Happy New Year

So I’m a few hours early (it’s only just coming up to 7 pm here), but Happy New Year to everyone anyway.

I’ve spent a pretty constructive day today – the morning was spent in town, carrying out a few errands:first to the post office to post Stiff to Sherlockfan in Wellington (finally), then to the bank to give a donation for the tsunami fund (like many people, we’ve been wanting to do something to help out, but haven’t got a lot of money to spare at the moment – however, last night I hit on a solution: we’ve got a bowl in the bedroom which we drop “shrapnel” into – those little coins you always end up with that weigh down your pockets but aren’t worth enough to buy anything with. So it all goes into the bowl, and every so often we empty it out and take it in to the bank to change into “real” money. It always seems like bonus money, so we tend to use it to buy ourselves some sort of treat. So I suggested to MrPloppy that as the bowl was filling up a bit, we should donate whatever was in it to the tsunami fund as our little contribution. Much to my surprise, when we counted it there was over $50 in there! Amazing how small change mounts up! So our contribution wasn’t as small as we thought it might be – lets just hope it can do some good in one of the disaster areas). Having done our good deed for the day, we went to Whitcoulls to spend some serious money. Yes, I know I’ve been going on about how poor we are, but just about everyone we know seems to have given us either cash or vouchers for Christmas, and we’re both great beleivers that money you get as a present like that shouldn’t be used for practical stuff like paying bills, it should be for something fun. And it just happened that Whitcoulls (where most of the vouchers were from) had a 20% off sale on DVDs, so we’ve now significantly added to our DVD collection! We bought:

  • The Star Wars box set (episodes IV, V, and VI)
  • Bright Young Things
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • The Princess Bride
  • Men in Black
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Pretty eclectic bunch of films 🙂

This afternoon was mostly spent rearranging furniture and computers – we’ve moved the computers into the spare room, which is a bit bigger than the study, so actually has room for two full-size computer desks and for us both to work in there without getting in each others’ way. So that will now be the study, and what was the study will be the spare room (which will probably end up with a computer in it too, because MrPloppy is planning on using our really old computer for playing round with Linux and things). The change-over also meant having to run an extension cable for the phone down the length of the hallway, so we spent quite a while this afternoon tacking it up along the ceiling out of the way. I think we did a pretty good job – you hardly even notice it’s there.

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The very professional looking setup of computer #1 (don’t worry, it won’t stay this tidy for long – I predict within days it will be covered in disks, computer parts, bits of paper with useful information on them, and the other detritis of any computer desk in the universe)

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The not-so-professional setup of computer #2, which will have to wait until we can afford it to get to live on a real desk with a decent chair – in the meantime, it gets our old dining table (yes, we did once have a dining room that suited a bright pink table!). That’s Ming sitting at the computer, in case you were wondering.

No big party plans for tonight – we’ll probably just watch one of our new DVDs and maybe have a quiet glass of wine or two. New Years has always been more of a family thing for me, and MrPloppy hates pubs at the best of times, so we’ll be a lot happier staying at home with a good movie!

Currently reading: Dreaming Down Under edited by Jack Dann and Janeen Webb

A hitch and a catch

You know that plan I had for registering all my “personal collection” books? Well, I’ve hit a bit of a hitch already – I’ve lost my wings. Ok, I can see that might need some explanation. Bookcrossing, as I’ve mentioned before, is completely free to join, but they do need to get some money to run it from somewhere, so they have a Supply Store which sells things like labels, bookmarks and Bookcrossing memorabilia. If you buy something from the store, or make a donation, then you get little wings attached to your username, which last for a month before they fade out and disappear. The only benefit to having wings (other than showing off the fact that you’re supporting the site) is that winged members have access to the beta version of the site, where new features are tested before being transferred over to the main site. So why does that stop me registering my books? Well, at the moment Bookcrossing uses the Amazon.com databases to pull up cover pictures for books: when you register a book, you have the option of entering its ISBN, and if the ISBN is found on Amazon.com, then the book’s cover will display on your bookshelf. Books published in the USA are much more likely to be in Amazon.com’s database, which means that most books I register don’t get cover pictures. However, a new ISBN lookup is currently being beta-tested which allows you to choose between Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.co.de (they’re looking at adding other Amazons later if those ones work out, but they were the most often requested). Which is great for me, because most of my books are published in the UK, so are on the Amazon.co.uk database, so suddenly I was getting cover pictures for my books! (The beta site and “live” site use the same Bookcrossing database, so if you’ve got access to the beta site then you can register books there, and they’ll show up on the live site) I was looking forward to taking advantage of that for registering my personal collection books, so that they’d all show up with pretty pictures (yes, it’s vanity, but who cares!), but I’d only managed to do four books when my wings expired, and I lost access to the beta site 🙁 And it doesn’t look like the beta features will go live very quickly, because Bookcrossing’s lead programmer, Dan Clune, died recently, so the rest of the support team have got more urgent things on their hands than introducing new features. So it looks like I’ll have to scrape together some money to buy myself some new wings before I’ll be able to carry on with my registering project – and money is in its usual post-Christmas tight spot at the moment.

But on a positive note, I got a catch today! One of the books I left in the botanic gardens after our Bookcrossing picnic last month was caught… in Wanaka! Catches like that always make me so curious about what adventures the book had in between me releasing it and it being found.

Boxing Day in the rain – time to read some books!

Well, Christmas is over for another year. We had a pleasant Christmas – not a lot of presents (well, apart from the major present of a new computer which we bought ourselves, but we’ve had that for a few weeks now, so the novelty is wearing off), but we had a lovely day mostly just enjoying the fact that we were on our own (ORNOT moved out on Friday, so we’ve got the house to ourselves again at last – I’ve decided I’m past the stage of my life when I can live with flatmates, I like my personal space too much) and generally not making too much of a fuss about Christmas. We spent most of the day watching the extended version of Return of the King (wow!) and eating altogether too much chocolate, then made a couple of pizzas for tea (one was chicken, cranberry and brie, and the other basil brush (of course!)) and watched bad TV (the quality of Christmas TV seems to get worse every year) until we couldn’t stand it any more and spent the rest of the evening playing Unreal Tournament (MrPloppy has only just got the two computers properly networked, so we can play all sorts of multi-player games on them now – I’m totally useless at the “shoot-em-up” type games that he favours, but they’re fun anyway…)

Christmas Eve was fun too – rarsberry and her new boyfriend VivaRichie (perils of being in a relationship with a bookcrosser: you get talked into joining too. MrPloppy said he’s going to set up a support group for Bookcrossing Partners – people with bookcrossing accounts who never really wanted to be bookcrossers in the first place, but were forced into it by their overenthusiastic partners) are up in Christchurch for Christmas visiting his family, so we’d arranged for them to come round for tea on Christmas Eve, and I invited a few of the other Christchurch Bookcrossers around as well to make a party of it. Last minute organisation (when do I ever do anything else?) meant that some people had already made other plans, but lytteltonwitch was there, complete with Ms Santa outfit (with very short skirt!) and new wig, as were awhina and meerkitten. Rarsberry had brought along a few books she wants me to release in the OCZ (although one got grabbed up by lytteltonwitch before rarsberry had a chance to hand them to me, and another (Sailing To Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay) I’ve got my eye on, so they might not all make it to the OCZ as quickly as she’d hoped 🙂 ), as well as the journal that Rubyjules started off and that has been travelling semi-randomly around the world being added to by Bookcrossers. Lytteltonwitch also brought a book along for me – The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun (which, along with The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, which libertine101 sent to me a few days ago, means I’ve now got the first two books in the Cat Who… series – which is fantastic, because up until now, I’ve been reading them out of order). Awhina and meerkitten left a few books behind too, that meerkitten had caught at various meetups – nobody else wanted them, so I’ll probably release them into the wild sometime.

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Christmas Eve’s dessert – I broke out the old fondue set my brother gave me for Christmas a few years back and made a chocolate fondue, with lots of tasty fruit (and a few marshmallows) to dip in it. Good enough that we repeated it for dessert lastt night too!

I’ve decided to start slowly registering all of my books on Bookcrossing.com, even the ones I don’t intend to ever release. I’ve been thinking of doing it for a while, but wasn’t sure (whether or not to register books you don’t intend to release is a topic that is hotly debated on the Bookcrossing forums). I finally came up with a few reasons to justify the idea to myself: the main one is that the bigger my (virtual) bookshelf gets, the less it seems to reflect my actual reading tastes, because so many of the books on it are ones I’ve acquired purely to bookcross. Very few of my favourite books feature on my bookshelf, because if I really like a book, I’m less likely to want to release it. By registering my favourite books as “Permanent Collection”, then people will be able to look at my bookshelf and see the kind of books I really like. Also, the idea of having a catalogue of all my books kind of appeals – mostly out of curiosity (how many books have I got, exactly?), but partly from practicality – it makes it easier to remember whether I’ve actually got a copy of a particular book, or have just borrowed or bookcrossed it (plus anyone wanting to give me a book will be able to check if I’ve already got it! 😉 ). And anyway, there’s no such thing as “never” going to release a book – I hope when I die (hopefully a very very long time in the future!), all my books will be released – either to friends or into the wild. If my books are already registered, then they’ll all be ready to set off on their own adventures when the time comes. Of course, I also have to admit there’s a little part of me that just likes the fact that my stats will go up by registering so many books! Hmm, thinking about it, there’s also a little project I’ve got in mind for the New Year that will be greatly helped by having all my books registered… watch this space….

Anyway, I don’t expect (or intend) to get the job done quickly – I’ll just register the odd book now and then when I feel like it, and slowly work my way through them all. I’ve made a start, though, with two books I got for Christmas: a collection of nonsense verse that Fuzzle sent me, and Going Postal, the latest Terry Pratchett, which I got from MrPloppy (I’d been hoping that’s what he was getting me – I’ve been wanting it since it came out (actually, probably since before that 😉 ), but I couldn’t justify to myself buying it in expensive hardcover… lucky he can read my mind!) So now it’s just a matter of deciding which of our many bookshelves to start the registration process with, and then a lot of hours sitting at the computer registering the books… (aren’t I meant to be on holiday???)

Other than registering books, I intend to spend as much as possible of my few weeks’ holiday reading. The long-term weather forcast is looking pretty miserable, with even more cold and rain on the way, so I don’t think there’ll be a lot to distract me from curling up in a comfy chair with a good book…

Currently reading: The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Not many sleeps until Christmas…

Christmas approacheth fast, and I even went to a nativity play on Sunday… well, sort of a nativity play – meerkitten invited me along to watch her Sunday School’s Christmas play, which was actually four plays: three different versions of the nativity story with modern twists, and a story about christmas trees that Meerkitten starred in as Polly the Poplar (or “plopar”, as one of her attending angels kept calling her). Sunday Schools and nativity plays are not at all my scene, but it was fun in a school-play, wobbly-sets, how-many-ways-can-kids-get-things-wrong sort of way. And I think I made a convert to Bookcrossing – at the morning tea afterwards, awhina introduced me to the minister’s wife, saying “you’ll be able to talk to each other about books”. Of course, with an opening like that, I just had to mention Bookcrossing (much to awhina’s shock, I think – I got the impression she hadn’t told anyone at her church about her other identity as a spreader of literacy 🙂 ). Anyway, the minister’s wife was fascinated by the idea, and was going to go home and check out the website! So maybe going out in the cold and rain (it is December, right?) was worth it after all…

On my way home, I stopped off at Trattorie for lunch, and dropped off a few books (two children’s picture books: Fast-Slow, High-Low: A Book of Opposites by Peter Spier and Giants by Christopher Rawson, and Milton’s Paradise Lost – I’d been intending to release them at the church, but after spending so long talking about Bookcrossing, I thought it might be a bit obvious who’d left them (and would probably have embarrased awhina even more!)) in the OCZ. The bookshelf was looking a bit messy, so I spent a while putting the books back neatly on the shelves and reuniting a few with their covers.

Got a PM from rarsberry letting me know that she and VivaRichie are going to be in Christchurch over Christmas, so we arranged for them to come over for dinner on Christmas Eve. Which seemed like a good excuse for an impromptu meetup, so I’ve invited a few of the local Bookcrossers round for dinner as well. No idea if any of them will actually turn up, but hopefully one or two will (actually, I hope more that they don’t all turn up, because I’ve got no idea how I’d feed everyone! Might have to resort to Pizza Hut if that happens!))

Currently reading Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

Homing Pigeon Books

I’ve decided that the books I released in Sydney must all be homing pigeons in disguise. I just got an email telling me that Safari Adventure by Willard Price, one of the books Skyring caught from me at the conference, and then released later in Canberra, has been caught – by someone who is going to bring it back to New Zealand!

KiwiKimi and MrKimi passed through Christchurch on Thursday on their South Island holiday, and dropped in for dinner. Of course, I had to serve them my famous Basil Brush pizza 🙂 Lovely to see them again, and we had a very pleasant evening (even if I kept calling Kimi “Kimi” instead of her real name 🙂 )

Currently reading: Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz

Redressing the book balance

Poorly attended meetups seem to be becoming a trend at the moment – last night saw only me, lytteltonwitch, awhina, and meerkitten in attendance yet again. Probably just a combination of the time of year (who needs yet another social event in their calendar in December?) and the lack of concerted advertising to newbies over the winter – I’ve really only just started PMing new members again to tell them about the meetups, so we haven’t had new people coming along to make up for the inevitable drop-off of the “older” members. Mothercat was always good at keeping in touch with newbies, but she hasn’t been as active with Bookcrossing this year as she was in the past, and while I’ve tried to take over the greeting newbies job, I’m nowhere near as diligent (or successful!) as she was.

Anyway, despite the scarcity of members, we had a nice meal and a pleasant chat, and for a change I actually managed to leave with less books than I arrived with – Meerkitten quickly laid claim to Lucy and the Mapcap Mystery by Cole Fannin, and spent the rest of the evening engrossed in it (apart from occasional attempts to defend her chips from awhina); I finally got someone to take the Slow Cooker recipe book home – awhina’s going to try out a few recipes and then pass it on to her mother; and on the way to the busstop I released Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, Boswell’s London Journal, What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge, and A Passage to India by EM Forster in various spots around the Arts Centre. The only book I brought home was Shadows from the Fire by Mary Ryan, which lytteltonwitch highly recommended.

Currently reading: Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear

Adding to Mt. TBR

Bookcrossing is all about giving away books, right? Then how come over the last three days I’ve managed to give away seven books, but acquire twelve?

On Saturday, we had a bookcrossing picnic in the botanic gardens. Quite a few people who’d said they’d be there weren’t (probably because the weather has been so iffy all last week, although it turned out to be a gloriousy sunny day on Saturday), but the stalwarts (me and lytteltonwitch) were there, of course, plus I managed to drag MrPloppy along, and WhiteRabbit turned up, which was great, because we haven’t seen her at a meetup for ages.

We’d planned a lucky dip book exchange: everyone was to bring a book, suitably giftwrapped, which we’d then put in a pile and each select one from. I’d brought Notes From the Country Club by Kim Wozencraft as my gift book, and as MrPloppy didn’t have any available books of his own to bring, I’d given him Let the Dog Drive by David Bowman to bring as his one. Because there were so few of us, distributing the books so that nobody went home with their own one got a bit complicated, and MrPloppy ended up picking up Let the Dog Drive, but I think he’d actually wanted to read it anyway 🙂 Lytteltonwitch had brought a few extra gift books, so we shared them out too, and I ended up with Appointment at the Palace by Mary Jane Staples (which I’ll probably read, just on the basis that it was a gift, despite the fact it doesn’t look like my normal reading material) and Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy. Lytteltonwitch hates Maeve Binchy, and knows I’m not a great fan either, so she wasn’t at all offended when I asked if she’d mind if I just released it unread. So I sat it at the base of a tree that was near enough where we were picnicing that we could see if anyone caught it, but not so near as to put anyone off picking it up. We watched it for the next hour or so, as we sat there enjoying the sun, but maybe we watched it a bit too closely, because although a lot of people walked past, and a few stopped for a second look, nobody was interested enough to pick it up 🙁 In the end I retrieved it and released it again later (along with The Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp) in another part of the gardens where it was more likely to attract attention.

As well as the gift books, we’d all of course brought books to share, and I picked up two books WhiteRabbit had brought along: The Map of Tenderness by William Wall and Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz (WhiteRabbit and I have similar reading tastes, so I trust her recommendations, and often catch books she brings to meetups), and in return passed on The Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby, and Typhoid Mary by Anthony Bourdain. I’d also brought along Four & Twenty Blackbirds by Mercedes Lackey and the All New Slow Cooker recipe book, but nobody wanted them, so I released Four & Twenty Blackbirds in the gardens, and took the recipe book home again (because recipe books don’t seem to work very well as wild releases – I suppose people don’t like to take a book home to their kitchen when they don’t know where it’s been).

So, total releases for Saturday: 7, total catches: 4 – I was at least 3 books ahead at that point. But then I got home to a PM from libragirl telling me that the m-bag from America had arrived.

M-bags are a wonderful concept, in the Bookcrossing context. In the context of the US postal service, they’re just the big sacks that mail comes in. If you’re sending a whole sackful of mail to the same address, they give you a discount rate for the postage. Groups of US bookcrossers take advantage of the deal from time to time to send a big pile of books to another country, where they can then be distributed among the local bookcrossers or released into the wild. Anyway, a few months ago jamesmum decided to organise an m-bag for New Zealand. Libragirl volunteered to be the recipient and distribution point in NZ, and jamesmum put out the call for US bookcrossers to send her books that they’d like to send to someone in NZ. At the same time, she and a few other Americans asked NZ bookcrossers to look through their bookshelves and see if there was anything we liked the look of that they could send us. I took up the offer, and sent jamesmum and MarciNYC my wish-list of books they had that sounded interesting to me. And then, given the snail-like pace of mail from the US, time passed and I forgot all about my requests. So libragirl’s PM came as a pleasant surprise. Even more of a pleasant surprise was discovering, when I got home tonight, that libragirl had dropped the books off (she works not far from where I live), and that instead of the one or two books I was expecting, there were six – jamesmum and MarciNYC had sent almost everything on my lists! I was sent:

And not only that, but two parcels had arrived as well: a bookring book, Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman by Richard Feynman (which MrPloppy has already snaffled, because it’s a couple of books down in my TBR pile, so I probably won’t get to read it before Christmas anyway), and a surprise RABK of The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth from LeafOfHumanTree in Sydney, who thought a book about a cat should go to a suitably catty home 🙂

An embarrasment of riches, really!

Currently reading: Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear

Another bookring arrives

Yet another bookring turned up that I don’t remember signing up for: Cats in May by Doreen Tovey – oh well, the ring was started by GoryDetails, who seems to have pretty similar reading tastes to me, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. And it’s about cats, which always helps 😉

Released a couple of books in town at the weekend in places that I’ve had catches from before, but no such luck this time:
Codeword Golden Fleece by Dennis Wheatley
My Life as Me by Barry Humphries

Our meetup on Sunday wasn’t hugely well attended (mostly because I forgot to email everyone!), but lytteltonwitch, awhina and meerkitten were there. I restrained myself from picking up any more books, but lytteltonwitch insisted I take A Breath of Fresh Air by Erica James home to give to ORNOT, so he can do one of his weird journal entries on it.

Currently reading: Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Mercedes Lackey