Happy New Year!

I think I should commit to only updating my blog at least 4 times a year, that way even I might be able to stay on target!

I had pretty much forgotten to update this thing in the run up to Movember. I had fully intended to write something during November, but it completely slipped my mind as the whole month was pretty manic. And then I can’t really remember anything about December oddly enough!

I may have to work chronologically here, but as a generally overview, I’m gonna talk about Movember, Christmas and New Years, and then my thoughts about the year as a whole and what I am hoping for 2019 as is the cliche thing to do at this time of year.

First off, NaNoWriMo didn’t happen. Although I was quite happy with the story concept I had, I honestly couldn’t find the time to commit fully to it. I may work on the story idea at another time, but November was a no-go and that was mainly because of Movember.

I have supported Movember for the past 6/7 years now and because I had started streaming this year, I was able to mix the fund-raising in with my normal streaming schedule. The end of October had me planning stuff out for Movember and the stream for the month. I put together some fund-raising goals to ‘thank’ everyone for their support. Honestly I had no idea how much I would actually raise this year. In the past, my Movember money raised had been from me and a couple of friends and family, and all I did was grow a ‘tache and pester people of social media to share and donate.

I kinda had to ‘eyeball’ the targets this year, as honestly, I really didn’t know what kind of generosity I would get from doing something more public. This is what I went with in the end after a few revisions with help from everyone in our Discord channel:

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They are all game related more-or-less. Most of which surrounding Elite Dangerous. For some reason it was the first game to spring to mind when thinking about stuff to do for the sake of fund-raising incentives. Elite has a lovely and caring community with a history of CMDRs (Commanders) being generous and supportive of one-another. Past that, the bulk of my own viewers and friends are either Elite players themselves, or know me from my good friend Psyche’s own channel, whom also puts a lot of time and love into the game; so it kinda made sense to feature heavily in the proceedings.

First off, I had committed to streaming every day of November, which I did manage to do. Not all the streams happened at the usual time because things come up, as is life. But we did get some time online every day for at least 2-3 hours on days where I didn’t normally stream in a regular week.

The fund raising itself was fairly slow for a couple of weeks, which I had expected. Things started to pick up when bidding for my hair dye came to a head (pun may or may not have been intended). My Mom eventually won the bidding for my hair colour with a bright blue which I still have in now.

I had never dyed my hair before but was never against the idea. I mostly never wanted to do it in the past as baldness runs in my family on my Dad’s side. Hair dye isn’t the healthiest thing you can do for your hair and, at the grand ol’ age of 26, I still have a full head of hair which was something no men in my family could really boast at the same age. But it was for charity so we went for it anyway.

Because my hair is pretty dark naturally, we decided to bleach it first so the blue would take more. As my hair hadn’t ever had anything done to it, the bleach took very quickly. Which resulted in an almost blinding ‘yellow’, rather than a duller blond.

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Haunting isn’t it?

I streamed that evening with the blond and that day as a whole was pretty painful for all involved. My family got a big old laugh out of it, and the stream I did that evening was more of the same. That was probably the most nervous I had ever been when live.

Every cloud has it’s silver lining though. Going from blonde to blue was considerably less socially awkward as, for me anyway, blue seemed less unusual than Super Saiyan Yellow.

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Like I said, I have kept the blue for now. I kinda like it strangely. It has faded a fair amount since this picture though. The blond is coming through a bit in places so it ranges from blues, light greens and the occasional streak of blond. I prefer it like that though really, although my roots are pushing through so I am now trying to think about what to do next with it. It kinda depends on job interviews and such really.

A day or two before the dye went in, someone anonymously donated £150 to my Movember page. I couldn’t believe it. In all the years I had raised money for Movember solo*, I had only ever raised £155 in total**. Someone donated nearly that whole amount and I had no idea who did it. To make matters worse, the donation came through when I was streaming and I forgot to check the Movember page before signing off, so if the person who did it was waiting for a reaction, I can only apologise! It had been a slow week for donations and I had started forgetting to check the page at the end of the streams as I couldn’t get them to show up on screen at the time.

*I had been in a Movember team one year when I was working for the Department of Work and Pensions so that total doesn’t impact the one on my page

**The £155 donation goal was there because £155 was all I had ever raised in 6 years of fund-raising so it seemed like a nice goal to surpass!

I had only hoped to reach £150 in my mind when starting the goals up. The donation goals were ‘easy’ or simple for me to do without causing me much stress. The ones I added after dying my hair were more daunting, but I included them thinking we would never actually hit them. That £150 donation, as generous as it was, caused me a lot of bother in the long run!

Beagle Point, for those unfamiliar with Elite Dangerous, is one of the most isolated points on the galaxy map, named by a player explorer a few years ago. It is seen as one of the most challenging and time intensive trips an explorer can do. I had always wanted to do it, but my last trip to Sagittarius A*(*) had really put my off due to ‘space madness’**.

Sag* as it is known by players is a supermassive blackhole at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy. It is one of the most common tourist destinations in Elite Dangerous, being exciting enough to warrant the lengthy travel time to get there; in distance, about 24000 ly, depending on your starting point. 

** Space madness is a made-up affliction by the Elite Dangerous community which essentially is when you get so sick of being away from civilised space that you go a little ‘loopy’. You start getting more aggressive and agitated with the game and just rush to get home. This has more often than not, forced CMDRs to self-destruct, undoing all of their work. 

Since the engineering update, travelling massive distances of space isn’t that big of a deal any more. You can jump much larger distances now, can repair yourself on the fly, and using the neutron highway*, people have reached Beagle Point from Sol in just under seven hours. The ships that make these trips are highly specialised for the task and typically cost 100s of millions of credits and are engineered to absolute perfection. At best, I would have been flying a roughly engineered Asp Explorer. A personal favourite ship, but in the reality, the trip would still take me a month or so.

*The neutron highway is a course through the galaxy that prioritises neutron stars. There is a mechanic in game that lets you overcharge your frameshift drive (the device ships use to travel faster than light to reach neighbouring stars), to massively increase it’s jumping distance. This process is dangerous, often resulting in overheating, hull and module damage, making it unsustainable; especially for a small ship. 

Honestly, I was fine with needing to travel to BP. It would be a long journey taking me about a month, but I had always wanted to it wouldn’t have been an issue with the AspX. However, we hit my final fund-raising goal which was to do the trip in a Sidewinder. The Sidewinder is THE basic ship. Every CMDR that starts on Elite Dangerous is given the one. It is a multi-purpose ship, capable of doing most tasks at the lowest level, but pilots should expect to get rid of it in favour of literally any other ship within a day or two of play. I had/have to fly across the entire galaxy flying this thing. This would complicate the matter.

When it became obvious I would be making the journey in a Sidewinder, a fair few streams during November where dedicated to preparing the it for the journey. There were a few issues, mainly a major game update that was going to drop after I planned to leave, so we have had to take a detour on the trip the visit the most distant human populated base called Jacques Station at Colonia to refit. For the most part though, the Sidewinder was all ready to go by the last day of November, which was the day I dedicated to departing finally. The other hiccup was ensuring the Sidewinder was physically capable of making the journey as the ship does need a minimum jump distance of 34ly to actually make the trip there.

The reason the trip is so much worse in the Sidewinder is mainly due to it’s size. As a small ship, the components it can use are equally tiny; as well as the number it can equip. Explorers don’t need much to survive out in the black, but some luxuries wouldn’t go amiss. As such, I am flying without a shield generator, a SRV (planetary vehicle bay) or a frameshift drive booster. All nice-to-haves, but not essential. Also, as the most lowest level ship, the hull also isn’t up to scratch. If you fall into a star when jumping from system to system when attempting to refuel, you take an amount of damage to your hull. As I can’t repair myself on the go due to a lack of cargo space and optional module slots, I really feel each ‘bump’.

The Sidewinder isn’t all that bad to be fair. It runs quite cool, so crashing into stars and refuelling from them is not as bad as it can be in some other exploring ships. Similarly, the jump distance I can get out of it isn’t THAT bad. A good explorer will want to be hitting up into the 50+ly margins, as high as 80ly if money is no object. Our Sidey can hit 34.5ly fairly consistently, so it’s not too bad. Definitely trumps most combat ships in that regard.

The trip is still on-going at the time of writing. As we can’t use the neutron highway due to the paper-thin ‘tank’ of the Sidewinder, we are slowly crawling across the map. I am currently 500 jumps from entering the Abyss, a sector of space before reaching BP which is dreaded due to the lack of stars to jump to, making navigation hard for many explorers, so that’ll be interesting in about a weeks time!

We have found a blackhole nobody else has seen before at least!

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I think that is enough talking about Elite for now. I might do another post about the trip at another time!

On the 24th of November we did our 24 hour stream! I hadn’t ever done a marathon stream that long before, nor had I pulled an all nighter in a great number of years, getting too old for that. I wasn’t sure how it would go really. Luckily, it did actually run really nicely. It was a really fun experience and all through the night I was joined by some lovely people, both hanging around in chat or on comms playing games with me. We got a really great selection of games played, whipping out old favourites from the stream and putting in some fun co-op stuff when we could. We did run in to an ungodly number of technical issues but we made it work somehow and had a great time doing it. We won’t be making a habit out of it, but I had a great night with some great company regardless!

Now we get into the hard hitting stuff!

Resident Evil 7! I hate that damn game! I played it once on stream when I got affiliated on Twitch. We streamed it for less than 2 hours before I had had enough and turned it off and un-installed it. In my infinite stupidity I added it again as a fund-raising goal, with the promise of playing it for a full 5 hour stream. I don’t do horror games, and broadly refuse to play them on stream. There is only very few exceptions to this as I get spooped way to easily. I stream to have fun and there is only a few occasions where fun and pooping myself whilst live ever align. Unfortunately, promising to do it for charity overrules this. I made it through the full five hours, along with about 2/3 of a bottle of Kraken Black Spiced Rum.

Truth be told, when the rum finally kicked in, I was enjoying the game. But the first 2 hours were pretty hellish. Never again.

Finally, the ‘pièce de résistance’ was the Advent Burger Cooking Stream. This was a lot of firsts for me. A long running joke on stream was from XCOM 2 and the Advent Burger chain of restaurants that allegedly make their burgers out of human people. Again, assuming I wouldn’t hit the donation goal, I chucked the idea for an IRL cooking stream into the mix, in very much a ‘talk now, think later’ moment of weakness. It was only when the reality set-in (roughly around the time that the person dropped £150 on Movember) that I realised how much of a pain in the backside that stream would actually be.

And what a pain it was. I had never done a cooking stream before, let alone anything IRL (In real life). I had to prepare new scenes and assets, set up my PC, cameras and a monitor in the kitchen and find some way of mounting my microphone to the kitchen counters. Logistically, this took a good couple of days, for what was essentially a joke/meme.

We were also cooking stuff that I was really unfamiliar with. I am not the greatest cook, if anything, I had only started learning new meals and techniques a few years ago. Cooking chicken and beef burgers from scratch was new to me. Doing this whilst streaming was an interesting experience. Not only was everything here new to me, I had family hanging around in chat that hadn’t seen me stream before; and to top it off, I had bought a lab coat and chefs hat to complete the ambiance. My Mom kindly decorated the back of the lab coat with the Advent symbol from the game.

advent burger.png

The stream itself did feel great to do though. Once everything was set-up, and what wasn’t set up in time was improvised around, I had a great time. The technical issues I had been worrying about for days were not really an issue in the long run, and everything did run smoothly, at least from my perspective.

The food even turned out great, the breaded chicken breasts were fantastic. The buffalo sauce, which looked a little ‘iffy’ to me, worked out fine. When everything was put together, they turned out amazing. The chicken burgers, I couldn’t believe. The beef ones however, although they looked almost restaurant quality didn’t taste fantastic to me, but my Mom and Sister who came on stream to try them seemed to enjoy them so, eh? *shrugs*.

At least we got this amazing photo out of it, haha!

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By the end of it all, we raised £400 altogether for Movember! I honestly couldn’t be prouder of everyone that helped over the month. I never would have imagined we could have raised so much!

Good God that Movember update took longer than I thought.

Lucky, it was a quiet end to 2019 after that really. November really took it out of me (considering the Resident Evil 7 and Cooking stream actually happened in early December because there isn’t enough weekends in a month!). December was a blend of Christmas parties for the Scouts, the local village hall and sorting stuff out for the Scouts for the next year, nothing too interesting really.

I do want to mentioned the Scouts briefly though. I should be getting my wood beads this week, meaning I finally become a full leaders after 8 years of working on my training. Our Christmas party from our troop which was in mid-December was amazing. I love being able to bring our troop together for stuff like that. As much as it is fun for the kids to all play about with games and eat loads of junk foods, I love being able to get all of the leaders together as well. I have mentioned it here a few times, but when leaders tell members when they are invested that they are joining a world wide family of Scouting, as cliché as it sounds, I have always felt like the leaders at our group are like a second family to me. I love being able to work alongside them and times like this make me excited for the year ahead with them all.

So how was 2019 for me?

Really it has been a mixed year emotionally. Movember really made me start to think about how I am feeling more in myself and it is something I want to keep practising here and with my streams: being more comfortable in sharing how I actually feel. Obviously the biggest highlight was finishing university finally. 5 years of work finally over! I loved my graduation day and it was everything I had dreamed of from being a kid. The cap and gowns, walking onto the stage and celebrating with my friends, family and colleagues. Finishing the degree with a 2:1 equally was almost like a dream. I had honestly expected the way I rushed the dissertation at the end to sink me down to a 2:2, but somehow it came out better than expected.

Streaming has continued to be a big thing for me. I am famous for dropping hobbies as soon as I pick them up, but I have stuck with it for over a year now and it has been an amazing experience. From being able to raise so much money for a charity I love, to simply making so many new friends and firming up relationships with people I have already known for years. Streaming has been so fantastic for me in ways I never thought would be important when I set out. When streamers talk about their ‘Twitch family’ I do hope people don’t see it as just a cliché. The friends I have made this year, regardless of if you are a regular in my chat, someone’s channel I frequent or someone I had known for years but only recently really got to know, it is hard to describe how much it means that you are all in my life.

I have seen so many great streamers really find themselves this year, so many of my friends got affiliated due to their hard work and I am so proud of them, but I really do need to shout-out Psyche here. I have known her for a long time now (in internet years) and early on this year she got partnered with Twitch and I have honestly never been so genuinely happy for somebody in my life. She is a fantastic person with an equally fantastic community of which I am honoured to be a part of. If it wasn’t for the Boop Brigade, I would not have met any of the people I am honoured to call my friends now, and I sure as heck would not still be streaming myself. I am so proud of everything she has done this year despite running into so many issues at home and I can only wish her the absolute best for 2019 and beyond! ❤

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Bit of an old photo from (no blue hair), but I love my shirt!

Honestly I am in too much of a soppy mood now to talk about the downsides to this year, but I will try and gloss over them quickly.

Not finding a job still despite graduating from a Russell Group University with a 2:1 kinda sucks. I entered higher education initially because I was already having issues finding work, but I am hopeful for next year as I have a couple of applications lined up which should (fingers crossed) be promising.

Emotionally it has sucked a little. I don’t like using the word depressed for myself too often as I feel it downplays the term for people who do truly have a shit time emotionally, but I have been down a lot of the year. This is mainly due to the latter problem of money and unemployment. University also wasn’t really helping on that front, and not being ‘qualified’ enough to register to become a teacher was the final nail in the coffin and forced me to take a break from the internet for a couple of weeks. Although I am optimistic now, I need to keep on top of it.

Finally I think it would be my constant issue with worrying about things I can not change. The power of hindsight should not be under estimated! I constantly think about how different my life would be if I had done something differently: tried harder in school and college, picked a career choice when I was younger, stuck with going to the gym, picking a better degree at university. But I realised doing this just pushes my constant ‘down’ state of emotions. I can’t change those decisions, but I can change myself for the here and now!

I don’t take New Year Resolutions seriously, because I feel they just fuel failure in my case. But I want to list some things I want to make an effort to achieve this year. They don’t need to start happening right now, but I want to get onto them at some point.

I do want to loose some weight. I am sick of being tired a lot, running out of puff when others can run rings around me still. This is mainly something that bothers me for Scouts. Camps can be physically draining and I hate needing to sit or lay down for a bit after some work, I would rather keep going. I’m not committing to going to the gym or anything like that because I never stick with it. But I can improve my diet, drink less, use my standing desk more often, and walk more. I might try and slip in the occasional lane swimming session. It’ll be easier for me to stick with small changes than forcing myself to go to the gym 4 days a week and only eating celery and carrot sticks for six months.

I’m not going to mention finding a job, because that is just a given. But I do want to put some serious thought into what I actually want to do with my life. Do I really want to go into teaching, and if so, do I need to get a GCSE in science? How would I go about both things? Would I rather go back to university and do a master degree? What would the subject be in? Why bother, do I want a PhD afterwards? Do I just find a job in an area I feel I can make a difference now and worry about that other stuff another time or never? These are usually things I think about on a near daily basis, but never come up with an answer to, but I really should.

Finally though, I want to be a better friend for people. I always worry that I come across as not being very genuine with my friends, both IRL and online. They do mean the world to me, truly they do. But I feel I never do enough for them. I hope they know I am always there to talk to if they need me, but I feel I never let them know how much they mean to me. I suppose this kind of feeds into the whole Buddhism thing, but I do want to be there for more people and hopefully bring about more happiness for them all.

I think that about wraps it up. I am hoping to do more writing this year also. I have a few hobby things starting with stuff like Warhammer and Dungeons and Dragons and I hope I can use these things to get me to actually be more comfortable writing more often. Let’s try and commit to at least a blog post a month for now, eh?

Anyway, thank you all for reading and being a part of my life. I wish you the very happiest of 2019s ❤

Much love,

Alex

 

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