In which she has a timely idea
New Zealand zebra, NZ
A friend and I were discussing things a week ago and this concept popped into my head of a time capsule website, where you could read something written by someone a {time period} ago and write something of your own for a stranger a {time period} in the future.

I like this idea, and I could make the technical side of this idea happen; what I'm wondering is whether enough other people like this idea that it'd be worth me spending the time on it. So this post is that question.

How it'd work
For the first year after launch, it'd be seeded with diary material that's in the public domain, because otherwise it'd be boring. So you'd arrive on this page and it'd say "100 years ago today, someone wrote: {random diary entry}".

Then below this would be a box asking you to write about something that you think will be forgotten in a year's time. (Or some other prompt, or a choice of prompts.)

You'd type stuff in the box.

There would be metadata, with explanations why each is necessary. Definitely:
  • a timestamp, autogenerated. (Needed so it can be retrieved at the appropriate point in the future.)
  • language, to allow for multilingual capability
and I think demographic metadata (for purposes of "Am I getting sufficiently diverse submissions or do I need to reach out to other audiences?" and potentially for research/historical value, see below on human ethics discussion):
  • a city- or country-level location, guesstimated by computer but correctable. (Plus because it might be cool to give future-people the entry closest to their location.)
  • gender? age? ethnicity? sexuality? religion? I don't know, what would be useful/appropriate/intrusive? Anyway they'd all default to unspecified, and have a dropdown menu with options including a "write-in" option that'd pop up a box (whose contents would be added to the drop-down menu for future visitors)
And then before you hit the 'submit' button there'd be a permissions section (here's my attempt at being a good human ethicist), telling people that:
  • linky link to privacy policy, which will be:
    • I'll keep their submission as private as I can but NSA and warrants exist
    • the text only (no demographic metadata) will be displayed to someone in one year's time and potentially at other intervals thereafter (eg ten years, a hundred years (I can dream big))
    • I may publish aggregated demographic data but it won't link in any way to the entries
  • in the event that I can no longer maintain the website they can choose whether I will:
    • delete all their data
    • include their entry, but not the demographic metadata, in a bundle licensed CC-Zero and posted to figshare for the benefit of researchers and other interested parties
    • include their entry *with* the demographic metadata in said bundle
In a year's time, visitors would start seeing these user-submitted entries.

Important enhancement: email list/RSS feed/twitter that sends out a random entry each day and prompts people to make a submission.

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In which she does a Great Fair Trade Easter Egg Hunt
New Zealand zebra, NZ
I've switched to Fair Trade chocolate, because it tastes of freedom (and especially dark chocolate, because I can snack on dairy milk until the whole block's demolished whereas with dark a couple of squares are enough, so my money and teeth last longer).

So I've been looking around for Fair Trade chocolate Easter eggs and wow that's not so easy. The options I've found are:

  • Cadbury's 65g Fair Trade Dairy Milk Easter Egg. Note that Cadbury make a big deal about how all their Dairy Milk chocolate is Fair Trade. It's really important to note that Dairy Milk refers to one of their products. It doesn't mean all of their milk chocolate products (like Black Forest, Caramello, etc) are Fair Trade. In fact you can tell they're not because they don't proudly sport the Fair Trade logo. Webpages like this, I can't even tell where the spin stops and the doublespeak begins. In short, if you can't see the Fair Trade logo with your own eyes, it's not Fair Trade, it's Cadbury hoping they've misled you with a sequence of carefully selected and phrased facts.

  • Plamil's 85g organic Easter egg. I'm a little concerned at the idea of dairy-free milk chocolate, but if you like milk chocolate and can't tolerate dairy this is probably awesome. If you don't live in Auckland the Cruelty Free Shop appears to ship.

I'm not so certain about:

  • Moo Free Bunny Bar, because this is described as "using a combination of natural, organic and fair trade ingredients" which has ambiguous scoping (is it combining organic-and-fair-trade ingredients, or is it combining organic ingredients and fair trade ingredients?) and doesn't sport a Fair Trade logo.

Another alternative seems to be to hop on a plane to Melbourne and buy from:

So the other alternative is to buy some chocolate moulds and some:

  • Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate, the kind that has the Fair Trade logo on it

  • Whittaker's Creamy Milk or Dark Ghana chocolate, see also re Fair Trade logo

  • Green and Blacks any flavour, look how they all have the Fair Trade logo!

I've resorted to this method (using Whittaker's Dark Ghana and these silicone moulds. (I know many people hate silicone but it is fantastic at being non-stick which is really important for this purpose.) It's much more time consuming than visiting the store, and the resulting hollow eggs are kind of fragile and messy-looking, while the solid chicks are really solid. But otoh chocolate is a lot cheaper by the block than in Easter Egg form, so I guess there's some savings there.

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In which Twitter moves her cheese
Stressed, stress and confusion
So I'm back in Christchurch and it's 1:30am and the cat is making it hard to type she's so busy marking me with her scent and I just want to say "I'm home!" on Twitter and also follow someone back before the notification disappears in the depths of my inbox. But

a) Tweetdeck is acting up, and
b) is telling me to download apps. I have an app, it's not working, therefore I want to login on the website but there's no login button and it's 1:30am and I DO NOT UNDERSTAND!

...Oh, apparently logging in on the website counts as "other devices". I. Just.

Whatever, Twitter. Whatever.

Handy tip: at least if you present as a harmless white female and it's midnight and the line at customs is somewhat long, if you declare some technically declarable but really super harmless product like dried ginger, they then wave you right past the x-ray machines that would require you to take your laptop out again from the bag whose zip is a nuisance to close when you have to put it back in.

(Though I've actually now mostly got the hang of the precise angle at which to hold the zip, the bag, myself, my tongue, etc in order to make it work.)

And so to bed.

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In which she conferences hard
New Zealand zebra, NZ
Today started (after a certain amount of groaning and dragging myself out of bed) with a vendor breakfast. I avoid vendor things labelled as "hors d'oeuvres" because they're generally at the time of day when you're exhausted and starving and they want you to stand around attempting to subsist on food that would barely satisfy a sparrow and alcohol that would inebriate an ox. But a seated three-course breakfast seemed worth tolerating some vendor speeches for, even if it was at seven thirty in the morning. Luckily my cold was much alleviated overnight plus I planned ahead and took my own tissues.

Course one was muesli, yoghurt and fruit; course two was a breakfast steak, bacon, poached egg, tomato, mushrooms, and smashed potato; course three was various breads. Courses one and two were actually on the table the whole time, along with tea, coffee and juice; the above order is based on the menu which we all, more or less, obediently followed. Smashed potato, for the curious, appears to be what happens when the cook is too lazy to either mash the potato properly for hash browns or cut it properly for fries. I sound like I judge, but it does create a fun random mix of soft and crispy.

There followed eight hours' worth of sessions and mingling. I caught up with an old colleague who now works in Dubai, various other old colleagues, a lot of vendors at their stalls (they like someone to tell about their products; I like the free USB sticks. Also some of the products even if mostly we still can't afford them - actually it's often most useful to talk to the vendors whose products we already subscribe to because they can tell us the goss as I can nag them about those bugs we keep reporting), and a few strangers who have migrated to a system we're going to migrate to. After the last session there were drinkies and sparrow hors d'oeuvres, but it was bearable because there was also icecream (provided by a vendor, I think) and a magic show.

Then I came back to my hotel to crash for a couple of hours before dinner and realised it was already seven twenty. So that was a day.

In new and unexciting random maladies, my socks are perhaps too tight for twelve hours of conferencing because I now have an achy ankle. Also using my salbutamol inhaler because my lungs like the air conditioning (plus virus) as little as the rest of my respiratory system, yay.

--Okay, the "30 free minutes per 24 hours" doesn't seem to have a set rollover time, it wants to be at least 24 hours since you last used it.

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In which, Reader, she bought them
New Zealand zebra, NZ
Okay, so this thing with the sore throat and stuffy nose which is totally the air conditioner and not a cold? It might be a cold too. In that I spent all of today's conference raiding their tissues and feeling faintly scatter-brained. However this was all stuff we really need to know at work so I stayed on infecting people for the bulk of the day and just bailed at the start of the wrap-up session.

I wasn't so sick that on the way home I couldn't stop off to do a bit of vital tourist shopping including these loves of my life:

Blue sandals, purple soles

On the rest of my way home I came across an incredible number of police at a couple of intersections, like a dozen per intersection, a pair of whom at each intersection were directing traffic. Possibly some traffic lights were broken, though most of them looked fine? It was a mystery and most of the police were just standing around on the corners in hi-vis vests. Anyway, while I was trying to a) work out what on earth they were doing there but b) not attract attention because law-abiding citizen foreigner or not, that many police in one spot is slightly intimidating especially when one of them gets real mad at a car not paying attention and starts shouting at it -- so anyway, this other car pulls over halfway across the intersection in what seems a really weird way to be behaving when there are all these scary police massed in one location, and then a taxi cab pulled over behind it, and then I remembered that Australia has this weird traffic rule for turning right.

(US folk should here substitute "turning left" for "turning right". It's the turn that goes across the oncoming traffic.)

In the rule I'm familiar with, if you want to turn right and there's only one lane, you pull as far into the intersection and to the right as you can go without getting sideswiped by the oncoming traffic. It's possible that doing this isn't entirely legal, but short of a right-turn arrow it's often the only way to turn right, because as the lights change anyone who's already in the intersection has to complete the turn to get out of it, whereas anyone who follows the rules and waits behind the lines has to just stay there.

In Australia, apparently what you do is you pull as far into the intersection as you can go, except you pull to the left. This seems really counterintuitive to me. At the same time I can see that pulling to the right could cause problems with trams which run in the centre of the road. Is this the reason for it? Or is it to allow the traffic going straight to "pass on the right"? It looks really weird but it seems to work in that everyone other than me knew what was going on and all the traffic present seemed to get where it wanted to get to.

(ETA: explanations in Dreamwidth comments.)

After all this excitement I spent the rest of the afternoon/early evening dozing. With the air conditioner off because air conditioning is still evil and it's a lot cooler today anyway: there was cloud and wind and even spots of something trying to be rain. Currently attempting to eat something despite a complete lack of appetite, and hoping I'm better for tomorrow's conference because I don't have my favourite aloe tissues here.

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In which she is still in Melbourne and uncreative in the ways of titles
New Zealand zebra, NZ
So I succumbed to the lure of the opals; I ended up preferring the white because if I wanted shiny-irridescent blue jewelery I'd get paua. (Paua doesn't do the thing with the red, but a proper black opal with red is not really in my discretionary budget.)

Then I got on a train out to meet [personal profile] deird1. The countryside in this area feels much like Canterbury (in fact there's a town?/station called Canterbury, but that's a complete coincidence and of course I don't mean that one, nor the original in England, I mean Canterbury New Zealand as in home) except with vastly more eucalyptus / gum trees. We drove up the hill and it turns out that when there are lots of gum trees all together, being all forest-like and such, they grow straight instead of gnarly. It's a little strange and very pretty because gum trees have the most gorgeous bark with those patchy colours. --And then we had lunch, and then we wandered through all the crafty stores in the areas (there's a toy store with puppets and Sylvanians! I'd forgotten about the Sylvanians! also a lace store and kitchenware store and soaps-and-oils store and a place with those trees crafted out of wire and gems, and this great place with wooden chests and globes and magnifying glasses and rugs and all, you half expect to come across the wardrobe to Narnia). And we compared notes on childhood lollies and generally had a great time.

In due course I took the train back home again, which went well for the first few stops. Then there was apparently a power outage at some station so we were hanging around Ringwood station while they tried to arrange buses instead.

(Have I mentioned there's a bit of a heat wave going on here at the moment? The hotel has this electronic noticeboard that insists that the high is 32 degrees and the low 21 degrees -- however I've just noticed that it also insists that the date is Thursday 30th January. I remember Thursday. It was quite warm, but it's grown significantly warmer since then.)

Buses not being immediately forthcoming, after a while I decided to wander around Ringwood, to wit: walk ten minutes to the shopping mall which had air conditioning and a McDonalds, who sell this fantastic salt delivery mechanism they call 'fries'. Having been drinking substantial amounts of water and possessing a general awareness of cell biochemistry, this seemed like a good idea. I also got some grapes (I was right, fruit's cheaper in supermarkets that aren't in a train station in the Melbourne CBD) and drank more water.

I got back to the train station in time to squeeze onto a replacement bus. It was very much standing room only and hot enough that I had the sweat literally running down the backs of my legs. This isn't quite the first time I've had that, but it was probably the most dramatic and it's a really weird feeling, like someone's turned the tap and just opened up your pores.

So eventually we got back to a train station that had trains that a) could take us back into town and b) had air conditioning. Got back into town and my swipe card wouldn't let me out the turnstile. I don't know what the problem was (did it get confused at the 3-hour journey? did I fundamentally misunderstand the fare structure and overdraw the card? was it a random malfunction? no-one will ever know) because the nice Metro man just swiped me out with his card.

Upon which I came back to the hotel via a shop window which has these awesome shoes in it. You guys, I normally have real trouble shoe shopping. Currently I quite desperately need more sandals and I love that at the moment there are lots of sandals in nice colours (like, there are sandals in colours!) and lots of sandals with low heels and in fact these two sets overlap a reasonable amount. Yet until now, all summer, I've been seeing pairs that have slightly too high of a price:motivation ratio. They look okay, they're just not convincing. But this pair, love at first sight. Just as soon as I walk past this shop when it's open, if they feel as nice on my feet as they look in the window they will be mine.

Back at the hotel I took a shower in my clothes which I've never done before but it was fantastic, I should do it more often when it's 40-something degrees out, and then I got into dry clothes and crashed on my bed.

When I woke up I felt cooler because air conditioning and it was late, so I put on my jacket and wandered out for dinner. Hahaha, what was I thinking? I so didn't need my jacket. But I got some fantastic kimchi soup in this restaurant playing a fantastic sequence of Korean pop and "Do you want to build a snowman?" and more Korean pop and "Unbreak my heart". I don't know who programmed that mix tape but they're probably going to be recognised as a genius by generations to come.

After depositing my jacket back in the hotel, I went to wander the South Bank (thanks [personal profile] deird1 for the tip!) Currently it's full of stalls with South-East Asian foods and plants and toys and fans and knick-knacks; and a concert going on and wow that woman can't hold a note to save her life but major props that she's managing to dance in this weather. On this leisurely wander of less than an hour I drank a third pint of water for the day (not counting soup or multiple glasses of water at meals): I'm staving off dehydration pretty well if I do say so myself, but my inner ear appears to be a little bewildered by the weather all the same.

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In which she goes shopping
New Zealand zebra, NZ
After Friday night's penguin adventures I slept in a bit Saturday morning, but still managed to be wandering the shopping precinct a few minutes before everything opened at ten. So for a few minutes there I was thinking Melbourne was a startlingly sleepy little town of a weekend.

Shops seen include the magic shop which is adorable but most of the stuff for sale seemed to be little tricks of the whoopee cushion variety (not saying I don't have fond memories of the whoopee cushion); teddy bear shop ("for every bear that ever there was"; an intriguing number of jerky shops; a pen shop and a bookbinding shop and cupcake shops and chocolate shops and all the clothes and shoe shops.

While I was in the complex that is Melbourne Central Station I also visited the Shot Museum. Because when you're a developer and want to build a giant shopping mall but there's a really tall heritage building in the way what you do apparently is enclose it in a giant glass dome and build your shopping centre around it. The museum is in the back of one of those clothes shops that sells manly clothes for manly men.

After a two-hour wander over a half-hour distance I ate my lunch in the park where I was mobbed by flies so small at first I thought they were mozzies. They're not quite that small but they're about halfway between mozzie size and proper Kiwi fly size. Then I went to see the exhibition in the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre in the Melbourne Museum - as well as the more permanent looking displays they were showcasing a project where about thirty kids around Melbourne got to work on making traditional possum skin cloaks.

So a couple hours later I came out and wandered through what looked like a Russian (or possibly more generically Slavic) cultural festival; at least the stall where I got pancakes and a drink of mors was fundraising for the local Russian Orthodox Church. Some incredibly staunch people wearing traditional clothes designed for Russian temperatures were dancing in temperatures that made the more sensible seagulls sit down in the shade of the trees in the park to rest.

I decided I was done walking so found the free city loop tram and sat there until I found an interesting looking stop, which happened to be the Lightning Ridge Opal Mines store. It was fairly quiet and the shop assistant gave me a lesson in varieties of opals (using the game of "Guess which one's $60, which is $600, and which is $6000") and let me hold a big lizard. I'm now pondering. (I'm definitely not going to get the $6000 one, gorgeous as it was.)

Wandering back from there through the lanes, which are a lot cooler than the roads because the sun doesn't reach all the way down, I stumbled across the city library. And a few shops near to the "dollar shop" style variety.

And then I got back to the hotel and crashed for the evening. Until I wanted internet and discovered the hotel's "30 free minutes per day" day runs from midnight to midnight instead of checkin to checkin, so then I wandered out to a spot where the map said had free wifi, and lo! there was free wifi and it was glorious.

(The sore throat is too long-lived without other symptoms to be a bug, and I've been drinking water fairly constantly so it's not dehydration per se, so definitely blaming the air conditioner.)

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In which she is in Melbourne
New Zealand zebra, NZ
In Christchurch, even on an overcast day I have to wear sunglasses against the glare. (Not on all cloudy days; there's just a certain kind of high cloud.) In Melbourne, it seems to be frequently very comfortable for me to not wear sunglasses even when it's perfectly fine.

Also, at the conference I was at yesterday the air conditioning had been turned on a little too well, so at lunchtime when I was talking to someone we went out and talked in the sun. We were there about half an hour. In the full summer sun at noon. What was I thinking? --And yet I didn't get burned.


I bailed on the conference early due to the last session being of no interest to me whatsoever, either professional or personal, and instead took the opportunity to go find the Koorie Heritage Trust which otherwise would have been permanently scheduled against all my other conferences. Unfortunately baggage allowances these days limit you per bag as well as by weight, which I hadn't paid attention to before choosing the bag I'm travelling with, but I got a few books I should be able to squeeze in.

Got back to the hotel and changed shoes, then met my co-traveller who had hired a car and conceived the notion of going around to see the penguins come in from the sea at sunset. I'm not yet used to the scale of things here, which is not a reference so much to the rush hour traffic out of Melbourne or the two hour trip (although I did eventually realise that the reason my backbrain was convinced that we were heading north, even though the setting sun was on my right at the time, was because in Canterbury if you've got the sea to your right then you're heading north) as to expecting there to be a couple dozen people hanging around on a beach watching these penguins come in. Instead there were a few hundred, sitting in actual amphitheatres and well outnumbering the penguins.

The penguin place keeps calling them the "little penguins" which I thought was just, you know, being cute for the tourists, until I saw them next to the seagulls massed on the shore. In the end I'm not sure which of the two species were actually bigger, but the penguins would definitely collect in little groups before venturing through the gauntlet of seagulls. So tiny.

(No photos of penguins allowed, though jerks kept trying. So I got a blurry sunset photo on the way, and then a blurry photo of a bird which my backbrain promptly decided was a cassowary. Was my backbrain right? Is it possible to tell anything from this photo? Maybe it's a moa.)


Woke this morning with a sore throat which I'm going to treat like it's dehydration rather than early onset con-crud, because the latter would be a blasted nuisance given that I've got three conferences still to attend next week.

So far have visited/attended things at three separate universities, two of which are in walking distance from me and basically next door to each other. Monday is at a fourth, and then I think the next ones are back at universities I've already been at. [ETA: Oh no, just realised Monday's conference isn't at the university, it's at the university's conference centre here in the CBD. So disappoint!]

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In which she finds a new trick to pill the cat
cat, hugs
Boots is on a hypoallergenic diet because we can't figure out why she's sick and protein allergies was an early hypothesis. Might have helped, might not, who can tell. Cats.

She's also on pills to help with blood pressure, which definitely do work. But heretofore the only consistently reliable way I've found to get them in her and keep them there is to crush them up in tinned food.

And my hypoallergenic tinned food supplier is running late and I've run out and she needs her pills so I'm casting my eyes desperately around the kitchen thinking about all the foods that'd work really well if she wasn't maybe allergic to them, and suddenly I remember:

Frozen peas.

Boots adores frozen peas. I don't know why. I know why I like them, but I'm not a cat.

And it turns out that if you cut carefully into a frozen pea, you can pry a quarter-pill into it and Boots will nom it down without hesitation or regret. (I gave her an additional unadulterated one as a treat afterwards as prophylactic against second thoughts but I'm not sure it was strictly necessary.)

This changes everything. Also resolves one more anxiety about being about to abandon her for ten days with a (most capable) catsitter while I'm at conferences in Melbourne. Even if the tinned food doesn't arrive in time I can prepare a dozen pea-pills before I leave and leave them in the freezer for easy dispensation.

(I really should pack for that, I guess.)

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In which she's going to Melbourne
New Zealand zebra, NZ
I'm kind of hoping the heat wave will break first. Either way though I'll be flying in on the evening of Wednesday 29th and flying out on the evening of Friday 7th February.

This is a work trip so most of my time will be taken up with two site visits to libraries followed by four conferences on four different subjects. But the weekend (1st/2nd) should be my own and I probably won't be spending *every* evening at vendor cocktail parties. (Actually I usually avoid vendor things unless they include food more substantial than hors d'oeuvres because by that time of day I'm starving and my feet hurt. But there are some where attendance will be politically preferable.)

So does anyone I know live in Melbourne and want to catch up? Or does anyone have any recommendations for Must Visit places?

(Also does Melbourne have mosquitoes? I've heard it doesn't but what I really need to know is does it have mosquitoes this summer. Because traditionally Christchurch doesn't have mosquitoes either, And Yet.)

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