Bringing balance to the weekend

Yay for five-day weekends! (Tuesday is a university holiday, on top of the usual Easter public holidays).  I’ll admit my first instinct was to treat the long weekend as three extra days I could spend in my office coding my data (a long and laborious process – I’ve got tens of thousands of instances of “of” or “-‘s” in my data, and I’ve got to manually go through each of them and decide whether it represents a possessive or not (not as easy a decision as you might think: “the roof of the house” definitely is, but what about “the middle of eating lunch”, “that kind of thing” or “lots of rubble”? (spoiler: they’re all technically possessives.  But “all of a sudden”, “sort of screamed”, and “full of water” aren’t.)), and then I have to classify the ones that are possessive according to a long list of criteria that seemed sensible when I designed my methodology but now I’m faced with actual data seems overwhelmingly huge.  Plus, people don’t speak properly!  I wish I had nice data like “the roof of the house”.  What I actually get is something like “and then um the the the r~ the top ah you know the roof f~ the roof of of the um the h~ the house you know sort of fell”, and I’ve got to somehow figure out which bit of that is the possessive.  When you’re reading the nice examples in textbooks, they never mention that nobody actually talks like that! (sorry, my quick aside seems to have turned into a rant about data.  So, back to what I was trying to say…)).  However (as may be evidenced by the preceding brackets), I realised it’s probably about time I had something resembling a break, so I compromised on doing *some* study but not an excessive amount, and spread out over the whole long weekend (rather than my usual system of spending one whole day of my weekend studying).  Trying to find a balance between actually enjoying the weekend (not that I don’t enjoy studying, but it is tiring) and not feeling guilty about wasting this opportunity to get all this extra study done.

Anyway, it seems to be working ok so far.  On Friday I did the housework, then went into my office for a couple of hours, then met Lytteltonwitch in town so we could have dinner at the food trucks in the Square, because it was their last Friday night before shutting down for the winter.  We tried also to go and see Ornot’s new play, but the booking office was closed when we first tried, and then when we went back later they’d just sold out.  Oh well, should have been more organised and booked online…

On Saturday I walked over to a cafe for breakfast, did a couple more hours work, then came home and baked some biscuits.  Half the biscuits I took round to the Gwilks’ that night for the games evening they were hosting.  They wanted to introduce various parts of their friends groups who didn’t intersect to each other, so I didn’t know any of the other people there, but games are a good way to get to know new people without all the awkward “so… what do you do…” small talk, so it was a really fun evening.  Made even more fun by their cat deciding to bring a small rat inside in the middle of proceedings.  The rat of course managed to escape the cat’s clutches, run up the curtains and leap from curtain-rail to shelf around the room, causing much chaos as everyone tried to alternatively catch it or just get as far away from it as possible.

After the late night on Saturday, I decided to take yesterday off entirely.  So I spent the morning sewing.  I don’t think I’ve shown you pictures of my latest project (not that I really need a new project, because I’ve still got the Birds in Flight quilt to finish, but that’s at a stage that requires much thought and planning, and I wanted something that I could just work on a little bit at a time when I’ve got an hour or two spare).  I finished the last of the blocks for it yesterday, but I’ve still got to do all the sashing yet.

The background fabric is a much nicer shade of green than it seems in that photo, honestly, it’s just taken in bad light. It’s actually a really fresh spring green, that goes great (I think) with the bright colours I’m using.

Then in the afternoon I went over to Harvestbird’s with the other half of the biscuits, to eat cake, peaches, and easter eggs (the mini-Harvestbirds had had an easter egg hunt in the morning, resulting in a considerable haul, so adult Harvestbirds were working on the theory that it’s better to get as much of the chocolate consumption over with as quickly as possible, and suffer one day of hyperactive children rather than drag it out for weeks), and sit in the sun (well, in theory, anyway. The mini-Harvestbirds were very excited to have me visit, so I spent a lot of my visit playing with them (hmm, maybe that’s why they’re always so excited to have me visit…) – so I had to push them (and their imaginary friends!) on the swing, take part in ballet practice, say hello to a pink diamond with a face (called “Diamondy”, of course), and help build an elaborate lego ice palace for the diamond, to protect her from attacks by Ralph Wiggum from the Simpsons (it all made sense at the time, possibly?). Harvestbird took a photo of the ice palace (Flickr won’t let me embed it for some reason – possibly because you’ve licenced it copyright, Harvestbird?).

The plan for today and tomorrow is similar.  Once I’ve finished writing this I’ll head into my office for a few hours again, then maybe have a late lunch somewhere nice, and tomorrow I might take advantage of having a day off when everyone else is back at work to go into Riccarton.  Maybe I’ll even do something drastic like see a movie!

While I’m posting photos, here’s my shiny new suitcase.  For most trips to conventions when I’m just going for a few days and am carrying more books than clothes, I normally take my yellow bookcrossing bag, but it’s not really big enough for longer trips. And my battered old suitcase that I’ve had since I was 19 is really on its last legs – the wheels fell off years ago, and I don’t think it can survive another long-haul.  So I bought myself a new suitcase the other day.  But it was a bit boring, and looked like every other suitcase in the world.  And the advantage of my yellow bookcrossing bag, and even more so of my old suitcase (which I’d extensively decorated with that puffy foam paint that everyone decorated their clothes with back in the 80s), was that they stand out really well on baggage carousels.  Who needs to tie an identifying piece of ribbon to your bag when your entire bag is decorated? :-)

So the solution was obvious.  Buy a packet of sticky foam shapes, and make my new suitcase a bit more interesting:

Ok, so half of them will probably fall off before I get home, but in the meantime it’ll be distinctive :-)

And finally, a photo of Parsnips with her bald patch:

And Parsnips mid-yowl, complaining that I’m wasting time taking her photo when I could be scratching her under the chin, which in her opinion is one of the only two reasons humans have hands (the other, of course, being to open the fridge door).

Selling Out?

Well, that’s a first for me – I was contacted by a PR person offering me a free ticket to the upcoming Christchurch Food Show – presumably they’re hoping that I will encourage my millions* of readers to attend the show too, and it’ll get all viral and social media-y and other buzzwords.  I’m also working on the theory that they think this is a food blog, because the post from Dad’s birthday party is still showing up on my front page, featuring photographs of cake and venison burgers. Totally food-blog-worthy. Anyway, no matter what their motivation, I’m not one to turn down free anything, so this is me officially selling out:

Go to the Food Show**.  It (hopefully) will be good.  I will be there (probably – I haven’t actually got my free ticket yet.  PR person said they’d mail it to me, so, assuming they don’t decide they made a horrible mistake offering it to me, it should arrive sometime next week).  I will probably take pretty pictures, and maybe even if I have time post some of them here.

Does this mean I’ve made it as a blogger?

*This may be a slight exaggeration.
**Unless you don’t want to.  Or if you don’t llive in Christchurch, of course, in which case you can’t.  Unless you go to the one in Wellington or Auckland.  Or if you come and visit.  I have a couch you could sleep on, but you have to share it with Parsnips***.
***Who has developed weird bald spots which I think are due to her over-grooming**** , but make her look like she’s suffering from some horrible disease, so you might not want to wake up with her snuggling up to you.
****Which yes, I should probably take her to the vet about – it’s on my list of things I will definitely do as soon as I can find a spare hour or two (yeah, it probably should be the hour or two I’ll be spending at the food show, but somehow going to a food show where there is the distinct possibility of free tastings seems like a much better use of my time than spending vast amount of money to have the vet tell me that she’s probably stressed by the existence of other cats, and there’s not much I can do about that except move to a new house where there are no windowsills that she can sit on and watch the neighbourhood cats daring to exist within line of site of her.)***** But I promise I will take her to the vet soon.
*****It occurs to me that discussing a diseased-looking partially-bald cat is not something you’re supposed to do in a post that’s encouraging people to attend a food show.  But I blame the PR guy for not reading my blog properly before he offered me the free ticket. Does it help if I promise not to take my diseased-looking partially-bald cat to the show with me?


Right, that’s the selling-out part done with.  Except now I’m going to sell out on behalf of work, which isn’t really selling out, because they already pay me: Look at CEISMIC’s shiny new Facebook page!  We were told by the people who are helping us do fundraising that we need to have more of a social media presence, so we set up a page and are trying to post interesting stuff to it reasonably regularly.  We need to get as many likes on it as we can, so if you’re a facebook-using type of person****** we’d greatly appreciate a like!

****** (I can hear Yetzirah’s punctuation from here, complaining about my over-use of footnotes in this post.  Sorry, (), but sometimes I just need to communicate in footnotes.) Which I am not.  Although, if you visit the page, you may see some likes and comments from a person greatly resembling me.  Do not be fooled by this into thinking I actually use facebook – it’s just an account I set up ages ago because I needed it for a work thing, and have resurrected slightly to use for CEISMIC stuff.  But despite its existence, there’s not a lot of point in friending me (and chances are I won’t friend you back anyway – I’m trying as much as possible to keep it work-related) – I never post anything there, other than occasionally sharing CEISMIC posts, which you’ll see anyway if you like the CEISMIC page.  All the interesting stuff goes here in my blog.


In other news, it’s been an exhausting few days.  I would say it was self-inflicted over-scheduling, but actually it was totally sensible scheduling until a last-minute opportunity came up at work, and I stupidly said yes without thinking about everything else I had in my calendar.

Thursday was Red Rose Day, which is the Red Cross’s equivalent to the Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day, but not as well known.  Ages ago they’d asked me if I’d be interested in helping out again, seeing as I’d done collecting for them last year, so I decided to take the day off work for it.  Because I had the whole day off, I said I’d be happy to do as many 2-hour shifts as they needed, and they took me at my word, because they scheduled me for 3 shifts at Northlands Mall, from 9.30 until 3.  Of course, on the day the person who was supposed to take over at 3 didn’t turn up, so I ended up having to stay on until 5, which was a very long time to be pretending to be extroverted and chatty and asking people for donations (in return for a rose, which we had buckets full of).  They’d scheduled two people on for each shift, which was good, because it’s a lot easier doing that sort of thing with another person than when you’re on your own, but it also meant that in the quiet times I’d have to make small-talk with my partner, so I didn’t get any down-time at all in the day (except for the 15 minutes break I took to quickly grab some lunch (hmm, it seems I’ve switched from too many footnotes mode to too many brackets mode)).  I can do a convincing act of extroversion when I have to, but I find it completely exhausting, so really really need to have some quiet alone time to recharge my mental batteries afterwards (I once heard someone describe this as the difference between extroverts and introverts – it’s not that one is always more social than the other, it’s that when they get tired, an introvert recharges their batteries by being alone, and an extrovert recharges their batteries by being around other people).  So yeah, by the end of the day I was feeling pretty shattered.

Which normally would have been fine, because Fridays are always pretty quiet days at work, so I’d planned to just spend the day doing nice menial tasks that required the minimum of human interaction, and I’d be fine by the evening, so I’d be able to go to the quiz night I’d been invited to by one of the postgrad students.  No problem.

Except that at the beginning of the week we got the opportunity to attend the Seismics in the City conference, which is a very business-oriented conference about Christchurch’s rebuild and recovery, so of inherent interest to us for the archive, as well as being a perfect opportunity to network with the sorts of people who have the potential to get us funding.  So an offer we couldn’t really refuse.  Except that it meant a long day (the conference started at 7 am!!!) of more socialising and smiling inanely at people who were saying things I really don’t agree with, and pretending to be extroverted (and even having to get up and give a short presentation myself (very short as it turned out – the organiser had said we’d be allowed a 5 minute slot to promote the archive, but he wasn’t sure when during the day it would be.  My boss was only able to be there for the morning, so if the slot turned out to be in the afternoon, it would be my job to talk.  So I prepared and memorised a really good 5-minute talk that fitted in all the important points we needed people to know, and was actually feeling pretty confident about giving it.  The morning came and went without my boss getting a chance to talk, so after he left at lunchtime it was all down to me.  So I waited to hear from the organiser, who finally came to see me just during the afternoon tea break to tell me he’d get me to talk straight after the break, but that he could only give me one minute, not five.  So I spent the rest of the tea break frantically trying to work out how to condense my talk, which meant I had to drop some of the key points, and instead of the well-polished and professional talk I’d planned ended up sounding garbled and way too rushed, and I’m not sure anyone really understood what I was saying.  Very annoying!  (But I’m still kind of proud of myself for being able to get up and talk in front of a room of very important people, even if I didn’t do as good a job of it as I would have liked.)))  So between the 5 am start (because I had to catch a 6 am bus to get into town on time) and being “on” all day for the second day in a row, I was so exhausted by the end.

And then I still had to go to the quiz night.  Which I probably could have pulled out of, but I didn’t want to let the team down, plus it was a fundraising night for the Labour Party, and although I don’t entirely agree with their policies, I’d still much prefer to see them in government than the current lot, so it counts as a good cause.  (And anyway, having spent the day in the company of a large number of business people (actually, mostly businessmen – as you’d expect, the conference was very much dominated by middle-aged male Pakeha), the idea of spending the evening with Labour Party people sounded incredibly refreshing!).  Anyway, despite being tired, it was a really fun evening.  A couple of the people on my team knew Megan Woods (the MP who was hosting the evening) really well, so there was lots of banter with her, and although we didn’t win, the only round we did embarrassingly badly on was the sports round, so we were all reasonably satisfied with our efforts.

LJ (who had also been at the conference) had come to the quiz too, so offered me a lift home afterwards so I wouldn’t have to catch a bus.  But first, the drunker members of our team proposed we go to the McDonalds across the street from the venue.  I have about the same attitude to McDonalds as I do to Facebook, as in I avoid it as much as I can, but sometimes I am forced into it by necessity, so when LJ indicated she was keen to join them, I tagged along.  It was actually fun, even if the food was no better than I remembered, but it made a late night into a very late one, so it was nearing midnight by the time I got home.

Then today was the bookcrossing meetup (which I’d forgotten about when I agreed to go to the quiz night), so I couldn’t even really have a long sleep in this morning, because I had to get up and get the housework done in time to catch the bus into town (which in itself was a bit of a drama, because I lost my bus card on Thursday (I think I must have dropped it in the mall), which meant I’d been having to pay cash fares (which are much more expensive than using the Metrocard), so on the way from the conference to the quiz I’d stopped off at the bus exchange to get a new one (and because of complicated reasons, they weren’t able to find my old card in the system, so couldn’t transfer the balance to my new card, so I was down $20-odd, plus the $10 fee I had to pay for losing my card).  But then when I caught the bus into town for the meetup today, it turned out they’d given me a child card instead of an adult card, and even though I explained it was a mistake, the bus driver treated me like I was trying to cheat him by using the wrong sort of card.  So instead of getting off on Victoria Street for the meetup, I had to go all the way into the bus exchange again and get them to replace the card with an adult one, then get back on the bus to go to Victoria Street, so I was late to the meetup anyway).

So yeah, a very busy few days with way too much social stuff going on.  And I need to spend tomorrow studying, so I reckon it must be time for bed now.  I’m so glad next weekend is a long one!

Emerging blinking into the sunshine

Major thesis milestone passed: I finished writing my research proposal this afternoon!  A week late, though considering the interruptions of earthquakes (and earthquake anniversaries, which is a busy time for us at work), I think I’m doing pretty well to only be a week behind.

For those of you sensible enough to not attempt a Masters in your spare time, I suppose I should explain the research proposal.  It’s a 3000-word (theoretically – mine actually ended up over 4,500 words) essay that you have to submit two months into your enrolment, which outlines things like what your research aims are, what other work has already been done in your field, how your research will contribute to the field, and what you’re actually going to do – you’ve basically got to prove that you know what you’re doing, and that you’re actually doing something new and interesting that’s never been done before.  Once my proposal is accepted by my department and by the university (which I’m pretty confident it will be, because I showed a draft to my supervisors on Friday, and they only had a few suggestions for things I should change), that’s when I’ll officially be allowed to start working on my actual research.

So having finally finished it definitely represents a point to pause for breath before I get stuck into the really hard work.  I don’t really have time to take a proper break, but at least I was able to take the rest of the afternoon off this afternoon after I finished the last of my proof-reading – a nice change from my usual Sunday routine of spending the entire day in my office working!  There’s a millions jobs I should have used my afternoon off to do, but somehow sitting in the sunshine reading a book seemed so much more important :-)