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…)

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.

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!

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.

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?

Back To It

Today is the last day of Christmas break. It’s also the first half of January, and if there’s a time of the year more likely to cause ennui and the urge to curl up under blankets with books, it’s not on my calendar. These two facts, combined with being in the pre-end-game run-up on Mass Effect 2, makes tomorrow feel like the Monday to End All Mondays.

To quote one of my favorite starship captains, “I am therefore going anyway.” I’ve got some fantastic looking boxed-lunch treats (mini naan! mini cheeses! tons of veggies!), got my notes VERY organized, and tonight I’ll knock off early to get a good night’s sleep.

This break has been incredibly productive. And that takes some work on my part to say, since there are several items on the To Do list that didn’t get finished. I’m too used to the sole criterion of my success being ticked boxes on lists, and I’m challenging that by realizing that while many things aren’t finished, ALL of them are in much better shape than they were. Especially given that many of these tasks were new, like writing vacation scheme / trainee contract applications, or preparing for the mediation competition in Paris.

I’ve also rested, which can be like pulling teeth for me. And not just recovering from the post-semester cold and a few days off for Christmas. I replayed Mass Effect 1 and am nearly done with 2. I did a ton of cooking, took walks, did yoga, and slept in late. That’ll be the part I miss the most, especially since the week in Paris is my reading week; no breaks for me between now and Easter.

Lots done, lots more to do. Time to get to it!

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…