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!):

So many updates

Sorry about the delay in posting.  A combination of being too busy, and having many many photos I wanted to add to a post, but my computer’s been playing up again (I’m about to give up and pay someone to fix it properly, because my “wiggle a few wires and hope” fix keeps failing) and I keep losing access to my E: drive, which happens to be where my decent photo editing software lives, and the built-in “tools” (yeah, right) that come with Windows 10 are terrible, and make me give up in frustration half way through the first photo.  However, I have armed myself with a supply of chocolate, and I am determined not to leave this computer again until I have finished editing and uploading the photos, and writing this post!

Graduation was wonderful, of course.  I was a banner bearer again, and, as I was also graduating, asked to carry the university crest banner (also known as “the dead sheep”) which leads the academic procession onto the stage.  It was raining, thanks to Cyclone Cook, so we didn’t do the full procession into the venue, just a short procession from the foyer into the hall, but it was still a very proud moment 🙂 So much so that I’m even going to post photos of myself here – I know, right?!  I’ll restrain from posting all of the millions of photos of the ceremony that Dad took, or all of the many many combinations of family photos from after the ceremony, but here’s just a few of my favourites:


My thesis supervisor, Heidi.


Best bit of my graduation outfit 🙂

A fantastic day (ignoring the little glitch where I forgot to put my trencher back on after receiving my degree – my excuse was that I missed the briefing for graduands because I was at the rehearsal for the banner bearers, so while waiting to go on stage I was frantically trying to remember the correct sequence of hold trencher in left hand, walk across stage, shake hands with Chancellor, receive degree with right hand, put trencher back on, leave stage without tripping down stairs, and I kind of forgot one step.  Either that I was just so happy to be graduating my brain had shut down 🙂 )

After the ceremony I took the Niblings back to the campus (graduation is always held off-campus, because there’s no on-campus venue big enough – before the earthquakes it was held in the Town Hall, but now it’s out at Horncastle Arena).  Our first stop was the staff club, where they were putting on a barbecue lunch for graduates and families.  We sat with the other Linguistics postgrads (almost all of whom were there, despite only a couple of us graduating that day, because one of the PhD students was the musical act for the barbecue, so everyone else had come along to watch him play), and I think the kids were suitably impressed by the number of accents around the table (the Linguistics department gets a lot of postgrads coming from overseas to study here – for a while, I was the only postgrad in the department who spoke NZ English!).

Niece also got to chat with the Chancellor.  She’d come with me up to the bar to get a soft drink, and the Chancellor, who was sitting nearby, came over and asked her if she was going to come to UC when she grows up.  She told him she’d think about it 🙂  When we went back to our seats, asked me if he was the guy who’d been wearing the fancy clothes up on stage, so I explained she’d just been chatting with my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss.

After lunch I took the kids for a tour around the campus – Nephew #1 is getting to an age where he’s starting to think about his university options, so he was interested to just have a look around the campus (I think he was surprised at just how big it is, compared to the little country high school he attends!).  Apparently what impressed Niece the most was visiting my office – when she got home, she excitedly told everyone we each have two computers on our desks (actually, we just have just dual monitors, but close enough :-))

The next day was my graduation party.  And the rain continued.  We’d put up a couple of marquees in the back yard the night before to try and keep the ground a bit drier, and by morning the rain had eased off to just drizzle, but it was still pretty damp.  I decided we were going to make the most of it, though, so I decided to use the garage as another dry space if required, declared the sunroom as the kids’ room and stocked it with colouring materials so that parents would have a warm and dry place to safely deposit their small people (under the “supervision” of Niece) if needed, declared the house to be a shoes-off zone to avoid too much tracking of mud in and out, and we set to work (with the help of Fuzzle, who’d arrived the night before, and Lytteltonwitch, who’d come early to help out) sweeping away all the leaves that had fallen in the winds overnight, and decorating the marquees and garage with balloons and streamers to try and cheer up the gloomy day.  Havestbird arrived to do clever things with my hair, so her girls helped out with the decorations, and by the time Jan (the caterer, a former colleague of mine who took redundancy from the university to set up a “pop-up tearooms” business) arrived to set up the food, everything was looking very colourful.

Amazingly, the rain stopped just in time for the party, and the sun even made a weak attempt to peek out from among the clouds.  A few people I’d hoped would be able to come didn’t make it (most notably, Jenny and Christian, who’d come over from Australia for the party, but ended up spending the day in the emergency room instead after Christian had a bad allergic reaction to some medication he’d taken the day before), but a whole load of my favourite people were there (including my other supervisor, Lynn, who hadn’t been able to come to graduation because she has a very new baby, so I was so happy she was at the party), and everyone got on really well (always a worry when you bring together people from different parts of your life), and the food was wonderful (of course! I knew Jan would produce something wonderful 🙂 ), and I couldn’t stop smiling all day.

I’d asked my nephews to be waiters, half expecting them to get bored and wander off to play on the computer after half an hour, but they did a fantastic job, and spent the afternoon enthusiastically helping Jan out in the kitchen, and handing round drinks, tea, and plates of goodies.  They took their instructions a little bit too literally though – I asked them to make sure all the guests had a drink, and they did exactly that, offering everyone a drink as they arrived, and keeping glasses and tea-cups topped up.  But they never brought me a drink, of course, because I wasn’t a guest! 🙂  But I was a very proud aunty anyway, because everyone kept telling me how polite the boys were.


The fanciest my hair has ever been! (Harvestbird made good use of her mother-to-two-small-girls braiding skills)


Lyttelton’s “plus one”, Albert. Wearing an Easter Bunny costume in honour of Good Friday, of course.


Albert ended up a little bit the worse for wear…

 


I discovered later that Niece had decorated my front doorstep with a chalk portrait of me as FutureCat 🙂 (The writing says “Don’t rub off”)


The aftermath. Despite the best efforts of Jan and the boys, it’s impossible to carry plates of food in and out to a muddy garden while keeping the floor clean (at least the kitchen is accessible via the back door, so they could constrain the mud to the linoleum, and not have to track it through the carpet in the front hall). It was still a big job washing all that mud off the floor the next morning, although the doormat took the brunt of it…

Although we were all very full with cake (There was a HUGE amount of cake.  And little sandwiches.  And scones with jam and clotted cream.  As I may have mentioned, Jan did a fantastic job with the catering), after most of the guests had departed, the rest of us headed into town to the food trucks in the Square, as I’d promised Dad we would last time he visited.   There weren’t as many people as usual (probably because of the weather and the holiday), so there weren’t the usual queues for the popular trucks, so we had a pleasant evening sampling the fare from various trucks and watching a group of break-dancers.

The next morning I had a surprise planned for the Niblings, as a late and/or early birthday present – I’d bought us all (plus Dad and Lytteltonwitch) tickets to the Crate Escape, an escape room that’s just opened in Christchurch.  Escape rooms are pretty new in NZ, so none of us had done one before.  It was great fun – we were locked into a room (inside a shipping container, of course – this is Christchurch, after all) and had 90 minutes to find the clues that would let us out.  The puzzles you had to solve were really nicely varied, so everyone had a chance to be good at something, and most of them needed some sort of teamwork (usually because half of a clue would be at one end of the room, and the other at the other end, so you’d have to communicate with each other to get the complete answer), so it was perfect to do as a group.  We got a pretty good time considering it was our first time – the guy on the front desk told us the average is 50 minutes, and we managed it in 45.

Niece went back to Alexandra with Dad and Stepmother that afternoon, but the boys stayed on with me for a few days (as did Fuzzle).  After all the excitement of graduation and the party, we had a pretty low-key remainder of the Easter break – mostly doing jigsaws and playing on the computer, with a few excursions into town for meals and to visit the Art Gallery.  It was still a fun visit though, and I think all enjoyed themselves.

I managed to catch up with Jenny and Christian for lunch (at Foo San, of course!) before they headed back to Brisbane.  It was great to see Jenny again after so long (I was surprised to realise it’s been four years since they moved to Australia!), and to realise that she’s one of those wonderful sort of friends where you can not see each other for years, and then just pick up the conversation where you left off.  They had a graduation present for me too – a voucher to Scorpios bookshop (they know me so well 🙂 )  So of course I grabbed the first opportunity I could to pop into town and do a little shopping:

The other seriously cool graduation present I got was from Mum – a sewing table.  Actually, I’d been looking at them for a while, and had pretty much made up my mind to just buy myself one, but Mum suggested it would make a good graduation present.  It was supposed to arrive before graduation, but there was a saga with the courier company (I never did figure out exactly what happened, but the track and trace kept telling me it was in Christchurch and would be delivered that day… the next day… the next day… until I finally rang them and the person who answered the phone discovered that for some reason it had just been sitting in the depot for a week, and was never even loaded onto the van for delivery… She was most apologetic, and it got delivered to me a couple of hours later.  The company was Post Haste, in case you want to know who to avoid in future).

Anyway, I finally got my table, and (after quite a bit of rearranging of the furniture in the study) got it set up:

It’s seriously cool – the machine sits down within the table, so that the tabletop is flush with the bed of the machine, which effectively gives you a sewing surface the size of the table – so much easier than trying to manoeuvre a quilt around on a tiny surface, and also ergonomically much better, because you’re sewing at a more natural height than when the machine is up on top of a table.

While I was rearranging furniture, I moved the bookcases out of the study so that I could have a design wall. It’s another thing I’ve wanted for ages – somewhere other than the floor to lay out quilt pieces so you can rearrange the pieces and plan how the finished quilt will look before you sew it together.

I was really pleased how it turned out. It’s just a flannelette sheet stapled to the wall (cotton fabric sticks wonderfully to flannelette, so it works great for a design wall – you don’t need to pin the pieces up or anything), but it looks quite professional. I think I need to stop calling this room my study though. Previously it was a study that happened to have a sewing machine in it, but now it’s more like a sewing room that happens to have a computer in it.

The pieces on the wall are the beginnings of a mini-quilt I promised the union organiser I’d make for the TEU’s Rainbow Te Kahukura subcommittee – she’s going to hang it in the window of the union offices as a sign that the union is an LGBTQI+ friendly space. Of course, once I’d started playing with my new setup, I had to keep going, so I ended up finishing the entire quilt by the next day – quilted with a rainbow design, of course 🙂 (I also discovered another use for my design wall – it make a great place to photograph work in progress!)

I tore myself away from my sewing on Saturday morning to go to the March for Science with Harvestbird and family. I had some cardboard from the box the table came in, so I plagiarised a few of the best slogans I’d seen on line for signs.

The march was quite small (just a few hundred people, from what I could tell), but very good-natured, and the speeches at the end were thankfully short, so it was a most enjoyable event. The elder mini-Harvestbird was very excited that she got to carry a sign in the march – Harvestbird is obviously doing a great job of raising future activists 🙂

Some random photos from the march: (and then I’m never posting another photo until I get this computer fixed, because not having a decent photo editor is driving me mad!!!)

At least I don’t have any photos to post for last night’s excursion (even though the whole point of it was to take photos).  As those of you who live in appropriate latitudes will know, there’s been a very impressive display of aurora for the last couple of nights, so last night Lytteltonwitch suggested we take a road trip out to Lake Ellesmere, which is away from the lights of the city, and has a good clear view to the south, and see if we could spot them.  It had been a beautifully clear day, so the chances seemed good, so we headed out after the sun had set.  Unfortunately, when we got to the lake, it was covered in mist, which quickly thickened into fog, so it was impossible to see anything of the sky.  We decided to try Rakaia Huts instead, so got back in the car to head over there.

As we drove back round the base of the hills, there was a continuous stream of traffic heading out to the lake – I reckon everyone in Christchurch must have had the same idea, despite the ever-thickening fog.  Most people were driving to the conditions (the fog was so thick that the visibility was down to tens of metres, and it’s a typical NZ country road – unlit, winding, and narrow), so the traffic was travelling pretty slowly.  Unfortunately, some people weren’t so sensible, and were getting impatient at the slow traffic, so we were very nearly in a head-on collision when one driver decided to try and pass the long line of traffic.  In thick fog.   On a narrow country road.

The first we saw of him was a faint orange glimmer of lights through the fog, which I at first thought were the tail-lights of a car in front of us.  By the time my brain had registered that they didn’t look quite right for tail-lights, and seemed to be getting closer rather fast, Lytteltonwitch had slammed on the brakes (luckily we were going slowly enough that the car behind us had time to react too).  Thankfully the idiot coming towards us also just had time to react, and managed to pull back into the traffic on his side of the road (there was a lot of horn tooting going on at that moment!), or he would have hit us head on.  We were only doing about 60 km/h, and he wouldn’t have been going a lot faster, but still the combined impact would have been enough for a very serious crash, especially considering the amount of other traffic around us.  Quite a scary moment!

After we got our heartbeats back down to something approaching normal, we decided we’d carry on to Rakaia Huts (driving very slowly and carefully!), but there was fog out there too.  We did contemplate going up the Port Hills to try and get above the fog, but decided that the half of Christchurch that hadn’t gone to Lake Ellesmere would be up in the hills, and we’d had enough near misses for one night without tempting fate on roads with sheer drops alongside them, so we headed back into town (via the well-lit main highway!).  So no photos of the aurora, but at least we’re still alive!

And that’s (phew!) everything that I’ve been up to for the last week or two.

Scrappy bits

So much for my good intentions of regularly posting to my blog – that seems to have fallen by the wayside a bit!  Partly because I’ve been busy (last week I went to Toastmasters on Tuesday night, my craft group on Thursday night, and a union Rainbow Te Kahukura function on Friday night.  And this week there’s Toastmasters on Tuesday (which I’m meant to be giving a speech at – I’d better do some practising!), then a Women’s March Aotearoa kōrero on Wednesday, and I’m going to a movie with Lytteltonwitch on Friday (theoretically I should also be going to the craft group on Thursday, but four nights out in a row seems a bit excessive!).  I really need to slow down a bit, don’t I? 🙂 ), but mostly it’s because I wanted to report progress on my Flower Garden quilt, but it’s too hard to take a decent photo of it, so I’ve been putting it off until it’s finished, which means I’ve also been putting off blogging.

So instead, here’s a not decent photo of the quilt, all folded up and waiting for me to have a quiet evening or three to hand-stitch the binding down.

Which means yes, the quilting is finally finished! It took way longer than I expected – I’d underestimated just how much area a full size quilt has, and it’s not the sort of project you can work on for 10 minutes at a time – you really need to spend an hour or so (or I do, anyway) to get properly into the rhythm of the quilting. Which means you have to have lots of hour or so long chunks of time free, and see above for how that hasn’t really been happening. But anyway, I finished the quilting last weekend, then made the binding yesterday, so now I just have to do the hand-stitching bit (I could machine sew the binding down, but I struggle to keep it looking neat even on a small quilt, so I thought it’s probably safest to hand sew this one, rather than trying to struggle with sewing a super-accurate tiny hem on such a huge heavy quilt!)

While I was making the binding, I started playing with the little scraps I was cutting off the fabric, which led to more playing with the collection of tiny bits in my scrap basket (and adding in a few stray blocks I’d made while experimenting with some other ideas), which evolved into the beginnings of an idea I’ve had in the back of my mind for ages – a truly scrappy quilt, with no pattern, just randomly throwing together whatever scraps I had to hand, whether they go together or not.  A bit like what I did when I made my hot water bottle cover, but on a bigger scale, and with a bit of inspiration drawn from Deb Robertson’s exhibition of scrappy quilts (which I didn’t make time to go and see in person, and really wish I had!), and from this quilt (though mine is made up of *much* smaller pieces!).  By the end of the day yesterday I had several decent-sized blocks:

They’re all different sizes, and I haven’t squared them up properly, but the idea is that I’ll build them up until they’re the same height at least, then I can sew them together into a row, and continue the process until I’ve got a quilt.  It’s going to be ugly and scrappy, and completely uncoordinated, with hardly a straight line in sight, but hopefully the overall effect will be something cool (and if not, who cares – the only fabric it’s costing me is bits I would have thrown out otherwise, and it’ll still do its job of keeping someone warm).  And in the meantime, I’m having fun, and learning a lot.

Shaky Isles

Back working on my models again.  I thought I’d be almost finished by now, but last week I discovered I’d missed a couple of crucial steps from the process, so I pretty much had to start from scratch again (not quite, because a lot of the work I’d done before will be useful, but still feels like I’ve wasted a couple of weeks’ work 🙁 ).


Well, it’s been an … interesting… couple of weeks since I last posted.  First there was the American elections.  We were watching the results come in in our office (it was early afternoon here), and, like the rest of the world, couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing as the map turned redder and redder.*  The mood was pretty sombre by the end of the day (especially for Rosalee, who does a lot of environmental work outside her paid work, especially around climate change, and I think was feeling like it was all for naught).

And of course, if we’re feeling unhappy about the election here, I can’t imagine how my American friends are feeling (or rather, I can – I’ve seen such an outpouring of grief, and fear, and anger from various corners of the internet that I occasionally inhabit).

*The whole red=right wing, blue=left always throws me when I watch American elections.  Here (and in the UK, and most other places I know anything about the politics of), red = left, blue = right.  So I always get excited when I see a state go red, then have to remind myself that it’s all back to front, and red is actually bad news.


The next horrible and unexpected event was last Monday’s earthquake.  It didn’t feel that strong in Christchurch, but it was enough to wake me up, and it went on for ages (I think they said it was about 2 minutes, which is a VERY long time – the September 2010 earthquake was only about 50 seconds, and that one felt like forever).  Even though the shaking didn’t feel that violent, it was a big rolling motion that was enough to get all the doors in my house swinging open and closed, and it definitely got the adrenaline going – it took me a few hours to get back to sleep (the quake struck just after midnight).

Getting back to sleep wasn’t helped by spending the first hour or so obsessively checking Geonet and various news websites to find out what had happened.  My initial worry was that it had been centred in Wellington (I could tell from the length and strength of the shaking that it had been big but not close to Christchurch, so Wellington was the obvious conclusion).  Thankfully it wasn’t, or the death toll would have been many hundreds instead of 2, but the news still isn’t good – Kaikoura and several other small towns in North Canterbury and Marlborough have pretty much been destroyed, and the main transport route between North and South Islands is gone, which we’ll be feeling the effects of for many months.  And although it wasn’t centred on Wellington, the direction the earthquake travelled means they took quite a hit from it, and there’s been quite a bit of damage to their CBD.


In happier news, Christian (of Jenny and Christian) is in town for a conference, so is staying with me.  It’s been great catching up with him, although I wish Jenny had been able to come over too (actually, she is in New Zealand at the moment too, but at a different conference up in Hamilton).  It reminds me of how much I miss their friendship – I really must find the time (and the money) to go over to Brisbane and visit them sometime! Maybe once I’ve got this thesis out of the way…


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!

Busy Weekend

This weekend was the last of my totally-booked-out weekends of November, and it was the busiest of all (well, apart from the convention weekend, of course).  First, on Saturday, after a quick attempt to clean the house, I went into town to meet up with Harvestbird and family for the Climate March.  There was a really good turnout (helped I’m sure by the lovely weather), and people of all sorts and ages – from families with small children to the very frail and elderly woman who asked for my help getting to Victoria Square from the bus exchange, because she didn’t know her way around town.  She told me she hadn’t been planning on going to the march, but decided it was important, so she made the effort to get herself into town.

A few random photos from the speeches bit before the march started:

Apart from a bit of mini-Harvestbird grumpiness at such a long walk (which I made even worse by offering to give her a piggy-back: I got her up onto my shoulders and she immediately panicked about how high up it was – the first time in my life I’ve ever been told I was too tall!!! 🙂 ), it was a great march – there was live music along the way, everyone was cheerful and enjoying themselves (despite the serious message being conveyed), and generally fun.  And rounded off nicely by a stop in New Regent Street for Mrs Higgins cookies on our way home 🙂

When I got home, I just had time to whip up a batch of brownies to take as a plate, then it was time to head out again, to a games evening with the Gwilks.  For a change, all the games were ones I’d played before (didn’t mean I was any better at them, but at least I didn’t feel completely lost…)  As always, a fun evening, but a late one.

Then yesterday was devoted to a CEISMIC sewing bee.  Boss and his wife had their second baby a month or so ago, and the team and I were keen to make them another quilt to commemorate the occasion, this time one that we all contributed to making.  But we’ve all been so busy that this weekend was the first time we all had a day free at the same time – and as it was, Rosalee had to leave at lunchtime, because she had something come up, so Lucy-Jane and I had to finish off the sewing on our own.

Although Rosalee and Lucy-Jane are both experienced at sewing clothes, neither had done any patchwork or quilting before, so there was a bit of a learning curve, so some of the first squares they pieced weren’t quite as accurate as the later ones, and you can clearly see the differences between our tastes in the fabric choices for our respective squares, but I think for a cooperative project the end result is reasonably coherent 🙂

Lucy-Jane had a cutesy fabric panel in her stash that worked nicely as a backing, so I quilted and bound it last night (even hand-stitched the binding – the boss better appreciate the sacrifice involved!), and voilà, one baby quilt, finished in record time.

How to be a feminist

It was definitely a weekend for social activism. I spent yesterday afternoon with Harvestbird at a seminar titled “How to be a Feminist”.  The first hour of the seminar was live-streamed from Sydney, where a panel of notable feminist figures such as Anita Sarkeesian, Roxane Gay and Germaine Greer were talking about what feminism means in 2015, and whether any progress has actually been made in the last 30 years (the panel’s conclusion was no, but I don’t agree – yes, there have been a lot of backwards steps lately, but there’ve also been some big forwards ones.  Two steps forwards and one back is frustrating, but it still adds up to slow overall forward movement).

In the second hour of the seminar, a panel of local women (in person this time rather than via the internet) responded to some of the points raised in the first part, and to questions from the audience.  I knew almost all of the women by name and reputation if not personally, so it was great to hear their takes on the topic (and especially on the presence of Greer on the Sydney panel, given that she’s made herself rather unpopular lately with her comments about trans* people).  And it was inspiring to see the range of ages both on the panel and in the audience – sometimes it feels like feminist is becoming a dirty word to some young women, so it’s nice to see not all of them share that view.

Afterwards, Harvestbird and I retired to a nearby cafe for cake and to further the discussion.  There’d been so many interesting ideas raised that I think we could have continued talking about them for many more hours if she hadn’t had to go and retrieve her children.

#TTPANoWay

(I really did post this yesterday, it’s just DD was playing up again so wouldn’t let me post, so I had to put it on LiveJournal instead.)

Bother, looks like DD is down again 🙁 So another daily post that I’ll have to post on LJ instead, and re-post to DD in the morning once it’s (hopefully) back up.

Another anti-TTPA march today (or series of marches, really – there were 20-odd held all over the country), repeating the message of the ones before the elections: if this trade agreement is so great, and really truly doesn’t threaten our sovereignty in any way, then how come the NZ public aren’t allowed to see the details before it’s signed? Yeah, even if it was a party I liked in government, I still wouldn’t trust them on something as big as that.

Despite the rain, there was a pretty good turnout in Christchurch (somewhere between “hundreds” and “several thousand” depending on the biases of who was doing the estimating – I’d guess given the range of estimates somewhere around a thousand is probably the closest to reality). Lytteltonwitch came over to my place and we took a bus into Riccarton to join the march (rather than her having to find parking). When we got to the start of the march it was raining pretty steadily, so it was a bit damp and chilly waiting around for the various speeches to get done so we could start marching (I never quite see the point of the speechifying at the beginning of marches – we already know why we’re there, and obviously all think the issue is important enough to come out on a rainy day to protest it, so it’s very much preaching to the converted…). But once we got moving it improved, and it was a fun walk down Riccarton Road, stopping traffic and chanting slogans of varying degrees of cleverness. There was a lot of support from passing cars and people watching from the footpath (in fact, I think more support than last time) – so much for John Key’s “silent majority” wanting the TTPA…

We didn’t bother staying for the speeches when the march reached its other end in Hagley Park – although the rain had eased off, it was still a bit damp to be standing round, and it looked like there’d be the usual degree of chaos before anyone got round to starting the speeches anyway, so we just carried on walking into town to catch a bus back to my place.

As usual, I’m pretty cynical about whether the marches will have any effect, as it’s obvious the government has already decided its course, but I still think it was worth marching. That’s what democracy is about – not just electing governments, but letting them know when they’re veering off track. And if you don’t speak up, your voice will never be heard.

FutureCat Bookcrossing? Whatever next?

You might not believe it, but I actually released two books today!  The first was Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes, which I released in a cafe where I stopped off for breakfast on my way to Riccarton this morning (the Riccarton expedition was to replace my computer’s mouse, which has been playing up in annoying ways (mostly involving dying at the most inopportune moments).  After much mucking around with changing batteries and updating drivers and everything else I could think of (and discovering that I *could* get it to work again, sometimes, if I restarted the computer and crossed my fingers and held my mouth the right way, but it would just die again half an hour later) I finally conceded defeat and decided the $50 for a new mouse would be well worth it).

The second was Voices of Protest by Alan Brinkley, which seemed like an appropriately titled book to release at the start of the TPPA protest march.  If you live in one of the 12 participating nations, and you’re not aware of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, then you should be.  Do a bit of Googling, or (for New Zealanders) have a look at this website.  There are all sorts of scary things that might come out of it, but nobody knows for sure, because it’s being signed in secret.  And that’s the scariest thing – our government is signing a secret trade deal that could affect the sovereignty of our country, and we’re not allowed to know the details until it’s too late.  That’s not how democracy is supposed to work.

Sorry, didn’t mean to rant about politics here – I was just meaning to describe the march.  Which was so cool!  There was a massive turnout – the biggest I’ve seen for any issue in years (it felt like the good old days of student protests in the 80s), and it seemed to be a really good cross-section of society, too – people of all ages and backgrounds.  We marched down most of the length of Riccarton Road (which is probably the busiest street in Christchurch on a Saturday) to Hagley Park, the marchers completely filling one lane of the road for several blocks, with much enthusiastic chanting.  A serious issue, but a really fun march 🙂