PS

Ok, so it’s been another really hot day.  So that explains why Parsnips has chosen to sleep in the open window, in the little bit of breeze that’s blowing in now that the sun is going down.

What it doesn’t explain is why she feels the need to sleep with her head jammed against the window frame.  It does not look comfortable.

Books and cats and quilts (what else is there?)

Alkaline-kiwi was in Christchurch this weekend, so we had a Bookcrossing meetup this morning.  It was great to catch up with her – plus, of course, the injection of new books into the meetup group is always appreciated :-)  As so often happens, I came home with as many books as I’d gone with, so my to-be-read pile has grown quite a bit.

I picked up:


The other thing that keep growing is my list of quilt projects I want to try. I really must stop watching YouTube videos – I keep getting inspired and adding more ideas to my list.  At least it means I never get bored – I seem to always have several quilts on the go, plus more lined up to start when I want to try something new (which is always – I’m definitely easily distracted by every shiny new thing that comes along…)

Which is all preamble to lead into the the fact that I started another quilt this afternoon.  The other jelly roll was calling to me, so after much deliberation I decided to try a “Three Dudes” quilt, similar to this one (although I’ve altered the pattern a bit).

I spent most of the afternoon just working out the details of the pattern, and then grouping the strips into sets so that the different colours and patterns would be nicely distributed through the quilt (the version in the photo below went through several more changes before I got to the final one), and cutting strips of white fabric to add to them to make up strip sets.

I only got half way through sewing the 10 strip sets I’ll need for the quilt. Once they’re done, they need to be cut up and then sewn back together again a couple of times to make the final blocks, so there’s probably another weekend or two’s work to finish the complete quilt top. Assuming I don’t get distracted by some other project in the meantime… :-)


Gratuitous cat photo of Parsnips sulking on the windowsill because I kept moving her off the sunny spot on my cutting mat on the totally unreasonable grounds that I wanted to cut fabric, not the cat. I also won’t let her jump up on my ironing board, because I’m scared one day she’ll jump up there while the iron is on. I am such a horrible person!

I remembered…

So many projects on my once-my-thesis-is-finished list, I really didn’t know where to start.  But I felt like playing with colour, so I pulled out my not-quite-finished Birds in Flight quilt (Wow, it’s nearly two years since I finished the top, and I still haven’t quilted it!  Probably because I got over-ambitious about what I wanted to do with the three extra birds, and then promptly ran out of time to actually execute those plans.  I suppose the good news is that in the meantime I’ve learnt a lot more about FMQ, so I’m feeling a lot more confident that when I get to the actual quilting part, I’ll be able to do a reasonable job of it).

It was so nice to just spend a day playing with fabric, and not feeling like I had to rush to get as much as possible done in the few hours of free time I’d allowed myself, or feel guilty because I should be using the time to work.  I could take my time and experiment, and just enjoy the process – a great feeling!

At one point during the day, I heard purring coming from the cupboard where I store my fabric and stuff.  When I investigated, I found this:

I’m sure I’d closed that box up last time I used anything out of it, but obviously Parsnips has learnt how to push the flaps of a cardboard box apart so she can get inside.  From the amount of fur over everything in there, it looks like she’s been using it as a comfy bed for quite some time… Hope you didn’t want your ribbon stash back, Lytteltonwitch! (or, if you do, you don’t mind a bit of added fluffiness).  I’m glad I keep my actual quilting fabric in a set of drawers – she hasn’t figured out how to open those yet!

Birds and bus delinquents

Evidence that spring is here: I came home tonight to a house full of feathers.  So many feathers that I was sure Parsnips must have caught a blackbird, or possibly an albatross.  But when I followed the trail of feathers in and out of several rooms, and finally found the victim under my desk, it turned out to be a very young (and very dead) sparrow.  The poor thing can’t have been much beyond its first flight (which probably explains how Parsnips managed to catch it – she’s not the most able hunter, so it was probably more a case of the bird accidentally stumbling into her jaws, rather than any determined act of hunting on her part).


In the “another reason to lose faith in humanity” category, a month or so ago I was catching the bus home very late one night when I encountered two very drunk very young teenage girls (like only barely in their teens young).  They were happy drunk rather than aggressive drunk, and started chatting to me about what a fun night they’d been having.  They said they lived in Avonside (which is way over the other side of town), and were plotting how to sneak onto the bus without paying, because they’d lost their bus cards (in some long and complicated story), and had spent all their cash.

Of course, “I’ve lost my bus card” is a well-known scam for getting money out of gullible people, and normally I would have just said I couldn’t help and left them at the bus stop.  But, as I said, it was late at night, and they were drunk, and young, and I kept thinking about all the things that can happen to drunk and vulnerable young girls at poorly-lit bus stops late at night, so I decided the cost of a couple of bus fares was worth it to not spend the rest of the night wondering if they were ok, so when the bus arrived I told them I’d pay their fares, as long as they promised they would go straight home.  They were surprised and grateful (in a way that made me think they really had just been telling me the story as a cool story, not because they were begging), and (after a bit of negotiation with the bus driver, who was understandably concerned that they might be sick on the bus), we all got on the bus.  When I got off at my stop, I asked the (female) bus driver to keep an eye on them and make sure they got off in Avonside, and all seemed good.

Except, last Sunday night I caught the same bus, and the driver recognised me, and told me the story of what happened after I got off.  Apparently they got as far as Shirley (about another half an hour on from my stop) before robbing one of the other passengers and assaulting the bus driver when she tried to intervene.  She’d had to call the police to get them removed from the bus :-(  I was horrified, and apologised to her for having inflicted the girls on her, but she said she didn’t blame me at all, because I was just trying to do the right thing and wasn’t to know.  The really sad thing was that she said it didn’t even surprise her, after everything she’d seen driving the bus at night.

So yeah, so much for my good deed – all it did was ruin the poor bus driver’s night.

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).

Cat mat

There is a type of tiny quilt that is commonly called a “mug rug”.  Except, in my house apparently it would be more appropriately called a “cat mat”.


“What? It looked comfortable.”

I have decided that Parsnips follows a definite set of rules when deciding whether to sit on something:

Truth condition Probability of cat sitting on
Thing exists 80%
Thing looks marginally more comfortable than surrounding things 90%
Thing contains words which human is trying to read 95%
Thing has a surface which shed fur will adhere to particularly well 100%
Thing has a surface which shed fur will adhere to particularly well, and it’s moulting season 105%
Sitting on Thing will cause human to inhale or ingest cat dander, and have allergic reaction 110%

Notes:

  1. Where more than one truth condition entails, probabilities are cumulative
  2. Some mathematicians may tell you that it is impossible to have a probability over 100%. Parsnips has never let this stop her.

Cool Cat

First page of my Cool Cats birthday colouring book:

As soon as I saw that face, I just had to colour him to look like Raji! (I don’t know if I got his markings exactly right, Mum, but don’t you agree that’s totally a Raji expression he’s got on his face???)

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!

I just stood on a mouse

Parsnips has obviously been out hunting today, because when I got home and walked into the kitchen, I felt a lump under my foot.  A rather squishy lump.  And when I looked down, there was a slightly flattened mouse, oozing its innards onto the rug…  I suppose I should be thankful that she left her gift to me on the kitchen rug, which is at least easily washable (or at least, would be if I wasn’t going away this weekend – the cleaning will have to wait until I get back, so in the meantime the rug is bundled up in the washhouse sink (don’t worry, I did remove the mouse first)), and not on the main carpet or one of the nice rugs.  I should also be thankful that I was still wearing shoes (though it was my gymshoes, which have very deep tread, and I’m not entirely convinced I’ve managed to get all of the mouse bits out of the tread :-( )

Remind me why I like this cat?

The cat has food

You’ll all be relieved to hear that I made it to the supermarket (it’s stopped raining, but still very cold, so I compromised by taking the bus there and a taxi back, to minimise my waiting around in the cold time) so Parsnips is now replete with catfood and very happy.  And I’m stocked up on disprins and cough mixture (and, because the only time I’m susceptible to up-selling is when I’m sick, some sort of echinacea/vitamin thing that the chemist promised me will cure me of everything), and lots of healthy fruit and not-so-healthy chocolate, so if the echinacea doesn’t cure me, at least I’ll enjoy my illness.

And now I’m exhausted and going back to bed.