Behind The Wheel

5 08 2015

Steering Wheel

Last week, I took my first step into doing something I have always wanted to do, but so far as yet had not. I had my first sitting behind the wheel of a car.

Ford Fiesta

For the past several weeks, I have been trudging around several employment websites looking for work, and am as yet unsuccessful in finding something. When I do find something promising, or that I like the look of, I will read about it and if still interested would apply for it. One issue that I have found is that many jobs ask for a current driving licence. Not too big a thing unless you don’t have one, and need the income to learn to drive in the first place. Well, a few weeks ago I started looking into Intensive Driving courses in the hope I could learn quickly and receive a driving licence as quickly as possible to allow me to apply for those kinds of jobs with ease. A couple of weeks later, my Mam informs me that a friend of hers at work, knows some people who offer driving experiences to allow the people the option to just have a little driving lesson and see how they feel. The experience is only really offered to 14-16 year olds, not people over the age of 20. However, I was able to get a slot to have a little go behind the wheel of a car.

Traffic Cones

I was booked in, and went to the Truck Haven near Carnforth last week where a section of car park was roped off. I was rather scared and worried as I had no idea how the car was going to react, or if I was going to like it or not. I had little worries going through my head. I met my instructor there and he had me take a seat in the front of the car behind the wheel. Getting in was hard due to my height, but he took me through the basics, such as pushing the seat back, heightening and lowering the back rest, adjusting the mirrors, the order of pedals including which foot to use best for which pedal, everything to the point of turning the car on for the first time. He then instructed me about the ‘biting point’ and how to start the car up into it moving for the first time. To begin with it was only in first gear, and I only drove round the area once before coming to a stop. But I really enjoyed it; it felt so amazing to drive the car round. We then did it again, I was a bit harder on the brakes that time, but I was beginning to enjoy it more.

Test Drive Unlimited 2 (Eden Games - 2011)

And it didn’t stop there. He took me through braking for a corner (something I was worried about given my experience in Test Drive Unlimited 2) and how to change-up and down a gear. I really did enjoy it, and felt a little bit sad when my slot time was up. I had a brief talk with the instructor and my Mam, and the hope now is that I will be proceeding with learning how to drive. I am still a little scared to be going out on the road with real drivers to learn, but I am kind of excited to finally learn how to drive a car. Then all I will need to do is get a job to pay for my own once I pass my driving test.

Pagani Huayra

GENEPOOL (I very much doubt that my first car will be a Pagani Huayra).





In An Attempt To Cure Writer’s Block

8 07 2015

Pen and Paper

Since finishing University a few weeks ago (and while waiting for Graduation in just over a week’s time), I have been trying to do a number of things to keep myself productive and busy. I have been looking for work, trying to come up with a career plan, writing weekly blog posts, coming up with ideas for stories and board games, reading when I can, playing games, baking cakes, volunteering at Barnardo’s and at The Dukes play in the park again. One thing though that I have wanted to continue since finishing, I have found rather hard, and that is writing stories. I like writing stories, I like all kinds of writing, and when I am in the zone, I just can’t stop. Starting is an entirely different matter however.

Darkmouth (Harper Collins - 2015)

I have kept up with my blog writing, and right now am writing a series of film reviews to be shown in a few weeks’ time, but writing large pieces of work is proving to be rather difficult. Writing big projects at University (in hindsight) was easier, as I was motivated to get the work done as best as I could, but now I need to find new motivation and am finding it hard. I am constantly coming up with ideas for projects, either it be stories, blog posts or board games, but getting round to actually doing them is what I am struggling with. Writing short stories shouldn’t necessarily be too much of a problem as they are small, quick stories to write, however, starting them is as difficult as any other project. Ideas for them are hard as they need to be concise, small, and not necessarily involve big incidents, or big things happening……….which is kind of what I like. Back in May I even came up with a plan to write at least one short story a month, but in June I (technically) did not write one.

A Cake and some Cake Pops I made recently.

I say technically; basically, last month I entered Preston’s first Short Story Slam. A writing/performing contest where writers write short stories to then read out. Writer’s need to write 3 stories of no more than 200 words that can be read in 4 minutes or less. It’s a head to head sort of thing (as far as I understand it) and I need to write 3 short stories for it. A week ago I wrote one story for it, I still have another 2 to write (at time of writing) but coming up with ideas for such a small word count I am finding tough, and even when I do have an idea, simply sitting down behind my laptop to write it is proving tricky. It was only when I had a voice going through my head telling me to write the first story that I finally did it (The Slam is at the end of July, so I still have some time). Even when it isn’t that though, writing in general (when it is not for my blog) I am finding tough. I can develop ideas quite nicely, (I prefer to do it in my head where I can visualise it, while find that writing it down can usually mean I end up leaving and forgetting about it), but that’s still not writing it.

Rory's Story Cubes: Prehistoria

In an attempt to cure what I think is writer’s block; I have started doing little exercises to get me writing again. While my mind wanders onto other ideas of approaching it, for now, this one is working. I have had Rory’s Story Cubes for over a year now. First I got a small expansion in the form of Rory’s Story Cubes: Prehistoria, but discovered using them rather hard, so I bought a copy of the base set, and was able to get going with them. To begin with I just used them as a little game to play with friends and at the Writer’s Society at University. Basically, the base set is a box of 9 dice, with each side on all the dice being a different image (54 images in total). You roll them, and then use the 9 images to make a story. It has to start with “Once Upon A Time” and can either be done as one continuous story as a group, or several stories. There are other versions of the base set and several expansions, all of which can be mixed and matched to create a diverse range of stories. Recently, I decided to use them to help me write some short stories. I use them in the same way as you normally would play with them; roll them and look at the pictures rolled (sometimes re-rolling if I can’t think of anything). Instead of telling the story to someone though, I would instead write my story in a Word Document.

Story Dice 1

I have been taking the pictures of the images I have rolled, considering possibly putting my stories online at a later date (with a photo of the dice to show what images I have to work with). I actually rather enjoy coming up with stories this way; they can be about anything and there are no restrictions as to the length of the story, nor the genre it is in. It really does help me to get back into writing short stories. While I have not done one for about a week (due to being busy with my current weekly schedule), I look forward to writing another one, and hopefully with time, be able to write some without assistance, possibly even bigger ones. Right now though, I have a Short Story Slam to enter.

Story Dice 2

GENEPOOL





Capturing A Snow Leopard……….On Camera

24 06 2015

Snow Leopard

A few weeks ago, me and my Mam had a day out at the South Lakes Wild Animal Park (or South Lakes Safari Zoo as it is now known) in Dalton-in-Furness. It’s not the first time we have gone there; we’ve visited it a lot with family and friends for roughly over 10 years now. It is a brilliant place that has different species of animals on show and even has some breeds live in the same enclosures. One of the key stand out features of the zoo though is its feeding times. On several occasions I have seen the animal talks and feedings and once hand fed a Lemur.

Racoon

The star attraction of feeding time is quite possibly the big cats. Animals like African Lions, Sumatran Tigers, Jaguars and many more get fed in a rather interesting way; by placing big chunks of meat atop large vertical poles. The idea is that when the animals are let out of their houses, they climb up the poles to get the food, meaning that they have to work for it, and helps to keep them fit. Over the last few years the park itself has been in a state of expansion with new areas and enclosures being built, with plans to introduce new species. This past visit, I was mostly caught up in looking at the new species with animals I had not seen before like the Giant Anteater, Sri Lankan Leopards, Arctic Wolves, Hornbills and (very briefly) Tayras.

Hornbill

One of the exhibits I took a shine to though was the Snow Leopards. The Snow Leopards aren’t really all that new; the last time I went to the zoo in July 2013 they had just arrived, but this was the first time that I had really seen them active instead of asleep. They were residing in the enclosure that the Lion’s used to occupy (the Lions now having a brand new enclosure). The enclosure was more of a rocky environment than one of grass and trees like it used to be. When we arrived at the enclosure, we were able to spot one of the Snow Leopards rather quickly, and as we went round onto the viewing platform to look down inside the enclosure (and opposite to the Arctic Wolf enclosure) we could spot another one, nicely blending into the rocks.

2 Snow Leopards

As the day went past, we looked at some of the other animals and enclosures, but discovered that due to the new species and ever-growing zoo, that feeding times for animals had been moved around. Wanting to watch the Arctic Wolf feeding (as we had never seen it before), we went down to the enclosure to watch, but it turns out they weren’t feeding them on that day (despite being given a leaflet which said that they were). What they were feeding though were the Snow Leopards. It wasn’t anything new really, other than it being a new species, it was the same routine as with the Lions and Tigers; shimmy up the pole. There was a lot of people round so getting a view was hard, but I was able to see them climb the pole and eat the food.

Snow Leopard Eating

I then had an idea. As it was, the animals were given two servings of food, and so I thought that if I could wait around a bit, I could potentially capture a video of the Snow Leopards climbing up the fence. My camera does come with a basic recording feature, so I set the camera to it and waited. The thing was, the animals were eating rather chewy bits of meat and did take some time to eat their meals. So while I waited, I occasionally glimpsed at the Arctic Wolves and marvelled at how bushy the Snow Leopard’s tails were.

Arctic Wolf

Sometime later though, not too long though, the cats decided they had had enough of their first servings, and proceeded to have their seconds. I quickly got my camera ready and was just able to get a video of them climbing up the poles, grabbing the food, then jumping off and begin to munch away. I was quite relieved as I wondered if I was actually going to get it. When we got back home, after uploading my photos onto Facebook, I then uploaded my video to YouTube, and it came out quite well. In the past I have been able to get pictures of the big cats eating, but I think this is the first time I got a video. I now just need to do it for all the other big cats (and possibly the other animals too).

GENEPOOL





Do You Like My Picture?

13 05 2015

Loch Ness Monster Thunderstorm

This past Sunday, just before and after a Fellowship Meal at church, I drew a picture of the Loch Ness Monster in a Thunderstorm. I was basically just standing around near what is now the former bookstall, and I saw some paper, felt tip pens and a clipboard. Just out of the corner of my mind I wanted to draw a picture. So I took my writing pen and used it to draw the picture at the top of this post.

Loch Ness Monster

I did not originally intend to draw the Loch Ness Monster. What was going through my mind at the time were those excellent shots during the opening and early to mid-parts of the 2014 Godzilla film, with Godzilla’s spines protruding out of the water like a shark fin. I actually quite like that effect and the accompanying soundtrack, and since the film’s release have watched those scenes every now and then. When I was about to draw the picture, that was what I wanted to draw; a landscape picture of the spines rising out of the water and moving along. However I could not figure out how to do it.

I had an idea, but to get the right impression, it needed some kind of form below the spines, but still risen out of the water. Instead I just drew the neck, body and tail of the Loch Ness Monster rising out of the water, just because really; and then added spines on the back. I decided not to give the Monster a face as I did not know how to present it. While the Monster has not necessarily been presented with spines in the past, I thought giving it some in my picture would give the creature a much darker look. The thunder-storm came as wanting to have something more in the picture while still presenting it as dark as possible. As for providing colour, I decided in the end to keep it minimal, just have a water effect and colour for the creature’s body. That was still rather simple though. The neck, tail and body of the creature was done using a standard pencil, while the water was a blue, brown (because I thought it was black) and purple felt tip and my drawing pen. While it is still very minimal, I think it works.

Nessie

I actually quite enjoyed drawing my little picture. I already have some ideas for other pictures, although I am not really considering becoming an artist. I just fancy drawing some more pictures like this, ones with monsters in of course, but possibly with some other things going on. I quite like the idea of having a creature hiding behind a Nuclear Explosion (not necessarily Godzilla, but that could be an option). I still fancy producing Godzilla’s spines rising out of the water at some point; but I am not going to rush it. Instead I am just going to enjoy my picture, and enjoy the next time I produce one.

Godzilla Beach

GENEPOOL





I Am Not Cut Out For Space Exploration

1 04 2015

Space Planet

Recently I have been playing FTL: Faster Than Light on Steam. It is a rather fun game. It’s sort of a cross between a puzzle game and an RTS (Real Time Strategy) intermixed with the subject of space exploration. I quite like it and continue to play it, but it has taught me one important thing; and that is that I am not cut out for space exploration (even though the likelihood of me receiving the opportunity of going up into space in the first place is very unlikely).

FTL

Now basing such a statement on a video game could be seen as something of a rash statement, but here is why I think that. When I got it; it made me think of games like Evil Genius in terms of its internal look, as in the ships in FTL looks like the lair design in Evil Genius. I liked the idea of doing something similar to Star Trek or possibly Firefly (Even though I have not seen Firefly and do not consider myself a Star Trek Fan, even though I have watched the occasional episode of Next Generation and occasionally Voyager). Just the idea of going through space, exploring it and controlling the aspects of my ship while engaged in specific situations.

Space Shuttle

The thing is, for many years I have calculated that I would more than likely go insane if I went into space. Just the idea of being somewhere that I would not exactly consider safe, but also being left to drift in space, even if I was in a ship or station. But it’s from playing FTL that I came to the conclusion of the earlier statement. While I have begun to improve through understandings of previous missions that have all gone belly up, even so much to the point of me having yet to clear the first stage of galaxies (I have unlocked the second ship; The Torus, even though it is a pretty pointless ship) my planning and reactions in the heat of the situation usually lead me to defeat. Some of these though can come down to me causing the issues from bad planning and excessively opening the doors. When an intruder is on board, or in more common occurrences, a fire breaks out, my first plan is to cordon off the areas where my ship’s crew are, and then open the doors into space to suck out the oxygen. It works mostly, but eventually people break through the doors. When an intruder is on board though, I usually stick as much of my crew as I can, in the medical bay so that when the intruders get there, my crew get healed quickly. These ideas though don’t work all the time and sometimes my crew will die trying to put the fire out as the doors are broken and me having to regularly send them to the medical bay before they die. Unless of course the medical bay is damaged and needs fixing, or the oxygen is cut off.

Kestrel

Other cases though include my willingness to fight ships to gain resources off them and denying them surrender in the hope of getting more resources off them. Eventually this has led to complete destruction, uncontrollable fires, intruders on board and oxygen leaks. The number of dead Kestrel spaceships that must be floating through space thanks to me must be astronomical. While my learning of these situations has led me to the point that I need to upgrade what systems I can to expect these situations, I need to show restraint when given the opportunity to fight, as well as let them surrender every now and then.

Kestrel In Space

I don’t know if FTL is how space exploration works or not, but given that I am playing it on easy mode and I have met failure on several occasions, I can quite confidently say; that I am not cut out for Space Exploration.

Space Planets

GENEPOOL








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