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 :-)

Being social

It’s been a very social weekend. Actually, more than just the weekend, because on Friday the CEISMIC team spent the day at the NDF Bar Camp, an “unconference” to discuss digital issues in the cultural heritage sector.  Lots of exciting conversations and ideas, and seriously inspiring.  Tiring though, in that way of an event where you’ve got your brain switched on all day. There were drinks afterwards, of course, during which the fascinating conversations continued, but I only stayed for an hour, because I was meeting a few of the Toastmasters women for dinner.

The dinner was fun – lots of laughs (and interesting food – we were at a Vietnamese restaurant, and ordered a banquet, so we got to try lots of dishes we hadn’t tried before).  Quite a late night though.  When we left the restaurant, we discovered the intersection blocked off with a fire engine and two police cars, and police tape everywhere.  Earlier we’d noticed flashing lights outside, and had seen an ambulance come and go, but this was an hour or two later, and the police were still there.  It was dark, so hard to tell what was going on, but just as we were driving away (everyone was most concerned about me walking home on my own, even though we were only a few blocks from my place, so Ade insisted on giving me a lift) I realised what looked different about the dairy* on the corner – there was a car inside it.  According to The Press this morning, the driver had a “medical event” (I’m guessing that means heart attack?) while driving, and had gone straight over the roundabout and into the dairy.

*translation for foreigners: small convenience store/corner shop, mainly selling milk, bread and lollies**.

**another translation for foreigners: sweets/candy/confectionery

I’d planned to have a quiet day yesterday, seeing as Friday had been so busy, but Mrs Gwilk rang to say they had a new board game they wanted to try out, but it needed a fourth person to play, so did I feel like coming round.  So that’s where I spent the evening.  The game was really fun – it was a strategy game based on the Firefly TV series (which I’ve never actually seen, but knew vaguely what it was about which was enough to understand the game), where you had to run trade and/or smuggling missions across an interstellar society, while managing things like crew and fuel, and avoiding raiders and customs officials (if you were smuggling).  The end of the game was very dramatic, with Gwilk and I racing to get to a particular planet, with whoever got there first winning the game.  Unfortunately an unlucky roll when raiders attacked meant I got there just behind him, but I think second place is still a pretty respectable result :-)

It was another late night though, because the game took nearly three hours, and then, after mini-Gwilk went off to bed, Mrs Gwilk suggested we try another, shorter game (“shorter” being a relative term when it comes to board games), so it was nearly 11 by the time I got home.

Then this afternoon was the bookcrossing meetup.  A lot smaller turn out this time – Rarsberry was at a birthday party, and a couple of the others who normally turn up didn’t show, but we did have a new person, so all was not lost.  It was incredibly busy at the cafe, because the Botanic Gardens were having a special event for Matariki (the Maori New Year celebration), so we were lucky to get a table (well, luck combined with the fact that I spotted some people leaving, so I raced over and bagsed their table – which completely confused the poor person who came to clear away their plates!).  The incredibly long queue to order food wasn’t a problem for a bunch of bookcrossers though – we just took our books so we could read while the queue inched forward :-)

So yeah, fun weekend, but I am now officially all socialled out.  Pity I’ve got to go to work tomorrow and interact with people…

Stick some gears on it (warning, many many photos)

Lytteltonwitch and I spent the weekend in Oamaru, where they were holding their annual Steampunk Festival.  We didn’t dress up ourselves, but we did go to a few of the events. I think what was most fun though was just seeing all the costumed people wandering around the streets.

I wasn’t brave enough to actually ask people to pose for a photo very often – most of the photos I just took without asking (not that anyone seemed to mind when the did notice I was taking a photo – I think walking around in costume pretty much comes with the assumption that people will take your photo).  I should have asked more often, though, because those photos are definitely the ones that came out best.  Although some of the unposed ones did make for fun juxtapositions.

There was a Steampunk Market on the Saturday, with some amazing costumes on both customers and stall-holders:

Also on Saturday we went to a talk about the science of Scott’s Antarctic expedition (the speaker arguing that the expedition was far from the incompetent “boy’s own adventure” it has been portrayed as in the popular media, but rather was a serious scientific expedition, with many of the “bad” decisions Scott made being explained by the fact that he was more concerned with collecting good data than with his own or his team’s safety.

Then later in the afternoon was a dramatised reading of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, performed by a group from Wellington, accompanied by much audience participation in the form of flag-waving and shouts of “Huzzah!” at appropriate moments.  The performers led us on a walk around Oamaru, stopping at various points to perform another Fit of the poem.

The cast:

Most of the audience were just as decorative as the performers:


“Huzzah!”


Lytteltonwitch was trusted with the holding of the Jubjub bird staff.  So of course she immediately started trying to peck people with it…

On Sunday we saw even more elaborate costumes at the fashion show.  The contestants were judged not only on their costumes, but also on the backstories they’d come up with for their characters.  Some of them were very clever (and a couple were just incomprehensible…).  There was an audience choice section, and it was very difficult to choose who to vote for, because there were so many amazing costumes and stories.

I didn’t get many photos at the show, because we were sitting a few rows back, so I had the choice of either getting lots of audience heads in my photos, or standing up and annoying the people behind me.  So I didn’t take any photos during the competition itself, but did manage to grab a few during the photo shoot session they had while waiting for the judges to return.

This woman’s costume was amazing (she was Absinthe, The Green Fairy), but obviously it was also amazingly heavy, because she had so much trouble walking in it that she needed the help of her kilted companion (who I gathered was her partner, who didn’t normally participate in steampunk events, but had dressed up so he could accompany her on stage) to stop from falling over as she walked the catwalk, and her smile had more than a hint of grimace of pain to it.

[Edit: I’ve been informed that I was mistaken in my assumption that the Green Fairy was suffering under the weight of her wings.  In fact, her wings are very lightweight, but due to an accident she has difficulty walking and climbing stairs, and having spent most of the day on her feet while rehearsing for the show, was in a lot of pain, hence the need for her companion to assist her.  Makes her achievement in participating in the show all the more impressive!]

Another view of those massive wings.

Although the MC tried to coordinate the photoshoot, asking the contestants to all face to one side of the runway or the other, he had limited success, because they all kept turning the wrong way to wave to friends in the audience. Because of where I was sitting, I couldn’t get everyone in frame anyway (and never did manage to get a photo of the people at the far end of the runway), so this is the closest I got to a group shot of all the costumes.

The woman with the multi-coloured parasol and her green-suited partner (who featured earlier in the Hunting of the Snark cast) were who I ended up voting for, mainly because their story was very clever (it involved a safari to hunt tea-krakkens).

Oamaru is definitely embracing its new steampunk identity, with a lot of businesses cashing in on the trend (with varying degrees of successs – probably because it’s pretty obvious which ones are only doing it to try and attract tourist dollars).  This sculpture outside a car dealership was pretty cool, though:

And of course, in the midst of the Victorian quarter is Steampunk HQ itself, a very strange place that’s a cross between a junkyard and an art installation, and definitely an entertaining place to explore.

There’s a steampunk-themed playground, too, with elaborately-carved old trees decorating its boundary:

It wasn’t all steampunk though.  We did take an early-morning walk around the waterfront (and later, rode the old train back round the same route – I think the train’s supposed to be for kids, but we still had fun :-) )

We also visited an art gallery, which (among other things) had a WW1 commemoration that was very well done.  If you’ve been to Oamaru, you might have noticed the avenue of trees going up the hill, each of which was planted in memory of a local man killed in the war, and each of which bears a brass plaque with his name.  Over the years, many of the trees have had to be cut down for various reasons (mostly because they were dying), so the plaques were preserved.  The exhibition displayed all of the removed plaques, turning them into temporary artworks.  (Only one sneaky photo, because I wasn’t sure if photography was allowed inside the gallery).

And on Sunday morning we took an early-morning walk through the botanic gardens, which were shivering under a very heavy frost (there was even a decent layer of ice on one of the ponds):

News but no news

The latest on the job front is that they’ve extended our contracts for another six weeks while management consider the business case.  So yay I’ve got a job for another six weeks, but not so yay I’ve still got no idea what’s going to happen long term.  I’m trying not to stress too much about it, but yeah, not the most relaxing situation to be in.

On a more positive note, two of our DCAs and I gave a presentation about CEISMIC to a group visiting from Greypower (an advocacy group for retired people) on Wednesday.  About 80 elderly people, and only one of them fell asleep during our presentation, so I think we did pretty well :-)  My part of the presentation was an extended version of a speech I’d given to Toastmasters last month (my Toastmasters speech was 7 minutes long, and this one was about 20), which definitely helped, because I knew most of it really well already.   One of the DCAs had never given a presentation before, so I coached her through preparing for it, and she did really well, so I got to feel pretty successful in my managerial abilities as well as my public speaking :-)

Went to another quiz night last night with Mrs Gwilk and Gabby from ChickFlicks.  It was a fundraiser being run by Gabby’s daughter’s church youth group, and like anything run by a bunch of teenagers was completely disorganised, but we had a lot of fun anyway.  The other problem with a quiz run by teenagers is that a lot of the questions involved recent music and celebrities, so we were struggling to answer those, but we did well enough on the less age-biased questions that we still managed to finish 3rd-equal, so felt we’d kept up to our high standards.  It was a very late night though, especially because when I got home I had to finish packing (Lytteltonwitch and I are off to Oamaru after work tonight).  So ever so slightly tired today, and it’ll be a late night again tonight by the time we get down there.  Good thing it’s a long weekend!

Sick computers, work worries, and invisibility – it’s been a complicated week

You want to hear my latest excuse for not having posted here for ages?  This time it’s not me that’s been sick (or the DearDiary site), but my computer.  I discovered a nasty malware infection on it, and as removing it looked like it was going to be a long and involved process (it was – I ended up having to muck around in the Registry, which is always scary!), I decided to just leave the computer turned off until the weekend when I could look at it properly.  Anyway, I *think* I’ve managed to remove everything now – and more importantly, I think I’ve identified which software download it snuck in on, so I’ve removed that as well for good measure.

I couldn’t even sneak a post or two in from work, because we’ve been flat out this week, mostly with preparing the case to have our programme put on a more permanent footing (because otherwise, our contracts all run out at the end of next week, and the archive effectively shuts down).  It’s one of those annoying situations where upper management all agrees that the archive is incredibly valuable and needs to keep going, but the university is so short of money that suddenly turning five fixed-term contracts into permanent jobs is a very big commitment, so we need to prove that we’re giving the university a good return on its investment.

So all of us on the management team have been running around like mad for weeks (and especially so this week) trying to gather evidence and write the business case.  Which culminated yesterday with me spending the entire afternoon holed up with the Director helping him do a final proofread the document (I told him I was going to take much pleasure in telling everyone how many times I had to correct the grammar of a Professor of English 😉 ) and get the 20-odd appendices in order (and in triplicate).  I had to leave sometime after 5, when Harvestbird texted me to say she was downstairs waiting for me, by which time every surface in the Director’s office was completely covered in piles of paper from our efforts to check and sort everything, and we were both approaching panic mode.  I did feel bad for leaving him in that state, but we had almost finished (and I didn’t want to miss the talk Harvestbird and I were going to, or leave her waiting down in the carpark for too long), so hopefully he got the last few bits sorted ok.

Anyway, despite the looming deadline, things aren’t quite as dire as they seem, because the most likely outcome is that our contracts will be temporarily extended (again…) so that senior management have sufficient time to make their decision, and even if the absolute worst happens and they shut us down, I at least still have my old job to go back to (sort of – it’s very complicated, but on paper at least I’m only seconded into this role, and my old job still exists.  I’d be taking quite a big pay cut going back to it though, and the job has changed so much over the past few years that I don’t think I’d enjoy it much now.  There’s some other complicating factors too, but this is a bit too public a space to discuss them).  So yeah, at least I won’t be out on the streets, but I’d still much prefer to be permanently transferred into my current job.  And of course, the rest of the team don’t have the luxury of another job to go back to, so we’ve all been feeling pretty anxious – there’s a lot riding on this business case!

The talk Harvestbird and I went to was a Royal Society lecture on invisibility.  The speaker took a really interesting approach, combining an account of the scientific quest for invisibility (and the current state of the research) with a cultural and literary history of the idea, and the moral values that have been attached to it.  It was a fascinating talk, covering so many areas, and the perfect intersection of Harvestbird’s literary geekery and my sciencey geekery, so we had much discussion of it afterwards as we searched for somewhere to have dinner (always a challenge in the central city on a Friday night – though some great new places have opened, and a few old favourites returned, there’s still few enough that they’re all packed from 6-ish onwards, making getting a table anywhere tricky.  We walked the length of Victoria Street and back without finding anything, and ended up settling for the Coffee House (which actually was pretty good, but it wasn’t what we’d had in mind when we set out)).  Radio NZ were recording the talk, so if you’re local, keep an ear out for it – I assume it’ll be on National Radio.

I went to another talk earlier in the week too – the Linguistics department are hosting a visiting scholar who’s been doing research on a dialect spoken in an obscure corner of the Solomon Islands.  She gave a really interesting lecture on the challenges of doing fieldwork in such a remote place, and some of the interesting syntactical features she’s discovering.  Cool stuff, and totally inspiring me to get back into study (at the same time as reminding me of how much work is involved – I’m both looking forward to and dreading the start of semester in July).

Right, Parsnips has just appeared and is trying to force her way onto my lap, so it must be time to get the fire going and warm up the house a bit.  Had the first really decent frost of the year this morning – winter is definitely on its way!

Hello?

DD’s been down again, so of course I’ve spent the last day and a half composing all sorts of interesting and amusing blog posts in my head, and now that it’s back up I can’t remember any of them.  So instead, a few highlights of the past few days:

On Friday I discovered that there are actually some really nice people in the world.  I was waiting at the bus stop in the rain, and as usual the bus was running late, and every time I checked the real-time arrivals thing it would tell me that it was going to be even later.  So I’d resigned myself to being very cold and wet by the time I got home.  Except that a complete stranger stopped her car and asked if I wanted a lift somewhere, which I most gratefully accepted.  (Sorry Mum, I know you spent my entire childhood telling me not to get in a car with a stranger, but not having to wait in the rain for another 20 minutes totally beats stranger danger any day 😉 )

On Saturday night I went to a games night with the Gwilks.  There were enough people that we split into two rooms, so I joined the group playing Shadows Over Camelot, a game I’d actually played before (it’s becoming a joke that every time I go to one of the games nights I end up playing a game I haven’t seen before, and just when I’m getting the hang of it the game is over and I’ll never get another chance to play it, because the next games night there’ll be a new game).  However, this time we were playing a variation on it (so it was kind of a new game, but at least I already understood most of the game mechanics).  It’s a cooperative game, so basically you either all win or all lose, but the variant we were playing had a traitor, so it was them against the rest of us.  Except we didn’t know until the end who the traitor was.  It’s quite a difficult game, and we ended up losing, but it was still a lot of fun.

On Sunday we had a bookcrossing meetup.  Our brunch meetups didn’t suit everyone, so we shifted to lunch instead, and met at the new cafe in the Botanic Gardens.  It was incredibly busy (the line stretched right around the cafe at one point), but we managed to snag a table, and by borrowing chairs from other tables somehow managed to fit all of us around it.  Lots of books being exchanged, of course – the tower of books in the centre of the table was getting quite dangerously high for a while there.

I’d hoped to get some more work done on my experimental quilt, but between all that socialness and having spent a good chunk of Saturday curled up in front of the fire with a good book, I only quilted one square:

The pattern is called Windswept, and I really struggled to get the hang of it.  I just couldn’t get my speed right or the fabric flowing smoothly, and then just when it was starting to go right I discovered that somehow my backing fabric had got folded over, so I had to unpick a big section and resew it (which is why there’s some really messy bits down the right hand side).  I think it’s one of those patterns which could look really good with a bit more practice, though.

The back looks a wee bit better (mainly because the cotton doesn’t contrast so much, so the wobbles in my sewing aren’t as obvious), but it still doesn’t look much like the tutorial:

Oh well, the whole point of the experimental quilt is to allow myself to make a mess of it and learn via my mistakes, not worry about it being perfect…