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…

Possibly not for the faint of heart

The conference went really well – our talk seemed to be well-received (my boss was in the audience, along with at least three other people I know as experts in digital archiving, and all were nodding at the right places, so I don’t think I said anything too stupid :-) ), and (once the stress of having to present was over with, so I could actually just relax and enjoy the rest of the conference) I met all sorts of interesting people, and learnt all sorts of interesting things.

Here’s our presentation, if you’re interested:

[Ok, so apparently I can’t embed a YouTube video here (weird, I thought I’d done it before, but maybe not) – oh well, you’ll just have to cope with a link instead (Later: I finally figured it out, so I can actually embed the video)]

I was seriously exhausted (and totally peopled-out) by the time I got back to Christchurch though. Three days of conference is way too much pretending to be an extrovert for me!


I was also exhausted because my sore tooth, although never seriously painful, had been low-level achy for long enough that I was getting pretty run down (which is mostly why I haven’t been posting much – I haven’t had a lot of mental energy for anything for the last couple of weeks).  I’ve never been looking forward to a dentist appointment as much as I was by Wednesday!

I don’t remember much about the surgery itself, because they gave me intravenous sedation, so I spent the whole time in an only semi-awake state.  Every so often something would be particularly sore, or the noise would get particularly gruesome, and I’d half wake up, groan a bit, feel them stick some more local into my jaw, and I’d drift off again.  Having sedation definitely makes the time go faster, but on the down side, I reckon they’re not as gentle with you when you’re not fully concious, because I was feeling very bruised and battered the next day!

Harvestbird came to pick me up after the surgery was finished, and (after an entertaining walk to her car, with lots of staggering around on my part because I couldn’t walk in a straight line) took me home.  She settled me onto the couch, where (after dribbling blood all over myself when I attempted to take a sip of water with a numb mouth…) I promptly fell asleep for the rest of the afternoon.  Harvestbird told me later that she’d had a very productive afternoon getting a load of work done on her laptop while I slept, which made me feel a lot less guilty about her having to take the afternoon off to babysit me (because of the sedation, she was under instructions from the dentist not to leave me alone for at least 4 hours until the effects wore off).

Along with the usual envelope full of dressings, and prescription for antibiotics and painkillers, the dentist handed over another envelope as we left, which on later inspection turned out to contain my wisdom teeth.  I have absolutely no idea why he would give me them – I would have assumed they’d just go straight into medical waste.  I wonder if he asked me, in my drugged state, if I wanted them, to which I’m sure my inner 10 year old would have enthusiastically responded “Cool, yes please!”.

My outer not-10 year old is equal parts fascinated and repulsed by them (warning, seriously gross picture ahead (although, by the time you’ve scrolled down to read this bit, you’ve probably already seen what’s coming… sorry!))

To refresh your mental palates after that, here’s a pretty picture of the flowers Harvestbird bought me to cheer me in my recovery:

Not enough? Look, more pretty!

With three large holes in the back of my mouth, I’m still in a bit of pain, but it’s definitely improving. And after I get the stitches out next week (and the really painful bit, paying the bill!), hopefully that will be the end of my dental adventures (and being in pain) for a while!


In other news, my little cucumber and watermelon plants are still struggling along. I repotted them into real pots (which I’m sure are nowhere near big enough, but they’ll just have to cope, because it’s all I’ve got), and they’re sitting outside on the front step now, along with the mint jungle, and last year’s fennel and spring onion which somehow came back to life this year. I almost feel like a real gardener (nah, not really – those 5 little pots are pretty much the limit of my patience for gardening!).

Talking of not gardening, it is a gorgeous sunny day today (according to the met service it’s already 29°), so I think it’s time to abandon the computer and go and find a nice cool spot under a tree somewhere to read a book.

Playgrounds and poetry

Brother and family were up at the weekend to go to a concert. It was a bit of a flying visit, but I met up with them for dinner on Sunday night, and then took the morning off on Monday (finally using up some time in lieu I accumulated months ago!) so I could faciliate a meeting between Niece and the mini Harvestbirds (who met her at my graduation party, and had asked me frequently when she’d be back in Christchurch so they could play with her again) at the Margaret Mahy playground before the family headed home.  The meeting was a great success – the children reconnected and spent several hours playing happily on the playground, while Brother, SIL, Nephews (who are getting much too grown up to be classed among the children any more), Harvestbird and I sat in the sun and chatted.  Definitely the best possible way to spend a Monday morning!


Last night was a very late one, because I went with Harvestbird to an open mic poetry night.  Stepsister is a regular attendee (and I think involved in organising them?) and had invited me to come along sometime, mainly because there’s quite a few NB-type people who go along and she thought I might like to meet them.  I extended the invite to Harvestbird, seeing as she’s a real poet, so we met up for dinner beforehand, then went to hear the poetry (and participate, in Harvestbird’s case).

It was a really fun night – the poetry was of variable quality (from amazingly good to seriously average), but most of the poets only read two or three poems, so even the not-so-good ones weren’t up for long enough to become tedious (and the really good ones more than made up for them!), and there were all sorts of little fun audience participation traditions the event has (like everyone singing when a new poet gets up to read for the first time – Harvestbird was greeted with a rousing round of Oma Rāpeti, complete with all the actions), plus regular breaks to let people refresh drinks and chat.

I never did end up meeting the NB people Stepsister had promised to introduce me to (I think maybe they weren’t there – she mentioned there were a lot of people missing that normally turned up), but it was definitely worth going along anyway just for the entertainment.  Harvestbird was keen to go back again too, so maybe if I go to enough of them I’ll be inspired to brush off my own very rusty poetifying skills (don’t hold your breath!)


In other news, still no progress on the whole having a government thing, but the final results with the special votes should be out soon, which is what Peters says he’s waiting for, so hopefully things will start moving after that…  And in the meantime, other than a lot of “experts” pontificating in the media about which way they predict Peters will go, the country potters along as if there’d never even been an election.


Three happy things:

  1.  Nephew #1 shot me a rabbit the night before they came up to Christchurch.  It was delivered to me skinned and gutted but otherwise intact, but thankfully Brother quickly deboned it for me and cut it into usable pieces, so I was able to cook myself a very tasty stir-fried rabbit and peppers dish for dinner on Monday night, and there’s enough meat left that I’ll be able to make a small casserole at the weekend. Parsnips got the scraps, but wasn’t overly impressed, and only ate it when it became clear I wasn’t going to give her anything else – rabbit is a bit gamey for her fussy nose, I think.  But that’s ok, even if she doesn’t appreciate Nephew’s gift, I certainly do!
  2. I started quilting the mystery quilt, and it’s going really well (wish I could show off some work in progress photos, but they’d give the game away).  I’ve been trying out some new FMQ techniques, and I’m really pleased with how they’re turning out – I reckon the quilt should look pretty cool once it’s finished.
  3. The weather has been warm enough for the last few days to have the windows open.  It’s amazing how much better the world feels when there’s a pleasant breeze wafting through it.

There’s pretty pictures at the end

Number one thing: I want to know whose decision it was to schedule the election for the same weekend that daylight savings starts?  Have they no sympathy for those of us who stay up half the night to watch the results, and then get an hour less to sleep in the morning?  This is nothing but cruelty.  If I make it through the day without falling asleep at my desk, I’ll be amazed.  (And I don’t even drink coffee, so I can’t go for the traditional solution :-( )

So yeah, the election.  Not quite the result anyone could have wished for (well, maybe with the exception of Winston Peters, who must be loving being back in such a position of power, having the whole country once again waiting for him to decide which coalition he’ll join). I got invited to the Greens’ Ilam gathering to watch the results on Saturday night (because I’d been a scrutineer for them again) – it was a pretty subdued evening, of course, but interesting discussing the results with people who know a bit more about the behind the scenes stuff.

(For those of you not in NZ, the short(ish) version of the election results is that neither major party won enough votes to form a government either on its own or with its obvious coalition partners, but NZ First, one of the minor parties, has just enough seats to push either side over the line.  But NZ First’s leader, Winston Peters, is a bit of a volatile character, so is as likely to make the decision based on who he feels has personally insulted him as on such unimportant things as policies or ideology. And last time he was in this position, in 1996, he took great pleasure in stringing everyone along for weeks while the two major parties grovelled to him.  Which means we’re probably in for more of the same this time round, while the country waits impatiently to find out who the government will be.)


Last week was a busy one. Lots of political stuff, of course, but plenty of other things as well. I took Monday morning off to be a support person at a mediation hearing for a friend who has been battling ACC (she asked me because she knew I’d been to mediation meetings when I was involved in the union, although they were quite different, being through the employment court, and with a lot more lawyers involved). I can’t go into any details about the hearing itself, because it is of course all confidential, but it was an interesting process. My role was mostly just to take notes and ask for clarification occasionally (the details of the case were very complex, and even the mediator was getting confused at times!), but my friend said she really appreciated having me there, because I could stay clear-headed and make sense of what the ACC person was saying, which she was feeling too stressed to do on her own.

There were of course a lot of politicians visiting campus last week. I didn’t have time to go and listen to all of them speak, but I did get to hear Metiria Turei talk at an event organised by the Māori Students’ Association. She was really inspiring, and seemed pretty genuine for a politician – a pity that the whole benefit fraud scandal has destroyed her political career. She spoke really openly about the scandal and her choice to go public, and said she doesn’t regret it, because it at least opened up a discussion about how we look after the most vulnerable people in our society. I can’t condemn her for her choices (either the fraud itself or in going public), but I also can’t help wishing it hadn’t damaged the Greens so badly.

On Friday I went to an apolitical (but also very political – maybe just not party political) presentation from Gen Zero about the Zero Carbon Act (NZers, if you haven’t signed the petition already, why not?). Another really inspiring talk, and great to see Gen Zero taking change into their own hands, rather than waiting on the government to get round to it (which could be a long time, depending on which way the coalition discussions go…). It was great to have a chance to catch up with Rosalee, too – she’s been doing amazing things by the sound of it, touring the Zero Carbon Act around the country.

But I did get to do some fun stuff during the week as well – I finally made it back to the craft group meetup on Thursday night (for various reasons I’ve missed the last few weeks), and then on Friday night I went round to Dana’s place to watch an anime series with her and a few other friends. I haven’t watched a lot of anime, so it took me a couple of episodes to get used to the narrative style, but once I did it was quite entertaining. We only got about a quarter of the way through the series, so I think we’ll be continuing the viewing next week.

Then on Saturday I managed to squeeze in a Bookcrossing meetup between scrutineering and going to the Greens’ event in the evening, and then I spent yesterday afternoon at the Len Lye exhibition at the Art Gallery with Harvestbird and her children. The miniest-Harvestbird had been to see the exhibition with her class, so she was very proud to be able to show us around, and tell us how the sculptures moved.

So yeah, a pretty busy week! No wonder I didn’t have time to post anything before now.


Finally, to update last weekend’s happy things:

The flowering cherry is fully in bloom, and looking amazing (ignore the state of the lawn – it rained all week, and once the sun finally came out for long enough to start drying it out, mini-Gwilk was away for the weekend so couldn’t do any mowing for me):

The apple blossom is starting to come out too:

I found the perfect frame for Yetzirah’s painting (it’s made out of recycled fence posts, which seemed apt), and hung it next to one of her very early efforts. The difference between the two is amazing when you see them like that – I hope you’re feeling suitably proud of how far you’ve progressed, Yetzirah!

And I managed to squeeze in a little sewing time, so my secret project quilt is starting to come together. You’ll have to wait until the big reveal to see the whole thing, but in the meantime, a sneak peak at a couple of the component blocks (yes, of course some cat fabric snuck in there, what else did you expect!):

The rest of Wellington

Seeing as the conference was on a Friday, I decided to stay up in Wellington for the weekend.  Discoverylover, as well as offering me a bed, arranged a bookcrossing meetup for the Friday evening, so after the conference finished I walked down to the railway station to meet up with her and the other bookcrossers at the station cafe. There were suprisingly few books on the table for a bookcrossing meetup (I think, just like our meetups in Christchurch, the Wellington meetups have become less about the books and more about just catching up with friends), but it was an enjoyable evening.  I revealed our secret plans for the 2019 and 2021 NZ/AUS conventions, and they were met with general approval (mysterious cat is mysterious – if you want to know more, you’ll just have to wait until Stewart Island… 😉 )

Discoverylover had a cold and an essay to write, so I absolved her of any duty to keep me entertained the next day, and caught the train into Wellington (she lives out in the Hutt Valley).  The weather was pretty dull and grey (and windy, of course), but after a long leisurely breakfast in a cafe, and stopping off at a few bookshops, I went for a wander along the waterfront (my favourite bit of Wellington), and managed to take a few decent photos:


(Yes, the “let’s destroy bridges by covering them in padlocks” trend has hit here too)

Jacq, a friend from the UC Linguistics department, was at the conference too, so I’d arranged to meet up with them and their partner for lunch.  Discoverylover had suggested that I check out the National Library’s He Tohu exhibtion, so I invited the two of them to join me.  It’s an amazing exhibition – it’s subtitled “Signatures that shape New Zealand”, and that’s a great description, because the centrepiece is three documents that formed NZ as it is today: the Treaty of Waitangi, the Declaration of Independence that lead to the Treaty, and the petition calling for Women’s Suffrage.  Seeing even one of those documents in person would be cool, but having all three in one place was amazing.

Because they’re such precious documents (and not particularly well preserved, especially the Treaty), they were displayed in a darkened room, with buttons on each display case that turned on lights for just long enough to be able to see the document without causing damage.  And flash photography was of course forbidden.  But I managed to hold my camera steady enough to get a couple of non-blurry photos even in the dim light:


Te Tiriti


The suffrage petition (when the petition was presented to parliament, the pages were stitched together into a long roll, in an intentional attempt to increase its impact when it was rolled out across the floor – a very effective ploy, as the roll looks so much more impressive than a pile of loose pages would be!)

The rest of the exhibition was displays and videos explaining the impact of the three documents, and how they still have an affect on the way New Zealanders see ourselves today.  It was really fascinating (and I learnt a lot of the history of my country I never knew – probably because when I was at school nobody really talked about Te Tiriti much), and we ended up spending well over an hour looking at it all.

As we were leaving, Jacq said they’d quite like to take a tour of the Parliament buildings (the National Library is pretty much across the street from the Beehive) – they’re Canadian, so after learning so much about NZ history from the exhibition, wanted to see something of how modern NZ runs.  I’d done the Parliament tour before, but it was years ago, so I was happy to do it again (and it was actually quite cool doing it for a second time, because instead of looking at the things the guide was showing us, I spent most of the time looking at the other artworks and things we were passing).  So it turned out to be an educational afternoon all round (though I had my doubts at the start of the tour, when the guide was showing us the earthquake strengthening in the basement, and explaining how the base isolation system would withstand the horizontal movement from a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, so no matter what happened to the rest of Wellington, Parliament would still be standing.  My immediate thoughts were (a) you know that earthquakes get a lot bigger than that, right? and (b) if it’s anything like Christchurch, it’s the vertical movement that does most of the damage.  But I didn’t say anything – the guide was obviously a historian, not an earthquake engineer, so I didn’t think she’d appreciate me asking technical questions like that :-) )

After I said goodbye to Jacq and their partner, I met up with Discoverylover again for dinner (at a place that does proper Italian hot chocolate! This may necessitate many more trips back to Wellington…) She hadn’t made much progress with her essay, so I think was glad of the excuse to abandon it and come into town to meet me :-)

My flight back was at lunchtime on Sunday, but I managed to squeeze in another quick adventure – instead of going directly to the airport, I left early enough so I could catch a bus out to a nearby suburb where there was a quilt shop.  So many cool fabrics!  Luckily I was constrained by how much I could fit in my bag, so I didn’t spend *too* much money there, but it was really tempting (they have an on-line shop, but it’s not the same as being able to see all the fabrics in person).  Even better, the shop was within walking distance of the airport (via an underpass which goes under the runways!), so I didn’t have to rush to get to my flight.

As I was waiting at the departure gate, I heard a familiar voice – it turned out Dan had been in Wellington for a different conference, and was on the same flight back as me.  It was great to catch up for a few minutes while we waited for boarding.

Back in Christchurch, Harvestbird met me at the airport, as we had tickets to the Clementine Ford talk that afternoon.  It was a wonderful talk – she pretty much just went through some of the horrific comments she gets on-line, and responded to them with thoughts about feminism, and anecdotes from her life.  There was a signing afterwards, and for once I was actually organised and had her book with me, so I was able to get it signed.

So, a busy, and very social, weekend all round!

A spot of colour on a grey day

It’s a grey and drizzly day, and not at all ideal for photographing quilts, but I finished binding the Little Squares quilt last night, and I’m off to Wellington tomorrow (these are completely unrelated events, except that being in Wellington will mean I won’t get another chance to take a better photo of the quilt over the weekend), so I dashed out before work this morning to get a few quick pictures:

I’m really pleased with my quilting on this one. Rather than doing an all-over design, I branched out and used the blocks as inspiration for the quilting. It’s not perfect, but I think it looks really good, and it’s another small step in expanding my quilting skills.

The effect is really cool on the back, too:


Work has been ridiculously busy, with a major project deadline looming (actually, several project deadlines – it’s a PBRF round this year (contestable funding based on the amount of research the university produces), so everyone is rushing to get things finished before the end of the year.  Which, for our biggest project, means getting it finished in the next few weeks so it can go to peer review in time to be published in December.)

And with perfect timing, I’m taking the day off tomorrow.  It’s kind of work related though – I’m off to Wellington for a union conference on LGBTQI+ issues in the workplace.  (This seems to be how the union’s going to suck me in to being active again – I turned down the offer to return to the branch committee, but this conference comes with a free trip to Wellington, so, yeah, looks like I’m getting involved in the union again…)

Anyway, it means I’m now doubly rushed to get everything done this week, so I’m grabbing a few minutes in my lunch hour to write this, then it’ll be back to debugging code.  So many bugs…


The other not ideal timing about going away this weekend is that Dad rang to say he and Stepmother are in Akaroa, and planning to come over to Christchurch for the weekend, so while he’s here do I want him to help me paint the laundry (so I don’t have to spend the insurance payout on a professional painter).  Except I’m not going to be here…  Of course, Dad being Dad, he offered to just do the painting himself (and let’s be honest, it was always going to be more a case of me helping him paint, not the other way around), so he’s going to pop round tonight to pick up a key.  So I should come home from Wellington to a freshly painted laundry area.


I never got round to writing anything last weekend, but I did have an interesting Friday night.  There was a night market in the Arts Centre, with a talk at the Teece Museum on the night-life of ancient Rome.  I met up with Lytteltonwitch at the talk (which was really interesting – all about how most depictions of Roman street scenes are nothing like the reality, which would have been crowded, messy, and pretty dangerous), then afterwards we wandered around the market and the shops that have just (re)opened in one of the newly restored buildings – including Fudge Cottage, which was such a wonderfully nostalgic sight to see back in the Arts Centre (I remember going there at the weekend to buy fudge (or just try the free samples if we were all feeling poor) when I first moved to Christchurch) that of course we had to buy a few pieces (well, that was our excuse, anyway!).

Walking back to the bus exchange, we spotted a man feeding the eels in the Avon.  So of course we stopped to watch, and ended up staying chatting to him for about half an hour, while he fed the eels (and a very large trout who joined the party) an entire pottle of cat food.  They are fascinating to watch (as long as you keep your fingers out of the way – they can give you a nasty nip if they mistake a dangling finger for food, and they’ll climb up out of the water to get at it) – we all agreed it was much more entertaining way to spend a Friday night than going to the pub!

Right, time to get back to those bugs…

When decisions get too hard…

…start something new :-)

I still haven’t made up my mind about the border for the Three Dudes quilt (which (prompted by Mum asking why it was called Three Dudes, and me realising that the answer was that it was based loosely on a quilt design that was based loosely on a quilt design that was originally called Three Dudes, so by now it is very far removed from the original concept!) I have decided to rename as the Cordon Fence quilt (because the criss-crossing of the dark strips reminds me of chain-link fencing, and because Christchurch)), I’ve set it aside to think about another day.  Which meant my sewing machine was sitting empty.  Which is a bad thing!

The first solution to this problem was to spend some time consolidating some of the blocks I’ve slowly been accumulating for my super scrappy left-over-bits-from-my-scrap-basket quilt, and start connecting them together into bigger strips. Suprisingly, my occasionally grabbing a handful of scraps and sewing them together added up to quite a bit of quilt:


(The little green stars and blue hearts aren’t part of the design – they’re just post-its I stuck on there to remind me what size blocks I was aiming for)

The longest strip is long enough to go the full width of a quilt, and the others are getting close. I’ll need twice as many strips to make up a full quilt top, but even so, that’s about a third of a quilt made so far, all from scraps I would otherwise have thrown away (plus a few sample blocks where I was testing out how an idea would work).

Hmm, I suppose the real message I should take from this is that patchwork is an incredibly wasteful process!


I also started a brand-new project (because having four unfinished quilts in the production line is never enough :-) ), inspired by a charm pack (i.e. a pre-cut set of 5 inch squares) of Oakshott fabrics I’ve had sitting in my stash since forever. I won them during TartanKiwi’s In Flight quiltalong, and put them aside because the fabrics, though just small pieces, were so nice that they deserved to be used in a project that highlighted them somehow.

Except I had no idea how to do that, so they’ve just sat there for the last couple of years, waiting on inspiration.  Which finally struck the other day, when I came up with an idea that (I hope) will show off 30 small squares of plain but colourful fabric beautifully.  So I spent a very enjoyable hour or so picking out a selection of patterned fabrics to add to the charm pack:

A very busy collection, but that’s the idea – the plan is they’ll provide a contrast to the plain squares, while keeping all the colours in roughly the same tonal range.

I’ve actually made a bit more progress than that on the project – I cut most of the pieces yesterday, and made a start on sewing the units together that will eventually make up the blocks.  But by the time I thought to take more photos, it was getting too dark, so you’ll just have to wait to see what I’ve got planned :-)


In other news, work has been a bit stressful lately. On the plus side, I’m involved in a really exciting (and challenging! It’s definitely going to be stretching my coding skills!) project to produce a digital edition of a medieval manuscript. I’ve been sort of project managing/overseeing the project for a while, but not all that heavily involved in the actual work, but since Lucy-Jane left the lab, I’ve had to pick up a lot of the coding work she was doing, which is involving quite a steep learning curve (especially as it uses a language I’m not familiar with (both in the computer language sense, and in the human language sense, because the manuscript is in Latin! Although thankfully I don’t need to worry about that side of things – we have historians doing all the clever need-to-be-able-to-read Latin stuff, I just have to help make their work appear on the computer screen in the right way. Although I suspect I will have picked up quite a bit of Latin before we’re finished!)). So that’s something fun and juicy to get my teeth into.

On the minus side, a couple of days after Lucy-Jane left, Rosalee also put in her resignation. Not that I blame either of them for leaving – they’re both going to exciting new opportunities that they would have been mad to turn down (Lucy-Jane to a private sector programming job, Rosalee to work in social justice activism), but it’s suddenly dropped the Lab from three staff (plus the boss, who is teaching pretty much full time, so we don’t see much of him) down to one, and there’s no way I can pick up all of the work myself. Which puts the Lab in a bit of danger as to its long-term viability. Luckily the university has approved us taking on a couple of extra staff for the rest of the year (at the end of which my contract runs out anyway, so we’ll be having to make a business case to continue the Lab anyway), but it’s going to be tough getting them up to speed quickly enough that it doesn’t damage any of the projects we’ve got on the go.

Yeah, interesting times… Oh well, better than being bored, I suppose :-)


The Word literary festival, by piggybacking on the Auckland festival, have been having an autumn season, basically bringing a few of the authors who were going to Auckland anyway down to Christchurch.  I’ve only managed to get to one of the events (they all sold out very fast!) – a reading/performance by Ivan Coyote (whose book was one of the ones I bought at Scorpios the other day).  It was a great night – their work manages to be incredibly entertaining while touching on some pretty deep issues.  I thought about staying for their book signing afterwards, but chickened out – I never know what to say to authors at signings, and end up just mumbling a vague “Hi, I think you’re great, please sign this” and rushing away, and then think of all the cool and articulate stuff I wish I’d said afterwards.  And anyway, the queue was incredibly long, so I was worried if I stayed I’d miss my bus.

Of course, the minute I left the venue, I was kicking myself that I hadn’t stayed, so I decided that when I got home I’d write them an email to tell them how much I’d enjoyed the show.  Which I did, and got a lovely reply from them!  Totally fan-squeeing here :-)

NZEENZ and other excuses

Yeah, my good intentions to get my travel journal posted didn’t come to much, did they? Usual excuse – I’ve been too busy to sit down and write (actually, it’s not the writing that takes the time, because all I have to do is transcribe the handwritten journal I keep when I’m travelling. It’s the photos that slow things down, because I took literally thousands, which I’ve got to curate down to a less overwhelming number before I can post them (and do the odd bit of editing for vanity’s sake :-) )).

My busyness has been of an exciting (to me, anyway) kind – on Thursday I gave a paper at a Linguistics conference!!! It was the New Zealand English and English in New Zealand conference hosted by my university, and the organisers were encouraging postgrad students to give “work in progress” papers, so (with a bit of pushing from my supervisors, who kept saying “of course you have!” whenever I protested that I had nothing relevant to talk about yet) I submitted an abstract just before I left for Greece, and had it accepted. Which was very exciting, apart from the getting home and realising I only had a few weeks to write a conference paper bit… So the last few weeks have been pretty much devoted to preparing for the conference (as most of my Christchurch friends are aware, because you’ve probably had the “pleasure” of hearing my talk multiple times as I drafted it!).

Anyway, I survived my first proper conference presentation. I was pretty nervous (and I’m sure showed it for the first few minutes of my talk, stuttering and stumbling over my introduction), but once I got into it and started to relax a bit it went really well, and by the time it came to questions I was feeling pretty confident, and managed to give intelligent answers to the questions from the audience (including some from some *very* well-respected linguists – according to my supervisors, I should take it as a very good sign that they asked questions, because it means what I had to say was interesting!!). And in the tea break later I had more people asking me questions about my research, so I’m feeling pretty happy about how it went :-)

However, having spent the last few weeks working on the conference means that I’ve been neglecting my actual research, so now I’m feeling very behind, and in need of spending every spare moment working on it. So I think once the load of washing I’ve got in the machine at the moment is finished and I’ve got it hung out I’ll be heading into my office for the rest of the day… so no addition to travel journal today, sorry.

Selling Out?

Well, that’s a first for me – I was contacted by a PR person offering me a free ticket to the upcoming Christchurch Food Show – presumably they’re hoping that I will encourage my millions* of readers to attend the show too, and it’ll get all viral and social media-y and other buzzwords.  I’m also working on the theory that they think this is a food blog, because the post from Dad’s birthday party is still showing up on my front page, featuring photographs of cake and venison burgers. Totally food-blog-worthy. Anyway, no matter what their motivation, I’m not one to turn down free anything, so this is me officially selling out:

Go to the Food Show**.  It (hopefully) will be good.  I will be there (probably – I haven’t actually got my free ticket yet.  PR person said they’d mail it to me, so, assuming they don’t decide they made a horrible mistake offering it to me, it should arrive sometime next week).  I will probably take pretty pictures, and maybe even if I have time post some of them here.

Does this mean I’ve made it as a blogger?

*This may be a slight exaggeration.
**Unless you don’t want to.  Or if you don’t llive in Christchurch, of course, in which case you can’t.  Unless you go to the one in Wellington or Auckland.  Or if you come and visit.  I have a couch you could sleep on, but you have to share it with Parsnips***.
***Who has developed weird bald spots which I think are due to her over-grooming**** , but make her look like she’s suffering from some horrible disease, so you might not want to wake up with her snuggling up to you.
****Which yes, I should probably take her to the vet about – it’s on my list of things I will definitely do as soon as I can find a spare hour or two (yeah, it probably should be the hour or two I’ll be spending at the food show, but somehow going to a food show where there is the distinct possibility of free tastings seems like a much better use of my time than spending vast amount of money to have the vet tell me that she’s probably stressed by the existence of other cats, and there’s not much I can do about that except move to a new house where there are no windowsills that she can sit on and watch the neighbourhood cats daring to exist within line of site of her.)***** But I promise I will take her to the vet soon.
*****It occurs to me that discussing a diseased-looking partially-bald cat is not something you’re supposed to do in a post that’s encouraging people to attend a food show.  But I blame the PR guy for not reading my blog properly before he offered me the free ticket. Does it help if I promise not to take my diseased-looking partially-bald cat to the show with me?


Right, that’s the selling-out part done with.  Except now I’m going to sell out on behalf of work, which isn’t really selling out, because they already pay me: Look at CEISMIC’s shiny new Facebook page!  We were told by the people who are helping us do fundraising that we need to have more of a social media presence, so we set up a page and are trying to post interesting stuff to it reasonably regularly.  We need to get as many likes on it as we can, so if you’re a facebook-using type of person****** we’d greatly appreciate a like!

****** (I can hear Yetzirah’s punctuation from here, complaining about my over-use of footnotes in this post.  Sorry, (), but sometimes I just need to communicate in footnotes.) Which I am not.  Although, if you visit the page, you may see some likes and comments from a person greatly resembling me.  Do not be fooled by this into thinking I actually use facebook – it’s just an account I set up ages ago because I needed it for a work thing, and have resurrected slightly to use for CEISMIC stuff.  But despite its existence, there’s not a lot of point in friending me (and chances are I won’t friend you back anyway – I’m trying as much as possible to keep it work-related) – I never post anything there, other than occasionally sharing CEISMIC posts, which you’ll see anyway if you like the CEISMIC page.  All the interesting stuff goes here in my blog.


In other news, it’s been an exhausting few days.  I would say it was self-inflicted over-scheduling, but actually it was totally sensible scheduling until a last-minute opportunity came up at work, and I stupidly said yes without thinking about everything else I had in my calendar.

Thursday was Red Rose Day, which is the Red Cross’s equivalent to the Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day, but not as well known.  Ages ago they’d asked me if I’d be interested in helping out again, seeing as I’d done collecting for them last year, so I decided to take the day off work for it.  Because I had the whole day off, I said I’d be happy to do as many 2-hour shifts as they needed, and they took me at my word, because they scheduled me for 3 shifts at Northlands Mall, from 9.30 until 3.  Of course, on the day the person who was supposed to take over at 3 didn’t turn up, so I ended up having to stay on until 5, which was a very long time to be pretending to be extroverted and chatty and asking people for donations (in return for a rose, which we had buckets full of).  They’d scheduled two people on for each shift, which was good, because it’s a lot easier doing that sort of thing with another person than when you’re on your own, but it also meant that in the quiet times I’d have to make small-talk with my partner, so I didn’t get any down-time at all in the day (except for the 15 minutes break I took to quickly grab some lunch (hmm, it seems I’ve switched from too many footnotes mode to too many brackets mode)).  I can do a convincing act of extroversion when I have to, but I find it completely exhausting, so really really need to have some quiet alone time to recharge my mental batteries afterwards (I once heard someone describe this as the difference between extroverts and introverts – it’s not that one is always more social than the other, it’s that when they get tired, an introvert recharges their batteries by being alone, and an extrovert recharges their batteries by being around other people).  So yeah, by the end of the day I was feeling pretty shattered.

Which normally would have been fine, because Fridays are always pretty quiet days at work, so I’d planned to just spend the day doing nice menial tasks that required the minimum of human interaction, and I’d be fine by the evening, so I’d be able to go to the quiz night I’d been invited to by one of the postgrad students.  No problem.

Except that at the beginning of the week we got the opportunity to attend the Seismics in the City conference, which is a very business-oriented conference about Christchurch’s rebuild and recovery, so of inherent interest to us for the archive, as well as being a perfect opportunity to network with the sorts of people who have the potential to get us funding.  So an offer we couldn’t really refuse.  Except that it meant a long day (the conference started at 7 am!!!) of more socialising and smiling inanely at people who were saying things I really don’t agree with, and pretending to be extroverted (and even having to get up and give a short presentation myself (very short as it turned out – the organiser had said we’d be allowed a 5 minute slot to promote the archive, but he wasn’t sure when during the day it would be.  My boss was only able to be there for the morning, so if the slot turned out to be in the afternoon, it would be my job to talk.  So I prepared and memorised a really good 5-minute talk that fitted in all the important points we needed people to know, and was actually feeling pretty confident about giving it.  The morning came and went without my boss getting a chance to talk, so after he left at lunchtime it was all down to me.  So I waited to hear from the organiser, who finally came to see me just during the afternoon tea break to tell me he’d get me to talk straight after the break, but that he could only give me one minute, not five.  So I spent the rest of the tea break frantically trying to work out how to condense my talk, which meant I had to drop some of the key points, and instead of the well-polished and professional talk I’d planned ended up sounding garbled and way too rushed, and I’m not sure anyone really understood what I was saying.  Very annoying!  (But I’m still kind of proud of myself for being able to get up and talk in front of a room of very important people, even if I didn’t do as good a job of it as I would have liked.)))  So between the 5 am start (because I had to catch a 6 am bus to get into town on time) and being “on” all day for the second day in a row, I was so exhausted by the end.

And then I still had to go to the quiz night.  Which I probably could have pulled out of, but I didn’t want to let the team down, plus it was a fundraising night for the Labour Party, and although I don’t entirely agree with their policies, I’d still much prefer to see them in government than the current lot, so it counts as a good cause.  (And anyway, having spent the day in the company of a large number of business people (actually, mostly businessmen – as you’d expect, the conference was very much dominated by middle-aged male Pakeha), the idea of spending the evening with Labour Party people sounded incredibly refreshing!).  Anyway, despite being tired, it was a really fun evening.  A couple of the people on my team knew Megan Woods (the MP who was hosting the evening) really well, so there was lots of banter with her, and although we didn’t win, the only round we did embarrassingly badly on was the sports round, so we were all reasonably satisfied with our efforts.

LJ (who had also been at the conference) had come to the quiz too, so offered me a lift home afterwards so I wouldn’t have to catch a bus.  But first, the drunker members of our team proposed we go to the McDonalds across the street from the venue.  I have about the same attitude to McDonalds as I do to Facebook, as in I avoid it as much as I can, but sometimes I am forced into it by necessity, so when LJ indicated she was keen to join them, I tagged along.  It was actually fun, even if the food was no better than I remembered, but it made a late night into a very late one, so it was nearing midnight by the time I got home.

Then today was the bookcrossing meetup (which I’d forgotten about when I agreed to go to the quiz night), so I couldn’t even really have a long sleep in this morning, because I had to get up and get the housework done in time to catch the bus into town (which in itself was a bit of a drama, because I lost my bus card on Thursday (I think I must have dropped it in the mall), which meant I’d been having to pay cash fares (which are much more expensive than using the Metrocard), so on the way from the conference to the quiz I’d stopped off at the bus exchange to get a new one (and because of complicated reasons, they weren’t able to find my old card in the system, so couldn’t transfer the balance to my new card, so I was down $20-odd, plus the $10 fee I had to pay for losing my card).  But then when I caught the bus into town for the meetup today, it turned out they’d given me a child card instead of an adult card, and even though I explained it was a mistake, the bus driver treated me like I was trying to cheat him by using the wrong sort of card.  So instead of getting off on Victoria Street for the meetup, I had to go all the way into the bus exchange again and get them to replace the card with an adult one, then get back on the bus to go to Victoria Street, so I was late to the meetup anyway).

So yeah, a very busy few days with way too much social stuff going on.  And I need to spend tomorrow studying, so I reckon it must be time for bed now.  I’m so glad next weekend is a long one!

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!