All the meetings

That was a very busy week.  Despite being a short one.  And totally dominated by meetings.  As I think I mentioned, Tuesday was our planning day, so that was one big day-long meeting, only interrupted by lunch (which we all had together at a nearby cafe – we did manage to avoid talking shop too much during lunch, though).  And then at the end of the day we all went out for a drink together (which, again, no talking shop, but it was a long day!).  It was a really productive day though, and great to get off campus and away from interruptions, and be in a really nice environment (we held the meeting in the beautifully restored old neo-gothic building in the Arts Centre where our School of Music is based).

On Wednesday, I amazingly had no meetings, so I was actually able to get some work done (mostly starting to work through the long list of action points that came out of Tuesday).  Jacq had invited me to go to a Nerd Degree recording that evening, so as the weather was horrible (the forecast had been for snow, which never arrived (other than a light sprinkling on the Port Hills), but there was plenty of rain to make up for it) I decided to just stay at work instead of rushing home and then going back out again.  Jacq was doing the same, so I grabbed some food from the cafe and went down to their office to eat dinner with them until it was time to go.

The show was, as always, incredibly funny (and incredibly visual – I have no idea how they’re going to edit it into a podcast).  The theme was wrestling, and they had an actual WWE-style wrestler as the co-host.  He stayed in persona for most of the evening (plus I think kept forgetting it was a podcast), so was doing a lot of posturing and demonstrating wrestling moves on the contestants, which was brilliantly funny, but yeah, wouldn’t translate to audio at all.  In true wrestling style, there was much (fake) drama, with one of the contestants defecting from her team to the other “evil” team, and then later Jacq’s partner (complete with hastily-donned luchador mask) leaping from the audience to the defence of the poor abandoned contestant.  This had of course all been pre-planned (the only performer who didn’t know what was going to happen was the one who’d been abandoned, which made it all much funnier as you could see him visibly struggling to figure out what was suddenly going on).  Jacq and their partner had been discussing the plans in the car on the way, so I knew parts of what was going to happen (though not exactly when), which made it even funnier, because I could see how cleverly the defector was manipulating events to build up the drama prior to her defection.

On Thursday we were off-campus for most of the day again, this time at the NDF Regional Forum, an “unconference” for people doing digital stuff in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector.  Another really useful day, but I wish it didn’t have to happen in the same week as our planning day and a long weekend – it didn’t leave much of the week to actually be in the Lab!  Especially as Friday ended up being another day full of meetings, because it was also the first week of the university vacation, so all the academic staff who are usually busy teaching finally had time to discuss their research projects, which meant they all wanted to meet with us, and because we were off campus so much this week, all the meetings ended up scheduled for Friday.  So yeah, I feel like I didn’t achieve much actual work this week, just a lot of talking!

Friday night was the LGBT+ meetup.  I almost didn’t go, because I was feeling pretty peopled out after all those meetings, but I’m glad I did, because it was a really fun night.  We went for dinner at Arjee Bhajee, the Indian restaurant on Riccarton Road, which I’ve often walked past but never gone to, which turned out to be really nice, and conversation ranged far and wide, from cosplay at Armageddon (the local science fiction convention) to the most ecologically sound way of disposing of a corpse.   A guy I’d met through union stuff was there, so it was good to catch up with him too (and he lives over my side of town, so gave me a lift home afterwards, which was a bonus – catching a bus on Riccarton Road on Friday night is always … interesting).

And there was more social stuff yesterday, because I’d arranged to meet Jenette for morning tea, to say goodbye before she heads back to Ireland in a few days.  Sad to see her go, but hopefully we’ll be able to stay in touch via internet (and she might get back to NZ some day – it sounds like she’s kept her options open for coming back if life leads her back in this direction).  Anyway, it was great to have one last chance to catch up in person.

I had an attempt at videoing my day yesterday daily-vlog style.  I’ve decided that attempting to keep my YouTube channel confined to a single theme was never going to work, so I’m just going to make random videos (on hopefully a reasonably regular basis) on whatever I feel like at the time.  I haven’t edited yesterday’s clips together yet, but it’s going to be an experiment in whether I can turn a relatively mundane day (housework, going to the library and supermarket, doing a bit of sewing) into something entertaining.  So that’s the plan for the rest of my morning: learning some new stuff about how the video editing software works, then see what I can apply to the random selection of clips I filmed.  The process should be interesting at least, even if I fail at making the video itself interesting (if it never appears on my channel, you’ll know why :-) )

Strange happenings

Sorry about the radio silence again.  For some reason (I’m blaming the weird time zone in Spain and southern France), I actually got hit with a bit of jet-lag this time (normally I’m pretty good at avoiding it), and that combined with the usual post-holiday slump, and the grey weather, left me feeling pretty unmotivated since I got home.  I’m starting to come right now though, and even felt inspired to do some sewing this afternoon (as you probably gathered from the previous post).

Anyway, I suspect this isn’t going to be a coherent blog post, just a collection of random paragraphs.

My sprained thumb is still pretty sore (not helped by the fact that I keep forgetting that it’s sprained, and over-using it).  It’s fine for most things, but then every so often there’s something it just has no strength for – like turning on taps or doing up zips.  According to the bit of googling I did, sprains usually heal in around 6 weeks, so hopefully it will come right soon (or, at least, it would if I could remember to look after it!)

On Friday night I went to the Free Theatre’s production of Tom Waits’s Alice.  I’d expected it to be a strange play, especially because the Free Theatre has a reputation for doing pretty extreme things with their staging, but it turned out to be an even stranger experience than even the actors expected, when a member of the audience had a grand mal seizure in the middle of the play.  At first I assumed it was just part of the play (it did sort of fit the scene, in a strange way), but it went on a bit too long, and then I realised that the actor playing Alice (who was in the middle of a monologue) was starting to cast worried glances towards the back of the audience (it’s a very small theatre), and eventually one of the other actors came out and stopped her, and they put the lights up so that the man could be carried out into the foyer (and, they told us later, taken to the hospital, which is only just down the road from the theatre).  There was an unplanned intermission while that was all happening, so we were chatting to the people sitting on either side of us, and they both sheepishly said the same thing, that they’d at first thought it was just part of the play too.

It probably says something about how weird the production was that someone having a seizure in the audience seems a perfectly plausible bit of staging.  But it also says something about how deeply conditioned we are by “correct” behaviour in the theatre, that even once we all started to suspect it wasn’t part of the play and that something was actually wrong, we all still just sat there politely, not wanting to interrupt the performance.

The play eventually got back underway, and despite being weird, it was actually pretty good.  Because of the interruption it was very late by the time it ended, though, so I missed the last bus – or at least, the last bus that would have taken me all the way home – I managed to get a bus as far as the university and walked home from there.

It turned out to be quite a dramatic night over this way, too.  As I was walking along Memorial Ave, I was passed by several police cars going at very high speed with lights and sirens.  And then a bit further along at Burnside High, there were alarms going off in the school, and a police car sitting in the shadows outside the back entrance, with an officer in the car watching the entrance very intently – I assume waiting for whoever had caused the alarms to go off to try and escape out the back way.  (It turned out later that there’d been an arson at the school – as that article says the police are talking to “persons of interest”, I suspect the officer’s patience might have been rewarded.)

The rest of the weekend was pretty sedate in comparison.  The only other strange occurrence (well, strange for Christchurch, anyway, where we don’t have many Jewish people) was a knock on my door last night from a person holding an unlit candle and asking if I’d lit my fire yet.  He explained that he was Jewish, and that he couldn’t light the candle because of the Sabbath, but that he also couldn’t ask someone else to light it for him, he could only use a flame that was already lit (Yetzirah, I’m sure you can tell me if I misunderstood what he was telling me?).  Hence him wandering around the neighbourhood knocking on doors in the hope that someone had a fire going in their house.  I hadn’t lit the fire yet (it had been a sunny day and was only just starting to get cold), so I wasn’t able to help – hopefully he found a neighbour who’d felt the cold sooner than me, otherwise he was going to be in for a very dark night.

No more sleeps

My bags are packed, my tickets are printed, the house is clean, and now all there is to do is wait a few hours until Lytteltonwitch and her son come to pick me up to go to the airport.  Evening flights do have the advantage of not having to get up at eek-o’clock in the morning to be at the airport on time, but there’s a lot more sitting around saying “Is it time to go yet?  How about now?”

Actually, it’s a good thing we weren’t leaving this morning, because there was a huge storm in Auckland overnight, and they had to shut the airport.  And the first leg of our flight is via Auckland.  Luckily though the winds dropped enough this morning that they re-opened the runways, so all is clear for the flight (though that first flight might be a bit bumpy – there’s a decent southerly blowing in Christchurch as well (and it’s raining and hailing and bitterly cold – winter has arrived with a bang), so I suspect there’ll be an interesting amount of turbulence.)


I’m sure I have been doing all sorts of interesting things since I last posted, but everything seems to have been pushed out of my mind by the whole I’M GOING TO FRANCE thing. I know there was a day of playing Lego with the mini-Harvestbirds (we built a shop for princesses to work in. It sold ice-cream and toffee apples. Because why wouldn’t it.), and I went to another recording of the Nerd Degree with Jacq and their partner (who was one of the panelists, which was cool), and an attempt at a Dog Boy viewing (except the person with the DVDs wasn’t available, so we watched Hot Fuzz instead), and lunch with people, and “we should catch up except I’ve run out of time, so maybe when I get back” with other people, and generally a very busy few days.

Oh, and the Tiniest Cucumber actually grew! Not much, but huge compared to the last photo I took of it. So given that winter is rapidly approaching so it probably wouldn’t get much chance to grow any bigger, and that I’m going away for a month, I decided it was time to pick and eat it.

I can report that:

  1. There was barely enough of it to make a mouthful
  2. It tasted like a cucumber (though a little bitter still – probably needed a bit more sunshine (or at least a greenhouse) to get properly ripe)
  3. It smelt like the cucumberiest cucumber ever – totally amazing!

The other tiny cucumber has also made a brave attempt at growing, but only at one end.  One end of it is still the size it’s been for weeks, but the other end has fattened up and become quite spherical.

I decided to leave it on the vine as an experiment. By the time I get back from France, it will either have grown properly, or the entire plant will have withered up from the cold. But no matter what, at least I’ve proven that, against all likelihood, it is possible to grow a (very small) cucumber from seed in a small pot on the doorstep in Christchurch. Just don’t expect enough for a salad…


My experiment with vlogging seems to have been well received (although I did get a few comments that it was very long – I totally agree! I had to sit through the whole thing many many times while I was editing it, and it was way too long!). I even had two people subscribe to my YouTube channel! (Does this make me a proper YouTuber now that I have actual subscribers? Only about 999,998 subscribers to go before I can give up my day job…).

As a result, I’m going to try and film a few more vlogs (much shorter ones, I promise!) while we’re in France. I found an app that will let me do the editing on my phone (it can’t do as many fancy things as the one I was using on my computer, but can do the basic stuff), so that in theory I’ll be able to edit and upload videos as I go, which means they won’t end up in that infinite pile of travel photos and blogs I’ve never got round to editing/uploading from previous trips. No promises though – I may be having way too much fun just experiencing travel to want to document it. But keep an eye on my YouTube channel just in case :-)

And for your amusement in the meantime, here’s a video of Parsnips I made while testing out video-editing apps:

So, about that slowing down

I really have been trying to take it a bit easier and look after myself, honestly!  I even took a couple of days off sick last week to get over the worst of this cold (though it’s still lingering a bit – I feel fine, but my voice is still really scratchy).  Of course, the temptation to use the long weekend achieving all the things was very strong.

After work on Thursday night I went out for dinner with the LGBT+ meetup group that I met during Pride week.  They seem to be a really friendly group of people, so I think I’ll keep going along to their meetups (once I get back from France, at least – the next couple of meetups are while I’m away).  It feels like time to start expanding my social circles again, now that I’ve stopped going to Toastmasters.

Friday I did spend reasonably quietly (enforced by the shops being shut for Good Friday) – after getting the housework out of the way, I spent most of the rest of the day just sitting outside reading.  See, resting!

Saturday, however, was a getting things done day.  First stop was the supermarket – normally I try and go on the way home from work, but having been off sick I hadn’t had a chance, so I was running out of everything.  Of course, I managed to mistime it so that I had to wait half an hour for a bus (or take a different bus and have a long walk with heavy bags at the other end, but see trying to rest as much as possible), but it was a nice day and I had a book with me, so that wasn’t too much of a hardship.  It did mean that pretty much as soon as I got home and got the groceries put away I had to dash out again, because I had a long list of things to get done in Riccarton, plus I was meeting a friend for afternoon tea.

I managed to get everything done in Riccarton with the minimum of stress (well, apart from the usual long weekend, the shops were shut yesterday so everyone’s in a panic that they’ll never be able to shop again, the mall is totally packed sort of stress, but that was to be expected).  The trickiest bit was trying to find a birthday present for Niece – I did brave a few of the terribly pink and demanding-of-gender-conformity toy aisles, and even visited that temple of tween consumerism Smiggle (where I was both disgusted and slightly impressed by the cleverness of the way they display their prices – or rather, don’t display prices for most of their stock.  None of the items have individual price tags, but are instead listed on (very small) sign boards on each shelf, making it near impossible to match an item to its price.  The only solution is to take the item up to the counter and ask for the price, which I’m sure is the downfall for many parents, because by the time you’ve got the over-priced pencil case your child is begging for to the counter, it’s going to be difficult to tell the child that no, it’s actually too expensive.  The psychology of it is brilliant.  The ethics, not so much.)  In the end, I had to retreat from all the pink glitter, and took solace in Whitcoulls, where I found a copy of Go Girl, Barbara Else’s new storybook about exceptional NZ women, which seemed a much more palatable choice of gift (to me, anyway – I suspect Niece would have preferred the pink glitter unicorns in Smiggle).

After all the shopping, I met up with Jenette at Coffee Culture for tea and cake, and lots of really interesting conversation. But why is it I always seem to make friends with people just before they leave the country? She’s moving back to Ireland in July, and seeing as I’m going to be away until May, we won’t have a lot of opportunities to catch up before she goes.  Oh well, it’s still nice to meet new and interesting people.

Dad had messaged me to say they’d be passing through Christchurch on their way south from Nelson, and that he also was on a birthday-present-buying mission, so I’d arranged to meet him at the mall once he got to Christchurch.  I’d thought I’d need to kill some time waiting, but Jenette and I had talked for so long that the timing worked out perfectly – I just had time to race in and buy myself new gymshoes and then it was time to meet Dad.  He was much more decisive than me about present-buying – we went into the kids’ clothing department at Farmers, he picked out a couple of items of the correct size off pretty much the first rack we saw, and I reckon we were out in the carpark again within about 5 minutes.  That’s the kind of shopping I aspire to!

Shopping accomplished, we picked up Stepmother and Stepsister, and (after being enthusiastically greeted by all of Stepsister’s dogs – she only has three, but somehow they always seem like a lot more than that!) we went over to a pub in St Martins for dinner.  A pleasant end to a very busy day.

Lytteltonwitch had proposed a road trip for Easter Sunday, and texted me to suggest Kaikoura.  It turned out she had an ulterior motive, because the town had recently been yarn-bombed, and she wanted to document it to send to her European yarn-bombing accomplices.  I didn’t mind though, because I haven’t been up to Kaikoura since their earthquake, and I was interested to see how things had changed, and in particular the changes to the seashore (where the seabed has been uplifted by several metres in some places). Plus our road trips are always fun, no matter the destination.

Despite there still being a lot of road works, Kaikoura was full of tourists, and seems to be well on the way to recovering from the earthquake.  The damage to the land itself is still very visible in places, with huge scars on the hills from the landslides, but the town itself doesn’t seem to be greatly changed.  The yarn bombers had been hard at work, and pretty much every post and railing (plus a park bench and a bicycle!) had been decorated, so we had a very slow walk along the main street while Lytteltonwitch took photos of them all.

In the rush to get organised to leave first thing, I’d neglected to take my big camera, so while we were wandering around the shore I was experimenting with my phone’s camera (see above). This led to experimenting with the video, which led to joking about being a vlogger now instead of a blogger.  So we proceeded to film a “totally professional” vlog, which lasted all the way back to Christchurch (and was over 2 hours long, and used up all the battery power and almost all the memory on my phone). Which I then spent most of today trying to cut down into something of a (slightly) more watchable length (ok, and playing round with adding silly title cards and stuff as well). Don’t think I’ll be giving up blogging for vlogging in a hurry (though it might be fun to try it again occasionally – I definitely learnt a lot from the process of making this one (mostly what NOT to do :-) )) – it takes even longer to edit a vlog than it does for me to edit all the photos for a blog entry!

For your viewing pleasure:

Sitting at a computer all day editing video counts as resting, right?

Dragons in the Avon

Last weekend was the Lantern Festival, so on Sunday night I met up with Lytteltonwitch and (after a detour to watch Loving Vincent (which was… interesting?  I liked the concept, and it was very pretty, but I thought the sound was badly done – it sounded too much like a radio play, and didn’t connect properly with the pictures (by which I don’t mean it wasn’t in sync, it’s just that it somehow didn’t sound like it was coming from inside the scenes – I’m sure there’s a technical term for that…) which kept pulling me out of the story) at Alice’s (and is this the worst example of nested brackets totally messing up the parsability of a sentence ever?  Sorry!)), we wandered through the Square and along the river to see the lanterns all lit up.

I’ve heard a few complaints about how crowded it was, but I don’t think it was that bad. Some of the queues for the food and activity stalls were quite long, but you just had to be patient (or pick one of the stalls with shorter queues). And there were a few bottlenecks where construction areas are still cordoned off, but again, just a matter of patience. I just thought it was wonderful that finally we have enough of the city back that we can have the Lantern Festival in the CBD again and not hidden away in a corner of Hagley Park as it has been for the last few years. And it’s still enough of a novelty to have actual crowds in the city centre I can’t help enjoying it when it happens.


On Saturday Gwilk finally managed to get everyone back together for another attempt at our long-neglected Dungeons and Dragons game.  It was a lot of fun (Thokk (my character) spent most of the evening being nasty to Mrs Gwilk’s character, after she inadvertently insulted Thokk’s parents.  I *think* Mrs Gwilk got that it was all just role playing…), so hopefully it won’t be another year before we manage another game.

Hmm, I seem to be telling the story of my recent adventures backwards again.  So, to continue the theme, let’s skip back a few more days.

Last Thursday I went to a really interesting panel discussion put on by UC’s FemSoc club, on the topic of the #MeToo movement.  The panel included victims, educators, and politicians, and had some really thoughtful things to say about how society and the justice system is failing victims of sexual abuse, and the difficult question of how to fix the problem.  There was a surprisingly respectful audience discussion afterwards, and it sounded like the evening might have some good outcomes in terms of the university looking more closely at its policies around harassment and abuse.

And I was out on Wednesday as well, at another recording of the Nerd Degree with Jacq and their partner.  It was, as always, incredibly funny, although I thought it took longer than last time to properly warm up.  Darcy, another former LING student (and who helped me with the graphs for my thesis, so will forever be my hero for her R-ninjaness) came along too, so it was nice to see her again.

So quite a social week last week! Plus we’re in the middle of interviewing for a couple of new positions for the Lab, and I’m on the interview panel for both of them, so it’s been busy at work as well.  Thankfully this week has been a bit quieter on the social side at least – there’s been a lot of just coming home and crashing in the evenings.


I haven’t forgotten about my Block of the Whenever quilt (and I definitely haven’t run out of ideas – I’ve got a long list of blocks I want to try next), but I decided I needed to get on with the quilting on the Birds in Flight quilt before I lost track of what I was doing.  And the exciting news is, I finished all the quilting!!!  No photos yet, because I still need to put the binding on, but it’s getting much closer to a finished quilt.  Not bad for three and a bit years’ work…

Cucumber sandwiches and a chicken in a tree

I spent this afternoon with Harvestbird and the mini-Harvestbirds at a garden party hosted by Dorothy’s pop-up tearooms (i.e. my friend Jan, who catered my graduation party).  After cold and wet weather earlier in the week, it was a lovely afternoon sitting under the trees eating scones and cucumber sandwiches and an array of incredible cakes.  I taught the mini-Harvestbirds (plus an additional small child from a neighbouring picnic blanket) how to play petanque, but was called away from the grand championship game by Jan, to tell me I’d won a prize in the raffle: a seriously cool pair of teapot and measuring tape earrings (quilts and tea – it’s like they were made for me. Just add some cats and books, and they’d be perfect :-) )

I think the highlight for the mini-Harvestbirds was the chicken they spotted perched high in a tree (the venue was out in the semi-countryside on the edge of town). Much excited shouting of “there’s a chicken in the tree” later, they had quite a crowd of adults gathered to see the phenomenon (mutter, mutter, city people, mutter, mutter…)

The elder mini-Harvestbird was moved to compose a song about the chicken, which younger mini-Harvestbird accompanied with interpretive dance.

Hmm, I really should have videoed it, shouldn’t I?  But as you can probably tell, it was a very impassioned performance.

A very pleasant way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.


Talking of cucumbers, my little cucumber plants are struggling on, despite the cooler weather.  The leaves seem to be starting to die off, but despite that the plants keep valiantly producing flowers, and the actual cucumbers have more than doubled in size.  This would be more impressive if they hadn’t started out microscopic – the largest is now about 2 cm long.

Any bets on the chances of it reaching edible size before winter? Nah, thought not.

Even more incredibly, the watermelon has suddenly taken off. I realised yesterday that suddenly it wasn’t just the couple of leaves it’s been all summer – it’s grown a longish vine which is using the neighbouring mint plants for support. A vine with little buds on the end of it:

And when I got home this afternoon, those little buds had turned into watermelon flowers!

Definitely not holding my breath for actual fruit though.


As I was taking the photo of the watermelon, Parsnips really really wanted me to pay attention to her. This mostly took the form of meowing loudly and flopping dramatically on the step in front of me. Except she totally misjudged how close she was to the wall, so only her front half managed to flop, and the back was left slightly propped against the wall:

Most cats would have moved to a more comfortable position, but once Parsnips commits to a flop, she really commits.  She stayed in that position for as long as I was out there, twisting her head into maximum “aren’t I cute, now pay attention!” position while her back legs stayed standing on the lower step

Strange cat.

And in other news

Half-square triangles and flying geese aside, it’s been a very busy couple of weeks, both socially and with the final push to get QuakeStudies 2.0 finished in time for the launch. We’ve been working on the upgrade (which is actually a totally new build, and then migrating all 148,000 items across from the old system to the new one) for over a year, but even so, as there always is for any big project, there was a last-minute panic to get it all done. We had a “soft launch” a week ago (which is why I ended up working on Waitangi Day, doing all the last-minute checks to make sure that none of the sensitive material would be accidentally made visible to the public), making the website live but not really telling anyone about it.  Then, after a week to make sure everything was still working properly, and to do some last-minute uploading of new material, we had the official launch on Thursday night.

We’d invited all sorts of VIPs to the launch event, but hadn’t realised when we sent the invites out that it clashed with the opening of a new building on campus, which the Prime Minister was attending, so of course nearly everyone wanted to go to that instead (Jacindamania is still alive and well).  We did get a few city councillors though, plus representatives of the city library and museum, and some of our content providers, as well as a handful of university people, so at least the room wasn’t embarrassingly empty.

In a fit of confidence I’d volunteered to MC the event, so I had that stress added to all the work of getting everything ready for the launch, but I actually (once I got over the initial nerves) kind of enjoyed it.  I managed to remember all the speaker’s names when I introduced them, and had fun coming up with little linking comments after each speech to segue into the next speaker (all that Toastmasters training came in handy). And, before the official speeches part started, I did all the greeting of people as they arrived to the event, and introducing them to other interesting people so they’d have someone to talk to, and other hosty stuff like that!  I was quite proud of my efforts!

Of course, all that pretending to be an extrovert was absolutely exhausting – by the time I got home that night I was completely shattered.  I was very glad I was owed time in lieu for working Waitangi Day, because I only managed a couple of hours at work yesterday afternoon (I’d taken the morning off anyway because I had to be home for the fibre installers) before coming to the conclusion that I was still so tired that I wasn’t really contributing anything useful by being at work, and decided to just give up and go home early.


I was intending to have a quiet night last night (and turned down an invitation to Dana’s to watch more “Dog boy”), but then I got a text from the Gwilks, saying they had a spare ticket to Dungeons & Dragons & Comedians, so did I want to go with them.  I’d tried to get tickets for it when it was first advertised, but they sold out instantly, so of course I said yes!

It turned out to be a fantastic night.  The show was amazingly funny – it was basically just a short D&D campaign played in front of an audience, but all of the adventurers were comedians, and almost all were new to playing D&D, so didn’t really know what they were doing (so, for example, the woman playing a warlock character decided that meant she was Harry Potter… sorry, “Parry Hotter” – completely different :-) and kept forgetting she could use spells).  The dungeon master, who did know how to play, let them stretch the rules quite a bit just for the sake of story (and it being funny), and there was a lot of “Yes, and” improv-type stuff going on, which ended, most memorably, with an underground aquarium full of whales, and the big boss being defeated by being down-trowed with a magically-extending 10-foot pole.  Yeah, you really had to be there.  Trust me, it was incredibly funny at the time.

So a lot later night than I intended, but totally worth it!


Going back to last weekend (yeah, this blog post is not at all in chronological order, but neither is my brain at the moment), I went round to the Gwilks’ on Saturday night to play board games.  They had a new game, which I don’t remember the name of, which was sort of a cross between Battleships, Minesweeper, and Centipede, except it was also a team game.  Each team of four people was on a submarine, and had to seek out and destroy the enemy submarine while avoiding being sunk themselves.  Everyone on the team had a role to play: I was the engineer, which mostly involved deciding which critical piece of equipment was going to break down each turn); the captain decided where we moved to (making sure we didn’t cross over our own path, hence the Centipede bit); the Radio Operator listened to the opposing team’s moves and tried to work out from that where they must be on the map; and the First Mate made sure the torpedoes were ready to fire at the crucial moment.  It was a pretty intense game, and needed a lot of cooperation and communication between team members (while not giving too much away to the other team) to keep everything running smoothly.   It was a fun challenge, though.


On Sunday afternoon Lyttletonwitch came round, and we Skyped with MeganH and a few of the other Australian bookcrossers, making plans for our post-convention boat trip (which I don’t think I’ve mentioned here yet – after the Bordeaux convention, a few of us are hiring a canal barge and spending a week cruising down the French canals!  It’s a tough life… :-) ).  After much excited planning with the Australians, Lytteltonwitch and I headed into Hagley Park, where the Noodle Markets are on again.  This time they’re on for a couple of weeks, so nowhere near as crowded as last year (plus it helped that it had been raining all day, and was still drizzling lightly, which had put most people off).  It was great – even at the most popular stalls the queue was never more than a couple of people deep (compared to about a half hour wait at some stalls last year!).

Lytteltonwitch paid for all the food, as a thank-you for me having made the Lego quilt for her friend. I don’t think I bankrupted her, but we definitely ate a lot (including, of course, the famous mango drinks served in hollowed-out pineapples which were just as good as last years’).


Talking about Bordeaux, we’ve pretty much finalised the itinerary:

11 April – leave Christchurch, fly via Shanghai to Paris (arrive on the 12th)

12-16 April – spend a few days exploring Paris

16 April – meet up with Skyring and a few other bookcrossers and drive to Bayeux (probably via a few other interesting places)

17 April – drive to St Malo (ditto on the interesting places along the way)

18 April – drive to Bordeaux

19 April – pre-convention trip to Dune de Pilat and Saint Emilion (with obligatory wine tasting, of course – it would be impossible to visit Bordeaux without visiting at least one vinyard!)

20 April – pre-convention tours of the Palais Rohan and Bordeaux’s underground spaces

20-22 April Bookcrossing Convention

22 April – train to either Castelnaudry or Trebes, where we pick up our barge (we’ll find out closer to the time which it will be – it depends on what trips it has been hired for previously)

22-29 April – cruising along the canal either from Castelnaudry to Trebes, or vice versa.  They’re not a long distance apart, so there’ll be plenty of time for stops along the way to explore the towns and countryside we pass through.  The barge even comes with a couple of bicycles in case anyone wants to explore further afield.

29 April – depending on where we end up, either taxi or train to Carcassone, where Lytteltonwitch and I are booked into a youth hostel in the medieval walled city for two nights.

1 May – train to Barcelona

1-5 May – spend a few days exploring Barcelona (we were originally going to head straight to the Spanish border from Bordeaux, and spend a couple of weeks hopping back and forth across the border and exploring the Pyrenees, but then a couple of people dropped out of MeganH’s barge trip, and she offered the places to us, so we decided that sounded like too much fun to turn down, and shortened the Spanish leg of our trip to just a few days in Barcelona).

5 May – train back to Paris

6 May – fly home, via Hong Kong (arriving back in Christchurch 8 May, because of the date line)

Are you jealous yet? :-)

Super social

Most important thing:  I finished the Lego quilt last weekend, and Lytteltonwitch delivered it to her friend, who apparently loved it.  I was pretty pleased with the finished product too:

The invisible thread, even though it was a bit of a pain to work with, worked out really well, giving texture to the blocks without standing out too much, which is what I wanted. And I really liked how the quilting in the border turned out.

It’s backed with some amazing Buzzy Bee fabric that Lytteltonwitch found, which goes really well with the colours and theme of the quilt. And I gave it a scrappy binding made from the left-overs of the block fabrics.

So, my first commissioned quilt successfully accomplished. Apparently my payment is going to be in the form of dinner at the Noodle Markets tomorrow night – seems like a fair trade to me :-)


I meant to post the pictures of the finished quilt sooner, but I’ve been incredibly busy – mostly at work, where we’re very close to launching another big project (I can tell you about it next week :-) ), which we’ve been working on for the last year or so, and which has been taking up the majority of my time for the last month (to the extent that I ended up working on Waitangi Day, just to meet a critical deadline).  I’ve been busy socially, too:  I’ve already been out three nights this week, plus I’m out tonight and tomorrow night as well – this must be some sort of record for me!

Tuesday night was Toastmasters, and I decided that would be my last meeting.  The club president had said something in his closing remarks a couple of weeks ago encouraging us to reflect on our aims for the year, and I realised I don’t actually have any Toastmasters-related aims.  I joined the club with the aims of improving my confidence, and to not be so nervous when I had to give presentations at work, and I have definitely achieved both of those things – I’ve spoken at conferences, and run meetings, and all sorts of things I couldn’t have imagined doing a few years ago.  And I’m not really interested in the competitive side of Toastmasters, or in learning to become a motivational speaker or anything like that – I’m good enough at public speaking for the kinds of public speaking I need to do, so I don’t feel greatly inspired to learn more.  Which means the only reason I was still going along to Toastmasters is for the social side, and I haven’t even been getting as much of that out of the club lately – a few of the people I used to get on with really well have left, and while new people have come along to replace them, it hasn’t really been the same (plus, as in any club, there’s one or two people who are annoying, and without the buffer of lots of people I do like, it’s harder to tolerate them).  Anyway, as this week is proving, I’m not exactly short of social activities!  So, as Tuesday was scheduled to be a short meeting followed by drinks, I decided to make that my last meeting, so I could go out with everyone for a drink afterwards and say goodbye.

Wednesday was a much more fun outing.  Jacq invited me to go to a recording of a podcast (The Nerd Degree) which their partner is sometimes in the cast for (though not for this episode).  It’s a brilliantly funny podcast, and even better in person (it was fun putting faces to the voices I’d been listening to online, plus you get to see all the facial expressions and other visual stuff that doesn’t translate to audio).  It’s recorded in a small studio in Ferrymead that’s just big enough to have a small audience (I think there were maybe 20 people there), so we were encouraged to make as much noise as possible with our applause so that it would seem like a bigger audience.  There was no problem with not making enough noise when it came to laughing – everyone was killing themselves with laughter!  They’ve got a small bar at the venue, plus you can order pizza to be delivered from Winne Bagoes, so we shared a couple of pizzas for dinner during the interval.  A great night all round (though very hard to wake up in time for work the next morning!)

Then last night I went round to Dana’s place to watch anime with her and her friends.  We’ve been watching a series called Inuyasha, and I can never remember the names of the characters, so I started calling them things like “Dog boy” (a lot of the characters are demons, so they look half human and half animal), “High school girl”, “Little fox boy” and so on.  Dana picked up on this, and now she sends me messages asking if I want to come round and watch Dog Boy with them :-)  It’s technically a children’s series, but it’s very entertaining, especially because we’re watching it in Japanese (with subtitles, of course!), so you get all those over-the-top anime voices.

I was actually double-booked for tonight, socially, because I’d invited Dan and his partner round for dinner, and then the Gwilks invited me over for a games evening.  But it turned out that Dan had to cancel, so it all worked out nicely, and now I’m going round to the Gwilks’ this evening (actually, I should really go and get myself some dinner, or I’ll be late – might have to finish this post off in another post tomorrow…)

Slowly falling apart… with childhood illnesses?

Because bodies are evil, and know when you’re on holiday, mine has decided to get sick this week, with strep throat of all things.  I’ve never had it before, but was under the impression it’s something that only kids get.  But no, apparently adults can get it too, and I have it.

Luckily it’s not too bad – very sore, and I feel like I’ve got a lump stuck in my throat, but otherwise I’m not feeling unwell other than a little tired (which I’d just attributed to too many late nights recently).  I went and saw the doctor today, and she prescribed me some painkillers and antibiotics, and told me the best treatment was to rest and eat icecream (I reckon that’s the best advice I’ve ever had from a doctor!  Hmm, I wonder if I should keep eating the icecream even after the infection is gone, just as a preventative measure? I think that sounds like a good idea :-) )

Other than getting a sore throat, I’ve been having a very lazy couple of days, slowly working my way through quilting all those birds (I think I’m about a quarter of the way through it), and sitting in the garden with a book, trying not to forget to move into the shade so I don’t get even more sunburnt.  I did have a few visitors yesterday – Stepmother is in town visiting her daughter, so they came round in the morning to drop off a couple of tubs of cherries.  Stepsister also invited me to go and visit a friend of hers in the evening, who is selling off most of her fabric stash in an attempt to declutter.  In the end we didn’t go, because Stepsister wasn’t feeling well enough, but that was probably a good thing – I really don’t need any more fabric, do I?  (Trick question, of course I do!  But having the temptation removed was probably a good idea.)

Then in the afternoon, Ade popped round to steal some lemons off my tree.  It was good to catch up with her, because they’re moving up to Auckland in a few weeks, so I won’t see much more of her.

Right, I’m off to follow the doctor’s orders and have some icecream :-)

Saki and fireworks

And now, after all those lists, an actual post:

After a couple of days of hiding away from the world, I was feeling ready for human contact again, so a couple of invitations yesterday came just at the right moment.  First was to join Harvestbird for cake and afternoon tea in civilisation, before she heads off into the (relative) wilderness for a week with her family.    We successfully found cake at Church Corner, and spent an enjoyable afternoon dissecting popular culture (and, in particular, the new Star Wars film, which I’ve also been debating the merits of with Nephew #1 via email, so I now really need to go and see it again, so I can properly work out which of whose arguments I agree with :-) ).

Next, Dana invited me to join her and some friends for dinner at Bao Bar in Riccarton.  I’d never been there before, but was happily surprised by how good the food was.  It’s one of those places that occupies the nebulous space between fast food and a proper restaurant – they have a liquor licence and offer table service if you’re sitting upstairs (there are buttons on the tables to summon a waiter), but also do takeaways downstairs.  We shared some tasting plates (which included one of the few tofu dishes I’ve ever actually enjoyed) and dumplings, then tried a variety of “baogers” (bao buns stuffed with different meats), washed down with Champagne-style fizzy saki (which was very sweet, and very drinkable, though I could feel it going to my head pretty fast!).

After dinner we all went back to Dana’s place and played a rather chaotic board game involving a train robbery, complete with jumping from carriage to carriage, and the robbers all attempting to shoot and punch each other while stealing the loot and avoiding the sheriff.  I think I ended up coming last, but it was still a lot of fun.

A couple of the guests left after the game, as they had to go home to relieve their babysitter.  I considered leaving then too, as I had no particular desire to stay up to see the New Year in, but then someone suggested we could all walk down to Hagley Park to watch the fireworks at midnight, so I was talked into staying.  It was only about 11 pm by then, so in the meantime, Dana’s partner suggested setting up their virtual reality gear for a game.

As everyone else had had a go on it before, they gave me the first go (which actually turned out to be the only go, because by the time everything was set up, we didn’t have all that much time before we had to leave to get to the park on time).  I was a bit doubtful at first, because my previous experiences with VR a couple of years ago weren’t that impressive, but the technology has advanced very quickly – it was so much better than I’d expected.  It really did feel totally immersive (apart from occasionally feeling the cable wrap around my feet if I turned round too many times), and definitely felt like being in a physical space.  Even better, the controllers had amazing haptic feedback.  Dana’s partner set me up on an archery game, where I had to shoot barbarians storming a castle, and it really did feel like I was knocking an arrow into the bow and shooting.  I think I could have happily played that game for a very long time if we hadn’t had to go!

Just before 12 we walked down to the park, and got there just in time to hear the countdown and watch the fireworks.  We didn’t go into the official party area, but just sat by the duck pond behind the stage area, which was where they were letting the fireworks off from, so we got a fantastic view (there were quite a few people there already with cameras and tripods set up – wish I’d thought to bring my camera along!).  We sang Auld Lang Syne along with the crowd (and Mum, you’ll be glad to hear I even sang a verse of The Green Oak Tree (very quietly!) as we walked back through the park).

I’d been telling the others about New Years when I was a child, and how we used to go first footing, and Dana was fascinated by it all, so I suggested I could first foot her when we got back to her house.  It wasn’t a proper first footing, of course – I had to substitute a stick I picked up in the park for the piece of coal, and a couple of lollies I found in the bottom of my bag for the shortbread and whisky – but it’s the thought that counts, right? :-)   In return, Dana gave me a traditional Romanian blessing with a leafy branch, so a successful cultural exchange of good wishes for the coming year :-)

So it turned out to be a fun night, although a very late one – I was totally shattered by the time I got home!  Talking of which, I think an early night tonight would be a good idea.  So Happy New Year, everyone – I hope 2018 brings you joy.