I’m never going to get caught up, am I?

So my sudden burst of trying to catch up didn’t last long. December got busy, not only with the usual round of Christmas and end-of-year social stuff, and a big project at work, but I also bought an extension to my season ticket at Little Andromeda (a really cool “pop-up” alternative theatre that opened in Christchurch in October), which I got with the intention of only seeing a few shows, but they kept adding more cool shows to the line-up, so I ended up again being out almost every night at one thing or another. (And they’ve managed to add another season February-April, which I’ve again bought a season ticket to, so yeah, expect me to disappear again very soon).

I spent Christmas and New Years down in Alexandra, mostly just spending time with mum (who hasn’t been well), and doing as little as possible after such a hectic few months. I did film a few videos while I was down there (making trifle, Christmas lights, and revisiting childhood homes), but otherwise just enjoyed having time to do nothing.

And I did manage to do one creative thing: my nephew’s girlfriend (I need to find a better way of describing her for my blog, seeing as she’ll be living in my backyard soon – Niece-Out-Law? NOL?) gave me some Dungeons and Dragons figurines for Christmas, and my nephew gave me paints for them, so I spent a couple of days trying to paint a couple of them. My eyes (or my patience) are definitely not good enough to paint fine details on tiny figures, but the overall effect isn’t too bad (if you stand back a bit and squint – in extreme closeup like this they don’t look so impressive!)

My plan was to come back from Alexandra and use my final week of my holidays to do lots of blogging and video editing, and crafty stuff, and generally catch up with all the things I didn’t have time to get done last year… and instead I got a cold, so hardly achieved anything at all. I managed a few little projects – catching up with a couple of “block of the month” style quilts I was a bit behind on (the Cosmos Mystery Quilt, which was my birthday present to myself, and which I’ve been filming shorts videos of each month and the Sugaridoo Quiltalong, which I decided not to film, because I didn’t want to step on the toes of the creator, who is also a (much bigger than me) YouTuber, and because sometimes it’s fun to just play with fabric without having to document it!), and finishing a video not-quite-a-tutorial of the Rainbow Aroha quilt I made last year for a union colleague.

The first two rows of the Sugaridoo Quiltalong.
And the fabrics I’ve set aside for the rest of the rows of the quiltalong…
“Rainbow Aroha”

Oh, and after getting frustrated with the falling-apart pincushion I’d been using, and seeing a very cute chicken-shaped* pincushion somewhere online (I really should have made a note where I saw it…), I made myself one:

It turned out so well I’m considering making myself a couple more, so I can have pincushions in all the places I need one around my sewing room (and the rest of the house…)

* For a very loose definition of “chicken-shaped”


Returning to my previous attempt to catch up on some of the other stuff I did last year:

Another small (though it took forever to design and execute) craft project was making myself a bag to carry all my diabetes gear. Everywhere I go, I have to take insulin, the various components of my blood testing kit, emergency snacks in case my blood sugar starts dropping, emergency jellybeans in base my blood sugar goes really low and I start going into hypoglycaemia (the dreaded “hypo”), even more emergency glucagen injection kit in case I get so hypo that I pass out (which, touch wood, has never happened to me, but it’s always a possibility, so I have to carry the kit (and hope that someone recognises what’s going on in time to give me the injection)), notebooks so I can work out the carbs in whatever I’m eating and record what my sugar levels are doing… it’s a lot of stuff. So I decided to make a custom bag that would hold everything I need. And of course I decided to make it as cheerful looking as I possibly could, because if you have to carry around vast quantities of medical supplies, at least they should be pretty and make you smile 🙂

Front of the bag. I got this fabric in a grab-bag of scraps, so I only just had enough to cover the front of the bag with it, but I loved it so much I had to use it.
And the not-quite-matching back of the bag, made from another scrap piece of fabric.
Inside, with lots of handy pockets and elastic to hold the various bits and pieces. And cats, because everything is better with a few cats 🙂

It’s still a bit bulky, but it was as compact as I could manage to get it while still having room for everything I need to carry. And it definitely achieves the aim of giving me something pretty to look at while I’m stabbing myself with all the various needles and lancets that are such a fun part of being diabetic.


Another achievement for last year was that I finally managed to finish the rag rug I’d been working on. It took forever (and a *lot* of old clothes cut up for rags), but I finally finished it, and was really pleased with how it turned out:

It now lives in my kitchen, and totally achieves what I wanted – having somewhere warm (and soft) to stand while I do the dishes. Plus brightening up the ugly old lino on the floor. And so far, Parsnips has only managed to pull out one of the pieces of wool (which I resecured, and she hasn’t shown any signs of being tempted to try and pull more out, thankfully).


The university finally appointed a Rainbow Advisor last year, so that our rainbow students get the support they need. In my Rainbow Te Kahukura role for the union, I’ve been working alongside them on a few projects, which has been exciting. One of the big things was Diversity Week (which was actually several weeks), a festival highlighting the diversity at the university. Between us we organised several Rainbow events, including a union-led barbeque for rainbow staff and postgraduates, a film screening, an exhibition, and a stall at the Diversity Market – an evening of cultural displays and food.

For our stall, we had cupcakes, which “customers” (actually, thanks to funding from the university, we gave the cupcakes away for free) could decorate with icing and sprinkles (the word “fabulous” was thrown around quite a bit in the planning 😉 ).

While we were setting up, we decided to decorate a few cupcakes ourselves, to provide inspiration. So I decided to see if I could create some of the various pride flags:

From top to bottom:
– Pansexual pride (with extra glitter, because why not)
– Transgender pride
– LGBTQIA+ Rainbow pride (also with extra glitter, see above)

That started everyone else (we had several students from QCanterbury, the student LGBTQIA+ club, helping out on the stall) coming up with ways of depicting the other pride flags (given the limited range of icing and sprinkle colours we had, and the lack of proper piping bags), and we ended up with a whole collection (and a very messy table!):

From top to bottom:
Row 1: Genderqueer pride
Row 2: Intersex pride, Nonbinary pride
Row 3: Transgender pride, Bisexual pride, LGBTQIA+ pride
Row 4: Pansexual pride, Asexual pride

The College of Arts also gave us some funding for decorations for the various events, so Pieta (who’s on the College’s diversity working group with me) and I decided the best use of the funding would be to buy fabric to make as much rainbow bunting as we possibly could. Which turned out to be quite a lot:

The bunting got a lot of use, decorating all sorts of different events during Diversity Week.

These posters are from the amazing Out Loud Aotearoa project which (among other things) collected stories from Rainbow people navigating New Zealand’s mental health system.

And with the last bit of leftover fabric, I made a quick table runner which we used at the union barbeque:

I forgot to get a photo of it at the barbeque, so here’s one of it on my table before I took it into work

Finally, a few more photos of little things I made (or finished making) last year, which I don’t think I’ve posted yet:

I was up in Wellington for NDF in November, which happened to coincide with Discoverylover’s birthday, so she invited me along to her party. So I quickly threw together a little quilted bookmark as a wee present for her:

Remember those Christmas mini-quilts I started a couple of years ago with the intention of giving to all sorts of people, but ran out of time to finish? I actually managed to get a few more of them done! One of them went in my Bookcrossing Ornament Exchange parcel, and another went into a Secret Santa gift exchange at work. If I ever get the rest of them done, I reckon I’ll be all set for Secret Santa gifts for the next few years 🙂

One Secret Santa I made a special effort for, though. I got invited to the Linguistics department’s Christmas party, and the name I drew for the Secret Santa was actually the person who’d marked my thesis. So I was trying to think of something really cool to give her. Inspiration struck when I was listening to a Linguistics podcast (yeah, I’m a geek), and they were talking about a classic linguistics experiment, which uses an invented word “wug” to describe a little drawing of a creature (and shows that children are linguistically creative, because they can apply appropriate grammatical rules to a totally novel word).

One of the presenters mentioned that that you can’t really use the word “wug” in experiments like this any more, because it’s become a bit of a linguistics meme, and that she even had a coffee mug with a picture of a wug on it – a “wug mug”

That made me think about the other possibilities for decorative wugs, and I realised the ultimate would be a “wug mug rug”. So I made one for my thesis examiner:

Yes, it’s a joke that only someone who’s both a linguist and a quilter would get, but it amused me. And the recipient loved it!

Right, that’s as caught up as I’m ever going to get, I reckon. On to 2020…

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.

So yesterday was kind of exciting

Just an ordinary day at work, until I checked my emails, and saw one from the Postgraduate Office which made me squeak with joy: “Congratulations! The examination of your Master’s thesis has now been completed and you have been awarded a grade of <<A+ grade>> for your thesis.”

Yep, I passed!  And passed spectacularly well!

Not a lot of work got done for the rest of the day (not helped by a few of my colleagues taking me out for a long lunch, which may have included a wee glass of wine 🙂 ), and I’m still in can’t-stop-smiling mode this morning.

You may now call me Master 🙂

How about now?

Or now?

In case you’re still puzzled, it’s supposed to be a hedgehog (based loosely on this one, but simplified and a lot smaller).  It’s destined to be a very mini quilt for Heidi, my other supervisor (not the one I made the baby quilt for), who loves hedgehogs, so her office is decorated with hedgehogs her students have given to her over the years.  So I thought seeing as I made a baby quilt for Lynn, I’d make a wee hedgehog quilt for Heidi that she can hang on the wall in her office.

I’m reasonably pleased with how it turned out.  A few of the seams don’t quite match up, because there’s no quarter inch mark on my sewing machine, so I have to just guesstimate it (and I use metric for everything except sewing, so how big a quarter inch is doesn’t come naturally to me), which is difficult with patterns like this that require total accuracy to work properly.  I’ve figured out that a quarter inch is about a millimetre less than the width of the presser foot, so I can get reasonably close, but for something like this with lots of little pieces, the inaccuracies quickly add up.  But hopefully once it’s quilted, the wibbles won’t be as noticeable.

Oh, and the green face is because more realistic colours were too boring 🙂  I was originally going to use shades of brown, but then I found the leaf fabric, which was just so perfect for the background, so I couldn’t use browns for the actual hedgehog without him disappearing completely.  So instead I picked out colours from the leaves, that would pop out a bit more.  I think I succeeded 🙂

Emerging, blinking, into the light

No, your eyes are not deceiving you, I’m actually writing a blog post.  And that can only mean one thing: I finished my thesis!!!!!

I managed to finish the bulk of the writing on Tuesday, then spent the rest of the week proof-reading and checking all the little details, and submitted it yesterday afternoon – four days ahead of schedule (which means I’ve now got a whole week left of my leave to recover in – and I reckon I need it!).  Final count was 103 pages, 24,275 words, and 29 graphs.

It’ll be a month or two before I hear back from the examiners and know for sure whether I’ve earnt my Masters, but my supervisors seemed pretty confident that it should pass.  At the moment, I’m just so glad to have it finished!

Now, what was it I used to spend all my free time on?  It’s been so long since I had any, I think I’ve forgotten…

Still modelling…

Actually, I thought I’d finally finished my modelling a few days ago, but I met with my supervisors today, and they’ve recommended I run a few more, so it’s back to sitting waiting for models to run.  In the meantime, I’ve started writing up what I’ve done so far, and I’m making ok progress – 7,000 words down, 18,000 to go… (of course, the 7,000 words I’ve written are the easy ones – they get harder from here on in).

But at least in a couple of days the Christmas break starts, and then I’m on leave until the end of January.  Not that I’ll be using the time for a holiday – I’ll be working full time on my thesis (well, apart from Christmas day itself – Dad and Stepmother are coming up to visit Stepsister, and I’ve been invited to her place to spend the day with them, so I’ll have an enforced break 🙂 ).  But after nearly a year of working full time, plus working on my thesis part time, just having one thing to concentrate on for the next month will feel totally relaxing in comparison!  (Except for the whole looming deadline thing, of course…)


I did have a bit of a break from working the other weekend.  I was feeling like I hadn’t done anything creative for such a long time that I was going to explode from lack of creativity, so I took a few hours to make some wee Christmas presents for friends and colleagues.

As you can see, it took a few goes before I figured the design out properly (I was working from memory of something I’d seen on a YouTube video, and couldn’t find the video again to check exactly what they’d done – which is also why I’m not crediting the designer here, because I still can’t find the video).  I was pretty pleased with how they turned out though (even the first few “failures” look quite nice, it’s just the final version look even better 🙂 ) – especially the 3D effect of the folded triangles (I think this pattern is called a pineapple log cabin – it definitely has a certain pineappleyness about it, anyway).


Anyway, hope you all have a good Christmas (or whatever else you are celebrating), and a happy and safe New Year, and hopefully next time you hear from me I’ll have written those remaining 18,000 words and be ready to submit…

See you on the other side!

Waiting for my model to break

I am deep in the throes of data modelling, trying to find a statistical model that adequately describes my data so that I can produce some results to write about in my thesis.  In practical terms, what this means is feeding the computer my data plus a long equation that contains all of the factors that I think affect the genitive (and the ways they might interact with each other), then waiting (im)patiently for a few minutes while it whirrs away to itself and either spits out a bunch of numbers, or a nasty red error message telling me the model has broken (which basically says the calculations have got too big for the computer to cope with, so it just gave up).  Sometimes when the model breaks, just rearranging a few terms in the equation (while keeping it mathematically equivalent) is enough to fool the computer into trying a bit harder, but it’s a bit of a guessing game as to which terms to swap around, so it can take a lot of tries before I get a model that doesn’t break.

Then, once I get a model that runs properly, I note down its particular bunch of numbers, one of which is a score which tells me how good the model is at describing my data.  Then I start again with a new model with a different combination of factors and interactions, and compare its score with the previous model’s, to decide which model is better, and so on until I find the best possible model.  None of the models will ever be perfect (because it’s just a model), but in theory, if you search long enough, and try every possible combination, then you can find the one that’s going to get closest to properly describing your data.  (And once I find that, I can use all the other numbers it spits out to make pretty graphs and hopefully prove something interesting!)

But that takes a long time (see taking several minutes to run each model, plus often having to try each model several times before it works – in the last hour, I’ve managed to test 5 potential models).  And there are hundreds of potential combinations.  Of course, there are ways of narrowing down some of the possible combinations, but it still means a lot of sitting around twiddling my thumbs while I wait to see if it’ll work this time.  And I’ve got to keep one eye on the window the model is running in so I know if it’s finished (or broken again), so I can’t do much constructive work while I’m waiting.  So as an experiment, I thought I’d try writing a post here while I wait (so if this seems a bit disjointed, now you know why – every few sentences I have to go back to my modelling, then try and pick up my train of thought here while my next model runs).

Not that I’ve got a lot to write about here – life is its usual round of work, study, work, study, try and find time to eat and sleep, work and study some more.  Talking of which, it’s getting late – I should go and find something for dinner.

Bright lights, pretty colours

Only three months to go until my thesis submission deadline, so it’s very much nose to the grindstone around here.  I’m making exciting progress though – one of my data sets is complete and I’ve almost managed to construct a statistical model to describe it, and the other data set is almost ready (“almost” being a relative term – there’s probably another week or two’s work to do on it) to be added to the model, so very soon I should have something resembling results.  Which is very exciting!  Of course, then I’ve got to write it all up into an actual thesis…  Yeah, so expect the current lack of communication to continue.

I have managed to emerge briefly from my cone of silence occasionally over the last few weeks to make it to a few Heritage Festival and FESTA events (why do all the cool festivals happen at the same time and I only have time to go to a fraction of what I want to?).  I even managed to take my camera along to the main FESTA event on Saturday night, and took a million photos.  Of course, now I don’t have time to go through the photos and edit them, but in the meantime, here’s a couple of my pre-editing favourites:

Creativity and problem-solving

As usual, I’ve failed at keeping up with my blog (and my promise to upload the rest of my Athens journal), and as usual the excuse is being too busy with thesis stuff.  I’m kind of buried under an avalanche of data at the moment, and it’s taking much longer than I anticipated to dig my way through it, with the result that every time I have a spare moment I feel like I should be doing a bit more work on it.

However, I did manage to take some time for a little creative project last week.  One of my colleagues (who I hope doesn’t read this blog – if you do, Rosalee, look away now so the surprise isn’t spoilt!) just got engaged, and the rest of us were discussing what we could get her as a present, and I’d just recently spotted a quilt pattern I wanted to try and that looked like it could be easily adapted to a small project, so I volunteered to make a set of placemats in return for the others paying for the materials (yeah, because I have so much free time at the moment…) .  But it’s good something to just do something creative and non-work-related, and I managed to get it done in a weekend plus a few evenings, and I’m pretty pleased with the outcome:

I think we’re planning on having a celebratory morning tea for her sometime this week, so we’ll be giving them to her then.  Hope she likes them!

But now I’m paying for wasting last weekend playing with crafty stuff by having to spend as much as possible of this weekend working.  Except when I turned on my computer this morning I discovered one of the hard drives (I have two, a solid-state drive to hold the operating system, and a normal drive for the data and non-essential programmes) wasn’t working.  Luckily (or sensibly) my thesis data is backed up online, so that’s safe, but all my Athens trip photos are on that drive, so I had a moment of panic thinking they were lost (or, at least, only retrievable with expensive intervention from an expert).  But I decided to try and figure out the problem myself first, and opened up the case to have a poke around.  And discovered that the clips holding the pretty case lights I’d installed when we built the computer (because the case has a window in the side, so of course it needed lights to make it all glowy and sci-fi looking!) had lost their stick, so the light cable had come loose, and must have knocked the bus cable as they fell, because it wasn’t plugged in properly.  So all I had to do was push the plug in a bit more firmly, and the drive started working again.  I had to remove the case lights entirely (at least until I buy some more clips that will be a bit more secure), so my computer is now all boring looking, but at least I haven’t lost everything!  And, even better, I didn’t have to pay someone to fix it for me – sometimes even just knowing a little bit about what goes on inside a computer is a very useful thing!

Right, time to make some dinner, then back to work. Hope you’re all having a restful weekend…

NZEENZ and other excuses

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

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

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

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