40 days to go!!

Finally today feels like I’m actually ready to go, nearly all my internal travel arrangements have been booked and all of my hotels are sorted. The only exceptions are the two sections of car hire which I still need to book and will involve staying in motels en route as I’m driving so that’s all pretty up in the air until I spend some time with a map working out distances etc

Turns out that One Travel has been a godsend for booking internal flights, it’s a website that looks across all american carriers and finds you a ton of options for flights and includes all of the tiny airlines so all of my internal flights have been pretty reasonably priced, this helps offset the price of some of my hotels at least!! Given that I’m travelling on my own for the most part I didn’t really want to go with hostels despite how cheap they are so the hotel costs are one of the biggest factors in my budget, especially as I’ve gone all out in Washington DC and booked a Hilton that’s a street away from the White House. Figured I might as well be as central as I could and burnt through all my Hilton points that I gained from travelling for work last year.

One of the biggest things that I’m excited about now is my week in Yellowstone National Park, I’ve managed to get onto a package tour which is for 13 people and you get a guide for the week who takes you around the park but also leads seminars etc in the evening so it’s a bit more than just ‘isn’t that tree tall/flower pretty/wolf look menacing’ etc etc. I like that I’ll actually get to know the people that I’m on the tour with, feels like I won’t be quite so much on my own.

Things left to do (partly to keep me track!):
– Book car hire
– Buy a suitcase
– See if everything I want to take fits into the above suitcase!
– Realise that I’m singing in two barbershop competitions before I leave and frantically make sure that I know all my music!!

 

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America, or, The Great Raptor Adventure

Holy Shit. I’m going to America.

I mean, obviously I am, I booked my music course earlier this month and I’ve been excited for a few months about it across various social media platforms but my extended leave from work has finally been approved and my current project have given me the ok so now it’s actually real and I can book flights and start properly planning. I’m genuinely terrified whilst being so damn excited at the same time, it’s a huge trip although I’ve broken it down so that my brain can cope.

So, what’s the plan and why?
Well, I’ve wanted to go to America properly for a few years now, the idea of a roadtrip always appealed but I’d want to go for a decent amount of time and holiday plus income didn’t really allow for it. Thankfully my company lets me apply for a four week unpaid Time Out which I’m going to add to with two weeks of normal holiday and take a giant six week trip. Date-wise, it sort of lines up with the anniversary of losing Dad last year and I’ll fly out about a week after the date of the funeral and a few days after his birthday, (yes, the week before I go I’m likely to be a weird mix of excited about America, terrified about competing with my quartet which is the two days before I fly and generally melancholy about memories – so fair warning; if you see me, hug me).

I also turn 30 this year, which my mother has taken great delight at various points to remind me of. That seemed like as good a milestone as any and to be honest, I wanted something incredibly good to look forward after what will have twelve very difficult months. I land back into the UK four days before my actual birthday so will probably be very jet-lagged on the day but with a whole lot of amazing memories to rave about to anyone who’ll listen.

Now the plan for the six weeks themselves is possibly crazy but one that I’m massively excited about;
– Boston for five days
– Travel to Yellowstone park, probably on a train
– Yellowstone Park for five days
– Fly to Seattle, spend two days there
– Train from Seattle to San Francisco, spend two days there
– Fly from San Francisco to Baltimore, spent 3 days there
– Greyhound from Baltimore to Washington DC, spend two days there
– Drive from Washington DC to Nashville
– Spend a week at HARMONY UNIVERSITY (Yes the capitals are necessary)
– Fly from Nashville to New York, spend two days there
– Drive from New York back to Boston to fly home to London

Nothing like making the most of the time you’ve got, right?!

Dreamlining 2018

Dreamlining is something that’s always at the back of my mind as a way of being able to keep on top of the things that I fundamentally want to do and be, without losing sight of them due to a hectic job and life that whirls around me. In brief, it’s a list of up to 5 things (this can change depending on the person, but 5 is manageable without getting out of hand and stays realistic), that you want to Have, Do and Be with the Do section normally tying into the Be section as one tends to drive the other. The timeframe is within the next 12 months, and each item is then generally broken down into what I need to do in order to help it become a reality.

Due to a variety of life events over the past 12 months my priorities in life have changed slightly since I last put thought into one of these so it’s interesting to see what things I find important are. What’s obvious is that I have something in my life now that I’m incredibly passionate about (that isn’t another person), and so things have been driven around that a little which is a really nice feeling. As a result, the items are a bit more focussed and hopefully achievable rather than fluffy and not hugely tangible.

Have
– A barbershop quartet medal (this is more like a 24 month aim and not 12, working on reality rather than just what I want)
– A barbershop chorus medal
– A house or flat of my own, rented
– A completed work of fiction, novella size or larger

Do
– Go to America on a Roadtrip (the capitalisation of that is intentional);
– Go to the gym twice a week
– Cut out snacking from my general diet
– Re-work my work wardrobe, re-invent Nat at work?

Be
– Smaller!
– Stronger, specifically arm endurance because I realised how weak they are recently and that annoys me. I can’t attribute it (well, not all) to the collar bone reconstruction anymore so it needs fixing
– Better dressed at work, I look like me but it’s really just a slightly smarter version of the normal casual Raptor
– A better person. I have a friend, let’s call them Tigger, who reminds me of the person I want to be and not the person that I am at the moment. They are utterly inspiring in the things that they do as well as calling me out on my shit and the stuff that other people ignore but then bitch about to other people. They make me want to be better, and are supportive and caring to the extent that I want to believe I can be.

So yeah, dreamlines. A more interesting version of resolutions I guess.

What would be on yours? (question to the ether as I’m pretty sure it’s been so long that any actual readers are long gone now…….)

A space to vent emotion

Well, it’s been a few years and so probably time for a revamp. I’d like to try and keep writing, whether they’re misc thoughts or putting up sections of whatever I’m working on. Hopefully I can get into a routine but I think we all know that’s unlikely.

Life is pretty amazing in general as an update to whoever remembers that this page exists. Recent events have however, given me a new sense of our own fragility and has meant that I’ve reached out to people a lot more in the last few days just to get some kind of contact. Kind of melodramatic I realise, but if you’ve been paying attention to the UK news in the past few days then you’ll have seen the tram crash that happened in Croydon yesterday morning. The one that happened on my tram line, that I take to work every day. The one that killed 7 people and sent over 50 to hospital, some of which are still fighting for their lives. Add to that, whilst walking to work yesterday I went past a paramedic scene where a group where desperately trying to save someone’s life. There was a frenetic energy as they worked and I only learnt hours later when I got home that less than an hour after I walked past the person had died.

It’s safe to say that my faith in, well, anything took a battering yesterday. I didn’t stop shaking properly until I was in bed, wrapped up in duvet, hiding from the awfulness of the day and playing some of my favourite music to drown out the world. I could have been on that tram. Two of my best friends could have been on that tram, and there’s very little to stop this kind accident from happening again. Oh, I’m sure the drivers will be a lot more careful on that corner now, but complacency only ever goes away for a little while.

To top it all, we get the glorious election result in America. Now, I honestly have no real idea which one would have been worse and we’ll never know unless Hilary runs again and gets in. On the surface however, it doesn’t look great. Especially for LGBT rights which is something that I care a lot about, for obvious reasons.

It should come as no surprise then, that the post-apocalyptic storyline that’s been bouncing around the back of my head for the last 4 years started to take shape yesterday evening. The first snippet of which is posted in the Writing section. I love the post-apoc genre and have wanted to write this for a long time. The general synopsis is still very up in the air, but the initial premise and characters are pretty firm in my mind. Now just to work out whether to stick to one writing style or switch it up each chapter. Decisions, decisions.

Nearly November

My job has grown to frustrating levels of sucking. Currently, the work that I’ve done today has taken me in total about an hour, and I’ve been here for 4 hours. I do feel pretty bad for essentially moaning about not having enough to do, I mean come on, I get to laze about all day and surf the internet, right? That’s got to be awesome?! Wrong. It’s the most mind-numbing thing you can think of.

I like lazing, don’t get me wrong, but every day at work means that I can literally feel my braincells dying inside my head, and it’s not like I can really use the time that productively either as a number of people can see my computer screen. I have asked for more work to do, and did get a bit more as a result but they were the sort of tasks that take about 3 minutes to complete.

So part of me wants to start properly looking for a new job now. I can’t just give notice and leave without something to go to, especially with the recent house move and subsequent higher rent due, and I’m also wary of doing anything that would mean going back to temping again. That said, it’s November in a few days and I can use Word pretty blatently at work to work on my NaNo attempt which should help me stay on top of wordcount in a way that I couldn’t last year and the year before.

Do I stick it out until Jan and then start looking? Should I start sending applications off now? Any interviews that I might get I’d have to phoen in sick for as I don’t have any holiday until January now due to GenCon in August. Should I just send applications off anyway and deal with things if they happen? I like the people here and don’t really want to go, but even if they recruit a new Director (the last one walked out about two weeks ago) I don’t know if my workload will ever get much higher and I don’t know how much longer I can take being bored out of my mind every day (with the odd exception).

Thoughts?

Collision course

Two weeks ago I was in a car crash. Not hugely major thankfully as no one was injured, but the other car tore the front of mine off and twisted the chassis so that it’s written off. But it’s taken this long to become something resembling fine. I don’t have an issue with driving myself which is useful as I’m getting a new car at the weekend and am driving it from Leicester to London, I drove K8’s car about 2 days after and had no issue. I don’t particularly like being driven at the moment which is less helpful as I’m getting lifts to work. We also leave for work using the same exit that the crash happened on which makes for a slightly tense drive as I then try to calm down.

I hadn’t realised just how much something like that affects you. It took about 24 hours for me to stop shaking, and then another week before I stopped randomly breaking down in tears. I still get flashbacks when I close my eyes of the other car crashing into mine and I still have constant ringing in my ears from the airbag exploding out of the side of my seat.

Happily, I’ve sourced a new car (essentially a run-around to last until I get a proper one). It’s bigger than my Clio although is still a Renault so I’m hoping to be able to swap the tyres and battery over on Sunday as they’ll be much better on the Clio. Helpful mechanic friendly housemates for the win!

Today is also the 3rd day of my permanent job, I was a temp for about 2 months and then once I realised I was going to need to buy a new car I pushed about whether I was going to be made permanent or not. Two days later I had a contract in front of me. So a stable monthly salary that’s an improvement on my previous ones, reasonable annual leave allowance and a good company with good people. Life is starting to look up for the first time in about 4 years.

Self-improvement – Day 1

Today is the first day of starting to feel better about myself. This time last year I was a stone lighter having worked hard for three months at eating sensibly, (I counted calories rather than follow a particular programme) and going to the gym several times a week. Whilst it’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things, it feels incredibly noticeable and has been something that’s been bothering me a lot recently. As I can’t do a huge amount about the general job and money worries, I decided to actually do something about this one in an effort to be happier.

So, day 1. Stupidly I decided to start this properly after a weekend away camping where caffeine would have been handy as the main thing that I need to cut out is coke. I drink it, or other worse energy drinks, almost every day as I don’t wake up properly most of the time without it. That probably means I’ll get headaches this week as I won’t be drinking it at all but hoping to counter that with lots of water and tea. As well as coke, I need to try and cut down massively on junk food. This will most likely be the biggest stumbling block for me as I fully admit to a wonderful sugar addiction. I have fruit with me at work however, so hopefully this will be fine. The main issue I have at work is that when I get bored (and I still don’t have a huge amount to do so this happens quite regularly) I get hungry, or at least my hunger is more noticeable. This is where my downfall tends to come if I haven’t been organised enough to bring healthy food in with me as the only quick and easy to access food at work is the chocolate vending machine. I can drive to a Sainsburys at lunch, but as I only get 30 mins for lunch anyway, by the time I’m back at my desk I’m back at work. Perseverance though, I hoping that it’ll get easier and that I’ll get more organised.

Sadly, due to work issues I can’t afford a gym membership at the moment but there’s a great area near to us that I’m going to go running on. I’d love to be able to get up earlier and go in the morning, and I think that’s a potential plan for tomorrow, but for now I’m going to aim to get out and at least walk 4-5 times a week with a proper run at least twice a week and go from there. I also need to start doing kettle bell swings as well and then maybe more to some kind of exercise programme.

So, lots of plans and intentions. Let’s see if I can stick to it for more than a day.

New job, or am I a superhuman administrator?

A few weeks ago I started in a new job, interviewed on the Friday and started on the Wednesday after for two days before the Easter break. It’s a bit of a break from my norm in employment as my job history is exclusively Public Sector having worked for the Courts Service, Higher Education, Tribunals Service and the NHS and the new job is for a private company in Guildford that make bus and coach chassis’. They people are really friendly, largely I think as the woman that used to do my job did very little and was very stuck up from the sound of it whereas I’m competent and get the job done.

Now, my issue is that in my interview they were very firm about the level of work that I’d expect to get. I would be very busy, which I was looking forward to and whilst there would be quiet times the level of work would be generally constant with things to do. I was very keen on this although with reservations. In every job that I’ve had, I’ve been bored after a while. Sometimes it took a few months whilst I got used to the processes etc but eventually I’d get to the point of mind-numbing boredom and would be searching out new things to do to take up my time. I volunteered to be a tester for a new system, running scripts for how we worked to make sure that the system worked exactly as we needed it to. I volunteered to start Quality Assurance training to train other people and QA their work (we needed to prove a 95% accuracy in the work), so and a so forth. So I mentioned that, that in previous jobs I’d been told that I’d be busy and that it never seemed to happen. They were adamant, one of the two interviewing me used to do my job before promotion in December so I assumed that she knew what she was talking about.

Sadly, once again, I’m sat on GoogleChat, writing up game sessions for my Pathfinder game, writing blog posts and wondering where on earth all of this work is. Am I missing something? Is there a fundamental part of my job that I’m ignoring or have forgotten? I looked through the support notes that my predecessor had written on all of the things that I needed to do each week and month. No, I’m on top of almost everything and waiting on other people for the rest.

So is it me? Am I simply a superhuman administrator that completes work far quicker than everyone else? Sadly, that’s now the point that I’m at as I just can’t figure it out. I don’t see myself as anything special, I get given work and I get on with it. I’m hoping that once Easter is properly out of the way that work will start to build up, not that I’m too confident on that though. The piece of work that’s taken most of my time last week is a monthly report, so I won’t be doing that for another 3 weeks. Still, I guess that it gives me time to start working on my NaNo attempt of 2 years ago and start making it into something that resembles something that could be a finished manuscript one day!!

Second Chance – 1st session

Yesterday I ran my first tabletop session using the Forgotten Realms setting and the Pathfinder rules set. The starting scenario was one that I played about 4 years ago in Leicester, run by the king of upstatting himself, although we used DnD 3.5 rules instead.

I had four players, two of which are also GMs which in itself was pretty daunting. There are very definite things that I dislike as a player and I know that other people get annoyed with so I was nervous about getting it right, especially with things like pacing in fights which I don’t know if I managed.

A brief run down, the players started in the Dale lands of Faerun at the town of Whitehaven, in the midst of a large wave of fire and destruction. They run along with many of the local populace of the area to a known cave system in the woodlands for shelter. Around 200 (of a potential 20,000 people) make it to safety before the entrance to the caves is blocked by a large boulder thrown by a huge winged creature. There is no one the players can see that has survived who is younger than mid-twenties. A letter appears on the body of a mortal avatar of Ao which tells the players that a person named Korthas is attempting to turn the Faerun into the 10th plane of Hell. The party is each granted a blessing of Ao, listed below. After searching the body, the players find a number of high level items, (listed below) which are distributed amongst them.

The players then started to work their way out of the cave system, fighting through a pack of gnolls with hyena guard dogs and sneaking badly past a grizzly bear and her cubs (whilst squeeing at the fluffiness of the cubs I might add). Once outside, the extent of the devastation is evident as the woodlands surrounding the caves have been utterly destroyed. Heading to the blocked entrance they encounter a small group of devils. There was some interesting level drain damage, which ended up in the death of Anaerian, a half-elf ranger. However, after the devils are destroyed and the party start to discuss how to bury Anaerian, he gets up. Perfectly well and healthy and very much not dead. The players have no idea how this has happened (well, they have some but I’m writing anything on it in a blog post that they could all read).  The party heads to Whitehaven to find ruin and destruction. There are dead bodies littering the floor from the cave system to the town of those who died in their escape, once in the town area itself there are more bodies of the dead. The party make camp with the intention of heading to the nearest city, Highmoon the capital of Deepingdale, in the morning.

Running this scenario after playing through it gave me an interesting perspective. It’s not one from a pre-written book and so after the initial session I’m free to pretty much do what I want and it will largely depend on where the players want to go! There was some very obvious differences in party membership though that gave the game a completely different feel to what I knew and had done before. The player group is far more comedy orientated that mine was, although this nearly proved to be a bad thing when the suggestion came from the Cleric of Chauntea that the survivors should immediately get onto repopulating as it was obvious that there were no children, not quite what I expected I’ll admit and if he’d have carried on there was a strong chance that the party would have TPK’d from an immediate attack from 200 angry and grieving townsfolk.

I very deliberately gave the party 5 items, there are 4 of them and there was one for each of them and then one left over. In my game, this was given to the woman in charge of the townsfolk, yesterday, it was kept by the players. Both completely valid options, but made for an immediate difference in parties.

I’m now not entirely sure of what will happen next session, I have the main plot arch planned but now have to write the rest of it!

Items from the Avatar of Ao:
Boots of Marux: these were identified using the Identify spell, which technically shouldn’t have worked as they are an artifact item. Sadly due to my lack of system mastery I allowed it, but it doesn’t really matter. They grant the bearer +3 AC (normal armour plus). Part of a set of items made by a dwarf smith, made from mithril and silver dragonscale.
Staff of Insight: this grants the bearer +1 spell at every level they can cast, this goes up as the player levels.
Ring of Wisdom: +10 to diplomacy and perception checks
Amulet of Natural Armour +3
Oaken Fury: a keen, mighty +3 longbow. With a quick action, this can be unstrung and then becomes a +1 quarterstaff dealing 1d8/1d8 damage, to restring is another quick action.

Blessings of Ao:
Alchemist
Gains Precise Bombs as a free discovery at 1st level
Precise Bombs takes effect even when the target has been missed.
The number of extracts that you can create per day is increased by 1 to each level.
Archaeologist (Bard archetype)
Special: DC for saves against spells is ‘Spell level + 10 + ranks in Knowledge: History/Planes/Arcana/Religion (whichever is highest)’
1/day can choose for ’Archaeologist’s Luck’ to affect another PC
Special: ‘Compulsion’ based spells work on any creature
Cleric
D10 HD
Universal Resistance 5/-
Damage Reduction 10/-
Channel energy can be used 5/day plus half your level
DC for save against your spells is ‘Spell level + 10 + ranks in ‘Knowledge Religion’
Ranger
1st Favoured Enemy – Maximum damage on criticals
1st Favoured Enemy – With a ‘Quickened Action’ you may work out the exact AC and HP of a single creature.
May ‘Take 10’ on any survival check

New Year, new ideas

This time last year, I made the decision that I wasn’t happy about how I looked and started dieting. Rather than cutting things out or following a regime like Weightwatchers/Slimming World/Four Hour Body etc, I just paid attention to calorie content and made sure that every day was between 1200-1800 calories. Within three months I’d lost a stone and had toned up somewhat. I’ve since lost a bit more and since I started measuring as I seemed to level out in loosing weight around September time, I’ve lost 4.5 inches in body fat (this is measured over upper arms, waist, hips and upper legs). I did entirely ignore any attempt at eating healthily over Christmas and New Year but as of today it’s back in full force. Slightly following Four Hour Body in my evening meal, not snacking on junk food during the day and having Saturday as a day off where eating something that’s just tasty is allowed. We’ll see how it goes and how I am at the end of Jan.

Frustratingly now, I’m at the point where I can’t tone up much more with just diet and really need to start exercising. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to manage this as the only thing that doesn’t cost money is running and as it’s dark by the time I get home still, this doesn’t strike me as a particularly good plan until it starts getting lighter. I lose my job in 8 working days, just over 7 now, so money is a factor that I need to consider. Until I get something real, and by real I mean not through a job agency, I can’t justify a gym cost or martial arts lessons. With this in mind, I’m going to look at my dreamline from the first post I made here and redo it. Some things have changed and some haven’t so it’s probably worth looking at it again. Plus K8 and Tracy want to do their own ones so it’s a good incentive to get it done. Should probably poke Dave into looking at his again as well.

Other than looking at my dreamline I don’t really have any resolutions this year. Last year’s major one was to pass my driving test and to get a car, I managed this in May and then focused on diet again for the rest of the year. This year I need to get a permanent job, and once that’s sorted and settled for a few months look for a house. This is however a massively long-term aim so I don’t really count it at the moment!

In other news, it’s pancake day soon!