Melt beads, Steampunk and Bladed Fans…

I’ve spent most of the day today sorting through melt beads. These are the sort of bead that you put onto a spiky tray and then heat with a hot iron through greaseproof paper to glue them together; rather neatly utilising the thermal properties of the plastic they are created from.

finished owl

The reason I am doing this, is that the Brownie Unit I work with are doing the Woodland Wonders Challenge and the owl is one of the activities. We had some melt beads and I volunteered to attempt the project so that we know what sort of pitfalls etc that the girls might come up against.

It’s a relatively easy pattern, but, due to some errors in the pattern I ended up rejigging it so that the poor creature had a beak. It also gave me a chance to count the number of beads we were going to need.
Each owl needs 254 beads. We have approximately 20 brownies so we were going to need well over 5000 beads. After a quick consultation we decided that it would be easier just to buy the colours separately.

But sadly, my favourite crafting shop let me down. They didn’t have enough black and no orange at all! So there I was this morning, sorting through one of those tubs full of multiple colours, trying to find enough beads to cover our needs.

I managed it, but my eyes were crossing by the end of the exercise – I’m pretty certain that I’ll be seeing multicoloured dots for at least a week…

 

Book 3 of The Finishing School Series

So having bagged up the beads, I turned my attention to a birthday present.

Gail Carriger is one of my favourite authors. I have all of the Parasol Protectorate books and I am avidly collecting the Finishing School series.
Due to the current Hachette / Amazon contretemps, this particular book came via Waterstones rather than Amazon. But to be honest, I don’t really care where I buy my books from, as long as I can get my grubby mitts on a print copy of my favourites!

I devoured it in 24 hours and would normally leave a review on Amazon, but again, because I couldn’t buy it from Amazon, I cannot review it on Amazon.

*sighs*

Waistcoats & Weaponry is a wonderful, highly absorbing book for ten year olds upwards. It links neatly with a particular incident in the Parasol Protectorate books (don’t worry I won’t spoil the story) and I loved every moment of it… especially the twist in the tail!

No, I haven’t misspelt that.

Now that I’ve finished it, my son is snapping at my heels to read it. I’ve delayed him somewhat by forcing him to at least finish one of the three books he is reading (a Discworld Novel) but I saw the gleam in his eye when the book arrived and I’m not going to let him have four books on the go at once… even when one of said four is actually a series of Graphic Novels.

The weapon that appears in Waistcoats & Weaponry is the bladed fan. I am assuming a little here that Ms Carriger was inspired by the Oriental War Fan.

There are different styles of Martial Art that use the Fan; it was an easily hidden weapon for Chinese Warriors and the Samurai, and I have no doubt that techniques were taught to women as a form of self defence.

It is an elegant weapon and perfectly suited to the female Intelligencier.

Stop the press! The Bet now available as a paperback!

Kira Morgana:

You can now read Viv Tuffnell in paperback! Get out there any buy her books people!

Originally posted on Zen and the art of tightrope walking:

Do excuse the excited tone but I wanted to share the fact that almost two years after it first appeared as an e-book. The Bet is now out in paperback.

I did a fair bit of hair tearing because it proved a bit tricky to get the print size right and the cost as low as I could. I wanted to make sure that the print was of a size that didn’t mean reaching for the magnifying glass but my first attempt, though glorious, was too big really and therefore cost more.

Then I discovered that the title and my name on the original cover picture done for my by the talented Andrew Meek wouldn’t work as the cut-off point where art gets trimmed when the book is produced was well into the lettering. Thankfully I had both the original picture and an earlier version of the cover. I am…

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The Futility of Trying to Write Something New

Originally posted on S.A. Barton: Seriously Eclectic:

Ballpoint

My writing is going to be BIG!

I have heard, and seen in various forums for writers online, the same basic question posed dozens of times. “How do I write something that hasn’t been written before?” “How can I be sure nobody’s done this story before?” “How do I get a NEW idea?”

I have good news and bad news for the askers of those questions.

You’re not going to write something that hasn’t been written before. Somebody has done this story before. Your idea is not new. That’s the news, good and bad wrapped up together in it like yin and yang.

You might find something specific to add, a new element. With the advent of the personal computer, we began to see all the old stories made new again with the addition of computers, hackers, the internet, email. But that didn’t make them new stories. It made them…

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Tinkerbell, Aspergers and fitting in…

I was watching “Tinkerbell” with my daughters today and unfortunately I’ve seen it so many times that my brain clicks into Editor Mode. It starts pointing out the plot holes and mistakes, so I find I have to go do something to distract myself from it!

This time, I decided to clean the grill.

As I was doing that, I realised that “Tinkerbell” is about girls with Aspergers. Now I can see all the Mum’s getting up in arms and shouting “It’s about a brand new fairy who is trying to find herself.”
And they are right, it is about that. But it is also about a girl who has been thrust into a new world, not understanding why she feels like she doesn’t fit.

My eldest daughter is nine. She has two years left at Primary School (they start high school at eleven around here) before she is pushed by her age into High School. She is also developing physically more quickly that her peers. To add to that, she is showing signs of Aspergers, so she is going through testing to check if it is that or something similar.

She has already admitted to feeling very out of place in her peer group.

A girl with Aspergers is difficult to spot. Girls are generally social creatures and when they are young, those in the group who are good at Social Behaviour will help their peers who aren’t. Girls are also emotionally biased, so they understand outbursts of high emotion and can help those friends that suffer with them cope. Thus a girl with Aspergers will be taught by her peers how to act.
And act is exactly what she does. By the time she hits high school, she is so well camouflaged that adults  rarely see her for what she actually is.

So why is “Tinkerbell” about girls with Aspergers?

Consider the plot:

A girl is thrust into a new world. She is told that she is a Tinker and that her life, from now on, will be about making pots and pans. But she doesn’t feel as if she quite fits in.

She makes friends who are pretty, well dressed and have more interesting jobs. Then she is told that these girls can also go off and have adventures.
Of course, she wants to do that too. She is quickly smacked back down when she tries to follow her nature and get to have adventures.

Still feeling that she doesn’t fit in as a Tinker, she tries to change who she is, to become like the other girls. Everything that follows is an obvious effect of trying to go against her nature and just makes her more unhappy.

Eventually she realises this and gives up, but not before the local bully, who is jealous of all the attention the Tinker is getting, helps her to wreck everything that the others have built.

Finally, the girl works out a way of fixing what she has wrecked by going with her nature rather than against it. She thinks about the problem from outside the box and shows why she was chosen to be a tinker in the first place.
Her reward is to be allowed to join her friends on their adventure.

Tinkerbell is our girl with Aspergers – she looks the same as the other girls physically, but knows that inside she is different. She thinks about things differently and can’t understand why, once she has learned to fit in, she still doesn’t feel right; like a jigsaw puzzle piece that is the right shape but with the wrong picture.

Now imagine our “Tinkerbell” moving from warm, comfortable Primary School (the old world) to cold, hard, High School (being reborn as a student.) She may have learned to fit in with her Primary friends, but at High School, the social scene is different. She is just different enough to garner attention from those who don’t like difference and may well get bullied (like Tinkerbell and Vidia) and her response is, more often than not, will try on different natures.
Our Tinkerbell will be Goth one minute, a sporty girl the next. She will change styles as fast as possible, trying to find that elusive hole to fit into so that she isn’t picked on anymore.
It may end up in a train wreck of a situation; or sometimes our girl will find her spot and get comfortable again. Her reward will be friends and a life she can relax into again.

Most often though, our Tinkerbell will take a long time to find her spot, her real nature.

Why have I written about this today?

Well, I watch my daughter at Brownies and School and I can see that, while she is comfortable in her current hole, when she goes to High School, she will be lost again. So over the summer, we picked one of her interests (music and singing) and sent her to a Theatre School Summer Camp.

She blossomed.

She’d found the right picture to match her shape. My daughter will still find High School difficult, but by sending her to Theatre School at the weekends, she will be able to cope with whatever the social scene throws at her and hopefully, she won’t need to go against her nature to find where she fits in at school.

If you have a child with Aspergers I can recommend the following books – they really opened our eyes to how NOS sees the world and how PT can be helped to navigate around the social scene of High School -

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Asperkids-Secret-Book-Social-Rules/dp/1849059152/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412543447&sr=8-1&keywords=asperkids+secret+book+of+social+rules

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Queen-Bees-Wannabes-boyfriends-realities/dp/0749924373/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1412543622&sr=1-1&keywords=queen+bees+and+wannabes

Some thoughts about Guns…

TOH is playing Watchdogs. For the most part, he likes it because you can sneak around playing the game without hurting any of the civilian characters that are wandering around the city.

There are puzzles and you can choose the way you play so that you become a Vigilante rather than Terrorist (the opposite end of the reputation bar.) You can protect civilians, stop them getting hurt and attacked.

The story line is quite an interesting one. It looks at the way that information is used in the real world and just how much information everyone puts out there that can be twisted or used to hurt. It’s a scary concept, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

Like with many of the games now, you get digital trophies for certain things – for example, the number of police scans you evade. Most of these are easy enough to do without hurting anyone. However,  TOH being who he is, likes to get all of the trophies, and there was one that he couldn’t figure out; you had to escape a level 5 police scan.

So he went online and googled the problem. He was not happy with the result, but try as he might, it was the only one he could find. So he did it this morning before he went to work.

He took the character to a crowded place, pulled out a machine gun and let rip. It must have killed between 15 and 20 civilian characters before the scan meter was at level 5. The noise was horrendous and it attracted both my attention (and made me muck up the pattern I was knitting) and the baby’s attention (she’d been playing with her ducky ball).

It was realistic and I started having a panic attack. I picked up the baby and cuddled her away from the noise.

Now I can think logically about it, it wasn’t what was on the screen that was panicking me. It was the noise. The realistic sound of the machine gun he was using on the game. It took me back to a particular incident that shaped my life without me realising it.

* * *

When I was 16, I was in the Air Training Corps. It’s the cadet branch of the RAF and I was seriously considering a career in the RAF at the time. One of the last events I went to was a joint exercise with the local USAF base. The Military Police there had put on an exercise for the local ATC units complete with full military training gear. This meant we were wearing the laser vests that they used and carrying blank adapted M16’s with laser equipment to “tag” the vests.

And yes, you read that one right. They were allowing teenagers to use M16’s. There were also two M60 ‘s set up the same way, one for each team. We were given the guns and put through training exercises – stripping, cleaning, reassembling in a set time, practice on a range with live bullets and on a stationary dummy wearing a laser vest with blanks in the gun.

All stuff we had done before at ATC with the 302 rifles we’d used for ages on our range.

We also were given a small strip of ammunition and allowed to shoot the M60. This was to show us how the rifle worked and make the point that the only people big enough to carry the things were two of the biggest boys I had ever seen in my life… and I wasn’t a small, dainty little girl.

Anyway. It wasn’t the experience of shooting the M60 that did the damage. That was funny because the gun moved me back in the heather by about 3 feet. It wasn’t even the “capture the flag” exercise we played next, albeit with the M16’s on our shoulders. We’d done that before with LR98’s and laser equipment on a RAF Base.

It was the Night Exercise.

We’d been told that we were being treated like Military Academy students and that when they were on exercise, they carried their guns at all times. So we had to. I literally slept that night with an M16 next to me. We were all in one camp, both teams together.

I say slept. Others slept. I didn’t. I couldn’t. The gun felt as hard and dangerous as a knife and while I knew it was loaded with blanks and the safety was on, I was terrified that it was going to go off in the night.

I fell into a half doze about three in the morning when my body refused to remain awake any longer.

At dawn the camp was attacked.

I lay in my tent, my hand on the M16, frozen with fear as an M60 opened up out in the woods around us and blasted us. Everyone’s laser vests started screaming at us and while some of the boys managed to rally and fire back, the rest of us lay there, scared out of our wits.

They were trying to make some kind of point apparently, because they’d noticed that some of the boys had got rather cocky, trigger happy and were being reckless. Our Officers had agreed and were joining in.

That noise has lived with me ever since.

I managed to complete the event without being hurt (normally I got an injury of some sort), cleaned and returned my M16. I even got a commendation for being able to complete the entire 1 mile obstacle course within a decent time.

I quit ATC  not long after that. My excuse was that I wanted to concentrate on my exams. The real reason was that I realized that the RAF wasn’t for me. At the time I didn’t want to think like that and I was being encouraged by my teachers to choose that career, so I acted out the charade a little longer and then when I got to University, I changed direction.

This morning, it was that noise. The machine gun going off on the TV that sent me straight back into my 16 year old self lying on the ground, listening to the M60 shoot over my head and the laser vest’s warning screaming in my ear.

I know now that should I have to, I can pick up a gun and shoot someone with it. To protect my life, to protect my children, to protect TOH, I will do it. But I’m scared of them, of guns. I’m scared that I found that in myself. I’m scared that I could kill another human being.

And I’m scared that all the war and violence that I ducked out of by not going into the RAF might actually happen over here. That I might actually have to pick up a gun to defend my children.

And the Autumnal Lurgy hits…

Fresher’s Flu, First Cold of The Year, Autumnal Lurgy… whatever you call it, I have it, my family has it, a lot of my friends (RL and FB) have it.

I should imagine this time of year has the cold & flu tablet manufacturers rubbing their hands with glee, as they think about all the money rolling in as the supermarkets and chemists put their orders in to cope with the flood of people  scooping packets of tablets into their baskets…

The Cold Virus… probably not really this cute, but definitely around!

Sometimes I think that the reason drug manufacturers don’t bother trying to cure the Common Cold (or any illness) is pure greed; remove the demand, lose the cash.

But then I think that it’s not the scientists that feel like that; many scientists are working really hard to cure Cancer, AIDS, even the Common Cold and don’t have anything to do with the manufacturing and sales side. Maybe they’ve come up with cures already and it really is the Greed of the Pharma Managers stopping us from having an illness free society.

Elysium Medical Machine

Is this machine really all that far away? Only those in charge of Big Pharma really know that.

I apologise…

When you’re feeling ill, your mind seems to take a dive into the depressive trough and your body follows it, making it difficult to get better.

She sighs, coughs, splutters and flakes against the back of her chair.

I think maybe I should go rest up a bit more… I’ll return to the world of words when I am feeling a bit less lurgal and a bit happier!

The sexual threats against Emma Watson are an attack on every woman – Vox

The sexual threats against Emma Watson are an attack on every woman – Vox.

I, personally, will not stand for this. I want the world my girls grow up in to not only be safe for them, but safe for my son as well.

My partner and I are bringing him up to be as aware of himself and his effect on people around him as possible and we don’t need the pervasive misogynistic atmosphere that this planet currently has to be confusing him.

We are all Human;
no matter what our gender assignment is;
no matter what our sexual preference is;
no matter what our romantic preferences are;
no matter what our race is;
no matter what our Religion is;
no matter what our Personal Beliefs are.

It is time we recognised that FACT and act as a species to change the world we live in. We are good at changing what stands in our way, it’s what has made us the most successful predator on the planet, so let’s use that ability on our OWN CULTURE and change it for the better.