Having finally finished off a few works-in-progress from the stash, I decided to reward myself with starting something new – a kit MrPloppy gave me for Christmas years ago, which is huge and ambitious and will probably take me even more years to finish. But aren’t the colours pretty?

I didn’t actually get much stitching done on it yesterday, by the time I’d sorted the colours, prepared the fabric (I attempted to use your overlocker, lytteltonwitch, but failed miserably. One of the threads had come out, and though I followed the diagram and am pretty certain I rethreaded it properly, it only overlocked properly for a couple of cm before it went all weird. In the end I gave up and just used the zig-zag on my ordinary machine.), discovered there was supposed to be blending filament (Noooooo! Not again!!!) in the kit but it wasn’t there (good excuse for a visit to Hands :-))…

Oh, and if I thought the dragon was complicated, this is going to be worse – of the 94 (!!!) symbols on the graph, 80 of them are tweeds (i.e. threading the needle with two colours at the same time). Luckily there’s only three that involve the blending filament, but this is still going to be a very slow project. Oh, and as you would expect with 94 different colours, there’s a lot of changing needles – that tiny patch I stitched last night has six different colours in it alone. So don’t expect to see anything recognisable for quite some time…


Finally finished the backstitch and beading on the dragon:

Now I’ve just got to find somewhere to get it framed, seeing as my favourite framer is gone. Or maybe I’ll just add it to the ever-growing stash of things to round to framing one day…

Now, what should I do next?

Cat Stones

In a dusty corner of our porch are three large stones, one for each cat buried in our backyard. Our section sits right on top of one of the gravel banks that criss-cross the Canterbury plains, left over from the Waimakariri’s meanderings, and the reason our suburb got off so lightly in the earthquakes. It’s also the reason why digging a hole in our garden is hard work – go down past about 10 cm of topsoil and you start hitting river gravel. So digging a grave for a cat results in a pile of stones. But the weird thing is, from each cat’s grave there’s been one really big stone, twice the size of the the next biggest. Ok, I know about distribution and probabilities, and that smaller stones are much more common than bigger ones, so on average we probably would find one large stone per hole. But finding exactly one always seems like it must be a special stone, somehow – or at least, that’s how I’ve chosen to interpret it each time.

So over the last few years the stones have collected on the porch, unmarked memorials to our friends. Nobody else would ever know that it’s anything but a pile of rocks. But I know, and I think of them as their farewell gifts, keepsakes that bring to mind crazy Ming, timid Saffy, and placid George.

Thanks everyone for your kind thoughts and messages. It’s weird getting used to not having a cat in the house – I still keep checking the door to see if George wants in, or seeing dark shapes out of the corner of my eye and expecting it to be him, but it’s only a bag or a cushion.

We’re contemplating the idea of another cat, or maybe a couple of kittens. It’s still kitten season, so the SPCA and Cat Rescue have plenty looking for homes. We might take a trip out there next weekend and see if any little furry bundles catch our eye. The house is too quiet without a cat in it, and MrPloppy especially, being home most of the day, is missing having a cat on his lap trying to “help” him use the computer.

So watch this space.

Currently reading:

Real books:
Black Oxen by Elizabeth Knox (yes, still – I just can’t get into it)
Possible and Probable Languages: A Generative Perspective on Linguistic Typology by Frederick J Newmeyer

A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

And then there were none

We had to have George put to sleep today :-(

It was a bit of a shock.  He was fine a few days ago, but yesterday he was looking a bit sore, and didn’t eat anything all day.  So this morning we took him in to the vet, who said his bladder was very full, so he obviously had a blockage.  He thought we’d caught it in time, though, and said he’d keep George in so they could drain his bladder and put a catheter in until it cleared.  So we left George there, and I headed off to work, expecting all to be well.

But not long after, I got a phone call from MrPloppy.  The vet had rung, and the news wasn’t good.  They’d done a blood test, and the creatinine level was incredibly high, meaning his kidneys were failing.  The vet was actually surprised how bad it was, given that George hadn’t looked that ill when we brought him in.

Anyway, he said George’s chances were very slim.  He said there were some things he could try, but they would be very expensive and he didn’t think there was much chance they’d work, so he recommended we didn’t put George through any more.

So MrPloppy and I went back to the vet’s so we could say goodbye to George before they gave him the injection.  Then we brought him home and buried him in the garden (under a different bush than Ming and Saffy are under – we didn’t think Saffy would appreciate his company).

Goodbye George.  Glad we could give you a few good years after your difficult start in life.

In which FutureCat actually talks about bookcrossing for a change

If you looked at my list of books read so far this year, you’d think I’d abandoned the idea of paper completely. Eight e-books, two audiobooks, and only two traditional print books. The situation is not quite as dire as all that though – part of the reason for the scarcity of real books is that I’m struggling my way through Elizabeth Knox’s Black Oxen, which is not doing much to cure my aversion to NZ writers – it’s pretty much incomprehensible. I’ve been persisting with it in the hope that it’ll start to make sense at some point (though so far every time it’s shown promise of doing so, the narrative stream suddenly shifts to a new place and time (or possibly even an alternative reality – I’m not entirely sure) with what seem to be a completely new set of characters (though some might be the same ones just with new names…), so I just end up completely lost again), but after a few pages of it I always feel the need to rinse my brain out with something light and fluffy on the Kindle.

Not all is happy in Kindle-land though. I bought my textbooks for my Linguistics course the other day, and one was available cheaply in Kindle format so I thought I’d give it a try. Not good. Reading it was fine (though occasionally figures and tables got separated from the referring text by a few pages, which was a pain having to keep paging back and forth), but I realised how much I like to read texts with a pencil in my hand. You can take notes on a Kindle, but it’s not easy (especially with my model without separate keyboard), and definitely not instinctual. By the time I’ve faffed around adding a note I’ve lost my train of thought, and reading back the notes again later is a bit convoluted too.

So while the Kindle is great for leisure reading, I don’t think I’ll be using it for more academic pursuits. If I ever do go electronic for study material (and I’ll probably be forced to eventually – our library is definitely heading in that direction) I think I’ll have to get some sort of tablet device with a larger screen (reading PDFs is another thing that’s technically possible on a Kindle, but not easy, especially not the tiny print and complex diagrams of journal articles) and better notating options (ideally I’d want some sort of stylus thingy so I can underline and scribble all over the text in my preferred manner). But not an iPad, because everything with i at the front is evil ;-p

The week’s half over already, and I still haven’t written about our bookcrossing(ish) party on Saturday. I say bookcrossing-ish because although it started life as a replacement for the traditional bookcrossing Christmas party (that never happened because of the earthquakes on the 23rd), in the end there were more non-bookcrossers than bookcrossers there. So it was actually just a party that happened to have a few books floating around.

It was a fun night though – as well as Rarsberry and Otakuu, Jenny and Megan (union president) and their respective partners were there, so the conversation was wide-ranging and interesting (though occasionally veering towards the overly-academic, with three PhDs in the room!). We never did get to the board games I’d promised (sorry Rars!), but I reckon that’s probably a good sign that everyone was having such a good time anyway we had no need of additional entertainment.

Jenny brought round a huge box of unregistered books to donate to the cause (slightly depleted after I let Otakuu pounce on them), plus I ended up with all the leftovers of the meetup books, so I’ve got plenty of release fodder for a while.

Talking of releases, a few of the local bookcrossers who’d been inactive most of last year have started releasing the odd book again. I even managed to catch one: I spotted the release alert for Digging to America by Anne Tyler in time to dash across to the other side of campus and catch it.

And I’ve had a few good catches myself:

Bonk by Mary Roach garnered a new member after I left it on our book exchange table at work (not many books I leave there get journalled normally, but I know they do get read and appreciated, because I’ve spotted more than a few on colleagues’ bookshelves).

The High House by Honor Arundel has travelled from Dunedin to Auckland after a hiatus of a few years.

Also after a few years of being incommunicado, White Ruff by Glenn Balch is now in the UK and is travelling again.

And Master of the Game by Sidney Sheldon, which started life in the now-defunct Coffee Club OBCZ, has been travelling widely by being passed hand to hand, and is now in South Africa.

In other bookcrossing news (yes, for a change I’m actually devoting most of a post in a blog supposedly devoted to bookcrossing to actually talking about bookcrossing!), I’ve decided as part of my “no unnecessary stress” policy for 2012 to ask Christchurch bookcrossers to make up their collective mind on the meetup issue. For the last couple of years (so we can’t even blame it on the earthquakes) attendance at meetups has been dropping off, and it’s been feeling more and more like a losing battle to keep them going. So I’ve posted a message on our yahoo group asking if anyone actually wants to continue with meetups, and so far (admittedly only 24 hours later) there’s been nothing but silence. So I’m expecting I’ll be able to finally remove my organiser crown and give up the frustration of organising meetups and trying to encourage people to attend, only to end up having to cancel because nobody’s RSVPed.

It won’t stop us having occasional meetups, of course – I fully expect to still get together with Rars or Otakuu when the mood strikes one of us, and we might even post something on Yahoo when we do in case anyone else wants to join us. And I’m sure we’ll still have meetups when there’s a visiting bookcrosser in town. But (unless there’s a sudden rush of demand in the next few days, which I doubt), there won’t be regular monthly meetups in Christchurch any more. End of an era :-(

^ ^


The aftershocks continue:

The red lines on the seismograph are where they’ve cropped the trace so that it doesn’t totally obscure the rest of the graph. Most of them are 3s, which we don’t really feel over this side of town (the epicentres are in the east of the city or just off the coast), but the three wide red bars we certainly felt: a 5.0 mid-afternoon (amusingly, during a council briefing from geologists, who had just said that there was a 50% chance of another magnitude 5 aftershock… and then there was :-) (I was watching via live-stream, and there’s something really weird about watching people on a video reacting to an earthquake you’re feeling at the same time – yeah, I know that’s what “live” means, but it’s still odd)), then a 4.7 in the evening, and a 5.2 in the early hours of this morning. None of them really big enough to be disturbing (how easily we get used to things – 16 months ago I would have said they were huge and scary, now they’re just ho hum), but definitely noticeable!

From what I understand of the geology (we’re all becoming experts in Christchurch), each significant shake releases the stress from one area of fault, but changes the overall pattern of stress across the surrounding faults (and Canterbury, it’s now known, is criss-crossed with fault lines), making them more likely to rupture. The trend has been a gradual movement towards the east, with the latest quakes all being just off-shore in Pegasus Bay (the big sweep of bay that Christchurch sits at one end of). Apparently Pegasus Bay has an even more complex network of faultlines than there is inland, hence lots of aftershocks. The good news though is that almost all the faultlines in the bay are relatively short (and it’s mostly the length of the faultline that determines how big an earthquake will be – which is logical, if you think about it: a long faultline gives lots of room for the ground to move, but a short one only lets it jiggle a bit), so it’s likely these 5s are as big as they’re going to get. There is still a remote chance that several faultlines will connect up and allow a bigger movement, and there is one bigger fault a bit further up the coast that could conceivably be triggered, but the geologists don’t seem to think either scenario is likely.

So hopefully this latest batch of aftershocks will be the last gasp, and after a few more months they’ll start tailing off. Of course, we’ll still get occasional little wobbles for years to come, but little ones we can live with.

Of course, the alpine fault is still overdue for a big one…

^ ^

Surveying the damage

Back at work today, and I was expecting a big clean-up operation after the 23 December wobbles. But thankfully, there wasn’t too much of a mess. All my filing cabinet drawers were open, but because of our new policy of all furniture having to be bolted to either a wall or the floor, they didn’t actually fall over this time.

All the cracks in the internal walls have grown even bigger, of course, but we’re so used to those now that we think of them as part of the decor 😉 The only real damage in my office was that my computer fell over (but luckily wasn’t damaged), knocking my in-tray (full of filing I hadn’t got round to doing before Christmas) onto the floor.

One more picture, just to show you the force of the earthquakes. Our building is actually made up of two separate buildings which can move independently. The small (about 10 cm) gap between the buildings on each floor is covered by a metal plate. This is what happened to one of the plates on our floor:

The buildings moved so much that the plate has completely buckled! You can see too where it’s popped the screws out that secured it to the concrete floor plate (that dirt all over the floor has fallen out of the similar gap in the ceiling above).

Yeah, we get it, it’s not over yet

It seems the earth wants to remind us that just because it’s a new year, that doesn’t mean the end of the aftershocks.  We were rudely awakened twice during the night by big ones, a 5.1 at about half past one, and then a 5.5 at quarter to six.  Followed, of course, by a string of little rumbles all day (including a nice 4.8 in the middle of this evening’s ESOL lesson, which was big enough for us to pause for a few seconds to make sure it wasn’t getting any bigger before we carried on).

Progress continues on the dragon:

Currently reading:

Real book: Black Oxen by Elizabeth Knox
E-book: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Audiobook: Beachcombers by Nancy Thayer

What I read in 2011

Total = 133 books

January (12)

February (9)

March (10)

April (15)

May (9)

June (10)

July (11)

August (9)

September (6)

October (15)

November (15)

December (12)

What I read in 2010 (137 books)
What I read in 2009 (150 books)
What I read in 2008 (154 books)
What I read in 2007 (123 books)
What I read in 2006 (140 books)
What I read in 2005 (168 books)

What counts as a book?