The pink butterfly

It took me most of yesterday and long into the night, but I managed to get most of the embroidery done that I wanted to add to the pink butterfly for my second entry to Tartankiwi’s Butterfly Challenge (and, yes, if you’re wondering Tartankiwi, all that pink is a blatant attempt to win your Rascal’s favour ;-)).

It could probably do with a few more flowers, and I’d wanted to add a few French knots to accent the swirls, but I’ve run out of time, so I’m calling it done.

Lessons learnt:

  • I am a lot better at cross-stitch than I am at free-hand embroidery.
  • There is a reason embroidery cotton comes in different varieties, and using the stranded kind that’s meant for cross-stitch doesn’t work all that well for making lazy daisy flowers, even if the colours of stranded cotton you had on hand were so much nicer than the crewel type.
  • See above point.  If you’re planning to add fancy embroidery to a project, you should go and buy the colours you want of the right kind of cotton in advance, so you’re not stuck using the wrong type when it’s late at night and you’re just trying to get it finished.
  • My embroidery skills get a lot worse late at night.
  • Using pink tailor’s chalk to sketch a design on the pink fabric makes it really hard to follow the lines.
  • When you don’t follow your sketched lines, embroidered lines have a tendency to go a bit wonky.
  • Actually, even when you do follow the lines there’s a certain element of wonkiness involved.  See point 1.
  • Very soon I am going to have to bow to the inevitabilities of ageing and invest in bifocals.  I can see perfectly well to sew if I take my glasses off, but then I can’t see the TV (and there’s still enough of the 12-year-old left in me who complains that sewing is BORING if I don’t have a DVD or something to distract me), so I end up trying to peer over the top of my glasses to see exactly where the needle is going – no wonder I woke up with a headache this morning.
The Tartankiwi

A photographic tour of Christchurch

This is what central Christchurch looks like these days – still a mass of cordon fences, road works, half-demolished buildings, and vast open spaces that can feel pretty desolate:

On the plus side, there’s cool artwork (official and unofficial), and a lot of the empty demolition sites have been grassed over, which makes some parts of the city feel quite rural:

This is Latimer Square, of course, so it’s always been grass, but those green areas across the street used to be full of tall buildings.

Neil Dawson’s Spires, sitting in front of the temporary cardboard cathedral, but very much inspired by the old one.

The ultimate yarn bombing!

And after a while you don’t really see the fences and road cones any more.  I took this next pair of photos looking in opposite directions from the same bridge, because in one direction all you could see were demolition sites, while in the other it was a classic Avon River scene and you’d almost never know there’d been an earthquake.  Except when I downloaded the photos, I of course realised that there were road cones and cordon fences in the second scene too – I just hadn’t noticed them, they’re so ubiquitous around here…

Some demolition sites have been completely transformed.  This is a cool “nature play” area – a conservation site crossed with a playground, where kids (and big kids) can explore the little stream via stepping stones and tunnels through the garden, and nowhere is off limits.

Other places are pretty much untouched.  This stretch of river bank still has the large cracks from “lateral spreading”, where the river bank slumped towards the river.

They announced recently that the Forsyth Barr building has been bought, and is going to be refurbished as a hotel.  I’m not sure I’d want to stay in it, given its history (it was the building where the stairways collapsed, so office workers in the upper floors had to be winched out by helicopters (while aftershocks still rocked the building) because they had no way of getting out).  I suppose they’re relying on tourists having short memories…

There were a group of people in suits and hi-vis vests standing on the top of its carpark – I assume representatives of the hotel looking around their new investment.

But of course, it being the end of August, what really caught my eye as I wandered around the city yesterday were the little signs of spring.  Most of the trees are still bare and stark, but if you look closely there’s definitely buds on the verge of bursting into life.  And while the council’s official plantings still have winter poppies and forget-me-nots, there’s illicit daffodils and blossom popping up here and there:

The Botanic Gardens are of course the best place to spot spring’s arrival in little bursts of colour:

The classic koru of an unfolding fern always says spring to me.

For the foreigners, if you’ve ever wondered why New Zealand’s sportspeople wear a silver fern on their uniforms, this is why. It’s in reference to this native fern which has a silver underside to its fronds (even more noticeable when you see it almost glowing under the dark canopy of trees out in the bush).

Across the river, the ultimate sign of spring in Christchurch – Hagley Park’s famous daffodils are starting to bloom.

This photo must have been taken by a million tourists over the years – the band rotunda among the daffodils. And from this angle, you can hardly even see the cordon fencing around it…

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!


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…


I’m a programming genius!

I‘m feeling pretty proud of myself – I was playing around with some Javascript stuff at work today, and I actually managed to build a wee tool that will be useful for the team!  Instead of generating kittens or looking up words in the library, it actually does a useful task that will save us some time.  Well, save us a few clicks, anyway…  We’d been asked by someone to find them some suitable images for a project (which happens quite often – even though the archive is of course searchable, we know its contents so well (because we’re the ones who put the stuff in there in the first place) that we’re usually better than the search engine at finding things).  The trouble is, once you find the image you’re looking for, it takes several clicks to get through to the page where you can download it.  So I built a bookmarklet that generates a URL to take you straight from the default view through to the download page in one click.  Yeah, not exactly ground-breaking (and I’m sure anyone experienced with Javascript who looked at my code could tell me a much more efficient way of doing it), but it works!  And it’ll definitely come in handy next time we have to do an image search for someone.

The future of our country?

Politics has invaded the CEISMIC office – we have a candidate in our midst.  Well, sort of.  Our team member Lucy-Jane flats with Ben Uffindell, the creator of The Civilian, a satirical website along the lines of The Onion.  He recently announced he was running for parliament, founding The Civilian Party, a joke party (though he argues it’s less of a joke than the major parties are…) with policies like giving every poverty-stricken child a llama, and free icecream for everyone.

In order to register for the elections, he has to publish a Party List – the list of candidates who’ll become MPs if his party gains enough votes.  So he’s put Lucy-Jane on the list, in the much-coveted number 2 position (it’s normally where a party’s Deputy Leader is placed). Given that earlier in the year she had a short-lived modelling career impersonating Pippi Longstocking in a runway show, I think she’d make an excellent MP.  She’d certainly brighten up Parliament a bit!

Actually, we all thought Lucy-Jane’s kitten, Nelson, should be made Deputy Leader, but apparently New Zealand is not forward-thinking enough to have extended universal suffrage to include cats, so he’s not eligible.  So until more enlightened thinking prevails, poor Nelson has to be like Kim Dotcom, content to be the power behind the throne.  Or maybe the power on the throne’s lap…

Forget Party Vote Green, I say Party Vote Civilian 😉

Tohoku 2011

Today was almost entirely filled with meetings. One was a very interesting meeting though – we were visited by a researcher from Tokyo, who is studying the experiences of disabled people in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, so has come to Christchurch to compare our situation with Tohoku’s.

The Tohoku earthquake was only a couple of weeks after our big one, and many of the search and rescue teams who worked in Christchurch went straight to Tohoku from here.  So many of us feel an affinity with Tohoku that no amount of official “sister city” agreements could ever reproduce.  And certainly in our team we’ve watched with interest Japan’s development of a similar archive to CEISMIC in response to the disaster.  So it was really interesting to meet someone so deeply involved with the area, and to discuss similarities and differences between Christchurch and Tohoku.

One thing I found really fascinating was that she said that attempts at Gapfiller-style art projects have failed over there – the locals felt like their loss was being exploited by the artists, rather than the art helping them.  The researcher thought this difference between the Christchurch and Tohoku experiences was maybe something to do with the cultural differences – not just between New Zealand and Japan (which are of course huge), but also between a city and a relatively rural region: there wasn’t as much of a local art scene already present in Tokohu for that sort of movement to develop out of, so most of the artists were outsiders coming in (and moreover, were outsiders who’d never shown any interest in the region before) – no wonder the locals were suspicious of their motives.

Films and playgrounds and shiny cats

It’s been a busy weekend.  Yesterday afternoon I went to another film festival film, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya.  A lovely animation from Studio Ghibli, based on a Japanese fairy tale.  As with everything Studio Ghibli, a visually wonderful film, plus it’s always so interesting to see fairy tales from other cultures – they never follow the structures that seem so right and natural to our Western-encultured eyes, and the embedded moral lessons are very different than you’d find in a European fairy tale.  A good reminder that what seems “normal” is very much a subjective thing.

Harvestbird and I had planned on going to another film in the evening, Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?, Michel Gondry’s documentary/conversation with Noam Chomsky.  The timing wasn’t going to work out for her though (because: children), so my revised plan was just to go on my own (how could I miss a film on Chomsky after I spent half of last semester debating the validity of generative linguistics?), but then I got a message from her on Friday saying that the film had just shown up on their <*cough* not Netflix because we can’t get Netflix in NZ and of course nobody would ever use a proxy to pretend to be in America and acquire illicit access that way *cough*> queue, so would I like to watch it with them at their place instead.

So a new and improved plan was born, and we spent a very enjoyable evening eating way too much junk food and watching the film, with the bonus that we could pause it for critical comment whenever the whole “Chomsky as Elder Statesman of Linguistics who must be listened to with awe even when he’s making pronouncements on things way outside his field” thing got too much for us.  Followed of course by long and in-depth (and only slightly whisky-fuelled) discussion on the film’s merits and philosophies.  It was a very late night!

Then this afternoon, Harvestbird, the elder mini-Harvestbird, and I went out to Tai Tapu to explore a promising crafty-type shop (which didn’t quite deliver as much as it promised, so I didn’t buy anything), followed by cake at the cafe and some playground time (during which I may have spent more time clambering around on the climbing frame than the mini-Harvestbird did… but only so I could help her build confidence, honestly! 😉 ).  A lovely afternoon – Mini-Harvestbird is always so excited to come on these “only for big girls” outings without her little sister, and Harvestbird and I got to continue our long philosophical discussion from last night.

Somewhere in there I even managed to squeeze in a little time to work on the next stage of my second butterfly.  A wee teaser:

And to add even further to the pretty:

I spotted him in a shop window as I was leaving the picture theatre yesterday, and couldn’t resist.  I’m not sure exactly where he’s going to live yet, so I’ve been auditioning him in various spots around the house.

Progress on Butterfly #2

Apologies for the awful photo – I finished sewing all the bits together quite late tonight, so I had the choice of either a washed-out photo using a flash, or a yellowish photo using just the light in the room. Neither came out great, but I’ve colour-corrected it as best I can. I’ll try and remember to take a better photo during daylight.

Anyway, this is not the finished product – there’s still more to be added… (mysterious cat is mysterious).

The Tartankiwi