The Holidays Approacheth

I can always tell when the holidays are getting close – my free time evaporates.

This year we hosted Alasdair’s parents for Thanksgiving, which was lovely. They don’t like cornbread, and do like pumpkin pie, which I consider a victory.

And then of course, there’s Dragon Age Inquisition. Which I’m trying very hard NOT to take up my every waking weekend hour. So far, so good, but I’ve still logged close to 30 hours since launch. More posts on that later. My current interaction with the game is … complicated.

While I struggle to balance household chores with saving Theda, enjoy this lovely Pat Cadigan story, “Cody”, which I narrated for Clarkesworld.

Flying Update

Two more weeks of classed until Christmas break and the pressure has ramped up significantly. Apologies for the bullet points, but I need to get back to Wills revision.

  • The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary “Day of the Doctor” was fantastic. Going to see it with hundreds of other fans in costume in the theaters was amazing. Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows owned the Internet last night.
  • Thanks again to The Cheesecakes for hosting me while Alasdair was in Leeds for Thought Bubble.
  • One flavor of Jelly Babies is icky. Now that I’ve got the rest of the bag home in lighted conditions, I will investigate further to discover the guilty party.
  • The house is mostly unpacked and I’ve just set up a couple of reusable ceramic dehumidifiers in the two less-well insulated windows. There’s several small projects left, but first I need to learn how to properly install hanging things in these types of walls. This may involve the purchase of power tools. Heaven forfend.
  • Our housewarming / late Thanksgiving / early Christmas / Great Swap party is scheduled and the menu being planned. Alasdair wants to make tamales. YUM.
  • The mediation competition has advanced to the semi-finals this week. It’s fascinating being on the other side of the table this time, and I’m developing whole new sets of skills.
  • I’m hoping I might get to do my first community mediation over the Christmas break, but I haven’t heard back yet.
  • Speaking of the Christmas break, we are officially going to take 10 days off towards the end of the month. I’ll post about it so people can help keep me honest.
  • My latest narration is up at Cast of Wonders – “The View From Stickney Crater” by Rick Kennett, our latest Cy de Gurch story.
  • I think I’ve located an international foods market that carries fresh Ancho peppers. I need to get some and roast them to confirm. Because that would mean green chili and cheese tamales. YUM.

Right. Back to work!

Realizations

-Summer is nearly over, and I go back to school in a mere 22 days.

-As of Thursday, I’ll have lived in the UK a full year.

-I’ve narrated both Hugo and Parsec nominated short stories.

-Forget March coming in like a lion, autumn seems to be taking September out at the knees!

-This academic year I’ll be studying one form of mediation while teaching another.

-I’m about to restart aikido training. I’m nervous, but also excited, especially because I’ll have not only a partner put potentially classmates joining me as well.

-When you’re waiting for decisions that will dictate the direction and schedule of major life decisions for the next four years, six weeks is a very long, anxious period of time.

-Picnics help immensely.

-I can devour over 150,000 words of fiction in 36 hours. Yes, the Hunger Games were THAT good. Completely worth the “book hangover” the next morning.

-Next month I’m going to Batman’s house to watch a movie.

-I still owe the Mutherfudger a guest blog on Mexican food that doesn’t involve chili.

-Vacations always feel amazing because of the amount of work that not only precedes them, but goes into making sure you come back to a clean house. Wash All The Things!

-My life may be uncertain and less padded than I’d like, but I’m happy and in the end, that’s what matters most.

Parsecs!

Just a quick post today, it’s been an unexpectedly busy weekend for the best possible reason. “Now Cydonia” by Rick Kennett (and narrated by me!) is a Parsec finalist! Also on the short story, small cast list is the excellent “Kill Screen” by Chris Lewis Carter, which ran at Pseudopod. Congratulations to all the finalists!

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Cast of Wonders also debuted the “Little Wonders” series this week, our new flash fiction and poetry pairings, hosted by yours truly.

Week One of my vacation scheme has been excellent – lots of work, lots of fun. Next week is an assessment day and one-on-one interview, followed by a weekend with friends and driving a tank. Then it’s finalizing the last of the training contract applications before diving back into the recording studio to finish up several ACX projects.

Summer is flying by – I can’t believe it’s already the end of July!

Vignettes

The last two weeks have been busy, sunny, warm and amazing. I’ve spent less time at my computer, and more time reading, narrating, in the garden and with friends. I appreciate all the extra effort the late-blooming summer has made, as do my bumper-crop of freckles.

Here are some thoughts, impressions and experiences, roughly in reverse chronological order, or the last couple weeks. No bullets this time; I don’t like how unresponsive they are to formatting.

-Today in Florida, George Zimmerman was acquitted of the death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter; the all-female jury of six found him not guilty of both charges. The racial significance of the case was discussed. Insightful commentary was offered as to the future battles Zimmerman faces. Oakland rioted. The American legal cornerstone of innocence until proven guilty continues to stand side-by-side with centuries-old bigotry in a country that doesn’t have the courage to follow Australia‘s footsteps.

Pacific Rim is fantastic, a lovingly prepared cross between a WWII drama and a kaiju anime. I loved every shiny, explodey, gigantic moment of it. Why couldn’t the Transformers reboot have been like this?!

-I’ve finished two books in the last week, both of which deserve their own longer reviews. “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” is the novel-length version of the original short story, and “The She-Hulk Diaries” gives a Carrie Bradshaw lens to the Avengers’ lean mean green attorney. Both are highly recommended.

-My first visit to Edge-Lit was a wonderful chance to catch up with my entire authorial Twitter feed face to face. Despite the record temperature’s attempts to bake us, a good time was had by all. There was baby-holding and plenty of cake to share, plus Adele put a dog-nose and ears on Alasdair at her Noir Carnival launch.

-Speaking of Alasdair, things have been very diverse for him lately: some ups, some downs. There’s been lots of deep thinking and long talks brainstorming about the future. I’m incredibly proud of how hard he’s working and the many directions he’s exploring. Great job, love.

-He and his parents spoiled me rotten for my birthday. I have a new blouse, a fantastic magnetic bulletin board with a map of the world and little arrow magnets, a culinary blow torch (s’mores!), chocolates, a new African violet for my office, and the Apple Jack My Little Pony comic. Plus I treated myself to a manicure and a day of random window-shopping. Just wonderful.

-The day before I got my exam results and passed with flying colors. Yahoo! Exactly the pay-off I was hoping for after a hard, hard academic year.

-Our Fourth of July dinner with friends and neighbors was fantastic, plus I have macaroni and cheese squirreled away in the freezer for emergency homesickness alleviation.

-Several new projects are in the works for Cast of Wonders which should start to see fruition as early as next week when we debut a new flash fiction segment. I’m also doing a lot of behind-the-scenes organization, such as finally search tagging the back catalog, setting up a Pinterest board with all our episode art, and preparing a database of our author and narrator contact information. The Parsec finalists haven’t been announced yet, but my fingers remain firmly crossed.

-The one area I’ve been less than stellar has been completing the rest of my training contract applications. I’ve started the final batch, but the summer heat has proved excellent inertia on dotting the I’s, crossing the T’s, and pressing send. Now that I don’t have the excuse of waiting for exam results, this next weekend’s project is to knuckle under and get them finished. I hate leaving things to the last minute, and while I technically have a few work-days after my vacation scheme finishes, I’m sure those recruiting managers would appreciate me finishing earlier rather than later as well.

Next time, either my strategy for how to see “Ender’s Game” without a bigot profiting, the before-and-after photos of my summer office reorganization, or a Mexican food recipe for people who don’t like chili.

Saddle Up

Today is the last day of Easter break. While it’s certainly true I didn’t finish as much school work as I would have liked, I can’t say the time was wasted. I was burned out, and to some extent am still below normal operating speed. The long evenings of just relaxing with a videogame (I finished Tomb Raider and have started Bioshock 2 as a ramp-up to Bioshock Infinite) or episodes of the West Wing have helped a great deal.

We also had two different sets of visitors: Alasdair’s parents for two days for his dad’s birthday, and then his best friend and fiance from Austin for another couple of days. Tack on the spring cleaning to get ready, and the (still ongoing) dregs of household repairs, and it was a busy and enjoyable time.

I’ve also accomplished a great deal of back-end organization on Cast of Wonders, including the guest narration at Drabblecast, “Hullabaloo” and recording my first guest host spot at Podcastle which will air around April 16th. I have an all new respect for Alasdair, Dave, Norm, Graeme, and all the other podcast hosts out there – writing endcaps is tough work! Plus I’ve finished the raw audio on my current ACX project – just need to edit if and pass it off to the sound engineer.

Now it’s time to knuckle back under and put my head down with exam revision. I have three more weeks of group discussions before out trip to the States for a family wedding. (Sunshine! Oh glorious sunshine how I’ve missed you!) After that it’s another two solid weeks of revision before the start of the four week exam period. I have two 3+hour exams a week for four weeks.

Along with the depressing spring weather, the gear-up for the next academic year has begun, and all it’s associated emotion. It’s not just accepting an offer for me, there are visa considerations, and the ever-present funding concerns. I’m applying for several scholarships for next year, but it’s difficult to find ones where a non-EU citizen can even apply.

Plus, it’s frustrating. I was granted a scholarship to attend the summer school program I applied for, but due to my first choice of program being cancelled and the second choice having a scheduling conflict, now I can’t go! I had hoped I might be able to hold over the scholarship to next year, but not only isn’t that the case, but it appears unlikely this type of scholarship will be offered against next year. *sigh* It’s hard to remain positive and motivated when faced with a cascade of little setbacks.

Still, with the clocks moved forward and the longer and brighter (if still not warmer) sunshine, things are improving. There’s no new material to process, just old to consolidate and study. With less classroom time and dry(er) weather there’ll be a chance for more long walks and exercise, and eventually all the paperwork will be done. Just gotta keep moving.

Procrastination

I’ve reached that part of the school year I always hate. Ninety percent of the work is done, and I can’t seem to muster any energy or enthusiasm for the remaining ten percent. There are still exams to take and coursework to finish and my research project to finalize, but the drive just ain’t there.

Maybe it’s my “the perfect is the enemy of the good” philosophy. Maybe it’s the fact it’s snowing on St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe it’s that I’ve booked airfare back to San Francisco for the end of next month and I’m counting the days.

There are a lot of things on my blogging list, but it’s clear devoting time to each one separately isn’t going to work with any degree of speed. So let’s return to my old friend, the bullet point.

Games

  • Finishing the Mass Effect trilogy was emotionally rough but I’m very, very pleased with the ending. Green, for those of you in the know. It was the only logical choice.
  • The Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC is the best one yet, and not just because Wrex uses The People’s Elbow on a flying car. It’s even better than Lair of the Shadow Broker. You know all that fantastic inter-character dialog you love so much? It’s four hours of that. Plus a mission that blows your socks off. Plus arcade games and a battle arena that will ALSO blow your socks off. It’s bittersweet and energetic and the perfect send-off.
  • Shepard is one tough lady. She’s literally gone through death and everything you can think of to save the galaxy. She never sheds a tear. Unless your romance option was Thane. And that was perhaps the most perfect moment of all.
  • After finishing Mass Effect I devoured Musaic Box, a fun music puzzle app Alasdair found me. I’m poking at the hard mode now as a palate cleanser between school work. I really, REALLY love the game and I hope they expand it in the future. I’d love to see fugues and rounds, for example, as well as more of the familiar classics they started with.
  • Now I’m playing the new Tomb Raider. Holy COW this is not your 90’s Lara. It’s very different stylistically, and is focused less on the story and more on how you play with interactive quick-time cinematics and weapon and skill customization.
  • Which is good; after having finished Mass Effect, another story-driven game would undoubtedly fail in comparison.
  • Now that I have the ability to use my climbing axe in combat, I’m much happier: having only ranged attacks isn’t my thing, especially when being rushed by a pack of wolves or a madman with a riot shield.

School

  • This next week is the last week before Spring (or Easter, as they call it here in a country without a phobia of associating seasons with religious holidays) Break. I have a single land lecture to go, and four more weeks of sessions, half of which are consolidation and mock exam question reviews.
  • I’m frustrated with coursework. My grades are trending down, and I can’t figure out why. I’ve got a meeting request in to my tutor to see if she can help me understand.
  • Part of it, I think, is the differences in US versus UK grading systems. Last coursework I made a bone-headed and probably time-pressure based mistake: I swapped two terms. In the States, that would be a one-time point deduction. Here in the UK, however, it functions as a mark CAP: there’s only so high a grade I can receive for having made this mistake. Frustrating, to say the least.
  • However, all my mock exam grades so far have been squarely in the Commendation and nearly Distinction category. Since exams are 70% of my grade — and none of my course work has been anywhere near failing — I’m trying to let it go and keep focused on the big picture. Finish strong, and keep moving.

Voice Work and Cast of Wonders

  • I’m incredibly happy with the quality of Cast of Wonders since taking over as editor at the beginning of the year. Graeme and Barry are a pleasure to work with, and we’ve run an amazing range of stories, with some of my favorites yet to come. The schedule is starting to solidify far enough in advance that we’re discussing Halloween and Christmas projects, and the turn-around time on submissions is staying under 30 days. Plus we’ve arranged narration swaps with some of the best names in fiction podcasting: The DrabbleCast (Norm Sherman), PodCastle (Dave Thompson), and Clarkesworld Magazine (Kate Baker) with I hope many more to come.
  • For my part, I’ve been behind the microphone again recently with “Mercurial Skin” and “Now Cydonia“. Plus I have my swap with Norm appearing shortly on The DrabbleCast.
  • And I’m planning to resume longer piece auditions with ACX this summer after exams.

Life In General

  • Snow. In March. *sigh*
  • The cooking apathy has passed at last. I spent all of Friday cleaning the kitchen and inventorying the pantry in a cathartic burst of energy, followed by baking two loaves of bread (rosemary ciabatta and banana) and making pizza for dinner.
  • Alasdair’s becoming quite the cook in his own right, and is picking up on my knack for re-purposing leftovers. We had some fantastic grilled turkey goujons (that’s tenders to us Americans) marinated in sage and olive oil served with leftover mushroom risotto. It made me think of Trader Joe’s amazing butternut squash ravioli. Sooooooon!!
  • I miss clothes dryers, and the feeling of warm, wrinkle-free sheets. I’m convinced England’s grumpy national character could be cured if people drank more water and had fresh-from-the-dryer clothes on a regular basis.
  • This weekend we’re going to a spring pops concert at the Royal Hall. Hurray for cheap student symphony tickets!
  • During Easter Break we’re having two visitors. Alasdair’s parents are coming down to visit for Ian’s birthday, and our friends Whit and Melissa are staying over a night with us on their trip through the UK and Portugal.
  • It’s hard being on a fixed budget, mentally more than physically. We don’t lack for any basics, but when I’m gloomy it’s impossible not to remember what having a six figure income was like. Gym memberships, weekend trips, disposable income. Anyone who makes big decisions struggles with them, and I’m no exception.
    But I wouldn’t change anything. Not even when it snows in March.

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Three Weeks ‘Till Easter

I blame Paris.

Yes, the trip and the experience and the competition was wonderful. But it devoured my reading week. And the three days of rest I actually did get were spent being sick, plus a few more. Normally I get the six week burn-out in week four or five. Here it is Sunday of week 3 and I can see it on the horizon.

I’m resting, and a guilty part of my brain says I’m resting too much, but I’m finding it easier not to listen. Two more weeks of the full school-and-job-and-pro-bono schedule, and then we’ll enter the review period and it’ll be half as much class time. More importantly, it’ll be NO NEW SUBJECTS so I can feel like I’m caught up and able to more fully digest the material.

Just a few more weeks. More things are dropping off the to do list than being added, and that counts for a lot.

Wow this is a disjointed blog post, just like the state of my brain. Quick! A distraction! How about some bullet points. Bullet points are easy. I do bullet points now, bullet points are cool.

  • I have my first summer vacation scheme in-person interview this week.
  • I’m back at the Coroner’s Office as of next Friday and gearing up to finish my research paper. Just need to finish the last coursework first.
  • 59 on my criminal mock exam, on top of the prior 68 in land, and a good feeling about EU last week. I’m not quite where I want to be, but I’m not as far away as I feared.
  • I completed my first play-through of Musaic, a wonderfully addicting musical puzzle game. I’ll talk about it in greater detail in another post, I think. I’m still mulling over a couple of suggestions.
  • Editing at Cast of Wonders is going very well and I’m having a fantastic time. I narrated a recent offering as well, the excellent “Mercurial Skin“.
  • The airfare search for my cousin’s wedding the end of April is in full swing. If you see any good London to San Francisco round trips, please send them my way!
  • Alasdair and I are watching West Wing as my surrogate evening entertainment until Tomb Raider and the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3 comes out. It’s not as restful as I find video games before bed (weird, huh? I know!) but it takes the edge off the occasional homesickness. I adore CJ and Mrs. Landingham. 🙂
  • My phone died today, which in retrospect is probably a good half the disjointed mood. It feels weird to be without it, even when I’m inside and working on a desktop. A repair / replacement (God Bless Apple Care) has been arranged, but it’ll be a few days.
  • At dinner with some new friends (Hi Troo!) over the weekend, we reminisced over LotRO. I reinstalled the game overnight, but wasn’t able to remember my password from oh, five or six years ago. Searching for hints in my old e-mail turned up some unhappy memories and past messages. Combined with the two hours on tech support with a dead phone, and I was gearing up for a full-blown Sunday afternoon meltdown.
  • Only, I didn’t. We ate take-out chicken and watched a couple episodes and I took the shortcut off my desktop until support gets back to me with a reset. All in under 20 minutes. Go me!

Three more weeks. I can do this.

2012

WOW.

It’s going to be hard to write a succinct and entertaining post about the biggest year of my life so far. That’s part of the problem, I’ve had two in a row. Let’s do the TL;DR version.

In 2012 I:

  • Returned from meeting Alasdair in person for the first time (and then straight through to my brother’s wedding) knowing he was every bit as wonderful as I thought he would be and even MORE head over heels in love, if that was possible.
  • Researched, applied, and was accepted to law school in England.
  • Navigated and paid for an international move, including all the visa hurdles and the emotion of giving away or selling everything I possible could like my car. (He’s in good hands with my cousin.)
  • Encouraged Alasdair to come live with me for the summer, and spent an amazing four months seeing the sights together including New York, W00tstock in San Diego, Disneyland, Yosemite, back to England for a week of campus tours, GenCon in Indianapolis, and seeing Melissa and Whit in Austin.
  • Lost my youngest aunt in a car accident that could have claimed the lives of three more.
  • Recorded a Hugo nominated author’s short story for sale.
  • Said goodbye to the law firm I’d been with for over eight years.
  • Moved to England and lived without everything I owned minus two suit cases worth for 3 months.
  • Went to Dublin to see the comeback reunion tour of my favorite band.
  • Started law school and didn’t collapse into a pile of exhausted tears more than once every 6 weeks.
  • Won a mediation competition and get to compete in Paris in February.

Like I said. WOW.

And that’s without all day to day filler – rock climbing and piano lessons and blogging and reading and voice work. See? I just went back up to that list and added a few things I’d forgot. I miss my old gym and dojo a lot, but I miss having time for exercise more. I got a UK power block for my Wii for Christmas, so it’s back to the fitness games. At least I won’t have to worry about getting rained out!

I also think I made my “piece of culture a month” goal, but since I had to wipe my phone when I moved I can’t look at my old calendar and double check. I remember one Shakespeare play (Titus Andronicus, at long last), two other plays, and tons of concerts: several classical, one Christmas, Dead Can Dance, W00tstock, Jonathan Coulton, and Elbow. Plus watching Lost Boys on the beach where it was filmed, the Alamo Draft House, taking Dave and his daughter to Medieval Times, river rafting, the season opener Cal football game, and WWE Raw.

2013 has a lot to live up to. And from what I see on the horizon, it’s going to make 2012 look like the opening act.

All That’s Missing Is The On-Air Light

One of the things we were excited about when we moved into the house in Nottingham was the existence of a single walk-in closet. Both Alasdair and I are voice artists, and having a designated, soundproofed space with a recording set-up always ready is a HUGE convenience. No more throwing blankets over tower fans for us!

After several weeks of troubleshooting and seemingly infinite trips to the hardware store, the studio is finished! Many thanks to our good friend Graeme Dunlop for listening tests and suggestions.

Want to take a peak?

We started by nailing a thick and disposable area rug around the inside of the space. There’s two shelves on an adjustable rack underneath the carpet, with holes cut so we can move them up and down depending on who’s recording, and whether they want to sit or stand. The shelves are covered with shaggy leftover bathmats, and the now dedicated recording netbook sits on the lower one to muffle any fan noise. I may even construct a removable cardboard-and-egg carton false ceiling later on if we think the sound could benefit from additional dampening.

Inside there’s a clip light and the microphone, a Snowball in a shock mount with a pop shield. Someday we might upgrade to a proper boom-style desktop mount, but we don’t need it right now. I don’t have a copy stand because we both read off either a tablet or our phones, depending on the project. The power supply for the netbook snakes out the side of the curtain (a re-purposed and entirely too warm duvet in groovy 80’s stripe cover) and plugs in outside to keep the heat down. At first the duvet was held up with a tension rod inside the frame, but getting in and out proved too much of an issue so we just nailed the sucker up. Outside it’s like the world’s funkiest passport photo backdrop. *chuckle*

The results are very encouraging, and with several more projects to finish between now as the end of the year, we’ll both be clocking plenty of hours in this space.

Published in: on November 12, 2012 at 14:18  Leave a Comment  
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