Thursday, 21 May 2020

Short post!

Very short post. New job started and I love it - tiring, though! Hence drop off in posts again, despite good intentions. The PPE makes me overheat and I can feel my face tingling from the pressure even on my days off, but I try to be grateful to have it. I feel sorry for the residents I'm working with: a lot of them rely on lip reading, and the masks can be a bit scary and intimidating, especially as the residents I work with all have some form of dementia, but I don't want to accidentally transmit anything to them - and I don't want to catch anything to bring home either.

As someone coming from software development, a career recognised as skilled, let me tell anyone who doubted it that caring is also a skilled profession, and one that requires great physical and emotional strength and compassion - truly not one just anyone could manage. It says a lot about our society how poorly paid carers are... But who will pay them more? (A rant for another day.) I would love to make it my career, but with cost of living rising faster than wages anyway, I'm not convinced we'll be able to afford it long term.

I set up a YouTube channel for circus videos, here

This is the same move as the photo I shared in my last post, so thought I'd use it to test!

Hope you're all well. I'm still trying to write up a bit more of our Mage game, and one day I'll get back to Exalted (which is a game that has completely stolen my heart so it's with great trepidation I face it, as I want to do the story justice.Not to imply I'm not also loving my other games; there's just something extra special about Exalted).

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Still here!

Hello everyone!

I'm hoping to get some geeky posts going soon. Started writing up a bit more Mage, at least. Finding it hard because pretty much the only time I get to write is after Ziggy's gone to bed, and I'm so tired then! But I have to do e-learning for my new job, with several courses before I start on Monday (eep!), so he's having to learn to leave me to work when I'm on the laptop, and that I'll play with him again soon after. If we can get that embedded, I'm hoping to be able to do a bit more writing again - the stories I was working on in the background have also all fallen by the wayside and I'd love to get back to them, and I hate how much I've neglected this place.

Are there any topics anyone would be especially interested in a post on? Can't promise anything, especially anything soon, but it woud be good motivation for me.

My dad has bought himself a (steampunk) plague doctor mask... I'm not sure how that'll go down in the village where he lives, though it does attract retiring artists so hopefully they won't be too shocked...
 
Otherwise, we continue well here. Tired, sometimes bored, and desperately missing having visitors, but well. A very kind friend bought me a copy of Tabletop Simulator so I'll be able to join Husbit when they get together for Saturday night board games. Discord is proving an adequate host for Mage. (I've set up a Discord server for this blog, while I was trying to get my head round Discord. It isn't worth looking at yet, but if I get the time I'll make it shiny enough I'm comfortable offering a link.) I have my rig for when the weather's nice (Ziggy loves it as much as I do). 
I'm still anxious about a lot of things (family, friends and finances in particular), but I'm mostly feeling calm, peaceful and hopeful. It makes a nice change!

Hope you're all well. Let me know your topic suggestions.

Stay safe; stay sane; look after yourselves!

Sunday, 19 April 2020

You can take away my freedom, but you'll never take my circus!

I'm loving having my own rig at home! It came with silks rather than hoop, but is too low to do most of the stuff I want to do on silks, so I've re-rigged the material as a hammock and am using YouTube and advice from a qualified friend to teach myself basic aerial yoga.

Because mermaids would definitely take selfies, right?


They're also great for getting Ziggy to sleep
Ok, so I don't have that many photos yet... I've got a bunch of videos I need to sort through and get onto YouTube so I can share here (can never get the videos to load correctly any other way, annoyingly. After mentioning to the other instructors that I'd discovered I miss teaching as much as practicing, one suggested doing some instruction videos, so I've had a go at that too - but haven't dared watch them back yet, for cringe factor!

We're doing our best to stay sane as well as safe. It's a strange kind of tiring, but there's also that almost holiday feeling, where I kinda don't want to go back to work because I've become used to this... at the same time, going into meaningful employment will be amazing. Haven't heard back with a confirmed start date, but they did say it could be a couple of weeks, especially as I need a DBS check.

I'm trying to post here more, but I don't get much chance while Ziggy's awake, and I'm too tired when he isn't!

Look after yourselves; stay safe and take care.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Mage - Breaking In

This is the story of our Mage game, told from the perspective of my character Ragna "Reagan" Halvorsen. Index here.
~~~
3rd March 2016
I invited Marcus over for breakfast. Partly to get some advice. Partly cos, better to get him to meet Mormor sooner rather than later, right? They got on well - think she was on her best behaviour. Think she liked him, respected him in a way she doesn't many people. No auditions until 2, and Marcus was also free. He was nice about how hard I was finding it - "Maybe it's a bit early for this sort of investigation, but learn on the job. It's how I did it" - and offered to come with me, help me out. Mormor glared! And he reassured her I wouldn't be out late. I wasn't so worried about that, so he reassured me he'd get me to my audition on time. Suncream on. Parasol up. LA is too sunny.
We talked as we travelled. He told me more about his missing friend. She went by Susie. They'd been at school together in New York, and now she was a stunt double and taught kung fu. Most of her students were kids who were often in trouble and needed help refocussing their energy. One of the kids got into new trouble and came to Susie for help, and now they're both missing. It's a bit mystical, which means he can't be seen to investigate because he's known. But I'm not, yet. I'm low enough level it doesn't mess with any Accord if I go meddling. That's why he asked me to help. Susie's one of us, a Mage.

The guy in the laundry didn't charge me for my uniform. Very grateful - had barely enough money to get the bus back after my audition. Marcus could sense the same disturbance I'd felt before, and got me to feel for it again. With no distractions, I could pinpoint it better: somewhere upstairs. Found a fire escape, but the window of the floor we agreed we wanted was locked. Carried onto the roof, where the access door was also locked but there was a lock on the outside, so Marcus showed me how to pick it. He did it in no time, locked it back up again and it took me more like 15 minutes, but I got it. That final click, so satisfying. His point was that sometimes we should use mundane means rather than always reaching for and relying on magic, on which note he wanted me to learn some fighting, maybe kung fu, if we can find Susie. It's developed from yoga, so I should pick it up well. But that doesn't mean I should slouch on learning magic, either: he stressed the importance of the Prime sphere, which I'd so far neglected. With the door unlocked, he found a brick to prop it open and told me to always make sure I had multiple exits clear.

As we crept down the first stairs, heard a bell sound, like a shop door opening, but no sounds inside so we felt hopeful the apartments were all empty and headed to the 3rd floor. I cast my runes to help pull on Correspondence to find the right flat. There were no sounds from inside and the door was locked.. I asked Marcus for his lockpicks and hummed to myself, calling a little Entropy to help me out - didn't feel we could wait quite so long this time! As I went to kneel by the door, I slipped slightly on the doormat, revealing a key. Much easier!

A 2-bed apartment, looking over the main street. Kitchen, shower room, living space and airing cupboard. That disturbance we'd felt seemed to be from the wardrobe in the second bedroom: it had a strong sense of Correspondence about it. I wanted to know how to find where it was linked without stepping through, and Marcus said I couldn't, yet; he wasn't even sure if he could. I looked around, hoping to find clues, but - faen! - my parasol caught on the shower sceen and shattered it. Which was followed by the sound of the apartment door opening. Marcus took a quick "look" and reported two people, one thin and nerdy in a sweater vest; the other an old man.

"Who wears a sweater vest in this heat?"

"Who wears a coat like that?" I countered, indicating Marcus's long leather trench coat, then realised how he manages the heat. "Oh dritt! They're Mages."

We started to discuss what to do, when I heard the others speak, and recognised Howard's voice, the weirdo from the night before. Stepping into the hall, the old man recognised Marcus. Introduced himself as Archibald. Like Mormor, turns out he's even older than he looks, and there's something unconsciously intimidating about his manner. They're investigating the same as us, though "Council business" rather than personal. 

Showed Archibald the wardrobe. He agreed with my assessment, and could tell more: it linked to a location to the west, not very far, and was keyed to a single person, so no one else could travel through. Howard suggested laying a trap for anyone coming out, which Archibald did with no visible effort. He instructed us on how to narrow our search: powerful magic suggests empty places, so look for large empty buildings: warehouses, homes, etc. They left, then, as Howard had a lecture to teach.

Marcus summoned a cab to take us to my audition, and we talked. He explained Archibald is the strong arm of the law for the Council of Traditions in LA. He's also the de facto leader of the Order of Hermes, which probably explained how come the nerd was his apprentice. He told me a bit more about Susie, too, like how she's very good at her job and very successful, but also a massive philanthropist who gives everything she earns to support her community and especially the kids she teaches. She sounded like one of the good guys, and this made me even more keen to help.


Thursday, 9 April 2020

Life in Lockdown

Since my last post, the guidance has become even stricter, and the UK has finally followed other countries in declaring a lockdown. I believe our lockdown is less strict than other places, for which I'm very grateful as I think Ziggy and I, and likely Husbit too, would all be going mad if we couldn't get out for a daily walk - and we're lucky enough to have a garden!

The situation is surreal, to say the least. The first person I saw wearing a face mask was in the local bus station, in a crowd of other people, with his mask pulled down to his chin so he could smoke a cigarette. Today, someone in blue gloves ("two by two, hands of blue...") almost brushed her bare arm against mine, she passed by me so close (she really didn't need to. Super wide pavement, I was right up against the shops and there was no one else around). I'd just been coughing into my elbow (asthma triggered by hayfever, and I'd forgotten my inhaler, but still!) We're video chatting with people we've not seen in ages, which eases the feeling of being adrift, but doesn't stem it completely. 

Ziggy is finding it especially hard, as he's used to going for long walks to different places. He misses seeing other children, though chatting with his cousins seems to help - especially M, who sometimes steals my little sister's phone and calls us to make gibberish sounds to Ziggy (he's 3). Talking of niblings, my big sister produced me another nephew earlier this week, the second baby I know born during lockdown. But back to Ziggy's difficulties: we're trying to keep him occupied by trying lots of different activities. Water in the garden is especially good (today, he walked in circles around me while I sprayed a plant mister just ahead of him so he kept walking into the cloud), but we also picked up a cheap paddling pool and balls to use as a ballpit. The best for me is that, as my birthday coincided, we splashed out on a small aerial rig! We have to be careful where we walk, as Ziggy will have a complete meltdown if we go too near a playground and don't let him in, but between the rig and some garden furniture, we're starting to be able to compensate for swings and climbing frames. Still haven't figured out a safe slide, but we'll get there. 



His development seems to have accelerated, possibly from having extra focussed attention from both parents. He had a massive growth spurt in the first couple of days of lockdown, and since has doubled his vocabulary (adding "bubble", "ball", "bird", "down" and "stick" to "mum", "dad", "up" and "cat"). He can now walk up and down our stairs, as long as he has hands to hold - and he's starting to think about only holding one hand. He climbs everything, tries to read to me, can scribble with a pencil (he's going to be a leftie), and is very good at letting us know what he wants without needing many words; he's very expressive. He's also very curious, very confident and very careful, but most importantly I think he's going to be kind.

The rig, of course, is helping me, though I've realised I miss teaching as much as playing. I've applied for a health care assistant role at a local care home. Part time and badly paid, but meaningful work and something I think I'd be really good at - challenging, but rewarding. If Husbit can find something suitable, I think this is the job I'd like at least until Ziggy starts school. I've been accepted subject to checks, and their health survey was a lot more in depth than any I've taken before so I'm worried they'll pick up on fibromyalgia or anxiety as reasons not to hire me, though I know that's mostly the anxiety talking. As for gaming, Mage via Discord worked better than I'd expected, though we're going to try to figure out some kind of video service as we didn't have that before, we miss seeing each other, and apparently Discord's native video is a bit pants. My knitting is a bit neglected, as Ziggy loves sticks and that's all he sees my needles as so he tries to steal them. (He also enjoys playing with my yarn so much I sometimes wish we'd called him Theseus.) I'm also not writing as much as I'd like because Ziggy always wants to help, and is even better than Kitty was for finding annoying keyboard shortcuts. (He's currently having a rare nap, having fallen asleep in my arms when we went for our daily walk before lunch, which means he slept through lunch - but he naps so rarely and so often looks like he needs more sleep than when he does sleep we tend to let him.)

Husbit got really into a car race game called Gaslands last year or the year before, so he's been taking time to convert toy cars into suitable models for the game and is currently playing computer games with one of my uni friends (Civilization, though which edition I couldn't say). Our daily walk includes a trip round a couple of local Pokemon Go sites, including some he nominated, so that helps as well. He treated our decking this morning (so no circus for me until tomorrow or the day after) and is doing lots of cooking, which I'm very much enjoying (he doesn't bake, though, and has found a recipe he'd like me to have a go at, because I occasionally do, so I really must try and find time to do that to show how appreciative I am of all the housework and stuff he does).

Our street has a WhatsApp group to stay in touch and help each other out with shopping and prescriptions and keep an eye on each other's mental health. There's been lovely photos of people's pets being shared, and the renewed sense of community is something I hope will survive past the pandemic.


I've a lot to be grateful for. I'm in pretty good health. I'm not living alone, and I love the people I live with. We have a nice house with a nice garden, so we have some outdoor space. We have neighours we can rely on should we need to fully isolate, and friends and family just a call away if we need moral support. I've got the prospect of a new job which will make me feel useful. I'm still getting to enjoy my hobbies.

I hope you're all well and coping. I'm on Telegram as Fern Kali if anyone needs a chat - I can't promise to respond quickly, as Ziggy is demands a lot of my time and attention, but that's why messaging apps are so great. I've also created a Google photo album (it's here) and am inviting anyone who wants to to join and share things that make them smile.

 

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Life and Plague and Stuff

Oh dear, how did it get so long between posts?

Oh yeah, I have a baby... or more accurately now, a toddler.


I also went back to full time work, had a bit of a breakdown, and am now trying to job hunt in other, less mentally taxing career fields. Which, with the whole covid virus thing, isn't that easy - though I might be able to work part time in a nearby care home, which I think would suit me, and the hours are much better than where I was. Shame it's so badly paid.

Basically, I was a software developer for a big company, who sold my department overseas. Not fancying a commute to Jo'burg, I came back off maternity straight into redundancy. Managed to find a new job straightaway, but unfortunately using the languages I like the least and doing web development, which I just don't find very interesting. The company had a very set way of doing things, so every time I completed a task, it would be reviewed and I'd be told I'd done it wrong, with no support on how to do it right the first way ("oh, just look at what's already there. Yeah, don't look at that bit, it's legacy." "Well which bit should I look at?" "Oh, figure it out.") The hours meant I barely saw Ziggy, and he became so distressed every time I left him that my heart was breaking - and he doesn't sleep through the night, so with the high level thinking I was exhausted. I'd stand in the kitchen crying before I had to leave, but it wasn't until a few weeks after I'd finished that I realised how ill I'd become. I'm on anti-anxiety meds, and have a panic attack whenever I try and code, even for fun. It's frustrating, because I used to truly love coding, and I think if I'd been able to go back to my old job it would have been fine (flexi-time and I was confident in what I was doing).

Message from Ziggy:   \ \bjnbbbbbbxxzgh\\ nnnnnnnnnnnv       j. 

And resuming. The saddest news is that Kitty died. She reached a point where we knew she had to be put down, but it was still the hardest decision we've ever made and really shook us both up. The vet was fantastic, very gentle with her and with us. He'd nursed her through the end few months and was fighting back tears himself.



I have a huge, feline shaped hole in my life and really want another rescue cat, but Husbit's not quite ready, and we'll need to be patient to get the right cat (friendly, short haired, ideally one I'm not allergic to, and most importantly one who's happy with small children). Ziggy loves all the neighbourhood cats, so he'll be thrilled but we'll have to make sure he's respectful. He is usually good with cats, at least - desperate to pet them but fairly gentle and I've only once had to stop him chasing one who'd walked away.
This is Biscuit, who haunts the local park and loves to play with the children.


We're currently covid free here. There's a few confirmed and more suspected cases in my general area, but only one of my friends has even a suspected case. We've had to close circus for now, which made me really sad - but on the plus side, I've got some of the equipment in my hall waiting for the owner to come by and collect so we'll still be able to play on the new rig she's ordered. In small, symptom-free groups, and assuming the advice doesn't get even stricter... (And if it does, I might be able to borrow a rig for my own garden...)


Like most people I've spoken to, I'm less worried about actually catching the virus (despite my asthma) than the economic impact of it. I am concerned about a few older friends and family members, and I'd be terrified if it was having a big impact on small children, but as it stands I'm fairly calm. The panic buying is frustrating, though: rice is about the only thing Ziggy will consistently eat, so we get through a lot and currently can't replenish our stash. The most annoying bit is hearing from friends who work in depots that there are no actual shortages: the problems are logistic in that people are buying too fast. If everyone slowed down, it would be fine, but instead we're in this stupid spiral.

Pathfinder is on hiatus, though this is partly down to a house move on the part of one player. We're finishing up the 'interlude' section where I play Jvala, and I'm very exciting at the thought of getting back to my beloved Svetlana. We will shortly be attempting our first remote Mage game via Discord - a medium I never got my head round, so this should be interesting. Wish me luck!



Best wishes and stay safe everyone!

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Quick Update

Normally after RPGaDay, I'm a bit burnt out for a while but doing it as weekly rather than daily posts hasn't had the same effect this year (though maybe also because I'm still on maternity so wasn't trying to fit it in around a job). This year, my delay in further posts is because Ziggy has an uncanny ability to wake up as soon as I turn my laptop on - and at the moment it's very difficult to type with him around as he wants to eat the mouse and the power cable, or bang on the keys...

He's currently napping beautifully, so I'm sneaking on quickly!

Kitty is still going. She's become quite adept at getting around with 3 working legs, but can't figure out how to claw up the furniture any more (yay!). Our neighbours even saw her jump a fence the other day, though she insists to us she can't get over the stairgates. She's losing weight rapidly, no matter how much we feed her, but while she stays content we'll continue to look after her.

Ziggy adores her, but isn't very good with his love. She likes to sleep in basically a blanket fort on the sofa, and he'll lift the blanket up to flush her out, even pulling the blanket right off if she doesn't respond (and we don't intervene quickly enough). She'll sit down next to him, though, and then give us evil looks if we let him touch her. She doesn't mind him stroking if we hold his hand and control him, but he hasn't learnt the importance of gentleness yet. He's getting bigger and more mobile, so it is getting harder to protect her from him, and she seems to want to troll him anyway, walking right past him when the easier route takes her the other side of the room. I find that fascinating.


I'm in the middle of writing up a Mage post, but it's slow going because of Ziggy - I get a sentence, maybe a paragraph done at a time. I'm also using his sleep time for knitting, researching, and playing City of Heroes (or, more accurately, logging into CoH and moving my characters to new day job locations. If I'm very lucky, I might get to do a mission with one of them).

Researching is to do with the novel I think I might actually manage to write. I read Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth and she mentions that there are no (or few) books in which a midwife - or even a nurse - is the main character, and something in my brain went "challenge accepted". This being me, I'm looking at a fantasy setting. Most of the fantasy I've read is heavily influenced by medieval Europe, so I thought I'd start by learning more about medicine and midwifery there. My local library were intrigued by the challenge and tracked down a few books they thought might help, but couldn't find anything specific (the best match, a history of nursing, was held in a reference library in a different county so they couldn't fetch that). I've got a book on women in medieval society, a book on medieval society and the manor court, and one about science in history, that includes Ancient Greek and Egyptian medicine so that sounds useful.

I've started with a chapter about sex, marriage and motherhood in the medieval women book, and have been interested by some of the misconceptions they held about the female body and also about misconceptions the modern world has about the role of sex in marriage (we think, or at least I did, that sex was something a man considered his right to take from his wife, but in fact sex was a debt each owed the other: the man also was expected to provide sex to his wife when she wanted). A lot of it stems from Christian influence that won't be relevant to my story but is still interesting. I want to create a more egalitarian society, but there are concepts I'm reading about that I want to include. I had the bones of the story, and the shape of the beginning and the end, and this is giving me ideas to help flesh out the middle. I only have the books for another couple of weeks, though, and start my new job next week, so I'm hoping I'll be able to renew the loan a few times as I'm not going to be able to get through them otherwise!