What do I want from the coming year?

I want lots of things. Some of those things are achievements. Some of those things move my life along. Some of those things are things. Things I wish to own. Things that will make my living environment better. Things that will make me happy. Things that will help me achieve some of the other things I want. And some of those things are experiences I have long longed for – stuff I want and stuff I need.

It’s easy to forget what things I want in the day-to-day. So. Here is an incomplete list – mostly for me, rather than anything else.

I want…

To finish writing a novel.

Duh. Be that Courtly Intrigue and Dragons (currently 28,000 words), The Winged Guardian (currently 27,500 words), or the one with Clones and Nanites in Space (that’s not even a working title, it’s just a description – currently 8,000 words). These are, theoretically, the novels I am actively writing, although the Clones and Nanites one I apparently haven’t touched since 2016.

I’ve written longer incomplete works, most notably Cyborgs and Androids, which stalled at around 50,000 words when I was 21… depressingly 13 years ago now.

Thanks to fanfiction, I wrote around 200,000 words from November 2016 to November 2017. I could have written two complete novels in the past year if I had channelled my escapism more effectively, but I did not. And if we’re honest, I wasn’t going to. I needed to escape, and I needed to write with minimal pressure in an environment that offers immediate and almost entirely positive feedback. Fanfiction is great for that – you have an almost pre-selected audience of people who already like the characters and themes you’re writing on, and they’re getting the work for free, so they don’t mind the odd typo. It’s been very rewarding. But while some of it was good writing and even quite powerful within its niche, it wasn’t great writing, and none of it is suitable for professional publication, recognition, or payment.

I’m also conscious that although I have learnt a lot over the last ten years, overall my writing is less ambitious and less rich. I do not have the energy to do more than force out a scene that… gets the job done. I’m not steeped in literature the way I was immediately following my BA, and while that has the positive advantage that I’m not constantly shoving modernist poetry into my work left, right, and centre, a certain richness and intertextuality has been lost.

I also struggle to make time to read for pleasure. I have been struggling to make time to read through the latest book by my favourite author, Assassin’s Fate, by Robin Hobb, for months. Not because it isn’t good – it’s excellent – but because I can’t shake that ingrained feeling left over from my PhD that I should be doing something more important. Something that moves my life along… even though what’s holding back my own writing is a lack of the kind of wide reading that I used to do.

Ultimately, I need to rest and relax, and find a kind of inner calm I have been missing for a long time, and that’s part of what the other things I want for 2018 are about.

I need safety and physical health and financial security to get the kind of mental wellbeing that will enable me to write well again.

To get physically fit

This one is hard because something is wrong with my health and has been for a long time and I’ve been through an endless battle to convince people it’s even real – the ache of explaining again and again that the reason I’m ill is the same reason as the last time they asked and I don’t want to go through the long outline again of everything I have been through the last four or five years. All the symptoms. All the blood tests. All the woolly non-diagnoses. All the not-so-subtle hints in response that I’m not really as unwell as I think and I just need to buck up and pull my socks up.

I met with a doctor on Friday who has ordered more of the same blood tests that I’ve had done before, but he actually seemed interested in hearing how long it had been going on, rather than just focusing on this latest bout of illness, which has certainly centred around the ‘Australian’ flu (almost certainly what I had over Christmas and New Years), but really can be traced back through one rotten illness after another through December, November, October, September… honestly nearly non-stop while I also dealt with one stress after another trying to get my life together – moving house, applying for jobs, work shake ups… and so it goes…

He mentioned he has some theories, but doesn’t want to talk about them until we’ve had the blood tests and a fuller picture. Which is good. I am, of course, worried that he’ll come back with a diagnosis for something that isn’t going to go away, like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME, but even then, a diagnosis would help stop the endless questions about how utterly wrecked I am by a simple cold.

I hope for something more than that. A plan I can act on and use to get properly well again, back to the gym, lose weight, get down the allotment… all those things I long to do. But we shall see.

I want a permanent job. Still.

This one will, again, be easier to get if I can sort out the other things in my life. Find space for the ambition and action that used to propel me. It’s hard to be ambitious when you can’t get out of bed.

A notebook – the laptop kind

I need to be able to write on the go. I was hoping to get one in the January sales, but even with a voucher, everything within my price range has a ridiculously tiny number of GB. 32GB was fine two years ago, but if you want to run Windows 10 (and I do – please don’t pitch up telling me to use other things, I have my reasons and you don’t need to know them) anything that size is going to keel over on its first update… which is exactly what an increasingly large portion of reviews are saying they do.

In the interim, I have bought me a bluetooth keyboard, which I am hoping to use with my phone, but it’s a stop-gap solution. A proper notebook like I used to have from my department when I was a research student would make all the difference.

A holiday. Somewhere with a beach

I have not swum in the sea since holidays with my family as a teenager – nearly two decades ago. As a child living in the US, I was practically part fish, and then later in holidays to Cornwall and Greece… You can’t really swim in the North Sea, though. I’ve managed to paddle once or twice in the last ten years, but it’s not enough anymore.

I want to swim. I want to lay on the sand and read a book and feel warm and not stressed about my real life.

I want a goddamned beach holiday.

A holiday. Somewhere with friends where I can write and read

We’re now getting into territory where it’s gonna be obvious that I cannot do all that I want. I’ll maybe be able to afford one holiday, if I get a permanent full-time job. But I have to put these things down or they will swim into the miasma of unfulfilled dreams and become a stagnant pool of unidentifiable regrets.

But me and some of my friends have talked over the past few years about clubbing together and renting a place for a week or five days or something and just… chilling. Writing. Reading. Maybe going for the odd walk. Minimal pressure – potential to do much in the way of healing and/or writing. An important ambition.

If this could happen somewhere near a beach, so much the better, but either/or would do.

A new vacuum cleaner

It’s really hard to keep my house tidy at the best of times, but it also becomes quickly clear when I try that my vacuum cleaner cannot cut it. It’s designed for small spaces, because that’s all I could afford when I moved into my last house, which didn’t have very much carpet. In this house… it’s pretty ineffectual. I’ve been on my hands and knees picking up fluff today. Ugh.

But vacuums are expensive?? Even on Gumtree the second-hand ones are expensive??

Something to remember I need next time I have a windfall.

An office chair

For the study. So I can write and paint up there. I chucked the old one, which stood me well for many years, but was a bit broken when I got it and had been worn and patched and… the plastic of the arms had gone weird and sticky?? Bleurgh.

I have a folding chair that will do for now, but if I really want to persuade myself not to spend my entire life on my laptop in bed, I need comfortable furniture that is fit for purpose.

Speaking of which: I also need a sofa

One I can lie down on comfortably to read and snuggle up in to write.

I do have two second-hand armchairs (left by a housemate who didn’t want the bother of disposing of them) and a sofa I got from the Community Furniture Store, and an Ikea armchair I got with an Amazon voucher somehow. It’s fine. It works for having people around. And I’ve got my living room into an almost stylish state that I actually enjoy spending time in sometimes. But I do tend to end up with a numb bum and eventually retreat to bed.

A proper sofa would be grand – even if it’s just a slightly nicer one from the Community Furniture Store, but I suspect I shall be making do for a little while yet.

Assorted bedroom furniture

My wardrobe came from Oxfam and spent the first two years of it’s time with me in the dining room because it wouldn’t fit up the stairs. It has been a nightmare to deal with every time I have moved and it’s starting to fall apart. It actually performs its job admirably well, but I kind of hate it and want it gone.

A new, nice chest of drawers. I have a plastic one from Argos that isn’t pretty but does its job, and a second-hand one that is falling apart. It did me good service for many years when I had nothing else, but it is not fit for purpose anymore, several of the handles are broken, and I just want something bigger and nicer.

A new bed. This one has also been a little hero, but it got mouldy in the Worst Flat and that left some ugly marks that remind me of shitty times. Also, although this mattress is a million miles better than the last mattress, I have still managed to fuck some of the springs and it sags on one side. But as this was new the year before last, I shan’t be replacing it for a while.

There are probably a whole host of other things I want (like a boyfriend – ha!), but I’m running out of energy and this is enough to get me going. To look back on and reflect.

I hope this year brings bigger and better things, but history suggests that even if it does they shall not be easily won.

Wish me luck!

Reading: Descartes’s First Meditation

What I did on my hols.

I’ve been meaning to write something about my trip to Australia for a while, but goodness, I took a lot of photos. This, however, is one little thing I did for me that I thought I’d share.

Sitting on a beach in Merimbula, Australia, looking out at the Pacific ocean, I read my favourite philosophical passage, in which Descartes begins the destruction of all his opinions, that he might start again from a solid foundation of first principles that cannot be doubted.

He employed his method of doubt, which I wrote about for my MA dissertation*, exploring the idea that it can be read as a form transcendental argument, i.e. he argues that certain fundamental truths can be certainly known because their truth is necessary for one to doubt anything at all, and therefore if one is doubting, the very act of doing so demonstrates their truth.

The First Meditation concerns itself solely with the destruction of Descartes’ uncertainly held opinions. The Second Meditation begins the task of building these up again with Descartes’ most famous argument: I think, therefore I am. Or, more accurately: I doubt, therefore there is something that doubts, and I am at minimum that thing that doubts.

I finish the reading after the dreaming argument, which I take to the be the most powerful argument in Descartes’s arsenal of demolition, and the most beautifully articulated.

I use the John Cottingham translation of Descartes’s Mediations on First Philosophy, which is divine.

I did this for me, but I’m sharing it because everyone should have the chance to hear this iconic text.

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*From the perspective of Janet Broughton’s analysis in her Descartes’s Method of Doubt.

Back from outer space

Sorry to leave it such a long time with no update. I have half-a-dozen posts I started, but never finished.

Combination of continued ill-health, job-stress, and falling down a fanfiction rabbit-hole. Dragon Age owns me, and I don’t think it’s likely to let go any time soon.

Job stuff is good. I’m looking after the webpages of a large organisation. It’s creative and supports stuff I’m into. It’s also a 10min walk from home. Which is good when you have energy problems. I’ve handed over the stressful part of my job to someone else, and I’m generally feeling positive. The only down side is that it’s a maternity contract and it will finish in Septmeber. BOO.

I’m currently on leave and making use of my hand-me-down netbook to camp out in a bar by the river and get some writing done. It’s meant to be fiction writing – my novel, working title: Courtly Intrigue and Dragons – but I have a review burning a hole in the side of my brain, so you may have new content from me, soon!

Officially a Doctor

Me in my graduation robes

I graduated on 22 January 2016, and am officially Dr Ro Smith, a doctor of philosophy in philosophy, passed with no corrections.

Apologies for not posting about it at the time, I didn’t have any photos myself and only just got some through!

I hope everyone is appreciating my sparkley graduation shoes. And the silliest bonnet. I wanted to keep the silliest bonnet.

If you donated to this blog or to my Go Fund Me last year when I was in need, you helped this happen, and I am incredibly grateful to you. I would not have made it without you.

There was a long time – a very long time – when I really stopped believing that I would get here. I had been so ill and poor and depressed for so long. I’m still not physically 100%, and mentally… well, that’s a process, and a long one, which isn’t entirely about the PhD.

Neverthless, I’m really proud, and grateful. I did it. I was capable of doing it, after all. And I did it well. There were a tiny number of typos. That was it.  The examiners said in the end that they would accept it anyway. Typos and all. (I did correct the most glaring typos, though – the photos at the top of my blog are not a lie, I really have had green hair, and red hair, and many other colour hair.)

And so many members of my family came up for me. My dad came from Australia, my mum, two sets of aunts and uncles, my step-dad.

I wish I had been thinner. I wish I had had suitable smart clothes to wear that I could still fit into (the dress I am wearing was more low-cut than I would have liked and didn’t exactly have a graceful fit). I wish my hair looked better – I had fried it in my attempts to go back to blonde for graduation. Maybe one day when I’m better off and thinner I will rent the gowns again and get it professionally done. Still, it’s great to have done it at all.

It is very strange to have it done. I’m still temping at the moment. I need to publish before applying for academic jobs and I’m… honestly not read to leave my city, yet. And most well-paying jobs I am qualified for would involve that, even if they weren’t in academia.

I’m tired, and I’m still ill a lot. And I want to get serious about my writing. I want a first draft of a novel this year.

I also want to relax. I’m getting back down the allotment (you might have noticed). Which is something I was really sad to not be able to give enough time to the last few years. I always promised myself ‘When the PhD is done…’. And it’s important in terms of exercise. I was down there for four hours today. It’s hard to get such good, prolonged exercise doing anything else.

I want to paint and not feel guilty about it. I want to choose craft projects for reasons other than ‘It will be quick’ and ‘I can give it to someone else as a present because that is the only way I can afford presents’.

I’ve bought material and a pattern for an ambitious Daenerys cosplay this year. Still a lot of work in getting that done, though.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the things I want to do, but I’m trying not to do that. Trying to unlearn my habits of continuous anxiety and guilt.

But hey, I’m a ‘Dr’ now, and that’s something. Some kind of validation of my existence and ability and intelligence. Not the only way such things can be validated, of course, but… something I needed to do, for me. Yes, I had something to prove to myself, and to the world. And maybe that’s not terribly healthy, but I needed to do it.

It’s strange and surprising to find that I have done it after all.

Me in my grad robes, closer up.


Getting my shit together

No Music for the Apocalypse again this lunchtime, or probably until my PhD is finished.

I am in Getting My Shit Together mode.

My supervisor is very kindly letting me use his spare office (yeah, he has two at the moment) so I have somewhere I can be that’s not my house (sickroom pigsty) and not the library (full of noisy students and expensive coffee). So I have a place to be where I am expected at specific times and where I am expected to work. It’s good for me. Although my body has not yet caught up to the ‘going to sleep before midnight’ expectation of this deal.

I have continued to be ill, although not as ill as I was. And I basically have no time left. Like, no time at all. I have just over two months to do six months’ worth of work. And, quite frankly, I am not up to pulling all nighters. But I’m finding my motivation again.

Which means I need to set aside this blog even when I have something to write about that I know will get hits. Even when I want to continue a series. Even when I feel crappy about how many unfinished post series I have – Read Along with Rhube, I have not forgotten you!

But I’m being an adult about this. There’s something I have to spend the next two months doing, and it’s not writing about apocalyptic music or George R R Martin. In June I can start thinking about a post-PhD life again, but that’s June. That’s not where I am right now.

In the meantime… money is still very tight.

I’m getting work, but I’m still wondering every month if I’m going to make my rent. I have clients who have been very considerate in paying promptly, but I… just have no leeway at all. I’ve done enough work to pay my rent this month, but whether I can pay all my bills when I need to is another matter.  And I can’t afford not to meet the agreement with my bank that reduces my overdraft by £100 every month. It’s like my rent went up by £100.

Any donation you could make to my GoFundMe would still very much be welcomed. The less work I have to take on the more chance I have of being able to do the ridiculous amount of work needed over the next two months. Or you can pay me directly via the Tip Jar in my sidebar.

Thanks again to those who have already donated. You guys have literally kept me going when I was out of options.

This’ll be an interesting year to look back on, I’ll tell you that.

No Music for the Apocalypse today, sorry

Life is happening at me.

I have work. But because I was really ill for most of this month I’m doing most of that work this week, and I don’t have time to select a song, research it, and write something thoughtful and apocalypse related about it. I wish I did, but I don’t.

Things are really tight at my end. I will just, by using all that’s left in my overdraft and on my credit card, be able to pay my rent this month. But that’s it. No money for food. No money for my dentist appointment (which is due). No money for emergencies.

The work I’m doing now will pay the rent at the end of next month and cover bills etc., but I’m not sure how quickly the payment will go through and things are likely to be tight in the meantime.

The kind and generous people who donated last month paid my rent for this month, an electricity bill, my food, and a chunk of the rent for this month coming as well. My copy editing and proofreading business is picking up… it’s just a matter of timing. And of just how deeply I was already into the red.

If anyone has anything to spare to keep me going until my payment comes through, my GoFundMe is still live. Or you can use the PayPal tip jar in my side bar. If you do want to use the PayPal tip jar please be sure to check the ‘No Address Needed’ box (click here for info on why).

I hate to ask, but donating keeps a roof over my head and is really, super helpful in enabling me to have time to spend on my PhD.

You’re all great. I promise this place will become an awesome place again full of content when my situation improves.

Daenerys – Qarth Dress Cosplay

Me in my more upmarket Daenerys cosplay:

Me in my Qarth Daenerys CosplayI also got proper photos done by the official Nine Worlds photographer (only £3!!!).

Big thanks to my mate, Steve, who bought me the belt/metal corset/thing for my birthday – it looks AWESOME.

This is the dress I am approximating, for comparison:

qarthdanyObviously there are differences, and I know I have the wrong hair (I tried restyling this morning, and that was a disaster, so I have returned to the same style as yesterday). But I think it worked out OK 😀

International Women’s Day: Inspiring Women #1

People are tweeting lists of inspiring women for International Women’s Day:


I think this is a really awesome idea, but it seemed like it would be even better to write something with room to explain why these women are inspiring and important – to let them be more than just names, passed around only by women who already know who these women are. This is especially important for those women who have not made it into our history lessons (which is many of the women who have been amazing and important throughout history). So, today I’m going to write just a little bit about some of the women who have inspired awe and hope in my heart.

I’m working today, so I’m going to be doing a series of posts, rather than one big one, throughout the day.

Let’s start back – way back.

Hatshepsut – Pharaoh of Egypt

A statue of HatshepsutHatshepsut (1508–1458 BC), whose name means ‘Foremost of Noble Ladies’, was Great Wife to Thutmose II, and regent to Thutmose III, but she was not content with that. She declared herself pharaoh – king.

Egypt prospered under her rule, and she erected many of Egypt’s most awe-inspiring monuments, including four obelisks, the Chapelle Rouge, and her stunning mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahari. For a woman to seize power like this was unprecedented, and for millenia, her achievements were forgotten. Late in Thutmose III’s reign, the project of covering up her entire existence began. Her name was removed from her monuments. Her achievements were attributed to others. Her statues were disfigured and in some cases destroyed. But she existed. She ruled, and ruled well, and she was not content to be Great Wife or step-mother to a king. Ancient Eqypt had no word for a female ruler, so she called herself Pharaoh and insisted she be treated as King.

And millenia later we have found her hidden cartouches, we know once more to whom belonged some of Egypt’s most impressive treasures, and history remembers her again.


Come to Nine Worlds!

You may recall that last year I went to Nine Worlds and it was kind of the Best Thing Ever.

Well, it’s happening again this year and I booked my ticket before I quit my job so I will be there! And you should come, too! See this nifty video from last year that shows all the fun we had! (And spot the brief glimpse of Rhube in her (slightly battered by that point in the convention) Daenerys costume.)

I don’t know if the plans to have a live action Once More with Feeling are still on, but if they are, I’ll be playing Tara. Frankly, that should be all the incentive you need.

(No, really, come! We can hang and stuff in a cool environment where everyone is super cool and no one is creepy.)

[Edit:] Oh, hey! They finally put my cosplay photo up 😀

Me being a sunburnt Daenerys, shortly after reaching Qarth.

Me being a sunburnt Daenerys, shortly after reaching Qarth.

You can’t see my painstakingly woven plaits, but you get the general idea. I plan to do better this year. (Photo credit to Cosplayuk)

[Edit 2:] Oh! Hey! You can see my plaits on the back of my head behind someone getting interviewed in the video:

The back of my hair.[Edit 3:] It’s been pointed out to me that I really should say where and when it is. London, 8-10th August, the Radisson hotel.

All change! All change!

So, I bought myself a domain and I moved my blog to it.

And then, because it was mine now, I changed the name of the blog from In Search of the Happiness Max to The Rhubosphere. And I changed my banner because the old one was starting to look old-fashioned. Pray I don’t alter it further, or, uh… I hope you like it?

Why’ve I moved? Well, I get more freedom under my own roof. Some of that is freedom to add fancy things which I hope will be nice for you guys. Some of that is the freedom to make money. Not a lot of money, I imagine, and I promise I’m not going to add a bajillion ads and make this into one of those hit-optimised blogs you never want to visit. But, you know, it’s nice to have the option.

It’s also because I want to have a more ‘united’ internet presence. I haven’t the time to put together a proper website at the moment, but moving the blog to my own domain is the first step.