News but no news

The latest on the job front is that they’ve extended our contracts for another six weeks while management consider the business case.  So yay I’ve got a job for another six weeks, but not so yay I’ve still got no idea what’s going to happen long term.  I’m trying not to stress too much about it, but yeah, not the most relaxing situation to be in.

On a more positive note, two of our DCAs and I gave a presentation about CEISMIC to a group visiting from Greypower (an advocacy group for retired people) on Wednesday.  About 80 elderly people, and only one of them fell asleep during our presentation, so I think we did pretty well :-)  My part of the presentation was an extended version of a speech I’d given to Toastmasters last month (my Toastmasters speech was 7 minutes long, and this one was about 20), which definitely helped, because I knew most of it really well already.   One of the DCAs had never given a presentation before, so I coached her through preparing for it, and she did really well, so I got to feel pretty successful in my managerial abilities as well as my public speaking :-)

Went to another quiz night last night with Mrs Gwilk and Gabby from ChickFlicks.  It was a fundraiser being run by Gabby’s daughter’s church youth group, and like anything run by a bunch of teenagers was completely disorganised, but we had a lot of fun anyway.  The other problem with a quiz run by teenagers is that a lot of the questions involved recent music and celebrities, so we were struggling to answer those, but we did well enough on the less age-biased questions that we still managed to finish 3rd-equal, so felt we’d kept up to our high standards.  It was a very late night though, especially because when I got home I had to finish packing (Lytteltonwitch and I are off to Oamaru after work tonight).  So ever so slightly tired today, and it’ll be a late night again tonight by the time we get down there.  Good thing it’s a long weekend!

Sick computers, work worries, and invisibility – it’s been a complicated week

You want to hear my latest excuse for not having posted here for ages?  This time it’s not me that’s been sick (or the DearDiary site), but my computer.  I discovered a nasty malware infection on it, and as removing it looked like it was going to be a long and involved process (it was – I ended up having to muck around in the Registry, which is always scary!), I decided to just leave the computer turned off until the weekend when I could look at it properly.  Anyway, I *think* I’ve managed to remove everything now – and more importantly, I think I’ve identified which software download it snuck in on, so I’ve removed that as well for good measure.

I couldn’t even sneak a post or two in from work, because we’ve been flat out this week, mostly with preparing the case to have our programme put on a more permanent footing (because otherwise, our contracts all run out at the end of next week, and the archive effectively shuts down).  It’s one of those annoying situations where upper management all agrees that the archive is incredibly valuable and needs to keep going, but the university is so short of money that suddenly turning five fixed-term contracts into permanent jobs is a very big commitment, so we need to prove that we’re giving the university a good return on its investment.

So all of us on the management team have been running around like mad for weeks (and especially so this week) trying to gather evidence and write the business case.  Which culminated yesterday with me spending the entire afternoon holed up with the Director helping him do a final proofread the document (I told him I was going to take much pleasure in telling everyone how many times I had to correct the grammar of a Professor of English 😉 ) and get the 20-odd appendices in order (and in triplicate).  I had to leave sometime after 5, when Harvestbird texted me to say she was downstairs waiting for me, by which time every surface in the Director’s office was completely covered in piles of paper from our efforts to check and sort everything, and we were both approaching panic mode.  I did feel bad for leaving him in that state, but we had almost finished (and I didn’t want to miss the talk Harvestbird and I were going to, or leave her waiting down in the carpark for too long), so hopefully he got the last few bits sorted ok.

Anyway, despite the looming deadline, things aren’t quite as dire as they seem, because the most likely outcome is that our contracts will be temporarily extended (again…) so that senior management have sufficient time to make their decision, and even if the absolute worst happens and they shut us down, I at least still have my old job to go back to (sort of – it’s very complicated, but on paper at least I’m only seconded into this role, and my old job still exists.  I’d be taking quite a big pay cut going back to it though, and the job has changed so much over the past few years that I don’t think I’d enjoy it much now.  There’s some other complicating factors too, but this is a bit too public a space to discuss them).  So yeah, at least I won’t be out on the streets, but I’d still much prefer to be permanently transferred into my current job.  And of course, the rest of the team don’t have the luxury of another job to go back to, so we’ve all been feeling pretty anxious – there’s a lot riding on this business case!

The talk Harvestbird and I went to was a Royal Society lecture on invisibility.  The speaker took a really interesting approach, combining an account of the scientific quest for invisibility (and the current state of the research) with a cultural and literary history of the idea, and the moral values that have been attached to it.  It was a fascinating talk, covering so many areas, and the perfect intersection of Harvestbird’s literary geekery and my sciencey geekery, so we had much discussion of it afterwards as we searched for somewhere to have dinner (always a challenge in the central city on a Friday night – though some great new places have opened, and a few old favourites returned, there’s still few enough that they’re all packed from 6-ish onwards, making getting a table anywhere tricky.  We walked the length of Victoria Street and back without finding anything, and ended up settling for the Coffee House (which actually was pretty good, but it wasn’t what we’d had in mind when we set out)).  Radio NZ were recording the talk, so if you’re local, keep an ear out for it – I assume it’ll be on National Radio.

I went to another talk earlier in the week too – the Linguistics department are hosting a visiting scholar who’s been doing research on a dialect spoken in an obscure corner of the Solomon Islands.  She gave a really interesting lecture on the challenges of doing fieldwork in such a remote place, and some of the interesting syntactical features she’s discovering.  Cool stuff, and totally inspiring me to get back into study (at the same time as reminding me of how much work is involved – I’m both looking forward to and dreading the start of semester in July).

Right, Parsnips has just appeared and is trying to force her way onto my lap, so it must be time to get the fire going and warm up the house a bit.  Had the first really decent frost of the year this morning – winter is definitely on its way!


DD’s been down again, so of course I’ve spent the last day and a half composing all sorts of interesting and amusing blog posts in my head, and now that it’s back up I can’t remember any of them.  So instead, a few highlights of the past few days:

On Friday I discovered that there are actually some really nice people in the world.  I was waiting at the bus stop in the rain, and as usual the bus was running late, and every time I checked the real-time arrivals thing it would tell me that it was going to be even later.  So I’d resigned myself to being very cold and wet by the time I got home.  Except that a complete stranger stopped her car and asked if I wanted a lift somewhere, which I most gratefully accepted.  (Sorry Mum, I know you spent my entire childhood telling me not to get in a car with a stranger, but not having to wait in the rain for another 20 minutes totally beats stranger danger any day 😉 )

On Saturday night I went to a games night with the Gwilks.  There were enough people that we split into two rooms, so I joined the group playing Shadows Over Camelot, a game I’d actually played before (it’s becoming a joke that every time I go to one of the games nights I end up playing a game I haven’t seen before, and just when I’m getting the hang of it the game is over and I’ll never get another chance to play it, because the next games night there’ll be a new game).  However, this time we were playing a variation on it (so it was kind of a new game, but at least I already understood most of the game mechanics).  It’s a cooperative game, so basically you either all win or all lose, but the variant we were playing had a traitor, so it was them against the rest of us.  Except we didn’t know until the end who the traitor was.  It’s quite a difficult game, and we ended up losing, but it was still a lot of fun.

On Sunday we had a bookcrossing meetup.  Our brunch meetups didn’t suit everyone, so we shifted to lunch instead, and met at the new cafe in the Botanic Gardens.  It was incredibly busy (the line stretched right around the cafe at one point), but we managed to snag a table, and by borrowing chairs from other tables somehow managed to fit all of us around it.  Lots of books being exchanged, of course – the tower of books in the centre of the table was getting quite dangerously high for a while there.

I’d hoped to get some more work done on my experimental quilt, but between all that socialness and having spent a good chunk of Saturday curled up in front of the fire with a good book, I only quilted one square:

The pattern is called Windswept, and I really struggled to get the hang of it.  I just couldn’t get my speed right or the fabric flowing smoothly, and then just when it was starting to go right I discovered that somehow my backing fabric had got folded over, so I had to unpick a big section and resew it (which is why there’s some really messy bits down the right hand side).  I think it’s one of those patterns which could look really good with a bit more practice, though.

The back looks a wee bit better (mainly because the cotton doesn’t contrast so much, so the wobbles in my sewing aren’t as obvious), but it still doesn’t look much like the tutorial:

Oh well, the whole point of the experimental quilt is to allow myself to make a mess of it and learn via my mistakes, not worry about it being perfect…

The Good and the Bad

Sometimes working at the university has its definite perks.  Like today when I got to go to a fascinating lecture being given by Alison Griffith of the Classics department on the history of writing, illustrated with objects from the Logie Collection, like Sumerian cuneiform tablets, Egyptian mummy wrappings, and Roman memorial stones.  Really interesting stuff, and because there were only about a dozen people at the talk, there was plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion.

There are also some downsides to working at the university, of course.  Like the fact that our office overlooks the music school’s practice room, and Thursday is the day all the voice students have their lessons.  Which might not seem like a bad thing, but when it’s a warm enough afternoon that we (and they) have the windows open, and the third soprano of the day starts up on an hour of singing scales, it definitely starts to grate.

Experimenting again

I’m at home this morning while the painters finish off the repairs to the ceiling, so, having run out of work I can usefully do from home, I decided to return to my experimental quilt and practice some more free-motion quilting.

The pattern is called Nikki’s Jigsaw Puzzle, and was a nice easy one to get back into FMQ again (even if I did create a couple of puzzle pieces which would immediately break in real life ;-)), especially after I actually drew out the straight lines in chalk first, rather than trying to sew straight lines by eye (which I’ve proved many times I’m not capable of).

Ok, sounds like the painters are finishing up, so I’d better start getting myself organised to go into work.

A (not) cool wee project

In the wake of the last few patchworky/quilty projects I’ve been working on, I’ve accumulated quite a stash of fabric scraps that are too small to really be useful, but too big to throw away, so I’ve just been collecting them all together in a “might come in handy one day” pile.

Anyway, now that the weather is cooling down, my hot water bottle has come out of storage (because I’m weird and don’t really like electric blankets), and I was thinking the other day that it would be cool to make a quilted cover for it (plus a good way to practice a bit more free-motion quilting before I return to my experimental quilt).  And then I came up with the clever idea of sewing all those little scraps together randomly to make the cover.  Well, not quite all – it actually took a lot fewer scraps than I expected, so my wee basket is still pretty full.

Unfortunately, I underestimated just how much bulk sewing two pieces of quilted material together adds to seams, so what I thought was a generous sizing (I traced round the hot water bottle then added a few centimetres extra all the way round) turned out to be a very tight fit, which meant my original plan of turning the cover inside out via the neck failed (because again I underestimated how bulky quilted material is, and made the neck too narrow to pull it all through) so I ended up having to unpick the seam at the base instead and turning it inside out that way instead, and then (badly) hand-sewing the seam closed again.  It was also a very tight fit getting the hot water bottle in through the neck, but with a bit of a struggle I did manage it (though if the bottle ever bursts and I have to replace it, I think I’ll end up just throwing out the cover and making a new one, because there’s no way I’ll ever get it out again).

However, a fun wee project, I learnt a lot (even if it was all what not to do next time), and I reckon the result is pretty cheerful:

Now I just need to wait for another cold snap so I can test it out :-)

Excuses, excuses

Yeah, I know, it’s been ages since I wrote anything.  Can I use as an excuse the fact that I’ve been really tired, AND that I have a medical excuse for being tired, so it’s not just laziness, honestly it’s not!

Ok, so the not writing a blog post thing has been just laziness, but I really do have a medical excuse for feeling tired – when I was at the doctor’s the other day I mentioned that I’d been feeling a bit run down, and asked him to check my iron levels, because I suspected they may be a bit low (which has happened from time to time in the past).  And lo and behold, a blood test revealed that not only was I a bit low on iron, I was seriously low (like, when I rang the nurse to get the results, she actually gasped when she saw the number sort of low).  And seriously low on haemoglobin too, which probably means I’ve been low on iron for a long time, meaning my poor body hasn’t had anything to make the haemoglobin out of.  So no wonder I was feeling a bit tired!

Anyway, because it’s so low, my doctor wants me to have some more tests just to make sure there’s not anything more serious going on than a combination of having a 40-something year old female body and being prone to low iron anyway (which is the most likely explanation, so I’m not feeling particularly concerned about other possibilities), but in the meantime I’ve got some nice iron supplements to take which should help a bit.

Of course, despite having felt no worse than a bit tired before I got the blood test, now that I’ve seen the numbers I’m suddenly noticing all the symptoms (dizzy spells, shortness of breath, headaches…) that previously I’d been dismissing as just imagination – is there such a thing as reverse hypochondria? :-)  So as a result I’ve been feeling worse since going to the doctor than I did before…  Oh well, the iron tablets should hopefully start kicking in soon, and then you won’t recognise the new super-energetic FutureCat :-)