Losing my Uterus

I’m not sure how much of a surprise this would be to longtime readers of this blog, but I lost my fight to keep my uterus and my reproductive organs in January 2019. 

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to sit down to write about this and how I’m feeling now that I’m 6 months in recovery. I will say that it has been a genuine life improvement since before and after the surgery, there was a deep relief of not having to be subjected to the pain and mental anguish that I was suffering from while I still was menstruating. 

The visual difference is startling. I look healthier, more alive because of the surgery. There is something that shifted in between the time the surgery happened before and after the recovery. I can’t help but feel like there has been an exchange of problems. They are lesser, by all means, but as my dear friend Juan said to me – this will be a complete change of life for me and that it will take longer than 6 months to realise or even understand what my new life might look like – let alone feel. 

I didn’t understand the wisdom in that until I arrived at it. 

They’re a lot of things you don’t get told about the recovery process – that you will have a good 8 weeks of not being able to move because of true, utter fatigue. I don’t mean the fatigue of having the flu or even from running a good race and feeling tired from it. I mean the fatigue where you are walking and then you’re on your bum Harvest Moon Style from exhaustion cause you will pass out. Waiting on the ground on shop floors waiting for your spouse or friends to come to you with a wheelchair. 

I’m still not 100% sure that even after 6 months that I’m not past that stage yet. I still have days where I feel like I legitimately cannot go far when I walk or need to take breaks when walking because I’m not able to do a lot at one time. It’s easily one of the most frustrating things about the process as I’m an ambitious person by nature and keeping moving, focusing on what’s ahead is usually the thing that drives me the most into progress and success.

However, there is no rushing this process. There are no shortcuts. There are no tips or tricks or loopholes. There is only learning how to listen

Learning to Listen

Most people would tell you I’m a very good listener; I can judge between listening cathartically to someone who’s going through a hard time and someone who needs advice. I’m good at listening to the words unspoken by lovers and friends alike. Body language, the sense of space, voice tone I can pick these out regularly in the people I love. Even if it’s through text. 
I cannot say the same for listening to myself. 

I have never been the sort to claim that I have a true sense of myself – well, unless you count that time when I was 23 when I thought I had a decent handle on things. You only really know how little you know when life throws things at you-you are unprepared for. I would have told you I have a good sense of my body – I’d know when I would bleed. I knew when cramps were coming; I knew when my mental state was fading and what to do to combat it. 

I have no baseline for that anymore. I have no ques or learned patterns for what to expect and how to respond when things go awry. One of the side effects (if you can call it that) of having a radical hysterectomy is the fact that your bladder notifications go awry. So you’ll wet yourself for a good chunk of your recovery because you will just wee yourself. There is no sugarcoating it. None of this has been in any way glamourous or for those who are faint of heart. 

Same goes for hot flushes and other symptoms that come with menopause – it’s a natural thing that happens when women get older and stop naturally menstruating. Not in one big whack of a menopausal stick. 

Which I feel like it has beaten me with. 

It’s lead to it being nearly impossible to listen to my body when it needs things or when it doesn’t. Another thing that people don’t tell you about having a radical hysterectomy is the weight gain. I have stretch marks from my arms to my knees because my weight has ballooned since the operation. I was 82kg before I had my operation. I know that I’m closer to 113kg now (and that’s probably me being generous).

Physicians have repeatedly told me it is my body is out of whack completely with hormones and that it will get to a stage where things will settle down again. Friends who have gone through similar and others who are dealing with their own body positivity have confirmed the same. That it’s happened to them too. 

There is so much happening and I’m feeling so much that it’s hard to know what to listen to and when. This has led to anxiety and panic attacks I’m not used to feeling. Heart rate spikes of 120’s sitting down when my smart watch is poking me being like “hey you’re not exercising at this second and your heart rate is stupid high – lets take some deep breaths yeah?”

Learning to Trust

A very handsome personal trainer once had a serious philosophical conversation with me once about how I didn’t trust myself very much over my attempts of leaning onto a bench without feeling like I will fall. I left the session embarrassed at my clear failure to squat onto a bench without freaking out that I’d fall. He told me that trusting myself was something that he couldn’t teach me, he could tell me all day long that the bench is there but unless I will trust my body to the process, I could never do it. 

It’s something that I have been thinking about for years since that day. Did I really not trust myself at all? After everything that I’ve gone through with myself; did I really not trust myself after all of that? For sure, I lean on people where it’s appropriate where I can’t help myself. But I know that when push comes to shove, I’d do what I’d always do and keep myself safe. 

Isn’t that trust?

The truth is more complex than that. They’re both two very different things for me. I trust to keep myself safe – that is true. But I’ve learned it’s more akin to hitting the emergency brake rather than slowing the car down in time to learn how to stop. 

Learning how to stop takes time – anyone who’s ever ridden a bike or driven a car or had a skateboard will tell you that. It’s easy to go fast – it’s easier to keep going. It’s harder to predict when to stop or how to stop. You could keep jumping out of your car or bike or skateboard when it gets too fast and get yourself to safety. But you’ll never really learn how to stop correctly if you keep doing that, you’ll never understand when it is the right time to stop and when is good to continue if you keep thinking everything that crosses your field of view is out to damage you. 

There could be other things that could go wrong. You could focus on driving and stopping that you run out of fuel or you burst a tire. These are all things that can happen to you that are unrelated to your ability to break, but it won’t stop your brain from going to that place. Thinking jumping out of the way is always the solution when in reality – all you need to do is change your tire. 

Myself and Splintor moved into our first home recently, and it’s required me to learn a lot of trust. We got a new addition to our family in terms of a Newfoundland puppy called Cloud and a tortoise called Hubert. So I’ve spent a lot of time out in the back garden where we have a step and that is where I play with Cloud. 

I’ve been learning to use my legs to lift myself straight up from sitting to standing. No using my hands or anything else as support – just my legs. It’s been a process, the step is very low and there is a lot going on in my head when I try to do this. I spend a lot of time worrying about the action rather than doing it, and when I do it successfully, I’m rarely met with kind words from my mind. My brain would like me to believe that it is a fluke or that I’ll just fall over again and what is the point of it all other people can do it. 
However, I know better than most just what an asshole my brain can be with the little victories that I should take to heart rather than the shoulds and coulds. That is an exercise all in its own about learning what to trust and what to listen to when you’re lost at sea. 

Sometimes it’s trusting that the Sun will still rise to meet you and the stars will shine to greet you – whatever the path you’re on or where the road may take you. 

For now, I think that’s the only thing that I can trust enough – and for now; I know it’s enough.

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Should You Care? Women – Annette Dominguez-O’Hair The Model Consultant

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When I first met Annette, I was curious about her. She was someone who I could tell had a depth of soul about her. Someone who was incredibly passionate about her craft of modelling but there was a striking difference between her and other people who I’ve met in my time as a model. She cared about the people who she interacted with. She doesn’t just look at her clients as a way of getting her next paycheck but takes an active interest in developing peoples talents and wanting to get to know the people who she works alongside.

So, when she announced that she is creating some workshops & seminars here in Ireland. I couldn’t help but give her some spotlight here on Should You Care? And she kindly agreed to answer a few questions about why Ireland, and her approaches to modelling. Hopefully, you all can take something from the interview and join her at her workshops & seminars on the 28th & 29th of April. Don’t forget to check out her exclusive introduction offer for this event down below!

Why expand past your private clients? You had a long established career helping the creme de la creme of hollywood. Why move to a public domain?
I wanted to help more people. I see a lot of scams in LA, especially in the local malls with so-called scouts approaching every naive family they see with empty promises. That outraged my sense of justice. I don’t want to see people get scammed. I wanted people to have an option to go to someone who would give honest advice and direction about the industry.

What is it about this industry that gets you up in the morning?
I love to see people follow their dreams and if I can be a part of that process then that makes me happy. I like working with people who are gracious.

What can people expect from a first meeting with you? Walk us through the process. Is there anything we need to bring bar a good attitude and an open heart?
I love consultations! It’s very exciting for me to meet someone and go through the steps with them. I look at their photos (snapshots) during the first few minutes with them in person or via Skype. I see if they photograph well and give advice on how to get a great snapshot – I don’t believe it’s necessary to invest in professional photos until AFTER they are signed with an agency. Every agency is different and they each have their own vibe and preference for how their models portfolios should look. I then ask a series of questions about what they are interested in – both in the industry and in life – this gives me the big picture of the client. Sometimes the modeling they want is not the what I recommend. Sometimes girls come to me wanting to be fashion models but they are not the right height or bone structure, etc. so I talk to them about all the other options – and there are lots of options! – that they didn’t even know existed. I talk about model rates, casting directors, photographers, resumes, agencies, etc. I then give several examples of my personal experiences focusing on how potential models can set themselves apart from the rest – in LA most casting directors get 3000 submissions or more for each role! It’s crazy. Then they call in maybe 30-100 to audition and then it’s gets narrowed down. I want my clients to have the edge, the insider info to help set them apart and there is a lot that goes into that. We finish up the 90 minutes with a checklist of what they need to do next. My clients have the option to hire me afterwards to help with their prep but honestly I do try to give them all they need to get it going during the consultation. I am also starting monthly group classes for my clients next month. I’m really excited to now offer group classes!

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Could you give an overview as to what these meetings are going to contain?
I’m really excited about the TMC Hollywood workshops in Dublin! I am bringing all of my Hollywood experiences with me to share! Lots of advice and insider info on how we do it in Hollywood, what we look for, what makes a successful model, how to set yourself apart from the thousands of other models and actors that look just like you or better, etc. Sharon Hennessy is my partner in Ireland and she has a world of information about the pageant world and the modeling business in Ireland. She’s amazing and will also be a speaker at the workshop. We also have at least 3 additional luminaries who will also be on the speakers panel representing the best in their fields. The models will also walk away with runway, wardrobe and makeup instruction, in addition to photos and a lot of valuable insider information!!

In your extensive career, you have had the privilege of meeting a lot of different people from every walks of life. What would you say is the most common misconception people have about the industry?
For some reason a lot of people think it’s easy. They think people have “it” and then are discovered. They don’t see the years of training and struggling before they get the right agent and get the right part or booking that finally gives them some exposure. People think it’s great that I started a consulting business and it expanded seemingly quickly but they don’t see the 25+ years of experiences that made it possible for me to do what I do. The years of working with good and bad agents so I could fully appreciate what it takes to be a good agent… the years of going to countless castings that weren’t even for my category so I could appreciate how valuable everyone’s time is and to not do that to my models or clients… the years of managing a top beauty distributor so I could understand business and marketing.. etc. Some model colleagues thought “why didn’t I do that? I’m a Model too” All of those experiences came to together, not just the modeling experiences but also the acting, marketing, and behind the scenes work, etc, to be able to create something that was solely based on my experiences.
I have aspiring models come to me and think they can just start working making money. They don’t understand that in order to have longevity you have to understand the business side and have your training and marketing materials in order. It is a BUSINESS.
Obviously, there are many places in this world to set up a modeling business, but what is the appeal of making your mark here in Ireland? Screen Shot 2018-03-17 at 02.37.36

I LOVE Ireland. It speaks to me and I feel at home in Ireland. My grandmother was born and raised there. She always told stories of how beautiful Ireland is and also about our family struggles and overcoming challenges and the resilience, passion and the beautiful hearts of the Irish – she was born (first of 13) prior to the 1916 rising and remembered every experience and challenge. She moved to the USA in her 20’s and every Sunday played her Irish music and called her homeland “my Ireland ”. When my family and I finally went we all felt it. It was quite an experience to feel home so deeply. Last summer we spent 5 weeks there. I enrolled my kids in summer camp in Dingle and we spent time in Connemara and Dublin also – I actually worked 4pm to midnight most nights (due to the LA time change) running the Agency from Ireland worked very well and I also consulted Irish models. It was then that I met Sharon at a lunch with Louise and we set into motion what has now become the TMC Hollywood workshops! I hope my family and I can spend more time in Ireland this year and many years to come. My husband also just produced Black 47 about the Irish famine which is premiering in Dublin this March.

Like in all industries there are old wives tales or pieces of advice that have endured. What has been the most useful of these advices you’ve received and what’s been the ones the industry could definitely let go of.
The foundation I work from is the same in my personal and professional life – it’s the belief that we all should help each other. I never looked at my competition as competition. I looked at people who are more accomplished than me and I am excited to learn from them. I see people who are struggling and I sincerely want to help them. When I was a new model and actor I would see successful people I could learn from and as I grew in the industry I would help people around me. It’s funny because people would say “why are you helping someone who is your competition?” I believe there is a lot of work out there and if someone “looks like me” they are still not me. We are all unique and have different strengths. It comes down to intention. If you’re intention is to sincerely help others and not for what you can get out of it then it feels good and those actions seem to magically bring success in many areas of life.

If you had a signature calling card – a singular thing that you would be known for in the industry. What would you like it to be? What would you like the modeling world to say your contribution?
I would like people that say that I made a difference and helped others.

Annette can be found

Should You Care? Women – Critical Lit Games

CriticialLitGames is the brainchild of writer turned coder Susan Gray, her focus with CriticalLitGames is to blend her two loves of literature and gaming using Augmented Reality (AR).

Coming from an arts background, Susan has been writing fiction from a young age starting off with short fiction and novellas moving on later to writing and publishing plays and poems. Her love of writing didn’t end there but seeped into her gaming life. She told me during her chat that when she was younger, she used to write to gaming companies with her ideas for games that she wanted to see. From this love of gaming leant her to coding where she had picked up Q and Visual Basic realising she may not need the major gaming companies to achieve her dreams. She could make the games herself.

Upon completing her PhD in Creative Writing, she decided to try her hand at Unity. Her first foray

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into Unity was in the VR space, but during her testing, she stumbled upon AR. She was fascinated about what she describes as the “breach into physical reality” rather than the separatist nature of VR. She realised that anything could be a host for an extra layer of information over the items we see as commonplace in our daily lives. Her mindthen strayed back to her first love of books. How could she add this layer over a timeless medium without distracting the reader’s attention?

She then drew on the experiences she had as a child and tieing that in with her love of video gaming realised she could create the modern gamebook. Thanks to the technological advancements that have to lead to AR she felt this could add a level of novelty to the everyday.

You can find a demo of her previous work here, and you can follow her progress on Twitter at @CritLitGames, on Instagram @criticallitgames, her blog https://criticallitgames.co.uk, and her Patreon if you want to support what she is up to.

Hyperkin Smartboy – Review

The holiday season can be a mixed bag sometimes. Between the socks and the body wash there can be little surprise for an adult Christmas! However, there was an exception for this Christmas when the Smartboy from Hyperkin appeared under my Christmas tree. Much to my delight!

img_0026The very first console I owned was a Nintendo Gameboy, and I still own it. It resides in its original very flattering messenger carry case. It was my first fore into gaming, and I still have my original cartridges that I acquired in my youth. And it’s a good thing I’ve kept them too because one of the primary usages of the Hyperkin is not to just to look like a Retro Gameboy but to play old Gameboy and Gameboy colours Cartridges. Happily, the unit supports NTSC/PAL cartridges so most people can be accommodated.

 

img_0027Setup for the Smartboy was a little complex; there is a proprietary cable that you need to use for the initial setup. Where you have to connect both the Hyperlink Unit and your phone through this cable. It took me about two tries to get it all up and to run. But my biggest fear for me would be losing that cable should I ever swap handsets, which I do fairly regularly. Though, a nice thing to balance that is the Smartboy does not need any batteries unlike the Gameboy that it is modelled on.

After that though, it’s predominantly smooth sailing. The SmartBoy needs two separate apps to work with the unit. Both are free, and once you have them installed and fully setup, it works seamlessly every time after that.

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While the Smartboy is designed for the Samsung Galaxy line of phones, it has an adjustable frame that will adjust to most phones regardless of size (5.2 – 6.4 inches). Right now I have the Galaxy Note 8 which is notoriously broad. But the Smartboy can support it just fine. There is a bottom at the back of the unit which expands the width of the phone, and then you can push the sides together to ensure a good fit.

 

 

The buttons are tactical, and the unit has the same button and hand feel as the old Gameboy used to. I would say the noise of the keys has a little bit more of an audible clack, but nothing that distracts from the overall experience. Particularly in the age of mechanical keyboards and cherry switches!

Games that are inserted into the cartridge slot at the back are put in traditionally. Those games are subsequently upgraded to the handsets resolution. Your mileage may better, but Tetris, Pokemon Gold and Mickey’s Grand Adventure have never looked so crystal clear.

img_0029There were only ever one or two features that are borderline annoying. Usually, if you touched the back of the cartridge in a Gameboy that’s it, you stop playing and risk losing your cartridge data. Although, I’m sure there were many of us as kids who just ripped their cartridges out of their units while the Gameboy was still on. I certainly did, and I instinctively did the same when I was swapping over to another cartridge. Only to be greeted with a Piracy Warning which then locks down the system. So, that in itself is a bit of a pain to contend with.

As you physically have to take your phone out of the unit close and restart all the apps again. It only happened a handful more times in my first few days with it, and mostly that was user error on my part by not inserting the cartridge firmly enough into the unit. However, its undeniable that it has taken away from my enjoyment of the experience.

So, is this something that I could recommend to the gamer in your life? Sure, but at $59 for the unit itself then the additional cost of the old cartridges (Which depending on the type of game and its rarity could cost more than you might think) it’s a hard sell to recommend to anyone other than the hardcore retro gamers in your life.

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Secret of Mana – Why I’m excited about the remake.

In August 1993, the game was released initially as Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan on the Super Famicom (SNES) but sold outside Japan as Secret of Mana. Now, as of 2017 Square Enix is has decided to remake the beloved series which will be released in North America on February 15, 2018.

Earlier this summer, a Mana collection containing three pillars of the Mana theme; Final Fantasy Adventure, Secret of Mana, and Seiken Densetsu 3.  This was Japanese exclusive for the Nintendo Switch. Now the second game in the series is headed to the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita as well as Steam.

According to Famitsu, this is a full remake with full voice-overs, a new musical arrangement, other new elements like upgraded gameplay and graphics. It will also have local multiplayer on all platforms. All sounds so far so good, right?

Well, with the launch of the SNES Classic launched at the end of this year I’m not too sure. If you were one of the lucky ones, who got these hands of one of these elusive mini consoles you will already have access to the legendary RPG. One of the charming things about the SNES Classic will find that, among other things, the most exciting inclusions was the inclusion of the range of JRPGS. One of the things about the SNES Classic that I love is that its entire library of games has lasted the test of time, so they’re still great today. There are very few games on the consoles roster that I wouldn’t play, which for me was a more enticing prospect than the original NES mini.

So, I’m reminded of how good Secret of Mana is with the SNES mini, but I was struck by how much it could benefit from an update. I’m, personally, not concerned about the new art direction that it’s taking. Chibi style is something that I’ve always had a soft spot for that style, and while there seem to be some odd texture choices, it’s not enough for me to be super concerned.

This is primarily because I’m so excited that there will be a new generation of players who will be able to experience this incredible game with no significant changes to its narrative other than its visual aesthetics. I have a similar feeling of optimism surrounding the remake of final fantasy 7 (although, I’m less pleased with it being episodic, but I digress). So, for now, I’m going to trust that we’re going to get the remake it so richly deserves.

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Love is Like a Cocktail – Episode 1 – 6

Quiet but capable, Mizusawa Chisato is a beautiful leader who has a secret that only her husband, Sora, knows about: she loves to drink, and when she’s drunk, she becomes exceptionally adorable! What bliss will Sora’s cocktail bring tonight? “Yoidere,” the drunken comedy cocktail about Japan’s most lovey-dovey couple.

This is how Crunchyroll describes this quietly wonderful anime short based on the web series of the same name. The anime details the lifeof Mizusawa Chisato the chief of a successful PR company and her househusband Sora. Chisato is the epitome of the working professional, in the first episode helping her co-worker Koharu finish off her workload as part of her role as being Chief. Straight through to chapter 5 where she works late nights to complete adownload presentation for a project proposal in work. She’ll often go above and beyond the call of duty and has injured herself in the process but is reluctant to get the assistance of others. She is focused and dedicated to her work ensuring that she can provide for her family. Her focus has the opposite effect than intended, where she can subsequently come across as a little cold. However, for those who know her true nature like Sora, knows she is very gentle and sweet it just takes a little bit of encouragement for it to show.

That encouragement comes in the form of a drink; it turns Chisato from someone who is quite quiet and reserved to someone who is far more articulate with her feelings. However, she reserves this part of herself for her husband, Sora. Articulating early on in the anime that she doesn’t like to get drunk around anyone else other thank Sora, as she knows the alcohol makes her a bit funny.

Sora acknowledges this shortcoming about his wife, merely saying that “some people find it difficult to express themselves without it.” This doesn’t mean that Sora is underhanded in the way he conducts himself with his wife. In the third episode, download (1)(appropriately called Cinderella) when Chisato has a fall in work and has to be carried home by Sora after they check on her foot, she asks for a drink and Sora insists that it’s probably not a good idea. I won’t spoil anything from here, but Chisato doesn’t quite get her way. He is never in any way forceful with her when she is slightly inebriated but continuously dotes upon her as he would when she was sober.

Sora and Chisato’s relationship makes this anime. There is something so wholly relateable about their relationship and something that is legitimately genuine about the characters writing and affection. You know for a fact this is a series created with a lot of love and understanding of what the dynamics of marriage is like (well, ideally).

That ebb and flow, the give and take is a grand thing to watch. At 3 minutes long per episode, it gives that punch to the narrative that you wouldn’t get otherwise. It’s an anime that has a level of self-awareness to it – and it doesn’t outstay its welcome, leaving you with just enough of a longing for more.

Watch Love is Like a Cocktail at Crunchyroll http://www.crunchyroll.com/love-is-like-a-cocktail #crunchyroll via @Crunchyroll

Animal Crossing : Pocket Camp Review

Animal Crossing has always had the same appeal to me as the Harvest Moon series. It’s like good comfort food; it’s regular, consistent and expected. There are no surprises and satisfies a need that I have of getting lost for a few hours doing meaningful tasks in a world that is not my own. This need for getting the comfort food I’m so used to is the reason why I’m so conflicted about Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp.

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I started with the Animal Crossing series late, as I never had a Nintendo 64 or a GameCube growing up (my family was a Playstation household growing up – bar handhelds). So I missed the original Animal Crossing, and my first fling with the series was with Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the Nintendo DS and it was love at first play. I loved the character style, the size of the map, how you interacted with the characters and the overall flow of the game. It has a Sims or Harvest Moon effect – where you tell yourself you’re only going to play an hour max of it and suddenly it’s 4 am.

So I was equal parts thrilled and concerned when Nintendo announced that they would be releasing a mobile version of Animal Crossing. The one thing that I didn’t want was it to be completely overrun with prompts to hand over my money to get apples from a tree. (You can find more about my thoughts on microtransactions over at Noobist.com http://noobist.com/gaming/microtransactions-questioning-noise/) It turns out that those fears are only half realised.

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When you first start out in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, you’re greeted by the regular faces. You’ll be first greeted by K.K. Slider, and then Isabelle, who’ll get you up and running in your campsite. From then on, everything goes mostly as expected; you’ll be befriending neighbourly animals, collecting fruit, hunting bugs, and customising your campsite & minivan. Most of these events are set up via timers, so you can only do a set amount of things in a certain amount of time. This means that there isn’t as much of a time commitment so its perfect for waiting for a bus or queuing for your shopping but it isn’t so suited for more extended play sessions.

There are things you can do to extend your time should you have extra time to kill. For instance, fishing can be completed in one of two ways. Firstly, is the traditional way where you go from area to area catching fish with a rod. Or you can skip the fishing for a net which catches multiple types of fish at once the catch is (ha!) that it costs leaf tickets. This is where the game begins to get a bit cash happy as this is the games premium currency.

So, for those who unwittingly spent their tickets early on in the game during setup – I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Leaf tickets are a strategy in themselves, a balance of what you want versus what you’re willing to wait for. You can acquire Leaf Tickets in-game at the beginning with relative ease given the stretch goal systems. They give you tickets readily and freely in the beginning just for getting simple tasks done. But the good times don’t last forever I’m afraid.

There become barriers to entry to specific areas like the ore mining camp without payment of some leaf tickets. Or having to pay for trees to regrow, fishing nets, upgrading your bays to purchase more than one piece of furniture at a time. The list gets long and endless, and as a result, loses its sweetness. It forgets that spark that made it go to comfort food, something that you can sit down and relax with to something that is more a convenience snack. Enough to keep you going, but not enough to fill the void.

That’s the best way of summing up what Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is something to play when you’re just casually waiting for a bus or a way to pass a little bit of time. However, trying to get the full-bodied experience of Animal Crossing game will not be found here, or at least not without serious investment.

Review: ThinkGeek Bag of Holding Tote

Disclaimer: This is a review unit I was able to get from the lovely people at ThinkGeek.

As anyone who has been viewing this blog for a long time, you’ll know one of my pet peeves in my digital life is that I struggle immensely with finding the right sort of bag for my tech. I’m not entirely a “and the kitchen sink” kind of person. But, with my daily commute and the amount I have to travel, I do have to consider seriously what bag will suit my purpose the best. That usually depends on what I’m doing. Am I flying? Am I just going to town? How long will I be waiting for one form of transport to another? Do I need to bring clothes? A myriad of question always accompanies all of these essential choices.

Most people would know that I swear by my Timbuk2 Custom Prospect messenger bag. It’s my regular go-to for travelling and day to day use. You can find more of my gushing over it in my Women Tech Bag Video.

So, with the ThinkGeek Bag of Holding Tote, there are a few things that are worthy to note about it before we get started.

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Product Specifications

  • Convertible Tote of Holding
  • A ThinkGeek creation & exclusive
  • Comes with double handles and also removable backpack straps
  • Custom d20 print accent
  • Magnetic snap closure at top
  • Organizer built-in to lining (9 card slots, 2 open pouches, 2 zip pouches, ThinkGeek keyholder)
  • Metal feet on the bottom for durability
  • Materials: 100% polyurethane exterior; 100% polyester lining
  • Care Instructions: Hand wash
  • Exterior Dimensions: 13″ wide x 17″ tall x 4″ thick
  • Weight: 2 1/2 lbs.

It is a beautiful bag; its print accent is one of the most striking elements of the tote. It’s wonderfully detailed, and I regularly got compliments and comments from the passers-by who I encountered who were curious about where on earth I found a bag that had a pattern of a D20! It’s a testament to the care and craft of putting a bag together like this. kgiq_convertible_tote_holding_detSubtle details in the stitching and lining indicate this to the core. It’s challenging to find a rough edge on the tote, and that’s a testament to the craft of it in itself. However, that robust construction comes at a price in the form of its weight. It’s a good two pounds when its empty. So, if people are expecting this to be a light bag, I fear this may not be one for you.

That being said, I wanted to put it through its paces. I was off to a Ted X in Canada, and I decided since it was an overnight trip that I would need to bring a change of clothes for the event. I was also going to need to bring some form of entertainment, food. I made a noble attempt to fit all of these items into the tote but alas I failed to do so without leaving some essential items out. Which is a no-go for this bag to be used as my new travel companion. I’m not going to lie; I was pretty astonished that I couldn’t fit more into it, dimensions wise it’s a pretty big tote bag. Now, as my Youtube Review Video will show, I am bringing quite a bit, and arguably my packing cube for my clothes was the principal offender when it came to the space available. It was still none the less surprising though, as right now it’s not quite living up to my expectations for a bag that has the title of Bag of Holding.

My timbuk2 to had to resume its position for that particular trip as I had little issue getting the contents I needed there for my trip. Throughout my time bouncing from airport to airport to get to Toronto I was curious about what other use cases could I use this bag for? So, I decided I’m regularly in and out to college as well as the gym I would see if this would be a suitable all in one solution for this, as my Timbuk2 for those trips is complete overkill. Sadly, I ran into different issues when using this bag as a daily driver for my college and gyms trips.

kgiq_convertible_tote_holding_int1Cardinal of all sins for me is the lack of a dedicated pocket for my laptop/tablet. This is something I’m quite pedantic about. I think if you’re creating any bag, it makes sense to have a dedicated pocket for your tech that needs that added bit of protection. So having something that didn’t even protect my iPad had me quite frustrated in parts. I was always second guessing where things were in my bag or worrying if my lunch box was going to spill and what that would do to said iPad.

I ran into the space issue on multiple occasions too, sometimes having to forfeit a bigger towel for the gym or a bottle of water to fit something else in for a particular day. Which, evidently, isn’t a great solution for things either. It’s not as if I’d be bringing a lot with me for these sessions, but I’d always feel like I was running short on space.

It leads to a more significant comment too which is after a while it can tend to make the bag heavier than you would otherwise think. Having a 2-pound starting weight then adding other essential items on top of that can rapidly make a significant weight change to the overall bag and limits your options on how best to carry it.

kgiq_convertible_tote_holding_strapsMy go-to carry style was to use it by the handles on my shoulder as I was always overly aware in the backpack style that a small clip only closes the bag, and it would be straightforward to reach into the bag from that position pretty much unbeknownst to the wearer. So I didn’t have enough experience with the backpack style element to make a concrete opinion on it other than its relatively well executed but the straps suffer from the same fault that others do which is the straps are awful thin. This can lead to the straps cutting into your shoulders, and I am a women function over fashion. So, in my time of usage it didn’t get a lot of use, but as always your mileage may vary.

It might seem like I’m ragging on the Tote, but really, I’m not. I think I’d be more lenient on it if they’d omitted the title of it is a Bag of Holding. I think that’s where I’ve got the most of a mental block. I can’t view this bag out of the context of it being in its brand. The line is notorious for being compact but being able to hold pretty much everything. I’ve even seen the standard bags, and others in the range attest to this mantra. This, however, doesn’t.

Let me be clear; it is not a bad bag in the least. It’s incredibly constructed, aesthetically pleasing and works as a bag. But is it a bag of holding worthy of the namesake? I don’t think so.

You can find out more about think ThinkGeek Bag of Holding Tote at http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/kgiq/?srp=1

Pokemon Ultra Sun

My love affair with Pokemon has been lifelong. I have yet to miss a launch game from the main series so, Ultra Sun was no exception here. As the Pokemon has an ongoing legacy, it’s nice that the Ultra Sun & Moon series refines the series formula. Though, I’ll readily admit that I was only moderately interested in returning to Alola.

sun and moon imageAloha is the region in which Pokemon which you are to venture through on your Island Challenge. Instead of taking on your series of Pokemon Gyms as is common in the series you are tasked to go through a set of Trials set by the Captains of the Islands and their Island Kahunas. These trials take the forms of classic battles, scavenger hunts, quizzes and a final task of it culminating in battling the Totem Pokemon of the Trial. While these deviate significantly from the usual pattern of going round and collecting Gym badges it was a welcome change. It gave the series the refresh it needed, and in turn, gave these particular games a soul that the others were lacking towards its more recent entries in the franchise.

It’s a game that prides itself on it being about the journey rather than the destination. From the beautiful depiction of the tropical islands (as Alola is based on Hawaii) to the charming and engaging captains and Kahunas. The individual trials give you a greater sense as to what role these people play in their respective communities as well as greater insight into who they are as people as well as trainers. These aren’t just one-off encounters like in previous entries in the franchise, and this is to the stories benefit. The Captains and Kahunas never outstayed their welcome, they had their purpose for the narrative part of their trials and then let you be on your way to the next objective. It’s cleverly paced, and while Ultra Sun is still plagued with some stiff dialogue at times, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and is capable of laughing at itself for its silliness.

The narrative progression in Sun & Moon was one of the short comings of the first iteration. It took a long time to do anything, and Ultra Sun and Moon address this issue. You get to pick your starter a lot quicker, and there are some subtle changes to trials and sequences of event that has been shortened considerably. This is an improvement as far as I’m concerned, as it trimmed a lot of the fat narratively speaking. Something that may be disappointing to players who have already completed Sun and Moon before is that regarding the overall arch of the story there isn’t any significant change until the credits have rolled. However, in saying that, there are plenty of reasons to see the 30 + hour story to the end.

There are optional tasks in game now, where the people of each of the towns could issue you with mini quests along the way. Some of these side quests (if you could even call them that given their brevity) are nothing short of fetch quests. But, its the reasoning and their writing that kept me wanting to find more. Two side quests mainly hooked me; one was where an elderly woman was lamenting about her brother whom she hadn’t heard from since childhood. I stumbled upon a message in a bottle that I found in the corner of a cave well out of the way of the central area I was roaming. Sure enough, that message was for his sister letting her know that he was safe and that he still loved her and wanted her to be happy. Returning to the women and being able to provide that closure for her is a testament to the writing from Game Freak and a real understanding and respect for the fact that this game is enjoyed by all age groups. The second one that caught my attention was finding some misbehaving Ditto who are transforming into Humans. There is a wonderful scene that I won’t spoil as a result of finishing that quest, but it leaves you with a bit of wistful wonder that has long since been missing from the series at large. There is a lot to be explored and a lot to gain from exploring every nook and cranny of Alola.

dsimageThere have been some minor updates to the game from a UI perspective too. The battle screens are adjusted in move selection, so you no longer have to try and keep a mental record of what moves have what effect on the opposing Pokemon. The overall menu screen has, thankfully, been made brighter by the colour change. There is now a quick save option bound to the 3DS’s Y button that is accessible from the main menu. Pokemon Amie from X & Y has returned to a more useful format of Pokemon Refresh where you can heal status ailments of your team as well as increase their affection using Poke Beans. Increasing the affection with your team can lead to them dodging enemy attacks or shaking off status effects mid-battle which can be useful when you’re in a pinch!

Which may happen more regularly than you might think. I struggled to play Ultra Sun in a way I didn’t with previous games. While the inclusion of the Z crystals that you earn at the end of the trial to power up your Pokemon is an interesting mechanic, however, it wasn’t quite the one shot button of destruction I was hoping for. Though, your mileage will vary depending on your squad makeup. Ultimately, it’s a flashy power move of which its animation get tiresome after its twentieth or thirtieth time. Seriously, there are only so many times you can watch Breakneck Blitz without wishing there was some sort of skip button.

All that being said, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Ultra Sun and Moon to newcomers to the series or veterans. 20 years have passed since the original series of Red and Blue launched on the Original Gameboy, and the series has been a process of iteration in each entry. I’m happy to say that after all of these slow and steady iterations, Pokemon has finally found its form again.

 

Podcast: Pocketnow Weekly

Consider this an item ticked off my bucket list! I made it to the Pocketnow Weekly with my very good friends Juan & Jules. This is a bit of a rollercoaster of a podcast, so I hope you enjoy it!

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