In which her garden makes her some food
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
This is about to make it sound like I'm a gardener. I'm not a gardener, I just suffer from an abundance of space so I put things in the ground and water them maybe once if they're lucky, and some of them die and some of them sit there resentfully and some of them make me free food and some of them make me free food and then make more of themselves. I call this "Darwinian gardening".


Silverbeet: I hope you like silverbeet because you're going to be seeing a lot of me around.

Asparagus: Eat me!

Spring onions: o/~ You cut me down, I spring up again, you're never gonna get me down o/~

Button mushroom: Surprise, I'm a mushroom!

Poppies: We resemble that scene in the Wizard of Oz.

Strawberries: Hi I made you a strawberries.

Silverbeet: What colour do you like do you like green or yellow or red or pink or orange or pale green or more red or-- No, can't do silver, how about orange or green or dark green or--

Pumpkin: I have huge flowers.

Bok choy: Slugs enjoy me.

Lettuce: Earwigs are my friends.

Poppies: Here have more seeds than you could ever use in muffins in a year.

Strawberries: More strawberries?

Celery: I will take two years to grow and taste terrible but it's the thought that counts, right?

Silverbeet: Or yellow-green or red-orange or orange-pink or green-red or--

Pumpkin: So many flowers.

Raspberries: Ugh, here are 14 raspberries I suppose.

Plums: Are you ready for plums? WHOOMPH!

Strawberries: Hi again it's me, strawberries.

Zucchinis: Would you like a zucchini? Haha it's a marrow now. Enjoy your four marrows while I grow more marrows.

Mandarin tree: You grew me from a seed from a supermarket mandarin, what did you expect, flowers?

Lemon tree: All my flowers fell off.

Strawberries: Look here are more strawberries.

Silverbeet: I'm going to spend three months slowly going to seed now.

Pumpkin: All the flowers.

Grapes: Btw I decided to make grapes two months early this year, you probably didn't notice them hidden under the leaves. Oh look the birds ate them all, what're you gonna do.

Yellow zucchinis: Would you like a tiny yellow zucchini or shall I just shrivel up, yeah I think I'll do that.

Pumpkin: I guess I can make one pumpkin. Also more flowers!

Mystery cucurbit: Spherical cucumber, spherical pumpkin, who knows? The important thing is that I'm really big!

Peaches: Hey the peaches are ripe now, also turning mouldy, why didn't you pick them in the three seconds they were perfect?

Lettuce: I'm going to look like a dandelion as I go to seed.

Bok choy: I'm going to emit a secret call to aphids worldwide to come and swarm my seed pods.

Silverbeet: I've made a million seeds and every single one of them will be a new silverbeet, I think you'll enjoy their colours.

Strawberries: Continuing to grow strawberries.

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In which she deconstructs a keyboard
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
This was broken in half and abandoned on the footpath, keys scattered, and I was curious. So I took it home and finished pulling (/unscrewing) it apart.

Keyboard deconstructed

The keys clip in so are easy to pull out. Behind each one is a plastic doodacky that compresses for smooth typing, but presses down on the circuit sheets. There are three of these: the outer two have lines and junctions, the middle one keeps them apart but has holes in so when the key comes down, it presses the junction on top against the junction below. A circuit is thereby completed with the circuit board in the top-right corner. This consists of four capacitors, three LEDs (for num lock, shift lock, and scroll lock), and on the other side lots of etched circuitry, an area where the USB cord connection's been ripped away, and a black splodge which covers the microchip which makes it work.

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In which she re-upholsters a stool
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
I originally made this stool in woodwork class about 26 years ago. I got the fabric from Mum, and I remember her pointing out ruefully that I used the wrong side of it. I disagreed: whatever the manufacturer had intended, I much preferred it this way out.

26 years later the fabric has faded and worn and frayed. And then it got in the way of my cat dealing with an upset stomach and I tried cleaning it, but well. So before I went to shop for new fabric I asked Mum if, by any chance, she still had any of that fabric.

My family is a family of hoarders. I really shouldn't have doubted.

So I unscrewed the base, pried out the staples holding the old fabric on, and on my next visit to my parents used Dad's staplegun to affix the new fabric. (I even managed to ward off Dad's attempts to Help. It wasn't that hard.) Then just put the screws back in.

Not that hard, but stunning results:
Stool upholstered in blue/green/yellow maybe-damask-like pattern or something, I don't really know fabrics
Pictured is the stool with its new fabric, and on the left the faded old fabric for comparison (its corner turned over to show the "correct" side). That should do me for another quarter century, and there's still plenty of fabric left over for when that time comes.

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In which five years
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
White lilies are blooming and peaches are ripening. Road cones sprout their own flowers.

This is a few days late because I've been debating whether to write it or not because on the one hand, it's been five years; and on the other hand, it's been five years.

Quick refresher:

  • "September": 4:35am Sunday 4th September 2010: 7.1 - you'll note I don't even count from here

  • "Boxing Day": morning of Boxing Day 2010

  • "February": 12:51pm Tuesday 22nd February 2011: 6.3; killed 185 people

  • "June": two big ones an hour apart in June 2011, both 6s I think

  • 23rd December 2011

  • "Valentine's Day": 14 February 2016: 5.7


And 14000 others in between. (Animated map; may hang for a while before the big events, just wait for it.) These above are just the ones with their own names, the ones people still share stories about: Where were you when?

(Rolling out of bed. Watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special. Holding onto the desk legs at work. In a temporary workplace, and then in a colleague's car as she drove me home. Shopping near my motel while my house was being repaired. Clinging to my kitchen/lounge doorway shouting "Not again, no, no, no!")

There's another Doctor Who episode, the Fires of Pompeii, where the Doctor and Donna visit Pompeii pre-eruption. And we see an earthquake hit and the inhabitants with a quick but practised air grab their breakables to prevent them toppling off shelves. The more earthquakes I go through the more I think... yeah I see what they're trying to show us (earthquakes as normal daily life) but they're showing it wrong. I mean, the only way I'm going to save a breakable in an earthquake is if it's already in my hands (eg my laptop) and even then odds are 50:50 I'd dump it on the way to shelter and worry about it afterwards. (Literally I don't know: I consistently have brief discontinuities in my memory between being aware it's a big one and being aware I've taken shelter. Not like gaps, more like blinking. But in that moment, there's no reasoning.) So if earthquakes in Pompeii happen that often, at similar magnitudes, then:

  • all the breakables would be broken by now, because earthquakes will strike when no-one's around to catch them

  • remaining precious breakables would be stored on the ground, or in a secure cabinet, or glued or otherwise fastened down

  • SOP would be: quake -> duck into shelter -> quake dies down -> check everyone's okay -> "Tertia, sweep up that amphora, and send Marcus to the forum to buy a new one, and tell him to tie it down properly this time." -> check everyone's okay again

  • for a smaller quake nothing will fall over, you don't worry about shelter, and after a brief pause to make sure it's not ramping up to something bigger you finish your sentence.



This is what adrenaline does to me:

  • 30 seconds of terror

  • an hour of shaking

  • some hours of being fine except I do wish I didn't have to hear the helicopters flying overhead

  • evening, and exhaustion hits

  • next morning I'm fine, and then on the bus to work I see a billboard advertising gym membership ('Get your heart rate up!') and want to burst into tears and spend the rest of the day just waiting to go home

  • some days of swaying back and forth between fine and an aching despair and a desperate fury at our government who assure us the country is right behind us, while simultaneously cutting our mental health funding again

  • life resumes (rage at the government may continue)

  • occasional random moments of sudden: An earthquake could strike now. Deep breaths.



Status of the recovery as it affects me:

  • My third claim got "not covered" and "pre-existing" right down the list. When signing off on this I wrote in that such-and-such was not pre-existing but if they weren't going to cover it then fine, see if I cared. I also forgot to show them the cracks in the slop with which they filled the cracks in the foundations on claims #1/#2. I don't feel that remembering would have much advantaged me.

  • There has been no progress since last anniversary towards completion of the finishing work on the gas fire surround.

  • My books therefore remain almost all still in boxes.

  • The next door property continues wilderness.

  • One of my bus routes is still-again detouring. Most routes have some temporary detour at any given time; this is a semi-permanent / semi-regular detour. Separately, it's also got a detour which is going to become permanent.

  • The CBD is making really good progress. Art gallery has reopened; new business buildings, new shops, lots of street art. In Sydenham, the convenience store operating out of a shipping container now has an actual building. (This was disconcerting.)

  • My workplace is still to finalise its insurance claim.

  • My church is raising funds for a new building(s); in the meantime visiting with another congregation/denomination nearby.

  • In a fire drill, I grab my bag and then head for the door: no trust that I'll be allowed back in afterwards. I no longer have to take my bag everywhere with me otherwise though. But I still leave my laptop under shelter when I go to bed, and I keep my cellphone charged.



Five years is a strangely long, strangely short time.

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Favourite short stories for January
books, read
zeborahnz

Ghost Night by Dani Atkinson

Urban fantasy where the fantasy is, in the author's words, 'commonplace enough to make the weather report'. I have to say, the warding precautions are so complex I honestly think the authorities have a point saying '...Actually just don't even try.' Though I also see the point that people will be desperate enough. So, probably there should be licensed practitioners or something.



It Brought Us All Together, by Marissa Lingen

(A reread as I perform browser-tab maintenance.) This is about grief and reminds me a lot about the earthquakes even though it's nothing to do with that.



So Much Cooking by Naomi Kritzer

Food blog + bird flu pandemic = all of the earthquake feels that got missed out by the previous story.



Yuanyuan’s Bubbles by Liu Cixin

The utility of beauty: blowing soap bubbles as climate change-induced drought threatens a city.



Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker

This was sweetly sad (reminding me of the recent Dutch documentary about a care-bot prototype being alpha-tested) and then I reached the last line and the only thing that stopped me bawling my eyes out was that I was visiting family and I didn't feel like explaining.



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Favourite short stories for December
books, read
zeborahnz
I thought I had more than this but in the rush of December either I didn't read as much as I thought or I lost my other review(s). Anyway I have at least:

First Draft of the Revolution, by Emily Short (commissioned, designed and coded by Liza Daly and completed by Inkle)

An interactive epistolary novel set in a pre-revolutionary magical France. A must-read just for the form; but the story is satisfying, and there are all sorts of delightful tendrils of creepiness that linger in the mind afterwards.



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Favourite short stories for November
books, read
zeborahnz

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers, by Alyssa Wong

Starts with the classic 'Creepy dude preying on women is fallen on by his intended prey' but then it continues and is creepy awesome.



Needle on Bone, by Helena Bell

I didn't at the start understand why the narrator's equating their lover with the aliens, but by the end: yes. Yes, and so poignantly.



Cradle, by Tom Jolly

Why do wildly different aliens so often subsist in such similar atmospheres to our own? That's not the point of this story, but it has an implicit answer to it anyway.



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In which three trivially amazing things happen
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
I detoured on my long commute home to the doctor's to pick up a script, except I forgot they close at 6pm instead of 7pm on a Friday. So to lift my spirits in preparation to resume the arduous journey, I stopped at a cafe, and while I was paying for my cheese scroll my old church minister came in (and it's just a couple of days before she's heading overseas for three months at that) and we had a quick catch up. And I know, Christchurch is a small world, and I know, statistics, but there's still something about these incidents: that today was the day I went to the doctor's, that I happened to work late, that I just missed a connection, that I decided on food, and decided on that cafe in particular, and meanwhile she had her own series of incidents leading her there. It's just kind of amazing that our life is made up of a series of incidents, even if that's kind of the definition of life.

Also, nearly home now, the bus shelter had a box full of books (and photo frames and crockery and VHS tapes) someone was sharing with the world. I grabbed a couple of Nancy Drews because I never read them when I was a girl and I feel like I should have instead of or at least as well as all the boy-protag equivalents. And then I was thinking how no-one used to do this - leave boxes of books at the bus shelter - until I did it with a box of BookCrossing books a while after the quakes. And if this is the legacy I leave to the world, it's not a terrible one.

And also, for anyone not on Twitter or who missed it there, I'm crowdsourcing some data collection for a research project into open access and conference papers. (It basically involves googling for 2000 conferences. A couple is somewhat fun, twenty is doable, 200 is a nightmare, 2000 is a half-year's RSI-inducing work. So ideally I'd get a thousand people to do a couple each.) A bunch of people retweeted and a couple did a couple, but then tonight I noticed a good colleague-friend had done a whole pile. So I'm still going to have to be obnoxious in prodding all my acquaintance (prod, prod) but I think it will validate my decision to go this way instead of to give up and work with a less ambitious dataset. And it is going to be an awesome dataset.

(Oh by the way apropos of nothing, does anyone want to spend 10 minutes googling to Do Great Science?)

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In which she is awesome and would like to know how you are awesome today
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
I go through phases. There are Reading All the Things phases, and Writing Every Spare Half Minute phases, and Sewing Sewing Sewing phases and Teaching Myself Latin Yes Again I'm Using A Different Textbook This Time phases.

I recently found myself in a lull between phases but it's important for me to keep achieving things or I start feeling guilty for being useless and then I get the blahs. I find it easier to prevent the blahs than to get out of the blahs so try to pay attention when I feel the urge to sit on my couch and read fanfic for too many days on end. Fortunately they don't need to be spectacular achievements: doing the dishes often works.

This most recent lull has lasted longer than usual though so although I've read/written/coded almost nothing in my spare time for weeks, I have:

  • cleaned and tidied like my entire house. Not actually my entire house, the spare room is turning into storage and there are Certain Cupboards, but definitely like my entire house. (Much of this was achieved while watching Star Trek Next Generation on the laptop or I'd have been super bored.) The floor is cleared and cleaned! Mopped even!

  • done so much gardening. Spring is awesome, you put seeds in the ground and they start growing food! (I have asparagus and lettuce and celery and silver beet and spring onions, and am working on courgettes and pumpkins and tomatoes and bok choy and lemons and strawberries.) On the downside, other things propagate themselves by root and next minute you've got a forest of plum shoots and ivy. Over the last couple of weekends I've been sawing down and rooting up eight years' worth of plum-and-ivy growth. The ivy goes into the green bin to be dealt with Elsewhere, the plum growth gets cut up to as much as possible go back on the garden. The parts I've achieved look awesomely tidy!

  • sewed the handle for a carrybag back on! This is an awesome grocery shopping-sized rugged zebra-pattern bag which I've had for ages and the handles broke once but Mum fixed them, and then I carried too much in it and it's been sitting around broken for possibly years and now I can use it again!

  • started going to a regular "speaking Māori" date with some once-strangers! My first week I started off all "What is kupu how do I reo???" and then after an hour I was talking to them about my Master of Library Studies research project. Really badly but communication was happening! Similarly today actually (ended up talking about my current research into open access and conference papers). I need to learn more kupu. Also more grammar but especially more kupu. I might start writing a diary.

  • invented a dessert. I'm working on the name but something like "Jellytip slice" / "Jellytip cupcakes". First you make a base out of biscuit crumbs and butter. Cool it. Separately make jelly but with half the water, and cool that until it's starting to set. If you don't cool it enough then when you pour the jelly on top of the base, the jelly will sink in and the biscuit will float up and it'll still be delicious but it won't be what you wanted. Then you put them back in the fridge. When completely set, you melt chocolate and spoon a thin layer on top of the jelly. This is the part I was most nervous of failing but it's really easy; don't dawdle about smoothing it out but you're not really on the clock even. Then back in the fridge until dessert time. Cut up / remove from muffin cups and serve with vanilla icecream. My friends approved of it last night. Their 4.5 year old son refused to eat anything but the icecream but that's normal for him and meant more for us.


I am now about to go to bed on time so while I'm sleeping it's your turn: in what way have you been awesome recently?

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Favourite short stories for October
books, read
zeborahnz

“Swan Lake for Beginners” - by Heather O’Neill

A sweetly absurd tale about cloning ballet dancers.


Variations on an Apple - by Yoon Ha Lee

The Apple of Discord, alternate timestreams, and a city.



These two go together:

eyes I dare not meet in dreams - by Sunny Moraine

About the fridging of women, and a resistance to it, and does it make any difference?


Let's Tell Stories of the Deaths of Children - by Margaret Ronald

On the fridging of children. And the forgetting of old goddesses. And temptation and the lies that support it.



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