Monthly Reads – May 2017

20170511_124902

To be honest, I find it hard to moment to read these days. I have my uni course, my novel editing, my volunteer work, and my fitness stuff, and it all eats into my time. This will be the first in, what I hope will be, a regular update on what I’ve been reading. And with any luck, it’ll galvanise me into reading more…. Even if that just means X-men comics.

So I’ve been on a bit of a Manga kick lately. I guess watching the Ghost in the Shell film piqued my interest again (and not just in Manga, but in Japanese culture in general, but that’s possibly a story for another day). I’ve watched anime before, but never read Manga, as I had no idea where to start, and I didn’t want to read something rubbish and be put off the genre. So I did a bit of digging, and the title that kept popping up was ‘Death Note’.

The general synopsis of the book is this:

Light Yagami, a genius high school student, discovers the “Death Note”, dropped on Earth by the Shinigami Ryuk out of boredom. The notebook allows the owner to kill anyone whose name is written in it, as long as the writer has seen the person’s face. Light plans to use the book to free the world from criminals, and then rule over it as a god. His killings catch the attention of Interpol, and the world-famous detective “L”. L creates a small task force from the local police (including Light’s detective father) to help discover who the killer is. And so begins a game of cat and mouse between Light and L.

Death Note started off as Manga, and has been made into an anime series, a live-action series, several live-action films, video games, and is now being bastardised for American audiences on Netflix. Considering the time spent by various quarters into adapting it into different media formats, I figured this was the one to go for. That, and I only ever found good reviews about it. Therefore, I went and bought the first volume and got to reading.

The ‘books’ are collections of several chapters, each originally printed as standalones, and serialised in a Manga magazine. Each volume contains about 12 of these chapters, and run out about 200 pages. The interesting thing about this series is that the layout of the books follows the original Japanese format, meaning that it’s set out back to front, to be read right to left. As someone who’s used to reading her comics the ‘normal’ western way, it was a bit disjointing at first, but after a few pages, I got into it. And the story itself? Well, I bought and read the first volume in late April. It’s now mid-May, and I’ve finished reading the second volume. So it’s pretty safe to say the story has me hooked. Looks like the Death Note series is going to be part of my monthly comic purchase, alongside my Essential X-Men, for a while, especially as there are 12 volumes to get through.

So if you’re looking to delve into Manga, and aren’t sure where to start, I can wholly recommend picking up Death Note.

Disappointment City

dark-1850684_1280

Welp, I wasn’t wrong, I didn’t get the job. Some guff about different visions. Though, to be honest, their vision could quite easily become mine, so I’m hitting the Bullshit Button on that. The final kick in the teeth is that I won’t get any reimbursement of my travel expenses. That means I’m near £260 out of pocket, with absolutely nothing to show for it. If I was reliant on Jobseekers allowance, I wouldn’t be able to pay any bills, or buy food, for around a month. Utterly ridiculous!

It really is hard to stay motivated when at every turn the universe knocks the wind out of my sails. All I want is a career to make me happy, and put money in my pocket. But the universe deems me useless and I that I should embrace unemployment. I’ve failed as a marine biologist, I’ve failed as a novelist, and now I’m failing as a social media editor. A few years down the line I’m just going to end up having to become an over-experienced toilet cleaner or shelf-stacker. It’s a very depressing state of affairs, and one I don’t see overcoming any time soon.

Anyway, to cheer myself up, went to see Logan in the cinema. Though, to be honest, it’s not the most cheery of films. It was dark, it was depressing, and it was brutal. Without a doubt, it was the swansong Logan deserved. It broke my heart, but it did the character, and Hugh Jackman’s time as the character, justice. I’m gonna miss ol’ Adamantium Claws.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I’d feel if Hugh Jackman gets replaced in future X-men films. The part was his, just like RDJ is Iron Man (or more accurately, Stark ;)), and Chris Evans is Captain America. Better to have a completely new character filling the slot. Like the Falcon becoming the new Capt., if such a need arises, or X23 becoming the new ‘Wolverine’. That way, the character can continue, but not by re-booting their previous incarnation. But I guess that’s something that’ll happen a ways down the line.

Novel Update:

I’ve broken out the red pen. Now it’s time to try and slot in 5 pages a day, whereby I doodle over them with corrections. I estimate it’ll take me about a month and a half to get through the first review. So may the slog continue.

Thanks Doris!

candles-209157_1280

Boy, has it been a fun week weather-wise. Storm Doris hit North Wales, bringing with her rain, gale-force winds, and power cuts. The day of the actual storm wasn’t too bad, with the power going off for only a couple of hours during the day. Admittedly, it cocked my schedule up a bit, as it went off before I had accessed my online university material. As soon as the power came back on, I opened up EVERYTHING in new tabs, just to be on the safe side. Yeah, I get that as it is a section on the internet, it stands to reason to do some of the work online, but having ALL the reading material online ONLY is a bit short-sighted IMHO. Storm Doris a case in point.

The next day was another power cut, this time courtesy of the electricity company. I had literally just finished my OU material, when bam, no power. Time ticked on. I couldn’t do anything with the MARINElife newsletter, as the resources I needed were online. I couldn’t do my social media stuff, cause again, no wifi. Time dragged on. The temperature started to dip. I wrapped myself up in bed and read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on a thankfully recently charged Kindle. I couldn’t do all my fitness training, as the fly-wheel on my cross-trainer needs electricity. It eventually got too dark to read.

My housemate got home to find a distinctly pissed-off me. He was in the process of going and asking the engineers what the hell was going on, when he bumped into a neighbour. Turns out, storm Doris had wrapped a couple of trees round various power poles, and things were being in the process of being repaired. Anyway, long story short, I was without power for four and a half hours, and spent the last few of those hibernating under two duvets. Eventually the power came on, I did my training, late, had dinner, even later, and did my social media stuff, even later still. I was not impressed, specifically because the engineers hadn’t bothered to warn people they were going to cut the power. Extremely thoughtless, but that’s Scottish Power for you. My mate was on hold with them the other day, waiting to speak to them about a cock-up with his account transfer. He was on hold for them for two and a half hours. Eventually their machine just hung up on him. Good times.

A few days later came the annual, try and make flat fried dough things and fail, aka, Pancake Day. Making pancakes is hard enough. Making vegan pancakes is even more of a set up for failure. I chose to make them savoury, to prevent me from eating too much, so I cut out the sugar, and added some fresh and dried herbs to the mix. The mix itself was simple; 1/2 a cup of soya milk, 1/2 a cup of flour, a 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder, and a dash of water to thin it out. The mix made two, largish, pancakes, and they actually came out quite well, if a little bit anaemic.

I topped them off with sautéed mushrooms and onions, a dollop of Tesco’s roast caramelised hummus, and a sprinkling of good ol’ nooch. And you know what? They tasted pretty nice. It’s times like these I wonder why I don’t make pancakes more often, after all, they’re simple to throw together, an cheap to make. I guess I’ll have to bite the bullet and make some sweet ones later. Though knowing me, later = a year’s time.

Hashtag Change – Subtitle: #AmEditing

book-1945426_1280

So this week has been a week of starting new things.

First up, my Open University course, and I spent Sunday making my way through the introductory guide book to my first module. Credit where credit’s due, the OU sets their course out in such a way you’re eased into things. It may seem a bit ‘baby being spoon fed’ at times, but I think it’s an important method for those who’ve been away from studying for a while (2003 MSc graduate y’all!). The first block of the module is annotated with pointers in the margin, reminding you to make notes in your Learning Journal, or highlighting where a good place to take a break in the text is, and the first two Tutorial Assessments have an entire week devoted to them so you’re not rushed. There are also moments set out to re-evaluate your learning, through their Module Review Form, which makes you think about why you’re learning, and what parts are important to you. In a way, helping to keep you motivated. Later on in your studies you’re left to your own devices, but the idea is that the first few weeks you use the pointers to help get back into the swing of things, and studying eventually becomes easier. To be honest, having read through the guide, I’m quite excited now. I went to Tesco’s over the weekend and bought some cheapo highlighters, folders, and dividers, and I’m all ready to go. With my dummy assignment already in the bag I kinda got the urge to start early, that way I have a few days leeway should anything go tits-up or, who knows, a miracle happens and I get a job interview.

Second up, my novel writing, alluded to by this blog’s title. Yep, I’ve gone from #AmWriting to #AmEditing. It’s been what? About a year? I averaged about 3,000 words a week, and my manuscript stands at 140,279 words. Actually, there’s still some more writing to come. A few of the chapters need a proper ending, and descriptions will need to be buffed up (you writers out there will know the kind of things I mean), however, the bulk is D.O.N.E! The last few days have been a general editing of the format, as well as a quick spelling and grammar check, but now I get to put the damn thing a way and not touch it for a few weeks. That way, when I come to the first read through, I’m going at it fresh.

Actually the timings have worked out quiet nicely, what with finishing my manuscript just before I start trying to learn how to study again. This way, I can give my studies a bit more attention. Me in January 2017 is certainly seeing some changes.

But as good things start, so good things end, and after just three episodes, we say a (possibly) final goodbye to Sherlock. Overall, I have to say I enjoyed the season. I did feel the final part was not its strongest. It seemed to be along the lines of the Crystal Maze meets Saw. Not really ‘Sherlocky’ in my opinion. The ending was rushed and a bit muddled. John (should have if they’d paid attention to the script) got his feet ripped off, and the pyrotechnic special effects were laughable (I guess they blew the budget on aerial shots of The Island). Still, it was nice to see more of Mycroft. He can certainly strap on a pair when he sees fit. Hopefully we’ll see more of Sherlock in the future. Maybe not as a series, if rumours are to be believed, but the occasional Xmas special wouldn’t go amiss. Fingers crossed hey!?

A Surprising Delivery

coding-1841550_1280

As mentioned in my last post, I’ve decided to do an Open University Degree. After signing up I had several sleepless nights filled with, “Oh my gods what’ve I done,” kinda thoughts. I questioned whether it was truly worth it; Argued that, “why the hell shouldn’t I do it, it’ll give me something to be proud of in six years,” (hopefully); and basically went around and around in my head with an anxiety-filled and stress-filled rhetoric.

My decision for the affirmative got buoyed a bit on Sunday. Then is when I do my usual fruitless search of various job listing emails to see if there’s anything I’m in the least bit qualified to apply for. There wasn’t, as per, but I did see a social media job advertised that listed among its prerequisites a degree in either Journalism, Marketing or…. Creative Writing. Ding, ding, ding, we have a module winner! Unfortunately, I won’t be tackling those particular modules for close to two years yet, but it’s good to know that some employees are looking for qualifications in that area.

Then with Monday came a cube-shaped dose of reality. My course stuff was delivered! This came as a total surprise because a) the course doesn’t start until the end of the month, and b) I wasn’t expecting any material. The OU site is all about how they have online resource material, so I just assumed that’s where all my reading texts would be. Imagine my surprise when a delivery driver turned up at my door (which I opened dressed in just my PJs! Doh!) and handed me a VERY heavy box. Opening it I found several large textbooks, plus some computer parts. There was no escaping the truth, I had officially become a student again.

 

The blurb on the OU’s website relating to the TU100 module, My Digital Life, didn’t make it seem this technically involved. Quite frankly, it’s a good job I know my way around a computer, and have dabbled in free online python programing courses, otherwise on opening that box, and flipping through the material, I would have had a panic attack. To be honest, I’m still bricking it, but just a little less than if I was going into this from a standing start. Apparently this is the last time the course is being run, and it’s being broken down into two parts for future semester enrolments. I’m not surprised!

So now the fun begins, and I don’t just mean the learning part. Now I need to become a Time Management Expert. I have my novel writing to do, which’ll eventually become my novel editing to do. I also do social media, web editing, and newsletter writing on a volunteer basis for MARINElife. Plus I do research writing for the Aquarium Welfare Association (again as a volunteer). Then there’s my fitness training. Then there’s my own social media stuff, across two further accounts, as well as this blog. All of which I need to jigsaw together in such a way that I can do the course, and keep up all the other demands, without going nuts. To be honest, it’s probably a good thing I’m unemployed and have no social life at the moment. Gods help me when/if I ever do find gainful employment again (a social life is overrated anyway).

Final thought: Sherlock makes my brain hurt…but I love it!

…and a Questionable New Year

Ah 2017, a new year filled with promise. Or rather, thanks to 2016, a year filled with foreboding, gloom, and all-encompassing dread. So yay! Happy New Year to you all! 😒

new-years-eve-1905143_1280

I had my one glass of alcohol for the year. Totally went to my head. #lightweight

Not really made any resolutions, more a list of things to do to make me better. 2017 will be the Year of Me, and I will do things to improve me as a person.

First, my body. This won’t be a start-exercising-in-the-new-year deal. I already do fitness training on a regular basis, rather, it’ll be a step up in my programme. New Year, New Reps! After Xmas, I was dreading stepping on the scales, but playing it relatively safe paid off, and I actually lost nearly a kilo over the festive period. Woop! My goal for 2017 will be to try and get my body fat % down to 18% (already at 22.9%), and increase my muscle % (already at 37.1% which is way above average).

Second, my mind. After a lot of umming an ahhing, I’ve signed up to do an Open University degree. It’ll be my 3rd (I already have a BSc and an MSc). I’ve decided to do their open degree, and combine computing and writing modules. Still unsure about my decision, nervous as all hell, and not entirely convinced my brain is as it was, but hey, we’ll find out in six years time. Hopefully this’ll improve my employability in the long term. Or, probably more likely, it’ll turn out to be as much a waste of money as my original degrees are.

Which leads me onto the third, my career. I’m still unemployed; still looking to restart my career. Of course, this one’s reliant on a) jobs in my chosen sector, and b) people actually giving me a chance and offering me an interview. Had little joy in 2016. Two interviews out of who knows how many applications. My nerves completely bombed the first. The second was a job I knew I was more than qualified for, and could do well, but didn’t get it. As a further kick in the teeth, the job was re-advertised after three months, and I didn’t even get an interview second time around. That was a shitty feeling. Every rejection is a further setback to my life, and it’s hard to stay positive. May end up having to face facts that all I’m cut out to be is a middle-aged shelf stacker in Morrisons. I’m not yet, but the writing’s on the wall. If you want to help me out, buy my novels!

On the marginally brighter side, I caught a couple more films at the cinema, which I shall now review for your reading pleasure.

Passengers

Ignore the critics (as one should always do). I actually enjoyed this a lot, and personally I thought this could have been part of a summer line up of big-budget sci-fi films. However, I do have two main gripes with the film (one spoiler alert, one less so).

The lesser spoiler alert is this. Why, in a ship that contains approximately 5,248 passengers, is there only one Autodoc station? For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the Autodoc is a medical piece of equipment that can scan, diagnose, and heal you. That seems like incredibly poor planning. Ok, so they’re only suppose to be awake for 4 months before landing, but you’re telling me, in all that time, only one person out of 5,248 is expected to be sick/injured at any one time? Alright, it’s the future, and humans MAY be less stupid and self destructive, but considering there’s a bar on board, that’s just asking for trouble.

My second gripe, and more a personal opinion than anything, is with the ending. Big spoiler alert!!!! My thought at the end: What? No kids? Maybe they didn’t want their children to suffer through what they were living through, which is a fair enough summation, but I kinda figured at the end there’d be a couple of (extremely) adult child welcoming the crew awake. I felt they’d missed a trick there, or maybe they saw that as being predictable and trite, which again, is fair enough. To those who’ve seen the film, what do you think; did you feel the end was missing something?

Rogue One

First off, RIP Carried Fisher. Of all the 2016 celeb deaths, that one hit me hard. Harder than I expected actually. Not sure if it was down to me being hormonal, or if it was all the hoping that she’d get better ending up horribly kiboshed, but I’ll admit it, I shed a tear or two.

Anyway, to the film in question.

How
Awesome

Was

Rogue

One???

Like seriously. I went in expecting a, yeah it was ok, kinda movie, and came out with mind buzzing. That was how The Force Awakens should have been. Instead, that film was basically a rehash of A New Hope. It was a total cop out. But Rogue One! I laughed, I cried, I raised an eyebrow over the fact that CGI can’t properly render a human being yet. It was epic, and I rarely use that term for a movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, do so. You won’t be disappointed.

So that’s the holidays covered. Time to go put New Year New Me into action. But as a final thought, who’s cheering at the return of Sherlock to the BBC?! Me, naturally.

Merry Chrimbo

Bedroom's now rocking a tree 😄🎄 #christmas #xmas #yule #festive #christmasdecorations #christmastree

A post shared by Kate Llewellin (@kllewellin_cetologist) on

Well that’s the crazy festivities done for another year. What ever your celebration, I hope it was a good one. Me, I got two days of festivities. First up was the Winter Solstice, my main day, what with me being of pagan faith and all that. Had a chilled day at home. The day before I’d baked a chocolate cake, and on the day I made myself a pizza, then watched the closest thing I had to a season-based film, namely the first Harry Potter film. That’s the fun thing about being a solitary practitioner, you get to make up your own traditions. Usually I watch the adaption of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather, but that DVD’s still in Amsterdam with all my other stuff.

Once my housemate came home, me headed out to the cinema to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Me rocking my Slytherin pin.

Fantastic Beasts was an OK film. Not really on the par of Harry Potter, but then I suppose we don’t know where the story’s heading. I mean, we ultimately know the films are heading towards the time of Potter, but in of itself, the film didn’t seem to be leading anywhere. It was as is. When more films come out, and we see each in context of the other, then perhaps the film will seem a bit, I don’t know, ‘more’. Anyway, the overall rave reviews that have been bandied about over it don’t seem to fit the reality of the experience. It was an OK film. There was a certain lack of subtly over its ‘treat animals nicely’ message (this coming from a vegan!), and I’m not overly convinced that Depp is the person to be playing Grindlewald, So the jury’s still out.

Anyway, after my solstice indulgences, I pounded the cross-trainer for a couple of days in preparation for the next festivities, namely Xmas. Although I don’t celebrate Xmas, my housemate/friend does. So we had his family over, opened more presents, and ate WAY more food.

I also cooked my first Tofurky for my Xmas meal. However, that nearly ended in disaster before it had even started, as I hadn’t bothered to check the instructions. First thing I read Xmas Morning after digging it out from the bottom of the freezer: Defrost for 24 hours before cooking*. Well bollocks! Gods bless the inventor of the microwave! 42 minutes at Defrost later, and I had a cookable lump of tofu. Its stint in the oven done, I was greeted by something that had the toughest ‘skin’ known to man. No knife in the house could cope properly with it. There was a lot of sawing, a bit of cussing, and I ended up with a lump of Tofurky way bigger than I wanted. But hey, what’s Xmas without a healthy amount of excess? Once I’d piled on the roast potatoes, parsnips, steamed veg, vegan pigs-in-blankets, and slathered it with nearly the entire packet of gravy that came with the Tofurky, I had a serviceable Chrimbo meal.

Actually, all that being said, the Tofurky wasn’t half bad. The ‘flesh’ inside was moist, and the outer layer, despite being road-worthy, was still tasty. It’s several days later, and I’m still having slices of it cold for my lunch. My mate made vegan-suitable mince pies, a vegan Christmas cake, and a non-vegan Christmas cake. However, after the full lunch we had, not much headway was made on them. I haven’t finished my chocolate Yule cake, let alone started on my giant Christmas cake!

Yet, when Doctor Who time came around, I grabbed a mince pie and a box of choccies, before disappearing into my room. No way was I having people disturb my Doctor Who watching with random inane chatter!

So…? What did we think of this year’s Chrimbo Doctor Who? Personally, I enjoyed it, and I think it was probably better than previous festive offerings. At first I wasn’t sure about Matt Lucas being in it, but by the end, I was actually happy to see that he’s going to be in the main series as well. I loved his little moments of humour. Now I just have my fingers crossed that Trump doesn’t start WWIII before spring, and we end up missing the new series.

Best present this year? The Slytherin pen my mate got me. You?

Here’s to 2017, and less celebrity deaths!

 

*I could have cooked it from frozen, but then it wouldn’t have been ready in time for lunch.