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So NaNoWriMo's about to start. About time I got off my backside and tried to get some complete/solid bits of writing done instead of the scraps and unwritten notes that my story ideas tend to end up as these days.

Oh, and hi to anyone who's still paying attention after 30 months of silence.
...And done, just in time. :) Was able to get the picture pretty much finished yesterday at art class, but had to get the finishing touches done this evening.

The results can be seen - enjoy!
Good news on the LOGI anniversary project - my art teacher is happy for me to work on this as my current art class project, and has been able to give me some good advice on putting it together as well as approve the ammendments I've been making between the draft and end versions.

Bad news is that I've found barely any solid time outside of my art classes to work on it, so although I've got a fair amount of the lineart for the end version put together there's still plenty more work to be done...
Started doing a rough sketch of what I plan to put together for Shining Force: Legend Of Great Intention's 20th anniversary (according to Shining Force Central… its original Japanese release was on the 20th March 1992).

If I'm lucky, I'll have time to get a basic pencil lineart version done.

If I'm incredibly lucky, I'll have time to apply some of the drawing, painting and/or colouring techniques I've been learning on the evening art course I'm currently taking, and possibly come up with something half decent.

Those are both very, very big ifs. Sigh.
Guess an update is long overdue... on the whole I've been trying to ramp down my internet lifestyle and focus on many of the IRL things that have been piling up (not to mention swelling over how much of the last 10 years I've been spending online instead of developing various personal and professional skills and interests).

Left my job at Bay Tree Cookware back in March, as the work was really starting to bore me and they couldn't afford to pay me more than part time at minimum wage (which after travel expenses was barely better than being on the dole).

Got a three month stint with ING Direct from April to June, working with a team of temps to help them with the mass of work that needs to be done at the start of the tax year. Company was fantastic to work for, and got on really well with both the other temps and the whole operations office. Permanency was offered, but there was a fair bit of competition for the posts so it had to go to interviews... inevitably, this meant I didn't make the grade, which was a big shame, so I've been back on Jobseeker's since the start if July. Still, at least it meant I could save up a fair bit of money, which was just as well given my car insurance was due and I could splash out a bit on computer upgrades.

I'm in the middle of taking some much needed courses on improving my jobseeking techniques (well, I say middle, but it's actually the last class tomorrow). Stuff like sorting out my CV, interview techniques, and various little things (turns out the burgundy red shirt I've been wearing to most interviews as it's my favourite & IMO smartest has suggested aggression all this time...). Had an interview last Friday where I could put these into practice, and whilst I didn't get the job (it was more of a PR-sided role than I'd appreciated), the interviewer was very impressed with my CV and interview technique, so that's hopefully good news for future job applications.

My car's still running happily, though it has been eating a fair bit into my budget (both in terms of staggering fuel costs and the odd bit of maintenance work).

Not much done in terms of art over the last few months. Got a few pictures I've started on, but very little that's really come into fruition.

Been delving my musical tastes into a few bits of old school dance, techno and the like. Finally got round to getting some stuff by Orbital, thus leaving me wondeirng why I hadn't done so sooner. Halcyon's skyrocketted into becoming one of my favourite tracks (and also lends itself to this entry's title).
  • Listening to: Little, despite having lots of new albums waiting
  • Watching: Various South Park & Simpsons episodes
  • Playing: MGS3, SITD, Jagged Alliance 2, Punch Out Wii
Yes, I had noticed yesterday was Spirit Day. Although I wasn't aware of it beforehand, I was a little surprised at the purple shade at the top of DA's pages that doesn't quite look right along side the rest of the site's pale olive colour scheme. Still, at least ethe purple was for that - had I not known better I'd have thought it was yet another site or game doing a ruddy Hallowe'en overlay.

No, I didn't do anything for Spirit Day in the end. I've only got two purple tops - one's a T-shirt which isn't warm enough to wear in the current weather (could have worn it underneath other tops, but that'd defy the point), and my purple polo shirt's in the wash so unavailable. Even had an idea for a picture I was going to draw (something involving Hark - closest thing to Shining Furce's resident LBGT character - nabbing Kurru's purple armour and proudly sporting it for the day), but didn't do so in the end. You can probably guess what I wasted my time on instead. Still, I guess getting "A Curiously Coquettish Kyantol Cleric" online counts in a small part, given Grace is wearing her mainly purple outfit there.

Also, apparently Monday was the NES's 25th birthday. I hope I got the date right, seeing as I celebrated by finally playing a Metroid game an getting the original on Wii VC. Damn those speed runners. They make the game look far too easy.

Okay, that's those days aside. Let's get onto today. Because today was supposed to be an important day for me and the family for reasons I'm wary of openly revealing. Unfortunately, after very stressful scrabblings over the last couple of weeks and bankers living up to their Cockney rhyming slang, it's not happened, and I'm not sure when it will happen. General mood is fairly depressive, and many people will have noticed how over the last couple of weeks my mood has been far, far from jolly (or when it has it's been that manic depressive extreme of jolly) and any errors on my part have felt a dozen times worse, especially when they're pretty minor errors repeatedly being called.

Of course, this hasn't been helped by a spending review from the government that may as well have been a list of different groups of people followed by the words "you're fucked". If there's any small benefit to what I and pretty much every British citizen I know is looking at with great misery, at least it means that if I am stuck living in my mother's house by the time I'm forty (which doesn't seem very unlikely given circumstances), I can blame it on the Coalition screwing us over rather than what some would consider an untangible force or deity.
  • Watching: Old episodes of Knightmare
  • Playing: Sid Meier's Railroads
  • Eating: Biscuits
  • Drinking: Coffee
Been ages since I last made a journal entry... just fell out of the habit.

A fair bit has happened over the last half-year, so I'll try and stick to the essential bits.

First big piece of news is that I was able to get myself a car by the end of April - a nifty little dark blue 1998 Renault Clio Biarritz that goes by the name of Lofty (the previous owner said that was his name, and I've never liked the idea of changing adopted childrens' names so I call him Lofty too). He had almost 90,000 miles on the clock when I brought him, and since then I've added a few thousand and he's held up very nicely. Sadly I have had an accident with him (tried to pull out of a line of parked cars on a sloping road and slipped into the truck parked in front), but luckily it only took out one of the headlights (I hit his spoiler bar which neatly fitted into the headlight), and our mechanic was able to sort out getting it fixed fairly quickly.

Sadly, buying Lofty (a little under £800) and getting my car insurance (best quote was just over £900... anyone who says you should wait 'til you're older before driving for cheaper insurance is lying) pretty much drained my savings, meaning no reserve income for any other big projects or plans.

Though that does lead into my second bit of big news... almost 12 months after I was last in work, I started a new job at the end of June. I'm helping with the website administration for Bay Tree Cookware, an online cookware retialer that went live a few weeks ago (initially I was helping with getting product details gathered and entered into the system, now I do that and help with the general technical running of the site). The pay is very light for what I could/should be earning, and it's only part time (2-3 days a week), but I'm enjoying the work and it's helping me get back into the groove of working life. It's also giving good opportunities for driving experience (it's about 35 miles from me and best part of an hour's commute)... the routes available are pretty good, and I'd have said they were pretty good for traffic congestion levels until about a month ago... seems the school runs and everyone being back from holiday have now created a few irritating jams in place...

Also been doing a few bits and pieces with drawing and writing, though not in great abundance. Still got things in mind to go online, though most of them still work in progress.
  • Watching: Old episodes of Knightmare
  • Eating: Biscuits
  • Drinking: Coffee
Please don't tell me that's a Twilight animation that's replaced my avatar.

If so, at least it's a werewolf one. It ruddy pisses me off when all things that focus on this "Vampires vs. Werewolves war" always seem to make the Vampires into the goodies.

Oh right, I guess you want might want some news from me. Well, it's not been the best week or two - all of us at home have been unwell with different things (luckily mine was the least troublesome - abdomen cramps and shoulder ache - though this did mean I was running around doing stuff for my mum and sister), barely any progress on the job front unil a couple of posts came up easrlier this week, and general woes about my financial situation looking even tighter.

I suppose it can't be all bat, seeing as I now have a pink card in my wallet that says something I can only summarise in the words of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons:


Yep, passed my driving test. 12 minors and no majors. Just started doing the pass plus course (i.e. advanced driving lessons I can now do, such as motorway driving, to improve my insurance quote), and looking to get a car hopefully by the end of April.
The last couple of weeks have been, on the whole, horribly depressing.

Given my lack of success with finding work, I finally found that my local branch of Sainsbury's had an opening on their nightshift. It's a job I did at that store before I got into website administration, and had generally felt that when in need of work they'd be happy to take me back on board. Unfortunately, as they've now got a centralised system for all of their stores' recruitment, I had to wait until they had an opening on their website.

Week before last I finally found they had an opening; irritatingly it would be doing the weekend run of Friday, Saturday and Sunday, thus knocking out most of my opportunities for social life, given all my friends do weekday jobs, but work is work and I'm not in a position to be choosy, so I went for it, and within a week or so I was told that I'd been accepted for interview.

Had the interview last Wednesday evening. I'd had some concern over how things would go as I didn't know the person who I was told would be doing my interview, but when I was taken up to the staff area I was extremely pleased to see that my old boss was still co-running the nightshift staff, and he was equally pleased to see that it was me who'd applied for the job, and he was eager to get me back onto the team as he knew how good a job I'd been able to do in the past. Of course, the the intervew itself wasn't so much of an interview as it was a standardised test on company skills - some of which I'd say only vaguelly applied to a job where you'd be spending over 90% of the time outside of store opening hours. Still, test was done and I felt confident about it whilst being honest in my responses. After the "intervew", my old boss and I talked while he led me out of the store, and he said he was willing to try and fast-track things to get me back in the store and working on the team as soon as possible.

Two days later, Sainsbury's head office emailed me to say that I'd ben rejected as "others were a better match". As you could imagine, it was a soul-crushing response. Contacting them later revealed that I'd failed on two out of four sections of the ruddy test, but they couldn't elaborate further. I wouldn't be surprised if I'd failed on things that were barely relevant to the role.

What really, REALLY irritates me on the matter is that it seems that past experience, proven demonstrations of my capabilities and the opinions of the senior staff relevant to the role mean absolutely fuck all when such an overbearingly bureaucratic attitude to situations is in place. It's Nokia all over again - when I was doing work for them in my last job, I showed I was a dedicated worker with eagerness and enthusiasm to getting things done and getting things done right, and the people directly involved with the work I did - some of them in fairly high positions - knew I was a great person to have on board. Hell, I was even directly contacted by one of their senior web people to be one of the few people in the know about a TOP SECRET campaign and product launch they had going on - that's the level of trust and dedication I was seen to have. But when Nokia decided to change their whole approach to organising their web tech services, the folks at a higher level felt they'd rather get the work Id id to be done on the cheap and nasty, and so I was made redundant; depsite efforts to get me an opportunity to be transferred to one of their new teams (as others I'd been working with were offered), they pretty much told me to go f' myself. I was a ten-a-penny pleb to them, despite the blood, sweat and tears I'd put into their sites.

And that's what I hate about big corporations. When they have to take such a heavily systematic and bureaucratic approach to how things get done, then little guys and unique situations get the raw end of the deal and are left feeling unrespected. A holistic view is a great thing when you're trying to control something big, but you need to make sure all the individual parts are properly accounted for; you can't just have one perspective or the other.

Anyway, going back onto my current situation the news from Sainsbury's has left me not even back to square one; my backup plan and safety net has now crumbled, and I'm having trouble making out the bottom of a very black abyss. I feel like I'm at the juntion of two pathways - one marked "will drop pants for money" and another marked "you're wasting your effort bothering" - and I'm vainly scrabbling to find a third option.

Then this all got put into perspective when I spotted something on Facebook. One of my old workmates had posted a message to let friends know that his wife was extremely ill in hospital, and they were waiting to find out which one of the serious conditions it was that she'd got. Since then they seem to have had some postiive progress and it seems she's got the lesser of the evils, but even so it made me feel pretty guilty that I'm angrily moping about my job situation when a friend's partner (who I'd met on a couple of occasions) was facing a life-disabling situation in hospital. If I haven't got much else, at least I've got my health...

Time I gave a bit of positivity, seeing as at least some good things have been happening. I finally sorted out a new host for on Monday, and once the transfer's due to be finsihed at the end of the week I want to start making headway with the site content, including getting some sort of "trial forums" set up to see what it's like to run them, an whether or not I want to make it a permanent thing. Driving's going rather well - I'm now doing two lessons a week in preparation for next Tuesday's test, and I managed to have a really good drive in my lesson yesterday; if I can pull of the same standard of driving during the test, I should hopefully be walking away with a licence.

Still, would be nice to be employed. I was in town yesterday for my jobseeker's appointment, and while waiting for my bus I had a look round Game. While browsing (or more specifically torturing myself over stuff I can't afford to spend money on), the customer assistant asked if there was anything I was looking for in particular, to which I half-jokingly replied "well, a job would be nice..."
  • Listening to: Various tracks from COD: Modern Warfare 2
  • Drinking: Coffee
Yes, I know that some of the Furries from the Shining series get a fair amount of representation (and I've done my fair share to contribute to that), but a couple of curious searches revealed that some of them seem to be missing entirely, which is a shame and something I feel I could and thus ought to do something about.

I've got one or two pictures of Sarah and Marian* from Shining Force CD/Sword Of Hajya that I could get into my gallery (irritatingly I've also got a really good WIP picture of Sarah that someone had posted at SFC... forgot who it was and don't know if it was ever finished or not. >.< ). I've also got some old pics of Shining Soul 2's Prim** - have to see if any of them are up to scratch for posting, or if I should try doing new ones of her. Then there's that Gerhalt (from SHF2) request from a year or two back that I never got round to finishing...

* Pretty much everyone who plays the localised English versions of the games will know her as May - I prefer her original name from the Japanese version, not just to save confusion from SHF2's May, but also because it feels more regal and appropriate for a royal sorceress; it also makes you wonder if some pun's being pulled with her joining inside a castle just after picking up a green-clad archer outside! Funnily Sarah has the same name as her SHF2 counterpart, both in the original and localised versions!

** Same deal - she's called Paige in the localised English version, though IMO Prim is better... has a more "Kyantolish" flavour, for one thing. Not to mention many of the other name changes in the localised version were odd and, IMO, inferior to the originals.

I should probably also mention I put in a job applicatikon for something I'm feeling pretty positive about... in an irritated and irksome way. Further details to come if it comes to anything.
  • Listening to: Various Moving Shadow EPs
  • Drinking: Tea
Given how I've just entered the 29th year of my life, I feel like having a bit of a retrospective on how the 28th's really gone down. On immediate thought it feels like it's been a fairly lousy year, but I might as well mull over whether or not it's been nearly as lousy as I think.

First and foremost, no permanent work at all, and the only professional work I've done was a 3-month contract over the summer... and sadly the money from that, despite having gone onto savings, is running dry (I'll get onto this later). Can't really look at this too brightly, as it's been the biggest downer and depresser of the year. Still, all I can really do is take all of that at face value, hope that the job market picks up in the coming year (as financial news reports keeping telling me), and feel relieved that being out of work for so long apparently opens some opportunities for financial aid to getting retrained. Getting asked to help out some friends with running the Planet Skaro website ( also gives good prospects for getting my web maintenance skills back into common knowledge and keeping them active, as well as my aim to get up and running by the middle of the year.

Next would be that I'm still living at home. With my mother. And, if we're being technical, my old man... though I use the term "living with" very, very lightly in that respect. Back when I was working I was hoping to be able to have enough saved to be able to get a place for myself by the time I was 30, but that's pretty much an impossibility unless I get some sort of big win on the insurance bonds... or someone decides to hire me for a hell of a lot more than I'm worth. Wouldn't feel so bad if I didn't have to feel that my mother and I have to babysit the house every evening when my old man's in. Not that I've got much money for more than an infrequent social life. That's something I won't be optimisitic about in the coming year.

Well, time for a bit of positive recollection. Starting to drive is probably the biggest, seeing as it's one of those major life milestones that I'm finally taking care of, and despite failin my first attempt at the test things look hopeful for my resit in a month's time. I've also been taking some serious steps towards looking for a first car and discussed this with our mechanic yesterday who's offered to come alon when I want to visit any sellers. Touch wood I'll be a motorist by April, which will at least give me a lot more freedom to do things with my time - not to mention improving my job accessibility and booting out one of those irritating reasons I've been turned down for a few jobs.

I'd also say that joining DA's somewhat helped with my creative output. Whilst I'm still not as active in my writing and drawing as I'd like to be, being part of DA at least means that I'm striving that much harder to get my work to a standard that's worth posting on the web. This has created the downside that I seem to be even more hesitant about getting started with new drawings on the basis that I may not be able to immediately in put the time and effort needed to reach this quality, and some drawings get shoved aside that much sooner when they're not coming together as planned.

On a similar note, as explained in an earlier blog entry, getting back in touch with my Godmother and getting some positive feedback, criticism and encouragement towards my artwork and writing, as well as insights into how far I could take them, has been a strong morale boost, so I guess it's up to me to sieve this opportunity to get them there.

I'm feeling bloody tortological here, as these opinions sound incredibly familiar from other posts and thoughts on the matters. Guess I could conclude that I'm mulling over these more than necessary, and the fewer but bigger negative points are smothering the smaller yet more numerous positive points.

Sod it, might as well try not to dwell on what I'm likely to keep thinking of as a sucky 28th year, and try to make my 29th one where my life finally starts getting ino gear, and hopefully becomes that much closer to one people would consider "normal" for a 28-year-old.

Bring it on, 2010.
  • Drinking: Tea
A few ups and downs over the last two weeks.

Had a job interview, thought it went well enough until they asked whether or not I was driving and revelaed that the job may well involve driving to places. Would have been nice if they'd mentioned this at some point in the application process. Suffice to say they sent a rejection email back within the next day or so. Was also contacted about a job where someone had seen my CV and thought I was a good match for a role they had a website administrator opening for... only to later reveal after a few email and phone conversations that it was actually a "project co-ordinator & website administrator" role, focussing on the project management side of things where the only technical task was posting project updates to a web forum (which IMO means the job isn't techy at all). They asked if I could go over my CV to see if I could make it reflect my project management skills (which I do have to a degree), but when it comes down to it I'm not the person they're looking for; when it comes down to it I'm at least 75-80% a techy, and would wind up doing the job through a techy's rather than a project manager's.

As a follow-up to being 6 months unemployed I had a meeting with a careers advisor (dear God, the last time I remember doing that I was 15 and at secondary school, how humiliated can that make you feel? ;>.< ), and she gave me a few helpful pointers. As well as advice to tidy up my CV a bit, she gave me some info on finding part-time study and that having been 6 months out of work I may be eligible for financial support to cover them. Haven't found any useful courses, but have signed up for info from a home learning site that I'm waiting to hear further info (and prices!) from. So it's not necessarily all bad on the job front.

Had a bit of a surge this week in regards to productive stuff. On Tuesday I decided I would avoid playing any video games and spend the time on the hobbies I've always intended to work on while unemployed yet distractions keep pulling me away from. Got a picture of Tenchi Muyo GXP's Elma fully drawn, coloured and added to the gallery, as well as adding a couple of pics I had lying around. Also decided to put a few of the fanart pictures from here into my FurAffinity gallery as well, so rather than making them somewhat mutually exclusive I'd generally put all my stuff in both galleries. I've yet to post anything there that I can't post here...

Sadly I found a mod for the old space-flight-sim Freelancer on Thursday, and have been trying not to spend too many hours on that instead of more productive things. Half-finished pictures are waiting for me to shove everything else aside and get on with. >.<

Also managed to get a short prologue story for Shining Furce posted... haven't had much in regards to replies and critiques from the various sources I've directed to it, but those I've had have all been generally positive.

Driving lessons are going well - I'm still making mistakes in judgement calls, but my instructor says he thinks I'm doing a lot better than I was two months ago (around when I took my test).

I should probably grab some of those half-finsihed pictures and continue them, but Freelancer's irritatingly beckoning me...
  • Listening to: Omni Trio - Even Angels Cast Shadows
  • Drinking: Coca-cola
This is something I've mulled over doing for a while, and if you've noticed any recent new comments on "Grace - Seduction" you'll have noticed this being raised again.

So I've finally gone ahead and done it - I've created an account of Furaffinity (for those wondering, it's a gallery/creative site, specifically geared towards anthropomorphs/furries). And yes, one of the main reasons I've created the account is so that I can post some of my artwork that... doesn't really fit into devArt's "acceptance levels" (even though some searches on devArt have given me results I wouldn't expect to see permitted here ;O.O ).

My devantArt account is still going to be my main gallery (at least until I finish doing my site and make a gallery there), and my devArt journal's still my main journal... but this is more of a notification that there will be more stuff on my Furaffinity account, and a bit of a "check it out at your own risk" warning. ;) I'll be making sure the appropriate content warning levels are applied, but if you've got tissues on hand for nosebleeds feel free to check it out.

Also, for the sake of content sensitivity (even though the only pic there at the moment is "Seduction") I'm not going to provide a direct link to the gallery... though if you can't work out how to get there yourself you probably shouldn't be accessing T.H.A.T. sort of material anyway. :P

So what else has been happening... well, not much. Snow's cleared up, but it's still pretty darn nippy here in England. Generally I'm tolerating it, though currently I've got my duvet wrapped round my legs, and the cold weather doesn't do much good on my eczema - and it's certainly keeping any cuts and bruises I've acquired over the season from healing too quickly. Hasn't helped that the cold weather means I'm drinking more hot drinks and fewer fruit juices at the moment, which can't be good for my health.

Driving's going okay... my instructor's gone private, so I'm now doing lessons in his Mini, and it's a different kettle of fish to what I'm used to! I've got a second test booked for the end of March, so hopefully that'll be more than enough time to get used to it and reap the benefits of what's probably a far easier car to drive on the whole.

Oh yeah, and I've got another job interview next Tuesday, so fingers crossed for that. :) Just had a six-month jobseeker's review last week, and have a few things I need to do to up the ante on my job searches...
  • Listening to: Dreamtech - Venus (Whirloop Remix)
  • Drinking: Coffee
"A misunderstood ar-teest, loveable, but really quite pathetic.

"Often caught in situations you'd rather not be in (yet always looking divine!) no-one yet understands the real you.

"Troubles in the past with family and love have caused you to abandon much of that life, and with your new found friendships you are able to break free and finally open the closet door to that secret you've hidden, with gay abandon.

"However, you have bad taste in friends, and not everyone is willing to accept you for yourself, constantly trying to seize and control you, casting you aside once they have had their dirty, sweaty, thrusting way with you.

"Remember to show your true flair to the world and never be afraid to squeal with delight, no matter how terrible a situation you find yourself in."

I do like Pokemopolis. :)…
  • Drinking: &quot;Gentleman Jack&quot; premium ale
Meant to do a journal entry before the new year. Meant to do one first thing on new year's day. Meant to do one soon afterwards. Finally getting on with it in the midle of the month. C'est la vie...

As many of you may be aware, Britain is going through a particularly snowy period at the moment, including a day or two last week where the vast majority of the country was effectively "closed for the day". Many have said that this is "the worst weather we've had in a long time"... but I think it's been quite the opposite. I've been to our neighbourhood shops a few times over the last few days, and it was nice to see lots of regular shoppers visiting and doing their shopping there, as opposed to the usual couple of chavs hanging round the post box or people dashing in and out of cars. It's also boosted a bit of neighbourhood spirit... whilst clearing the snow from our drive I found myself talking with my neighbours more in the last week than I have in the last couple of years, and it was great on Friday afternoon when a few of us all worked together to clear the snow from the road (which was at least six inches deep) and help push people's cars up the road and into their drives. I even wound up using the snow to make a "Great Wall" along our drive when I found that the snow I was shovelling into buckets from the road was coming out like a sandcastle - I need to upload the pictures sometime!

If there's any real downside from the weather (and it probably would have happened irregardless of the snow), it's the cold. Having no central heating in our house is a pain (our heater conked out a couple of years ago an it's a costly job to fix) so we're heating via plug-in radiators, fan heaters or good old hot water bottles. Sadly, this has numbed what pro-activity I have in regards to doing much drawing or writing, so I haven't got much to show for the last month or so. I've have been able make some progress with a few unfinsihed pictures, such as "Loud, Bratty, Playful..." which I posted yesterday, and gave my avatar picture a bit of animation.

For Christmas I got O'Reilly's "Head First PHP and MySQL" and from flipping through the book I'm fairly confident it'll nail those web developer skills into me, but I've yet to get ino doing any work with it... arrgh! At least our internet connection seems to be fairly stable, given the problems we had with it over Christmas and New Year's, so that's knocked out one excuse for not getting on with it before now.

Hadn't bought much new music in a while, so treated myself to some trance and psy-trance tracks and albums over the weekend. Finally got Astrix's album "Artcore" from 2005, and Whirloop's album "Watch The Skies... And Keep Looking", both fantastic albums from the psy-trance genre and recommendations for anyone interested in the genre (and available from for only £5-6 each!).
  • Listening to: Whirloop - Watch The Skies... And Keep Looking
  • Drinking: Coffee
I had intended to get a proper blog entry done for Christmas Day and give everyone the best wishes for the day, but have just realised it's half past midnight already. Blame a few things for this... spending the morning and early afternoon with the family and getting Christmas dinner ready, the wonderfully craptastic Virgin Media giving us internt downtime for a few hours in the afternoon FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS, and the lure of playing Modern Warfare 2 (which was one present I received) just for a little bit and winding up running through the whole campaign.

What's also annoying was yesterday I started doing something of a Christmas pic that I wanted to finish and post today, and didn't get any further with it at all. I'll have to try and finish it over the weekend else it'll be a bit late to be worth it.

Oh well, here's hoping you all enjoyed the festivities of the 25th of December. :)
Okay, meant to do this two days ago when it was more fitting, but didn't get round to it until now.

So how's my driving? No, you don't get a phone number to call, instead you just get to hear me prattle on about it.

Reason why Monday was an appropriate day to talk about this was that I had my first driving test. I gather those who were aware of this are wondering how I got on, well now I can give you an answer. :)

I failed.

And despite dissapoinment, I don't disagree with the result, nor do I think it was a bad call.

I ended up with 11 minor faults and 1 serious fault. Although the serious fault was something I could have avoided (hastily driving straight on a roundabout instead of following it round the edge, thus cutting up a car on my right that I hadn't noticed), it stems from something I know I need to work on, and that's my observation skills - these counted for 3 of the minor faults, and had I not made that serious fault I wouldn't have been surprised if these got turned into one (had it been 4, it certainly would have done).

However, as I've said, I don't think it was a bad call. I'm aware that my observation skills (particularly checking wing mirrors and properly checking my right blind spot) are my biggest problem and something I need to work on, and another two months or so experience of drumming me into doing this properly can't be a bad thing. Most of my other faults on the test stemmed from this (i.e. not checking properly when moving off or doing maneouveres), so getting this problem ironed out in time for the next test should hopefully lead to a very good result.

Another confidence boost was that after the test, my instructor told me that I had the chief examiner with me; on one hand, you might think this was a bad thing as an examiner with less authority might have let me slide with a pass, but I'd rather be told " you're not quite ready, but almost there" than "you got away with it this time". Plus the general driving was fine, and enough to the level where he was happy to talk to me on odd moments (and didn't have to do anything discouraging, such as grab the steering wheel or pedals to correct me or tell me to keep my eyes on the road), so on the whole my driving seems to be all right. So long as I don't have to worry about what's going on around me I'm perfectly fine at the moment, so if you ever need a post-apocalyptic wheelman, I could do the job! ;)

Sure, it's a pain that I can't get myself a car and drive about on my own yet (apologies to my drinking buddies who'll need to keep chauffering me for another couple of months!), but the result was par for the course as far as I'm concerned. Hopefully next time I'll walk away with a pink slip of paper. :)
  • Listening to: Various Hixxy and Styles &amp; Breeze happy hardco
  • Eating: An orange (once this is posted)
  • Drinking: Coffee
I now make it almost two months since my last update, and whilst I do have some valid excuses for being too busy to make any new entries, for the most part it's been laziness and thoughts of "I ought to do a blog entry... later", with "later" never happening. Given the expanse of time and subjects to cover, I'm taking a page from a friend's book and am going to make a few entries on a few different subjects over the next few days.

Today's topic: books and writing.

I've sadly gotten slacky with my reading, having not had many "forced opportunities" to do so. Despite getting a few books just before my last entry, I've only got a little way into one of them: "The Complete Alan Coren", a tribute to the writer and satirist. I am hoping that a recent job interview (which I'll discuss in another entry) is successful, as it'll mean plenty of time commuting which will give me plenty of time to catch up on my reading.

I have been making SOME progress on my writing; NaNoWriMo helped give me a boost of encouragement to try and turn some of my notes for Shining Furce into something solid, though sadly I fell short of my goal of getting the first couple of chapters finalised, only getting most of the first chapter completed (around ~3000 words so far out of an aimed 4000-5000 for the chapter). Like the blog, the frustrating thing has ben that opportunities to work on it have been there, but I didn't take them; sometimes for legitimate reason such as mental blocks, but sometimes because I'd just find something else (usually less productive) to do instead. Things get worse when I seem to get a surge to write at around 10-11 at night, meaning I'll either be working until the early hours of the morning (usually when I've got something I need to be up for at a reasonable time in the morning), or I quit early to go to bed before late.

Thankfully, despite the slow progress, there are signs I'm going in the right direction. My godmother came to visit at the start of the month, and she has a small publishing company in Spain as well as being the daughter of artist and writer Mai Griffin (who says I don't have famous connections?). Amongst other things she helped me with while visiting, she read what I've written for Shining Furce and, aside from one or two typos and word suggestions, she really liked what she read and urged me to keep going; whilst I'm hesitant to promise this, I'm hoping that maybe I'll get those first two chapters done by the end of THIS month! She also gave me a couple of reading suggestions that I'd probably enjoy - "Ronan The Barbarian", which I think she anonymously sent me a copy of in the post (that's where this entry's title comes from), some of the original Star Wars novelisations, and she also gave me a telling off for reading/listening to a few Terry Pratchett books without reading "The Colour Of Magic" yet!
  • Listening to: DJ Tiesto - Parade Of The Athletes
Had a fairly busy couple of weeks since my last update. Most importantly my brother and his wife have been visiting from Canada, so we've been out and about a lot of the time, and when we haven't we've been sorting out some of his stuff/junk that I have to live with (and sadly he hasn't been able to sort out getting shipped yet, so I'm still living with most of it) or making inane banter... a lot of which I feel I've grown out of (and I'm the younger brother with the avid furry interest).

On a plus side, during this time I've had some strongly renewed vigour to work on a Shining Force mod for the game Jagged Alliance 2, which the smart folks at The Bear's Pit Forums (…) have making into an expanded and easily moddable game over the last couple of years. I'd done a bit of work a year or two back on putting a few Shining characters into it (notably Grace, Masqurin, Synbios and Kate), though mainly just editing intial stats and images (i.e. cropping in-game portraits) with a few audio files being replaced for voices.

Gone a little bit further this time, having added a few of my Shining Furce characters (for whom I've already put up concept sketches) - this meant creating some animated portrait sprites (some of you will have noticed my portrait's changed - I've been making pics like this) as well as the usual changes. I've also been making sprites for some new items and getting those added to the game, as well as work out how to edit some of the in-game text data (which is a tricky job as it means hunting for text strings in data files and making sure the new text is of a "safe" length). I'm hoping to get a few of the pics and sprites added to the gallery, even though some are far from great (sprite art is not my strong card).

It's still a case of having characters from a game set more or less around the middle/renaissance ages racing about with assault rifles and grenades (I've been trying to keep these aspects in character - e.g. Grace has a high medical skill to reflect her healing power, and being a fire mage Tammy gets a grenade launcher with napalm and thermobaric grenades!), but once I've had fun playing through the game with this set up, the end target will be trying to make something more akin to the Shining Force games - i.e. strip out all the guns and set up the in-game items and such to more closely reflect their style of combat. On paper it seems feasible, as there's plenty of capability for melee combat in the game already and a few "guns" can be set up as bows (and spears/knives/tomahawks as throwing knives)... magic's going to be an interesting thing to handle, so it's still in the planning stages.

Moving onto other things... Had a 3-month review at the Jobseeker's office (three months out of full time work - gah), and the only thing that really came out of it was that they suggested I look into some college or uni adult training courses on web development (or other things), as I may be elligible for a grant towards these. Sadly there's nothing suitable at Bracknell College, so I need to look further afield. Part of me's tempted to see if Portsmouth (my old uni) offer any decent distance learning courses.

Done a little to get myself back into reading... mainly through the help of the hilarious "The Pirates!" series by Gideon DeFoe. I've been reading "...In an Adventure with Scientists", where the pirates help Charles Darwin get his monkey-in-a-suit on stage in London and foil the evil plot of the Bishop of Oxford to stop Darwin stealing the show, with plenty of hams and yars and shanties along the way. Picked up "...In an Adventure with Communists" at Waterstone's on Monday, as well as a couple of other books (not including John Barrowman's autobiography, which he was signing at the store). Wierdest part was wandering up and down the graphic novel & manga section, and not seeing anything jump out at me. :/
Little under a month since my last update. Guess it's better than the last one. I would say that things have been busy over the last month, though that's hardly the truth. I have had a few projects and such going on, but they've hardly gotten the time and input worthy of the term "keeping me busy".

Didn't get the Oxford job - eventually they got back to me to say that they'd gone for someone more local, though not before it was too late to go anywhere with a couple of jobs who wanted to know the outcome of the interview before moving forward. Absolutely nothing turning up in the pipelines, and to add insult to injury the one thing that one online recruitment agency sent me - describing it as an ideal match - was an account executive role. Me. Ideal for an account executive role. God knows how my profile suggested that was a good idea, but there are a few damn good reason why at my old job I was the one person out of the entire team who never, ever went to visit clients, which is all that I would be doing in an account executive role. I'd have laughed if it wasn't so tragic and demoralising that it implies that's the only job on the market that I come close to being offered.

On a somewhat related matter, I'm also feeling pissed off that a site that I thought I was part of the small team that ran it have gone ahead with getting the site properly designed and coded... and for all due purposes the rest of the team have kept me out of it. No involvement with any of the work or organisation. Only contribution has been via the same channels as those offered to pretty much any other sod. Exempt from credit once it was completed, despite being one of the two people who was providing help via said public channel (and the other was given credit). Can't help but feel screwed royally on that one. I guess what makes me feel particularly bitter is that this seems to be a common trend in regards to what web skills I have got and have worked hard to develop over the three years I spent in the office having finally found some sort of marketable career skill after so long.

THEM: "Okay, we've got some work to be done on this website. I want you to work on the design, you to work on the coding, you to work on the planning..."
ME: "Anything I can do?"
THEM: "Fuck off Ashley, we're doing fine without you."

Hate to dust off a stereotypical piece of cynicsm, but the old analogy of "there's always someone doing the job better, so don't bother trying" springs to mind. Story of my life.

So here I am, still unemployed in a career path that barely exists anymore and I feel unwanted in, pretty much idling time until fate feels the urge to toss me a bone tied to the back of a car and see how long it is before I give up chasing after it for as it speeds off down the road of life.

I guess I should get onto some good news, because it isn't as if there hasn't been any at all over the last few weeks.

Passed my driving theory test last week. Wait a sec, correction. ABSOLUTELY ACED THE MULTIPLE CHOICE PART OF THE THEORY TEST. 50 out of 50. Hazard Perception wasn't too great a score, but at least I spotted all of the hazards (so scoring at least 1 on each hazard) and got enough to pass. Couldn't help but hear my instructor say "wow, 50 out of 50" under his breath after I'd told him on my next lesson. I suppose it's a good sign, as given spending plenty of time practicing and fine tuning everything, I've been told that I should be ready for the practical test well before the end of the year (which I know isn't too far off, but still). Shame one forum I went to didn't give a word of congratulations, but instead resulted in bickers over the fact that I'm in my late 20's and still not driving whilst everyone else seems to have been doing so since high school. I'm wondering if there's some sort of "always be a dick to Culley and never give him credit for any small success" switch that's gotten jammed somewhere.

After many long years without use, and prior to that a couple of years of frustrated use, I've fixed my Dreamcast and got it going. It was one of those that had the problem of resetting frequently on startup or at the most frustrating points in games, but a couple of weeks ago I opened it up and got it sorted (not even doing the fix as fully instructed), and it's been able to hum along for hours without one reset. So after having been feeling urges now and again to play them for months (if not years), I've been able to run through Blue Stinger, Shenmue, and recently got onto Shenmue 2.

Aside from that, I've been feeling a lack of motivation for many other things, even though I know I've got a number of projects that should keep me busy. I've got some half finished pictures in the work (oh yeah, should probably point out that I posted a couple of new pictures a couple of weeks ago) as well as idea for new pictures, but don't feel up to drawing them... still got my story to write, but feeling a lack of inspiration... seems like far too much of the time I don't feel like doing anything more than oogle unpostable pictures of Grace. And I know that's a major sign of general depression and boredom.

I have tried to get time filled a bit more productively by pushing myself to read more (something I've had difficulty motivating myself to do since pre-school, when I'd read the newspapers that covered the tables we were supposed to do arts & crafts on) - I borrowed a theory test book from my local library for the test, and felt that I should be making a bigger effort to borrow and read books from there more often. I'm currently working my way through Tony Hawks's* "One Hit Wonderland", though once that's finished tere are a few books I've never got round to reading that I'll be looking out for... it's a long shot, but hopefully it might finally get me doing some serious reading. Either that or as soon as I get started I'm finally offered a job and thus lose the reading time.

(* In case you're confused, that's the British comedian Tony HawkS, not the American skateboarder Tony Hawk.)

If you've read through the whole of this grumbling blog entry, then thank you. But I think I'd better leave it at that and give that bugger the sun a chance to swagger in and brighten the atmosphere.
  • Listening to: Resonate 4
  • Drinking: Coffee