I decided to stick with the totally random scrappiness for the next bird, the swift, and I think it looks ok:

It’s funny, as I was choosing which bundle of fabric to use for it, I found myself reasoning that I should use the bundles with the smallest number of fabrics in them for these simpler birds, and save the ones with lots of different fabrics for the more complicated ones, because I’d need more for them so they didn’t end up with the same fabrics next to each other too often.  And then of course my mathematical brain woke up and reminded me that I was being ridiculous, because the four colour theorem says that any two dimensional pattern can always be coloured in using at most four colours without having two adjacent areas the same colour.  So as long as I’ve got four different fabrics in each bundle (which I do for all but the one I used to make the swan block, which only had three fabrics) then I’ve definitely got enough for even the most complicated pattern.

Of course, it does still make some sense to reserve the big bundles for the really complex birds, because having more pieces will make using lots of different fabrics look better (because I won’t have to resort to just using a single piece of a particular fabric), but in theory at least it doesn’t matter.

I’m sorry, I can’t help being a geek.  This kind of stuff just leaps into my brain unasked.

Celebratory tacos

Lytteltonwitch and I had planned on going out somewhere nice for dinner tonight to celebrate her new job.  Some might say we failed at that, given that we ended up eating from a food truck, but I reckon we had a lot more fun than we would have had in a fancy restaurant 🙂

Our plan had been that I’d meet her in town after work tonight, and then we’d walk over to Victoria Street and try out one of the many new restaurants over there.  But we only got as far as the Square, where we discovered a night market with all sorts of interesting looking food trucks, and our plan very rapidly changed to “lets just stay here and sample a few things”.  And then when the line dancing demonstration started up, we even had free entertainment (even if the bystanders who attempted to join in were much more entertaining than the experts).

I reckon this is why Lytteltonwitch and I are such good friends – we have a very similar sense of when it’s better to drop the plans and just go with what the world throws at you.  Sometimes life is much more fun that way!



Got home last night and found a parcel waiting for me in my letterbox.  Even better, it was a parcel full of fabric!  Mum had texted me the other day to say that a craft shop near her was having a closing down sale, and did I want her to see if she could get me some of those “fat quarter” things that her friends who know about quilting keep talking about?  So of course I said yes please, and then completely forgot about the conversation until the parcel arrived.  Excellent choices, Mum!

The owls are very cute and full of possibilities, but I think my favourite might be the dark blue one – it has quite a subtle print of pocket watches and feels very Dr Who-y (hmmm, paper pieced Tardis?…). And I’m already working out where the others will fit into this latest project.

Speaking of which, finished my first bird last night:

It’s not my favourite of the 13 bird patterns, but I think it will look better once it’s in context with all of the others.  And I messed up the head a bit, with that darker blue area – I’d intended to get an area of the fabric that was closer in colour to the other fabrics, but I must have moved it while I was sewing it or something and got the dark bit instead.

Actually, I’m wondering if I’ve possibly been a bit too random with the fabric choices – looking at other people’s “scrappy” paper-piecing, I suspect they’re actually very careful about which fabrics go where, whereas I just picked them according to the size of scrap I had compared to the size of the pattern piece.  I’m not sure now whether for the next bird I want to be more careful, or if I’ll just stick with the randomness – might be interesting so see what the effect is like when I’ve got loads of birds done this way (or it might be a very expensive failure).

No good at saying no

My resolve about not taking on new things is weakening.  I was asked last night to step in as treasurer for my Toastmasters club, because our current treasurer has just resigned from the club.  My immediate response was that I definitely couldn’t do it after the start of July, because I’ll be studying, but the President assured me that was all they’d need – club elections are in June, so I could step down then.  So I’m starting to think maybe I’ll say ok (but with the strict understanding that it’s only until mid-year) – I’ve been in the club long enough and I’m getting enough out of it that I’m feeling like I should give something back.  And being treasurer is a job I could do with my eyes closed, so I can’t imagine it being all that onerous.

The only danger is that if I say yes, I then go on everyone’s mental radar as “person who will volunteer for stuff”, so I’ll keep being asked to do more.  But having those 5-month blocks of total unavailability when I’m studying will help with that, because I do stand very firm when it comes to not interrupting my study time.

So… maybe….?

Geekery and literariness

Harvestbird’s writing talent has been recognised with the inclusion of one of her essays in Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction 2015, which had its Christchurch launch last night.  She invited me along to the launch, where she and a few of the other included writers read teasingly short excerpts from their essays.  It wasn’t a huge event, just a couple of dozen people, but I still managed to feel completely overwhelmed being surrounded by all those super-clever literary types (you’d think having worked in the English department for so many years I’d be used to it by now, but I still sometimes get intimidated – at heart I feel much more like I belong on the sciencey side of the campus).  Probably didn’t help too that I was feeling tired after not having slept well the night before, so the whole “make vaguely intelligent small-talk with people I only vaguely know” thing was feeling a lot more challenging than usual.  Still, despite not being a glittering success socially, I did enjoy the readings, and of course bought myself a copy of the book.

Oh, and I discovered that I know the editor! I thought she looked vaguely familiar when she was introducing the writers, and later she came over and asked me if we’d met. It turned out she and her partner had flatted with Ornot, and I recognised her the minute she’d said it – I spent so much time hanging around that flat that year (it was the year I was at Teacher’s College, and I was terribly bored) that they might as well have put me on the lease. Her partner was at the launch too – so strange to see them again after so many years.

I’ve been playing round with Javascript some more, and I’m feeling quite proud of my latest achievement.  It was inspired by stumbling across a mention of the Mandelbrot Set, a famous fractal that I had a passing fascination with back when I was studying maths.  I was reminded of one of my teaching colleagues in the early 90s having managed to programme a computer to generate the graph, a programme which took about 12 hours to run.  I wondered how much faster a similar programme would run on today’s computers, so I decided to see if I could write something in Javascript to generate the graph.  And the answer was, yes I could (I cheated a bit on the maths bit and looked up the algorithm – it’s a long time since I played with serious maths!), and it runs much much faster – less than a second to test the first 20 iterations of the points in a 500×500 graph.

I still want to play round with the programme a bit to add a function to zoom in on an area (which is part of the fascination of fractals, that being able to zoom in infinitely closely and see the new patterns that emerge), but in the meantime here’s a pretty screenshot:

Of course, it’s a completely pointless exercise, but it’s a fun way of stretching my Javascript skills and learning things that I might be able to actually apply to my real work.

On stage at the Theatre Royal

Just had one of those “I love my job” moments.  The polytech is running an architecture summer school, and as part of it they’d organised a tour for their students to look around the rebuilt Theatre Royal, an amazing heritage project that reconstructed (almost from the ground up) an Edwardian theatre badly damaged in the earthquakes. And we got invited to join them for the tour.

It was very short notice (we only heard about it an hour before it started, just enough time for us to race into town), so I didn’t have my camera with me, but it was an amazing experience.  The tour was led by the CEO of the theatre and the project architect, who were able to tell us so much about the process, and all the amazing things they’d had to do to preserve as much of the original material as possible, and to recreate what hadn’t been preserved (while cleverly hiding lots of nice modern safety features in behind the walls :-)).  As well as the auditorium area, they also showed us around backstage, down into the orchestra pit, and of course onto the stage itself.

So cool – incredibly interesting to see behind the scenes (almost literally – except the stage was empty, so there were no scenes to see behind ;-)), and the restoration work is just amazing.  Definitely got to go and see a production there sometime soon!

It has begun

So I went and bought fabric for the Birds in Flight quilt yesterday.  Just the background fabric, because I’ve decided to use a “scrappy” style for the actual birds (where you use a mixture of similarly coloured fabrics to make up the shape, rather than just one fabric), and I’ve got more than enough in my stash for that.  But for the background fabric alone I needed 6 metres (I probably could have got away with less, because for the layout I decided on Tartankiwi had estimated 6 yards, which is about 5.5 m, but I didn’t want to risk running out in a few months time and the shop not having that exact fabric any more, so I added a bit extra just in case), so even though I bought the cheapest fabric I could (well, without resorting to undyed calico, and believe me, I did consider it briefly!) it still came to nearly $50.  Anyway, as I’m going with the scrappy colourful birds, I decided make the background really plain, so I picked a dull grey-blue fabric that all the colours should look nice and bright against.

So this morning’s job was to tip out all the fabrics from my stash on top of the blue, and try and sort them into groups that looked good together:

(This was part-way through the process, so it’s not exactly how the colours ended up).

Meanwhile, back in the study, Parsnips was taking advantage of the absence of the bin of fabrics to make a nest in the next drawer down:

She was not impressed when she had to move so I could put the drawer back in!

I’ve got quite a good set-up for sewing in my study now:

  1. Very large bundle of grey-blue background fabric waiting to be cut into very small pieces and sewn back together again in clever ways.
  2. Cutting mat strategically positioned in the sunshine so I’ve got lots of light and can easily see what I’m doing.
  3. Cat strategically positioned on the cutting mat so she can:
    1. lie in the sunshine;
    2. get in the way as often as possible;
    3. attempt to sneak onto that temptingly comfy bundle of material as soon as my back is turned.
  4. Selection of scrappy fabrics to be used for the first bird.
  5. First bits of paper-piecing in progress.
  6. Dr Who DVD playing on the computer, keeping me entertained while I sew.
  7. The Beast itself (with lots of clear space behind it for when I’m working on the quilting part and need room to move large amounts of material around).
  8. (not pictured) The ironing board, which is right behind me.  It doesn’t leave a lot of room to move in my tiny study, but it’s very ergonomically efficient – I can roll my chair from cutting area to sewing area to ironing area with minimal movement.  It’s just when I actually have to leave the room that it’s a bit of a squeeze to get through the gap between desk and ironing board…

I haven’t finished the first bird yet (I blame the fact that I went outside at lunchtime to enjoy the sunshine (in the shade of the tree – see, I have learnt my lesson), and got kind of absorbed in my book (Terry Pratchett’s A Slip of the Keyboard, which I bought the other day with the book voucher the union had given me in thanks for editing the branch newsletter last year) so somehow the day slipped away on me), so no in progress photo to show you.  But I do have another photo of Parsnips (because obviously she hasn’t featured in this post enough yet), whose response to being kicked off the bundle of fabric yet again was to give me a wonderfully martyred “Well, if you won’t let me sleep there I’ll just have to sleep in the most uncomfortable place possible then” look, and lie down with her head on the pin cushion…

Stupid cat.


Went out for drinks after work last night with the rest of the CEISMIC team, to a cafe just off campus.  It was a lovely evening, so we sat outside, and it was all very pleasant.  So much so that when everyone else started to drift away to gym classes and dates and children’s bedtimes, I decided to stay on and have dinner there.  Very nice sitting out on the balcony reading my book and enjoying my meal in the evening sunshine.

Parsnips was obviously not impressed by me staying out though – she registered her protest at me not coming home to feed her at the appointed time by taking matters into her own hands paws, so I came home to a trail of feathers through the house and a dead bird in the middle of the lounge.  Good thing I was planning on cleaning the house this morning anyway, but I suspect that despite much hoovering I’ll still be finding feathers in odd corners for some time – she really did manage to get them everywhere.

I don’t think I can blame her for the other bit of wildlife I found while cleaning, though: the most enormous spider lurking in the bathroom.  I think it probably got blown in through the partly-open bathroom window in those big winds the other night …which means he’d been lurking in the bathroom for a couple of days.  The bathroom that I’ve been using, completely unaware of the horror hiding in the corner.  Yeah, don’t want to think about that – let’s pretend he’d just come in seconds before I discovered him!

While cleaning I was contemplating the mini-Harvestbird’s statement, as relayed to me by her mother, that housework would be more fun if it involved Lego.  My first thought was that involving Lego in housework would probably end up with me either standing on a piece, or sucking some up in the hoover and then having to dig through the dust to find the bits.  Which led me to ponder a linguistic question:  I’ve often heard Americans refer to Lego as “Legos”.  Whereas here it’s most definitely “Lego”.  I’m not sure if that’s because we’re treating “Lego” as a mass noun (like flour or water), or (this may sound like I’m repeating myself, but I think there is a subtle difference here) if it’s because “Lego” as a noun means the system as a whole, not its components, so to refer to an individual brick we have to use Lego as a modifier, calling them “Lego bricks” or “Lego pieces”.  But if Americans call them Legos, does that then mean “Lego” to Americans can refer to a single brick?  So, a question to my American friends: when you step on a brick, do you say (insert suitable expletives of your choice depending on the degree of pain 🙂 ) “I stepped on a Lego!” or “I stepped on a piece of Lego!”?

Probably the wrong decision

You know that quilt-along? The one for Tartankiwi’s birds in flight quilt? The one I worked out I absolutely wouldn’t have time to do? Yeah, I just bought the patterns for it.  And I’ll probably go and buy some fabric tomorrow.  This is probably (certainly) a very stupid thing to do, because there is no way I’ll be able to keep up with the quilt-along, and I definitely won’t get the quilt finished before I have to drop everything and concentrate on study, but I so want to give it a go.  And if I don’t manage to get all the blocks finished, well I can always just make a smaller quilt, or finish it off next summer – all that dropping out of the quilt-along would mean is that I don’t have the fun (or stress) of comparing my efforts to others working on the same project, and I’d miss out on the chance to win any prizes (though the chances of that are pretty low anyway).  So yeah, I’m going to give it a go and see what happens.

Now all I have to decide is which of the million options for fabric I want to go with…


Really really must get myself a hat. Or at least some sunscreen. Or maybe both. Or I could just be a bit more sensible about how much time I spend out in the sun… yeah, that might be a good idea too. Because I managed to get myself sunburnt again in my lunch break today (for those of you northern hemisphere types to whom getting sunburnt in the space of an hour’s lunch break seems unlikely, remember that hole in the ozone layer that everyone was panicking about in the early 90s?  Well, it still exists, and in the summer it sits pretty much right over NZ.  So our UV levels can get pretty nasty, and burn time is usually around 20 minutes.)

Normally if it’s a sunny day I sit safely in the shade, but the last couple of days have had a nice cool breeze, so it was just pleasantly warm in the sunshine, rather than intensely hot like it was at the weekend. So when I went out at lunchtime I thought I’d just sit in the sunshine for a few minutes then move into the shade, but I got caught up in my book and because I wasn’t getting too hot completely forgot I was sitting in full sunshine, and didn’t notice until about 40 minutes had passed, by which time I was getting nicely pink round the edges.  Especially on the back of my neck, which is feeling a bit stingy tonight.

Oh well, considering I grew up in the 70s when nobody had heard of skin cancer and parents sent you outside to get some sun because it was good for you, I had enough really bad sunburns as a kid that my melanoma risk is already pretty close to guaranteed – getting the odd little burn as an adult probably doesn’t even register.  Still, with all that experience of sunburn, you’d think I’d have learnt to avoid it by now…