Tuesday, November 01, 2011

.....And we're back!

The last few months have been ridiculously busy for me, and I haven't updated this blog since late May. However, things have settled down a little, and I'm going to try get back into the habit of blogging (also of exercising, and few other things that I've been a bit slack about lately).

The key events, and things that took up the time:

Editing a book: The First Donegore Story, by Donald Alexander, is out and available from Lulu. I'm really pleased with the result, and the finished book looks good - if you have never used Lulu, I'd recommend them. The final bit of work was the cover.

This was constructed using images from the book, the cover of an ancient dictionary that I have in my study, some old paper from a handwritten recipe book that belonged to my grandmother, a scanner and extensive Photoshopping. I'm sure a professional graphic artist could have done better, but I was satisfied with it as my first foray into the field. It was a lot of fun, and I learned a few things doing it, particularly about handling very large documents in Microsoft Word, and about Photoshop.
The official launch of the book is next Tuesday: if you happen to be in Donegore, the details are here.

I changed jobs: I now work for NetApp. Starting this job has been a bit like coming home: the office is right across the road from the building that I worked in while I was with Sun Microsystems, and many people who I worked with at Sun now work for NetApp.

Steve and I also had a three week holiday, two weeks of which we spent in Japan and Singapore. We had organised the trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, and we had a fantastic time. The weather was good (mostly, better than we had expected), the hotels were lovely, the people were nice, and we saw (and took photos) of all sorts of things, from Himeji Castle to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore (Steve wants to stay there next time). A small selection of our photos is on Flickr: Japan here and Singapore here.

American Express made all the travel arrangements, and they appear to have told all the hotels that the trip was for our wedding anniversary: all three hotels (Park Hyatt in Tokyo, Hyatt Regency in Kyoto and Mandarin Oriental in Singapore) made a special effort to help us celebrate. Flowers, special deserts, personal greetings (and wine!) from hotel managers: it was great, and made the whole holiday extra special. We went to Chateau Restaurant Joël Robuchon for our anniversary dinner (which was fantastic); the Park Hyatt sent a photographer to our room to take our photo before we went: then they presented us with the mounted photo as a memento the next day. On the morning that we left Singapore to fly home, the restaurant staff served us champagne with our breakfast. All nice touches and lovely memories.

However, we are now back at work, and on the run up to Christmas. I'm establishing a routine in my new job, and preparing to get started on my next personal project: the creation of a map of Sydney "underground", using the floor plans of all the interconnected shopping centres and arcades. If you spend a lot of time in the city, you work this out from personal experience, but for people who only visit occasionally all the convenient short cuts are a mystery. I've drawn enough maps for imaginary cities in FRP campaigns, I should be able to draw one for Sydney.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Count down.....

Finally, after years of rumours and delays, June Hemmons Hiatt's "Principles of Knitting" will be reissued in November. It's available for preorder at Amazon, and at The Book Depository (and probably other places). TBD says there are 163 days to go, so I must mark my calendar.

Second hand copies of this revered work have traded at frankly absurd prices for years, if they are available at all - I've never even seen one. The existence of the book is like a cherished myth, passed from knitter to knitter in yarn shops and at craft fairs. Apparently the new edition is a complete rewrite, to cater for modern fibres. I hope it's worth the wait.

Friday, May 20, 2011

So much to do, so little time....

I've had a busy few months, but this evening my wonderful husband is cooking dinner, and I have time enough to blog.

I have once again over committed myself. I have not yet completed the project to scan all my back numbers of Omni magazine (though the end is in sight), and despite that I took on another large project. I am editing (and designing) a book about the history of a Presbyterian church in Northern Ireland. I am also knitting, with yarn backed up waiting for the needles to be free so I can start the next project, trying to read several books at once, and trying to change jobs. I need more hours in the day, or days in the week.

The history book was an unexpected opportunity. I've been researching the history of my late father's family (family history - there's another sink hole for time), which is extraordinarily badly documented. In the course of dredging through the online resources, I stumbled across the First Donegore Presbyterian Church website. One of the church members kindly sent me their baptismal records: hundreds of pages of photographs of hand written records stretching back to 1806. As soon as I saw the first pages, I knew that I would have to do something to make the records more accessible: finding anything in them in their raw state would be extremely challenging. So I said "I'll get the whole lot converted to a spreadsheet", and they kindly sent me a draft of their church history as well. I had a look at the document, and it brought back fond memories of cataloging family history for the National Library of Australia: erratically formatted documents with amateur-hour illustrations and no indexes. We used to get scores of these things, under Legal Deposit requirements, and their sole virtue in my eyes was that I could catalogue half a dozen in an afternoon (the subject headings and Dewey numbers would be almost identical for every one, leaving only physical cataloguing, which isn't that time consuming) and keep my daily averages up. We aimed to complete 8 books a day: cataloguing takes a lot of time, and we were still doing hand written coding onto data entry sheets when I was at the NLA.

So I outsourced the baptismal records to Freelancer, and got stuck into the book itself. I've thoroughly enjoyed it - it is actually much more interesting than it sounds. Social history, about people rather than war or politics, has always interested me, and I hope that the lecturers who taught me history at university would approve of my efforts. I actually read Irish History in my third year, and I still have some of my text books, which has proved useful. We hope to publish in August.

Then there is knitting. I'm part way through an interesting cowl, and then I saw the Mr Fox stole in an issue of Yarn Forward. Even my husband, who is normally immune to knitting patterns, concedes that this one looks like fun. And I still have a bag of Noro yarn (and a pattern for same) from my Christmas trip. I need to knit faster.

And I need to change jobs. This is by mutual consent with my bosses. Things didn't go as we expected: while there is plenty of work, it is not work that I am particularly good at, so it is everyone's best interests that I move on. And now is the time: the amount of work out there is staggering! I've got a couple of interviews lined up next week, but as word of my availability spreads, I'm getting calls from people who I have worked with in the past who would like to work with me again. This is really nice: it is not that easy to explain what I do on a standard resume, but the people who are calling me have seen me at my best - what one former colleague was pleased to describe as "charging $2,000 a day to fix things you know nothing about". And that is essentially what I have done for many years. I have a career based on saying "OK, I'll have a look at it, come back in a couple of hours and I'll have something for you". I am "the third engineer": if two people have already tried to get something working and failed, I'll come out and fix whatever it is. This not because I know a huge amount about anything - it's because I know a bit about everything, and I'm prepared to take calculated risks.

So I have opportunities with a couple of systems integrators and couple of top tier vendors, and more coming in. Every time I get a call I have to re-evaluate what I want to do next : interesting work versus commute problems versus financial stability versus employer stability etc. Interesting times.....

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Audrey Blooms

Audrey bloomed last night.

Here she is at about 6:45PM

And about 9PM:

The flower has gone a bit limp now, though may open again tonight. The flowers are usually not as good on the second evening.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Audrey's Progress

It's been seven days since I took a picture of Audrey. Here she is this evening:

Quite a change for seven days. Here's a shot with a ruler, so you can get some idea of the size of the bud:

Getting a well-focused picture is proving to be tricky, because the garden is fairly breezy - we are near the top of a hill - and I have to wait for a calm moment in order to get a shot where Audrey isn't jigging about. An additional challenge, revealed by the telephoto lens, is the ambient cat hair in the environment. My first shots this evening were compromised by the presence of white cat fluff, courtesy of Percy (AKA Fernslayer).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Meet Audrey

So this is Audrey

Audrey lives in my back garden

That's her, in the pot. And she is just gearing up to flower. Over the next few weeks, that small bud will get much larger - and if we are lucky there will be more than one. Last year, Audrey produced three flowers, each lasting only one single night. I'm planning to take pictures several times each week, and hopefully get multiple pictures on the critical "flowering night".

Audrey is the product of my mother's dreadful habit of souveniring cuttings out of other people's gardens (I just cringe, and pretend that she is nothing to do with me). When she first handed me the rather unprepossessing bit of stalk and leaf, I had my doubts. It didn't look like anything that I wanted to cultivate, and my gardener said "stick it in a pot: then if you don't like it, it's easy to get rid of it". The plant still doesn't look like much: it's primitive and rather straggly. But the flowers are worth the effort.


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