Strange happenings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in other news

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

12-16 April – spend a few days exploring Paris

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

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

18 April – drive to Bordeaux

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

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

20-22 April Bookcrossing Convention

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

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

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

1 May – train to Barcelona

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

5 May – train back to Paris

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

Are you jealous yet? :-)

Small people and musicals

I’ve been using a couple of random bits of fabric and batting as a practice quilt sandwich, for checking tension and trying out new quilting patterns before I actually start quilting something. I’d completely filled up the piece with stitching, so I was about to throw it out and replace it with some new scraps, but then I realised that it was exactly the right size to make a quilt for a doll, so I quickly put some binding on it, and presented it to the smaller mini-Harvestbird today as a consolation prize for not being able to come to a show with me and her big sister:

It’s very random – different patterns and thread colours, and lots of squiggly bits where I was trying to figure out what was wrong with the machine speed before I got it repaired) with absolutely no plan to it (not surprising, considering it was never supposed to be anything), but hopefully mini-Harvestbird’s dolls won’t be fussy :-)


The reason I was taking the elder mini-Harvestbird to the theatre was that I got a text last night from Ade saying she’d double-booked herself, so had two tickets she couldn’t use for this afternoon’s performance of Beauty and the Beast at the local high school (not quite as horrific as it sounds, because Burnside High is known for its performing arts department, so their productions are usually pretty good), and would I like them. I said yes, and (reasoning that small children would be more interested in Beauty and the Beast than most adults I know) messaged Harvestbird to ask whether (assuming such a thing could be done without causing sibling disputes) she’d like me to take one of the girls. Luckily (?) the smaller mini-Harvestbird was sick, so the decision (and explanation to smaller mini-Harvestbird as to why she was missing out!) was pretty easy, so elder mini-Harvestbird and I spent the afternoon at the theatre.

It was actually a lot of fun – the show itself was pretty good for a high school production, even though Disney musicals aren’t exactly my thing (actually, I’ve never even seen the original movie of Beauty and the Beast (although of course I recognised about half of the songs just through how embedded in the culture they are)). What was the most fun though was seeing it through the eyes of a 6 year old. She was so excited by it all, hiding behind her hands when the Beast came out, and bouncing along in her seat to the songs, and turning to me at key plot points to whisper that I shouldn’t worry, because she knew it would have a happy ending. It was fun too seeing her learning the social conventions of theatre-going (which you forget have to be learnt), like when to clap, and she was very confused by the overture – when we were waiting before the lights went down she was exploding with impatience, and kept asking me when it would start, so I explained that everyone had to finish sitting down first, and then the doors would close, and then the lights go down and everyone would get quiet, and then it would start. When the music started and the curtains stayed closed, she turned to me and asked “why haven’t they started?” like she was being cheated – it hadn’t even occurred to me that to a child, an orchestra playing to a closed curtain wouldn’t seem much like anything had started!

Anyway, I think the show was a success. While we were waiting outside theatre afterwards for Harvestbird to come and pick us up, she chattered away to me about her favourite bits, and how she would have made the transformation of the Beast into the Prince so much better (flashing lights and smoke effects while the actor ducks down behind the scenery and removes his mask doesn’t quite measure up to the morphing that can be done in a cartoon, apparently :-) ), and how much she was looking forward to getting home and telling everyone all about it.


It’s been a pretty social week all round, actually. On Thursday night I hosted the craft meetup (it normally rotates round a few different people’s places, interspersed with meeting in bars, so I put up my hand last time the organiser was planning the venues for the next few weeks). I think 8 people turned up – if there’d been any more it might have been a struggle to squeeze them all into the lounge, so that was a nice number. The evening went really well, and I even managed to get a bit of sewing done (putting the binding on the doll’s quilt, actually) in between making people cups of tea and passing around cake. Plus it was nice not to have to venture out into the horrible weather myself, so I think I’ll offer to be put into the regular rotation of venues.

Talking of craft meetups, I forgot to post a picture of the insects embroidery I’d been working on at the meetups, which I finally finished last week:

As always seems to be the case with me and embroidery projects, I’ve got no idea what I’m going to do with it now that it’s finished. Maybe I should do another giveaway – if you want it, let me know!


This month is Diversity Fest at the university, with all sorts of talks and other events themed around various forms of diversity. Last night I went to a screening of Intersexion, a documentary about intersex people, followed by a panel discussion. The film was really interesting – though horrifying to hear the experiences of people who whose genitals were mutilated in childhood without their consent, all in the name of making them “normal”, and the effects that has had on them in adulthood. And even worse to learn that this is still happening to many intersex babies born today :-( The discussion afterwards was great too – the panel was made up of an intersex person, a non-binary person from Qtopia (the student/youth LGBTI+ group that was hosting the event), and a gender studies/cultural studies lecturer, plus there were some really insightful questions and comments from the audience.


And finally, a video. Ages ago (the day I submitted my thesis, actually), I, along with several other students, was asked by the Head of the Linguistics Department if I’d be a talking head for a promotional campaign they’re doing for the department. So of course I said yes, and was interviewed, and then completely forgot about it, until this week when the videos went onto YouTube, and I get to see how badly I stumbled through describing my research (actually, they’ve done a good job of editing it together in a way that almost sounds like I know what I’m talking about!)

Ok, let’s see if I can get this embed code to work…

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 :-)

On stage at the Theatre Royal

Just had one of those “I love my job” moments.  The polytech is running an architecture summer school, and as part of it they’d organised a tour for their students to look around the rebuilt Theatre Royal, an amazing heritage project that reconstructed (almost from the ground up) an Edwardian theatre badly damaged in the earthquakes. And we got invited to join them for the tour.

It was very short notice (we only heard about it an hour before it started, just enough time for us to race into town), so I didn’t have my camera with me, but it was an amazing experience.  The tour was led by the CEO of the theatre and the project architect, who were able to tell us so much about the process, and all the amazing things they’d had to do to preserve as much of the original material as possible, and to recreate what hadn’t been preserved (while cleverly hiding lots of nice modern safety features in behind the walls :-)).  As well as the auditorium area, they also showed us around backstage, down into the orchestra pit, and of course onto the stage itself.

So cool – incredibly interesting to see behind the scenes (almost literally – except the stage was empty, so there were no scenes to see behind ;-)), and the restoration work is just amazing.  Definitely got to go and see a production there sometime soon!

Promise and Promiscuity

Busker’s Festival is on at the moment, so Lytteltonwitch and I went to see Promise and Promiscuity tonight, a one-woman show based (loosely) around Jane Austen’s works, with a lot of modern references thrown in.  It was very cleverly done, with the actor (who also wrote the script) putting on different voices and mannerisms as she jumped from character to character (some of the scenes had four or five characters in them, so it was quite a feat!)  There was the obligatory audience participation, with someone from the audience being dragged up to dance with her at the ball (he was with a group who were all dressed up in steampunk outfits, so he almost looked the part, too – only about a hundred years out :-) ), and lots of local references thrown in (as when one of the characters got lost in the dreaded “Lin Woods” – Linwood is a (rather rough) suburb of Christchurch).

We’d had a quick dinner before the show in one of the new places in the rebuilt Strange’s building (well, actually it’s kind of an old place reinvented – Vespa, which used to be in Poplar Lane before the earthquakes), but as it was a horribly hot day and we were eating really early, we just had a few tapas dishes.  So after the show we decided we needed dessert, and decided to try out Strawberry Fare, another place I haven’t been to since well before the earthquakes.  They’re also in a fancy new building, but their menu doesn’t seem to have changed much – probably a sensible move, seeing as they’ve got a very successful formula.  Their portion sizes have shrunk a little from what I remember, but we still decided to just split a dessert – a whole one each would still have been way too big (and expensive!) – half was just enough.

It was fun to go out to some new/old places, and reminded me I haven’t been out for dinner for ages.  I was making a point of going out regularly for a while, while I was adjusting to my new improved life, but I’ve let myself get out of the habit.  I really must start doing it again.

Culture, wind, and a blast from the past

Got a surprise on the way home last night – I was walking across the campus when l heard someone call my name. The person talking to me looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place him.  But then, I met a lot of people while I was doing union work, so I’m used to people recognising me even when I’m not sure who they are. But as we chatted, it suddenly clicked into place and I realised where I knew him from: the science fiction club I was in coughty-cough years ago as a young undergrad!  Amazing that he recognised me after all these years!


Christchurch is known for its strong nor’west winds, but I’ve never seen any as strong as on Tuesday night. The met service was reporting wind gusts of 133 km/h at the airport, and I reckon they hadn’t slowed down much by the time they reached my house. The bedroom window (which the wind was pretty much hitting face on) was shaking and creaking so much that I went through to the lounge and slept on the couch just in case it blew in and showered me in glass. Then the power went out, which of course made the wind sound so much worse – funny how the dark can do that :-)  It was well after midnight before the wind quietened down enough that I could get to sleep, so it was a very long and tiring day at work on Wednesday (made even more exhausting by the fact I spent most of it training our new staff).

Thankfully there was no damage to my place, but there’s a lot of people around Christchurch who can’t say the same.  Trees down all over the place (I counted at least 5 big trees on my way to work, including one that had fallen across the road around the corner from me, resulting in the road being closed for two days while they cleared it), and roofs and fences blown away.  At this rate there’ll soon be nothing left of the city at all.


The Arts Festival is on at the moment, and I’ve managed to get to a few things.  The highlight so far was Gifted, Patrick Evans’s new play about Janet Frame.  Those of you who heard him talk at the Christchurch convention will understand when I say he managed to capture her voice incredibly well.  I was actually a bit aprehensive going to see the play, because the last play of his I saw wasn’t that great (Lytteltonwitch, I think you went to that one too?  This one was so much better!).  It was such a relief to actually enjoy it, so when I ran into him at work the next day I could genuinely tell him how much I liked it :-)

Another highlight was Rosemary McLeod’s talk about her book With Bold Needle and Thread.  Sister-in-law gave me the book for my birthday, and it’s absolutely gorgeous – full of beautiful photographs of vintage crafts and McLeod’s recreations of them with modern materials.  So it was great to hear her talk about the project and the book – she even had a little show and tell of some of the original objects.

I’ve been to a few non-Festival talks lately too.  One was the Royal Society’s Rutherford lecture, given by Margaret Brimble.  She talked about the process of discovering new molecules that could potentially have medical use, taking natural products as their starting point – it’s a lot more complex than I ever imagined!

Another fascinating lecture was by Craig Stanford, who works with the Jane Goodall Research Centre.  He was talking about primate behaviour, and the many environmental (and political) threats to the great apes’ survival.  As well as being interesting, he was a really entertaining speaker, which always helps.

So yeah, life is busy.  And good.

Visions of Decoupage*

Well, my experiment in a new craft is going pretty well so far.  It started with a couple of cheap tables off TradeMe and an old dictionary (Warning to bookcrossers and other booklovers, the following images contain graphic scenes of book abuse. You may want to look away now.):

table1

table2

table3

table4

table5

table6

table7

It still needs another coat or two of varnish, and I have to decide if I want to do anything to the base, but I’m pretty pleased with how it’s looking so far!

As for the second table (modelled below by Parsnips), now that I’ve got the basic technique worked out, I’ve got even more ambitious plans…

table8


In other news, I went to Avenue Q on Thursday night – just a local amateur production, but it was really well done and great fun.  The actors did a great job with the puppets – I very quickly found myself watching the puppets’ faces instead of the actors’, which is probably a good sign they’re doing it right.  It’s still on for a few more days, so Christchurch people I highly recommend you go!

 

*Harvestbird reckons that’s my new band name :-)