alf-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?