Setting fire to the cat

I set fire to Ming last night. Accidentally, of course – he was lying in front of the fire while I was putting some more wood on it, and a spark leapt out and landed on his tail. He didn’t notice, but I saw the glowing ember, and a plume of smoke coming from his tail, and tried to flick it off before it burnt through the fur and got his skin… and of course my sudden movement scared him, and he ran and hid under the table, still trailing smoke. We did manage to get him out (and put his tail out!) before it hurt him, but he was looking pretty confused for the rest of the evening trying to work out what he’d done wrong to justify the chase round the lounge. And he spent a lot of time grooming his tail, obviously trying to get the horrible smell off him – didn’t help get rid of it through the rest of the house, though!



I’ve just realised what a long time it’s been since I wrote anything here (or read anyone else’s diary or journal, for that matter). It’s been a busy few weeks.

So, going back in time a bit….

Tuesday, quite some time ago (12th?)
A clash of appointments. Meetup night, and I also had to go to a call-back training session for ESOL-HT, basically checking up on how we were doing with our learners. I took the opportunity to talk to one of the convenors about the problems I’d been having with finding a lesson time, with my learner working such long hours, and me working full time. We agreed that she’d probably be better off with a tutor with a bit more time flexibility who could fit round her weird hours, and the convenor said she’d find me a new learner.

The rest of the lesson was devoted to talking about resources, but as I didn’t know who my new learner would be, or what level they’d be at, there wasn’t much point in me sticking around, so I made my apologies and left early, then raced back into the centre of town to the bookcrossing meetup. I was only an hour late, so everyone was still there. It was a good turn-out, too: lytteltonwitch, awhina and family, and two of the new members, angela7715 and keenreda. Good to see newbies getting involved – we’re going to need all the enthusiastic members we can get over the next couple of years!

Fast forward a couple of days to Friday 15th and the start of my very long weekend
Wombles arrived late on Thursday night, but was staying with lytteltonwitch. I had arranged to have Friday off work so I could spend the day with her (L had to work), so I told her to ring me when she woke up and we’d meet in town. I gave her a quick walking tour of Christchurch (basically the same route as we used for the 2005 convention, and will probably repeat in 2009 – Firefighters’ Reserve (where there is a memorial to the firefighters killed in the World Trade Centre, made from beams taken from the rubble), along the river to the Provincial Chambers, then down to the Arts Centre). We walked along to Cathedral Grammar, which will be our venue for 2009, then back through the gardens for a while (geocaching as we went, of course – Wombles is another mad adherent of the sport, while I find it kind of like golf: a good walk ruined 😉 (actually, I do kind of enjoy the following the coordinates part of it, which can be interesting, and leads you to some weird and wonderful places, but the scrabbling around under bushes looking for small plastic boxes part is where I get bored)), finishing up at the Gardens Cafe, where we met awhina and lytteltonwitch for lunch.

After lunch, awhina took us out to Merivale to look for some more geocaches. One was a “multi” cache, where the original coordinates lead you to clues which give you the final coordinates of the actual cache. After a few false starts (and a few donuts in the Mona Vale carpark) we found the clues (one of which was very ingeniously hidden – it’s amazing the ways some geocachers find to disguise their caches), but never managed to find the final cache. It did give Wombles the chance to see another area of Christchurch, though.

Awhina had to pick up the kids from school, so she dropped us off at Jelly Park where there was supposed to be another cache (but when we found the location, all that was there was the laminated card explaining geocaching that’s normally inside the box, so it looks like it was “muggled” (i.e. found by a non-geocacher who destroyed it)), and from there we walked back to my place and caught the bus back into town to try for a couple more caches in the gardens.

We had to be back at my place by 6, because I’d invited everyone back for dinner, but I managed to miss-time getting to the bus exchange and we missed the bus. I checked the timetables, and it looked like a choice between waiting for the next bus, which would mean not getting home until 6.30-ish, or catching a different bus which would get us at least within walking distance, although we’d still be pushing it to get home by 6. We opted for taking the alternative route, and at about quarter to got off the bus at a stop that’s normally about 20 minutes walk from my place. By some very fast walking (and nearly killing Wombles!) we actually made it in time, just a few minutes before the first bookcrossers arrived.

Another fun and well-attended meetup: as well as Wombles, MrPloppy and I there were lytteltonwitch, awhina & co (minus the kitten, who was at youth group, but plus awhina’s cousin, whose bookcrossing name I can’t remember), keenreada, and TheLetterB. Pizza for dinner (I wasn’t wasting my day off cooking!), and loads of books being swapped. I’ve totally lost track of which books I picked up when, but in the pile sitting beside the computer in the aftermath are:

Saturday
The next morning lytteltonwitch and Wombles picked me up and we headed up to Arthur’s Pass to prove to Wombles that NZ really does have mountains (it’s been a running joke with her that NZ’s mountains are just a story invented to bring in tourists, because on both of her previous trips here the alps have been hidden behind low cloud). It was pouring with rain when we left Christchurch, but the mountain forecast was clear, and sure enough, as we left the plains (after quite a few geocaches along the way, of course) the rain eased off and the clouds began to lift. There was snow on the side of the road at Porter’s Pass, so we stopped so Wombles could experience snow for the first time (mainly through me throwing a snowball at her – well, you can’t say you’ve truly experienced snow until you’ve had some thrown at you and discovered that while snowball fights look like fun, they’re actually cold and damp and sometimes painful! :-))

We got to Arthur’s Pass at lunchtime, so after rejecting the Chalet (which used to be a nice restaurant, but is now looking really dingy, and had no customers and no sign of staff when we went in, despite the Open sign outside) we went to the Wobbly Kea for hot soup and a shared pizza, and donned thermals before venturing back out into the cold (leaving behind a few books – I left Journey by Danielle Steel).

Our explorations of Arthur’s Pass were dictated by the location of geocaches, but at least they were all in nice scenic spots. The first was at the end of the Punchbowl Falls walkway, which Lytteltonwitch sprinted up while Wombles and I wheezed along slowly behind, both suffering from the combination of cold air and steep steps (one day I’ll actually remember to take my inhaler with me when I go on adventures like this – the trouble is, because I’m not asthmatic enough to need it all the time, I keep forgetting to carry it with me, so when I do need it, it’s usually safely at home in the medicine cabinet). While they scrabbled around among the leaf-mould for the cache, I released a book (Something Wonderful by Judith McNaught), and took some photos:


Looking back down the valley


Punchbowl falls


A smaller fall further down the river


Strangely lumnious fungi growing out of a bank

Next walk was a much shorter one to Avalanche Falls, where I released All Fall Down by Jenny Oldfield while lyttletonwitch and Wombles clambered around in the dirt under the viewing platform.


Wombles dressed in nice white clean Charleston convention shirt – not the ideal uniform for clambering around in the dirt looking for hidden things!

The weather was starting to pack in, so we wanted to get down off the mountain before dark, so we headed back towards home. Of course, by the time we’d stopped a few more times for geocaches (including one that L. decided to head off-road for, insisting that the narrow track was a perfectly adequate road for her (non-4WD) car… until the ruts got so deep that she bottomed out, on a winding stretch closely lined with matagouri – no going forward, too difficult to back out, and no room to turn… that was fun getting out of!), plus a bit of book releasing (The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy at Lake Linden, and The Ranch by Danielle Steel at Cave Stream), it was almost dark by the time we reached Porter’s Pass, where there was one last geocache, hidden among the spaniard grass. While L & W had their hands sliced up by the spaniard grass (and they do this for fun???), I made a tiny snowman for Wombles to take a photo of for her kids, and then realised that the reason the wind had suddenly got so much more biting was that it had started sleeting. Sense prevailed then, and the hunt for the elusive cache was quickly called off before the road iced up.

Back in Christchurch, we took up awhina’s offer of dinner at her house. I bet she wishes we hadn’t, because while setting the table (with the beautiful new dinner set, a wedding present and only used a few times before), the kitten managed to drop the entire stack of 7 dinner plates. It was incredibly spectacular – the whole pile slid out of her hands and cascaded to the floor, smashing one after the other. Poor kitten was so shocked by what she’d done she could just stand and stare at the huge pile of crockery shards at her feet, while the rest of us didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I did feel sorry for awhina and MrAwhina, having lost their lovely dinner set only two months after they got it, and I felt even sorrier for the kitten, who was so upset by what she’d done, but it was incredibly funny all the same.



Right, it’s too cold sitting here at the computer, so the rest of the weekend will have to wait until later – I’m going to go and sit by the fire and read for a while.

And the bad news is…

MrPloppy blew up the computer yesterday. He had it unplugged to clean the fans (which get pretty dusty with three cats in the house!), and when he switched it back on, it went bang in a most impressive manner. Apparently the power supply blew (if so, this’ll be the third time we’ve had to replace the power supply on that computer in the two and a half years we’ve had it). We’re hoping that’s the only damage, and that the hard drive is still ok – if it’s been damaged we won’t lose too many important documents (backups? what are they?) because we tend to use that computer mostly for games, with the older computer (which has never had anything go wrong, despite being twice as old) reserved for emails and other important stuff, but it’ll still be a pain having to reinstall everything (and I’ll lose all my saved games – my poor Sims!!!). The one bit of good news is that at least it’s still under warranty (that extended 3 year warranty has definitely paid for itself!) so we won’t be facing a huge expense.



I did get all excited about the fact that Guns N’ Roses are coming to Christchurch next month… until I looked at the ticket prices. They start at $99 and go up from there :-( And as I wouldn’t want to go without MrPloppy (who doesn’t really like GNR much anyway, but I’m not going to a stadium concert on my own, especially not for a metal band – most things I’ll happily go to on my own, but that’s a bit too scary), that means a minimum of $200 just to indulge in a bit of nostalgia. Nah, think I’ve got better things to spend my money on at the moment, really.



Currently reading: Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult
Currently listening to: The Invisible Man by HG Wells (because the rest of the mp3s of the Bill Bryson audiobook were on the computer that blew up)

Muttonbird

It’s 05 06 07 today! (if you use a sensible type of calendar ;-)).

Of course, that also means it’s two weeks today until my final exam for my sociolinguistics paper. So I should have been studying all weekend. Instead, I was being social :-) (hey, isn’t that what being a student is all about? socialising when you should be studying?)

Rarsberry and VivaRichie were in Christchurch for the weekend (and we thought otakuu would be too, but in the end she wasn’t able to make it), so of course we had to have a meetup. Saturday night was about the only time we’d all be available, so I offered to host the meetup at my place rather than us having to go to some noisy bar in town. Unfortunately, by the time we’d decided all this, it was a bit late notice for most people we invited, but at least the usual crowd turned up: lytteltonwitch, TheLetterB, and awhina and MrAwhina.

We had a great meetup anyway – discussed loads of ideas for 2009 (and even made a couple of firm decisions!), celebrated lytteltonwitch’s birthday with a ballycumber cake, and got all the latest wedding news from rarsberry.



While I’m posting pictures of cake, here’s the space cake:



On Sunday, lytteltonwitch and I decided that if Otakuu couldn’t come to Christchurch, we’d go to her. So we headed down south, and arrived at her place only to be told by the kids that she was asleep. I don’t think she minded us waking her up, though – she seemed happy (and incredibly surprised) to see us, especially when we “kidnapped” her and took her out for lunch! We had a lovely relaxing lunch in a nice cafe (where there were too many yummy things on the menu, so rather than having to choose we all ordered something different and shared), then wandered around the shops for a while.

When we got back to Otakuu’s, the kids had made a “party” for us out in the shed. Their choice of refreshments and reading choices (you can tell they’re growing up in a bookcrosser’s home, when they think books are essential for a good party!) were… um… interesting, but they were pretty proud of their efforts. A pity that by the time we arrived it was too cold to be sitting around outside, so after a few minutes we all retreated back inside where it was warm.

We had planned on leaving before dinner, but the temptation of paua and muttonbird was too much. Actually, muttonbird wasn’t so much a temptation as a curiosity – I’d never had it before, and although most people I know who have tried it said it was horrible, I still wanted to try it myself. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad – very weird (a smallish bird with dark meat that looks like beef or mutton (hence the English name, I guess), but tastes kind of like strong tuna (I managed to confuse everyone by saying that when I tasted it, because they thought I meant eel (the Maori word for which is tuna), which it’s nothing like)), but not unpleasant. I don’t think I could eat a huge portion of it (a bit too strong a taste for that), but ok in small quantities – definitely not as horrible as I’d anticipated, and at least now I can say I’ve tried it. New experiences are always good! :-)

(I wouldn’t recommend eating muttonbird before a long car journey, though – it repeats rather forcefully. Good thing lytteltonwitch had a supply of peppermints in the car!)



In reply to Kimi’s comment about I, Robot, what you heard was exactly right. I’d read the book years ago, but when I saw the film (on TV – I wasn’t paying to see that dross!) I started doubting my memory, because absolutely nothing in the film seemed familiar. So I got the audiobook out of the library and was reassured to find that my memory wasn’t failing me after all – other than the title, and the names of a couple of the characters (Alfred Lanning, and Susan Calvin, whose character in the film is nothing like she is described in the book – for a start, in the book she’s 80-odd!), they have nothing at all in common. I can’t think of one scene in the film that even vaguely represents any of the stories in the book.



Currently reading: Sky Burial by Xinran
Currently listening to: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

For Yetzirah

I think this is the plate in the photo. From memory it came out of a bargain bin of assorted loose crockery at the Warehouse (a very cheap chain kind of similar to Walmart), and doesn’t have anything as sophisticated as a maker’s mark – all it says on the bottom is “Made in China”.

So probably not the same as your dinner set :-)