Instagram Catch Up!

I use Instagram quite a lot, and I thought rather than type out a boring catch up on how things have been in the last few months, I thought I’d post some favourite photos!

The flowers have been abundant and beautiful this year, so of course I’ve been taking photos!

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I’ve also been out and about! Mostly with Mum 🙂

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And speaking of trips – me and Mum went up to Edinburgh to see the Amorphophallus Titanum which was flowering! We luckily came the day after it smelled its worst, but it was still awesome to see!

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My hair has also changed a little – different shades of red, and now a plummy purple!

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And then finally, I’ve been making most of the hotter weather (when we’ve had it!) but having a summery mani and some ice cream!

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So that’s it! How’s everyone else been doing?

Review: Starlight #1

So uh, it’s been a while since I’ve written about anything geeky, eh? Well, blame that on a nearly year-long break from actually reading comics. I think a little bit of depression mingled with a need to keep up with course reading really stymied me.

But hey! Course is over, I’m feeling pretty good, and one of my friends has sent me a few comics to check out! And I thought this is a great opportunity to start writing about comics again!

James gave me a copy of Starlight #1, written by Mark Millar and art by Goran Parlov, so to dip my toes back into the reviewing world, here are my thoughts on it.

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To be honest, I was a little unsure whether or not I’d enjoy Starlight, Millar isn’t one of my favourite authors and he’s not exactly known for writing the kind of thing I like best. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Starlight #1! I thought it was an interesting take on a relatively common trope in SFF and it had a real depth of emotion.

Starlight #1 introduces us to Duke, who once was a swashbuckling hero, fighting aliens and having statues built of him. Now, he’s a grieving widower who no one takes seriously – not even his sons.

The comic opens with a flashback to Duke’s previous life, with obligatory super sexy alien queen giving him a medal. This didn’t really hook me into the comic, if I’m honest. I like space, I like heroes, I even like space queens, but this seemed like a tired idea with typical cheesecake art. Seriously? This alien queen is a white humanoid in high heels, wearing a bikini and a huge butt apron?

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Luckily, we skip pretty quickly to current Duke. Where the space angle didn’t grab me, the day-to-day life of Duke did. Parlov’s art will probably never be my favourite, but I think he does great work with the humdrum and mundane world. Ive Svorcina’s muted colour palette also helps create a great atmosphere, especially in contrast to the brighter flashbacks.

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As we move through the issue, we begin to understand the lonely, isolated world Duke lives in. The callous attitudes of his sons, the derision from his local community, the scene of the set dinner table… Man, Millar and Parlov really inject emotion into this. Duke is deeply missing his wife and trying to reach out to his sons, trying to live a life with some pretty serious holes in. I’m actually very impressed with how well Millar created this emotional response without going too far – we have real pain, instead of overwrought manpain.

The issue ends with a space ship appearing Duke’s yard – setting us up for the adventure to come.

Overall, I did enjoy Starlight #1! It had emotional depth and the premise is more interesting than a straight earthling hero saves universe (although natch, Duke is a [probably] straight white man and I don’t think I spotted any characters of colour, even in the backgrounds). Parlov’s art is acceptable, although his women are sometimes too cheesecake-y for my liking. I found the domestic aspects a lot more interesting than the space stuff, and since that seems to be where the story is headed, I don’t think getting the rest of Starlight’s six issue run is a priority for me – but when I do have some spare cash, I would be interested in seeing where this goes.

If you like numerical reviews, I’d give this 7.5/10.

Have you read Starlight? What did you think?

Thanks to James for sending me this! I’d never have picked it up myself, but I’m glad I read it!

A pleasurable miscellany…

So I fairly regularly copy my photos from my phone to my computer, as I’m sure everyone does. A couple of days ago, I copied over the latest batch and took the time to go through ALL the photos I’ve transferred. Aside from constantly hitting CTRL+. I realised I have some really lovely photos!

I don’t really have any reason to share them, but I like them and instead of letting them hide away on my hard-drive, I thought you might like to see them too!

They’re not in any particular order, just one that I thought went nicely. I’m also the very laziest about photo-editing – unless it’s Instagram, I ain’t doing a thing with them. So these are just no-filter, raw shots.

Er, please also excuse the sheer bloody number of flowers and overuse of the words beautiful, wonderful and lovely.

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Thrunton Woods on a winter evening! Love the structure of the bare trees and the delicate colour of the sky.

Cresswell Beach on a beautiful sunny evening. Pretty sure these big blocks were anti-tank structures from WWII. There're currently covered by the shifting sands!

Cresswell Beach on a beautiful sunny evening. Pretty sure these big blocks were anti-tank structures from WWII. There’re currently covered by the shifting sands!

Mum at the top of the Cascade at Chatsworth House. Love the silhouette she makes!

Mum at the top of the Cascade at Chatsworth House. Love the silhouette she makes! And if you were wondering about the view from the bottom…

Sunlight through a lovely willow in Hyde Park (er, I think!).

Sunlight through a lovely willow in Hyde Park (er, I think!).

...I have no idea what these pretty frothy pink flowers are called! But you can find them at RHS Harlow Carr.

…I have no idea what these pretty frothy pink flowers are called! But you can find them at RHS Harlow Carr.

A passion flower, filling me with passion for the beauty of nature. I think this gorgeous specimen was in one of the conservatories at Chatsworth.

A passion flower, filling me with passion for the beauty of nature. I think this gorgeous specimen was in one of the conservatories at Chatsworth.

I took SO MANY photos of this blue sea holly at Mindrum Gardens, but can you blame me? So fantastic!

I took SO MANY photos of this blue sea holly at Mindrum Gardens, but can you blame me? So fantastic!

I know it's a bit overexposed, but this photo has me so excited to go exploring sunny summery gardens...

I know it’s a bit overexposed, but this photo has me so excited to go exploring sunny summery gardens…

I suspect you might be able to guess how many photos I indulged in at the Orchid Exhibition when we visited it at Kew Gardens, but I won't bombard you!

I suspect you might be able to guess how many photos I indulged in at the Orchid Exhibition when we visited it at Kew Gardens, but I won’t bombard you!

Try and tell me the light shining through this snakeshead fritillary isn't just bloomin' marvelous. Go on! I saw this one at Wallington Hall.

Try and tell me the light shining through this snakeshead fritillary isn’t just bloomin’ marvelous. Go on! I saw this one at Wallington Hall.

Speaking on Wallington Hall, here's the Edwardian conservatory, which is part of the frankly amazing walled garden.

Also to be found at Wallington Hall, here’s the Edwardian conservatory, which is part of the frankly amazing walled garden.

Apparently European robins aren't as friendly as their British siblings. I'm glad we have such a trusting bunch! This one said hello at Port Meirion, Wales.

Apparently European robins aren’t as friendly as their British siblings. I’m glad we have such a trusting bunch! This one said hello at Port Meirion, Wales.

I have to stare at a stuffed European Eagle Owl at work, but I much preferred this beautiful creature at Linton Zoo!

I have to stare at a stuffed European Eagle Owl at work, but I much preferred this beautiful creature at Linton Zoo!

She's not a great one for sitting for portraits, is our Star, but damn she's beautiful when she does!

She’s not a great one for sitting for portraits, is our Star, but damn she’s beautiful when she does!

You're much more likely to get an action shot of her! Here she is with Mum, playing in Whitby harbour.

You’re much more likely to get an action shot of her! Here she is with Mum, playing in Whitby harbour.

This handsome fellow had quite a lot to say to Mum, alongside the river in Ely.

This handsome fellow had quite a lot to say to Mum, alongside the river in Ely.

Speaking of handsome! My big brother, sitting in the sunshine.

Speaking of handsome! My big brother, sitting in the sunshine.

Mum enjoying a spot of afternoon tea at The Old Dairy in Ford, Northumberland.

Mum enjoying a spot of afternoon tea at The Old Dairy in Ford, Northumberland.

Mum, relaxing beside some  prehistoric cup and ring carvings at Roughting Linn. It's a wonderful place to visit, if you ever get the chance!

Mum, relaxing beside some prehistoric cup and ring carvings at Roughting Linn. It’s a wonderful place to visit, if you ever get the chance!

And that’s it! I hope you liked some of these photos, and the break from stock pictures from Asos, lol.

Do you find yourself meandering through your photo archives? What are some of your favourites?

Eastercon 2015 Con Report

So last weekend was Eastercon! I went along and had a jolly nice time.

Y’all probably know what Eastercon is by now, but if not – it’s an annual sci-fi convention held over the Easter weekend. It has a focus on literary sci-fi but includes a healthy (ish, depending on the year!) representation of media, gaming, actualfax science and anything else that comes under the header of ‘geeky’. It is run by volunteers and the committee changes year-on-year, as does the site. I’ve been going for a few years (I’ve been to nine or ten over twelve years) and I’ve always had a good time.

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Asos Haul(s)

So I figured since I keep buying stuff from Asos (including a premier membership [cos free next day delivery for a year? at £9.95? yes please!]), it was time to post up a little haul of things I’ve bought! These are going right back to last October, so er, some things may not be available still, but I shall link what I can 🙂

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Asos Curve Leather Skater Skirt – it was in green, but unfortunately they only have blue left on the site. It was £25, down from £85, which I think’s a bargain!

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Anchor and Chains Bracelet – £8 – I do like this bracelet, but the clasp is a pain to get on and it kept catching on things and the chains pulled off, meaning I had to keep reattaching the chains. It’s a bit frustrating, because I love the size of the charm, but everything else is irritating, haha.

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Asos Curve Batwing Top – £15 – This top is so comfortable, which is great, since I bought it for work. It’s a gentle batwing shape, so there’s no swooping about like Batman in it, but it allows for very easy movement. I think the gentle draping and wider bottom band is pretty flattering, too.

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And just to prove I don’t solely buy from Asos – Simply Be Cowl Neck Cable Tunic – £18. Also bought for work! Alas, it’s actually too warm, but it looks nice anyway. I love cowl necks like this – they’re very warm and flattering, but surprisingly I can’t stand other types of high-neck.

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New Look Inspire Lace Top – £13 – I bought this because I grabbed the black version whilst in my local New Look (and when they still had the Inspire section in stores), and it’s such a comfortable, pretty top that I needed it in purple too! This cut is one I think is very flattering to many shapes and figures, and it’s a great weight of jersey for spring/summer (…and autumn/winter too, if you like cardigans).

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Alice And You Cargo Trousers – £32 (!!!!) – Bought these for work! First time buying actual trousers in about 18 months, and I’m happy to say that these ones work much better for me than that last pair! They fit me fairly well, although the waistband isn’t as high as I’d like and they do slip down a lot. I think I’ll add some more elastic to the waistband, and that should sort that! Normally I’d be pissed that something that cost this much doesn’t fit well, but since I gave up trousers years ago for that very reason, I’m not surprised! They’re otherwise very comfortable.

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Asos Curve Skater Dress with Sweetheart Neck – £22 – another purchase for work! This dress is so incredibly comfortable! It’s just the right length on me (hits my knees, I’m ~5′ 7″) and both the neckline and the swing in the skirt are super flattering, IMO. Very pleased with this! Definitely worth actually paying full price, lmao (although it’s only £2 above my ‘no-things-above-£20-unless-it’s-spectacular-or-necessary’ rule).

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Asos Curve V-Neck Long-Sleeve Top in Baby Rib – £14 – surprise surprise, another top bought for work! I don’t actually wear it very often though, I think the baby-rib and the fact it doesn’t sit well on my shoulders means it’s not quite formal enough (not that I need to be super formal, but I don’t want to look too casual!). If it didn’t constantly rise up, I think it would be fine for work, but as it is, it’s just not quite right. It is SUPER comfortable though! I’ve used it as a pyjama top a couple of times because it’s so soft.

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Seche Vite Fast-Drying Top Coat – £11 – I really love painting my nails, normally about twice a week (it’s something to do while watching hockey!), so quick-drying top coats are a must! I had been using INM Out The Door, but I had about 1/4 of a bottle left and it’s gotten too thick to use so I bought Sally Hansen’s Diamond Flash, which is really good. It takes a little longer to dry than Out The Door, but I think the shine is better! I was going to dive straight into Seche Vite, but that seems pointless until I’ve used up Diamond Flash, so right now it’s just an (expensive) back-up. I’ve heard so many good things about it that I can’t wait to slap it on my nails!

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Asos Icon Brand Anchor Bracelet – £10 – This is what I bought to replace the other anchor bracelet I bought, and it’s certainly much easier to wear and catches a lot less! However, I had thought the charm would be bigger, IRL it’s quite small. I think I’ll attach the silver anchor charm to this bracelet, which should look good!

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New Look Inspire Midi-Cardigan – £14 – I bought this mostly for work, but also because in New Look I’d bought another midi-cardigan which was woolen, and I really like the length and effect of it. I’m really pleased with this! It’s light-weight but it’s perfect for working indoors, I like the swish it adds to outfits, and I like varying hemlines, so this certainly does that as most of my skirts are mid-thigh. It’s a shame it’s not available anymore, because I really like it!

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Club L Scuba Dress in Floral Print with Lace Sleeves – £18 – Oh. My. Gosh. This dress is fantastic! I absolutely adore it! The print is bolder than I normally go for, but I think it’s just lovely, and the lace sleeves complement this dress so well. It’s definitely on the short side, so I wear it with leggings (…as I do literally everything else, lol!), but I’m so happy with it! I bought it as a little gift to myself for finishing a difficult essay and I just love it. It’s still available on the site in sizes UK16-UK28, and it’s only £18! Delightful!

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Asos Curve Poppy Kimono with Fringing – £27 – This was pretty expensive, I must admit… So it’s a good thing I love it! I’d been eyeing this kimono for a couple of months, but it’s always seemed too expensive. I recently started work again (my contracts are seasonal, so my last one ran out just before Christmas) and got my first pay-cheque through, and decided to treat myself. It came today and I just can’t get enough of it! The colours, length and fringing are just gorgeous! It’s still too chilly to wear it, but come summer I shall be swanning around in this, looking fabulous and floaty. Asos also had a dress in this fabric, which I was tempted by as well – but unfortunately it’s not in my size anymore, and I’m not convinced I’d suit the shape, it’s still pretty though!

Is anyone else slightly uncomfortable with cover-ups and sheer cardigans being called kimonos? I mean, a kimono is a distinct piece of clothing, which these things are… not. They have kimono sleeves, I guess, but that’s it. I’m not sure it’s as bad as slapping anything with a geometric pattern ‘Aztec/Ethnic/G*psy’, but it’s still pretty gross, right?

Well anyway, there we have it! All the things I’ve bought since October! Most of these were actually sale items, so if you’re like me and don’t want to spend too much on things, don’t forget about the Asos Outlet section on their website – they frequently have things up there which don’t show up on the regular pages. It’s where I buy most things, unless it’s something I feel I need for work.

What have you been buying lately? Grabbed any bargains?

What is confidence?

I was reading a blog post by Kari Sperring recently, in which she asked what is confidence? Where does it become overconfidence? Her post is HERE – I recommend checking that out, as well as her TWITTER and her books.

As I was walking Star on what has turned out to be a truly beautiful spring day, I was thinking over these questions.

I think that confidence, like so many things, is a truly personal thing – how I feel confident, why I feel that way and my expectations of my abilities when I feel confident are likely quite different to someone else’s.

For me, being confident has come with age (which of course is grand, at 26!) and increased perspective on life. When I was growing up, I didn’t know how to assess my abilities or what would be positive outcomes for my actions – I could mostly only rely on input from others as to what I could do and how well I could do it, and that had serious knock-on effects on my confidence. I was told that I had potential and yet nothing I did ever seemed to stop meaning I had potential and had actually started achieving. Since I had ingrained into myself the idea that I was ‘good at school’, never really achieving this potential really did a number on my self-esteem.

But as I’ve grown up, I’ve learnt that sure, I do have potential. I could be great at something. If I had a calling, I could work hard enough to achieve it.

And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised I don’t care. I don’t (right now) want to expend the amount of effort it would take to be a master at any one thing. I have the luxury of a safe, comfortable home and a loving, supportive family. It doesn’t matter if I decide today that I’m going to be a shop-girl for my entire career and I’m never going to leave home. It doesn’t matter if I realise my vocation is perfect recreation Elizabethan dresses, and that I need to remain in education for another 8 years. If the urge to become a civil-engineer hits, then I can pursue it. If it’s what makes me happy, then I have the tools to achieve that goal, because I have been blessed with a solid base from which to operate. I’ve also been so fortunate to be friends with people who inspire me each day, but their own achievements and actions, they show me that problems can be dealt with and that you can go from rock bottom to stellar achievement, if you have enough time, kindness and drive.

And thus I’m confident. My only goal is to be happy and positive and to be as good as I can to those around me. I’d eventually like to move into full-time employment and be paid more than minimum wage. I’d quite like to travel around Europe. I want to maintain the friendships I do have and cultivate the new ones when they come.

I think that because my goals are nebulous, because I don’t have to complete a specific task RIGHT NOW, I can generally be confident that I am achieving my goals. If I wake up tomorrow and feel horrendously sad, if my current job ends suddenly or if I fall out with a friend, then I know that these are things that can be overcome. I won’t always be sad (and if I ever get really depressed again, I’m exceedingly lucky to know that I can talk to people who will understand), I have the skills and demeanor to get another job (maybe not immediately, but I will get one), I hope I’ve grown into the kind of person that can admit when I’m wrong and compromise with someone, so that we can both mend our relationship – OR I know I am the kind of person who is no longer so desperate for friendship that I cannot cut loose toxic people.

So confidence, to me, is the belief that I am moving forwards in my life to positive ends but that I am also happy right now. I’m full of potential – we all are – but I’m simultaneously achieving all I need to achieve. There is no longing void in me, waiting for some bona fide result to prove I’ve ticked the check-boxes of education, adulthood or achievement. I’m too full of happiness and hope. Or possibly cake. Probably cake, in fact.

But Kari wasn’t just asking what is confidence, she also asked where is the line with entitlement? What about overconfidence?

In situations when you’re trying to achieve a tangible result – safe skiing, making yourself a dress, gaining a degree – then I suppose the answer is that overconfidence happens when we assess the goals we wish to achieve and think our skills match up. Sometimes they don’t, and the results of this can range from life-threatening to merely irritating. I do think it’s important to temper our confidence with realism – partly so that we don’t fall flat on our face and partly so that we don’t damage our self-belief by failing to achieve that which we thought would be easy.

I think overconfidence is the difference between knowing that I CAN make a prom-dress but I WILL need help, or a great deal of time and a good seam-ripper 😉  I probably COULD play ice hockey, if I were to engage in fitness building activities and take a few (or …more than a few…) lessons, but I’m not ever going to be a pro (and confidence is knowing that that’s ok! you can still enjoy and be fulfilled by something which you aren’t the best at!). I am going to gain a degree with an acceptable result – overconfidence would have been to assume that I would get distinctions/high results, when I only put in a middling effort.

Entitlement and overconfidence in my situation would be taking my parents for granted, taking my happiness for granted. I know that I’m lucky (and indulged by my parents!) and that the safety and stability I cherish could change in an instant if a disaster happened. I’m not the perfect daughter by any means, but I hope I’m not the kind to take advantage of my parents or the kind to be ungrateful.

I think we’ve all come across overconfidence in other people – and just like confidence, it’s a personal thing. Our judgement is so subjective, you could ask a hundred different people and come up with a hundred different answers when it comes to things like this.

Confidence and how we achieve it is such a fascinating subject, and there can never be just one answer to these things. It’s amazing that it can be so nebulous and yet be so important to each of us.

And since spring is here and the sunshine and flowers have made me feel so happy and hopeful, here’s one of the photos I took this morning:

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(Also I’m really sleepy right now, so this might be a bit more rambly and convoluted than it needs to be, but it’s been so long since I’ve updated and I thought it would be nice to have a positive post up!)

The way we talk

So I’ve been meaning to make a post like this since Worldcon (so… August. Hah.), but I’ve been struggling for two reasons – one, who am I to give advice to anyone? I wouldn’t say I’m a no one, but equally, I’m hardly the loudest voice out there. Two – the subject is so complicated, nuanced and subjective that it’s quite daunting and it’s easy to be unclear about your meaning.

Which is funny, since the subject I’m talking about is the way in which we communicate within fandom.

In the end, however much I’ve written and deleted, I think the ways I’ve found to be happy with my conduct in fandom can be boiled down to these 8 things:

1) If you’re in a frothing rage, wait 5 minutes before responding to something. You may regret your actions otherwise.

2) You don’t need to vent your spleen in someone else’s blog comments. Remove yourself to a different venue.

3) But if you do that – don’t make it into a rallying call so all your friends go after the original post/poster.

4) Stop telling marginalised people that their experience is wrong. You don’t get to decide that.

5) If you’re an asshole but (you think) morally correct, you are still, in fact, an asshole. You’re just not a prejudiced one.

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6) Relentlessly negative places are not always good places to be, you should leave whenever you need to (and go back only if you want to).

7) Even if no one else is, be as compassionate and kind as you can. Keep your own behaviour to your standards, as high or low as they may be

8) Give people the space to learn and improve – you don’t have to educate people personally, but you shouldn’t impede them either.

So there you have it, how far do you agree or disagree? Do you have any of your own rules?

(And do you also find it easiest to avoid blathering by using Twitter? Lol.)