So, about those photos

Having been unsuccessful at figuring out which wire to wiggle to get my second hard drive working again, I gave in and paid a professional to look at it.  And it turns out that the reason my wire-wiggling wasn’t working this time was because the hard drive had entirely failed.  So, unless I want to pay vast amounts of money (like, nearly $1000) to a specialist data-recovery place to try and get the data off it, all my photos are gone :-(

The good news is that I never got round to deleting the files from two of the three memory cards from last year’s trip to Greece and Italy, so I’ve still got those.  The third memory card I did delete (because I needed space on the card for graduation photos…), but the deleted photos should still be reasonably easily (and cheaply!) recoverable, so computer repair guy is going to try and get them for me.

The bad news is that all of those photos I never got round to uploading from America, and Ireland, and Australia are gone.  And even the ones I did upload to Flickr are only low-quality versions – I kept the original high-quality versions on the hard drive in case I wanted to print them one day.

There may well have been other things on the drive that I’ll regret having lost, but I can’t think of anything major – the software is easily replaceable, and anything really important I kept on the main drive (or, in the case of my thesis, on my computer at work, which is backed up to the university’s servers).  It was just the photos that I stored on the secondary drive, because they took up too much space on the main drive.

Oh well, a lesson in backing up my data, I suppose (and in not putting off sorting and uploading photos for years!).  And even though I’ve lost the photos from my travels, I’ve still got the memories.  Which is what’s really important.  So I won’t be paying vast amounts of money to get the data recovered – I’d rather spend it on another trip :-)

Creativity and problem-solving

As usual, I’ve failed at keeping up with my blog (and my promise to upload the rest of my Athens journal), and as usual the excuse is being too busy with thesis stuff.  I’m kind of buried under an avalanche of data at the moment, and it’s taking much longer than I anticipated to dig my way through it, with the result that every time I have a spare moment I feel like I should be doing a bit more work on it.

However, I did manage to take some time for a little creative project last week.  One of my colleagues (who I hope doesn’t read this blog – if you do, Rosalee, look away now so the surprise isn’t spoilt!) just got engaged, and the rest of us were discussing what we could get her as a present, and I’d just recently spotted a quilt pattern I wanted to try and that looked like it could be easily adapted to a small project, so I volunteered to make a set of placemats in return for the others paying for the materials (yeah, because I have so much free time at the moment…) .  But it’s good something to just do something creative and non-work-related, and I managed to get it done in a weekend plus a few evenings, and I’m pretty pleased with the outcome:

I think we’re planning on having a celebratory morning tea for her sometime this week, so we’ll be giving them to her then.  Hope she likes them!

But now I’m paying for wasting last weekend playing with crafty stuff by having to spend as much as possible of this weekend working.  Except when I turned on my computer this morning I discovered one of the hard drives (I have two, a solid-state drive to hold the operating system, and a normal drive for the data and non-essential programmes) wasn’t working.  Luckily (or sensibly) my thesis data is backed up online, so that’s safe, but all my Athens trip photos are on that drive, so I had a moment of panic thinking they were lost (or, at least, only retrievable with expensive intervention from an expert).  But I decided to try and figure out the problem myself first, and opened up the case to have a poke around.  And discovered that the clips holding the pretty case lights I’d installed when we built the computer (because the case has a window in the side, so of course it needed lights to make it all glowy and sci-fi looking!) had lost their stick, so the light cable had come loose, and must have knocked the bus cable as they fell, because it wasn’t plugged in properly.  So all I had to do was push the plug in a bit more firmly, and the drive started working again.  I had to remove the case lights entirely (at least until I buy some more clips that will be a bit more secure), so my computer is now all boring looking, but at least I haven’t lost everything!  And, even better, I didn’t have to pay someone to fix it for me – sometimes even just knowing a little bit about what goes on inside a computer is a very useful thing!

Right, time to make some dinner, then back to work. Hope you’re all having a restful 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!

FutureCat Bookcrossing? Whatever next?

You might not believe it, but I actually released two books today!  The first was Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes, which I released in a cafe where I stopped off for breakfast on my way to Riccarton this morning (the Riccarton expedition was to replace my computer’s mouse, which has been playing up in annoying ways (mostly involving dying at the most inopportune moments).  After much mucking around with changing batteries and updating drivers and everything else I could think of (and discovering that I *could* get it to work again, sometimes, if I restarted the computer and crossed my fingers and held my mouth the right way, but it would just die again half an hour later) I finally conceded defeat and decided the $50 for a new mouse would be well worth it).

The second was Voices of Protest by Alan Brinkley, which seemed like an appropriately titled book to release at the start of the TPPA protest march.  If you live in one of the 12 participating nations, and you’re not aware of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, then you should be.  Do a bit of Googling, or (for New Zealanders) have a look at this website.  There are all sorts of scary things that might come out of it, but nobody knows for sure, because it’s being signed in secret.  And that’s the scariest thing – our government is signing a secret trade deal that could affect the sovereignty of our country, and we’re not allowed to know the details until it’s too late.  That’s not how democracy is supposed to work.

Sorry, didn’t mean to rant about politics here – I was just meaning to describe the march.  Which was so cool!  There was a massive turnout – the biggest I’ve seen for any issue in years (it felt like the good old days of student protests in the 80s), and it seemed to be a really good cross-section of society, too – people of all ages and backgrounds.  We marched down most of the length of Riccarton Road (which is probably the busiest street in Christchurch on a Saturday) to Hagley Park, the marchers completely filling one lane of the road for several blocks, with much enthusiastic chanting.  A serious issue, but a really fun march :-)

Back by maternal demand

OK, I get the hint Mum – time I posted something.  My only excuse is my usual one: Honours is hard and I have no life.  Yeah, I’ve been saying that a lot lately, but study is definitely taking up a huge proportion of my time, and not leaving a lot left for anything else.

Anyway, the end (for this year anyway) is in sight – I’ve written an almost just about semi final draft of my paper, and if I can catch up with my lecturer on Tuesday to clarify a few last points I should be able to get it finished in the next week or so… and then I can relax a bit and enjoy the summer.

Talking of summer (or at least late spring), a couple of nice summery photos I took in the Botanic Gardens a few weeks ago:

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We were sitting in the gardens waiting for the doors to open for a talk we were going to at the museum when this blackbird flew down and landed on the bench we were sitting on. He let me take a few photos before he decided we obviously didn’t have any food to give him, and flew off again.

Ok, so I have had a bit of a life – last month was UC’s Platform Arts Festival, and we managed to get to a few of the events – a couple of talks, a poetry reading, and a couple of film screenings.  Highlight was probably the screening of Buster Keaton’s silent movie The General accompanied by a pianist from the School of Music who’s made a study of the art of silent film accompaniment. He gave a talk beforehand on the technique, then we watched the film, while he played the piano (completely improvised – he didn’t have any music, and said he prefers to just watch the film and play what comes to mind).  It was totally amazing, and added so much to the film, so that you almost forgot it was a silent movie (and not only that, but a silent movie made nearly 90 years ago!).

Lytteltonwitch is back in NZ briefly, so last weekend she, Otakuu and I went out to Hororata for the day.  We’d intended a bookcrossing expedition, but it was raining so heavily we ended up just spending several hours sitting in the cafe (which is under new management so no longer has an OBCZ shelf :-( ) and talking.  So not many books got released, but it was a fun day, and good to catch up with them both (even though Otakuu is living in Christchurch now, she works nights so we don’t get to see a lot of her).

I have managed to make a little progress on my latest cross-stitch (actually, I’ve just looked back, and it’s been about 4 months since I last posted a progress report, so in that time I’ve actually made quite a bit of progress):

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Last night we went into town for the Luxcity event, which opened up part of the Red Zone for temporary art installations based around the idea of light.  Most of the art was pretty uninspired (though we left before it was properly dark, so maybe they got more impressive later on in the night), but it was great to be able to get back into the city for a night, and there were a lot of people taking advantage of the opportunity, and a great atmosphere.

The CBD is such an alien landscape these days, with so much empty land where buildings once stood, and weird little islands of buildings left behind:

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Opposite Alice’s there’s only one shop left standing. The picture framers I used to use for getting my embroidery framed used to stand next door to this shop. Don’t think I’ll be getting any work done there for a while.

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The Farmers car park next to the library is strangely beautiful in its half-deconstructed state.

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A different view of the cathedral (I took this through the security fencing from Gloucester Street, still the closest you can get to the Square).

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When we arrived, some of the artworks were still being installed. This one was being put up on the site where the Press building once stood.

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A lot of the art seemed to involve suspending things from cranes – nice to see them being put to a use other than knocking down buildings, even if the artwork itself isn’t particularly exciting.

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Weeds growing on the library building…

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… and on the footpath in front. It’s still very much an abandoned city.

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The sunset completely outdid anything the artists could create with light :-)

There were food stalls and performance spaces among the artworks, with musicians and acrobats.  In one of the spaces, someone had covered the fences with “provocative” messages (actually, most of them were pretty bland stuff about reclaiming the city), and provided pens and cardboard for people to add their own (I love whoever wrote “Potato!” as their mesage :-))

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One of the signs had a starter of “I love…” and someone had written underneath “Minecraft”, so MrPloppy added a little picture of a creeper.  When we came past the spot again later in the night, the creeper theme had spread, and there were pictures of creepers and comments about Minecraft all over the signs…

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Talking about Minecraft, MrPloppy managed to get it running over our network so we can play multiplayer worlds.  We had to abandon the first world we created though, because a weird glitch in the world kept spawning cows, to the point there were so many of them that whenever you went near the area the game would crash because the graphics engine couldn’t keep up.  It looked really funny though – thousands of cows surrounding a hole in the ground, with more being produced all the time (sometimes flying into the air as they were ejected from the glitchy block).

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So that’s a rough update on what I’ve been up to when I’m not studying or working.  Promise I’ll be better at posting over the summer… possibly….

It lives!

Finally I’ve got my new computer!  I almost had it a couple of weeks ago, but then I didn’t.  But that’s a story best told with a ridiculous number of photos (don’t say I didn’t warn you).  So, without further ado, how to build a computer:

Step 1: Get your favourite resident expert to order all sorts of parts with complicated names that mostly consist of random strings of letters and numbers.

Computer cases are pretty boring before they have anything inside them.

Important bit number one: the motherboard.

Important bit number two: the chip

And now the two most important bits are stuck together. MrPloppy pointed out that technically I now had a computer – everything else is just interface.

I remember the days when cooling meant one little fan. Nowadays it starts with this monster – an enormous heat sink and fan that sits on top of the CPU.  Most of those dark blue bits on the motherboard are heat sinks too, for other important chips.  Then there’s the four fans on the case itself.  Modern chips get VERY hot.

The power supply goes in, and suddenly the case is full of wires.

And now the exciting bit: the motherboard goes in.

Drives in their bays: DVD, hard drive, and SSD.

About this point I took over the build, under MrPloppy’s instruction. Mainly because my hands are smaller, and more able to fit into the increasingly tight corners of the case.
Here MrPloppy points out the tight corner where I need to insert all that memory.

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Memory successfully inserted.

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Lots and lots of wires. Now we’ve just got to figure out which goes where.

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Cable ties are your friend. (Or not, as later [Spoiler alert!] when things went horribly wrong, we had to unarrange my beautiful cable management).

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Pushkin likes cable ties too.

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More cooling, this time for the video card. (I remember when video was just run off one little chip…)

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And now the video card is in place. Things are getting very crowded in there!

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That looks very much like a finished computer!

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And that looks very much like a working computer!

Except it wasn’t.  Because that’s where it all started to go horribly wrong.  First MrPloppy discovered that he’d installed Windows to the hard drive instead of the SSD – not a good thing, considering the whole point of paying for an expensive SSD was that the operating system runs much faster off it than off a hard drive.  So then the saga began, of uninstalling and reinstalling, and uninstalling and reinstalling again, over and over, until finally the computer cooperated and put Windows where it should be.  And then it wasn’t there.  And then it was.  And then it wasn’t.  And when it was, it couldn’t see the hard drive. Or it would just crash randomly a few minutes after startup.  Or a host of other problems.

So the next step was a week or so of fiddling with BIOS settings, testing, pulling the insides apart to try and figure out which bit wasn’t working (see cable ties not being such a clever idea), testing again, and general tearing of hair out.

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Eventually MrPloppy narrowed it down to a faulty SSD.  So he contacted the supplier, arranged to have it returned, and eventually, after a long wait spent watching the drive for the courier’s van, a replacement finally arrived.

And so, let me present my shiny new computer in all its glory:

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It’s even shinier in the dark, when it shows off its pretty blue lights:

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In other news:

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NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The last of my secret stash of marmite has finally run out.  I’d been rationing it out ever since they announced the factory was closing due to earthquake damage (luckily we happened to have bought a couple of jars a few days before), but they’ve kept putting the production date further and further back, and my scrapings have been getting thinner and thinner, and now they’re saying they won’t be in production until the end of September at least, and my last jar is empty.  :-(

Vegemite just isn’t the same.

(And for those of you in the UK, neither is your kind of marmite – NZ marmite is a completely different beast).

Warning, a mostly technical and probably highly boring post (but there are a couple of pictures at the end)

And… it’s not working.  The last of the computer parts arrived yesterday, so we (ok, mostly MrPloppy, with me looking over his shoulder going “ooh, what’s that wire for?” and occasionally actually being useful when my smaller hands could fit into tight corners his couldn’t reach) spent the afternoon putting it together.  And the build went really well – no major hiccups, no bruises to fingers or egos, everything just worked.  By last night we’d even got as far as installing Windows, which seemed to be working fine… until MrPloppy discovered it had installed to the wrong drive.

See, one of the shiny new things about this computer is that as well as a HUGE hard drive (1 Terrabyte!!!  It feels like only yesterday that a Gigabyte seemed excessively big, and suddenly a whole order of magnitude bigger is just standard) it’s got a solid state drive (SSD), which is kind of like a hard drive, except instead of having a rotating disk like a normal hard drive it’s solid state (yeah, you might have been clued in to that by the name) – in other words, it works kind of like a giant version of a USB stick.  And the big reason for having an SSD is that because they don’t have to spin up, they load data much faster than a traditional drive, so the idea is you put your operating system and all your main software on there and everything works so much faster.  Then you can use your hard drive for just storage and the less important software.

Except we’d got it wrong, and Windows was on the hard drive.  And what should have been a simple operation of reformatting the disks and starting again has taken most of the day, and it’s still not working properly.  We’ve got Windows installed on the SSD where it should be now, but for some weird reason it’s not always recognising the drive properly, and every so often it’s randomly deciding it wants to boot from the hard drive instead, but there’s nothing there for it to boot from, so it has a little sulk and refuses to work.  So there has been much tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth, and mucking around with the BIOS, and opening up the case to switch various ports around (lest you think I know what I’m talking about here, it’s MrPloppy who’s been doing all this, while I sit there giving helpful(-ish) suggestions and occasionally unplugging and plugging things in those aforementioned tight corners).

So, I have a shiny new computer sitting on my desk, which looks very nice but doesn’t actually work.  Which is very frustrating!  So instead of writing this post from my nice new computer as I’d hoped, I’m back on the old laptop :-(  Oh well, at least I’ve got all my bookmarks on here still…


We did take a break from swearing at the computer for a while, at least – it’s been a gorgeous day, so we went for a walk through the park to a cafe for hot chocolates.  I even managed to release a few books along the way, something I haven’t done for ages.

The park was beautiful in that bare late-winter sort of way:

And we came across an unexpected sight – a bunch of knights practising their sword fighting:

Very strange!

Not much about nothing in particular

I really have nothing to say, but I just stumbled across this amazing site while searching for something completely different, and had to quickly post something just to have the excuse to use one of her gorgeous drop-caps.  So I suppose I should think of something to fill up a paragraph or two to make it worth posting.  Um… life has been busy, but only with the usual work and study (I got my first essay finished and handed in, yay!  Now I’ve just got to work on my project and presentation…) which seems to fill every waking moment.  It’s a good thing I’m still enjoying both so much :-)  If only the funding would come through to make my temporary job change permanent, it would be perfect.

In exciting news, I almost have a new computer.  MrPloppy ordered the last of the parts yesterday, and hopefully should be able to start building it at the weekend.  It’s going to be shiny and fast and (most importantly) have pretty lights inside.   Not that there’s going to be much point in having an excitingly fast computer seeing as I have no time for gaming at the moment anyway, but at least I’ll have the pretty lights to look at while I type up my project :-)  And it’s only three months until the end of semester when I’ll have finished all my study for the year… and it’ll be summer so I won’t want to spend all my time sitting inside at a computer…

It’s been a while since I posted a list of recent catches (in fact, a very long while – I just checked my catch email folder, and it goes back to March!), so here’s a round-up:

A lot from the Ireland trip, of course (and yes, I know I still haven’t posted my travel journal – I promise I will eventually):

And a few others:

Right, that’s filled up enough of the page to make the drop-cap look good, so I’d better get back to work.