Monthly Review: June 2014

I’m really glad I keep my Journal of Small Wins. I sometimes neglect it for a few days in a row, but I can often remember the stand-out things I did and catch it up.

But it’s a really great confidence builder. When I’m feeling stressed or down on myself, I can look back at it and see the good things that I made happen, the habits I’ve put in place and the things I’ve actually created in a chunk of time.

Speaking of time, its about it for another monthly review. I’ve dropped Nicole Antoinette’s format for the time being and am trying breaking my month down by this site’s current categories.

The Basic Things

After neglecting our dogs for a good while, I’ve started a new habit of walking them every night. Because of the regulated dog ordnance on Ziggy I can only walk them one at a time, which means Vickie has to put up with one upset dog while I’m out with the other one; it also menas I usually go on short walks only.

Garden Bed
This is what it should look like. No, it doesn’t right now.

I’ve paid more attention to the garden and vege bed, too. The recent rains have been good, although they’ve also fostered the weeds in the vege bed, which means I’ve weeded a fair bit. I wasn’t weeding as often as I was walking the dogs, though, so the vege bed is still a bit of a jungle.

And then there’s the budget. I re-worked my overall budget balance spreadsheet and used the values to re-set my tracking sheet for the next twelve months. This tells me how much we have set aside after each week’s pay for pet care, car maintenance, haircuts and the like.

Fun Things

I had a fair bit of computer-related fun this month. I downloaded the free-to-play games Star Trek Online and Hearthstone: Hereos of Warcraft. As much as the idea of controlling a Federation starship had me hooked, I lost interest in STO’s gameplay fairly quickly. Hearthstone is nice, quick fun, though.

I thought about trying some First Person Shooters out, though I wound up nauseous during my only session with Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Phantoms and couldn’t muster enthusiasm for Blacklight: Retribution.

Oddly enough, thouh, it was a paid game that really nabbed me; Electronic Arts offered Titanfall as a forty-eight hour free-to-play download, after which you must buy it to keep playing. It’s giant robots, so of course I wanted to give it a whirl even though I couldn’t afford it – except EA were also running a half-price deal and I happened to have that much cash stashed away.

I’ve been playing it on and off since, and I don’t think I’ve had as much fun with shooter multiplayer since… well, Halo 3.

Aww, poor lonely Titan…

Thankfully, there was some face-to-face gaming, too, with more Android: Netrunner and Cards Against Humanity at the Wicked Goblin. I’m sure I’m doomed to hell for laughing at things that should not be laughed at during Cards Against Humanity!

Finally, I splurged some of our health budget on some long-overdue pampering for Vickie, with a foot spa and massage at a place in town. I got a massage at the same time, too!

Making Things

I now have two Paid to Play episodes in the can after recording a location interview with the co-owner and proprietor of Cairns’ Friendly Local Gaming Store, The Wicked Goblin, Mick Archer!

I also sketched more at KerSplatt! and made notes for more articles over on Career Attraction.

Life-Changing Things

My quest to create a sideline income continued last month. Though my current focus is writing, I decided to try pushing the Paid to Play Podcast as a content option for geek culture websites. I reached out to one of the biggest out there – one I frequent a lot – and wound up in dialogue with the editor-in-chief and managing editor, crafting a second-round pitch.

Unfortunately, they decided not to go ahead. Still, it means a couple more people know my name and are interested in my work, so who knows?

It’s also good to have more than one iron in the fire. I’m developing options in freelance writing. I got in touch with a contact of my own at a local business whom I thought I could help with the somewhat out of date text on their website. Sadly, that didn’t work out either as the company’s in a transition phase right now.

However, a friend with his own sideline business recommended me to the co-owners of a local business writing company. That led to a great chat over a cuppa on Friday with one of them!

Done Things

If you’ve been keeping up with Paid to Play, you’ll know that I posted two interviews in the space of a week:

  • Ali Spagnola, a musician and hard-partier who has an album of sixty one-minute long drinking songs that come on a USB built into the bottom of a shot glass!
  • Henry Smith, my first return guest, who created the iOS and Android party game Spaceteam and is currently running a Kickstarter to finance a year’s worth of independent game development!

I’m particularly proud of posting Henry’s interview one hour after finishing the actual chat! I’ve worked out how to record and export good quality audio with a minimum of clean-up.

Speaking of Henry’s Kickstarter, I made my first foray into scheduled social media updates by setting up a tweet about the campaign every week at the time of my highest audience being online (thank you, Tweriod).

The Paid to Play site itself got some updates, too; I re-wrote its About page, then set a mailing list up under MailChimp and wrote Subscribe and Thank You Pages. I also put out an initial version of the e-book I’m working on, Three Things, as a thank you gift to new subscribers.

Further on the writing front, I scored two Fiver gigs for my writing service and wrote a guest blog post for career optimisation advice web site, Career Attraction!

And if that wasn’t enough, it was end-of-year performance review time at work, and I reckon I did a pretty cracking job of it!

Feeling Things

Here’s the tough question. How did I feel during the month, and how do I feel now?

  • Glad that I:
    • Have my lovely wife Vickie to help keep me sane.
    • Could do something nice for Vickie this month – well, two things, if I include taking her to see How To Train Your Dragon 2 yesterday!
    • Track things in the budget spreadsheets. Some expenses have just gone up and having that system in place lets me know I can manage them for the time being.
    • Can articulate the value of The Paid to Play Podcast both on the site itself and in a sales pitch to a prospective collaborator.
    • Am making headway on creating a freelance writing sideline!
  • Sad that I:
    • Can’t play Titanfall with my old Halo crew as their Titans fall on Xbox 360 / One and mine fall on PC.
    • Can’t play Warframe with Gav (see Frustrated below).
  • Scared that I:
    • May not have much time to keep up with those increasing expenses; this year’s dog rates (especially Ziggy’s regulated dog fee) and home insurance just shot up (we’re now having to pay around $60 a month more on home insurance, and that was after an increase of about $40 in the 2013/14 financial year). When I re-did the budget, Vickie’s and my weekly disposable income went from $17 to $11.
    • May not be able to get serious freelancing work soon.
  • Relieved that I:
    • Stepped away from RPGs again. With an “I’m very sorry” to my players first: I attempted to start a Spirit of the Century campaign a couple of weeks ago. Some friends and I created characters at The Wicked Goblin a week ago, but when the day of the first session rolled around, I realised that of I wanted to run a session every two weeks at the Goblin, I wouldn’t do any boardgaming (until I get on the road with the Foxy Lady I’m only going to the Goblin every fortnight). And when I put Spirit of the Century back on my shelf – sorry, folks, but I felt so bloody relieved. I guess I just prefer doing other things instead of tabletop RPGs.
  • Frustrated that I:
    • Couldn’t link up with my mate Gav (and yes, it was really him this time) in Warframe; we discovered that network conflicts completely prevented us playing together.

Next Month’s Things?

Back in April I set myself a goal of getting serious freelance work by the end of July. That couple of Fiverr gigs were a reassuring start, but my writing is good enough to represent a business and good enough to get paid appropriately. That’s my main focus, especially with our expenses going up.

I’m engaging a few insurance brokers with regard to bringing our expenses on that score down, especially after those big hikes on our home insurance.

I have another way of reducing our expenses, though: The Foxy Lady. I currently pay around $70 for two weeks of unleaded patrol for the car; commuting on her would halve that, at least.

I need four things first:

  • More practice time,
  • A new cover for the rear lights (water is getting in and disabling the indicators on rainy days),
  • My full licence, and
  • Full insurance coverage (currently just on CTP cover).

I’ve been putting the Lady off, mainly as I build the whole thing up as too hard (Should I get in touch with the firm Dad got to do the maintenance before he rode her up about getting a new rear light cover? Should I order one from that Stateside site I found? How long will it take to get here? How much will insurance coverage cost?) It’s time to suck it up and take some action.

On the garden front Vickie and I have been talking about raised garden beds; she has trouble getting to the current low beds thanks to a couple of falls damaging her knees. Putting in a couple of Vickie-waist-height beds would allow her to get back into growing veges (another thing I’ve been slack on).

I’ve got two P2PP interviews to post, though I’m not sure if I’ll do them fortnightly or monthly; I also need to get in touch with more folks for interviews.

Oh, and then there’s the party! Vickie and I try and do a big get together of family and friends around Christmas time, and since work’s Social Club shut down we’ve invited everyone from there too (great having a big backyard). Only problem is, everyone’s schedule tends to be packed around that time.

So we’re combining a Christmas in July party with another significant occasion that has similar import – an annual celebration of the gifting of this world with the presence of an exceptional (shall we even say divine?) individual.

Naturally we need to tidy up and organise a bit first.

What things are you doing?

What did you do during June?

How did you feel about it?

What do you need and want to do in July?