The Hunt

Photograph courtesy of Barbara W. Beacham, (c) 2009

She was unaware that she was being watched.  The young doe loped around the field munching on the grass, oblivious.

The wolf was stalking her prey from a nearby copse, hiding until she was ready to make her move.  A rabbit was a meagre meal, for sure, but she had cubs to think about and it had been a lean season so far.

She prowled closer and the rabbit paused sniffing the air, but after a moment continued her frolicking.  The wind was in the wolf’s favour, and she was only a dozen feet from her prey now.  It’s burrow was at the other side of the field.  This would be over in moments.

The crosshairs settled on the wolf’s head as she was about to pounce, the hunter chuckling to himself that this was too easy for such a fine trophy.  But then he had been careful, and she was unaware that she was being watched.

This piece of flash fiction was in response to a prompt from Mondays Finish the Story.  Check it out if you fancy trying something similar.mondays-finish-the-story

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Challenges

Today’s assignment seems quite good.  Pick a community event or challenge and get involved.  There are a wide range of challenges, from photography to fiction writing to general blogging challenges that use prompts to encourage you to post regularly – every day, week, whatever.

This serves two purposes.  Getting involved in the wider WordPress community, to both gain new readers and find interesting blogs you might otherwise miss, particularly the parts which share interests with you.  It also keeps you blogging.  On the days where nothing really of note has happened, or maybe it has happened before and you’d just be retreading the same ground, or you’re unsure just how to get something written down that people will want to read.  Challenges step in at this point to give you a direction or a push in way you maybe hadn’t considered.  And if you pick the right challenges to get involved in this won’t feel like a chore or alien to your blog.

I cheated and picked three challenges for this assignment.  The first is the Around the World Reading Challenge, hosted by Booking It.  I chose this for a few reasons.  First, it is a fairly low impact challenge.  Six books in a year isn’t a lot.  I could do that in a month; less if I pushed myself.  I won’t; I want to give myself time to properly digest the books for this challenge, and blog about each one before I move on to the next.  The second thing is the big draw for me.  Each book should be from an author from a different continent.  This is really the only restriction on the challenge (fiction, non-fiction, genre – none of these matter) but it gives me an impetus to branch out from some of the authors and genres I tend to fall back on, read a couple of books that have been on my To Read list for a while, and from time to time write about something a little different on this blog.

The second challenge took a bit more consideration.  I knew I wanted something much more frequent and regular.  Weekly, maybe even daily if the challenge itself didn’t take up too much time.  I wanted to try either one of the many flash fiction challenges, or possibly one of the photography challenges.  The first I think I could be pretty good at, the second less so but I’d be willing to try and it would help stretch the content on the blog.  There were quite a few options for both, and in the end I went with one of each.

The Phoneography and Non-SLR Digital Devices Photo Challenge hosted by Lens and Pens by Sally looks interesting, with a focus on using phone and other non-professional cameras to take pictures – something ideal as I haven’t had an SLR for years, but I do have a phone with a camera.

I’m also going to participate in Mondays Finish the Story, where a photo and the opening line of a story are posted and the challenge is to finish it in 100-150 words.

These should all let me stretch my writing and blogging muscles, and give my blog a boost in the process.  I’m looking forward to getting started.

Blogging, pt.3

For today’s Blogging 101 assignment the task is to create another page for your blog, with examples like a contact form, comment guidelines, a poll or a FAQ. This was a tricky one, because I couldn’t really see any of those fitting my blog at the moment. Maybe when it’s bigger and has a more active community all those will be useful and I can revisit this.

For now I’ve gone with a contact form so people can get in touch about things that don’t really fit the comments for any single post, and to ask questions that might someday end up in a future FAQ. That probably works best with a nascent blog like mine and I’ll keep thinking about other ideas.

Check it out if you like, and if you have feel like helping me test it out please do.

Social

Today’s assignment for Blogging 101, Plug in to Social Networks, is something I’m probably not going to do.  At least not any time soon.

I’m not against them.  In fact, I can see a great deal of value in them when used effectively, and depending on what type of blog you write.  I write another blog on WordPress and have that linked to a few.

But I write this blog anonymously at the moment.  That might change in the future, and I’ll get to linking things if and when that happens.  For now though, I’m going to have to sit out this assignment.

Fitbit, pt. 4

A very short update this week.  It’s been an up and down week, mood-wise and activity wise, although I still managed to drop just over a kilogram and my percentage body fat is continuing to go down.  It’s not much but it’s still a downward trend so I’m relatively happy with that, although I’ll be hoping to do better in the upcoming week.

The Fitbit continues to impress.  It makes the admin side of getting fit a lot simpler and more manageable.  I’m still getting some related apps set up and will report back when they’re up and running.

Until next time.

Energy

I’m a little late to the party again this week, and trying to catch up with the assignments for Blogging 101.  First up is Monday’s assignment to take the daily prompt and make it personal, publishing a post as a result.  Since the assignment came from Monday I’ll use Monday’s prompt.

Re-springing your step

Tell us about the last experience you had that left you feeling fresh, energized, and rejuvenated. What was it that had such a positive effect on you?

At first glance this looks like a fairly easy one to interpret.  It probably should be.  But when you’re struggling with depression then experiences that leave you feeling fresh, energized and rejuvenated can be few and far between.  That should mean that these moments should stand out though, no?  Unfortunately the low points in between tend to cloud things.

What you actually tend to notice more are the smaller things.  The days where you don’t have to psyche yourself up first in order to get out of bed.  Or take a shower.  Or leave the house.  These things that many take for granted are the experiences I often pick up on as evidence I’m feeling fresh and energized and rejuvenated.  As evidence that I might actually have a good day, when really all I’m having is a day.

That’s not to say that the big upswings aren’t appreciated.  Or important.  I had one this weekend.  A trip to watch the ice hockey team I support.  Before this game I hadn’t been able to get along to one in over a year.  A saw friends I hadn’t spoken to in the same time, and some I see more often but still far too infrequently.

And the team won.  Convincingly.

It was a very good day.  An actual very good day and not just one masquerading as good, in comparison to the rest.  It was great.  I have no idea when the crash is coming.  Part of my personality means I tend to focus on the worry about that and less on the good things as they’re happening.  It’s something I need to work on and get better at.  And I’m trying.  I’m still trying to revel in the good of the hockey trip, when not too long ago I’d be entirely thinking about the crash to come.

It’s some kind of progress.

Fitbit, pt. 3

This has been an up and down week.  Depression hit mid-week and I had a couple of low days that hampered things.  It’s interesting, because I can actually see a trend on the Fitbit dashboard where the number of steps I’m taking drops quite dramatically on those days.

My mood picked up at the end of the week and I tried to compensate for the earlier dip with some extra activity this weekend but unfortunately it snowed here, which turned to slush and then ice overnight and meant my plans for a good walk were scuppered.  I tried, but twenty minutes of skittering on icy pavements at about half my usual walking speed convinced me it was a lost cause.  Hopefully there’s a thaw and I can pick things up again this week.

What I did manage to keep up, despite depression’s best efforts, was a decent calorie intake.  I’m doing the 5:2 fast diet along with my Fitbit efforts, which means five days of essentially normal eating and two days on restricted calories, around 600 (a quarter of the RDA for men).  I was worried I’d feel uncomfortably hungry on those days, leading to bingeing and more snacking and I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it.  While it was certainly difficult at first, it’s actually proven easier than I thought.  A couple of false starts initially but I now have a routine down and the fast days aren’t really a problem.  I don’t feel hungrier on those days anymore, which I expected to.  And if anything I’m actually eating a little less on non-fast days.  I might start adding my meals on these days to these update posts, in case anyone is interested.

That means that the weight loss seems to be ticking along nicely.  Another 2.5kg in the last week (5.2kg since I started), with Fitbit doing its usual sterling job keeping track of various things.  I mentioned in my first post that I liked the all-in-one nature of the Fitbit tracking, and while that’s still true I’m going to try syncing with a couple of other apps, based on advice in this post, and see how that goes.  They should still feed data back into the Fitbit app itself so everything can still be monitored from one place.

Roleplay

This is partly inspired by the recent Blogging 101 assignment, Be Inspired by the Neighbours, and partly by a desire to branch out on the content of my blog a bit.  The neighbour I’ve taken inspiration from is Starry-Eyed Potboiler and this post on streamlining RPG sessions.

It gives some very useful tips on how to keep games flowing, often enriching the experience for everyone playing in the process.  If you’re a GM (or even a player) you should check it out and see if anything would work for your game.

Currently I’m both a GM and a player in a Dresden Files RPG set in and around Glasgow, and I’m always on the lookout for advice to make me better at both.  It’s often considered a nerdy hobby (although that’s something I’d embrace, frankly) but I’ve found it to be very worthwhile in other ways too.

As a GM I get to really stretch my writing muscles.  Having to create adventures to keep other players engaged and challenged can be tricky, and the random nature when dice hit the table means I often have to do this on the spot.  It can be hit and miss, but when everything comes together it’s a great feeling.

The need to improvise is there as a player too, but what I get from it most is a way of working through my social anxiety.  The usual mental block I have over whether what I’m thinking is actually worthwhile saying, a block that tends to keep me quiet, even silent, in many social situations, just isn’t there to the same extent when I’m playing my character.  It’s liberating.

Blogging, pt. 2

I’m a little behind on my Blogging 101 assignments because of a couple of low days towards the end of the week so I’m going to use this as a bit of an update digest on how things are going.

My About page

I never really considered the importance of an About page.  I knew I had to tell people what my blog and I are all about but I was relying on my first post to do that.  As a sticky post surely it would fulfil the requirements, right?  Well, yes for a bit.  But it would eventually go out of date.  I could keep updating it but then it wouldn’t really be my first post any more.

So today I embraced the About page (prompted by the Blogging 101 assignment).  It’s still essentially the same as that first post, with a bit of minor editing, but I can keep it fresh and relevant as time goes on and how I’m using my blog and what it’s about evolves.  That first post can be left to stand as a record of where and why this blog started.

Be a good neighbour, and be inspired by the neighbours

The next assignment, or really two assignments – they flow together, is to meaningfully comment on at least four other blogs that you’ve never commented on before.  Then, expand one of those comments into a post and link back to the blog.  I’ll list the other blogs I commented on too.  You should definitely check them out.

  1. This post on My Month Of… talking about Fitbit synchronisation.  The author takes on a different challenge each month and blogs about his experience, and January is Fitbit month.  I’m blogging just now about my use of a Fitbit Charge as part of my new year’s resolution to lose weight and get healthier and this post (as well as many of the others) has some helpful tips about how to get the best out of the device by synching with other fitness and health apps.
  2. Continuing the health theme, this post, as well as the rest of the blog My 5:2 Diet Journey, details the author’s experiences following the 5:2 Fast Diet – something I’ve started myself and reading the thoughts of someone else trying it was both valuable and interesting.
  3. Katie Marie blogs about writing and this post about her favourite literary characters caught my eye mentioning Harry Dresden, and my love of the Dresden Files series meant I couldn’t pass it up.  She’s asking for readers examples of their favourite characters.
  4. Finally there is this post on Starry-Eyed Potboiler giving some tips on how to streamline tabletop roleplaying sessions.  The blog focuses on writing but the author also talks about a myriad of other interesting stuff too.  I was drawn to it because I spent a good chunk of my Sunday writing for my own Dresden Files RPG campaign and felt I could use some of the advice.  This is the one I want to expand upon, in my post here.

I’m about to embark on the latest assignment, Spruce Up Your Sidebar.  There isn’t much need for a post about that – the results should be obvious soon – but my weekly Fitbit update post will be up later on.