Tag Archives: challenge

#40Before40: Challenge #9

6 Jan

The ninth challenge on my #40Before40 list is to write a novel. This has been something that I have always wanted to do and I have always put off because of my lack of self confidence and a little bit of lack of discipline. When I was younger, I used to like writing stories and making things up but, as I have got older, I have found excuses not to do more writing but this is still a dream of mine.

A lot of people have looked at me in horror when I have told them that this is on the list. The main thing to remember is that it does have to be any good. I only have to write it. I never said anything about being published. This might be a bit of a cop out but this is definitely my line of thinking: get the thing written and then take it from there.

As I mentioned, the key to this task is to get into a habit and develop discipline. It is possible to write a book in six months if you write a regular amount each day. November is also National Novel Writing Month, which was started in the States. In this challenge, you have to wrote about 1,500 words a day for the whole month of November, so that in the end you have a 45,000 word novel. 1,500 words a day is not a lot in theory. Of course, if you then come to a part of the story that you are having trouble with, it could take you an hour to write 200 words.

In an attempt to ease myself into this challenge and to develop my self disciple, I have joined a writing group. We meet every Wednesday at a very interesting place which describes itself as Bar, Bücher und Bühne (in English, Bar, Books and Stage). It’s a book stop but a café and bar and they also hold more creative and arty events, which is the stage part.

I was nervous at joining at first. I had never been to anything like this before but I already knew roughly the format of the session. To begin with we decide on a writing prompt and we have 15 minutes to write about it. A writing prompt is a topic or idea that you use to spark creative ideas and writing. It can be one word, a quotation or even a picture. For example, last week the prompt was “Christmas emergency”. At the end of the 15 minutes, we are free to share what we have written, if we want to. I haven’t yet shared anything that I have written. All of the other members of the group are far too good and I feel like I would sound a bit silly in comparison to what they have written. But they have been part of the group for a lot longer than me and a few of them have given up working to write. In my world that is living the dream.

It is always interesting to hear the different interpretations of the prompts. With “Christmas emergency” one girl wrote about someone going into labour, one guy wrote about the Christmas tree accidentally being set on fire and I wrote about someone opening a very expensive bottle of champagne by mistake. I guess this all depends on how you interpret the word “emergency”. I think this reveals a bit too much about my personal preferences.

After a break, we have between 30 and 40 minutes to write on something that we are working on. Some people work on novels, others on non-fiction articles and I am still yet to decide what I want to work on. I have some ideas for novels but I am a bit unsure if I should plan the whole novel out or just go for it and start writing. For the time being, I have been trying to work on some short stories, with varying degrees of success.

My main problem is that I can’t seem to finish anything. I get half way through a story and get stuck, not on what I want to write, but on how I want to write it and then I never finish it because I take this as a sign what I am writing can’t be all that good. One advantage of the group is being able to talk about these problems. One guy told me that every first draft is rubbish but you have to get something down on paper before you can begin to improve it. It is more than a good point; it’s the truth.

Having said that I have completed the first writing project I have started since I was at school. I have written a bedtime story book of short stories for my niece for Christmas. I am more than sure that no publisher would even consider looking at but my niece likes it and that is enough for me. Unfortunately, my children’s story book is not more than 50’000. So, the challenge is not yet complete. In the meantime, I will keep writing and look for inspiration for my first novel.

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New Year’s Resolution

1 Jan

As I am still very much trying to tick off all of the items on my #40Before40 list, I don’t think that I have any need to have very serious New Year’s Resolution because quite a lot of the items on the list will keep me going for the next four New Years.

I have, however, decided to make a conscious effort to get more sleep. I wrote an article about this towards the end of last year, especially how modern technology is having an adverse effect on my sleeping habits.

There is also research to suggest that lack of sleep can make you put on weight because when you feel tired, your body thinks that this is because you have a lack of sugar in your system and so you crave food. This can lead to overeating and weight gain. I thought at first that this was just a rumour with no truth to it. But I have found myself on a few occasions wondering why I feel so hungry. I then realise that this is purely due to the fact that I am tired rather than hungry.

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So, to help reduce my weight and to tell me get more rest at time, I will be trying to get to bed before 10pm, without laptop, phone or other electronic sleep-stealing device at least 3 nights during the week. This should mean that I get at least 8 hours sleep for 3 nights in the week, which would be a big step forward.

Over the past few months, I think that I have had as little as 5.5 hours per night on some weeks. I know that if I get into a good routine at the start of the year that I will be on track to carry it on in the following months. In no time, I should be getting my 40 winks.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions this year? Are you also resolving to get more sleep? Quit smoking? Get fit? Or do you have something more interesting that you are going to try to achieve in 2018?

Photo an Hour

17 Dec

Yesterday I took part in my very first Photo an Hour. The basic premise is very simple. Once a month you take a photo an hour during your day and post this up on social media with the hashtag #photoaday. It means that you can check what other people are up to and is an interesting way to document a normal, or perhaps, a special day.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you might remember that for 3 years I used to take a photo a day. I still get notifications on Facebook of what I was doing on this day 3 years ago. For a photo a day, you have to get creative because it is not always easy, especially with having a nine-to-five job, and the photos get a bit repetitive.

With photo a day, I must say that my day was a lot more productive than it was the previous Saturday. Last week, I was so tired and a bit ill from all the overtime that I have been doing at work, that I mainly sat in front of the TV, like a zombie all day. I certainly couldn’t post a photo every hour with me in a different position on the sofa.

So here is what I got up to on Saturday 16th December:

8am: Good Morning! Tea and Toast time!

9am: Time to confirm what the neighbours always suspected: I am both a borderline alcoholic and a very tardy recycler

10am: Shopping for Christmas wrapping paper and sparkly things

11am: UK Tax return time

12pm: Writing a few posts for my blog

1pm: As we won’t be having a Christmas tree this year, I’ve bought a poinsettia to make the place look a bit more Christmassy

2pm: After not feeling well all week, I am trying to get back into my training programme

3pm: Helping Santa by wrapping up presents for some special little people

4pm: I have finally got round to tidying all my German exercise books off the dining room table

5pm: I’m about to venture out in the cold and dark

6pm: Christmas Tree shopping (see 1pm, the tree wasn’t for me!)

7pm: Fonduestube

8pm: We are still going

9pm: On the way home

10pm: Full of cheese, exhausted and climbing into bed with this one. Night all!

#40Before40: Challenge #39

15 Dec

For my penultimate challenge, I have set myself one of the hardest challenges. The challenge is to downsize; to get rid of anything that I don’t want or need. There is no caveat on how I get rid of things. I can give them away from free, donate them, sell them, recycle them or just bin them. However, I want to avoid the latter, especially if the item is still useable.

This challenge is one of the hardest for me because I have to be honest with myself about getting rid of things. It is easy just to think that I need or will want something in the future and end up keeping it when I know deep down that I have no intention of using it at all.

We will possibly be moved in the middle of next year so it seems like a good opportunity to downsize because we don’t have to move things that we don’t want. A lot of the sorting out into the “keep” or “bin” piles will probably happen in the packing for the move but I have already made a start.

I have taken two big bags of clothes to be recycled already. This is the tip of the iceberg. There are also old electronics sat in the cellar waiting to be taken to the recycling. I also have bags of books in the cellar that I have already ready. I can take these to a book shop to be resold. I don’t get any money for dropping them off but at least they will be out of my way and someone else can get pleasure from reading them. My problem is that, once I go there to drop the books off, I have a bit of a browse and I end up coming out with 3 new books to read. I have a lot of books to read that are currently sat in the cellar. Although I am coming round to the opinion that even if I gave up work for 12 months, I still wouldn’t be able to get through all the books that I have that I haven’t read. I tend to read about 40 books per year. I need to up this considerably if I want to avoid the situation of getting rid of books that I haven’t yet read. This situation would actually make me really sad.

I have also been making a conscious effort to use cosmetics products that I have and are either half-used or haven’t even been opened. I have made some space in the cupboard in the bathroom but it is a small drop in the ocean. It is amazing how many face creams and things that I have considering I never actually use them. I guess cosmetic companies do have great marketing. If I have bought these things that I have no interest in then they are doing something right.

The clearing out will continue. It is far from over but at least it is in progress.

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#40 Before 40: Challenge #8

4 Dec

As part of my #40Before40 Challenge #8, I am attempting to watch all of the Top 250 Films of all time as listed on iMDB.

Below are the films that I have watched in the past two months.

25. Life is Beautiful

I don’t know what I was expecting with this film but I wasn’t expecting it to be set in a concentration camp. A feckless but charming Jewish waiter woos a well-to-do lady, who is very much out of his league, and settles down to have a son with her. His bookshop is targeted by the Nazis and eventually he and his son are taken to the concentration camp. The wife also demands to go with them but they are separated when they arrive. Although the subject matter of the film is tragic, there are lighter sizes to the story that provide comic relief and also highlights the importance of love and hope. When arriving at the camp, the husband offers to translate from German to tell the new arrivals what the rules are. So that his son isn’t scared, he sets out the rules of a game so that his son will behave himself and life will be easier for him in the camp. It’s an interesting story with a happy ending which is tinged with sadness. The film is originally in Italian. As my Italian is not great, I watch the dubbed English version.

46. Gladiator

I am being honest here. I have started to watch this film a number of time but I have always fallen asleep in the middle of it. My general rule is that if you can’t tell me a story in two and a half hours maximum, I am not interested. This is almost 3 hours long. Essentially, the film starts with the lead character just wanting to go home after he has done his days work. This is most people’s lives from Monday to Friday. After the new Emperor kills his wife and son to punish him for his defiance, he ends up being found and becomes a gladiator. In the end, the length of the film didn’t bother me too much. It did get be wondering why Russell Crowe has managed to be in so many of the Top 250. I’ve never really rated him so highly but he must be doing something right.

65. Alien

I don’t think I had ever seen this film because I thought it would be too scary. It was made in 1979. I can imagine at the time that this film was scary to the audience but in 2017, the special effects look dated and a bit laughable. Perhaps the funniest part was when one of the crew members was being attacked by the alien and the camera cut to a shot of the ship’s cat’s shocked face. Also I was a bit disappointed that Sigorny Weaver’s character, at a pivotal moment in the story, feels the need to abandon her crew members to go and find her cat. I wonder if this is where the phrase “crazy cat lady” comes from? Being Hollywood, of course, her and cat manage to get away safely or so it would appear…

85. Taxi Driver

Oh, so this is the film where Robert De Niro says “You talking to me? Of course, you’re talking to me. Nobody else is here” or words to that effect. Basically, De Niro is an ex-marine who served in Vietnam, who arrives back in America and, presumably because of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, isn’t able to sleep so he gets a job driving a taxi. While watching the film I wasn’t 100% what parts of his life he was delusional about. At one point, he is telling women that he works for the secret service. He then starts training with guns and at one point he is ready to assassinate a candidate for the Presidential Primary. In the end, he uses his shooting skills for good and rescues a very young Jodie Foster from a life of prostitution. It also features a foul-mouthed Harvey Keitel as a pimp who gets his comeuppance. As the film is move 40 years old, I found some of the scene were unintentionally funny. Overall, a really good film.

103. L.A Confidental

A brutal murder is investigated by the highly-corrupt LAPD. A new detective with high morals is put in charge but none of his colleagues think that he has the stomach to solve the case. The film is very old school, Hollywood glamour. I’m actually not so sure that I enjoyed this film. Also I did get a bit confused because there was a character called Pierce but the actor playing the rookie detective was Guy Pearce and I got confused about who people were referring to.

 

120. Downfall

A film about the last few days of Hitler’s life and the downfall of the Third Reich. The film was actually in German with English subtitles. The story was based on one of Hitler’s private secretaries diary. It was an interesting story and well acted and it was no surprise to me that it was in the Top 250 films.

I have now watched 85 of the films on the list. Just 165 more to go!

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#40Before 40, Challenge #21: Part 2

27 Nov

So, I left you on a cliffhanger yesterday. I was half way through my 21st challenge of my #40Before40. If you missed it, you can read it here.

We are now half way through the challenge and about to watch the 13th episode. I am feeling quite awake and, even though we are not as chatty as we were in the beginning, I think the challenge is going well.

Hour 13:

Show: The bad guys are after Teri and Kim but in true idiotic, women-fleeing-from-the-baddies fashion, they are lost and things are getting tense. Jack manages to save them just in time. Meanwhile it is becoming clear that David Palmer might have some anger management issues.

Us: I’m feeling awake and, although I have seen the series before, I can’t remember what is going to happen next. We have sort of agreed that perhaps the series could be a lot shorter but then it wouldn’t be called 24, would it? I am looking forward to the vegan spicy chili that I have made after the next episode.

Hour 14:

Show: Jack is under house arrest, David Palmer is being blackmailed and the FBI has been infiltrated at hospital security… all in the space of an hour! The Serbian connection once again is mentioned. Everyone seems to have Jack’s intentions completely wrong, apart from Tony.

Us: Stefan’s eyes are heavily than my shopping bags when I say that I am just nipping to the shops for a “few things”. The boys want to sleep but I have a feeling if I sleep that I won’t wake up. They decide to take a power nap so I clear up some plates and dishes from dinner but I am scared about waking them up.

Hour 15:

Show: Palmer confront Jack’s and they realise that they have a connection from an operation in Kosovo that Jack served in and Palmer instructed. During a debriefing, Teri guesses that Nina has had an affair with Jack and she also finds out that she is pregnant.

Us: Stefan seems to be struggling. Mark is on the other end of the sofa and is usually quiet. I am wide awake.

Hour 16:

Show: A terrorist suspect has become the boyfriend of one of the Senator’s staff members, in order to get information about the Senator’s schedule. The bad guys have made it into the safe house where Teri and Kim are staying. They manage to get away just in time but then have a bad car accident, where Teri has lost her memory and it looks like Kim is dead.

Us: We go for a quick walk (it’s now 1am). We are now two thirds of the way through!

Hour 17:

Show: There is an operation to plant a tracker on the terror suspect but the emotionally fragile “girlfriend” messes it up and stabs the suspect instead because she knows that he has only been seeing her to get information. Jack has found out that Teri knows that he had an affair with Nina.

Us: The walk really woke me up. But I need some sugar. And caffine. We take desparate steps. We open the Red Bull.

Hour 18:

Show: It turns out that Teri has also possibly having an affair. The Senator’s wife has destoryed some crucial evidence that will prove her son’s innocent but Palmer has tricked her and he still has the original tape. Kim is now being held hostage at a drug dealers house. I have no idea how she manages to get herself into these situations.

Us: Man down! Stefan is bolt upright but fast asleep. They say never leave a good man behind but both Mark and myself leave him to sleep. I am starting to feel tired now.

Hour 19:

Show: Some files about the Kosovo operation have been found and they reveal an address. Jack goes to investigate. The drug deal that Kim is a witness to is actually a raid and she gets arrested. No one knows where she is.

Us: I decided to join the boys in a power nap. And I am feeling a lot brighter. I think it probably is true that power naps are good for concentration and focus. I might start power napping every hour at work.

Hour 20:

Show: Palmer has decided to come clean about the accusations brought against his son beause he thinks that the voters will understand. Jack is now at the address from the previous episode. It is a prison facility and they expecting the transfer of a highly secret prisoner. The prisoner is the Serbian terrorist who he thought he killed 2 years earlier.

Us: We seem to be doing ok, and only have 4 hours left to go. Stefan is annoyed about the way his countrymen are portrayed on TV. I get annoyed when all British people in television programmes have terrible teeth and sound like they have plums in their mouth, so I guess he has the right to be.

Hour 21:

Show: There is an explosion at the prison as the terrorists are attempting to free the prisoner. Jack releases the prisoner when he is backed into a corner and is taken as a hostage himself. He is in deep shit now. Kim gets herself into more trouble; she is honestly a liability.

Us: We have a group power nap of 17 minutes before the next episode needs to be started.

Hour 22:

Show: Kim is kidnapped again. If she wasn’t it in, I am sure that the programme would be called 6. She just can’t lay low for 5 minutes. Palmer has won the vote. Jack is being traded for the main bad guy’s son, who was the terrorist, who got stabbed a number of hours ago. There is some very inappropriate back massages being given by Palmer’s speech writer, Pattie.

Us: We are feeling a lot happier as the end is in sight. I wonder when the sun will come up because it is still pitched black outside.

Hour 23:

Show: In a twist, the terrorists want to shoot Palmer because the son of the terrorist has now died. Palmer dismisses Pattie because he knows that she has been told by his wife to be a honey trap. There is an explosion at the hotel and Palmer is presumed to be dead. Kim manages to escape (how many times is this now??) and Nina is a rat. She has been talking (not very good) Serbian to the terrorists. She was the mole all along.

Us: I am begin to nod off but I stand up and walk around to keep myself awake. We are powering to the finish.

Hour 24:

Show: Palmer’s wife is bad news and a huge snake in the grass and I wouldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her. Jack kills the main terrorist after Nina lied about him killing Kim. Teri is kidnapped by Nina after she began to get suspicious. Jack and Nina have a face off but Teri has already been left for dead by Nina.

Us: We have done it! I’m not quite as jubulant than I thought I would be but that is mainly because I want to try to go to sleep.

And there you have it. The first challenge completed! Just 39 to go!

A huge thank you to Stefan and Mark, who also stuck with me and helped the night to be more enjoyable than I thought it would be. I am still not convinced that they thought that the series was as good as I think it is but I could listen to Kiefer Sutherland’s voice all day long, so perhaps I am biased.

I am sure that you will read about them helping me with some of my other challenges as well but hopefully those challenges won’t mean that we have to lose too much sleep.

40 Before 40: Challenge #21

26 Nov

My #40Before40 Challenge #21 was to watch the whole of the first series of 24 (24 episodes) in one sitting. If you haven’t seen the show before, each episode is an hour long and represents events that happen during the day of the California Primacy.

This was taking binge watching to the extreme and was actually something that I had discussed with a friend a long time ago. As it was November and the snow hasn’t yet arrived to go skiing, it seemed like a good weekend to tick this one off the list.

From an operational level, I know that I needed to enlist some friends to help me stay awake. If enforced sleep deprivation isn’t a test of a good friendship, I am not sure what is. In the end we were 3, as I was joined by Stefan and Mark. As we wouldn’t have time to go shopping etc, I had stocked the fridge with pizza, salad, fruit, vegan chili, drinks and snacks. Stefan, an impressive baker, also brought over one of the most delicious cakes that I have ever tasted.

Because we watched the show without commercial breaks, it means we have 20 minutes in between each show to eat, have a break, etc.

So, here is how it went. Events occur in real time…

Hour 1:

Show: An assassination attempt on Senator Palmer’s life is reported and a Boeing 747 explodes in mid-air over LA. Meanwhile, Jack Bauer, an agent at the Counter Terrorism Unit, is angry that his daughter has left the house to go partying.

Us: Armed with Turkish pastries for breakfast and coffee, we are in high spirits.

Hour 2:

Show: There is a mole in the CTU, who possibly has been working with the bad guys who are trying to kill the Senator. Several suspicious glances are seen in the office. It is clear Kim Bauer is getting herself into quite a bit of trouble.

Us: The boys, who haven’t seen the show before, don’t seem to be convinced about the show. I, on the other hand, have just realised how good the show is. But I can’t remember everything that happened. We are laughing at the outdated technology in the show, like floppy disks.

Hour 3:

Show: Apparently Senator Palmer’s son was involved in a murder and this is going to be revealed in the press. Nina, has been confronted about being the mole in CRT. She manages to prove her innocence because on a specific date she was having an affair with Jack.

Us: We are not as chatty as we were in the first two episodes, but the boys seem to be getting a bit more into it.

Hour 4:

Show: It is now clear that Kim Bauer has been kidnapped. At CTU the agency is in lockdown because Jack can’t follow orders.

Us: We manage to spot a continuity error that you wouldn’t have spotted if you had watched one episode a week, as the show would have been aired in the beginning. Nokia and Ericsson phones are featuring predominately in the show, much to our amusement.

Hour 5:

Show: Kim and her friend get further into trouble as they attempt to flee their captors, despite having been drugged and beaten. Her friend is run over and left for dead in the street. David Palmer faces the journalist, who has accused her son and Jack has broken out a prisoner from jail in order to questions him.

Us: We agree that we don’t trust Janet (Kim’s friends) dad, who has been involved in looking for the girls. He seems a bit suspicious. We start discussing playing a drinking game that we have found online, where we have to drink when certain things happen or are said.

Hour 6:

Show: Janet is in hospital and, though a vital witness, she is in complex surgery and it looks unlikely she will be able to help police. Later in the episode, it is revealed that the man claiming to be Janet’s father is not her father at all.

Us: We knew not to trust Janet’s dad. Meanwhile we discuss the role of women in TV and films. I am already frustrated at how dumb the women in this show are.

Hour 7:

Show: Jack is now being directed by a bad guy, Gaines, who is involved in the assassination attempt. Meanwhile, Jack’s wife knocks out the man who she thought was Janet’s dad with a rock to the head. It is revealed that the mole in the organisation was Jamie.

Us: We can’t believe that Jamie is a rouge agent. We liked her, especially as she has changed her hairstyle three times already. I am starting to feel sleepy.

Hour 8:

Show: Jack is getting framed for the assassination attempt by Gaines. There is a complex operation, including the actual assassin tricking Jack so his prints are on the gun.

Us: The boys seem to be on the edge of their seats but I am really sleepy. We decide to go for a walk to get some fresh air and to wake us up. This turns into a jog because we walk too far and need to get back for the next episode. We are a third of the way through.

Hour 9:

Show: Jack is under arrest for plotting to assassinate Palmer but in reality he saved his life. He escapes custody in classic Bauer-esque fashion and takes a hostage and car to help him get back in touch with the unit.

Us: We don’t like Senator Palmer’s wife. She is a bit of a snake. We can’t help thinking that it would be a lot easier to track people today and to get to places because of Google maps. We’ve cracked open the crisps. I’m feeling a lot more awake.

Hour 10:

Show: Jack is again a fugitive on the run; his hostage double crossed him. A new villain is in the picture and a new head has taken over CTU.

Us: I don’t like the new CTU head and I comment that a lot of undercover things seem to be happening in the ladies toilets. This would almost never happen –  because of some strange law, women’s toilets need to be occupied by at least 2 women at all times. In this episode, we played the drinking game. One can of beer did not last long!

Hour 11:

Show: Jack takes the new bad guy, Ted Cofell, hostage. After threatening physical hart, it turns out that the man is actually Serbian. But Jack pushes him too far and he has a heart attack before he can get any information from him.

Us: There is excitement about the Serbian connection, because Stefan is from Serbia. The Serbian that is spoken is not translated but myself and Mark are told that the Serbian isn’t very good and has some mistake.

Hour 12:

Show: As I suspected, Alberta Green, temporarily in command of the CTU, is an absolute ball breaker. By now, both the wife and daughter of Jack are being held hostage in the same place, by the same people. Teri has shot one of the kidnappers, after one of the young kidnappers, Rick, has taken a shine to Kim and has smuggled them in a gun. Senator Palmer meets with the therapist who is implicating him and minutes later this office, with the therapist in it, is blown up. There is a huge cover-up under way.

Us: We laugh out loud because someone has a pager. The boys are beginning to annoy me (they actually weren’t but they were very interested in what I was noting down and I thought it would serve them right if they read this. Haha) In actual fact, we are half way through and seem to be doing ok.

I will be continuing the next 12 hours tomorrow. Will we make it through the whole show? Can I officially tick off one challenge from my list as completed? Stay tuned!