All the meetings

That was a very busy week.  Despite being a short one.  And totally dominated by meetings.  As I think I mentioned, Tuesday was our planning day, so that was one big day-long meeting, only interrupted by lunch (which we all had together at a nearby cafe – we did manage to avoid talking shop too much during lunch, though).  And then at the end of the day we all went out for a drink together (which, again, no talking shop, but it was a long day!).  It was a really productive day though, and great to get off campus and away from interruptions, and be in a really nice environment (we held the meeting in the beautifully restored old neo-gothic building in the Arts Centre where our School of Music is based).

On Wednesday, I amazingly had no meetings, so I was actually able to get some work done (mostly starting to work through the long list of action points that came out of Tuesday).  Jacq had invited me to go to a Nerd Degree recording that evening, so as the weather was horrible (the forecast had been for snow, which never arrived (other than a light sprinkling on the Port Hills), but there was plenty of rain to make up for it) I decided to just stay at work instead of rushing home and then going back out again.  Jacq was doing the same, so I grabbed some food from the cafe and went down to their office to eat dinner with them until it was time to go.

The show was, as always, incredibly funny (and incredibly visual – I have no idea how they’re going to edit it into a podcast).  The theme was wrestling, and they had an actual WWE-style wrestler as the co-host.  He stayed in persona for most of the evening (plus I think kept forgetting it was a podcast), so was doing a lot of posturing and demonstrating wrestling moves on the contestants, which was brilliantly funny, but yeah, wouldn’t translate to audio at all.  In true wrestling style, there was much (fake) drama, with one of the contestants defecting from her team to the other “evil” team, and then later Jacq’s partner (complete with hastily-donned luchador mask) leaping from the audience to the defence of the poor abandoned contestant.  This had of course all been pre-planned (the only performer who didn’t know what was going to happen was the one who’d been abandoned, which made it all much funnier as you could see him visibly struggling to figure out what was suddenly going on).  Jacq and their partner had been discussing the plans in the car on the way, so I knew parts of what was going to happen (though not exactly when), which made it even funnier, because I could see how cleverly the defector was manipulating events to build up the drama prior to her defection.

On Thursday we were off-campus for most of the day again, this time at the NDF Regional Forum, an “unconference” for people doing digital stuff in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector.  Another really useful day, but I wish it didn’t have to happen in the same week as our planning day and a long weekend – it didn’t leave much of the week to actually be in the Lab!  Especially as Friday ended up being another day full of meetings, because it was also the first week of the university vacation, so all the academic staff who are usually busy teaching finally had time to discuss their research projects, which meant they all wanted to meet with us, and because we were off campus so much this week, all the meetings ended up scheduled for Friday.  So yeah, I feel like I didn’t achieve much actual work this week, just a lot of talking!

Friday night was the LGBT+ meetup.  I almost didn’t go, because I was feeling pretty peopled out after all those meetings, but I’m glad I did, because it was a really fun night.  We went for dinner at Arjee Bhajee, the Indian restaurant on Riccarton Road, which I’ve often walked past but never gone to, which turned out to be really nice, and conversation ranged far and wide, from cosplay at Armageddon (the local science fiction convention) to the most ecologically sound way of disposing of a corpse.   A guy I’d met through union stuff was there, so it was good to catch up with him too (and he lives over my side of town, so gave me a lift home afterwards, which was a bonus – catching a bus on Riccarton Road on Friday night is always … interesting).

And there was more social stuff yesterday, because I’d arranged to meet Jenette for morning tea, to say goodbye before she heads back to Ireland in a few days.  Sad to see her go, but hopefully we’ll be able to stay in touch via internet (and she might get back to NZ some day – it sounds like she’s kept her options open for coming back if life leads her back in this direction).  Anyway, it was great to have one last chance to catch up in person.

I had an attempt at videoing my day yesterday daily-vlog style.  I’ve decided that attempting to keep my YouTube channel confined to a single theme was never going to work, so I’m just going to make random videos (on hopefully a reasonably regular basis) on whatever I feel like at the time.  I haven’t edited yesterday’s clips together yet, but it’s going to be an experiment in whether I can turn a relatively mundane day (housework, going to the library and supermarket, doing a bit of sewing) into something entertaining.  So that’s the plan for the rest of my morning: learning some new stuff about how the video editing software works, then see what I can apply to the random selection of clips I filmed.  The process should be interesting at least, even if I fail at making the video itself interesting (if it never appears on my channel, you’ll know why 🙂 )

So, about that slowing down

I really have been trying to take it a bit easier and look after myself, honestly!  I even took a couple of days off sick last week to get over the worst of this cold (though it’s still lingering a bit – I feel fine, but my voice is still really scratchy).  Of course, the temptation to use the long weekend achieving all the things was very strong.

After work on Thursday night I went out for dinner with the LGBT+ meetup group that I met during Pride week.  They seem to be a really friendly group of people, so I think I’ll keep going along to their meetups (once I get back from France, at least – the next couple of meetups are while I’m away).  It feels like time to start expanding my social circles again, now that I’ve stopped going to Toastmasters.

Friday I did spend reasonably quietly (enforced by the shops being shut for Good Friday) – after getting the housework out of the way, I spent most of the rest of the day just sitting outside reading.  See, resting!

Saturday, however, was a getting things done day.  First stop was the supermarket – normally I try and go on the way home from work, but having been off sick I hadn’t had a chance, so I was running out of everything.  Of course, I managed to mistime it so that I had to wait half an hour for a bus (or take a different bus and have a long walk with heavy bags at the other end, but see trying to rest as much as possible), but it was a nice day and I had a book with me, so that wasn’t too much of a hardship.  It did mean that pretty much as soon as I got home and got the groceries put away I had to dash out again, because I had a long list of things to get done in Riccarton, plus I was meeting a friend for afternoon tea.

I managed to get everything done in Riccarton with the minimum of stress (well, apart from the usual long weekend, the shops were shut yesterday so everyone’s in a panic that they’ll never be able to shop again, the mall is totally packed sort of stress, but that was to be expected).  The trickiest bit was trying to find a birthday present for Niece – I did brave a few of the terribly pink and demanding-of-gender-conformity toy aisles, and even visited that temple of tween consumerism Smiggle (where I was both disgusted and slightly impressed by the cleverness of the way they display their prices – or rather, don’t display prices for most of their stock.  None of the items have individual price tags, but are instead listed on (very small) sign boards on each shelf, making it near impossible to match an item to its price.  The only solution is to take the item up to the counter and ask for the price, which I’m sure is the downfall for many parents, because by the time you’ve got the over-priced pencil case your child is begging for to the counter, it’s going to be difficult to tell the child that no, it’s actually too expensive.  The psychology of it is brilliant.  The ethics, not so much.)  In the end, I had to retreat from all the pink glitter, and took solace in Whitcoulls, where I found a copy of Go Girl, Barbara Else’s new storybook about exceptional NZ women, which seemed a much more palatable choice of gift (to me, anyway – I suspect Niece would have preferred the pink glitter unicorns in Smiggle).

After all the shopping, I met up with Jenette at Coffee Culture for tea and cake, and lots of really interesting conversation. But why is it I always seem to make friends with people just before they leave the country? She’s moving back to Ireland in July, and seeing as I’m going to be away until May, we won’t have a lot of opportunities to catch up before she goes.  Oh well, it’s still nice to meet new and interesting people.

Dad had messaged me to say they’d be passing through Christchurch on their way south from Nelson, and that he also was on a birthday-present-buying mission, so I’d arranged to meet him at the mall once he got to Christchurch.  I’d thought I’d need to kill some time waiting, but Jenette and I had talked for so long that the timing worked out perfectly – I just had time to race in and buy myself new gymshoes and then it was time to meet Dad.  He was much more decisive than me about present-buying – we went into the kids’ clothing department at Farmers, he picked out a couple of items of the correct size off pretty much the first rack we saw, and I reckon we were out in the carpark again within about 5 minutes.  That’s the kind of shopping I aspire to!

Shopping accomplished, we picked up Stepmother and Stepsister, and (after being enthusiastically greeted by all of Stepsister’s dogs – she only has three, but somehow they always seem like a lot more than that!) we went over to a pub in St Martins for dinner.  A pleasant end to a very busy day.

Lytteltonwitch had proposed a road trip for Easter Sunday, and texted me to suggest Kaikoura.  It turned out she had an ulterior motive, because the town had recently been yarn-bombed, and she wanted to document it to send to her European yarn-bombing accomplices.  I didn’t mind though, because I haven’t been up to Kaikoura since their earthquake, and I was interested to see how things had changed, and in particular the changes to the seashore (where the seabed has been uplifted by several metres in some places). Plus our road trips are always fun, no matter the destination.

Despite there still being a lot of road works, Kaikoura was full of tourists, and seems to be well on the way to recovering from the earthquake.  The damage to the land itself is still very visible in places, with huge scars on the hills from the landslides, but the town itself doesn’t seem to be greatly changed.  The yarn bombers had been hard at work, and pretty much every post and railing (plus a park bench and a bicycle!) had been decorated, so we had a very slow walk along the main street while Lytteltonwitch took photos of them all.

In the rush to get organised to leave first thing, I’d neglected to take my big camera, so while we were wandering around the shore I was experimenting with my phone’s camera (see above). This led to experimenting with the video, which led to joking about being a vlogger now instead of a blogger.  So we proceeded to film a “totally professional” vlog, which lasted all the way back to Christchurch (and was over 2 hours long, and used up all the battery power and almost all the memory on my phone). Which I then spent most of today trying to cut down into something of a (slightly) more watchable length (ok, and playing round with adding silly title cards and stuff as well). Don’t think I’ll be giving up blogging for vlogging in a hurry (though it might be fun to try it again occasionally – I definitely learnt a lot from the process of making this one (mostly what NOT to do 🙂 )) – it takes even longer to edit a vlog than it does for me to edit all the photos for a blog entry!

For your viewing pleasure:

Sitting at a computer all day editing video counts as resting, right?

There’s pretty pictures at the end

Number one thing: I want to know whose decision it was to schedule the election for the same weekend that daylight savings starts?  Have they no sympathy for those of us who stay up half the night to watch the results, and then get an hour less to sleep in the morning?  This is nothing but cruelty.  If I make it through the day without falling asleep at my desk, I’ll be amazed.  (And I don’t even drink coffee, so I can’t go for the traditional solution 🙁 )

So yeah, the election.  Not quite the result anyone could have wished for (well, maybe with the exception of Winston Peters, who must be loving being back in such a position of power, having the whole country once again waiting for him to decide which coalition he’ll join). I got invited to the Greens’ Ilam gathering to watch the results on Saturday night (because I’d been a scrutineer for them again) – it was a pretty subdued evening, of course, but interesting discussing the results with people who know a bit more about the behind the scenes stuff.

(For those of you not in NZ, the short(ish) version of the election results is that neither major party won enough votes to form a government either on its own or with its obvious coalition partners, but NZ First, one of the minor parties, has just enough seats to push either side over the line.  But NZ First’s leader, Winston Peters, is a bit of a volatile character, so is as likely to make the decision based on who he feels has personally insulted him as on such unimportant things as policies or ideology. And last time he was in this position, in 1996, he took great pleasure in stringing everyone along for weeks while the two major parties grovelled to him.  Which means we’re probably in for more of the same this time round, while the country waits impatiently to find out who the government will be.)

Last week was a busy one. Lots of political stuff, of course, but plenty of other things as well. I took Monday morning off to be a support person at a mediation hearing for a friend who has been battling ACC (she asked me because she knew I’d been to mediation meetings when I was involved in the union, although they were quite different, being through the employment court, and with a lot more lawyers involved). I can’t go into any details about the hearing itself, because it is of course all confidential, but it was an interesting process. My role was mostly just to take notes and ask for clarification occasionally (the details of the case were very complex, and even the mediator was getting confused at times!), but my friend said she really appreciated having me there, because I could stay clear-headed and make sense of what the ACC person was saying, which she was feeling too stressed to do on her own.

There were of course a lot of politicians visiting campus last week. I didn’t have time to go and listen to all of them speak, but I did get to hear Metiria Turei talk at an event organised by the Māori Students’ Association. She was really inspiring, and seemed pretty genuine for a politician – a pity that the whole benefit fraud scandal has destroyed her political career. She spoke really openly about the scandal and her choice to go public, and said she doesn’t regret it, because it at least opened up a discussion about how we look after the most vulnerable people in our society. I can’t condemn her for her choices (either the fraud itself or in going public), but I also can’t help wishing it hadn’t damaged the Greens so badly.

On Friday I went to an apolitical (but also very political – maybe just not party political) presentation from Gen Zero about the Zero Carbon Act (NZers, if you haven’t signed the petition already, why not?). Another really inspiring talk, and great to see Gen Zero taking change into their own hands, rather than waiting on the government to get round to it (which could be a long time, depending on which way the coalition discussions go…). It was great to have a chance to catch up with Rosalee, too – she’s been doing amazing things by the sound of it, touring the Zero Carbon Act around the country.

But I did get to do some fun stuff during the week as well – I finally made it back to the craft group meetup on Thursday night (for various reasons I’ve missed the last few weeks), and then on Friday night I went round to Dana’s place to watch an anime series with her and a few other friends. I haven’t watched a lot of anime, so it took me a couple of episodes to get used to the narrative style, but once I did it was quite entertaining. We only got about a quarter of the way through the series, so I think we’ll be continuing the viewing next week.

Then on Saturday I managed to squeeze in a Bookcrossing meetup between scrutineering and going to the Greens’ event in the evening, and then I spent yesterday afternoon at the Len Lye exhibition at the Art Gallery with Harvestbird and her children. The miniest-Harvestbird had been to see the exhibition with her class, so she was very proud to be able to show us around, and tell us how the sculptures moved.

So yeah, a pretty busy week! No wonder I didn’t have time to post anything before now.

Finally, to update last weekend’s happy things:

The flowering cherry is fully in bloom, and looking amazing (ignore the state of the lawn – it rained all week, and once the sun finally came out for long enough to start drying it out, mini-Gwilk was away for the weekend so couldn’t do any mowing for me):

The apple blossom is starting to come out too:

I found the perfect frame for Yetzirah’s painting (it’s made out of recycled fence posts, which seemed apt), and hung it next to one of her very early efforts. The difference between the two is amazing when you see them like that – I hope you’re feeling suitably proud of how far you’ve progressed, Yetzirah!

And I managed to squeeze in a little sewing time, so my secret project quilt is starting to come together. You’ll have to wait until the big reveal to see the whole thing, but in the meantime, a sneak peak at a couple of the component blocks (yes, of course some cat fabric snuck in there, what else did you expect!):

Small people and musicals

I’ve been using a couple of random bits of fabric and batting as a practice quilt sandwich, for checking tension and trying out new quilting patterns before I actually start quilting something. I’d completely filled up the piece with stitching, so I was about to throw it out and replace it with some new scraps, but then I realised that it was exactly the right size to make a quilt for a doll, so I quickly put some binding on it, and presented it to the smaller mini-Harvestbird today as a consolation prize for not being able to come to a show with me and her big sister:

It’s very random – different patterns and thread colours, and lots of squiggly bits where I was trying to figure out what was wrong with the machine speed before I got it repaired) with absolutely no plan to it (not surprising, considering it was never supposed to be anything), but hopefully mini-Harvestbird’s dolls won’t be fussy 🙂

The reason I was taking the elder mini-Harvestbird to the theatre was that I got a text last night from Ade saying she’d double-booked herself, so had two tickets she couldn’t use for this afternoon’s performance of Beauty and the Beast at the local high school (not quite as horrific as it sounds, because Burnside High is known for its performing arts department, so their productions are usually pretty good), and would I like them. I said yes, and (reasoning that small children would be more interested in Beauty and the Beast than most adults I know) messaged Harvestbird to ask whether (assuming such a thing could be done without causing sibling disputes) she’d like me to take one of the girls. Luckily (?) the smaller mini-Harvestbird was sick, so the decision (and explanation to smaller mini-Harvestbird as to why she was missing out!) was pretty easy, so elder mini-Harvestbird and I spent the afternoon at the theatre.

It was actually a lot of fun – the show itself was pretty good for a high school production, even though Disney musicals aren’t exactly my thing (actually, I’ve never even seen the original movie of Beauty and the Beast (although of course I recognised about half of the songs just through how embedded in the culture they are)). What was the most fun though was seeing it through the eyes of a 6 year old. She was so excited by it all, hiding behind her hands when the Beast came out, and bouncing along in her seat to the songs, and turning to me at key plot points to whisper that I shouldn’t worry, because she knew it would have a happy ending. It was fun too seeing her learning the social conventions of theatre-going (which you forget have to be learnt), like when to clap, and she was very confused by the overture – when we were waiting before the lights went down she was exploding with impatience, and kept asking me when it would start, so I explained that everyone had to finish sitting down first, and then the doors would close, and then the lights go down and everyone would get quiet, and then it would start. When the music started and the curtains stayed closed, she turned to me and asked “why haven’t they started?” like she was being cheated – it hadn’t even occurred to me that to a child, an orchestra playing to a closed curtain wouldn’t seem much like anything had started!

Anyway, I think the show was a success. While we were waiting outside theatre afterwards for Harvestbird to come and pick us up, she chattered away to me about her favourite bits, and how she would have made the transformation of the Beast into the Prince so much better (flashing lights and smoke effects while the actor ducks down behind the scenery and removes his mask doesn’t quite measure up to the morphing that can be done in a cartoon, apparently 🙂 ), and how much she was looking forward to getting home and telling everyone all about it.

It’s been a pretty social week all round, actually. On Thursday night I hosted the craft meetup (it normally rotates round a few different people’s places, interspersed with meeting in bars, so I put up my hand last time the organiser was planning the venues for the next few weeks). I think 8 people turned up – if there’d been any more it might have been a struggle to squeeze them all into the lounge, so that was a nice number. The evening went really well, and I even managed to get a bit of sewing done (putting the binding on the doll’s quilt, actually) in between making people cups of tea and passing around cake. Plus it was nice not to have to venture out into the horrible weather myself, so I think I’ll offer to be put into the regular rotation of venues.

Talking of craft meetups, I forgot to post a picture of the insects embroidery I’d been working on at the meetups, which I finally finished last week:

As always seems to be the case with me and embroidery projects, I’ve got no idea what I’m going to do with it now that it’s finished. Maybe I should do another giveaway – if you want it, let me know!

This month is Diversity Fest at the university, with all sorts of talks and other events themed around various forms of diversity. Last night I went to a screening of Intersexion, a documentary about intersex people, followed by a panel discussion. The film was really interesting – though horrifying to hear the experiences of people who whose genitals were mutilated in childhood without their consent, all in the name of making them “normal”, and the effects that has had on them in adulthood. And even worse to learn that this is still happening to many intersex babies born today 🙁 The discussion afterwards was great too – the panel was made up of an intersex person, a non-binary person from Qtopia (the student/youth LGBTI+ group that was hosting the event), and a gender studies/cultural studies lecturer, plus there were some really insightful questions and comments from the audience.

And finally, a video. Ages ago (the day I submitted my thesis, actually), I, along with several other students, was asked by the Head of the Linguistics Department if I’d be a talking head for a promotional campaign they’re doing for the department. So of course I said yes, and was interviewed, and then completely forgot about it, until this week when the videos went onto YouTube, and I get to see how badly I stumbled through describing my research (actually, they’ve done a good job of editing it together in a way that almost sounds like I know what I’m talking about!)

Ok, let’s see if I can get this embed code to work…

Pineapples and ping pong

This has been turning out to be quite a busy week.  On Thursday evening I went to a craft meetup, one of the many things on my “when the thesis is finished” list.  It’s quite a cool group, pretty diverse in ages, if not genders, and a reasonable range of crafts, although of course heavily weighted towards the portable, like knitting and crochet.  They meet once a week, usually in a bar, and have a drink and a chat while working on their projects.  Last time I’d gone to the meetup had been in the middle of my thesis, when I wasn’t working on anything except the thesis, so I hadn’t taken a project, just sat and chatted and admired everyone else’s work.  But this time I was determined to take something I could work on.

As I couldn’t exactly lug my sewing machine and giant quilt along, I thought about taking a cross-stitch project, but it’s been so long since I worked on any of them it would have taken me all night just to figure out where I was up to, so I rummaged around in the study until I found a ball of wool (except it’s actually cotton) that Jenny had given me when she left, and found a crochet hook, and asked one of the crocheting women to refresh my memory on how to crochet (which I haven’t done since I was at high school, and wasn’t all that good at it then).

My aim is to make a dishcloth – I was given a crocheted dishcloth a couple of years ago (I think in a secret santa thing?), and after many washings it’s finally wearing out and developing big holes.  So I thought I’d have a go at making myself a new one, and with a bit of help (and a lot of “what on earth have you managed to do here?”, and “are you sure you’re right handed?”) from my instructor, I made what I think is good progress:

My technique is a long way from ideal (I’m sure I need at least two more hands!), and my tension is all over the place, but who cares – it’s going in the sink, it doesn’t have to be perfect 🙂  And at least it’ll be the most colourful dishcloth ever, even if it isn’t the prettiest (actually, that multi-coloured wool is horrible to use – it’s so hard to see what you’re doing!  I just picked it out of the stash because I knew it was cotton, so would work for a dishcloth, and I thought the colours would be nice and bright – I didn’t think about the practicalities of being able to see where the stitches are…)

Then last night I met Lytteltonwitch after work and we went to the Noodle Markets in Hagley Park (after a very long walk around the park, because they had it in a different place to last year, and neither of us had thought to look up where exactly it was (and Hagley Park is HUGE – it’s about a kilometre across North Hagley alone)).  The market was much better organised than last year, and only a couple of the stalls had the ridiculously long queues of last year.  Most of the stalls were concentrating on just a couple of dishes and were just churning them out rather than making to order, which really sped things up, and there were no signs of any of them running out of food like they did last year.

We shared dishes from a few different stalls at random, wanting to try as many different dishes as possible.  Then we saw people walking around with barbequed meat on skewers that looked particularly tasty, so we followed the trail of people back to the source, which turned out to be one of the stalls with the longest queues.  So I volunteered to stand in that queue and get us some skewers, while Lytteltonwitch went in search of the other thing we’d seen people walking around with – drinks served in pineapples (yes, actual pineapples, hollowed out and with a straw and an umbrella stuck in them – we decided that it didn’t matter what the drink contained in them was, we wanted one!).

Although my queue was long, it moved relatively quickly (they had an amazing production line going on with the skewers, with a huge line of barbeques grilling the meat), and we were entertained as we waited by passing dragon dancers (and by a sudden shower of rain – luckily, I happened to have a small fold-up umbrella in my bag, so I and my queue neighbours were able to shelter under it).  When I finally got to the front of the queue and got some skewers, there was still no sign of Lytteltonwitch.  So I headed in the direction of the pineapple drink stand, and found her still in the queue, which was almost as long as the skewers one, but much slower moving.  I was able to pass a skewer over to her to give her sustenance while she waited, at least.  The drinks, once she finally got them, were really good – a kind of mango smoothie, with a tonne of fruit in them, and garnished with slices of pineapple and orange.  Definitely worth the wait, and seriously filling – we didn’t bother going to any more stalls after that!  Using pineapples for cups worked really well with the eco emphasis of the festival (all the plates and cutlery were compostable, to minimise waste), and they were great marketing for the stall – as we wandered around we were asked by several people where we’d got our drinks, and even though we told them how long the queue was, they all raced immediately over there.

Walking back to the bus exchange, we passed a new addition Gapfiller has made to Re:Start – three table tennis tables, with bats and balls that you can borrow for a game.  Neither of us had played table tennis since high school PE classes, but we decided to have a go anyway, and spent a very giggly half an hour occasionally playing but mostly chasing down rogue balls – we decided we really should rename the game “off-table tennis”. There’s signs on the tables saying you must stop play when a tram passes, and I can see why, considering the number of times we had to retrieve the ball from the tram tracks!  We couldn’t quite remember the scoring rules, so no idea who won, but we had a lot of fun 🙂   A couple of young men stopped to watch (they were very polite and didn’t laugh too loudly), so after a while we surrendered the table to them so they could play a proper game.  Definitely a fun way to finish off the evening!

Then this morning I went to another meetup, this time with the Christchurch Bloggers group.  The group kind of fell apart a couple of years ago, when Miriam, one of the main organisers, moved to Australia.  But she’s back, and decided to reinstate the meetups, so we met for breakfast at C1 this morning.  It was great to catch up again with them, and the conversation ranged far and wide.  Hopefully this will be the start of more regular meetups again.

I’m turning into such a social butterfly lately!  (Though mostly just because I feel like I need to make up for lost time, after having pretty much ignored everyone for so long)

March Meetup

Had our second meetup of the newly-revived Christchurch Bookcrossing meetups this morning, and yet again we had new people turn up: NiceOrc (whose name I vaguely remembered from years ago) and her daughter. Plus Chuckacraft, who was there last month, came back, so it’s feeling like we’ve got the beginnings of a viable Christchurch meetup group again. We’ve decided to try a new venue though – although Addington Coffee Co-op has great food and atmosphere, it’s too popular – it’s incredibly busy on weekend mornings, so we struggled to find a table big enough to hold us all (and they don’t take reservations). The plan is to try out Beat Street Cafe next time, which apparently doesn’t get busy until nearer lunchtime, so we should be able to snag a decent sized table for brunch.

I was running a bit late this morning, so didn’t have time to dig out many books to take to the meetup, just Conrad’s Fate by Diana Wynne Jones, The Heart of the Country by Fay Weldon, and The Sandman: The Wake by Neil Gaiman. And of course, ended up bringing home as many as I’d released: The Gift by James Patterson, Bonkers by Michelle Holman, and Gringo Soup by JB Aspinall (well, I had to encourage the new people by making sure they’d get catches on their books, didn’t I? (ok, so maybe that doesn’t explain why I picked up one of Lytteltonwitch’s books…))

Calling Dunedin bookcrossers

Got a phone call out of the blue last night from a former Dunedin bookcrosser, Simon.  I didn’t even remember who he was when he introduced himself (and I still can’t remember what his screenname was), but eventually a vague memory formed of a pleasant but shy young man who I’d met a few times when I’d been down there for meetups or conventions.

He said he’s been in Waikari Hospital for the last three years.  I didn’t ask why, but I got the impression it was pretty serious – it sounded like he’s been pretty much incommunicado from the world for that time, but is starting to recover now and has been trying to reach out to old friends.  He said he’s basically going through his phone and calling people whose names he still recognised (I was surprised my number was one of them, but I remember being at a Dunedin meetup once when someone had a new phone and we were all being silly texting each other around the table, so he must have still had my number on his phone from then).

It was a bit of an awkward conversation, given that I was trying for most of it to remember exactly who he was, and he was obviously equally struggling to place me (he said the drugs he’s been on have damaged his memory), but he seemed really pleased to have made contact with someone who remembered him, however vaguely. Sounds like he’s feeling pretty lonely.

I don’t know if any of the old Dunedin crowd still read this, but if you do, and if you remember Simon and want to reach out to him and show him a bit of friendship, send me a PM and I’ll give you his phone number.  He said he doesn’t have email set up yet, but is hoping to do so soon.

Busy busy busy

I really will get round to posting the rest of my travel journal entries, but life is kind of busy at the moment.  Work is hotting up as we get closer to our big launch, and study takes up most of my free time.  And this week I seem to suddenly have a social life – as well as last night’s meetup, I’ve been invited to Jenny’s book launch tonight and another colleague’s birthday party tomorrow night.  Add to that ESOL tutoring on Monday night, and working late on Tuesday, and it’s amazing MrPloppy even remembers who I am, he sees so little of me!

Anyway, a good meetup last night, with a full table – I think almost all the regulars were there.  I released a few books (The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander, The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer), registered a few more (because one of the non-bookcrossing partners who often joins us had brought them along unregistered, so as I happened to have some pre-nums on me labelled them up for her), and despite my best efforts ended up taking a pile home – only for release, though, not to add to Mt TBR (which is still totteringly high after Dublin), because they were left on the table at the end of the meetup, and there were too many to just leave in the restaurant.

Currently reading:

  • Real book: Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
  • E-book: Orange as Marmalade by Fran Stewart
  • Audiobook: Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk
  • Study: Bickel, B., & Nichols, J. (2009). Case Marking and Alignment. In A. Malchukov & A. Spencer (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of case (pp. 304-321). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

From my travel journal: Saturday, 24 March 2012, 10 am: Sydney

First (small) leg successfully accomplished. The 3 am start to be at the airport by 4.30 for a 7 am flight wasn’t fun (although the kittens approved greatly of their breakfast being served so early), but I had adrenaline to carry me through (and MrPloppy had the anticipation of going home and back to bed once he’d waved me off). I thought I’d get some sleep on the flight over, but of course I was wide awake by the time I got on the plane, and didn’t start feeling sleepy until we were only half an hour out of Sydney, by which time it was too late.

Anyway, an uneventful flight, and then the novelty of going through customs with only a day bag (my suitcase is checked through to Heathrow (which technically means I shouldn’t have left the airport, but nobody officially told me that, or asked any questions, so I’m playing dumb 🙂 )) – it definitely speeds the process up!

Caught a train into Circular Quay, where a giant cruise ship is doing its best to make the harbour bridge look small.

In half an hour or so I’ll be meeting up with the Sydney bookcrossers for brunch, but for now I’m just enjoying the sunshine and fresh air (well, fresh compared to aeroplane air, anyway).

2.50 pm, back at Sydney airport.

Managed to get into the city ok, and met up with awaywithfairies, goodthinkingmax, Littlemave and xoddam for a very chocolaty brunch at the Guylian cafe. It was wonderful to catch up with them all (and meet xoddam, who I don’t think I’ve ever run into at any conventions). Littlemave showed me photos of her children, who have all grown up way too much (anyone would think it’s 6 or 7 years since I last saw them! (lytteltonwitch, remember that tiny boy who served us “sausage cappuccinos”? He’s now a gigantic teenager!))

I released a book in the cafe (chocolate themed, of course), and passed on a couple more to awaywithfairies and goodthinkingmax, and released two more on Circular Quay as we walked back to the station, so my bag is a bit lighter now.

Back at the airport, I fell foul of security by having a tube of toothpaste a whole 10 g over the allowed size (which NZ security had let through, so either the limits are different here, or NZ is just more relaxed about enforcing them (or, now that I think about it, maybe NZ security people understand physics better, as the limits are expressed in millilitres, but the toothpaste was labelled in grams. And ml = g only for water, not for denser substances like toothpaste. So the volume of my toothpaste was probably well under the limit… Yeah, probably wouldn’t have done me much good to argue that point with a security goon though.)), and then I compounded my sin by having forgotten about the bottle of water I’d bought while wandering around the waterfront. So both went in the bin. I don’t know if it was because of that, or just the luck of the draw, but then I was pulled aside to be frisked for explosives (which took forever, because they had to wait for a female officer to turn up). Oh well, it’s all part of the adventure of travelling these days…

I think the one in the middle is my plane

Somewhere over Australia

Actually, I know exactly where over Australia – we just flew over Orange (where I saw the most enormous open-cast mine), heading right across the centre. Ethiad has much better in-flight screen things than Air New Zealand – you can actually pick which maps etc you want to look at, rather than have them automatically cycle through (which always seems to show exactly the wrong information and by the time you wait for it to cycle through to the one you want, you’ve passed whatever it was you were wanting to see anyway…)

I think this is the first time I’ve flown across the middle of Australia – every other time I’ve flown along the southern bit to Perth. And best of all, we’re flying across in daylight, so I get to see everything (yeah, I know it’s a desert, but there’s still stuff to see!)

This is the longest leg of the journey – just over 13 hours. I’m trying to work out when will be the best bit of it to sleep through, but the trouble is, I think the times that would be the best in terms of beating jet-lag will coincide with flying over the interesting bits of the map (i.e. the landy bits), and my curiosity (some might say nosiness) generally wins out over sleepiness – there’s no way I’ll sleep when I might be missing something interesting! (and there in a nutshell you have the explanation for my habitual insomnia!)

But if I’ve figured out the time zones correctly, at some point nightfall has got to catch up with us, so hopefully darkness (= nothing to see outside) will inspire me to sleep. None of the movies on offer are at all tempting, so that should help too.

Ooh, looks like they’re serving food soon. Good, because although I’ve changed my watch to Abu Dhabi time (I always change my watch as soon as I get on a flight – another little way to trick my brain into forgetting what time it is at home and therefore hopefully reducing the jet lag), my body clock is still telling me that somewhere in the world it’s time to eat. Right, I’ve got about 10 rows to decide: chicken or lamb?

Some time later

(I chose lamb, and it was good).

Australia is big. We’ve been in the air for nearly two hours, and we’re only about a quarter of the way across.

I think we passed over one of the flooded areas – it certainly looked like there was a lot more water around than I’d expect for a mostly dry country, and the rivers had that look of being outside their normal banks. We’re over the desert now according to the map, but it’s surprisingly green – sort of a red and green patchiness, really.

The countryside is striated, with long ridges running in parallel off into the distance, which confused me (because they look so much like the ripples left a beach by the retreating tide) until I clicked that a huge mostly flat country must have a lot of wind shaping it. (I would have photos to illustrate, but (a) my camera is in the overhead locker and I can’t be bothered clambering over my seat-mate to reach it, and (b) I’ve never mastered the art of taking photos out of plane windows – they always turn out disappointing. So you’ll just have to use your imagination.)

Time to catch up

I know I’ve been quiet again, but I’ve got the usual excuse of being too busy with work and study to feel like sitting down in front of a computer when I get home. But I need a break from the long and tedious task I’ve been doing all day, so rather than mindlessly browsing the web I’ll spend a few minutes catching up here.

The last couple of weeks have been pretty socially busy as well. The weekend before last Mum came up for a couple of days for the flower show. It was great to see her (of course, I have to say that, seeing as I know she’s reading this ;-)), and we managed to fit in a bit of fun as well as long talks about the latest annoyances caused by some of our least favourite branches of the extended post-nuclear family. We even managed a shopping trip! (Well, sort of – we went to Riccarton in search of clothes but gave up and went to Browsers for morning tea instead).

Mum’s visit coincided with a wee party Jenny and I co-hosted – she was the original host, having planned to have a party at her place, but nowadays Sumner is such a slog to get to over the bad roads that nobody was particularly keen. So I offered to have it at our house instead. Christian and Douglas took over the kitchen and cooked pizzas, so all I had to do was sit back and enjoy the evening. It was all work people, so of course the conversation was lively, but we also managed to fit in a game of ‘Apples to Apples’, which was the source of much hilarity. A great night, and nice to be able to introduce Mum to some of my friends and colleagues.

On Monday night I finally caught up with my ESOL student for a lesson, after a long hiatus while she had visitors and other disruptions to our schedule. Her daughter now has her drivers license, so they both come round to my place now rather than me having to battle the buses out to Bishopdale. Having her daughter there as well means our lessons generally end up more about just having a chat over a cup of tea than formal lessons, but it’s all good language practice 🙂 We’ve got another lesson tonight, so at least I’ll be able to give her some reading to do while I’m away.

Wednesday was our Bookcrossing meetup (yes, after 9 years of Tuesday nights we’ve changed the day), which was reasonably well attended. After an initial mixup with the table it was an enjoyable evening, with the usual piles of books being passed around, and trying new and exciting dishes.

Saturday I spent out at Little River at Helen 3’s St Patrick’s Day/wedding anniversary party. I got a lift out with La Presidenta and family, and it was an enjoyable afternoon sitting in the sun, even if I did spend the odd moment feeling guilty about the reading I should be doing for this weeks’ lecture. Got to catch up with a few old union contacts, and also to feel reassured that I made the right decision in dropping the union work for this year – it was nice to hear about all the problems and chaos without feeling obliged to do anything about them.

Then yesterday I met Otakuu in town so we could take advantage of the last chance to walk into the Square and see the cathedral, which is to be demolished. The wizard was there collecting signatures for his save the cathedral petition, but I didn’t sign it. Much as I regret the loss of the cathedral, the damage has got so bad that it’s pretty obvious even to the untrained eye that it could collapse completely any day now, so I really don’t think there’s any choice but to demolish it. It doesn’t look that bad at first glance, but then you look more closely and see how many of the walls and buttresses are leaning over, and how the stones have shifted, and it’s amazing it’s still standing at all. (I’ll add photos later).

And I think that’s the prevailing view across Christchurch, really – I certainly couldn’t see much sign of the outpouring of grief over the cathedral that the Press had been talking about. There was a crowd, but the atmosphere was pretty cheerful – I got the feeling most people were (like me) just there to have one last look rather than to mourn. It was quite a contrast to the last time they opened up the walkway, when the mood was so much more sombre and respectful. Maybe it’s just that we’ve lost so much of the city now that it’s hard to get too emotional about losing yet another building, even if it is one that’s so iconic.

It’s about time for a catch report:

And in other news, five more sleeps!!!