May I be soppy for a moment?

I spent today ushering at two of our graduation ceremonies. I always love taking part in graduation – all those happy students and proud parents remind you what working at the university is really all about. I always feel myself swelling up with pride as I watch the students cross the stage to receive their degrees, especially now that I’ve worked at the university long enough that I’m seeing students that I remember as scared little first years graduating with Masters or PhDs. Even though I’m just a lowly secretary, I’m still a small cog in the machine that got them to today.

And to see all the pomp and ceremony is inspiring too. For a couple of days business models and corporate practices are set aside to go back to the old traditions. Staff and students don gowns that have their origin in medieval times, and the form of the ceremony echoes that of the first “modern” universities in Cambridge and Oxford. It’s a reminder that a university is something special, it’s not just another business out to make a profit.

And although I’m not usually a patriotic sort of person, I’ll admit hearing the national anthem sung by all those people brings a lump to my throat. It’s a pity it’s not sung more often, really. Interestingly, I noticed a difference this year. We always sing one verse in English and one in Maori, and normally everyone sings the English verse loudly, and sort of mumble along to the Maori one, only gaining confidence for the last line (“Aotearoa”), which everyone knows. But this year, at least in the area where I was standing, the Maori verse was being sung just as loudly and confidently as the English. Most of the people were reading the words off the big screen or from their programmes, of course, but there didn’t seem to be the “this is too hard, I’ll just hum along” feel you normally get. Could we finally be becoming a bicultural nation?

Of course, then the Chancellor had to spoil it. He spoke a few words of Maori at the beginning of his welcome speech, and he had the worst pronunciation I’ve ever heard! I’m not normally one to criticise people’s pronunciation of Maori, because mine is embarrassingly bad, but I reckon I could have done a million times better than him. It went along the lines of (cover your ears, Otakuu, before I murder your language) “Now my highry my. Ten a co toe car tour.” It was cringeworthy for my pakeha ears – I’d hate to think what the Maori staff and students and their families thought. Very embarrassing.

But other than that, I’ve still got a happy glow of pride from the day. Sometimes I really like working for a university.

(PS. Please keep all comments to this entry private. I don’t want my place of work to become public knowledge. Thanks!)

The good and the bad of convention organising

Yesterday the Christchurch 2009 organising team had their first meeting via email, and it was great – a really constructive atmosphere, with ideas flowing freely and criticism given and taken in a friendly way. I left the computer feeling really excited about the next two years. Then this morning I read this thread on the Bookcrossing forums complaining about Charleston, and I remembered the other side of organising – the unrealistic expectations some people have and the fact that no matter what you do, someone will complain. I’m afraid I responded with a bit of a rant.

I usually try not to be inflammatory in the forums, but those complaints just pushed all my buttons. Bookcrossing conventions are totally grass-roots, volunteer-run, low-budget affairs, and yet (some) people expect them to be slick and professional. And as for complaining about the hotel not being perfect! I totally fail to see how that’s the organisers’ fault – how were they supposed to know when they booked that there’d be some building work going on and puddles in the car park? Grrr!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for constructive criticism – that’s why we always include a feedback form in the convention goody bags. But I really think some people need to get a more realistic idea of exactly what’s under the control of organisers, and to realise that you get what you pay for. I’m sure I could organise a convention that would live up to the expectations of the complainers. Of course, I’d have to charge $2000 a head, but I’m sure they’d be happy to pay that to have everything to their satisfaction… not!

Back to happy thoughts now! Thank goodness for the 99% of bookcrossers who just enjoy the chance to get together with their friends and are appreciative of the amount of work it takes to make that happen.

The weekend

In a calmer voice now… 😉

We had a very busy day on Saturday. First up was a breakfast meetup (hmm, I haven’t heard yet what the new official name for meetups is going to be – they were supposed to be voting on it at Charleston) at Trattorie, attended by me, MrPloppy, lytteltonwitch, and the awhina clan. I haven’t been into Trattorie for ages, so didn’t realise just how bare the bookshelf was getting. I’ll have to remember to pop in and restock it more often. I did add a couple of books this time though, that I’d brought along for the meetup but nobody wanted: The Book of Colour by Julia Blackburn and All My Patients are Under the Bed by Louis J. Camuti. Lytteltonwitch took home the other two books I’d brought, Thieves Dozen by Donald E. Westlake and The Cat Who Smelled a Rat by Lilian Jackson Braun.

After the meetup we headed over to Burnside High, where the Rotary Club were having a booksale. The prices were a bit too high for my liking (most books were $2, even for paperbacks), so I didn’t buy much. At those prices I wasn’t going to buy books just for releasing, and I didn’t see much I wanted to read (anyway, Mt TBR is so high I don’t really need anything else to read!). However, it was worth going to the booksale, because while there we ran into the gwilks. Awhina had already invited herself back to my place for lunch, because she wanted to see the powerpoint presentation, so I ended up inviting everyone back (after a quick dash to the supermarket to get some food, as our fridge had been looking a bit bare). I think we did a pretty good job of creating lunch for 10 people on about 20 minute’s notice!

After lunch the kids were having fun playing in the jungle of our back yard (we really must get out there and do some gardening one day…), so gwilk suggested some board games for the adults. Awhina and MrAwhina had some shopping to do, so they left the girls with us (and from the speed with which they agreed when I suggested the girls could stay, we decided it wasn’t shopping on their minds!), and the afternoon was spent very pleasantly with gwilk jr. watching MrPloppy’s Pingu videos while the rest of us played “Apples to Apples” and “Flea Circus”.

The girls were getting a bit hyper over the games (especially “Flea Circus”, with a few fights erupting over the little cats that are used as counters), so after the gwilks left we sat them in front of a DVD (the Johnny Depp remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) to calm down a bit, and ended up getting ensconced in it ourselves – I was disappointed when MrAwhina turned up to take the girls home so we had to stop watching! 🙂

It was a good thing he did turn up when he did, though, because I then realised I had about half an hour to get ready before I had to go out again. Norm and Brenda had invited us out to their farm for dinner and a games evening, and Norm was picking us up at 5 o’clock. So it was a quick race around getting presentable and sorting out wine etc to take with us.

Tam and Ian were there too, so we had a really fun evening, playing “Rummikub” and a word game which I can’t remember the name of. I was seriously tired by the end of the night, though – having the girls for the afternoon had exhausted me enough, without having to go out afterwards! Oh well, it was a good day though, even if I was shattered at the end of it.

Sunday, needless to say, was spent very lazily, mostly checking LJ and the forums for reports from Charleston.

2009 and all that

What started in Wellington in February as just a silly joke between friends officially became reality this morning, when I got this email from Skyring:

Subject: Sit down, FutureCat

Brace yourself. Christchurch is hosting the 2009 Anniversary Convention. There looked to be about 60% approval, and NO dissenting votes.

Nobody put up their hand for a bid in 2009. Boston was making noises to host the Unconvention next year, but I think they will be bidding for 2010.

Your presentation was extremely well received. Everyone laughed at the jokes.

[Sonora] talked about ways of finding cheap airfares.

I talked about how much I love Christchurch, but when I mentioned volcanoes, [Sonora] was about ready to jump up and stop me, until I said all the nearby ones were extinct.

So, congratulations, good luck, and you may ink me in as your first attendee.

Our bid won!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The panic will set in soon, but for now I’m just sitting here with a huge grin on my face. We’re going to be hosting the Anniversary Convention! Bookcrossers from all over will be coming here! It’s gonna be huge!!!

Even though Sonora had told me there weren’t any other bids in, I still didn’t really believe we’d actually win it. I was half expecting our bid to be turned down on the grounds that NZ is just so far away from everywhere. But then, another side of me has always thought we had a chance, even back in February when we were discussing the NZBC convention being in Christchurch in 2009, and a totally silly idea came to me so I turned to my companions at breakfast and said “you know, they’re looking for bids for the world convention, why don’t we give it a go?”

So, what are you all doing in April 2009? 🙂

Wish I was in Charleston

It’s Friday in Charleston, so things will be just getting started over there. I so so so wish I could be there 🙁

But at least if I can’t be there, my powerpoint presentation is 🙂 There was a bit of a panic earlier in the week when Sonora and MrSonora couldn’t get it working on their computer, and quite a few emails flew back and forth across the Pacific offering helpful and not so helpful advice, but on Thursday I got a triumphant email telling me they’d tried it on their laptop, and it was working perfectly. And this morning Sonora emailed me to say she’s sitting on the registration desk showing the presentation to everyone who comes up to register (but if everyone’s already seen it, what’s Skyring going to do when it comes time for the actual presentation???), and had some good responses. And as far as I know, we’re the only serious contenders (although several people have suggested cities where they’d like the convention to be, last I heard nobody from those cities has stepped forward to volunteer), so it’s looking good for Christchurch! (Eeek!)

In other news, I finally this week got round to doing something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, which is PM some of the new members in Christchurch to tell them about our meetups. On Tuesday I sent a PM to about 40 new members, and so far have had 3 responses: Enchante said she can’t come to today’s meetup but would like to be kept informed of future events, lemurkat has joined the Yahoo group and is keen to come to meetups, and Waveweaver turned out to be someone I know! Something she’d said in the journal entry she’d made on a book sounded familiar, so we exchanged a couple of “do I know you?” type PMs, and it turns out she works for the same place as me, and we’ve served on a committee together. She’s another person with more commitments than time in the day, but is really keen to get involved, so hopefully she’ll be able to come along to meetups sometimes.

Actually, I’ve had a pretty good week for making contact with people, because I finally managed to get in touch with my ESOL-HT learner, and we’ve set up a time for our first lesson! It’s not until 2 May, but at least we did manage to find a time when we were both available – I was thinking for a while that I’d have to ask the organisers to find her a new tutor with a more compatible schedule. Now I’ve just got to start planning my first lesson…

Got a catch on one of the books I released last week: The Love Songs of Phoenix Bay by Nisa Donnelly. The finder is on their way to Belgium, so hopefully that means the book is too!

Currently reading: Samurai William by Giles Milton
Currently listening to: Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

Re-prioritising my life

Back at work this week after a much-needed break, during which I had time to re-think a few priorities. It’s finally starting to occur to me that I’ve got too many commitments (what with work and study and union activism and bookcrossing and ESOL-HT…) and I’m not really coping with them all as well as I’d like. Of course, MrPloppy has been telling me that I’ve over-committed myself for months, but this is something I had to work out on my own to really believe it 🙂

The trouble is, I don’t really want to give up on any of them – work is non-negotiable if we want to do boring stuff like eat and have a roof over our heads; study keeps me sane by allowing me to actually use my brain for something, and may one day lead to more enjoyable work; being involved in the union is important to me for all sorts of reasons, not least because I strongly believe that if you want something to happen you should be prepared to help make it happen; bookcrossing is one of the most fun things I do, and organising meetups and conventions comes under the same category as being involved in the union – if you want something to happen then you’ve got to do the work; and the ESOL tutoring, apart from being interesting in itself (or at least, it would be if I could just get hold of my student to arrange some lessons!) has the potential to be really useful to me in my future studies.

Anyway, last night I was having yet another fruitless conversation with MrPloppy where he was saying for the hundredth time “You really should cut something out”, and I was saying “But I can’t because…”, it suddenly dawned on me what the real problem is. It’s not so much that I’m doing too much, but that I’ve got my priorities all messed up. In particular, study, which used to be in the “fun and relaxing” part of life, has somehow got turned around to be in the “boring but obligatory” part.

I started this degree because being in a job that’s not exactly intellectually challenging I wanted something that would engage my brain a bit, and provide me with something interesting to think about. The whole point of it was to just do papers that interested me, without worrying too much about what they’d be useful for. But I realised last night that somewhere in the last few years my focus has changed, and I’ve started thinking a lot more seriously about what had previously just been a pleasant pipe dream, of going on to do postgraduate study and maybe even becoming an academic one day. And that shift in focus has meant that instead of enjoying studying as a pleasant diversion, it’s become something I have to do so I can get good marks so I don’t spoil my chances of getting a decent scholarship one day.

That’s a pretty major change in thinking, but I really hadn’t realised I was doing it until last night. And realising it clears up so many things for me about why I’ve been feeling stressed about study this year, and why I’ve been so annoyed at myself for “only” getting an A- in the last test.

And realising it also means I can do something about it. So I’ve decided I’m going to consciously re-prioritise a few things in my life, and try and shift the balance again so I’ve got as many “fun and relaxing” things as “boring but obligatory”. Number one thing is that I’m going to start treating study as a fun thing again. I’m going to try and just enjoy learning for the sake of learning, and not let myself stress out about marks. Second, I’m going to be realistic about the amount of work I put into the union, and get better at saying no when I get asked to do things. I’m already doing my share, so I shouldn’t feel like I have to keep doing even more. I’m not going to cut back on the amount of work I do for bookcrossing, because I actually enjoy most of the organising work I do, but if we do win the bid for 2009 I’m going to make sure I’m not doing all the work for it – so be warned, those of you that have volunteered to help out, I’ll be using you! 🙂 And if we do win the bid for 2009 I’m going to think seriously about not doing any papers that semester – it’ll mean adding another 6 months onto my degree, but that’s better than risking total burnout by trying to study and organise a major convention at the same time (and anyway, what’s another 6 months when by that time I’ll have been studying for this degree for 8 years already…)

So, that’s the plan. Not so much cutting back as easing off on some of the pressure.

Of course, whether it actually works is another matter… 🙂

The Really Real Travelling Journal

A while back Yetzirah invited me to take part in this project, which is a blank journal which has been travelling around DearDiary members, with each adding a couple of pages (kind of like the blank journal bookrings that are common in Bookcrossing). On Thursday it arrived, and I was stunned by the creativity of everyone’s entries (and a bit worried – I didn’t know if I could live up to that standard!).

I knew one thing I wanted to include on my pages was some embroidery, so Thursday night was spent cross-stitching a little patchwork cat that had caught my eye in when I was looking through a craft magazine the other day. Then yesterday I started planning my pages. I had so many different ideas, I was pulling out bits and pieces from all over the house until I’m sure I had enough to fill the entire book on my own, but still no real idea what I wanted to do with the two pages I’d been allocated.

Then I came across something we’d been given at the Dunedin convention: a box of little cards with quotations on them. My box had quotations on the theme of joy, and I decided to make the theme of my page things that give me joy – cats, cross-stitch, Bookcrossing, MrPloppy, travel, learning… So I collected together elements representing each of those things, and tried to lay them out on the page, but I couldn’t get them to fit together properly. Then I realised why – because I’d been trying to compartmentalise them too much. My life is utterly chaotic (in a (mostly) good way!), with different aspects totally overlapping, so its only natural that the pages representing my life were trying to do the same. So I abandoned my tidy design and just went with putting things wherever they felt like going, and ended up with a much more interesting page. It’s not as artistic as the other contributions, but it’s definitely me 🙂

And best of all, Yetzirah gave me permission to register the RRTJ on Bookcrossing, so Bookcrossing, which is such a big part of my life (does that sound sad or what?), is a part of the whole journal! 🙂 I’ve blurred out the BCID on those pictures above, but if any previous contributors to the RRTJ want to make a journal entry on Bookcrossing to record their involvement in the project, leave me a comment and I’ll give you the BCID number.

So now all I’ve got to do is tidy up the mess I made. I’ve always said you can tell how much fun you’re having with a craft project by how far the mess spreads, and I had *lots* of fun doing this one!

(Oh, and apologies to Yetzirah – I kind of ignored your rules about not putting bulky things on the pages. I was being really good, and then I came across some little plastic cat-themed scrapbooky things (technical term :-)) that someone sent me ages ago that were just crying out to be included and kind of accidentally on purpose snuck their way onto the pages… They’re not *that* bulky, but my pages definitely aren’t as flat as everyone else’s. Sorry!)

What did I do wrong?

It’s amazing how emotionally invested you can get in an on-line community like DearDiary. I’ve been a bit slack lately about keeping up with reading diaries, so this morning I decided to catch up with some of them. I was clicking through the notify emails and came to one from someone whose diary is friends only, so I logged in, but instead of being taken to their diary got the “you are sucessfully logged in but you do not have permission to view this diary” page. I checked my friends list, and sure enough, I’ve been “de-friended” by this person.

It’s weird, I’ve never met this person, and in “real life” wouldn’t know them if I tripped over them, but seeing that felt like a kick to the stomach. I really did feel like I would if a real-life friend suddenly stopped talking to me and started snubbing me in the street. Although I know people have all sorts of reasons for cleaning up their friends lists, and that many (if not most) of those reasons have nothing to do with the people being de-friended, my first thought was still that it must be my fault: “What did I do? Did I do something to annoy them? Did I leave a comment that was taken badly? Did I write something I shouldn’t have? Did I comment too much? Or not enough?”

It’s probably a sign that I’m a really insecure person or something, and nobody else has this reaction to being de-friended, but I’m still going to be a lot more careful about how I go about cleaning up my friends list myself in future!

On to more cheerful things. I’ve had a pretty constructive week off this week, getting all sorts of little jobs done (taking advantage of being able to go into town during the week when things like banks and post offices are actually open), plus a few bigger ones.

The main job was I finally managed to finish putting together our bid for the 2009 Bookcrossing Convention, and sent it off to bookczuk and Sonora. With some help from lytteltonwitch, and contributions of photos from various people from the BCNZ group, I put together a seriously multi-media powerpoint show with photos and video and music, which of course I went totally over the top with so it ended up being such a huge file that I think it broke a few people’s emails when I sent it (sorry about that!). It looks really cool though, especially because when I added the music (a clip from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack – seemed appropriate for advertising NZ :-)), even though I hadn’t worked it out to do so at all (I just bunged the music on at the last minute because watching silent slides seemed boring), it fitted the timings I’d given the slideshow perfectly, with some seriously serendipitous moments (some of the most beautiful parts of the music coincide with the photos of NZ scenery, and the theme that represents the fellowship comes in just as the slide labelled “Our Team” comes up!). Skyring has agreed to do the actual presentation for us (because the bid has to be presented at this year’s convention in Charleston, and none of us could get there), and I’m sure will do a fantastic job selling the wonders of NZ – he’s always been so enthusiastic about the country on his visits here. No idea whether we’ve got a chance of winning the bid, but it’s been fun putting it together anyway 🙂

I also finally went and did some clothes shopping! I hate shopping for clothes, so tend to avoid it for as long as possible, but the days are getting colder, and when I looked at last winter’s clothes they were looking pretty worn out, so some shopping was inevitable. So I bit the bullet and went to Riccarton on Thursday, and amazingly had total shopping success. In the first shop I went into, I walked up to a rack of trousers, saw a pair that I actually liked, and not only did they have some in my size, but when I tried them on they fitted perfectly! (They do need to have the hems taken up a little bit, but that’s normal for me) Then I looked at some tops and the same thing happened again – I saw something I liked, they had two in my size in colours I liked, and they looked good when I tried them on! So I’ve now got a couple of new outfits for work, which combined with the things from last year that aren’t totally falling apart should keep me going for the whole winter. Why isn’t clothes shopping always that easy?

Of course, I released a few books in between shopping and running errands: The Pimpernel Project by Mary Raymond, Michael, Michael by Wendy Perriman, The Love Songs of Phoenix Bay by Nisa Donnelly, and The Angelic Game by Lawrence Osborne.

Mostly though my week off has just been spent relaxing and doing as little as possible. Which is what time off is supposed to be about 🙂

Secret project report: Ming must die

One of Ming’s many oddities is an obsession about paper lying on the floor. If there’s a piece of paper on the floor he’ll sit there and paw at it trying to see what’s underneath it, and if he can’t manage to lift it up it usually ends up shredded.

The other night I left the pattern for my latest embroidery project lying on the lounge floor. I bet you can see where this is going…

Yep, that’s what I discovered the next morning. I suppose I got off lightly, as that was all the real damage, and he could have shredded it completely, but there’s a bit of the pattern missing completely (and believe me, I’ve searched everywhere for it… well, almost everywhere – I suspect it ended up inside Ming, and I’m NOT going to start searching through his poos!). Luckily most of the damage is on a blank part of the design, and I should be able to recreate the missing bit, but he still got some very dirty looks from me!

Here’s the latest work in progress:

The next secret project

Another friends-only series of posts about an embroidery project, because this is another one intended for someone who I know reads my diary.

I’ll admit the colour choice of the fabric was partly inspired by the fact that I already had it in my fabric stash (and I was feeling much too impatient to get started to want to wait until Tuesday when Hands will be open again to look for something different), but I actually think it will give a really interesting effect to the finished picture. I just hope it will also turn out to be an attractive effect!!!

As for the subject matter of the picture, I’ll leave that as a guessing game for now 😉