Tanned and Ready to Go

Welcome back, true believers!

As I write this my final beach day sunburn is just starting to peel in the last spots. While outside, we’re being treated to drizzle before the weather is supposed to climb to the perilous upper 20’s later this week. Hoodie and lovely new tea one day, shorts and tank tops the next. Ah English weather, you do like to keep me on my toes. (more…)

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.

Unplugged

This weekend has been one of my best in England to date. The weather was absolutely beautiful – clear skies, hot (mid 20’s Centigrade, or upper 70’s / low 80’s Fahrenheit) and very low humidity. I spent Saturday taming the wild jungle of the back yard, and was disappointed when I filled the yard waste bin. Today one of my neighbors was helping another neighbor (I live in a big long terraced house) dig out their back yard so I went to help and got to meet a bunch of new people. Now both of my gardens are at least passable, though they both need a great deal more work. Both yards have gigantic old and half-dead pine trees in need of serious trimming. But before we can even get to the one in the back, we have to haul out the pile of branches that were left the last time someone trimmed it, that have become completely overgrown with brambles. Oh well, at least I can use the drying line now!

One of the discouraging things about being a law student in the summer is there’s still plenty of work to do. Trainee contract application season is in full swing, not to mention placements, open days, and pro bono work. There’s also the nail-biting wait for results. They’re in next week, as is my birthday. As I’ve told my friends, alcohol is going to be involved one way or another…

On top of all that, I had a huge list of around the house projects I started accumulating during the school year. All but one of those are finished now, I’m happy to say. I’ve also kicked both my editing and audio work up a notch with more projects, so on rainy and cloudy days I’ve been logging plenty of computer hours.

Both days this weekend we’ve taken the time to be outside as much as possible, from yard work to running errands to meals on patios. A late dinner at 9 p.m. and there’s still plenty of light to see by, and the evening breeze is just perfect. Summer living at its finest.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my book need reading, and there’s a sunny spot out in the front that looks perfect. It’s too nice to be inside at my desk.

Revision

It took me nearly three months to adjust to UK academic vocabulary. Small group session, not section. Timetable, not calendar. And revision, not studying.

I still don’t like that last one. Revise to me means “to polish a previously completed but imperfect piece of work”. What am I revising, my brain? Oh well, chalk this one up there with “Tea” the meal and the whole “you alright?” question-as-greeting linguistic regional ticks.

Lectures have concluded, and next week is the last of the small group sessions reviewing some sample questions. After that we’ll officially enter the revision period, a three week gap between classes and the start of the exams, though most of us are treating last week and this week as part of the same time period.

My own revision for the next three days will concentrate on finishing typing up all my lecture notes, so they can travel with me without weighing down my luggage. We’re off to California for a family wedding, and 10 days of land law on the beach! And it’s exactly the right time for a break. Even with a lighter load this last week after turning in the year-long research project, I can tell my energy reserves are slowly working their way back up from depleted. Lots of extra sleep, lots of small intense bursts of activity followed by long periods of restorative videogame playing (hey, it works for me!) and watching West Wing.

Five weeks to study, and then four weeks of exams AND studying. Then two weeks to stare at the wall / recover / pick up what I’ve had to leave by the wayside. Two more weeks to finish the rest of my training contract applications before the two week vacation scheme. And that’ll bring me up to August – whew!

Still, it feels fantastic to have the majority of this incredibly tough year behind me. Just a few more months of focused work!

Treading Water

There aren’t enough hours in the day.

As I write it’s nearly 6 p.m. on an incredibly productive, incredibly busy day. I’ve cleared out my inbox and my to do list. I’ve sent long overdue e-mails to family and friends and sent a few more follow-ups (nothing escapes my To Do list. NOTHING). I’ve read slush and sent rejection letters filled with helpful edit comments and encouragement, as well as flagging up the next batch of acceptances. I’ve helped brainstorm ideas and baked banana bread and have the components for dinner defrosting in the kitchen. I also slept in late and only woke up when Alasdair brought me coffee in bed.

Have I mentioned he’s awesome? Because he’s awesome. Even if he doesn’t know the Peggy Ann McKay defense. Seriously England, you don’t read Shel Silverstain poems? Tsk.

However, I have not done any coursework.

Oh I’ve done plenty of school-RELATED work. Vacation scheme applications (almost ready to send!) and calendaring meetings and answering questions from classmates and the seeming endless mediation rep plan editing. I also figured out how I’m going to avoid Mass Effect withdrawal when I go to the competition (just ordered the third tie-in novel for bedtime reading).

But studying? Not yet.

This four week period of time is the roughest part of my entire academic year. The normal lecture and session schedule is plenty time consuming. With the weekly career events, spring law fair, vacation scheme applications, and mediation prep on top, it’s downright brutal. Something was going to have to give, and being 100% on top of the course work was it. I don’t think I’m falling behind, but I’m certainly not where I’d prefer to be.

Once Paris is finished, my schedule should get easier. I think it may stay about the same, because I’ve been offered a part-time job that starts up the week I get back which will take up two of my five weeknights. Or, if I’m lucky (for weird values of luck), it’ll get worse when Open Days and vacation scheme interviews start happening.

Just keep swimming, right?

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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Sixty to Zero

I’ve lost the ability to relax.

Literally. If I’m not studying or taking care of little things like chores so I CAN study, I have no idea what to do with myself. Part of it is because all my hobbies are still packed up in a crate waiting to be delivered. My gi, my rock climbing gear, my sewing machine, my video games… none of them are here.  I don’t want to start any new projects because I KNOW I “don’t have time” for them, but then when I DO have an hour or two to spare, I sit around trying to figure out what do to with it and work myself into a ball of fuss. It’s maddening.

Take reading. I’m in the middle of “Redshirts” by John Scalzi, an incredibly fun and relaxing book, the perfect mind candy. Which I can’t read for more than the 15 minutes every night between collapsing into bed and passing out. My brain has lost it’s “reading for fun and pleasure!” setting. Every time I even pull a book off a shelf I have the reflect action of looking for a notepad and highlighter.

Maybe it’s a bit of burnout from last week being so intense. Maybe it’s the touch of homesickness that caught me this morning. Though it did help me find an amazing Polish-American diner with bottomless coffee and REAL pancakes within walking distance of the house. And THAT lead to some fantastic photos in the beautiful foggy morning.

I just have to keep telling myself I’ll adjust. I can already see massive improvement in my level of understanding on some subjects (EU law). There’s still plenty of room for improvement (hello, tort cases) but every time I work with it, it becomes easier.

All things in time.

Published in: on October 21, 2012 at 13:43  Leave a Comment  
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When Last We Left Our Hero…

Three months, huh? In my defense, I have been REALLY busy…

I’m finally starting to settle in here in Nottingham. The first month was the roughest, especially getting used to being without a car and adjusting to the rainier weather. Now that I have decent waterproof boots and the house is mostly stocked with essentials (there always seems to be at least one I forget EVERY shopping trip) things are settling down.

The course is amazing. ROUGH, but amazing. I don’t think I was prepared for how much career work is involved at such an early stage. In a lot of ways I’m a year behind the other students, many of which already have trainee contracts lined up or are waiting to hear back on applications. On the other hand, I have lots of work and life experience in my favor, so it’s a balancing act.  I attended my first law fair this week and feel much more honed in on the firms I want to target.  Vacation scheme applications are starting, so that’s my next career priority.

Part of the up-front load has been the differences in the way a UK course is structured. It’s taken a while to adjust to having NO control over my class schedule, and the much higher level of prep required going into small group sessions. Not to mention the long hours it takes just to get and stay organized, and keep on top of the administration. Mooting starts up in a few weeks (eee!), plus I’m one of my group’s reps to the larger school board.

On the course work side I’m still struggling with the sheer volume of memorization involved, especially in tort case law. I keep telling myself that, like EU law, continued practice will make things easier and that right now it’s literally first exposure. Some days it even helps. I think I’m going to need flash cards! *chuckle*

My pro bono work at the coroner’s office started last week, and I’m enjoying it a great deal. I’ve had my courtroom procedure training now, so I’m all set to marshal / bailiff / clerk next time. Next week is an “office” week (no inquests) so I’m going to follow up on some of my ever-growing list of questions.

I’ve also caught the “Strictly bug” and I can’t wait to watch tonight and cheer on Lisa Riley! Plus the Halloween decorations are out and a whole new batch of scary movies are in theaters. But not until I finish some more revision…