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I go through phases of reading lots of news and then less of it. I find that when I do, I post about it or talk about it and in turn it makes other people angry and can lead to conflicts of opinion over what are almost trivial, distant facts that I have zero input or control over. This article puts a constructive perspective on why reading less news can make you happier

Orwellwasright's Weblog

“News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether.” I’d say it can lead to fear and depression, rather than aggression, but on the whole there are some interesting points in this article from Rolf Dobelli writing in The Guardian. In my opinion it’s all about striking a balance between keeping informed whilst being creative – clearly, watching Fox News day in day out is going to send anyone batshit loopy, but on the other hand, ignorance probably isn’t bliss.

In the past few decades, the fortunate among us have recognised the hazards of living with an overabundance of food (obesity, diabetes) and have started to change our diets. But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is…

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So that’s me finally caught up with dividing this blog into 3 separate more focussed entities. You can now expect this blog to focus on pictures, memes and reshares as well as the odd long post about how I’m doing.

For anything music-related that you would normally see here, instead go to http://eunuchinaharem.wordpress.com/.

For my poetry, go to http://takingofftolandpoetry.wordpress.com/ where you’ll find collections about my travels from Italy and Japan and back to Scotland again  as well as assorted poems and haiku.

I’ll be expanding on all 3 of the blogs as we go on so if you like what you see, bookmark or favourite away to your heart’s content!

Howdy folks,

You may have noticed that there’s been a bit of a delay in my usual posts. I’m currently in the process of breaking Recession Dodge To Victory into 3 separate blogs.

For music content, I’ll soon taking the reviews off this site and songs of the day to, the currently very sparse looking, Eunuch In A Harem Blog here: http://eunuchinaharem.wordpress.com/

The perceptive amongst you will notice that I’ve taken my poems off this site and am now stashing them here at Taking Off To Land: http://takingofftolandpoetry.wordpress.com/ I’ll be posting new poems up there as and when I put the ideas in my notebook into cohesive stanzas!

But what will happen to this blog? Well, as ever, I plan to use it as a repository for  pictures I like, funny videos and generally stuff I don’t want to forget. Once I am finished sorting all the blogs I’ll put another post up asking you to spread them to interested parties.

Thanks for the continued interest,

– The Captain

“Catnip improves hunting”

For kicks count the number of words they use that include the word ‘cat’: “Catatonia”… “Catastrophic”…

If I had to sum-up the last year, I’d say it was a year of conflict: conflicted emotions, change and conflict with other people – mostly long-distance.

I started the year pretty much as it went on – by ending my work with John Lewis at the start of the year. I then started my work as a Business English TEFL company in Italy, which last about 2 months after I could no longer accept their breach of terms and conditions and unwillingness to discuss the matter. Work life continued in June though as I managed to jump straight into a  summer camp job which lasted all of 4 days(!) as I attempted to jump ship again to another job closer to home. When that fell through, I ended up spending more time and energy fighting their decision, which was ultimately fruitless. All of this was punctuated by discussions (more like arguments) with potential and past employers.

After another month or two of unemployment, I ended up where I started in 2006, and in October I started with my old pre-Japan company. Thankfully, since then, the seas of my work-life have only been slightly choppy compared to the full blown storm of work/non-work I had throughout the rest of the year.

It was when I was in Italy that conflict raised its ugly head again where groups of gamers I had managed to build bridges had decided to take the opportunity to start slating one another (well, mostly one group attacking the other) and consequently, me personally. There’s still bitterness there from those incidents but I’ve learned to simply remember, learn and strive not to let negativity overcome the good work I’ve tried to do in trying to bring the Scottish gaming community together or in some cases, out of the shadows entirely and into the gaming community at all.

When I look back in hindsight, 2012 was always going to be tumultuous; I went into it with no job – still trying to pick up the pieces of my decision to return home to Japan to be with the people I love, who were having their own difficulties at the time I returned in 2011. I went into the last year with a desire to shake things up in gaming in a big way and to generally get my life on track.

This year, my desires are no different, but the timeline is. After meeting lots of new people, I feel that the time for the  inevitable conflict after getting used to one another should be over and the time for getting to know people as more than Facebook acquaintances is here. I feel like for the first time since Japan, that it’s time to start growing again: working on my career rather than just struggling for a job and pushing my gaming projects like Lanarkshire Gamers to succeed rather than just hoping that they will stay afloat.

In 2013, I am hoping for some of the prosperity that has been lacking ever since that Tsunami signalled one of single most chaotic period of my life. Fingers crossed, eh!

Because everything can be funny… with enough canned laughter:

Well today’s been one of those massive up and down days. It started off when I received an invoice from North Lanarkshire council stating that we (Lanarkshire Gamers) owed them payments for a hall that we had cancelled months ago. They were adamant that we didn’t tell them it was cancelled – thankfully I found he paper trail and forwarded it to them otherwise we, a voluntary club run by its members, would be in debt on my account. No pressure man!

I called Strathclyde University for, if I’m not mistaken, the 13th time since last week and finally got the confirmation to move on as they ran out of spaces for the PGDE Secondary School English course. They cheerfully informed me that I could apply again next year though…

Then there was the 2 hour walk and back to the credit union to get a loan to try and pay for driving lessons which is a massive barrier to me getting a full time job that isn’t in a Call Centre. It was nice because I managed to think up some ideas for poems and went through the motions of some questions I might get asked before the interview and ran them through in my head. Exercise generally wears you down and gets al that creative stuff that you don’t get time to think about out. Unfortunately I didn’t write any of it down.

And of course that was followed by the 15 minute telephone interview, the one I talked about on Facebook, which was the most intense, yet friendly interview I’ve had to date with someone who is practically a local celebrity. Then I went and fucked it up, not by disclosing that I couldn’t drive yet but was taking every painstaking measure to do so without having any budget, but by answering the question, “Why didn’t you pursue your marketing career?” by prefacing it with “Good question, I don’t want to take up too much of your time by giving you my entire life story but [I’m going to take a tone that suggests I can’t be bothered answering questions on a job interview].” WHAT A FUCKING DICK I AM.

Any way. It’s over. I tried and I am now through the stage of wanting to crawl into a hole in the ground. Again. Somehow.

There are days when I blame other people – “Why can no one on my Facebook help with this shit?” There are days when I blame my circumstances – “Fuck my family, why did they not prepare me for this? Why did they mostly turn out to be proper bastards in general?” Anger gets you through those days.  The worst ones are the days you can only blame yourself. Today is one of those days.

Rant over: it’s time to write up some vampire downtime. The fact that I’m ranting on a blog is a sign of how bad things have become. I’m not even in the mood to do any more job applications, which frankly has become a way of life. But what else can I do?  Extreme solutions have come to mind but really all I want is stability and extreme doesn’t get you that.

So as you may or not know I left Italy after some troubles with my previous employer Linguarama. I meant to give full details in a blog post about it but to be honest I’ve been way to busy. Here’s a partial explanation as to why…

When I arrived back in Scotland from Italy in June I had already applied to 24 Summer Camp jobs, of which 7 had offered me a teaching post. After going through that bout of Skype of interviews, I had started applying to jobs on mass as well as sending an application for a PGDE post graduate course to become a secondary school English teacher.

A month and a job interview diary book later and I had still not heard anything back from any of the jobs that I had been applying to since the end of May. It being July now I was due to start my Summer Camp job in Eastbourne on the 4th. The employer shall remain nameless for the moment but frankly, despite having worked in customer service, at chip-shops taking shit from drunks and having cleaned toilets in my lifetime (it’s a custom to clean up after yourself in Japan in some workplaces), it was the worst job experience of my life to date.

At the summer school we were expected to teach 6 hours of classes a day (standard), do additional activities with kids like taking them on day trips to London or spend 3 hours a day monitoring them playing football and other games and lesson plan with 3 computers and 1 photocopier between 22 teachers, 2 of which had Internet access but could not print and the one that could print having no access. Teachers reading this will know exactly how reliant we are on photocopiers for printing copies for students if not the Internet so no resources is a massive problem! So much so that people have written books on the subject of teaching without resources for TEFL teachers in countries without any.

Most of the teachers arrived home at 8pm after starting the day at work at around 8am if they weren’t doing activities. If we were on activities, home time was closer to 10pm. At one point the photocopier ran out of toner and we almost had an Arab Spring in the staff room when it was found out that those in charge didn’t have a replacement, nor any other sense of competence or faculties about them.

So 5 days in to my 4 week temporary job hell and I get a phone call from a company whom I’ve named to some of you already but won’t name here just to cover my back. This company is a well-known Glasgow tourist attraction. I had applied to them back in June and they wanted to give me a group interview with 12 others, of which 3-4 would get the job. You can imagine me delight but also the turmoil going on in my head. Do I stay or do I go? What if the job centre finds out I quit a temporary job to go for a permanent one? What if I don’t get it? What if I don’t go for it and end up spending 3 more weeks in this shitty Summer camp?

After getting advice from new friends I had met down in Eastbourne (Thanks Eli, seriously!) and from my family, i decided to make the leap of faith and try for this demonstrator job in the tourist attraction.

Part of that decision was made on the basis that I could call in sick to the Summer Camp job and maybe head back down if it was feasible so that i didn’t lose the job. The other part that tipped the balance for me to return to Glasgow was being told by 2 people in the tourist attraction’s recruitment team that all the applicants were equal and that none of the candidates stood out amongst the others. I explained to them both in two separate phone calls that if I was considered a peripheral candidate in anyway that I would cut my losses and not bother attending the interview. In short, I was candid as fuck with them and, having chatted with 2 of them, I thought that they had been pretty straight forward with me. The prospect of working with such straightforward and open-minded people was exciting already.

So I took a train back up to Scotland the night before the interview, prep’d myself and made a quick presentation that I had to give in front of this group and went into Glasgow the next day with a fire in my belly and the knowledge that if I got this job, I wouldn’t have to go back down to that Summer Camp hell-hole.

If I could replicate the performance I gave for that job interview for every job interview I would. I was in an hour early, time enough for me to get coffee’d up and practice my presentation which involved a demonstration of how a a balloon doesn’t burst when it has water in it and the science behind it – sounds dry, it was a lot of fun – inspired completely by this:

I showed up to see most of the other interviewees ready to head in to the group interview and greeted a few of them after an awkward 5 second silence where no one really wanted to talk to one another. The one guy without a suit or shirt and tie on decided to talk to me and I discovered that he was in a similar situation to me, having travelled up from England. Nice guy, but I figured if you can’t show up dressed to work, you ain’t getting the job son.

We then got asked in and were told a little bit about the company. At this point 2 more people arrive in late. Bam, that’s a total of 3 competitors who aren’t getting the job. 9 of us in contention including myself. HELLZ YEAH, BOY!

The staff do zero warm-up or presenting beyond a little bit about the company before we are asked to give our demonstrations in front of one another. We are given a strict 2 minute time limit on the presentation and are warned of 30 seconds to go if there are any issues. Everyone seems nervous as a result of no warm-up – good, good, less competition for the post, and I’ve practiced my presentation so I know I can do it well.

My presentation involves both a naked candle flame and some water. I am told that flames aren’t allowed in the building and there is no tap present in the room. I explain myself and they tell me that as long as I demonstrate what’s going on, I should be fine.

Maybe 3-4 people go over the time limit but continue their presentation regardless. There’s a sense of “get on with it and get this over with” in the room by the time I set up my presentation. I am called to the front but no one tells me when to start so I wait for the guy before me to tidy up his presentation before I take to the stage. I’ve literally started speaking and have my things on the desk by the time they call 30 seconds but other people went over so I don’t let it phase me.

I take a volunteer, get a few laughs by referring to everyone in the room as kids and get a nice round of applause rather than the polite ones that have been going around. My hands are only shaking slightly, which is a good sign as are the brief smiling faces replacing the previously nervous ones when I finish. However, I did go over time – a bit of a worry but I think the results, the quality of the presentation, was worth it.

We then go to do some classic tower building with kinnex… cliche and sad that people actually interview this way but I figured if I show I’m a team-player that’s what this exercise is all about. I take the time to introduce myself to the other candidates and we all shake hands unlike the other teams. I ask people how familliar they are with kinex after saying that I have never used them in my life and we find out who are the experts in our team and who aren’t which sets a tone to defer to them;  had this not been established I guess that there might have been awkward moments where we would have argued amongst ourselves. We then establish that using a triangular/honeycomb structure is best for the base and get to working. Our tower looks to be the tallest at the end and once that is established to be the case, I ensure we high-five once we win. After having only just met, our team is established, our tower is the tallest and I felt like I really contributed to that success.

We are then asked to go look at some of the exhibits on our own and write a piece about how we would demonstrate them to a family. I get into teacher mode and write up a detailed lesson plan on exactly how I would do things and get excited at this stage at the prospects of aceing this interview. I take the time to chat to some of the staff, which I see none of the other interviewers doing and ask them what the difficulties and best bits of the job are while the other interviewees go for coffee breaks and finish up their writing pieces. I felt that if I got the job, getting to know those who had been in the job longer was a good move over chilling out for coffee.

Then comes the solo-interview where I am asked exactly two questions in the following manner: “Why do you want to work for the [company] and what would you bring to the role?” I answer by going into details on why the company would be good for me, explaining that I had heard Neil Oliver visits the place, which got some smiles and nods, and then went on to explain why I was a good fit for the company including my background as a teacher and someone who has spent their life learning, which the interviewers themselves said was one of the largest challenges to the role: the sheer amount you have to learn.

I was confident with my answers and in the 10 minute scheduled session, they were finished with me after 5. It seemed that after two questions and some questions of my own, they had made up their mind about the post. Maybe this recruitment business isn’t so difficult after all…

The company told me they would get back to me either on the day or the day after, meaning that I could go back down to Eastbourne or not depending on their answer as I was still calling in sick at that point.

Instead they took a day longer than suggested to reply to me, meaning that I would have had to give a sick line to Summer Camp. As that simply wasn’t possible, I opted to resign instead, confident I had the job, while falling back on my uni application and job searching if I didn’t, which as it turns out, was the case.

I asked for feedback and got this reply:

“Thanks for your application.  The candidates were of a very high standard with national and international applicants, making the process competitive.

 Your demonstration was very engaging – we were particularly impressed with your stage presence and the confidence you showed working with your volunteer.  However, your presentation ran over time considerably which was disappointing.

 Whilst your background has relevance to the role of Science Communicator, you were competing against candidates who were able to provide evidence of a stronger foundation in science.

Your interview session was positive and your confidence and enthusiasm came across strongly.  However, we felt that you focussed on what the role could do for you -developing  you and building your CV.  We would have preferred to hear more about what you could bring to [the company].”

Considering how the interview was run, with no clear timing on the presentation and the fact that I was told all candidates were equal beforehand when they actually had a more science-focussed candidate in mind the whole time, not to mention that I answered both questions fully since they were put to me at the same, yet they seemed to take it as me focussing on myself, just makes me furious.

I remain angry at a process that wasn’t entirely clear and gave me false hope when they simply could have told me not to bother. To pick holes in the timing of my presentation when there were people who were late, didn’t show up in proper attire and were also late in their presentations is galling. To have picked someone with more of a science background rather than just weeding me out at the pre-interview stage is really, really shady to me.

In the end I quit some pay for a really shitty job that would have ended in 3 weeks time or so but would have still been money in the bank. I risked losing benefits with the job centre too, though thankfully they understood my quandary. All in, I am now disenchanted with the company, one that I was really excited to work for despite the measly pay and am at the point of considering giving this over to the Daily Record or some shit just to see what they do with it.

All in, I’m not really sure what to do. I have complained but really all I can do is move on. Writing this and getting it out there has helped me do that though.

What’s the worst job hunt experience you’ve had?

The winner of the most B of movies goes to…:

These are snippets from a conversation I was having. I think it’s worth recording and sharing. It’s mostly unedited:

“…but its crept in and suddenly we have it full on. i went away to japan and came back and realised that no one can be corrected anymore … i see it on the roads when people are on their phones, undertaking or generally just putting everyone else at risk. i see it on the street when people get in my way and you cant talk to them or excuse yourself. You can’t thank customer service reps for going the extra mile without them saying “theeeeeeeenks byeeeeeee” like they want rid of you. i see it on the internet where if you post something in all seriousness its wrong if you want to continue to discuss something in a serious tone – everything has to be fun. its every where … so many examples… i dont even ask people to move in the street any more; i put my hand/body in their space until they jump out my way. i tapped a guys face today as i put my hand to his face slowly before he moved – he refused to move so my hand went in his face. people then think youre the strange one for touching them when youve spent 3 attempts trying to walk past them in the street because they were on their phone and couldnt look up every 5-10 secs or so to watch for people walking in their way. people dont understand words any more or tone or overuse their tone. i feel more and more i need to use physical means which should only ever be a last resort. i:ve physically pushed so many people just walking down glasgow mostly chuggers who get in my way and don’t understand “no thanks” but other people you say excuse me twice to don’t g.et it either. i still hold doors open for people. im not sure why.”

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