Sick computers, work worries, and invisibility – it’s been a complicated week

You want to hear my latest excuse for not having posted here for ages?  This time it’s not me that’s been sick (or the DearDiary site), but my computer.  I discovered a nasty malware infection on it, and as removing it looked like it was going to be a long and involved process (it was – I ended up having to muck around in the Registry, which is always scary!), I decided to just leave the computer turned off until the weekend when I could look at it properly.  Anyway, I *think* I’ve managed to remove everything now – and more importantly, I think I’ve identified which software download it snuck in on, so I’ve removed that as well for good measure.

I couldn’t even sneak a post or two in from work, because we’ve been flat out this week, mostly with preparing the case to have our programme put on a more permanent footing (because otherwise, our contracts all run out at the end of next week, and the archive effectively shuts down).  It’s one of those annoying situations where upper management all agrees that the archive is incredibly valuable and needs to keep going, but the university is so short of money that suddenly turning five fixed-term contracts into permanent jobs is a very big commitment, so we need to prove that we’re giving the university a good return on its investment.

So all of us on the management team have been running around like mad for weeks (and especially so this week) trying to gather evidence and write the business case.  Which culminated yesterday with me spending the entire afternoon holed up with the Director helping him do a final proofread the document (I told him I was going to take much pleasure in telling everyone how many times I had to correct the grammar of a Professor of English 😉 ) and get the 20-odd appendices in order (and in triplicate).  I had to leave sometime after 5, when Harvestbird texted me to say she was downstairs waiting for me, by which time every surface in the Director’s office was completely covered in piles of paper from our efforts to check and sort everything, and we were both approaching panic mode.  I did feel bad for leaving him in that state, but we had almost finished (and I didn’t want to miss the talk Harvestbird and I were going to, or leave her waiting down in the carpark for too long), so hopefully he got the last few bits sorted ok.

Anyway, despite the looming deadline, things aren’t quite as dire as they seem, because the most likely outcome is that our contracts will be temporarily extended (again…) so that senior management have sufficient time to make their decision, and even if the absolute worst happens and they shut us down, I at least still have my old job to go back to (sort of – it’s very complicated, but on paper at least I’m only seconded into this role, and my old job still exists.  I’d be taking quite a big pay cut going back to it though, and the job has changed so much over the past few years that I don’t think I’d enjoy it much now.  There’s some other complicating factors too, but this is a bit too public a space to discuss them).  So yeah, at least I won’t be out on the streets, but I’d still much prefer to be permanently transferred into my current job.  And of course, the rest of the team don’t have the luxury of another job to go back to, so we’ve all been feeling pretty anxious – there’s a lot riding on this business case!

The talk Harvestbird and I went to was a Royal Society lecture on invisibility.  The speaker took a really interesting approach, combining an account of the scientific quest for invisibility (and the current state of the research) with a cultural and literary history of the idea, and the moral values that have been attached to it.  It was a fascinating talk, covering so many areas, and the perfect intersection of Harvestbird’s literary geekery and my sciencey geekery, so we had much discussion of it afterwards as we searched for somewhere to have dinner (always a challenge in the central city on a Friday night – though some great new places have opened, and a few old favourites returned, there’s still few enough that they’re all packed from 6-ish onwards, making getting a table anywhere tricky.  We walked the length of Victoria Street and back without finding anything, and ended up settling for the Coffee House (which actually was pretty good, but it wasn’t what we’d had in mind when we set out)).  Radio NZ were recording the talk, so if you’re local, keep an ear out for it – I assume it’ll be on National Radio.

I went to another talk earlier in the week too – the Linguistics department are hosting a visiting scholar who’s been doing research on a dialect spoken in an obscure corner of the Solomon Islands.  She gave a really interesting lecture on the challenges of doing fieldwork in such a remote place, and some of the interesting syntactical features she’s discovering.  Cool stuff, and totally inspiring me to get back into study (at the same time as reminding me of how much work is involved – I’m both looking forward to and dreading the start of semester in July).

Right, Parsnips has just appeared and is trying to force her way onto my lap, so it must be time to get the fire going and warm up the house a bit.  Had the first really decent frost of the year this morning – winter is definitely on its way!

The Good and the Bad

Sometimes working at the university has its definite perks.  Like today when I got to go to a fascinating lecture being given by Alison Griffith of the Classics department on the history of writing, illustrated with objects from the Logie Collection, like Sumerian cuneiform tablets, Egyptian mummy wrappings, and Roman memorial stones.  Really interesting stuff, and because there were only about a dozen people at the talk, there was plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion.

There are also some downsides to working at the university, of course.  Like the fact that our office overlooks the music school’s practice room, and Thursday is the day all the voice students have their lessons.  Which might not seem like a bad thing, but when it’s a warm enough afternoon that we (and they) have the windows open, and the third soprano of the day starts up on an hour of singing scales, it definitely starts to grate.

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.

Stuffed seagulls and discrete geometry

Quite apart from the whole winning an award thing, yesterday was really interesting.  For a start, I got to go and visit (and even better, take some photographs of) the Canterbury Cultural Collections Recovery Centre.  The CCCRC is an amazing place – it’s a giant climate-controlled hangar that stores all the material from the various museums and other collections around Canterbury whose buildings were damaged in the earthquakes.  Everything that could be rescued from the damaged buildings was collected up and taken to the hangar for safe storage until new homes can be found for the collections.  There are side rooms where staff and volunteers from the various organisations can come and do cataloguing and restoration work, but mostly it’s just a huge room full of stuff.  There’s everything from paintings to mannequins to furniture to stuffed seagulls to a ship’s cannon.  And it doesn’t just come from public collections like the Lyttelton Museum but also from the private collections of organisations like St Johns Ambulance and various sports clubs.  The CCCRC provides space for them all.  Everything is of course organised and labelled, but because it’s all gathered into close proximity there’s all sorts of stuff mixed seemingly randomly together on the shelves – it feels a bit like one of those old Victorian museums where the only curating guideline was ‘things the collector found interesting’.

An incredible place, and one that most people don’t know exists, and that probably most people never even realised needed to exist – after all, you hear about these earthquake-damaged museums being demolished, and that they managed to recover x number of artefacts before demolition, but did you ever wonder where they took everything once they did recover it? (I know I never thought about it!)  It’s great to know that all those treasures are being kept safe, so that one day they can be returned to their respective museums and enjoyed again.

(The photos are all on my computer at work, so I can’t post any now, but I’ll try and remember to upload a few tomorrow).


Then last night I went to a Royal Society lecture being given by a mathematician from VUW.  It was a really interesting lecture – he was talking about the way geometry changes when it is based on a finite discrete mathematical system like modulo numbers (the “clock arithmetic” you might remember from primary school) rather than the “natural” real number system we are used to.  I loved his explanation of why this kind of mathematics is important to study: he said it is quite useful for various computing applications, but what’s really important, and the real reason why mathematicians study it, is that it’s really cool and beautiful 🙂

And really, what better reason than that is there to study anything?

THATCamp

I spent today at a conference. Well, technically it was an unconference – a THATCamp to be precise, a Digital Humanities event (THAT stands for “Technology And The Humanities”) which is a semi-planned, mostly make it up as you go along, mix of planned and impromptu sessions based around the idea that everyone has something to learn and something to teach.  It’s quite different from a standard academic conference (which is why they call it an “unconference”) – only a handful of the attendees were traditional academics, the rest of us were from IT, or the “GLAM” sector (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), or just vaguely interested in the ways that technology is allowing Humanities to ask new questions, or to ask very old questions in new ways.

The sessions were a strange mix of techy geeky stuff and deep philosophical discussion (which combination is at the heart of what Digital Humanities is all about) – for example, a workshop on how to programme a kitset-like Raspberry Pi computer to get your doorbell to talk to your cellphone was followed by a discussion on what community means in the age of Facebook and Twitter.  In the lunch break there were “Dork Shorts”, 3 minute speed presentations on various projects people are working on – Lucy-Jane and I gave a demo of the Javascript bookmarklets we’ve been playing with lately.

Definitely a very interesting day, and gave me lots to think about.  I’m looking forward to getting back to work on Monday so I can try out some of the cool ideas I picked up.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my job? 🙂

Tunnelling

Yesterday was another very busy day (one day I really must have a restful weekend…)  It started with a mad dash for the bus (after I completely miscalculated times) to get myself over to Heathcote.  It’s a long trip by bus, involving a meandering (and bumpy – I always forget how bad the roads still are over there) route through the eastern suburbs and a change of bus in Linwood, but about an hour or so later the bus finally turned off into Heathcote Valley, along a narrow road completely lined with parked cars and thousands of people walking up the hill to the same destination I was headed for (except for once taking the bus was the easy option, because I hadn’t had to park miles away and walk) – the entrance to Lyttelton tunnel.

The reason for the mass exodus was that in celebration of the tunnel’s 50th birthday, it had been closed to traffic for a couple of hours and opened to pedestrians and cyclists – the first time that had happened since its opening day.  Some of the people on the bus with me were talking about how they’d walked through it as children, and were back 50 years later to walk it again.  Along with a lot of others – the Press estimated 25,000 people took advantage of the unique opportunity to walk under the Port Hills.

It’s a surprisingly long tunnel – about 2 km.  It feels short when you’re going through in a vehicle, but it’s a fair distance on foot.  And the slope is a lot more noticeable on foot than it is in a car, too. Those of us sensible enough to start at the Heathcote end had a nice downhill stroll, but there was quite a bit of puffing and panting coming from people passing in the other direction, climbing up the long hill from Lyttelton.


The politicians were out in force, of course, with so many people around, but the Greens were the only ones I actually saw in the tunnel itself. The others had just positioned themselves outside the exit.


The light at the end of the tunnel!

A few people have been complaining the event was badly organised, but I think it was actually pretty impressive the way they managed to herd so many people through in the couple of hours it was open. One lane was for walkers, and the other for cyclists and skaters, and despite the crowds everything seemed to move pretty smoothly. There were occasional traffic jams in the cycle lane when large groups going in opposite directions would meet and have to pause for a bit while they negotiated their way past each other, but they seemed to clear quickly enough. The only real squeeze was at the Lyttelton entrance where the roundabout was still open to traffic heading to Dyers Pass (because otherwise there would have been no way out of Lyttelton, with the tunnel closed and the Sumner Road still out of action), so the tunnel walkers and riders were restricted to the footpath and half a lane of the road, but everyone seemed to be managing ok, it just slowed the cyclists down for a bit.


The Wizard and his apprentices holding court at the tunnel exit.


No idea why this guy was wearing a silver dragon costume, but that’s Lyttelton for you 😉

There was a market on in Lyttelton, but I wasn’t greatly inspired by it. Surprisingly there were no food stalls – a huge missed opportunity there, because with such crowds in town the few cafes and bars were all completely packed, so there were a lot of people wandering around trying vainly to find lunch. Anyone running a food stall could have made a fortune!

I’d only had a bit of fruit for breakfast (see running late for the bus), so I was definitely feeling in need of lunch, so when I realised getting food in Lyttelton wasn’t going to happen I decided to head back over the hill to Christchurch. When the tunnel re-opened to traffic there were going to be free shuttle buses taking people back to Heathcote to their cars, but as I would have had to catch a bus from there anyway, I decided to just catch the normal Lyttelton bus back into Christchurch, which was still running but diverting over Dyers Pass.

Unfortunately, they hadn’t advertised the difference between the shuttle buses and the regular bus very well (I explained it to quite a few confused people standing near me in the queue), so loads of people all crowded on to the normal bus, which meant a lot of us ended up standing. Which I don’t mind normally, but the road over Dyers Pass is a steep and winding one, so I was having to fight off motion-sickness the whole way. And, because there was a brisk wind blowing, I was all bundled up in heavy jacket and scarf, but of course once in a crowded bus with the heaters going and surrounded by people, I warmed up very quickly. So between the feeling ill and the heat and the standing (and probably the no food thing didn’t help either), by the time we reached the top of the pass I was starting to feel rather faint. In the end I decided the only way to survive the trip without keeling over was to sit down in the aisle – that helped a lot, but I obviously still didn’t look great, because an elderly woman sitting nearby asked if I was ok and gave me her water bottle (and then her and her equally elderly friend started arguing about which of them was going to stand up and give me their seat – at one point they were both standing, while I kept telling them not to worry, I was quite comfortable sitting on the floor!). So yeah, not the most pleasant bus trip ever – I was so relieved when we got down onto the flat and back on nice straight streets again!

Once in town, I grabbed some lunch then headed home for an hour or so, then it was back out again to another Writers’ Festival event, “Survivor Poetry”. Mrs Gwilk was competing in the event – a poetry competition based around the concept of the Survivor TV series.  The contestants were given various challenges, mostly involving having to compose poems on the spot.  A panel of judges awarded “immunity” to the best poet in each round, and then the contestants would vote on which of the rest of them would be eliminated.  There was of course a lot of strategic voting going on, so a couple of the poets that seemed particularly talented ended up getting eliminated quite quickly.  They were all really good though, and it was an exciting (and hugely entertaining) evening.  Mrs Gwilk made it into the top two, which I think she was pretty pleased with, seeing as she’d been happy enough just to make it through the auditions!

So an enjoyable day all round (well, apart from the horrible bus trip, that is), but a very tiring one.  I think I need a weekend to recover from the weekend…

 

And finally, a couple of pictures for Lytteltonwitch: they’ve pulled down Lyttelton Main School!

Day off

My potential cold remains at bay, so I decided to use my day off to attend a few writers’ festival events.  The first was a talk by psychologist Michael Corballis about his new pop-psychology book The Wandering Mind.  It’s based on the idea that letting your mind wander is actually a good thing, because that’s where creativity comes from.  It was quite an interesting talk, though not really enough so to inspire me to buy the book.  But definitely worth attending though.

After that talk I had an hour or so to kill before the next one I was interested in, so I thought I’d go for a wander for a bit and see what had changed in town (that’s one thing about central Christchurch – it’s guaranteed to look different every time you see it, with buildings still being knocked down, and a (very) few new ones being built).  I had my camera with me, so I was taking photos of random things that caught my eye (I’ll post some tomorrow – it’s too cold in the study tonight to want to sit here long enough to sort through them!).  The weather was just mild enough to feel like Spring really is on the way, and I was enjoying my walk so much that I decided it was much nicer being out in the fresh air than in a stuffy conference room, so I didn’t bother going back for the other talks – I just kept walking, stopped off for lunch in the Re:Start mall, then wandered through the Botanic Gardens (where the daffodils are starting to come out) and up to Riccarton to catch a bus home.  I reckon I walked around for about three hours in the end.

So not quite the day I’d planned, but still a most enjoyable one!

Augustness

All of a sudden, August is almost over, which means in a couple of days it’ll be officially Spring. And, more importantly, it means I’ve only got a couple of days to finish my second butterfly, because the deadline for challenge entries is on Sunday night. I haven’t really had any time to work on it this week, so I’ll have to make a concerted effort this weekend.  Except the Writer’s Festival has just started, and there’s a few events I’d like to get to (although I’ve probably left it too late to get tickets for some things – apparently quite a few events have sold out already), and a little adventure I’m planning for Sunday, and a million other things I want to get done…  On the plus side, I’ve got the day off tomorrow, so as long as I can resist the temptation to over-schedule myself, I’m sure I can fit a bit of sewing time in somewhere.

Actually, considering I can feel a niggling scratch at the back of my throat that’s probably the precursor to a cold (the mini-Harvestbird was sniffly last weekend, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d caught it off her), I probably should be sensible and have a quiet day at home tomorrow and get some rest.  But day off!  Festival full of interesting talks on!  Adventures to be had!  Yeah, we’ll see…

 

Random things

I seem to have drastically expanded my social circles all of a sudden, joining two new groups in the space of just a couple of weeks.

For a start, I’m now officially a Christchurch Blogger.  I’m even on their list of blogs!  And there’s like an official-type button I’m supposed to put on my diary somewhere (once I remember where in the complicated DD dashboard thingy I found the option to add things to the sidebar).  But most importantly, there’s a really cool and crafty group of women – potential new friends who actually (shock horror) live in Christchurch! Not that I don’t love all of you, my friends who don’t live in Christchurch (or indeed NZ, most of you), but I’m realising more and more that you seriously outnumber the very few local friends I have (it would help if people would stop disappearing off to foreign parts!), and sometimes it’s nice to have friends you can actually catch up with in person instead of over the internet.

I’d actually heard of the group ages ago, and had made tentative contact, but due to various complications they had a long hiatus in meetings, and only just got together again a week or so ago.  I also had an ulterior motive for wanting to meet the group, as we’ve been looking for blogs about the earthquakes to add to the archive, so I’d been emailing back and forth with Tartan Kiwi, one of the group’s organisers, about that.  So when the stars finally aligned and the group got together, I was invited along to talk about UC CEISMIC.  So bonus, not only did I get to meet the group, but I was getting paid to do so!  Mega win all round 🙂

It was a really lovely evening – they held the meeting at Make Cafe (which has an open crafting evening on Thursday nights), so most of the women had brought crafts along to work on while we chatted (I so wish I’d been organised enough to do that – I was feeling quite jealous of all the creativity going on).  The short presentation I gave went really well, and there were several people interested in contributing (so I could take my couple of hours time-in-lieu off the next day completely guilt-free :-)), but more importantly, they’re just a great group, and I felt totally at home among them.

So I asked Miriam to add me to the mailing list, and next time they have a meeting I’ll be able to go along just for fun, without having to worry about working to justify being there.


The other group I joined is Toastmasters. I joined completely on a whim – we have a little community newsletter in my suburb that’s sent around a few times a year, and in the most recent edition there was an invitation to come along to an open evening the club was holding.  As I had nothing in particular to do that night, and as the meeting was being held in the church hall just across the street, I thought I’d go along and have a look.  And they turned out to be a really lovely friendly group of people, who seemed to have loads of fun at their meetings (while also learning some really useful public speaking skills), so I decided to take the plunge and join.

It should be really helpful to me professionally, because my job is more and more about having to give presentations and speak to pretty senior people in all sorts of organisations, so building my confidence with public speaking will be a huge help.  Plus if I continue down the academic road I’m on, I’m going to end up speaking at conferences and things, so it’ll help with that too.  And of course, again, it’s just a really nice group of people who I can have fun with.

Oh, and in line with all the people from my past who seem to keep popping up in my life lately, at the first meeting one of the speakers seemed really familiar, but I couldn’t figure out where I knew him from.  At supper he came up to me and said the same, so we spent several minutes running through all the places we might have met.  Finally, a light clicked on and he said, “Did you use to teach maths?” – It turned out he’d been in my third form class when I was teaching in Westport, many many many years ago.  Definitely makes you feel old when someone you remember as a 13 year old starts telling you about his own children!


Talking of old friends, the Kimis popped by a couple of weekends ago, on their way home from a South Island adventure.  It was lovely to catch up with them again (and of course to show off my new furniture acquisitions :-)) and we shared a very pleasant afternoon chatting over burnt-butter brownies (yeah, I know it sounds horrible, but they’re amazing – it was a new recipe I was trying out, where you brown the melted butter to the point of burning before mixing it in, which gives a really interesting nutty edge to the chocolateyness.  I won’t post the recipe here, because copyright, but for NZers, it was published in The Listener a few weeks back (sorry, I didn’t keep the full magazine so I don’t know the exact date), so your library might still have it, or if you ask really really nicely I might share by email…)


I haven’t done a lot of crafty-type stuff lately (well, except for finishing off a couple of secret projects that will stay under wraps until they reach their intended recipients), but I did spend a constructive weekend sorting out all my bookcrossing books, and getting a pile registered and labelled.  Some are destined for Queenstown, of course, but I’m hoping the rest will inspire me to start doing a bit of bookcrossing again (well, maybe once the weather improves, at least – it’s been horribly wet and cold lately) – I think a lot of what was un-inspiring me was the messy pile of boxes my release fodder had become.  So I’ve now got a couple of shelves dedicated to ready-to-release books, sorted by theme and all labelled up and ready for the big wide world.  Of course, there’s still the several boxes of unregistered books hiding under my desk I need to deal with, but one step at a time…


And talking of bookcrossing, it’s been a while since I did a catch report.  This is not an exhaustive list (I usually put the interesting catch emails into a separate folder so I can find them later, but I’ve been forgetting to do that lately, so I’m sure I’ve missed some), but a few interesting ones anyway:

  • The Other Side of Power by Claude M Steiner – released in Wellington, journalled three years later, and now in Canada (wow, I just noticed that was caught back in January – it really has been a long time since I’ve done a catch report!)
  • 7th Heaven by James Patterson – a local catch this time, and much quicker
  • The Princess and the Pea by Victoria Alexander – this is an exciting one: released in the Gapfiller bookfridge, and caught by an anonymous finder who took it to Antarctica!
  • The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes – I think I remember seeing this one be caught, only a few minutes after I released it, but the journal entry didn’t come until a month or two later
  • Cats by Peggy Wratten – released for my 10th bookcrossing anniversary, it got two anonymous finder entries before being “removed from circulation” due to falling apart (from memory, it was almost at that point when it was given to me – my temporary repairs obviously didn’t hold up)
  • Wealth Addiction by Philip Slater – almost exactly a year between release and catch
  • The Shack by William Paul Young – a catch from Dublin!  Turned up in a charity shop, which is actually quite a rarity for me, strangely enough – you’d think more books would end up passing through them.
  • Ein dicker Hund by Tom Sharpe – another Irish catch, this time from Newgrange, and proof that spending an evening registering all the books in the hostel’s bookshelf, even the ones in other languages, is well worth it 🙂
  • McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy – a quick catch from our wee expedition to Invercargill to pick up mum’s cat
  • The Hunt for Atlantis by Andy McDermott – the result of another evening with a hostel bookshelf, this time in Canberra, since when it’s been spotted in hostels in Adelaide and Perth
  • Rommel? Gunner Who? by Spike Milligan – released in the Catlins in 2004, and only just caught.  Yet another example of why you should never give up on getting a journal entry.
  • And finally, just to get me in the mood for next week: Where the Heart is by Billie Letts – released in Dunedin and caught six years later in Queenstown, it’s now in Australia.

This is a pretty erratic entry – that’s what comes of leaving it so long between posting: I can’t remember everything I’ve done or what order it happened in, so it all just gets dumped out randomly onto the screen.

Oh yeah, one more cool thing I’ve just remembered – I went and saw Kathy Reichs (author of the Tempe Brennan mysteries and Bones TV series) talk when she was in Christchurch a few weeks ago.  She talked not just about her writing, but also about her work as a forensic anthropologist – seriously interesting, and I could have happily sat and listened for several more hours.  She did a book signing afterwards, and I did think of staying for it and buying a book or two, but the queue was enormous, and I had a long trek home on the bus ahead of me (it was held at the Addington events centre – not a great place to visit on foot at night, by the way – you have to walk a long way across very poorly lit car parks to reach the main road), so I settled for downloading a couple of e-books when I got home instead.


Right, I reckon that’s enough randomness, and it’s got you all mostly caught up on what I’ve been up to.

Welcome to any Christchurch Bloggers who’ve popped by!  And for everyone else, see some of you next week!

Culture, wind, and a blast from the past

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

So yeah, life is busy.  And good.