Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Working and blogging

Centre for Life in Newcastle

It’s another cloudy day here in jolly-old England but the Summer is still trying to make an impression. Yesterday it was chilly to me – 13C/55F – but that didn’t mean the sun didn’t show up before noon to warm things up again. It really was a good day to go to the pool but since I’ve been running around each day, I decided to stay at home after my driving lesson. I’m getting accustomed to roundabouts and am a little more comfortable with the stick shift of the car. I can at least stop and go a little better now but making turns is still tricky.

So, as I mentioned last time, I was totally planning on working on JuNoWriMo. After vacation, then the teaching agency registrations, I really haven’t been at home to catch up as I’d like to. Granted, I’m happy to not be at home as much as I use to be, but still. I’m going to have to work on my own as I was doing before. After tomorrow these teaching agency interviews should be finished so I can get back to being productive at my desk (not that the blog isn’t another version of my productivity.)

Each teaching agency has wanted specifics about where I’ve been for three years, which is such a pain for the last few people that I worked for – I have to use them as references every time. Even jobs directly through schools for library jobs, they will ask to contact my references before I even show up. I had to apologize to everyone on my contact list because I can only imagine how much a nuisance this all is to them with three page forms to fill out and such.

I’m going to have six teaching agencies to potentially call me next school year. I hadn’t worked a day for the first agency I signed up with last year so I thought signing up with a couple new ones would help. But after I started applying for all these job listings, I got a ton of calls. I thought signing up with a bunch was going a bit overboard, but after reading TES forums I found out that I’m probably giving myself a way better chance of finding good, consistent work. If I have 3 out of the 6 calling me each week, then I’ll have a somewhat decent weekly income. Plus, the experience is going to help so much. I think the tricky part is that even though I am qualified to teach in England now, I’m still “new” because I haven’t worked in the schools (except for that 3.5 hours I helped out with the exams.) If a Headmaster isn’t interested in anyone without experience coming in for a day or a week, let alone a year, then there’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to keep my fingers crossed that these agencies I’ve talked to (some of them seem so on top of things are really professional) can get me consistent work.

As you can see, I like to write long blog posts. It’s what I do. I also like to write posts when I’m out and about. With my blog here, I get it all fixed up with Live Writer, use a medium sized photo from Flickr, and then cross post to Wordpress, Tumblr, Posterous, and TypePad (all sites I used when I first started this site and I kept them because, heck, they’re free.) I also set up my link sharing on Twitter (which I honestly just like sharing my posts and do not, by any means, try to over-do the self promotion in any way.) Then I have my nice, organized, well-oiled blogging machine.

But since I like writing in coffee shops and when we’re out exploring a place again, I wanted to be able to share a little update on my phone. Of course the Blogger app is just okay, the Wordpress app is better, but for quick and easy updates that won’t mess up my precious, organizational flow, I chose to make Missus P. Mobile. In my last post, I mentioned another site but I had to move it because I didn’t like having something as a sub-blog. I couldn’t just follow anyone for that blog specifically, which was a big pain (why, Tumblr, why do you do that? Is it a spam filter thing or what?)

So that’s that. I’m off to my afternoon appointment to register with teaching agency #5. Tomorrow morning should be the last one. I’m going to reward myself with a nice swim Thursday afternoon.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Just keep swimming

Last night we were watching a special about David Bowie on BBC1. Today the grocery truck came by, as usual, and now we’re waiting to get out exchange IKEA couch. After all the pain we went through to put it together and wondering why the lovely red cover didn't fit right (we had to cut it to get it on the back cushions), we found out that IKEA gave us the wrong sofa. Not only is it the wrong sofa, but it's a £400 more expensive couch. Good job, IKEA! Of course this means Steve’s downstairs taking apart the old couch so he can put the new one back together again when they arrive “sometime this afternoon.”

I was bummed about my not getting that last, awesome library job. I still am, honestly. But after I felt sorry for myself for a while, slowly I got back into the swing of things. I signed up with another teacher recruiter and have two more appointments next week. While getting a day wage isn't ideal, it will keep me busy. Yes having some money is better than none. Having experience in the school is great (too bad all Headmasters don't seem to understand the transition from English teacher to school librarian -- seems natural and positive to me.)

Aside from my busy schedule of registering for as many agencies as possible, I still have my driving lessons. The lesson I had right after I heard I had the insane interview to do, I had such a hard time getting into my driving after a two week break. I hated it, wanted to cry and tell the instructor that I quit. I told Steve I wanted to quit too but he convinced me to go through my five pre-paid lessons at least. Last Tuesday, after wanting to just hide in the living room and pretend I didn't remember my lesson, I faced the music and got in the car. It was fine.

I think having a lesson once a week and first thing in the morning really helped. Granted I didn't do great but I improved. Even the instructor said at one point, "Now that's how you make a bloody turn!" Making a turn requires early assessment and preparation, especially on hills. I have to use my brain to drive now and not go around on auto pilot like I did for all those years in America with the automatic.

This means, I plan on keeping up with my lessons even though it's going to take me a while. Every British person I talk to tells me it takes three or four times before they pass their driving test -- and they're use to these roads! Even the highway, or the motorway as we call it here, is different. I mean, you're merging in and out from the left. Naturally I want to look over my right shoulder instead of the left so it gets kind of disorienting. Luckily the guy whose lane I swerved into let me go in front of him. It reminded me of the freeway scene in Clueless -- not as bad but I thought about freaking out like that.

I had this brilliant idea that I would try out Weebly for a mobile blog while I’m out and can’t set up a proper entry. After seeing the whole thing up I discovered that the badges didn’t work unless I created one via Twitter or Flickr myself, the mobile theme didn’t automatically detect, and there was no support to update posts via email. All kinds of fail. Since I have Missus P. On the Move anyway, I can update mini-posts here and there through email if I want to. I would do it for my this blog but I’m kind of fussy about things being all uniform and consistent.

Lastly, I found a place to swim! When I was in Florida, I swam about every day. I only do freestyle but I love exercising that way. The bike and the elliptical (cross trainer) gets boring so finally being able to get a lane at a pool makes me ecstatic. Plus, the place I went to has a smaller pool for the kids so the rest of us can be in our Zen-like state as we swim back and forth. Too bad the pool can get busy but it's better than the one near our house -- that place is too small for the amount of people coming in each day.

Oh yeah, and I caught up on my book reviews!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Keep the fire in your torch burning

The Olympic torch is coming!

Ugh! That’s what I have to say about yesterday. First, let me say that June has been very interesting indeed. Steve’s birthday was on the first, so we saw Prometheus (and as you can read from the review, that didn’t meet our expectations at all.) Nonetheless we spent ten days together where we celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at home. Since it was a national holiday all of the bed and breakfasts in Alnwick were filled up, so we stuck around home for the rest of the week. We took a trip to Cullercoats as well. Lovely place.

During that time I signed up with a teaching agency in town, and another in the city. I was surprised to find out that the first teaching agency I had signed up with a year ago was sort of known for never giving any jobs out. Plus, the recruiters from both of new agencies I signed up with were former employees of the teaching agency I signed up with previously. (That tells me something right there.) After our fun vacation of lounging around, I went to work, actual work, at a school in the city during the students’ GCSE exams. I was one of about 15 exam invigilators (the Brits have such a great way of making everything sound better – I was a test proctor, as we call it in Florida.) I just hung out in classrooms and watched over the kids with a school staff member present. I worked a whole 3.5 hours too. My first actual job in the United Kingdom!

After being happy that I had some kind of work and talking to recruiters who seemed they could actually help me (and finding out from other substitute, or supply, teachers that full time work is hard to come by for anyone) I got another opportunity. I had applied as Head Librarian of a school near our house and was excited that I was called in for an interview last week. However, the interview ended up being really tough with a whole day visit to the school, two separate presentations and one written task, plus interviews. I almost chickened out but after I had such nice letters of recommendation written for me and a good, solid idea of what I would say at the presentations, I went in.

There were four of us and, of course, the other three candidates had jobs already with 20 some years experience in libraries. However, I really had a good feeling about how I was doing when the headmaster said he wanted someone who could work well with children. Well, I’ve taught and worked in schools. I have a good grasp of what the modern school library should be like. I really had a good vibe about the school too (seriously, everyone I met there was nice, especially the kids.) I ended up being a finalist and when I left the school I was sure I had the job.

Yesterday when we went up to see the torch, I got the call from the school saying I didn’t get the job. Again. It’s so frustrating and, honestly, very humiliating to not even be able to get in anywhere even for a job making less than $30k a year and requiring experience and a library degree. So after we saw the torch go by, Steve and I chased the Olympic torch bearer down and I slipped on a wet, grassy hill. I fell flat on my bottom and back and slid all the way down (in front of the whole town, mind you.) I found this extremely fitting for the day I’d been having. Still, I got this photo (you can see that stupid hill in the background) so it was worth it. A once in a lifetime piece of history. I’m very happy to have been able to see it.

When I got home, I had my little pity party. I took a long nap, ate ice cream, talked about the stupid job and why I should have gotten it over and over even though Steve hurt his back (stupid hill – at least he ran down the dumb thing though.) Now I’m getting back to the land of the living. Tomorrow I’m signing up with another teaching agency so I’ll have three working for me when school starts. I have work to do at home, especially JuNoWriMo that I am completely behind on by now. I know there will be a nice, big, fancy career job out there for me one day. I just have to keep trying and keep doing what I can do at home and not worry about it.

I will say, however, that I did learn that there are some really great schools around here. Plus, even though I’ve not worked in the British schools and don’t have a ton of library experience, that doesn’t mean I don’t stand a good chance of being what a Headmaster wants for his school librarian. That’s a huge relief to me. I also now know that I can handle intimidating interviews. Phew.

Our trip to Cullercoats

I decided to just post a slideshow of the pictures I took on our visit to Cullercoats. We had a fabulous time, especially since it was pouring down rain in Newcastle and totally sunny on the beach.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review of “Prometheus”

No Engineers were attacked by this alien in the plot of this film.

Now that Prometheus has come out in the US, I can now write my review without any “don’t give me any spoilers” stuff. We saw it on Jun 1st when it opened on Friday. Steve and I both had already seen some lukewarm reviews of it and were really hoping it didn’t suck. We had high hopes and were incredibly excited by the time we reached the theatre. However, we soon realized that what problems reviewers had with the movie were the same problems we had with the film. Steve even laughed at dialogue so before the movie ended I knew he was getting the same feeling about the movie as I was.

When the movie was over and people were leaving the theatre, Steve asked, “So what did you think?” My initial reaction was, “No.” I couldn’t get my reasons put together immediately but the reaction was still, “Just no.”

After seeing what other people have said about the movie as well, Steve’s mentioned that there’s a distinct difference in reviewers who are old enough to remember Alien and those who are younger and more accustomed to movies with a lot of bling and no sustenance. “At least it was pretty to look at,” as Steve said. It was a lovely film, I agree, but it was too lovely. I mean the whole beauty of Alien was…okay, let me do this in an organized manner.

The problems I had with Prometheus:

1. As with the new Star Wars films, space should not be pretty. The 70s and 80s had a great concept of the future being used and grimy. In the 2000s film makers rely on the visual cleanliness of the sets (and the crap CGI that’s a whole separate issue). So Prometheus is a ship that cost a trillion dollars to get together and go to LV-223 to find out why these ancient beings had send us an invitation. That means the crew was hired by Meredith Vickers, Weyland’s daughter (we know because she calls him father!) so there would be a fancy, well-equipped ship. It would be pretty but that doesn’t make it scary. It looks like a hotel with all its bright lights. We need darkness, foreboding and a distinct “locked in a haunted house” feel that Alien had.

2.  As a heroine, Ellen Ripley is a smart, tough cookie who handles a situation that she’s thrown into. With Prometheus we had Shaw as the doctor and Vickers as the…well, what was she? She hired everyone but she said it was “her ship” but they had a captain. Now, I’ve seen Charlize Theron kill men in other movies so casting her as a tough female lead was a good call. But no, she wasn’t the lead. Noomi Rapace was the lead who had the sweetest voice, had this great relationship with her boyfriend, and had the cutest hair cut imaginable. I mean, it was like watching Amelie trying to suss out why these Engineers wanted to destroy mankind. I don’t believe for one minute that her character would be able to watch a machine cut an alien baby out of her uterus and then walk around, bloodied, talking to old man Weyland and back in the big Engineer cave again and be fine.

3. Seriously, I can’t even believe that scene happened. I mean, the excuse of “space drugs” isn’t good enough for me. If you’ve been cut open from hip to hip you wouldn’t be able to walk. Plus, the alien baby would be in her uterus, correct? So that would mean going through internal organs and extracting the thing. Who is just going to watch that happen? And what’s the purpose of having a surgery machine anyway? It was designed only for men, apparently, so why did Vickers need it? (And why would the future be so sexist?) And why did the dialogue have to go as far as to point out, “Hey, there’s a surgery machine!”? Good science fiction shows the character figuring it out on their own or demonstrating knowledge that is feasible. Ripley knowing how to get that escape shuttle off the ship was feasible. We didn’t need anyone to explain to us how she got the thing off there, we just watched her blow up the ship.

4. There are too many people on that ship! Why go as far as to create a cool geologist with tattoos character and kill him straight off? What was the purpose of having three people drive that ship who were more than willing to just blow themselves up together in order to stop the Engineer from coming to Earth? Cheesy dialogue was included in that scene too with, “I think you’re going to need some help.” Aww, how touching. 17 people is too much. It left too many characters without any connection to the audience. They died? Oh well, let’s see what’s going on with someone else then.

5. There is too much going on in this movie. First we’re going to have the creation of mankind explained and then we’re going to scare you with an alien movie. No, no, no. This is not Lost, Damon Lindelof, we do not need a Man of Faith versus a Man of Science plot again. I swear, if this ends up being another John Locke and Jack Shepherd power struggle with dialogue about life, I’m going to write Ridley Scott a letter myself saying: Do not trust the man behind the island! All they had to do with this movie is cut it back to going out to see what’s up on LV-223, have Holloway get infested, then bring it to the crew. Stuff could go on, they could go back, have the whole “this is what the Space Jockey is” scene and then have everyone die but one. Whether they go off to find where the Engineers came from or not is a whole other can of worms. I don’t like that we’re tricked into a series with this film. I want a cool, beating up aliens and surviving story. I don’t want anyone explaining to me the existence of man and the need to exterminate them (because if we’re going on that line then we already know they aren’t going to kill mankind because by Alien 3, they still just want Ripley to they can study the alien so…yeah, money grubbing Weyland-Yutani is still around. And why is everyone going back and forth to the ship and the Engineer’s cave? Stay in one place and make us feel tension!

And why did we need that awkward conversation with Janek and Vickers about if she’s an alien or if she needs the company of a man? What if she were an alien? Who knows? That makes movies fun!

6. Old man Weyland. Okay what in the heck was the purpose of getting Guy Pierce to get a ton of makeup on to play an old man? He looked ridiculous in his mobility suit. What did he expect with the “oh, let’s go talk to the Engineers” thing at the end anyway? Why put that in the movie? If Vickers were there with David and they were under orders to find this junk out and an ominous old man Weyland were somewhere waiting on them, that would have been fine. Don’t give us too much. Hold back a bit so we’re guessing and not laughing.

7. Ridley Scott was quoted as saying, “While Alien was indeed the jumping-off point for this project, out of the creative process evolved a new, grand mythology and universe in which this original story takes place. The keen fan will recognize strands of Alien's DNA, so to speak, but the ideas tackled in this film are unique, large and provocative.” Then later he said, “by the end of the third act you start to realize there’s a DNA of the very first Alien, but none of the subsequent [films].” Strands of Alien DNA, huh? Nothing about the subsequent films, right? No obvious connection to character, set, alien design, theme, dialogue, etc.? So explaining the alien itself has nothing to do with anything? Nor does having a ship that looks remarkably similar, as well as the same look of the crew members, or the fact that they showed the space ship that they found in Aliens crash, what it was for and where it was going. Shaw doesn’t shout at things with “Come on!” like Ripley did? Apone and Janek look nothing alike with the the hat and the jacket? The cold-hearted women of Weyland aren’t a factor? Only some Alien DNA, huh? Oh I get it! DNA? We’re explaining how humans and aliens began! Whatever. I guess he means the Alien vs, Predator movies that I’ve never seen just on title alone.

All in all I give Prometheus 3 out of 5 stars. It was pretty but it wasn’t great. There was no creepy horror aspect to it at all which disappointed me greatly. There was no amazing female heroine, hokey dialogue, stupid CGI, too much plot, too many unmemorable characters, and pretty much not that interesting at all. The minute I saw the weird Engineer creating life or whatever at that waterfall, I was like, “Oh no. The trailer was right. They’re going to try and make this a theory movie, aren’t they?” I doubt I’ll see whatever sequel they have in the theatre now too. Very, very disappointing but that’s not to say I didn’t like some aspects of the movie though.

The reasons worth seeing Prometheus:


Charlize Theron setting a guy on fire.