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…

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…)

So far

Things I like about my new phone

  1. I can talk to it!  And it knows what I’m saying (mostly – there’s a few NZ vowel sounds it struggles with still (setting an alarm for 10 pm is something I’m yet to achieve – that lovely NZE [e] vowel in ten just confuses the poor thing…)) and does things when I tell it to.  There’s something so satisfying about waking up and saying “Hey Google, what’s the forecast” to find out what the weather’s like (yeah, I know I could just look out the window, but where’s the fun in that?).
  2. Google maps knows when my next bus is going to arrive.  And even better, it can tell where my nearest bus stop is, and tell me which buses will arrive there next, so I don’t have to try and find the bus stop number.   So I don’t have to do the “The timetable says a bus should have passed here 3 minutes ago, but they’re often late, so there’s a chance it could still turn up, so maybe I should wait, but if it’s already passed then the next one won’t be for half an hour, so it might be quicker to walk” calculation I’m constantly doing at stops that don’t have an arrivals indicator (which is most of them).
  3. I can download e-books from the library!  And audiobooks! (I could do that already, but I was limited to the ones that were in the correct format to play on my little mp3 player, so this opens up the range of audiobooks I can borrow enormously! Technically I could also download e-books before, but (because Amazon’s complicated licencing agreements) I couldn’t read them on my Kindle, so my only option was to read them on my computer, and you can’t cosy up in a comfy chair with a computer.)
  4. I had lunch with Jacq yesterday and they showed me a magic trick: you can write a text by swiping across the keyboard instead of typing each character individually.  I have no idea how it manages to figure out which word I meant from my vague swipey motions in roughly the direction of the right letters, but it does (mostly – it gets a bit confused if you like to make up words like swipey).
  5. My search for a protective cover (it took me about a day of carrying it around to realise the chances of me dropping it/banging it into something/crushing it by having too many books in my bag were very high, and that this would make me anxious if I didn’t do something about it) led me to the discovery that there are very many very cool phone cases out there.  I settled on this one for now (well I had to – it’s a cat wearing glasses and drinking hot chocolate (yeah, it’s probably supposed to be coffee, but I don’t like coffee), and as a bonus, the cat looks like Parsnips!), but I suspect my phone will end up having several outfits it can change into according to mood.  Who knew a phone would have so many options to decorate it?
  6. I can take photos (like important photos of my phone case to put in my blog) even when I don’t have my camera with me.  Which is a good thing, because my big camera is big.  And heavy.  So I only carry it when I’m going somewhere I think I’ll want to take photos.  Which means when spontaneous photo opportunities happen, I’ll actually be able to take photos of them (and yes, I know everyone who has a smart phone has been telling me this for ever, but it wasn’t a big enough reason to buy a smart phone.  But now that I have one, it’s a nice bonus.)  The photos aren’t as good as I could take on my real camera, of course (I would hope not, given how much I paid for it!), but they’re good enough for quick snapshots.  My big camera will still be accompanying me on my travels and to places I know I’ll want to take real photos, though!

Things I don’t like about my new phone

  1. It’s very distracting.  Because it can do so many things, the temptation is to be constantly using it – I can understand now why teenagers are constantly on their phones.  I’m hoping the novelty will wear off soon though and I’ll stop finding excuses to play with it.
  2. My pockets aren’t big enough.  I could carry my old phone (which was tiny) around in my pocket if I needed to, but this one won’t fit (or, it will, but it hangs out of the top and I’m scared it’ll fall out).  So if I want to take it with me, I have to either carry it in my hand, or in my bag, which means I always have to carry my bag (which I generally do anyway, because my bag is where I carry books, and being stuck somewhere without a book to read is my worst nightmare).
  3. It doesn’t understand the difference between ten and tin in a NZ accent (see above, although honestly, I’m impressed it can understand a NZ accent at all – voice recognition has come a long way!)
  4. Having an actual app to read library e-books and audiobooks means I have to return them on time.  I’m so used to uploading a few at a time to my mp3 player (which isn’t sophisticated enough to have DRM, so keeps playing them even after they expire), and only removing them once they’re finished, instead of at the end of the loan period.  I’m sure I’ll cope, though.
  5. If I have it too close to my bus card, it starts beeping at me (presumably it’s trying to read the RFID in the card?).  So I can’t use the card slots in the nice new case I bought for it as intended (because if I keep my bus card separate to my other cards, I’m sure to forget to bring it with me, and I never have the right change to pay cash on the bus).

Yeah, pretty minor complaints, really.  So on balance, I think the phone was a good purchase.  (All of you who’ve spent the last several years telling me to get a proper phone may now say “I told you so”)

But isn’t my new phone case cool? :-)

So this is what the twenty-first century looks like

Even though (or perhaps because) I work in a digital lab, I have a touch of the Luddite about me.  I like technology, but in its place – I’m not a fan of technology for the sake of it.  I like to use the tool that does the job best for me, which is not necessarily the newest and shiniest toy.  Which is not to say I’ll always avoid the new and shiny (far from it – I can think of several new and shiny things I’d love to have and that only the exorbitant cost is keeping me from), but that I’ve got to convince myself it’d make life better than what I’m currently using.  Which is why I write with a fountain pen, why I love my antique wooden ironing board, and why I’ve resisted buying a smart phone… up until now.

Because yes, I finally gave in, and upgraded my ancient Nokia dumb phone to something that can do more than just phone and text.  Finally the number of times I’ve been in situations where I’ve thought “It would be really useful to be able to [check map/bus arrival times/look up details of a business/check whether x has emailed me/other smart phoney type things]” has reached a tipping point where not having a smart phone went from “I don’t really have a use for one so why bother” to “Ok, now I’m just being stubborn about it”.  So I spent way too long comparing service providers and plans, and then even longer looking at the different phones, and then spent an hour or so in the mall this morning asking many many questions of the very patient shop assistant in the Vodafone shop, and finally walked out with a shiny new phone.  Which I have spent the rest of the day manually transferring numbers onto from my old phone (patient Vodafone guy looked very relieved when I said I didn’t expect him to be able to magically find a way to connect very old Nokia with shiny new phone to transfer the contacts across – some tech is just too old to be compatible with doing things automatically).

So here it is.  Very much a mid-range, just does the things I want it to sort of phone, and I’m sure those with i-whatevers or the latest $1000+ models will look down their noses at it, but I’m happy (or at least, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that Google will now know even more about me than they already did, but I think that was a lost cause anyway).

I feel like it needs a name…

Quilting and singing and games

I started the quilting!

I did get quite a bit further than that today, but by the time I thought to take another photo the light was no good.  So you’ll just have to wait :-)  I managed to get just over a quarter of it done, though, so I’m making good progress.  And the quilting is working out exactly as I envisioned it, so it should look pretty good when it’s finished.


I went to see the NZ Opera production of Carmen last night with Lytteltonwitch.  It’s actually the first “proper” opera I’ve ever seen, and it was really good.  I was very glad of the surtitles though, as otherwise I’d have had no idea what was going on (Lytteltonwitch summed up the plot for me as roughly “Boy meets girl, someone dies at the end, and in between there’s a lot of singing”).  It took me about half an hour to figure out what language they were singing in, let alone be able to make out any of the words… yeah, I probably should have bought a programme or something :-)

Anyway, I really enjoyed it, and was surprised at how many of the tunes I recognised – a lot of them are ones that are just in the popular consciousness, without you necessarily knowing where they come from.  The staging was really good too – they did some really clever stuff with lighting, like casting shadows of the actors onto the walls during the bar scene, which gave quite a threatening feel to it.  The bar scene also cleverly put the women in a position of power, so that it switched gradually from a group of drunken men demanding that the women (not sure if they were supposed to represent prostitutes?) dance for them, to the women totally controlling the men and making them perform – the confusion at the end of the scene when the men suddenly realising the roles had been reversed was quite lovely.

And of course, as you’d expect, some really powerful singing, especially from the performer playing Carmen.


On Friday night I went round to Dana’s after work (this is becoming a regular thing).  There was quite a large group there, so rather than play video games (as is usual on Friday nights – they have a Nintendo Switch connected to a projector, so the screen is pretty much the entire wall), we played a few board games.  One was totally new to me (and I can’t remember the name of it now), but the others I’d played before with the Gwilks – Dixit and Codenames.  A lot of fun, even if I did feel a bit old at times (most of the people there were in their mid twenties).  And I was on the winning team for two of the games, which is always good :-)

Off with their hair

Those of you who know me in real life (TM) will know that for the past year or two I’ve been muttering about how one day I’m going to suddenly cut off all my hair.  Well, one day arrived…

Yeah, bit of a drastic change :-) (Although in photos it doesn’t really look all that different, because I always tied my hair back anyway, so you couldn’t really tell in photos just how long it was).  It’s still not exactly the way I want it – I’m going to go back in a few weeks to get the top cut even shorter, but the hairdresser wanted me to leave it at this stage for a few weeks while the follicles relax back into shape – having had it long for so long (and almost always tied back in the same way) has stretched them into weird directions, so I still have a very noticeable part down the centre of my head at the moment, which would be emphasised even more if the hair was even shorter – hopefully it will disappear as the follicles realign themselves.  But even so, I’m very happy with it.  And a bit nervous about what everyone’s going to say when I go into work on Monday… (I didn’t tell anyone what I was planning :-) )

Harvestbird accompanied me to the appointment (mainly to make sure I didn’t chicken out at the last minute :-) ), and documented the entire process (the hairdresser was having a lot of fun demonstrating various cutting techniques and hairstyles from the ages as he cut it steadily shorter), so once she’s uploaded the photos (and video!) I’ll post them here for everyone’s amusement.


Sorry it’s been such a long time between posts.  Work was stupidly busy for a while there (it still is, but at least I’ve got my two new staff now, which has taken some of the pressure off), so I’ve been getting home at night and just crashing, and haven’t been feeling inspired to write.  I really should try and get into the habit again though – I’ve actually been having all sorts of non-work adventures, but haven’t had time/energy to write about any of them.

Most recent was that last Tuesday Dana and I went to see a talk by Neil deGrasse Tyson, which was amazing (even if I did have the odd moment of wishing he was Carl Sagan instead (hashtag geek-child of the 70s)).  For a start, it was at the Horncastle Arena (where graduation was), which is Christchurch’s biggest venue, and normally reserved for big international music acts.  That a scientist was speaking to a sold-out audience in that venue was an amazing thought – rock-star scientist indeed!

He spoke very inspiringly and entertainingly too – I was so glad I went.  At the end, they had an opportunity for audience members to ask questions, but we were sitting so far up the back in the cheap seats (which were only relatively cheap – rock-star scientists command rock-star prices!) at the top of the arena that there was no way we’d have made it down to the queue for the microphone in time (not that I would have been able to think of a decent question anyway, even if I’d been sitting right up the front).  The first couple of questions were of that non-question “Here is a long rant about my favourite hot-button topic, what do you think?” type, but then people started asking really complex and interesting questions about astrophysics (some of the best questions came from kids!), and deGrasse Tyson gave wonderful answers that managed to be non-technical enough that everyone in the audience would understand it, without dumbing down any of the really deep and interesting stuff that made the questions so fascinating.  The Q&A part went way over time, because deGrasse Tyson kept saying he was going to make his answers briefer so more people would get a chance to ask a question, but then would get caught up in the complexities of the answer, and it would be just as long as the previous one.  The compère kept suggesting that maybe it was time to wrap things up, and deGrasse Tyson would agree, yes, just one more question, and then carry on :-)   By the time he finished, the security people were herding everyone out the door almost before the applause had finished – I think they wanted to get home!


I haven’t made a lot of progress quilt-wise, for similar reasons to the lack of blogging (plus it being too cold in the study most evenings).  But I managed to get a few more rows sewn onto the little squares quilt:

Although I’m loving how it’s turning out (I think it’s my favourite one I’ve made so far), I’ll be so glad to get this one finished – matching all those seams is hard work!

Thokk

No progress on (any of) the quilt(s), because I’ve been too busy the last couple of days being social and stuff.

Dad came up yesterday, because friends of his were hosting a mini music festival out at Whitecliffs (about 70 km from Christchurch) today.  He’d originally invited me to go out there with him today for the festival itself, but I already had other plans (see below), so plans were changed, and instead I went out there with him yesterday, supposedly to help with the setting up.  But when we got there, everything was pretty much done, except for putting up a couple of marquees that they’d decided to leave until morning in case the wind came up overnight.  So other than helping secure a few guy ropes, we pretty much just sat around chatting.  Which was fine, until I got stuck talking to some guy (a friend of a friend of Dad’s friends, I think) who just wanted to rant about the fact that Christchurch doesn’t have great facilities for campervans (yeah, we’ve had more important things to worry about for the past few years, actually).  I suddenly remembered I had my camera with me, and made an excuse about wanting to photograph the gardens (which were pretty spectacular, actually) so I could make my escape, and very shortly afterwards Dad similarly ran out of patience with boring ranty guy, and decided that I definitely needed a photographic assistant :-)

As there was no actual work that needed doing, and the rest of the afternoon was threatening to be dominated by boring ranty guy finding more things to complain about (or worse, he’d get onto politics, which I suspect we would strongly disagree on, and I was running out of things to rush off and photograph), so Dad (who hates sitting around doing nothing even more than I do) suggested we go back into town for dinner. I gladly agreed, so we said goodbye to Dad’s friends (and I promised that next year I’d stay for the concert), and we headed back to Christchurch.

I’d been telling Dad about the Friday night food trucks, and he wanted to know if any of them were open on a Saturday night (because last time he ate at anything resembling a food truck was back in the good old pie cart* days). I couldn’t think of any, but we did a tour round central Christchurch checking out the most likely spots to find them (the Commons, the Arts Centre, Re:Start, the Square…), but the only ones we found had already shut up for the night. So we ended up going to Mexico (the restaurant, not the country :-) ) instead, for Mexican tapas (yeah, I know, but fusion or something). Really good food, as it always is, but I didn’t read the menu closely enough when we ordered, so ended up eating lamb that had been infused with coffee, and which obviously still contained vast amounts of caffeine (or actually, possibly just a tiny amount, because I’m super-sensitive to caffeine), so I didn’t sleep for most of the night because my head was still buzzing.

* Sorry foreigners, that’s a bit of NZ culture it’s impossible to explain. But try and imagine the greasiest fried foods you’ve ever eaten, served from a caravan late at night after the pubs close, and patronised mainly by drunks, and you’d be getting close to what a pie cart was.

Dad headed back out to Whitecliffs this morning, and I tried to catch up on some sleep (unsuccessfully – I never manage to sleep during the day) before going over to the Gwilks in the afternoon to play Dungeons and Dragons.  They’ve had a game going for a while, and had invited me to join them, but I was too busy with my thesis previously, so today was my first chance to join the game.  I haven’t played since high school, so I was very rusty, and had to keep asking what dice I was supposed to roll when, but it was a lot of fun.  My character is Thokk, a half-orc barbarian, who communes with wolves, goes into a murderous rage whenever friends are threatened, and has a tendency to hit enemies over the head with a large hammer.  Not exactly playing to type :-) I decided it would be more interesting to just follow where the dice rolls led when creating my character, instead of picking and choosing to get a character I liked, and Thokk was the result.

I suspect this character is going to end up being a lot of fun to play, precisely because it’s so far from what I normally would choose :-)

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…

Family portraits

Going home today, but in the meantime I managed to fit a lot into the last few days of my holiday. (Note to vegetarians, vegans, and those of a delicate constitution, you probably want to skip this first paragraph).  First was a hunting expedition on Saturday night. During dinner I’d mentioned to Brother that it was a pity he was so busy (being in retail doesn’t give you a lot of free time over the Christmas period), because otherwise we could have gone out hunting together.  So he suggested we go out for a night shoot (spotlighting for rabbits), and invite Mum’s visitor along too.  It doesn’t get dark until well after 9 here, so it was a very late night (we didn’t get home until about quarter past 1), but we got about a dozen rabbits (and a stoat – they’re a pest that kills native birds, so we always shoot them if we see them, though obviously we don’t keep the meat), and I was relieved to discover I’m still a decent shot even though I haven’t been shooting for years, so I didn’t embarrass myself too badly compared to the guys :-) (Actually, according to Brother, I got the shot of the night – a head shot at extreme range.  Total fluke, but I’ll accept the praise anyway :-)) We did see some deer, and thought about shooting one too, but then brother pointed out we’d have to spend another hour gutting and butchering it if we did, and anyway he’s already got a freezer full of venison, so we let them live for another day.

It’s Dad’s 70th birthday later this week, so seeing as I’m heading home, he decided to have a birthday barbecue on Sunday.  I suggested to the kids that we make him a birthday cake, and then SIL suggested we make it a golf cake, so we spent the afternoon making and decorating it. The kids each contributed to the decorations, and although we’ll never be professional decorators, we had a lot of fun, and I think it turned out looking pretty good:


(The weird squiggles on the cake board are a heart and a smiley face – Niece put herself in charge of the writing…)

And once the candles were lit, it looked even more impressive (Brother declared it to be “golfing in the fires of Hell”):

And Dad was greatly amused by it, which is the important thing :-)

Of course, as we were having a barbecue, it turned out to be the first cold and miserable day after days of intense heat, but that just meant we ate inside, and those in charge of the barbecue had to wear warm coats to cook in.


Venison burgers!

Dad wanted a photo with all the grandchildren and grand-nephews and nieces (well, at least the small selection that were there – as he comes from a family of 11, his total number of grand-nephews and nieces is probably edging close to 100 by now). He may have had a fancy family portrait in mind, but it quickly descended into chaotic laughter, as first Brother decided he qualified as one of the kids and wanted to sit on Dad’s knee, then I handed over my camera to SIL so I could get in on the action too, then one of the smallest members of the family started crying, which set off his sister, and then Brother said something along the lines of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, so he and Nephew #1 started wailing loudly, and the final portrait ended up with everyone either crying dramatically or laughing uncontrollably. Which is as a family portrait should be :-)

Proof that Brother really is one of the kids: all completely engrossed in a Walking With Dinosaurs movie

So what with cake, photo silliness, tickle battles, and other general chaos, it was a really fun night.

Then last night we finally got to see the new Star Wars movie. In preparation, the kids and I spent the afternoon watching episodes IV-VI, while Niece and I painted (there was no way she would be able to sit through three movies without something else to distract her!). Mum and I had bought some pre-printed canvases from the Warehouse, so it was more of a colouring-in exercise than serious artistic endeavour, but they turned out looking pretty cool (I didn’t manage to get a photo of the ones Niece painted, but they were… colourful :-) )

After dinner we headed to the picture theatre. Alexandra didn’t have a theatre for many years, because the town was too small to sustain it, but in the last few years a group of volunteers have been running a theatre out of the back of the museum.  It’s very small, only a few rows of seats, but they still get in most of the big movies, so it’s been doing very well.  But being run by volunteers means not everything goes according to plan – like last night, when we turned up to find the doors locked and everyone waiting outside.  It turned out the projectionist for the previous showing had locked the keys in the office, so the evening volunteers couldn’t get in, and the only spare key was held by the museum’s director, who lives in Bannockburn, half an hour’s drive away.  So we all had to wait while he drove down to Alexandra with the key.

But being small town, nobody was particularly fazed, and we all just stood around outside chatting, and the general feeling was that it wasn’t as bad as the night the projectionist forgot to turn on the projector, so the movie had sound but no pictures…  Eventually the key arrived, and (after a bit more confusion about the tickets, because Mum had bought us vouchers, but whoever sold them to her hadn’t written it down on the right page of the notebook, so the ticket seller couldn’t tick them off on her list…) the 7.30 screening became an 8.30 screening instead.

We all enjoyed the movie tremendously, and talked excitedly all the way back to Mum’s place, where we continued our analysis over hot chocolates.  I’ve already written a first impressions review, but I can say I enjoyed it even more the second time, especially hearing the surprised gasps from either side of me at the crucial moments (I’ve managed to not let slip to any of Brother’s family that I’d already seen it :-)), and doubly especially getting to talk about it with them afterwards.  Totally transported back to being a kid again :-)