graculus: (Default)
I'm pretty much still exclusively reading SF and Fantasy, with the occasional non-fiction book thrown in (but very occasional) and these are the best of what I read in 2016:

  • Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, a first contact novel set in Nigeria
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
  • The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin (though you need to read The Fifth Season first)
  • A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab
  • Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace
  • Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen
  • Updraft by Fran Wilde, which finally came out in paperback in the UK
  • City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which subsequently went on to win the Nebula and World Fantasy Award
  • The Silver Tide and The Iron Ghost, both by Jen Williams

    There is also ongoing love in my heart for Saga, Ms Marvel and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

    More detailed commentary is available at my Booklikes blog if you're interested in any of the above.

    Meanwhile, on the idiot box, this is how it falls out at the moment...

    Still watching (though in some cases massively behind): Brooklyn Nine Nine, Elementary, iZombie, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Arrow, Vikings, Lucifer

    Got bored and/or annoyed and wandered off from: Sleepy Hollow, Blindspot, How to Get Away With Murder, Empire, The Blacklist, Jane the Virgin

    Unexpectedly enjoying: The Good Place (and I usually loathe US 'comedy', so that's saying something) and Pitch (even though I know less than nothing about baseball!)

    Happy to discuss any of the above in the spoiler-laden world of comments!
  • graculus: (Default)
    An update to this post: My boss has kindly rearranged my class schedule so I can enter the regional beginners competition in February, so that's going to be my first ever experience of fencing outside the club environment. I'm trying to get my fellow newbies to enter too, so I'm not completely alone there. I've decided to bite the bullet and enter both the beginners and intermediate categories, as it's only a little more expensive and I figure every bit of experience helps!

    We have our club competition in a couple of weeks, so at least I'll get an idea of how it all works before rolling off somewhere for the real thing. That should be fun, as it's a 3-weapon random team competition. Us newbies are fencing foil and we get paired with two other folks (one fencing epee and one sabre) at random, best team all-round performance wins the thing.

    Like most sports, I guess, I go through phases of thinking I'm getting better and then realising I'm possibly not. I don't have much of a frame of reference since it's been a while since I played organised sports and then it was team sport rather than something individual. In the last practice before Christmas, I ended up fencing one of the coaches and it was pretty brutal - I kept going, though, even though it was all but hopeless on my part and did eventually score a point off him! And then I quit the match, because I was knackered and the experience wasn't going to get any better (for me, at least). ;)
    graculus: (Default)
    No surprises here, really - Milo, who'd been a lone ferret for 2 years, passed away in his sleep this weekend. I was pretty certain he was 2 when I got him and that was back in 2011.

    After our trip to the vets at the end of September, I'd been resigned to the idea he could go pretty much at any time and he'd been getting scrawnier and scrawnier as the weeks went on. However, as long as his quality of life was okay, it wasn't worth stressing him out with unnecessary trips back to the vet which wouldn't be able to help him anyway. He was just very elderly in ferret terms, there was nothing they could do about that!

    Which means I'm currently ferretless for the first time in longer than I can remember.
    graculus: (Default)
    Help me, flist, to make up my mind about something...

    So, I've bought my first pair of fencing breeches with my unexpected backpay, which was great - I recently also bought some new court shoes (since tennis or squash shoes basically double as fencing shoes, for half the price) and some nice dark blue socks to match them. I'm now about 6 months in to learning to fence and enjoying it a lot, though I'm not always sure whether I'm actually improving. Part of what we do on a Thursday is that the beginners fence for an hour and then, if we like, we can stay on and have the opportunity to fight the more experienced fencers.

    Anyway, in January we've got the annual club competition and for over 14's that's a team one - it looks as though how it'll shake out is the beginners all fencing foil and the more experienced fencing either épée or sabre, so a team will be a randomly-selected group of 3 with all weapons represented. I'm a bit nervous and this isn't helped by it being on a Saturday afternoon so I'll basically be finishing work at 12.30 and potentially fencing at 1pm.

    But that's not the dilemma. Nope. I've also been given an entry form for the regional beginners & intermediate fencing competition, which is in February. A beginner is someone who's started fencing since August 2015 so I'd qualify for that and the intermediate is a longer period, so ditto (and for the next 2 years by my reckoning). I could borrow the relevant equipment from my club so that's not an issue but I would need to get the day off because, again, it's a Saturday but it's in the next town and I'd need to sign in for beginner's foil at 9.30am. It's probably not going to be a massive competition - last year there were 5 women beginners at foil.

    Here's the thing: if I don't fence the beginners competition in February, I won't be eligible for that category any longer by the time it rolls around again, I'll have to go up to intermediate. If I wait to see how well I do in our competition, I won't be giving my boss enough notice to get cover for the one in February. If I do enter the beginners competition, I could still get my arse handed to me and finish bottom of the list.
    graculus: (Default)
    Okay, what's been going on since my last post way back in September? Well, the weasel is still alive, though I swear he gets scrawnier every time I look at him - still, as long as his quality of life is okay, I'm not going to complain.

    In work news, we got a bizarre email last week going 'oh, btw, you should have got a pay rise 18 months ago but we forgot, so you're getting it and your resultant back pay in the next pay packet' which led to a few raised eyebrows. I'm still teaching 3 courses, though the second of my 6-month courses (which is due to start in February) may well end up being whatever level is needed for demand. I'm also hoping to negotiate a slight time change so that I get more than a 30 minute turnaround to get one lot of learners out, shove some lunch down my neck and be ready for the next lot to come in the door. Fortunately that only happens one day a week but it's a real pain.

    I also got my first plagiarism of the academic year this past week. I'd asked for my folks to write something about an interesting place they'd been, only for one of them to give me something that was very obviously culled from Wikipedia. So I made a few choice comments to the group as a whole and also gave her some written feedback and hopefully that won't recur. Full marks for trying, though!

    I've also just started at a new gym, which is based in my local high school. It's not open all day but the location and not having to pay parking charges makes up for that. I've had a year's free membership with the council gym but wasn't going to any classes other than Pilates once a week, which I want to continue, so I've saved money from not paying parking and just the sheer aggravation of driving into town. I'm a little annoyed that the people who're supposed to be supporting me from the council scheme apparently forgot I exist a few months back and I'd had nothing to say what should happen next, so I think a terse email will be heading their way next week. I didn't really need it, but I hope other people who need more support than me get a better service!

    In college news, it's all a bit tedious at the moment, interspersed with the people who know the least about teaching apparently being the ones with the most opinions on the subject. Naturally, when faced with the prospect of a 2,500 word assignment, my response as a fic writer was only 2,500? - I've started work on it and it's already past that but I figured cutting it back would be easier.

    Finally, I'm still making progress with the fencing lessons. Passed Grade 1 Foil a few weeks back and I understand the coach is keen to get those of us who're currently having lessons through Grade 2 before Christmas so he can then take on a new lot of learners in January and use us as examples as and when required. Or something like that. I have a continuous set of bruises on my leading thigh but am about to order proper fencing breeches (thanks, unexpected back pay!) which I hope may reduce that a little. My only regret is that, because of their location, I can't show off my bruises to the folks at work! :P
    graculus: (Default)
    I'm now a couple of weeks into the routine of the academic year, so I'm getting used to regular times and days once again. Two of my classes are nearly full, which is excellent, while the other is struggling a bit so it's not currently clear if that will continue or not - half-term is the date for a decision on that, so we'll see what happens. In other, work-related news, I've been freed from the tyranny of the time-sheet at last and so don't have to account for myself all the time, just in time to deal with the college course!

    That's going to properly start this coming week, after a couple of introductory weeks where we haven't achieved a great deal and I've eyed up the folks I think are going to struggle. Shortly we have to do a 20-minute teaching session that's observed and for peer feedback and that could see the wheels come off the wagon for a couple of people. Personally, I just want to get on with it since I have 4 teaching observations and various assignments to do and can't be bothered with endless ice breakers and the like.

    Meanwhile, in the land of pet-owning, we've had a bit of drama. I'm now down to the last, elderly remnant of my ferrets - I did the maths and think he's 7 now, which is positively geriatric for weasel-kind. Recently, he's developed a lump on his neck which he's now had a good scratch at, so I took him off to the vets earlier this week to get an opinion on said lump and options for removal. The view overall was that the lump was eminently removable but that he probably wouldn't survive the surgery - I'd been asked to starve him in case the vet decided to go ahead with the operation and he was very poorly looking when he was there. We discovered that he also has quite a large cyst in his innards, which the vet drained at the time but I wasn't even convinced he'd survive the rest of the day. And then he perked up suddenly and started eating, so who knows?

    In slightly cheerier news, I'm still learning to fence and have the bruises to prove it! Last practice of the month is always Fight Night, where we get the electric scoring kit out. I got to fight 5 different people last night, including one left-hander (which is always a source of entertainment) and the U15 regional silver medallist (who usually fences épée so it was fairer than it sounds and I took a couple of points off him). In the former match, I managed to slap my opponent's sword down onto my own leg and now have a 6" x 2" bruise as a memento of the occasion.
    graculus: (oh please)
    Okay, that sounds much more dramatic than is actually the case, but it's as good a title as any so we'll go with it! Yes, it's the summer holidays (so that, in the UK at least, means torrential rain alternating with days which are quite nice) and I have 3 weeks left before I have to actually start trying to teach something to someone. Which means schemes of work and lesson plans - slightly complicated by the fact that for one course I need a scheme of work for the entire year and have never taught a course that lasted more than two terms, and for the other I'm teaching at a level I've not taught before.

    I'd had a couple of speculative enquiries from the firm where I temped last year as to my availability (both over the summer and in the autumn term) but was uncharacteristically realistic with myself in terms of what I already have going on. Sure, money is great but so is not losing the plot because you're trying to do too much! And then there's the little matter of starting at college myself too, which I'd pretty much forgotten till I looked at my calendar for September and saw a not about enrolment. *headdesk*

    For the courses I've taught before, a new issue also arises in the form of returning students. How it works in my particular subject is that folks need to pass three exams (Speaking & Listening, Reading and Writing) before they can move on to the next level courses and it usually takes people a year to do all three. Sometimes a little longer if they're really struggling with one of the units - usually Writing is the hardest of the three, though occasionally we get people who can write grammatically but then the tenses fly out of their head when talking. Because I just finished teaching two Entry 2 classes which were less than a year, I now have the pleasure of at least 3 learners in my Entry 2 class who've already been through some of the material I'd normally use and in recent months to boot. Which means finding other stuff I can use so that I don't make life too easy for them!

    In other work-related news, one of my former students who messed me about a lot (not turning up and then insisting he was better than he actually was) pestered his way into doing a Speaking & Listening exam while I was away - I'd put him in for it then he promptly disappeared, having attended less than 30% of the classes, only to state he'd 'missed a few'. Is it wrong of me to have laughed like a drain when I discovered that he failed it?

    In non-work news, after just about recovering from bronchitis, I then went to Nine Worlds and got con crud, so I've been living on cold relief stuff again since getting back last week. At least I got to do what I wanted there, which was as much catch up with people (including some fan-girling of two particular authors) as go to panels. It's hard sometimes to balance the 'oh, we've already discussed this to death in fandom' aspect with other people's enthusiasm for what is new-to-them and so some panels I might have gone to ended up being ones I knew I could quite competently do and so avoided. The panels I went to were interesting though, so I didn't feel like I'd missed out too much - this year the location meant they were much closer together and I only missed out on one I wanted to go to because I arrived too late to get in.

    Next year, of course, is WorldCon in Helsinki so it's fairly unlikely I'll be going to Nine Worlds as well (since it's the weekend before) as if I'm going to Finland, I want to get a chance to see more than just the capital. Now I have my timetable, I know that I'm finishing classes earlier this coming year and so I could go out before the con for a couple of weeks, but that's still a decision to be made - I need to have a look at where I want to go and get some costings, as it might be cheaper (in terms of flights and hotels) to finish with WorldCon than have it be the start of my trip. Helsinki! \o/

    Other than that, stopped writing a while back and have been too lazy to get my arse in gear since - once I broke my streak on 750Words I didn't get myself going again. Knowing the way my brain operates though, I fully expect that once I'm back in a routine and at all under the cosh in terms of time, my creative side will suddenly start wanting an outlet. That's usually what happens, never when it's convenient of course! :P
    graculus: (Default)
    *sung to the tune of 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco*

    Yes, I have returned and (in the time-honoured philosophy of going on holiday after a hectic period of work) managed to get sick while I was on Mull. Which wasn't too bad for the first couple of days but then I probably TMI )

    As expected, the weather ranged from absolutely baking through rain and midge swarms to 'a combination of all of the preceding' but at least I got to do most of what I wanted to do regardless. I'd organised to go on a trip out specifically looking for otters and spent about 5 hours watching said critters quite close to where I was camping. I'd already seen one by pure chance earlier in the week, but only for about a minute, whereas this was the real thing. Fortunately, at this stage I wasn't coughing too badly. Said critters were too far away for my camera to get a good shot but here's one of them from the people I went with:

    I also got to go and visit the puffins on the Treshnish Islands where, as the guy running the boat trip says, they've been involved in studying Homo Sapiens for quite some time. You can literally sit and they'll land or waddle around within a couple of feed of you, which makes (hopefully!) for some great pics when I get through all of them. Pic spam to follow...

    So, in short, good holiday which probably would have been much improved by my not being ill, also more consistent weather (but hey, it's Scotland so that's a bit much to ask). Also, I like the countryside but this has reminded me why I also like wi-fi and 24-hour supermarkets. ;)

    E.T.A. Can't believe I forgot to mention one of the other highlights of the trip, namely being in a tent in the middle of a massive thunderstorm. We'd already watched the first part of the storm roll over and lightning strikes on the coast opposite, only for the next bit to be literally overhead. It was like being inside a drum, with massive flashes of light pretty much constantly - awesome!
    graculus: (Default)
    Finished everything in terms of work on Friday, now to get off on holiday. Tomorrow I'm off to the Scottish island of Mull for about 10 days, though given the weather forecast it's quite possible I may decide to come home before then, as I'm camping and the forecast is Not Great. Still, as long as I have coffee and books, I shall struggle on heroically and see how it goes!

    I've got a couple of trips planned, but didn't want to over-organise myself and I'm also hoping to use my newly-refreshed navigation skills at some point - I've actually used them already, since I went out to the Peak District and got slightly turned around so then had to use map & compass to re-orientate myself. For map nerds like myself, discovering WH Smith were doing a sale on Ordnance Survey maps was just too much to resist, so I now find myself the proud owner of maps covering the entire Peak District National Park and also Mull (for obvious reasons).

    Today is packing day as I'm leaving early tomorrow and driving up to Scotland, though I also need to go and see Ghostbusters this morning and drop the lone ferret off at the local pet place - they're looking after him and the woman who helps run it is so excited about having him. She has ferrets herself but this is the first one they've had to board, after a false alarm a few months back when someone called about boarding a parrot and she misheard them. It's literally over the road from the local vet, so if old and cranky turns into old and sick, he's as close as possible. All my washing is done and I want to pack the car tonight, though I'm still wondering if I've chosen enough books for if I do get stuck on a waterlogged island! ;)

    Photo spam on my return, assuming that I didn't spend the majority of my trip underwater! :P
    graculus: (Default)
    Nearly at the end of term, thank heavens.

    First off, the student teacher did not come back. I'm hoping it's been suggested to her that perhaps teaching is not really her thing and she ought to consider something else, but I have no idea if that's the case or not. I'm currently in the middle of organising and managing exams, not to mention encouraging folks to sign up for classes in September (with 4 of my students joining one of my classes already, which means I'm 25% full on that class with people where I already know what they can and can't do, which makes my life much easier).

    I've also managed to snag a few more hours from September of what was going spare, though I didn't want to take on too much and also wanted to keep a day off in the week if I could - in order to manage both of those aims, I've agreed to teach a Saturday morning class, but at a higher level than I've taught before so that's going to be interesting. It's very grammar-heavy at that level, which is no issue for me, except making sure that I know how to explain the rules (which I've discovered is quite a different thing from knowing if something is right or not when I read it). Teaching on a Saturday means that I will now have Thursdays off completely and also no teaching commitments on Mondays before I head off late afternoon to college for a few hours each week.

    I realised a few weeks back that if I didn't get a wiggle on, I wasn't going to actually have a holiday this year (since going to Nine Worlds doesn't really count, even if I sneak off to a museum or two instead of going to panels now I'm going to be in central London) so I've been organising to go to Mull for 10 days before the schools all break up. I'm also going to be camping, though camping when you have a car is a little less Spartan since you don't have to carry everything with you wherever you go. I've booked a couple of trips when I'm there, but tried not to organise myself too much just in case - my main plan is books, coffee and beer, and wandering about. It's prime otter territory, apparently, but that's what they said about Skye too and I never saw any otters there!

    I also recently took a refresher navigation course, since I live very close to the Peak District National Park but haven't really explored it properly. I'd done map and compass navigation many years ago but had forgotten most of it, so I went off the other Saturday and spent the day re-learning how to do stuff and also would like to get back and do more later on in the year - the same guy does navigation in poor visibility training, which could be very useful in the coming dystopia. ;)

    You may notice I have not, to this point, mentioned the referendum. I'm really not sure what there is to say about it, other than that one side was vigorously campaigning on what's turned out (to the surprise of nobody on this side of the situation) to be a tissue of lies and half-truths at best. It's also validated the views of a small bunch of horrible people who now think that the majority agrees with them about 'foreigners' and people who are British but not White, making them feel bolder about being arseholes in public. The folks who 'won' clearly didn't expect to, because they had no plans on what should happen next, so we're stuck in a bit of a limbo at the moment while political power games carry on and everyone on both sides of the House try and jockey for position.

    It's all a bit pathetic but also quite worrying because nobody really knows what's going to happen - the referendum was, after all, advisory (another thing that seems to have been glossed over by and to the folks who want to leave the EU) so could be ignored by government if they want to do so, though that would probably require significantly more backbone than most politicians possess when faced with unpopularity. Whether or not I'll have folks to teach in the longer term is another matter, but for now nothing has immediately changed, so we'll have to see just how deep we're all in the shitter.


    Jun. 8th, 2016 05:41 pm
    graculus: (oh shit)
    I'll be the first one to admit I have an issue with second-hand embarrassment - it's something I absolutely hate seeing as a plot-line in TV or movies and will happily turn off a show if it goes down that route - so how much worse when it's working out right in front of you at work?

    I've had a student teacher with me one morning a week for the last few weeks. She's nearly at the end of her course and has been spending time with myself and a couple of other teachers, getting an idea of different levels of learners and also some of the subjects we teach adults. As part of this placement she had to do some actual teaching and, since she seemed keen to do it, I agreed she could take the lesson this week - I'd suggested a subject area my learners haven't tackled yet (namely, how we talk about future plans) and said I'd be more than happy to see anything she prepared, give her feedback and so on.

    My first hint that this was going to be a bit of a train-wreck should have been when she emailed me last week and seemed to say she was going to teach something else, so I replied and reminded her what I'd asked her to cover. She didn't, however, send me anything more about what she was planning. Probably because she didn't really have anything planned and was hoping to kind of 'wing it', which is a tactic that rarely works all that well unless you are massively knowledgeable about your subject, have a bundle of confidence and learners who'll go along with what you're doing because they understand what you're talking about. Today was a perfect storm of none of the above. *headdesk*

    Anyway, that happened. At one point, after my manager had left (since she was observing the lesson as well in an official capacity) I had to point out that what this person was teaching was actually wrong and the example she was giving didn't use the tense she was trying to illustrate. Bad enough that I'm going to have to do a lesson next week on the same area, to deal with this and try and restore some confidence on the part of the learners (not tomorrow, that'll be too soon, the dust needs to settle!), but then she asked me at the end of the lesson if I was teaching the one next week! Fortunately I was in the middle of a conversation with someone and managed to bite back my almost-instinctive response that she'd done enough... she'll be having a conversation with my manager on Friday so I guess I'll see if she even comes back next week!

    In other news, also work-related, I've been offered a place at college from September to get my teaching qualification. Yep, the course I couldn't start last year because the sky had fallen will be starting this year instead. Back to academia for the 4th (and last!) time, because I still have a good chunk of my working life ahead of me (alas) and need the options this qualification will give me. I've already asked my boss to keep reminding me of this when I inevitably start grumbling and, at least, I would have to work very hard to make any observed lesson I might have could match the one I cringed my way through this morning! ;)
    graculus: (smirk)
    Maybe it's because I don't have a commute as such any more, but there's very few out there which can get and keep my interest beyond an episode or two - listening to something sat on your butt at the computer is a very different experience than listening while driving or whatever. I've not tried listening to spoken word stuff at the gym, so if anyone does that can you tell me what it's like for you?

    Anyway, these are the ones I'm listening to at the moment, a select bunch:

  • Welcome to Night Vale - yep, it's still going strong!
  • Fangirl Happy Hour - fangirling about SFF & popular culture from a feminist perspective
  • Dan Snow's History Hit - short talks on all sorts of historical subjects
  • Making History - more short history sections, this time from BBC Radio 4
  • The History of English - regularly-updated podcast on the English language, starting with proto-IndoEuropean
  • Life in the Peloton - ever wondered what it's like to be a professional cyclist?

    Anyway, looking for recommendations of similar subjects to the above, particularly new(ish) ones that I might have missed! Also especially looking for history podcasts on non-Western parts of the world...
  • graculus: (Default)
    Since I've been mostly blathering about what I've been up to in my personal life, I thought I'd also do a post about what I've been consuming in terms of media, since it's been quite a lot.

    So, first off let's talk about books - I'm pretty much exclusively reading SF and Fantasy now, with the occasional non-fiction book thrown in (but very occasional) and these are the best of what I've read this year so far, mostly newly published but a few older books too:

    A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab (loved the first book, loved the sequel)
    The Iron Ghost and The Silver Tide by Jen Williams
    City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett (boy, this series is so good!)
    Uprooted by Naomi Novik (which won the Nebula Award for Best Novel yesterday)
    The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
    Down Station by Simon Morden
    The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
    The Grass King's Concubine by Kari Sperring
    Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
    Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson
    City of Bones by Martha Wells
    Ombria in Shadow by Patricia McKillip

    More detailed commentary is available at my Booklikes blog if you're interested in any of the above. The only books I've given 5 stars to this year so far have been Uprooted and City of Blades.

    Meanwhile, on the idiot box, this is how it falls out at the moment...

    Still watching (though in some cases massively behind what's currently airing): Brooklyn Nine Nine, Elementary, Orphan Black, iZombie, Person of Interest, Vikings, Turn, The Americans (season 4 starts on UK television this week!)

    Got bored and/or annoyed and wandered off from: Sleepy Hollow, Blindspot, How to Get Away With Murder, Empire

    Unexpectedly enjoying: DC's Legends of Tomorrow (considering I ditched The Flash fairly early on, this one has stuck mostly because of the combo of Sarah Lance and Leonard Snart) and Limitless

    Feeling ambivalent about: Arrow, The Blacklist (which I mostly watch for Spader but...) and Jane the Virgin

    Happy to discuss any of the above in the spoiler-laden world of comments!
    graculus: (Default)
    I managed to lose my house keys yesterday so had to call a locksmith, which I don't recommend not because said locksmith wasn't a really nice guy (he was) but because it cost a load of money. Since he couldn't pick the lock, he had to drill it out and replace it. And I'd just picked up my car from its MOT and was rejoicing over the fact that it had passed without needing anything done to it. Knowing how my income works, all I could think was 'well, that's x hours teaching'. :(

    I'm very much enjoying working part-time but the drop in overall income is not so enjoyable - I used to travel a lot more, but now what with teaching in term time and the money thing that hasn't really happened. However, we have a couple of people retiring in July so their hours should soon be up for grabs. We run a load of ESOL courses every week (weekday mornings, afternoons, late afternoons, most evenings and even Saturday mornings) at various levels and in four different centres so I'm really glad I'm not the one who has to timetable it all!

    I'm trying to get out more on my day off and also really want to have a proper holiday at the end of our year (the week before the schools break up), to the point where I've been offered the possibility of more work by the university but they want me to do more training and I'm probably going to blow that off in favour of going to Scotland for a week. Going to conventions is nice but it's not really a holiday, you know?

    I also got invited to stay behind this week at fencing and train with the rest of the adults for the first time, so I must be making progress; that means I got out of warming up again, as I was still very much warmed up from my lesson! At the moment, there are only two women turning up regularly (both of us relative beginners), so that means I got to fence a couple of teenage boys this week in addition to my fellow learners - I don't mind losing, though it's frustrating, as long as I've given it a good shot and hopefully taken at least one point off them. I'm now about halfway through my first set of lessons so I can definitely see myself carrying on past that, though I plan to delay buying any equipment for as long as humanly possible.
    graculus: (Default)
    Apologies to the folks who find my recent foray into the world of fitness etc. of zero interest - in recognition of that, I've put the next part of my post behind a cut so you can skip onto me whittering about other things instead!

    blah, blah, rowing machines and fencing... )

    In other news, well there's not a whole bunch to say. I'm still teaching two classes, though I've now been given a student teacher for a few weeks so she can see what life is like in adult education - she came today and I asked my learners to talk about their course and they immediately told her what a good teacher I was, which made me laugh a lot. I've been given an idea of what I'll be teaching from September and it's pretty much the same, unexpected funding cuts permitting!

    I'm also reading a lot (no surprises there) and went to see Captain America: Civil War on Friday when it opened in the UK. It will probably come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I loved it, though I still prefer the Russos' previous movie. Without spoiling anyone, since I know it's only opening elsewhere this week, I'd say that it probably tries to do too much but still manages most of it. Also Chris Evans' eyelash game is very strong. ;)
    graculus: (Default)
    Okay, so I'm no Arya Stark but I have just come back from my first fencing lesson, which was good fun. The local club does lessons for adult beginners and I was delighted to discover that I'm not the only newbie in town - there's a guy attending who's done 3 weeks more and another woman who's done 6 weeks more. I was warned by the guy that my legs will probably hurt tomorrow but we'll see - I have faith in the 4 months' worth of gym work I've been doing before now (the leg press machine and squats, as suggested by at least one person reading this!) and hope to prove him wrong. Part of my telling people I wanted to do it was to make myself actually follow through, so I'd given myself a deadline of Easter to make enquiries otherwise I knew it might well come to nothing. I've committed myself for 10 weeks and then we'll see what progress I've made and if I want to carry on, but there's a structure there to do it in if I do.

    Part of my trying to be healthier was also about sorting out my diet a bit, though not ridiculously restricting what I eat as much as being a bit more aware of what's what. By just eating a little more sensibly in terms of more veggies and less carbs has seen me lose about a stone and a half since November (that's just over 10kg for those metrically inclined) without neglecting the odd cake or pizza. I've always been of the opinion that those ridiculously structured diets may work for some people but if I end up feeling like I'm being punished, that's never going to stick.

    I have to say, I've been quite happy with my gym experience as well, though the classes have been a bit more hit and miss. I started doing Pilates every week, but then the management apparently decided that class I was going to wasn't popular enough and began to mess about with it, before cancelling it completely - I've now joined a class on another day, but it's early evening, which I didn't really want. After a couple of weeks of being the only person turning up for another class, which meant one-to-one attention, I have now dropped out of that one and am committed to going to the gym instead.

    It probably helps a bit that my gym is at a council leisure centre, so I suspect that has an impact on the clientele being a bit more diverse and all shapes and sizes are usually present. To date I've had no hassle from anyone, even when I started using the weights recently, with that area being a bit stinky with testosterone and unwashed men at times. It probably helps that I have resting bitch-face and a set of headphones, as well as being that bit older, so the only thing that's happened is people wanting to move stuff for me if it's in the way!

    I've also found that, of all the cardio-related machines, I like the rowing machine the best. I was immensely amused the other day by the bloke who plonked himself down on the other one when I was midway through my second trip to that machine that afternoon; I could almost see him thinking 'if a woman can do it, then it can't be that hard' but there is still a certain amount of technique involved which he couldn't quite seem to master. What with him and the guy who grunts when lifting like he's giving birth, there's always entertainment to be found...
    graculus: (Default)
    So, I've been using this website called 750words and it's really helped me to get a reasonable amount of writing done in terms of fanfic, and those days when I can't turn my hand to that I just blurt out whatever's in my head. I'm currently on 226 days and nearly 208,000 words written since August (which is cool!).

    Because of my previous computer dying and the fact that I'd backed up some of my fic-in-progress but not all of it, I had to go through the tedious process of taking out the other hard drive and putting it into a caddy so I could connect it to my 'new' PC and access the files. That proved significantly easier than I'd expected would be the case so it means I now have an extra external hard drive to save stuff on as well, which is cool. The way forward is definitely multiple copies of things! :P

    Because I have a very ad hoc system (which closely resembles and is in fact identical to 'not having a system at all') when it comes to the fic I'm writing, I'd completely forgotten what I had in progress and keep going 'oh, that's the fic where X happens' when I open up a file, which I find amusing. At the moment I'm about 18,000 words into a marriage of convenience fic (well, it started off like that and mutated a little!) and enjoying myself immensely with it - I've read a bunch of these and never got around to writing one myself, so that's something new. If anyone is actually interested in what I'm writing, please ask and I'll tell you more!

    One of the other things I'm trying to do while I'm off work is figure out the rest of the plot for a couple of incomplete stories which are up on AO3. I keep telling myself I won't post stuff as works in progress and then go and do it again, so I have a couple of things which I've just left hanging. Not good. Hence also my desire to finish off the various long things I'm working on before posting, rather than falling into that trap again (and again).
    graculus: (Default)
    As we rapidly head towards the Easter break, I am looking forward to trying to get ahead of the game in terms of course preparation for the two classes I'm teaching - I'd already got a lot of material I could use since I'd taught stuff at a similar level in the last academic year but (of course) no two courses are completely alike. I've also had to adjust what I'm doing for one class because it's being taught alongside functional maths and ICT classes, which means teaching the kind of vocabulary that you need to be able to follow instructions around those subjects and also talk about what you're doing. So that's a bit of a work in progress!

    In theory, there's a bit of an overlap in terms of ability between my two courses but the extremes at both ends drag things out of a nice sensible shape. At one end I've got a chap who says he's bored because he knows everything I'm teaching - though when I get him to do stuff in class, that's not always borne out by his work, so I'm taking that with a big pinch of salt - and at the other end I've got folks who sit and look at me like rabbits in the headlights. So there's a lot of repetition in that class. A lot of repetition. *sigh*

    Anyway, at least I've started getting paid again, that's the main thing - the outstanding wages from the university turned up, I got paid for the hours I taught in January and I'm looking forward to wrestling with the tax office soon about the money I've given them which I'll be having back. Unfortunately for them, I keep meticulous records of all my incomings (good thing too, since I got paid by three different employers last year) so it's not as much of a chore as it could be.

    In other news, my aged computer finally fell over and breathed its last, just refusing to boot up at all. Considering it had gone through various bits being replaced over its lifespan, not to mention outliving the company that made it by a matter of 7 years, I decided that enough was enough. So now I have a refurbished Windows 7 computer that cost me less than a night in a London budget hotel and so far, so good.

    Speaking of London hotels (see, what a neat segue!) I'm still currently undecided about what to do about Nine Worlds this year. I enjoyed last year's convention, mostly because of getting to hang out with folks, since a lot of the fandom panels in particular were quite basic in nature. And this year, after a bunch of understandable complaints regarding the hotel it's moved to, of all places, Hammersmith. Very convenient for the folks running it who I assume mostly live in London but a little more difficult for the rest of us who weren't able to get a hotel room in the hour that the discount rate rooms were on sale.

    Being in the hotel itself makes a big difference to the experience (in my opinion), both in terms of being able to disappear off for a bit of peace and quiet if needed and also not having to worry about carrying everything you're going to need for the day. A list of back-up hotels has gone round but I've yet to organise anything, so who knows if any of those other places even still have space? I was also underwhelmed by the concept of having to phone to book stuff, because phones... bleurgh. So I may or may not be going, I really don't know right now.

    If nothing else, I will be going to Helsinki next year. I'm already starting to look at what else I'll be doing while I'm there, though sadly I think I'm missing the main season for spotting flying squirrels!
    graculus: (Default)
    It's funny how you run across snobbishness in the oddest of places... I recently had a passing conversation with a couple of folks at the place where I teach, which went a little like this:

    Teacher A: I bet you read a lot of books, don't you?
    Me: Well, I read about 120 last year, so yes.
    Teacher B: Oh, what kind of books do you like?
    Me: Most of what I read was science fiction and fantasy. I used to read a lot of crime books, but I got a bit bored with them.
    Teacher B: Oh. I only read non-fiction.

    Yes, because that's clearly much more worthy than me spending my time with (enjoyable but obviously) shameful genre books. Poor me, thinking that actually reading is a good thing when I could be aspiring to the lofty heights of non-fiction!

    Actually, I do occasionally read non-fiction, but not across the board. Mostly history and cultural stuff, with the (very) occasional biography thrown in.


    E.T.A. Fortunately, I stopped myself from saying 'oh, and I also read a lot of gay porn based on TV shows and movies, what do you think about that?' ;)
    graculus: (Default)
    Oops, how has it been a month since I last posted? Anyway, last time, I was making plans to go down to London and then do some work, first for the university and then getting back to teaching again.

    I highly recommend the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum, in case anyone here has the chance to go and hasn't yet - all sorts of cool stuff from the history of Russian space exploration, though the gift shop was shockingly lacking in cool stuff I wanted to buy (except for all the posters, where I could have pretty much cleared the wall if I'd let myself). What I wanted, more than anything, was a mug with the Valentina Tereshkova poster artwork on it, but nope.

    Since I've been back, I did a week at the university and then started shadowing the folks who're currently teaching the course where I'm taking over the ESOL part when it runs again from after half term. Getting the other tutors together to review this (since it was a pilot) was a nightmare though, since there are 4 of them and nobody could do the same times as everyone else, so we've ended up having two meetings to cover that. I suppose I should probably be grateful we've managed it with only two!

    Meanwhile, I've also picked up another course to teach, starting the same time, which is excellent news in financial terms. I'd like to say I've been prepping stuff for both of them, but that'd be a lie, though I have been organising what I already have so I can actually find what I'm looking for. And I also got given a load of stuff by one of the tutors who retired, so I have no shortage of possible material, only needing the time and concentration to look through it and see what's still useful.

    I also did a solid week's worth of invigilation in January, so I'm looking forward to getting paid for that this month. In related news, I was in the supermarket and bumped into the woman who organises the medical school exams, only for me to completely blank on where I knew her from (since it was utterly out of context) and have to blag that I remembered when I didn't. *headdesk*

    Meanwhile, in terms of health and welfare news, I signed up for something last year through my local council which offered free gym and classes for a year if you met certain criteria (which I did) and am trying to improve my overall fitness. Not quite a New Year resolution, since it started in November! I think I'd got to that point where anything like fatigue was a toss-up between 'am I ill?', 'am I just getting older?' or 'is it just that I'm not very fit any more?' (like the question about whether there was something going on with my thyroid function, which came back as not proven) and decided the best way to sort out between the two was to remove one of them as a possible factor. Sadly, it wasn't 'am I just getting older?', which nobody can do anything about! ;)

    Anyway, I've been going to the gym although I find the cardio aspect of it incredibly tedious, and also trying out Pilates, which can best be summarised as 'I was never very coordinated when I was younger and that has not improved'. This week I was also persuaded to attend a circuit class, which would have been fine if I hadn't been the only person to turn up - free personal training is not fun, my thighs can tell you all about it two days later!

    Longer term, I'd also like to get back into some kind of regular sport and am currently looking at what's feasible for me considering age and attention span. I played hockey (field hockey to the folks across the water) for more than 10 years but don't really fancy getting back into that again, even though there are 'veterans' teams. One thing I've been looking at is fencing, since there's a local club that does adult lessons quite reasonably priced and it's something I've always wanted to try. But improving my basic fitness comes first, I'll make some enquiries after Easter about that and see where things go from there...

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