imagined it…)

Yesterday and tomorrow

I was happily writing that last entry and then noticed the time and had to race off to finish getting ready for work. So, now that I’m safely at work, and before my boss comes in and wants me to actually do some work, here’s part two:

It was the Chick Flicks film night last night, and lytteltonwitch and I arranged to meet beforehand for dinner (neither of us find it convenient to go all the way home for dinner after work and then back into town again for the film, so it’s easier to meet up for dinner in town (I think we’re the only two women in the group who work full-time – all the others have small children and either only work part-time or are full-time mothers)). We went to Le Cafe in the Arts Centre, because we’d arranged to meet the others there for coffee before the film.

In my (proper) student days, *cough* years ago, Le Cafe used to be a popular student hang-out, because although it was pretty trendy, their meals were large and not too expensive. Their nachos were always the most popular option, because one plate would be enough to feed two people it was so big, which is great when you’re a poor student. And by now you’ve probably guessed what I’m going to say next. Yep, the meals have got a lot smaller, and more expensive. And they’ve been sneaky about the more expensive thing – the prices look about the same (making allowance for inflation), but all the “on the side” things that used to come with the meal you now have to pay extra for (like an extra $5 if you want guacamole with your nachos – it used to just be part of the meal). I had thought about ordering nachos, just for old times’ sake, but I remembered how big they were and decided not to because I wouldn’t be able to get through them all on my own. However, I needn’t have worried – someone at the next table ordered them, and when they arrived I looked over to see if they looked as good as they used to, and the plate was tiny! It was about half the size it used to be, and I noticed she had no trouble getting through it on her own. I ordered a chicken and leek pot-pie, which was delicious but tiny. The “pot” was not much bigger than a coffee cup, which would have been an ok size for a pie, except it was only about half-full – the crust was a long way below the top of the dish. I was still feeling hungry after I finished it, and for the first time ever in a restaurant seriously considered ordering a second main course (in the end, I decided we didn’t really have time, so I had a desert instead). It’s a pity, because their food is still really good, but I left feeling ripped off :-(

Anyway, the film totally made up for the disappointment of dinner. We went to the arthouse cinema in the Arts Centre, and saw On a Clear Day. It’s about a Glasgow man who’s laid off from his job of 30-odd years*, and to break out of the depression that caused in him, he decides to swim the English Channel. As the plan develops, his friends become involved, and his determination gives each of them the nudge they need to try for their own smaller goals. The plotline was pretty predictable, but that didn’t matter, because it was really well executed, and beautifully filmed. Oh, and it had Billy Boyd in it, which is always good.

*This was the most unlikely part of the story – not that he was laid off, but that he’d been in the same job for 30-odd years. Because he worked in a shipyard on the Clyde, and most of them closed down years ago (which is why my grandparents emigrated out here in the 1950s, because Grandda worked in one of those shipyards, and saw the writing on the wall and decided to get out before he ended up unemployed). I think there’s still a couple of shipyards left, but it just doesn’t seem likely any of the kind depicted in the film (which seemed to be a small business being taken over by a big multi-national) would still be around.

And when I got home, there was a new DVD waiting for me! We pre-ordered the new series of Dr Who from Amazon UK a while back (no, it’s not that which arrived – it’s not out until November so we have to wait a bit longer (although it’s about to be shown on TV here finally, yayy!)), and as a result of some promotion they had on, we got a £5 discount voucher to use on our next purchase over £20. Last week we realised the voucher was about to run out, so we decided to see if we could find something to spend £20 on and get our discount (yes, I know, false economy and all that, but it’s a great excuse to buy some more DVDs). In the end we decided to get a box set of Drop the Dead Donkey, which we’ve been wanting to get for ages (we used to watch it in the UK, but it’s never been shown here), and which they had on special for just over £20 so fitted our price requirements exactly. And that’s what arrived yesterday. Yay!!! We’ve now got three whole series to keep us amused on cold winter nights.

What’s not so yay is that the nice long weekend I’d had planned isn’t going to happen. It’s my birthday tomorrow, so I’d told my boss that if I managed to clear my desk of everything important today I’d be taking tomorrow and Friday off and have a nice long weekend. All was going according to plan, until I got an email yesterday from our HR people saying that they’d changed the dates of a training course I’d applied to go on, and guess what the new dates are? Yep, tomorrow and Friday. So I won’t be having a nice lazy birthday after all, I’ll be stuck in a room learning boring stuff. Grrrr.

Currently reading: Boating for Beginners by Jeanette Winterson

¡Terminado!

I’ve just got home from my Spanish exam, and I’m about to collapse somewhere comfy with copious amounts of wine and chocolate (well, maybe I’ll eat dinner first before I start on the chocolate…) Yayyy!!! No more studying for two whole weeks!!! (And then it all starts again, but harder… but I’m trying not to think about that at the moment).

The exam wasn’t too bad, actually – there were a couple of questions I couldn’t answer at all, plus a few more I took a semi-educated guess at, but I was pretty confident about my answers to most of the questions, which is a nice way to come out of an exam feeling. I’m utterly exhausted, though – three hours of total concentration is hard work!

Right, I’m off to do something mindless for a while…

Tree Three

A quick entry, mostly just to upload a picture of the completed third tree of my topiary picture. Only one more to go now! (Unfortunately, it’s the hardest one, with loads of fiddly fractionals. I’ve been kind of dreading getting to this point…)

Most of my free time over the last week or so has been taken up with study (although obviously I have done a bit of cross-stitch from time to time, when I needed a break to stare at something mindless on TV for a while). I’ll be so glad when I get this exam out the way. I am SO sick of studying at the moment. I always get like this around this time of year, when it’s all so grey and depressing, and work is busy, and I just don’t feel like I’ve got the time or the energy to put into yet another exam. Every June I vow that next year I’ll have a break from study, but of course, by December everything will be sunny again, I’ll be all enthusiastic about life and have forgotten this mid-winter depression feeling, and I’ll be eagerly signing up for another couple of papers… (I was talking about this with a friend the other day, and she said she has the same problem – she tends to volunteer for all sorts of things in December, when she’s feeling all relaxed and end-of-yeary and full of energy, and she always regrets it when winter hits and she’s suddenly snowed under with responsibilities and no energy to deal with them. Useful life lesson that – if you want someone to volunteer for something, ask them in December.)

Currently reading (apart from my textbook): Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah

Lots of skiffy

We had our regular Second Tuesday meetup tonight. We tried a new cafe (well, new to us – it’s actually been there for years), The Coffee House, which turned out to be a really good choice. The food was nice, they had a nice warm fire (which we managed to nab a table right next to), and they had serious chocolate brownies for dessert. The service was a bit odd (the waitress took our orders on an exciting hand-held computery thing, which took twice as long as it would have if she’d just scribbled them down with pen and paper, and when she came to clear the table she cleared away half the plates and never came back for the other half), but we weren’t in a hurry, so it didn’t worry us particularly.

The usual suspects were there, of course (me, lytteltonwitch, awhina and <a href="http://bookcrossing.com/mybookshelf/meerkitten"the kitten), plus Cathytay and daveytay arrived later. I always like it when daveytay comes to meetups, because he tends to bring science fiction books with him, and has similar tastes to me, so I usually come home with most of what he brought along. Tonight was no exception – I picked up Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human by KW Jeter, Vacuum Flowers by Michael Swanwick, and Hunter of Worlds by CJ Cherryh. So my Mt TBR has just grown another foothill. I’d already given away most of my AVAIL books at the weekend’s meetup, so I only contributed Golden Deeds by Catherine Chidgey to the table.

Snow!!!

Actually, the worst of the snow was yesterday, but it was far too cold to sit in the study writing diary entries, so I followed the cats’ example and stayed by the fire most of the day.

The snow was a bit of a shock, really. The forecast had been for some nasty weather to blow up from the south, but I don’t think anyone, Met Service included, expected it to get quite that nasty – heavy snowfalls over most of the South Island, a tornado in Greymouth, and storms in the North Island. Auckland had a wee power cut, which from the way the media reacted you’d think was the end of the world (guess where most of our media is based), but there are a lot of small towns in the South Island that also lost their power yesterday, and several *still* don’t have any and probably won’t have for another day or two.

As usual, I was running late yesterday morning, so I hadn’t actually looked outside to see what the weather was like – I could hear the sound of wet tires on the cars passing outside, so I assumed the predicted overnight rain had come, grabbed my umbrella and opened the door to run for the bus – only to see a blanket of snow outside, and more falling! I could see the bus coming down the street, so I didn’t have time to go back for warmer clothes, I just had to go as I was (I did have on a warm jacket (it is winter, after all!), but I didn’t have a hat or gloves). When I got on the bus, the driver warned me that they were starting to cancel bus services all over the city, and said I should try and go home as early as possible, and make sure I phone the bus company before I left to make sure my bus was still running.

The thought of being stranded at work was not a pleasant one, and neither was the idea of walking home (I wouldn’t have minded if I’d been prepared, and brought warmer clothes and shoes more suitable for walking in snow, but it would have been a very long cold walk dressed the way I was), so when I got into work I consulted with my boss, and he agreed it was probably better if I worked from home for the day (luckily the main task I’d had planned for the day was something I could do just as easily at home, and I could redirect my phone and email to reach me there too). So I headed back home, and probably had a more productive day there than I would have if I’d stayed at work, because there weren’t the usual distractions of people coming into my office for a chat :-)

The snow finally stopped late afternoon, and some of it had melted by this morning, but it’s clouded over again now, and there’s been little flurries of snow falling off and on all morning. Doesn’t look like it’s going to get so heavy as yesterday, though (and I’ve come prepared this time, anyway!)

I would have some exciting photos of the snow, but my camera has developed an aversion to getting cold, so every time I tried to take a photo it would switch itself off. MrPloppy did take a photo on his camera, but he can’t find the connection lead to download photos from his camera to the computer…

Oh, and Ming’s foot seems to have recovered – he was racing up and down the hallway like a mad thing yesterday, and using the scratching post, so I don’t think it’s hurting him any more.

Currently reading: Idioglossia by Eleanor Bailey

A bit of culcha

After Friday, I wanted a nice quiet weekend (especially because the next couple of weekends will probably feature a lot of studying, what with final exams coming up fast), so we borrowed a couple of DVDs and spent most of yesterday watching them. One was Midnight Cowboy, which I’ve seen a couple of times now, but which still makes me cry at the end, and the other was Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, a TV series that was shown in the UK just after we left there, and which I’d been wanting to see for ages. It was really good – the set and costume design was a bit much like a bad 80s music video in places, but the story was a really interesting idea, and pretty well executed. While watching, I added a bit more to my topiary cross-stitch (though not all that much, because I kept getting caught up in what I was watching):

Today was originally planned to be more of the same (well, not the same DVDs, of course!), but Marcie130 posted a message on the BCNZ Yahoo group about a concert being held in Merivale today and suggesting we might like to come along. That then metamorphised into “why don’t we meet up for lunch beforehand”, so we planned to meet at the Robert Harris cafe in the Northlands Mall. Lytteltonwitch offered to give me a lift, so we headed over there just before 12, and wandered around the mall looking lost for a bit before we finally spotted a Robert Harris sign. There was no sign of any other bookcrossers in the cafe, but we thought they must be just running late, and got ourselves a table and proceeded to cover it in books. Time passed, we had lunch, and still no sign of any bookcrossers… though we did manage to convert a couple of passers-by – as I was piling the books I’d brought onto the table, a woman walking past said “Are you setting up a bookstall?” Of course, I had to explain Bookcrossing then, and she was really interested in the idea. She and her friend ended up taking a couple of the books I’d brought (Throwaway Daughter by Ting-Xing Ye and Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner), and went away excitedly chattering about books they had that they could give away. I don’t know whether they’ll actually journal the books (they seemed a bit doubtful about using the internet), but at least I made their day by giving them free books.

Eventually, after we’d been there an hour, we decided they obviously weren’t coming, so we might as well leave – we’d probably catch up with them at the concert anyway. So we released a few books in the mall (I left Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon and A Certain Justice by John Lescroart, the latter of which has already been caught!) and then went off in search of fabric shops to find some trim I want to add to a pair of trousers I’ve got that need brightening up a bit. That turned out to be another fruitless search, because every shop we tried was closed (makes me realised how spoilt the big malls have made me – there was a time when I wouldn’t have even thought of going shopping on a Sunday afternoon, now I just assume everything will always be open, and feel put out when shops dare to be shut), so we went down to Merivale to the concert venue. We were a bit early, so we sat in the lobby reading, where we were spotted by TheLetterB, who was clutching a bookcrossing-labelled book, and asked us “Are you bookcrossers?”. It turned out she’d tried to meet us at Northlands for lunch, but was waiting in the other Robert Harris cafe! (How were we supposed to know there were two???) We were later joined by Marcie130 and MrMarcie, so despite all the confusion we did at least manage to get together in the end.

The concert was wonderful – half the programme was the Garden City Symphony Orchestra, and the other half was Schola Cantorum, a small choir that specialises in plainchant and Medieval and Renaissance music. Both were really good. The orchestra did Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance Op. 46 No. 8 (no, none of that stuff means anything to me either, I’m just copying it from the programme (although I did recognise the tune when I heard it). But I’m sure my more musical readers are going “Ah, yes, Op. 46 No. 8, that’s a good one”), Mozart’s Minuet and Presto from Divertimento K252, Schumann’s Song to Sunshine, J. Strauss’s Thunder and Lightning Polka, Ketelbey’s In a Persian Market, Handel’s Largo, a different J. Strauss’s Feurerfest Polka, and a selection from My Fair Lady. The choir started with a plainchant (Ave Maria gratia plena from the 9th or 10th century, and then worked their way up through the centuries (13th century Alle Psallite Alleluia, GP de Palestrina’s Sicut cervus, TL de Victoria’s Ave Maria, Thomas Morley’s April is in my mistress’ face, Michael Praetorius’s Psallite, unigenito, Melchior Franck’s Da pacem, Domine, 16th century Joseph! Was da?) to the “much more modern” (as the conductor put it) 17th Century Crucifixus by Antonio Lotti.

After the concert, we decided to try again for a meetup, so went for coffee at a cafe in Merivale. Many books changed hands (I passed on The Cat Who Saw Stars and The Cat Who Robbed a Bank by Lilian Jackson Braun, Royal Flash by George MacDonald Fraser, the audiobook of Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business by Dolly Parton, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage, Secrets of the Jury Room by Malcolm Knox, and Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, and picked up Blast from the Past by Ben Elton), and we ended up sitting chatting for a couple of hours. It was TheLetterB’s first meetup, and Marcie130 doesn’t make it to many meetups, so it was great to have a different group than the usual suspects (not that there’s anything wrong with the usual suspects, but new people are always good!). I only had one book left of all the pile I’d brought to release, The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas, so I left it on the table when we left the cafe.

Afterwards, Lytteltonwitch dropped me off at home, and ended up staying for dinner, so that I could help her customise the diary she’s set up for Ballycumber (DearDiary’s customisation system is still totally incomprehensible, so rather than struggle through trying to work out what setting changes what, I suggested she just copy my settings to turn Bally’s diary into a nice Bookcrossing yellow instead of sickly default green. So we had my diary open on one computer and hers on the other, and went through each screen comparing settings until all the green was gone). Bally did have his own BCID and journal entries at Bookcrossing, but the powers that be there have asked people to stop using BCIDs for non-books, so even though Bally is kind of a book (he’s book-shaped, anyway…), lytteltonwitch decided it was probably best to move the story of his adventures over here.

There was another catch waiting for me when I got home, as well as the one I released today: The Rector’s Wife by Joanna Trollope, which I released in Oamaru, somehow made its way down to Dunedin, where rarsberry found it.

Currently reading: The Third Day, the Frost by John Marsden

¡Odio los exámenes orales!

I had my oral exam for Spanish today, and it didn’t go well :-( I was really well prepared – I’d done loads of study, and had even worked out what I could say if the examiner asked all the most likely questions – but when I went into his office my mind went completely blank, and the few things I managed to say that weren’t total gibberish were the kind of really simple phrases we learnt in the first few weeks of the first year course. I won’t get my mark for it until Monday, but when the exam was over, the examiner said “You find it a lot easier to express yourself in writing than speaking, don’t you?”, which is not a good sign. Oh well, it’s only worth 10% of the final grade, so it’s not the end of the world, but I’d managed to keep a nice A+ average for all my written work so far, so it’s disappointing that I’ve let myself down so badly in the oral component.

Ming has done himself an injury of some sort. On Wednesday night he was asleep on the bed, and when I went to move him off so we could get in he started yowling and hissing, and was obviously in a lot of pain. Eventually we figured out it was his foot that was hurting, and we managed to carefully move him to a cushion in front of the fire, and set up his food and water and a litter tray nearby so he wouldn’t have to move too far for any of them. By morning he was looking a bit better, so we decided to hold off on taking him to the vet (which involves major planning when you don’t have a car – this is one of the few times one would really come in handy!). After a couple of days of pampering he’s looking much better now, but he’s still limping badly, so we’re keeping an eye on him, and if he gets worse, or if he doesn’t keep improving, we’ll probably take him to the vet on Monday. He’s probably just been in a fight again, but he’s had an infected pad in his foot once before, so there’s always the worry that’ll happen again.


Ming being unimpressed that I’m taking photos instead of feeling sorry for him as he limps around the place

Currently reading: Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner

Queen’s Birthday

It’s a long weekend here in FutureCat land, and theoretically I was going to spend the weekend studying hard for my Spanish oral on Friday. Theoretically. Of course, temptation got in the way of good intentions, so I spent most of Saturday reading, cross-stitching, playing Oblivion, and generally doing anything but study. I did spend an hour or so in the evening going over some vocab, so the day wasn’t totally lost, and I really really was going to do lots of study for the rest of the weekend, so I could justify one day of relaxation. Except that MrPloppy and I had planned to go to the movies on Sunday… but that’s ok, because we were going to a morning session, so that still gave me the rest of the day to learn the several chapters of vocab I’ll need for the test.

So we went to the movies and saw X-Men 3, which wasn’t as good as the first two (I think they’ve basically run out of ideas – there were a few nice set pieces, but overall it was pretty boring, and the lack of excitement made the dumb stuff stand out even more than usual), but we go to the pictures together so rarely that it was enjoyable anyway. After the film finished, we decided to stay in town and have a late lunch, so it was mid-afternoon by the time we got home… to find a message on the answer-phone inviting me (and MrPloppy, but he decided one outing a day was enough for him so declined) to a games evening being held by one of the Chick Flix women that night.

A games evening sounded like a lot more fun than studying, so I abandoned my books yet again, grabbed a bottle of wine, and (as it was by now raining horribly outside) bludged a lift with gwilk and MrsGwilk. And it was a really fun night, so I’m glad I went (especially because for the first time ever I won a game of Seafarers of Catan!!!), but it was also a very late night, being well after midnight by the time we finished the last game, so I didn’t exactly manage to get up early this morning.

But despite the late start, I did actually manage to spend most of the day studying, and made a lot of progress, but not quite as much as I’d planned at the beginning of the weekend. So when I totally fail my oral, you all have permission to point out that my failure was entirely self-inflicted. Oh well, the test’s only worth 10% of the total for the semester, so it’s not the end of the world.

At least my cross-stitch is looking good:

Currently reading: The Cat Who Robbed a Bank by Lilian Jackson Braun