Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Definitely No Resolutions This Year

I never stick to them. In a couple of days I'll be off to Suffolk to see in the New Year, so thought I might as well do a review of the year/look forward to next type thing now. My overall impression of 2011 is that's it's been....twelve months. Not much more to say. My crazy idea was indeed crazy, and I failed to actually write to most of the places I intended to. It's pretty much impossible to exist on paper without picking a binary gender, but i think we knew that anyway. Maybe one day I'll have more spoons and can try again to raise awareness. Until then I'll just keep being female when it matters and maybe start flipping a coin when it doesn't.... My other plans went pretty much nowhere too. I did try the writing thing again but, ugh. Same old problem of not being able to focus and force myself to write something I know isn't good. And lack of plot. Plot is useful for stories. And even blogging fell away as you can probably tell. I suspect I shall largely not be bothering in future. Unless I really can think of something I really want to say and think people might actually want to read. So probably not then. As for the rest of the year...stuff happened. I found out my ex had died. Other people died too, including my SO's grandma. People were born too, and that's much happier to think about. I had a job, for a bit, and my SO jumped through more hoops for the NHS. It's possible I've forgotten some really important event this year, but that's really all I can think of right now. And I'm expecting 2012 to be much the same (although we could do without the deaths and losing of jobs). So - no resolutions. I have no idea when I might update this again, if ever. Hope you all have a good new year and indeed a good future in general.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Return to Vvardenfell

Dragons, schmagons. Silt striders and skooma addicts are where it's at. We've been having computer troubles for some time - our main PC died a sudden death and not having the cold hard cash to buy a new one, we've just been coping without. We have our own laptop/netbooks for internet access, the back-up desktop works just about for that too, and the Wii keeps the Terror occupied gaming-wise. Then 11/11/11 happened and, not being able to move on the internet for reviews, progress blogs and general Skyrim-related chatter, we began to feel a bit left out. At this point my clever other half pointed out that my laptop ought to be able to run Morrowind. It was, actually, one of the reasons I bought such a high-spec laptop when, ostensibly, it was only needed for work: mostly text-editing. So she went ahead and installed WINE, Morrowind and both expansions, and found, to delight all round that it did indeed run. Until you got into combat or tried to load a saved game at which point it crashed. Fortunately, that was easily solved by downloading the latest version of WINE instead of the stable version, and, despite occasional problems with sound, it mostly works fine. Of course, that now means all three of us are fighting over my laptop - because now the boy is old enough to be able to play with only minimal help. He can read and understand most of the dialogue, he has no problems with the controls and when he gets the hang of finding quests for himself he'll be away. Currently he seems to be hung up on creating new characters - he's got four now, different races and classes but all fighters and all barely out of Seyda Neen - but hopefully he'll settle down soon and get deeper into the game. He's been watching me take on a Dwemer ruin with some fascination, so maybe he'll try and head there at some point. Maybe I'll prompt him in that direction. And, gee, but I'd forgotten how much I love this game. Even though I've played it so much in the past that I doubt there's much "new" left for me to do, I keep finding things I'd forgotten all about and just wandering round and doing things in a different order is being fun. And the alien environment of Vvardenfell appeals to me much more than the more Earth-like greenery that was, admittedly, so stunning in Oblivion. I also much prefer the approach to the main storyline - you can and indeed are encouraged to ignore it to start with - something that didn't really feel possible in Oblivion what with the end of the world happening and all that. Not that it's a perfect game by a long shot, but it's currently being enjoyable and the fact that I - hardly an accomplished gamer - have managed to complete it and most of the side-quests I've attempted is definitely a point in its favour. It's feeding our family's craving for Elder Scrolls action for now, and despite the arguments about who's turn it is, it's bringing us together by giving us a common current obsession. All of which means that I'm quite happy to put off buying a new computer until after Christmas, when we should hopefully be able to afford it. And I probably won't be dropping it immediately to rush off and play Skyrim instead. Although the dragons do look very cool....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

[Fiction] Terribleminds' "Brand New Monster" Flash Fiction

I often think about trying to write something for one of the flash fiction challenges Chuck Wendig regularly throws out, but rarely do I get very far. But for the latest one, I actually managed to sit and finish what I'd started. And then agonised over actually entering it because I'm really not happy with it. But as it's the first thing I've actually written in ages,and it might not actually be as rubbish as I think it is, I thought I might as well go ahead. I still haven't thought of a title for it though.

Legs aching, chest exploding, eyes losing focus; every step, every breath hurt like hell but I just kept running and running and running. I had to get away from that...thing.

I can barely remember what I was doing before I found it. Why I was late home, why on earth I was on the wrong side of town in the pouring rain without even a coat. I guess I must have gone straight to Rob's after work. But now I was miles from there too, and soaked to the skin and terrified and running for my god-damned sanity -- and I can't even remember how or why. I think that's what it does. It lures you out. Calls to you on a subconscious level and leaches your very memories away.

I found it in a box. An ordinary bloody cardboard box, like it was a broken lamp or an abandoned kitten. Lying by the bins amongst all the other rubbish in the back alley. Not Rob's back alley. I'd already gone a few streets by then. Why the hell didn't he stop me leaving the house? Had we argued or something? And I looked in the box like it was the most natural thing to be doing in the world: poking around the rubbish in a nowhere street in the pitch black and pouring rain. I looked in the box and it was there.

It was bigger than the box, I'm sure. It must be my size at least. Vaguely man-shaped but looking for all the world like it was made from a sock. You know, a huge woollen sock. Crazy, huh? Who could be afraid of something as daft as that? But the mouth. Dear god, the mouth....a gaping maw of darkness and heat, no teeth, no tongue, just a few tendrils wisping out and the sickening stench of blood and vomit. And as it rose up in front of me I felt the overwhelming urge to move in and give it a hug, let it embrace me, and I so nearly did, until at the last minute Rob pulled me back.

HE WAS WITH ME. The realisation so nearly, fatally,made me stop dead. I stumbled slightly but managed to press on, the fear of the impossible creature behind me propelling me forward as I tried to make sense of my fragmented memory.

He was with me. We must have left his house together. Went for a walk -- in the rain? It doesn't matter what our rationalisation was, it must have been that thing calling to us. Why else would we have gone to that alleyway? Why else would I have opened that soggy cardboard box? And then he saved me. Pulled me away and told me to run and then, stupidly, stopped to stare as the monster grew bigger and threw itself towards us. I stopped too - stopped and watched in horror as it enveloped him.

How could I have forgotten that? How could I have forgotten his scream?

A kerb nearly tripped me up and brought me back to the present. I didn't dare hesitate to check behind me, somehow I just knew it was still chasing me. That slight mental tug that had drawn me to it in the first place. Having escaped, I now only wanted to get as far away from it as possible. And now I had no idea where I was: suddenly realising I really didn't know, not even the name of the city I was in. If it was a city. It felt to big to be a town. I was totally lost and I was getting slower but I was still moving. Still running.

I had to keep running.

I tried to remember more about what had happened but there was nothing there. Only the stark memory of the creature's bizarre appearance and its sudden attack. Now I was digging around my memory I realised how little was left. I didn't know where I was or where I'd been. Who I was. My name? A chill hit me as I realised. I suspected the creature was feeding on my memories. And it was feeding on them even now, even as I ran. Was it gaining on me? If I stopped to look behind....

The shred of survival instinct which had kept me running all this time made me accelerate once more and I drove myself forward towards the street lights. I could hear traffic now, the first time I'd been aware of the existence of other people since...since I could remember. I headed towards the sound, desperate to find someone, anyone, who could make this madness stop. I blundered past the moving cars, not caring for the danger I was in and not noticing the drivers' angry shouts but making my way towards two tall men in familiar hi-vis jackets that some remnant of memory told me would be the ones to help. I didn't slow in time and collided with one of them, before falling, babbling in his arms and then blacking out as the cost of my exertions caught up with me.

They found Rob's clothes soaked in blood in an alleyway a quarter of a mile from his house. My deranged ramblings and erratic behaviour that night aroused the suspicions of the police, but in the end they had to let me go. Slowly, I've pieced all my memories back together; all but why we left Rob's place and went to that street.

I don't go out at night.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fields, LARP and all that

Once again, last weekend we were in Locko Park having spent a silly amount of money and I once again spent a large chunk of it wondering if it was really worth it. Overall, though, I think it was.

My other half and the Terror both seemed to enjoy themselves anyway. I actually saw more of my SO than usual as she had some time off running encounters, and saw very little of the boy as he decamped to another group's tent and mostly played with the younger boy he first met last year. So I had some guilt and some boredom and some frustration at still feeling trapped in camp, but not so bad. I got to watch some rituals which are always fun, and didn't die or even get knocked out, and regained a bit of confidence about going near fights and actually healing people. Still a lot of feeling useless, but that was probably just my silly brain. And having a Lifemaster or two in camp for one attack. You do feel a bit superfluous then.

But oh dear I do wish I didn't suck so much at roleplaying. Failing to improvise details from my character's background is one thing, failing to even be able to recount the known parts of it is another. And how on earth did I manage to create a character who is even more shy than I am in real life? I still can't quite bring myself to retiring her and trying again with something different though. I suspect my own shyness will still be the limiting factor. And I really love the group I'm in now - they're great people to hang around with - and I can't see my next character concept fitting in so well. Plus I'd have to find different kit and all that. Effort. Probably not worth it.

Anyway, that's it for me this season, and next year I'll probably go through all the same worries and feelings and thoughts and end up coming to the same conclusion: I'd miss it if I didn't go and all I can do is keep trying to get more involved. Now I just have to try and get my mind back in this world.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sudden Breakup

It's taken me a day or so to get together my thoughts but I think I'm about ready to try putting them into words.

At first I was shocked and then angry and then just terrified. Now I'm beginning to accept it with a sad sense of the inevitable - let's be honest, we both knew it wasn't going to last. Despite what you might think, it's not that I felt I could do better. I loved it while it lasted, although maybe I didn't always show it. And in reality it wasn't you - it was me. I was just not going to be the person you wanted me to be. I tried, maybe I could have tried harder. But you shouldn't have to put up with me and my problems out of a misplaced sense of loyalty, or worse, pity. And you helped me a great deal, but you shouldn't have to wait the years it could take me to improve. You need someone right for you, now. You deserve that.

I wish I'd done things differently, but still, I'm trying not to blame myself too much. Wallowing in self-pity or worse, regressing to how I was before, would do me no good and I intend to take this opportunity to regroup and learn and maybe even figure out what it is I really want from life. Things move on, there'll be other chances, and maybe one day I'll find "the one".

I just want you to know I'm sorry it didn't work out, and I don't blame you for giving me the boot. I hope you can forgive me my faults, and there will be no hard feelings between us. I promise this is the last you'll hear from me, unless I desperately need a reference of course.

So goodbye job, it was nice knowing you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Moving On

Maybe it's the cold I'm lumbered with or maybe it's the medicine I've taken for said cold, but I'm in a philosophical (and surprisingly laid back) mood. So excuse me while I ramble a bit.

It's been quite a week. Due to my usual practise of completely losing track of how many pills I have left, I ran out of sertraline last weekend. Cue much being tired, stressed, tearful etc. But I still failed to go pick up another prescription and I'm starting to think it isn't worth it as I'll be over the worst of the withdrawal by the time I get any. So once again I'll try going without. Maybe I'll manage for more than a few months this time.

Work was all going smoothly until Friday. It's always Fridays, isn't it? May have to change working practices again. And I have no confidence that I'll be able to provide the required information on Monday. But frankly, that's not my fault, and I once again find myself thinking "I'm just not paid enough to care". All I can do is work with the information given to me. If that's wrong or incomplete, well, tough.

Friends came and we chatted. Friends came and we gamed. There was even talk of roleplaying again. Would be kind of nice to get to play something. Might make me want to GM again. Any other attempts at creativity have been failing before getting to a keyboard. Even this bout of actually attempting to communicate is getting harder to continue. But I know if I stop I'll never get round to finishing. So I'm going to struggle to the end. And not stop to edit, for that way lies the delete button.

But some other things happened this week that may have also led to my not-entirely-cough-medicine-induced philosophical mood. Firstly my Facebook feed suddenly had a lot of posts from friends dealing with the sudden loss of one of their own - a young man I never met and had never even heard of until then. I still know nothing about him other than that he's gone and a lot of people are going to miss him. Then the very next day I discovered (again via the wonders of the internet) that some other friends of friends had lost their newborn son. Hard to express enough sympathy in those circumstances, especially without feeling like an intruder in complete strangers' grief. Tears and raging against the injustice of the world just didn't seem enough, so I just buried myself in my own life's petty problems and tried to forget it all.

As you can tell, I failed.

And today I've been too ill to do much, beyond sleep, veg out in front of DVDs and make the very vague and fuzzy decision that I need to change my attitude to life. I need to stop wallowing in the feeling that I'm missing out on something. I need to stop telling myself with every passing day that I'm wasting my life. I need to stop feeling as though I have an obligation to blog, or write, or run games, or entertain my friends with witty or interesting posts on Facebook/Twitter/Google+.I need to stop telling myself my son's life is boring and he's growing up without "a proper childhood" (whatever that means). I need to stop counting all the things I haven't done yet. I need to stop, basically, and be content with just being. Because yes, life is short,and yes, I don't know how long I've got left, and yes, each year seems to go by faster, but I doubt that when I do die, whether it's tomorrow or in fifty years time, my loved ones are going to think "she never did watch Twin Peaks".

Friday, July 1, 2011


Oh, what's this? *blows dust off* A blog? Wow - I'd forgotten all about it. I should really use it more often...

Yeah, I've not been feeling up to writing much. Don't know if that's good or bad. Work been keeping me busy. Time going by so fast. No rpg sessions to write up. Little motivation to try and review the things I've read/watched because I soon move onto the next thing. The news - well, I get to bitch about the government and newspapers on Google Reader and Twitter so don't feel the need to go into depth here. I guess I just haven't had anything to say then.

My SO is in Dublin this weekend for evil plotting and the Terror and I are going to my parents tomorrow for the night. It's my dad's 60th on Monday so I've bought him a present,which I haven't bothered even trying to wrap or disguise but I'm still not going to say what it is just on the off chance he reads this before tomorrow. It may clink slightly.

A few weeks ago I suddenly realised I'd been breaking my "no answer to binary gender question" thing every time I checked in at the doctor's surgery, and then felt rather stupid for not realising earlier. As I've mostly chickened out of trying to get a new bank account or anything it's not being much of useful experiment I suppose.

I'm getting better at using Excel due to work, but still not that great. I keep thinking there must be an easier way of doing the things I do, and then failing to find one. My boss is lovely and I'm getting better at dealing with the people who turn up for one reason or another but I still feel too damn shy and have to work myself up to asking stuff. But they don't seem to wanting to get rid of me, so that's something. Still haven't booked any holidays. Should really do that.

Think that's about all the news, if you can call any of that "news".

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Shedding of Heterosexual Privilege

As a short follow up to something I mentioned last time, today I "came out" at work.

Just chatting with my boss about planning holidays and the conversation went something like this.

ME: Yeah, we'll have to have a think about when I should take time off as J--'s writing up so can't just look after him full time.
HIM: J--, that's your boyfriend isn't it?
ME: (blushing and avoiding eye contact even more than usual) Girlfriend, actually.
HIM: (a beat) Oh. (embarrassed) Sorry.
ME: (embarrassed) S'ok.

And then we carried on as before. I don't know why I was so worried, although I'm still kind of dreading the inevitable conversation about who the Terror's father is then. But only kind of. The fact that this even bothers me at all is an uncomfortable reminder of how easy I've had it so far - the heteronormative assumptions that underpin so much casual social conversation used to work in my favour too and now I feel like I ought to give a brief bio whenever I first meet someone.

Or just get a t-shirt with "My son's daddy is my girlfriend" on it or something.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Life, and other complications

I think work is still going well. A couple of panics but no real complaints so far. I still feel a bit uncomfortable and not confident enough to take charge and suggest things that would make my life easier, but then I suppose I am technically a temp and who knows how long it'll last. Even if my immediate boss at least talks as if I'm going to stay (unless tempted away by better job). But it's good to have something to do, even if I'm tired for the rest of the day afterwards, and I'm managing not to eat too many cakes.

Slowly trying to make other changes to routine, but mostly everything seems rushed and panicky until suddenly I have nothing left to do that day. Falling asleep earlier in the evenings means I never seem to have much time to watch things, and I'm falling behind with reading too. Roleplaying has just stopped, but we still play board games so that's ok. I'm just getting scared about how fast this year is going by. Have a strange sense of unreality a lot of the time, but that could just be the tiredness I suppose. It does feel like I've wandered into someone else's life though. Especially when I catch myself happily chatting with boss at work or going to talk about volunteering at the local environment centre (although whether I'll really have the energy to....) or doing anything else that a few years ago would have seemed like an impossibility. Or when I stop and look at the Terror and think "That's my son. I'm his mother," and other such mind-boggling truths.

I really am beginning to suspect this "growing up" thing is just a myth.

I still end up shaking after making a phone call though. I still jump when the phone rings (at home and at work) and put off answering it as long as I dare. I still find myself being too shy to strike up conversations, even with people I know reasonably well. And, despite a lot of bravado online and in my head about sticking up for who I am and not being cowed by social expectations, I still can't bring myself to correct my bosses' assumption that my SO is male. And now it's got to the stage of being even more awkward to say anything without the whole "well why didn't you say something earlier?" response. Although possibly what I find worse is the knowledge that in their position I'd make exactly the same assumption.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

What A Difference A Week Makes

Last Friday I was, oh I don't know, probably lounging around trying to motivate myself to pack and get things sorted before going away for the night. Being lazy and playing lots of computer games (Online Dominion, I'm looking at you). Tomorrow I'll be going to work at my new job.

The night away was another trip up to Durham to stay at my parents so they could babysit while my SO and I went to a friend's 30th birthday party. We're all getting old now. The best bit (although always good to see R again) was getting to see her best mate from uni that neither of us had seen in something like eight years. Although I didn't get to talk to him, our girlfriends sat chatting quite happily while I strained to hear anything over the loud (but good) music. It was a good night, anyway, and I didn't get too drunk, which is just as well as the Terror woke me up at Unearthly O'clock in the morning. Saturday we bimbled and went home late, watching Doctor Who after tucking the boy up in bed. Sunday was nice enough and we even managed to pick up a couple of comics leftover from Free Comic Book Day. People came round to play 40K and the Terror got to watch a bit - he's dead set on getting an Ork army, although I doubt he has the patience (or skill) to build and paint them.

Monday was when it all started. I trawled the Jobseekers as I usually do, found one ad for a data entry position and sent off my email. An hour or so later I got a phone call from the agency asking for more details and explaining a bit about the job and telling me they were passing on my details to the company. This led to a frantic chase to make sure CV was ok in .doc format (don't ask) and to find and scan and email my passport and qualification certificates. Then I relaxed a bit, happy someone hadn't immediately gone "over-qualified, under-experienced" and passed me over.

Tuesday I get a phone call from the man at company asking me to come for interview. He gives convoluted directions (as he assumed I'd be driving) and I say I can make it and then panic a bit afterwards while I try and figure out how. I spend rest of day in shock from stress and my SO looks after me, even sorting out and ironing clothes for me to wear. Realise I can make it, even after going to other arranged meeting about volunteering at St Nicholas Fields. Start to relax just a little.

Wake up early on Wednesday and feel fairly ok. I know where I'm going, it should all be fine. Worst comes to worst, I don't get job and can't do anything useful volunteering-wise. Back to square one, not a problem really. Meeting at St Nick's started off well enough and then a minor crisis cropped up which he had to go deal with. I waited for a bit, with everyone being very apologetic, until he came back and said he was sorry but he really needed to go speak to someone else....So we agreed to sort things out by email and maybe meet up another time or whatever. Because I'd finished there early I could go home and catch my breath before going to the bus - and more importantly go buy milk to break into the tenner I had. And then I could go catch earlier bus. After hanging around at the bus stop for a bit, I decided to walk over to Heslington Road and maybe catch a bus there. One turned up and that's when I realised I'd left my purse at home after getting back from the shop.

I ran.

I grabbed purse.

I made it back to original bus stop in time to sit down, count out change, and then stand up quickly as bus I'd originally planned to get came. I at least then got a bit of a sit down before getting off at the station and trying to find my way to this place. It wasn't as far away as I thought and I would have been early if I hadn't bottled out and retraced my steps to ask someone for directions. Once there, I was a bit out of breath (it was hot) and nervous but somehow managed to catch someone's attention and remember the name of the man I was supposed to be seeing. It was pretty plain sailing from there. I babbled a bit, tried not to play down my computer skills too much while still being honest, tried to divert attention from my lack of experience. I got shown a short-cut back to the station and everyone I'd spoken to there seemed nice and friendly. I left feeling it had gone well and if they decided to go with the other person, I could be pretty sure it wasn't because I'd come across as a raging lunatic or an idiot. We celebrated with wine that evening, and played Dominion because I'm kind of fed up of trying to run D&D and C won't play Robo Rally. The spoilsport.

This morning I got a call from the agency, who hadn't even known I'd been interviewed until the guy told them he'd decided to go with me.

I have a job.

It's part-time, flexible hours that fit in with childcare.

It's only temporary for now, but the company is still getting organised and may or may not have more work for me in the long-run.

It's the other side of town but I can get there.

I have a job.

I have a freaking job.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

That Was The GEF That Was

It was very strange being the one at work on Friday while my SO got to stay home and pack, but there it is. I was forced to bring home cupcakes too, which we took with us, picking the Terror up from school and heading straight to Locko. Turned out we were parked right near one of the car parks, so ended up pitching our tents right in front of our car. Handy.

And then the event. Once again I mostly stayed in camp for sake of being near little one, although he mostly ignored me and played with other kids and hung around in their tent almost all the time. There was much standing or sitting at gate, laughing and chatting with friends, and booze. There was also Saturday - in which I mostly slept. And cried a bit. And generally felt a bit lost and useless but then a big Glaswegian came and made me talk at him (about coal wagons, because that was all still in my mind from work) and then I felt better. We really do have awesome friends, who manage to look after me even when SO is working her little ref socks off. Which she did. "Plot light" event indeed. But hey, we all had fun in the end.

There was a Balrog, which we avoided, a big battle which just got confusing and scary and lots of skirmishes in or just outside camp in which I was the Worst Healer Evar and had more power spent on picking my one-hit-wonder ass off the floor than I managed to spend on healing anyone more useful. Two weddings, a Wavesinger competition, Healer Gate, frozen Grandmaster - all fun. I may even have got some keen back. Plenty of time for that to wear off before August though.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Working Week

I think I'm possibly beginning to get the hang of this going to work thing.

I've been sleeping more and my SO has been doing the washing up more and no doubt I'll end up far too far behind on housework and I've abandoned Wii Fit for now (although might try and fit it in at weekends) but, slowly getting a new routine sorted. Walking to work isn't too bad, but walking back leaves me little time to get changed and rest before I have to go fetch the Terror from school so maybe I should try cycling. But other than all that I think it's been going well.

Everyone seems nice and friendly enough, and so far no-one's complained that I've done anything wrong or been going to slow. I think I'm getting to grips with their system, but still have been a bit shy about ringing people up to address problems I've had. But I know they're coming back next week to finish training me and hopefully sort out the stock issues (as stuff hasn't been checked in and out of stores due to lack of IT on site, the actual stores and the virtual records just don't add up). Hopefully by the end of next week I'll be a bit more confident and a bit more settled there and there'll be a few less problems. Hopefully....

Monday, May 2, 2011

Can We Make A Deal, World?

I tell you what - I promise to try my very best and actually get of my arse and do stuff without fear of failure if you promise to stop with the ableist bullshit, ok?

Time to Change has been running a campaign trying to get people to talk openly about mental health, so here's my little contribution.

I suffer from depression and anxiety. This is hardly a surprise to anyone who knows me, but I want to try and make clear what that actually means. I take anti-depressants, because I'm worse without them, but they don't make me "better". I get by with the help and support of my friends and family- especially my partner who makes sure I get fed and have someone to talk to, as my attempts to open up to a counsellor have always ended in failure. I'm not suicidal, I don't spend all day in bed, I manage to eat regularly (but not overeat), I manage to get out of the house most days, I can go into shops and answer the phone and talk to people in social situations. This doesn't mean I'm not ill though. Just because I'm lucky and my depression is very mild, doesn't mean it's not there, or that it's just a bad mood, or I'm over-reacting to a negative mind-set and I just need to pull myself together. I am ill. And, as I'm beginning to accept, I probably always will be.

This acceptance doesn't mean I'm giving up or going to spend the rest of my life wallowing in self-pity or am placing myself in a "victim" role or any of that nonsense you might be thinking. In fact, it's the complete opposite of giving up. I spent too much time as a teenager and young adult hoping that one day I would be "better", that I'd get over whatever was holding me back and everything would be ok. Even once I'd realised that wasn't going to happen by itself, I looked to doctors to help me, to cure me, to make this horrible mental illness go away. And they couldn't. At that point I nearly did give up.

But accepting that I had a chronic illness, that I had a disability was just the first step to learning how to live with it. Hoping for a cure for my depression and social anxiety is about as much help as hoping for a cure for my myopia. But instead of trying to deny I'm short-sighted or struggle on without any help, I buy glasses and wear them and get on with life. Mental illnesses are not so easy to cope with, of course, but I have learned (with help from both professionals and other sufferers) how to catch those negative thoughts and realise they're not true, how to set myself achievable targets and get myself moving each day, and how to occasionally give myself a break. I've learned how to do that but it doesn't make it any easier. Unlike riding a bike, it doesn't really get easier with practice and I doubt it'll ever become second nature for me.

So obviously I have bad days.I have relapses where it feels like the rest of my life is going to be like one of those bad days, because that's what depression does. And on those bad days I reach out and tell people I'm feeling bad and go fishing for sympathy and things like that because that's what I need to feel better, to get enough of a grip on myself to get past the bad moment and pick myself up again. And when one of my friends is in a similar bad place, I give them sympathy and love because that's what they need right then, not a lecture on how they can make things better. It's called a social support network, and it's one of the most important things a person can have. Sure, it might be better to teach a man how to fish, but a starvation victim who is too weak to hold a rod really just needs the damned fish. Learning to catch your own supper comes later, when you're strong enough.

But still. I've been a slump lately and I've done enough whinging and asking for sympathy, and I've been given it because I have friends who are great and understand. And now I need to learn how to fish. (Metaphorically, of course. I'm far too much of a softie to kill my own food.) So apologies for the self-pity and whinging, and I hope you can forgive me. As for the deal, I'm going to try and keep my end of it, so do you think you can uphold yours? Don't assume just because something works for you, it will work for everyone. And don't assume just because someone doesn't look unwell or disabled, they must be fine. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


As in, I have none.

School holidays are always hard. As much as I love The Terror, he does sometimes live up to his name, and even when he doesn't I feel guilty about not doing more fun, exciting and educational things with him. All our spare time seems to be spent with me on laptop wasting time, him watching telly or playing games on Wii and when I finally manage to drag myself and him away from our addictions there is usually much whinging. Or he wants me to play with him and I can only handle small amounts of that, not having the energy or the imagination to keep up with a seven year old. While the weather has been great, and we have mostly been managing to get out for a bit every day, when it's too hot we really don't want to stay out long. And I get tired so easily I need to go home and do nothing for a bit.

So mostly the last two weeks have been not going outside enough and not doing enough exercise and eating far too much. Few days around my birthday (yes, I am officially Old now) were good, but exhausting.I have Stuff now, including more books to read than I'll get through in a reasonable time. And chocolate and whisky, which won't help with diet, but makes life a little more pleasurable. But now the time has come to try and get back to a routine and pick up my Wii Fit regime and look more seriously for work and I'm dreading it. Of course, there's only a couple of days and then another long weekend, one in which my SO will be away, so there's little chance I'll really be ready to do anything and I'm not sure what I should do anyway.

Which brings me back to the motivation thing. I occasionally think of things I could do (or "should do", but I'm trying to avoid that) but they just seem to big and scary that I can't even make a start. Trying to concentrate on smaller things that actually might be useful in and of themselves, instead of just the first step on a long journey, but even those seem to fall by the wayside or be too hard. Every day is a battle to actually get myself to do anything without just collapsing into tears from stress. Or sometimes just a battle to not collapse into tears full stop. And yet sometimes, when the pressure is off, I find myself just getting things done and being ok. But only sometimes. And while I occasionally think "I should mention this to the doctor" whenever I get there I either just forget or can't think of the words or am feeling more positive and think I'll be ok or feeling more negative and think that's just the way it's always going to be. I guess it isn't really my GP's job to help me get my act together but then I'm obviously depressed so maybe it is. But the community mental health team made it clear to me last time I was referred there that they considered me "well enough" to get by with self-help. Despite the self-help failing being the reason I was referred there. But that's the NHS for you - desperately underfunded and unable to cope with long-term "mild" mental health problems.

Now I've rambled for a bit and forgotten my point, if I had any. But I suppose I've managed to blog, which is one of the things I keep trying to do and failing. So that's a start.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Campaign With No Name - March 30th

The party reach the black octahedron in the middle of the lake and disembark. The sides are stepped enabling them to reach the entrance half way up with ease. Rather than a doorway, there is just a perfect pitch-black hole cut into the stone - magical darkness that even the Drow cannot see through. On entering, they find themselves in a well-lit corridor of sandy-coloured stone, with bright green vines growing through gaps between the bricks. The air is fresh and the plants lightly scented. A sense of health, wellbeing and relaxation penetrates the area.

As the Warlord starts to pull a brick from the wall to see what's behind it, the rest of the party wander down the corridor, only to hear an ominous thud behind them. A large stone boulder had dropped from the ceiling behind them and starts to roll slowly down the corridor towards them. Despite his best efforts, the Warlord fails to pull the stone he's working on out in time to jam it in the way,and he's flattened by the boulder. Only Chuck runs ahead to try and outpace the rolling stone; all the others are knocked down by its relentless movement. After picking themselves up, the Warlord simply continues his excavation of the wall and Mouse and the Drow investigate where the boulder came from, after failing to stop it with the Drow's spells. Chuck runs straight for the end of the corridor, just staying ahead of the rolling boulder and makes it through the door there before it crashes into the wall. The boulder then falls as the floor opens up underneath it, leaving a pit before the door on the corridor side.

On the other side is a dusty, grey, large room with an aura of solemnity and contemplation. A statue stands at one end and a large circular mosaic occupies much of the floor. As Chuck wanders forward to investigate it, the Warlord finally breaks through the wall he was working on and emerges in the same room Chuck is in. Only temporarily confused by the geometry of this place, the rest of the party take this route to avoid the gaping hole left by the boulder. They decipher the inscription on the statue and deduce that the mosaic is in fact a puzzle they need to solve to find a way out. They do this easily enough, and the whole completed picture suddenly starts to descend. Beneath appears to be icy cavern. The Warlord flies down -

- and finds himself flying up into a large ice cave, with several devils standing menacingly around. The rest of the party jump through, landing awkwardly near the hole in the floor, momentarily disorientated by the change of gravity's direction. A fight soon starts, and with some teleporting, some fire and a devil oscillating up and down through the hole for a while, the party are victorious. Above a ledge, embedded into the wall, is the stone tablet they were sent to look for. They gather around it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Re: Census

Those of you with persistent memories will recall I had a crazy plan, which I've been mostly sticking to, but more by avoiding answering the offending question than by explaining why. Still, today is census day, and this meant I needed to actually write a letter to include with the form. Here it is, for better or worse.

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to explain why I have left Question 2 unanswered on the enclosed Census form. My objections to the question are two-fold.

Firstly, the phrasing of the question. “What is your sex?” is problematic as it unclear what precisely is meant by “sex”, and the manner in which this is usually decided at birth relies entirely on the appearance of one's genitals. I hope you can appreciate that I consider this to be too intrusive and personal a question to ask. Also, I believe that formal guidance given to the transgender community has clarified that transsexual people are explicitly permitted to select the option that reflects their “acquired” gender regardless of whether they possess a Gender Recognition Certificate or not. Thus I find the decision not to phrase the question in terms of gender, thereby bypassing the awkward question as to what is someone's “true” sex, both baffling and disappointing.

Assuming that the intended question is “What is your gender?” leads me to my second objection. The two given options, “male” or “female”, are too restrictive. Once one acknowledges that a person's gender may differ from that assigned to them by their outward appearance, it is hardly surprising to realise that their gender may differ from either of the two most commonly recognised sexes. Or that they may be unsure as to what their true gender is, and not wish to just answer based on social expectations. In other words, it is both simplistic and erroneous to assume that gender is a binary, as Western society does, and insisting that everyone has to fit into one of these two “boxes” (“male” or “female”) is discriminatory. While it might be anticipated that the number of people in Britain today who would identify as a non-binary gender is small, the truth is we will never know unless efforts are made to begin to collect this data. I feel that the 2011 Census missed an opportunity to do this.

Yours faithfully,

Adele Taylor

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Campaign With No Name - March 2nd/9th

The long trek through the Underdark with the remaining Kua-Toa was coming to an end, and the party were asked to wait in a side-cave while the rest checked the way was clear. Suspecting a trap, the adventurers stood watchful, and sure enough, they were soon surrounded by Troglodytes when a false wall gave way. However, Chuck was able to hold several at a distance while the rest were butchered, and despite being outnumbered, the party triumphed. The Warlord even got to find out that Troglodytes don't taste any better alive than dead.

However, when the second-in-command of the Kua-Toa finally traipses back, clutching the translation stone and looking fairly miserable, it transpires it wasn't a set-up at all. The Kua-Toa were also attacked by Troglodytes and their leader and several others were killed. However,they finally beat off their attackers, and the remainder of the expeditionary party and the player characters set off for the Kua-Toa settlement. The ramshackle town is spread along the shores of a vast underground lake - almost a sea. The far side isn't visible, and a pyramidal-like structure pokes out in the distance. The characters are taken to the house of the new leader's aunt, and fed well. The Warlord is given lots of fish.

The following morning, they are led into a small "temple",hewn from rock right on the lake's edge. The main area is lined with guards, and they are told to stay back and not approach the "god". The guards then step back to reveal an alcove at the back, where an Aboleth Slime Mage emerges from underneath a large ornate cloak. The party are not impressed. The "god" communicates telepathically with a lot of crackling, images, vague impressions and broken Common. At first it demands a task from them, and expects them to join the ranks of it's worshippers. After that is met with polite derision by the party (and the Warlord entertains the idea of riding the Aboleth like a pony), it changes it's tune and instead offers them treasure in return for completing it's proposed quest. They are expected to go to the ziggurat in the lake, find and bring back a stone table, and hopefully while they are there, discover the "secret" of that place. Deliberately vague though the instructions are, the party decide to go explore the pyramid/ziggurat/whatever anyway, and then maybe come back if they feel like it.

The Kua-Toa leader is apparently annoyed about this, and warns them no-one ever comes back from the ziggurat. He then lends them a row boat to cross the lake. They are about two thirds of the way there, when they are suddenly attacked by a group of Kua-Toa wielding harpoons. Although they don't recognise any of those that attack them, they suspect they were sent by the town they just left. The harpooners repeatedly pull the Drow and Mouse into the water, but rarely manage to hold them there, while the few that climb onto (or are teleported into) the boat are dealt with by the Warlord. Despite the drawbacks of having to fight in water, the party still succeed in thwarting their attackers. They row on towards their destination, although the Drow does have to fight the Warlord to go back for Mouse who was briefly left in the water after the battle. As they approach the black obsidian structure, they realise that what at first seems like it's reflection is actually its continuation underwater - it is not a pyramid but an octahedron.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Campaign With No Name - Feb 9th

As the Warlord and Drow had gone for a swim, Mouse and Chuck entertained themselves by sitting around on the stairs and then exploring the tower for anything they might have missed the first time. The other two had been gone some time, and they were carefully examining the mouldy remains of books in the library for anything still legible when they heard footsteps on the stairs - coming down from above.

Hiding behind the door, they waited until the footsteps stopped outside, the door swung open and....Dungeon Master walked into the room. He looked round and spotted them, and then, as if the incident where he was their captive until he escaped never happened, proceeded to tell them the Warlord and Drow had been captured by some Kua-Toa and would soon be executed. He then failed to dissuade them from mounting a rescue mission - his insistence that they should go and "get revenge" on the Magus instead was duly ignored as Chuck at least didn't quite trust him. Funny that.

With some difficulty, they managed to swim through the tight passageway and emerge gasping for breath in the flooded cavern. They followed the tunnel above ground to a T-junction and, with no clue as to which way the others might have gone, decided to left-hand map. Sneaking along, they soon spotted a couple of Kua-Toa carrying spears ahead, with what seemed to be the Warlord's in front, just disappearing round a corner. After debating whether to just attack or not, they decided to follow them for a bit.

Meanwhile, the Warlord and Drow had indeed met some Kua-Toa upon reaching the t-junction. As neither side immediately attacked, the Kua-Toa instead, jabbering in some language neither of the two characters understood, gestured for them to follow them. They pushed and poked and led the two down the tunnel to the right. While the Drow began to wonder whether the Kua-Toa thought they'd taken them prisoner, they emerged into a large cavern with several other of the fishy humanoids and were led to a crude tent. Inside they were given a possibly drugged drink and the Kua-Toa leader talked to them using a magic stone to translate into Common. Due to several misunderstandings, he concluded they were idiots obsessed with fish, but offered to take them to meet his god. They explained their other friends couldn't make it through the watery tunnel, and it was agreed that they would accompany the team sent to explore the last fork in the tunnel system to see if it led to the surface.

Sure enough, it did, albeit through a steep sink-hole that the Warlord was able to fly up through but would have been difficult to climb up. However, just as they were discussing going up to fetch Mouse and Chuck (and Cat of course) from the Bloodtower, those very persons spoke up from the shadows behind them and said "Hello!" Although they were annoyed that they'd had to swim when they didn't need to, the party were at least all together again, and happily not dead despite what Dungeon Master had said.

They accompanied the Kua-Toa group as they made their down to their home, travelling through the deep caverns for a couple of days. The Kua-Toa mostly stuck to side passageways once they got deeper, to avoid "trouble" they said, but one "awake period" the leader came to tell them that they needed to go on "the King's Highway" for a bit. It dawned on the party that they really were in the Underdark now. Despite the King's Highway's reputation as a treacherous path full of murderers, they had little trouble until one narrower part where, suddenly, chaos broke out and the party found themselves stuck between masses of fighting Kua-Toa, and facing a Blood Ooze.

The Ooze hurt badly, not least because it sprayed necrotic and poisonous blood everywhere whenever it was hit, and attempted to drain the blood from anything that stayed too close. But the party rapidly took it down, giving it little opportunity to hurt them. The Kua-Toa were less lucky.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Plans, Schmlans

The problem with making plans is sometimes the spoon thief comes and gets in the way. (In case you haven't read The Spoon Theory, go read it now. It works for mental illness just as much as any physical one. And sometimes I remember I'm actually ill, and not just lazy.)

It's been less than a month since I mentioned some of my plans for this year so maybe I shouldn't be judging myself too harshly, but I do seem to have run aground already. The daft writing project (using Celtx) has been dropped due to the ongoing problem I seem to have when it comes to writing fiction - failure to think of a plot. You just need to glance back through the last few blog posts to notice that I haven't managed that many reviews, and most of my posts have indeed been about my game or whining about life.

I have made little progress in brushing up my linux skills and haven't even made a start on learning Python or any other language. And while a few things have been put aside to be taken to charity shop or tip, there's still along way to go.

But the biggest problem was my really crazy idea which has indeed proven to be as daft and hard to manage as I expected. Mostly because I've utterly failed to write any form of explanation that I can send to people. So mostly I've just failed to fill in online surveys, Eagle nominations and competition forms, and abandoned my resolve to switch banks; all with the intention of emailing someone and then trying again but apathy and writer's block got in the way. And I now have a job application form to send off, with the gender question on the equal opportunities monitoring form left blank, and no idea what to say in the accompanying letter, or who to address it to, or even whether to send one at all. Not that I expect to get very far with the job anyway, but I don't want to completely screw up my chances of even being considered by coming across as something of a loon. Which is just pure cowardice I know, but there. I'm not going to cave just yet though. I'm leaning towards just sending in the application, and working again on a letter to send to the employer pointing out the problem with their form, but whether I'll ever manage to write that letter or not I don't know.

On the other hand, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to even write this post, having failed to last week when I first thought of it. So maybe it'll take time but maybe I'll get there in the end. Same with the other plans, I guess.

Monday, February 7, 2011

That Was The Weekend And The Weekend Before That

Missed last week's weekend round-up due to depression running off with all my motivation, so this will have to do double duty. In reverse order,just to be awkward.

Last night was Being Human night, and it was good. Zombie was effectively scary, gross and surprisingly moving in the end. Despite my initial dread at a "werewolf baby" storyline, George and Nina won me over in the end. Damn me for being so easily manipulated by TV. I'm less fussed about Mitchell/Annie - it'll only end in heartbreak when she finally finds out the truth about the Box Tunnel killings. Also watched Becoming Human which was good, albeit short, and while it was fairly obvious the bully wasn't going to be the killing the poltergeist act was well done and Matt moves from being a pathetic victim to a slightly scary powerful being bent on revenge. Mostly, though, I love Adam's out-of-date pop culture references (Rentaghost, Bergerac). Kids today, no culture....

Sunday afternoon we wandered round town a bit and popped into Games Workshop to ogle the models, but managed not to buy anything. Before that the SO tidied and sorted some things out so downstairs looks a little less like a junk room while I read Bad Science and tried not to get stressed out about tidying, sorting etc.

Saturday evening, the SO and I settled down in front of Quantum of Solace (which was good) with wine and chocolate biscuits and brandy butter. Then we played a game of Zombie Fluxx which involved more taking off of clothes than it would have done if we'd had company or less wine. Earlier that day we went to our local library for the first time since joining a couple of years ago and got three books out each (have no idea what the borrowing limits are, but a book a week seems like a reasonable amount to read). I got Bad Science, a Tom Holt novel and a book about the battle of Fulford. Maybe I'll do reviews when I've finished them.

The weekend before had also ended in me watching Being Human and Becoming Human. That Sunday had mostly been spent recovering from the busy two days beforehand, as Saturday evening we had friends round for chilli, booze and boardgames. The depression was starting to kick in and I struggled with playing Ticket to Ride for the first time, but that was more due to my mood and indecisiveness than the actual game, which was good fun and I didn't actually do too badly. Earlier we'd gone to visit Nana and take Benjy for a walk, after having brunch as Wetherspoons and before dropping off my mum at the train station.

Mum had been staying to babysit while we went to a house cooling party Friday night. I think I mentioned before that a couple of friends are breaking with tradition and actually leaving York instead of staying here forever like everyone else we know. It was a good night, cider, snacks and people I hadn't seen in ages. I even came away with West Wing DVDs as they had spare box sets of seasons one, two and seven.

So, busytimes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Campaign With No Name - Feb 2nd

After a restful night in the sleeping quarters of the Bloodtower, the party continued to explore the tower, heading down past the "ground" floor where they first entered. The next floor down consisted of a library and a dining room. A careful looting rewarded them with an antique map, scrolls of Consult Mystic Sages, Anthem of Unity and Detect Treasure, some residuum and several spiders. A collapsed staircase led directly to the flooded kitchen below which the Warlord investigated before deciding it would be easier for the non-winged party memebers if they all went down via the main staircase.

The stairs ended in waist deep swamp-water which filled a large hall with double doors on the outside wall of the tower, as well as a door through to the kitchen. On reaching the bottom of the stairs, they noticed several things begin to swim through the water towards them. The Warlord charged one (or at least waded towards one and poked it with his spear) and discovered they were ghouls. As the other adventurers were still making their way down the stairs, the ghouls quickly surrounded the Warlord and grabbed him, their claws digging in deep. The Drow splashed into the water and cast a large spell to push the ghouls away, then Chuck immobilised a couple of them while Mouse starting picking them off (with difficulty, as using a greatbow in deep water is not easy). A couple more came into the room from a corner, but a Storm Pillar helped deal with them. The fight was short, but still hurt a little.

After deciding there was nothing worth looting on this floor, being mostly underwater, the Warlord found a narrow tunnel leading down and investigated it. It was a tight swim and he started running out of breath before managing to surface in a large rocky cavern dimly lit by phosphorescence. A large tunnel led straight down through the water, but another above water looked more inviting. He went back to persuade the others they should explore that way. The Drow followed him, struggling with the swim a little, but after one look at the cramped hole, Chuck and Mouse decided to stay behind as they were not good swimmers, and Cat was refusing to come down off the stairs altogether.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Campaign With No Name - Jan 26th

The party are continuing their exploration of the Bloodtower on the Moors, and, after deciding not to sleep in the barracks they find,continue heading up the stairs. The next floor up was a much more opulent sleeping quarters, and a quick search found some gems and gold hidden beneath a precious bowl filled with expensive soap. Again, they decided not to take a group bath and spend the night there, and headed further up the tower.

The next level up had a locked iron door which the Warlord kicked down. The room was roughly semi-circular and contained lots of empty shelves and chests. A thorough search found a magic ring that had been missed by whoever had cleared out the room, and a secret door to the other half of the level. This room was bare apart from three circles of intricate runes and sigils inscribed in the floor. After some studying,Chuck deduced these were teleport circles and carefully made a note of the "co-ordinates" in order to be able to teleport back to here should the need arise. Then they went up the stairs to the last floor.

The stairs came out in the middle of the open plan room which contained only a sarcophagus and another teleport circle as its defining features. Apart from three skeletons, a boneclaw and a human woman dressed in black robes, that is. Obviously having been waiting for the adventurers to emerge, the skeletons were quick to attack: shrieking in such a manner that chilled the characters to their bone before moving in for the kill. The party reacted quickly, trying to damage them as best they could with the sounds of their horrible shrieks still ringing in their ears. The boneclaw moved to the top of the stairs where it could hit them with its huge claws whenever they moved or were distracted by attacking at range. On being hit, the human turned into a flock of ravens and flew to the other side of the room then later targeting the two spellcasters with her own magic. The Warlord was able to help slaughter the skeletons before going to take on the boneclaw: Chuck holding it in place for him. The party found the necromancer's spells to be quite damaging, even over a short time, and when Mouse swapped places with her, a spectral tendril emerged from the floor and caused the elf to fall, unconscious and with her life-force draining away.

The Warlord skewered the boneclaw and shouted at Mouse to get up, rousing her. Despite their best efforts they failed to be able to stop the necromancer fleeing to the teleport circle and, muttering the word "Ometh", disappearing. Quickly realising that it must be a short-range teleport, Chuck and the Drow deduced she must be just downstairs, so while Mouse got to her feet and raced downstairs with Cat, they went through the teleport circle themselves. The Warlord, unconcerned with chasing after fleeing enemies, shrugged his shoulders and investigated the sarcophagus. It contained the perfectly preserved body of the former leader of the group of necromancers that called the Bloodtower home. After careful prodding to make sure he really was dead, he searched the body and collected all the expensive jewellery he could find.

Meanwhile, as Mouse was clattering down the stairs, Chuck appeared next to the surprised mage in the teleport chamber, and blasted her out of the room. The Drow then appeared and also blasted her. She hit back at the Drow and Mouse who had just emerged from the stairwell, both of whom promptly collapsed. As she made a beeline for one of the other teleport circles, Chuck tried desperately to stop her while also feeding the Drow a healing potion. The fight then became an undignified bout of pushing, both magically and bodily as they scrapped over who got to stand on the wanted teleport circle. The Drow helped, while also going to get Mouse up, but got dropped again. The necromancer got onto the circle but paused to try and find a piece of paper, giving Chuck time to push her off and then trap her with a wall of fire. The desperate woman stepped into the wall of flames in an effort to escape but died before she could utter the keyword. Unfortunately, the paper she carried was burnt to a cinder.

Shortly after this,the Warlord made his way down to help patch them all up, and they decided to head down to the bedroooms and sleep before exploring the underground portion of the tower.

Monday, January 24, 2011

That Was The Weekend That Was X

Social life suddenly rather busy this weekend, with three friends coming round Friday for drinks and games, and then another two on Saturday. Friday night we introduced some people to Betrayal at House on the Hill which they rather liked, then played a few games of Dominion. Was all good fun, although I wish we'd managed more nights like that as soon there will be fewer chances. (People aren't allowed to leave York! It's a black hole for graduates...)

Saturday, we went into town as the Terror wanted to spend some of his saved up pocket money on a Bakugan Trap. Argos didn't have any in new catalogue, so he got a Super Assault Bakutremor Something-or-other. More cards we don't quite understand, and he doesn't have enough to play a game with us but he's less interested in the actual rules than in the Bakugan ball/figure/whatevers themselves. His money.

We then took the long way home, via Rowntrees Park and ended up dragging ourselves home and sending my SO out to get a very late lunch from the bakers. Afternoon was mostly spent watching Spiderman. Then C&D came over for tea (sausages, chips & peas) and 40K again. This time I got roped into playing, using my SO's tyranids. For my first ever game I think I did ok - I mostly know the rules, mostly, and the carnifexes and hive tyrant are at least difficult to kill. Things I'm bad at include judging distance and line of sight, deciding where to place things and what to attack, and remembering not to charge into cover. So yeah, maybe I'd do it again. C won, of course, being far better than the rest of us, although D came close to a draw but was just a little too far away. My SO's dark eldar got hammered early on, but they still managed to inflict some casualties. Wine, biscuits, and another couple of games of Dominion (C won again then went home to let someone else have a chance of winning something) rounded out the evening.

Sunday started ok, then I got down and anxious for no known reason and ended up going back to bed and falling asleep. My SO brought me breakfast in bed, which was nice. Then shopping and after lunch the Terror went round to friend's house and we went for walk into town to get birthday cards and to check out perfumes at Lush. Watched end of Stardust over tea, which finished just in time for the Terror's bedtime. I forgot all about new series of Top Gear, being too excited about new series Being Human, and BBC3 being actually watchable which it was thankfully. So I settled down with cake and whisky and watched episode one, which was wonderful despite a few weak moments (the vampires organising "dog" fights is a bit meh, and the Mitchell going to get Annie back was anticlimactic). George and Nina were great, the annoying character got staked, and the new house looks like it'll be a great setting with just the right level of quirkiness. Looking forward to more.

Friday, January 21, 2011

House of Mystery by Matthew Sturges & Luca Rossi (and others)

I originally picked up the second volume of House of Mystery on a whim, attracted by the title, cover art and some of the names ringing a bell (Bill Willingham in particular). I quickly got round to tracking down the first volume and have been waiting impatiently for each trade paperback release after that (resisting buying the monthlies for money and space considerations). I've just finished reading volume five, "Under New Management", which seems like a good time for a review.

The eponymous House is Cain's abode in the Dreaming - until it disappears from there (much to his annoyance) and turns takes up residence at a crossroads between worlds. It becomes an unconventional tavern where patrons pay with stories, staffed by those who find they cannot leave. Architecture student Fig Keeler is one of those trapped there, and the arc plot follows her discoveries about her life (which turns out to be far from ordinary) and her pursuit by a mysterious pair called The Conception, who want her for unspecified reasons. The latest volume introduces yet another twist into Fig's increasingly strange life with the re-emergence of a brother she'd forgotten she had.

Scattered amidst the ongoing story are all the tales told by customers and staff; shorts featuring guest artists and writers telling every sort of story you can think of - poignant, romantic, scary and often funny. They showcase the rich diversity of the situation - as the characters can come from any conceivable setting, there is a whole host of fantasy worlds that we just get snippets of. Short stories in just about any format (prose, graphic, film) are one of my favourite things due to the efficiency needed and the density of invention that can be crammed into a few minutes or pages, thus this anthology-eqsue series was bound to be one of my favourites. That it also touches on and expands the setting of the Dreaming (from Gaiman's Sandman comics) is just a bonus.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Campaign With No Name - Jan 19th

The party approached the half-sunken Bloodtower across dense marshland; the Warlord flew to avoid getting his boots dirty. From his higher vantage point he noticed something lying in the swamp waters ahead of them. A hydra emerged and was quickly held in place by Chuck,charged by the Warlord, peppered with arrows by Mouse and blatted with yet more damage by the Drow. Somehow it survived the initial assault, and attempted to bite the Warlord, and later, Cat and the Drow, but didn't pose much of a threat. Once slain, the Warlord proposed skinning it so they could disguise themselves as a Hydra. No-one else seemed too keen on that idea, so it was put on hold.

They decided to enter the Bloodtower via a gash in the wall rather than try to get to the window half-way up. The stench emanating from the hole warned them that a ghoul was in the area, so Chuck cast Thunderwave into it to clear the immediate area and cautiously stepped inside. As it was pitch black apart from dim light from the glowstone, Chuck also cast Light on a nearby stone slab which lit up the wretched stench ghoul hiding just behind it. The party crowded near the entrance and tried to stay away from the foul-smelling undead, again peppering it with damage from range until it ran in close. Once bloodied, it attempted to flee to a door at the far side of the room, but was pushed back and killed. The door then opened, and a skull lord cast a deathly ray onto the Warlord. A horde of zombies then attempted to enter the room, but the Warlord was ready with his spear and skewered each of them as it came close to him. Unfortunately, they then each exploded, showering the Warlord, the Drow and Cat with necrotic energy. But once they were all dead, the skull lord was easily dealt with. While he attempted to hide in the darkness of the other room, Mouse was still able to pinpoint his position accurately enough to destroy his last skull.

After a brief rest, the party decided to ascend the central staircase, ignoring the way down for now as they had no idea how many floors may be below ground. On the next level up they found an alter to an ancient exarch of death named Ometh, which they didn't desecrate just in case. There was little else on the floor, indicating that most of the furniture and any valuables had been taken a long time ago. Another floor up led them to two dormitories - the beds intact but no personal possessions in sight.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

That Was The Weekend That Was IX

Friday night (after QI of course) the SO and I ended up playing Tetris (or at least the latest Gnome clone) while listening to this. That's a good night in for us.

Saturday was unexpectedly spent in Nottingham. Not that we were inexplicably teleported there or anything, just that the SO had a plot meeting (for larp) she'd forgotten about and it was moved to Saturday morning. So we got up early and went to Nottingham for breakfast. As you do. Then the boy and I had to leave while plot happened. Thankfully, another plot team member's other half was on hand to escort us around the city centre. We window shopped and laughed at the Terror getting bored and discovering that picking on someone two feet taller than you isn't a good idea. Then we went home, while others went to a faction meeting and IC social. Now I'm craving larp, although I know I never get as involved as I wish I could. Damned social phobia. How did I end up so emotionally involved with a hobby I'm so ill-equipped to deal with? Bah.

Then in the evening I discovered Dropquest, and rapidly got annoyed with myself for not being able to do it. Today I finished it, mostly by looking up the answers or by my SO telling me what to do. Briefly considered getting back into ARGs, then thought better of it.

I also managed to apply for a job that I actually liked the sound of, and am trying not to get my hopes up too much. Another admin assistant job, but for a start-up based at the science park that didn't specify someone with experience. These days I'm just overjoyed to notice the absence of "must have experience of a similar role" in job descriptions. But still no guarantee I'll even get an interview, so, yeah, mustn't get hopes up.

This evening was once again spent watching Misfits - finished first season now. As I probably won't get round to writing a review, let me just say this: I'd sell a kidney to able to write something that good. Probably both kidneys in fact. Have also been drinking cider, and realising that I may have had too much. Not in a "rolling around drunk" kind of too much but just starting to feel a bit melancholy. Which is not the way to end a week, but hey.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Other Plans for 2011

I didn't really make any resolutions, although you could say my Big Crazy Idea was one, but I still have a few ideas and plans for the year. Which I may or may not get round to doing.

We really do need to de-clutter the house and get rid of some of the baby things. The baby bath and fireguard are taking up too much room near the back door, and if we clear out the closet in the Terror's room we could a) possibly make some money from selling stuff and b) have room to store stuff we do want to keep, like magazines or old artwork or other things of nostalgic value. But I've got a feeling we'll still be saying this in ten years time....

I'm going to learn to program. I've put it off for too long, and my SO will probably quite happily get me understanding Python so I can follow her code if nothing else. I also need to learn more about *nix...and I don't think the idea of me as a sysadmin is any dafter that me as a shop assistant (which unfortunately is where all the jobs are). So employability increase, maybe. Maybe.

I'm also going to try and write more. I've been trying to update here more frequently, and hopefully not just about gaming or whining about life. I want to try and write better reviews of the books I read, TV I watch, etc, not just for here but maybe even try and get some published. If I can get myself into the habit of writing and writing to deadline, the idea of being a freelance writer would be a bit more plausible. And people keep telling me I'm good. I've also been thinking about another crazy project that, frankly, is so daft that I don't want to tell anyone about it other than the couple of people I've already mentioned it to. So, sorry, but all I'll say is I've downloaded a copy of Celtx again....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Campaign With No Name - Jan 12th

Having dealt with time-travelling undead ogres, the party headed south to the Bloodtower, politely ignoring the Warlord's suggestion that they institute a "scorched earth" policy.

While most of the journey was uneventful, as they were passing through a wooded area Mouse spotted several figures lying in ambush ahead and called a halt. The Warlord immediately charged into the trees and flung a large Dragonspawn into the open for the others to attack. Several Dragonborn warriors and a mage emerged to fight them, but Chuck drew off most of them with an illusory pile of gold they were compelled to stay near. While the soldiers were bombarded with area attacks by the two arcanists, the martial characters dealt with the Dragonspawn and its friend, and the Dragonborn mage who found his fire spells ineffective against many of the party. Cat took the brunt of his attacks before retreating, with the wall of fire he threw up barely hurting the Drow at all. His attempts to flee were curtailed and the Warlord finished him off. The three remaining soldiers were easily dealt with, being still too attracted to the magical treasure to provide much of a fight.

Chuck found the mage's gloves to be of great interest - increasing the range of teleportation effects on others as well as providing an additional repulsion effect. The party pressed onwards.

OOC notes: The first was actually quite long and felt like it dragged a bit, but the players at least dealt with the not-particularly-a-threat effectively. For easing us back into gaming after the break it did well enough.

Monday, January 10, 2011

That Was The Weekend That Was VIII

Saturday started with brunch at Wetherspoons - necessitated by the lack of food in the house for breakfast at home. Honest. It's not that we enjoy it, we just had nothing else to eat. Then we went to town to fetch a couple of things - like a cafetière for Nana's birthday and something to unblock the drain with. Barnitts sells everything, so we were able to buy both there. I'm sure they're used to people buying odd combinations of stuff...

So the afternoon was spent being slightly scared of how much the sulphuric acid bubbled when poured down the drain, but it seemed to do the job as our yard no longer has a small flood every time we empty the sink in the bathroom. I, of course, kept well clear, and let my SO be all manly and do it all. Then she cooked a chili for the first time in ages, and we had C and D round for 40K and booze. Extra booze was bought at the Beer & Wine shop for the rest of Nana's present. I ignored the geeks playing toy soldiers and read Linux Format instead, but once they'd finished we had a couple of games of Dominion.

On Sunday, we took Nana her presents and then took her out for food. Our first choice was closed, much to the Terror's disappointment, so we went to a carvery which we hadn't been to for a while. And ate too much, of course. Then back to Nana's to play with Benjy, who's getting big and learning to stand up on back two legs, and try out her new cafetière.

That evening, once Terror was in bed and SO out at D&D game she keeps going to despite not seeming to enjoy it (maybe that's just my impression), I watched the last two episodes of Peep Show and another Misfits on 4oD. And ate too much Christmas cake. Think I may need to keep a closer eye on what I eat....

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Defying Gravity, AKA My Crazy Idea

At the end of last year I mentioned I was making Plans for 2011. Well here's the big one.

Every time I am asked on a form (or in person) for my sex or gender and the options are to pick one of "male" and "female" I'm going to refuse to answer and explain why.

Why? Partly because I'm still thinking hard about my gender identity (although I'll not go into that now), partly because I don't see why everyone needs to know (I'm a person, deal) but mostly because I know people who can't honestly answer that question and I think it's about time society started to recognise that. It won't, of course; I'm far too much of a cynic to think anything will actually come of this. But at least I can say I have tried.

Gender isn't a binary. There, I said it. Some people will go further and claim gender doesn't even really exist, but having met people who are fairly sure they have a gender (usually, but not always, one different from that assigned to them at birth) I'm not so sure. What I am sure about is that not everyone fits neatly into one of those two boxes that we insist on putting people in, and even those who do can have good reasons for not wanting to reveal which one. Thus, if nothing else, we ought to have the right to keep that information to ourselves in most (if not all) circumstances. It's considered reasonable for people to decline to give their ethnicity, age, religion - why not gender? Better, of course, would be more options for filling in gender fields - even just "other" would be a step in the right direction.

Some points. Firstly, I am not trying to appropriate anyone's identity. I don't consider myself transgender (I really must blog about my gender identity soon) and I am all too aware of the cissexual privilege I have. I'm not going to actually try and live as non-gendered, I don't think I'm capable of doing so and I'm not sure it would achieve anything. Secondly, I will inevitably capitulate. I'm willing to make life a bit more awkward for myself, for a bit, but I have neither the money nor the mental energy for protracted battles with bureaucracy. All I want is at least some acknowledgement of my point. Thirdly, I suppose for any chance of making an impact I ought to recruit others in this insane campaign of mine. Maybe once I've written up draft letters I'll investigate creating a Facebook group. Maybe some of those feminists that keep going on about smashing the gender binary would like to help. I dunno. Fourthly, I have no idea whether this really is a good idea and whether I'll be able to keep it up.

It may or may not have escaped your attention that 2011 is a census year. That, in part, is why I'm choosing to do this now. Although the census asks for each person's sex, for population projections, what it actually collects is gender and in principle the ONS is both aware of this and of the potential need to collect data on gender identity (only document I could find is this pdf). Maybe a small act of civil disobedience can help nudge them towards doing something about this in future.