Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Those “Lazy” Unemployed People

Newcastle University
If I see or hear one more jab about these “lazy,” unemployed people, I’m going to scream!
The other day I was talking on Twitter to someone about how we’re now the “moocher class” because all of us, every single 12,794,000 of unemployed people are perfectly content to just live off of government funds. But isn’t there a recession? Of course there is, but no one seems to take that into consideration. If someone is lucky enough to have a job (and I do mean lucky because people are still getting laid off left and right) immediately assume that anyone who isn’t working is a lazy, worthless, selfish, good-for-nothing who just wants to sit around all day sucking up their hard-earned money.
I’m sure these people, if someone told them face-to-face about how hard it is to find work would just shake their heads and say, “isn’t that a shame?” But they would still go on Facebook or Twitter and moan about these lazy people on benefits. Come on, now! People with educations, experience, references, etc. are applying for jobs with 50 up to 100 (as I hear happens in California) applicants. People who are skilled labour aren’t doing much better either. In England, I was just reading an article about how young mothers are using food banks more frequently because they’re expected to live on less than £10 after paying bills. (They want to take their housing benefits away from them too.)
Sure, there are a few people who would rather not work. I’ve worked in the public and seen this in my grocery store check out. It was few and far between. Most people had an income. Most of them handed me stacks of one-dollar bills that they made as a landscaper, waitress, construction worker, or the like. I’m sure these people with jobs don’t even realize that when you’re on unemployment benefits, you have to specify where you’ve been looking for work every two weeks. That’s the same in the U.K. as well.
With welfare and food stamps, you have to apply for that too and a former employer has to sign a form saying, “Yes, this was the applicants wage,” so they know if you’re entitled to it. If you have too much money, they won’t give you the benefits. I was turned down and I worked part-time, making very, very little cash on my own. Without help from my family, I would have never been able to have anything – a one bedroom apartment, food, electricity, etc.
As far as the U.K. goes, I’m ineligible for benefits because Steve’s working at a decent job. His company laid off every single one of their employees a few years ago and he was lucky enough to be able to start a company with some of his workmates. Still, he’s hearing about people in the industry getting laid off and development studios being shut down all the time. We’re budgeted as best we can for the two of us. I would love to have benefits just to give us a little extra boost each month but I’m not eligible.
But I’m lazy and just want to suck up benefits from those hard working people, right? No.
I’ve looked, and have always been looking for work, since this whole economic collapse nonsense happened. I was on temporary contract with the school system and the minute I left for the year before I could even attempt to try working again, things went downhill. I furthered my education and ended up with part-time work. For a while Florida schools weren’t even accepting new substitute teachers even if you had once been employed with them as such. In the U.K….well, you know how well that’s been going. I’ve been here since the beginning of last year and I can’t find squat. In fact, I’m one of the lucky ones who have a career that claims the 4th highest unemployment rate.
I just get so tired of hearing these generalized opinions and accusations over “lazy” people out of work. The photo I saw today that thousands of people were sharing was poking fun of the homeless people who standing on the street corner asking for money or “will work for food” signs. (With the tag line, “Honk if you’re tired of lazy people.”) Granted some who do that may be frauds, or just looking for beer money (if you had to live like that, wouldn’t you want to drink?) but all in all, it’s offensive. I wouldn’t wish these kinds of situations on anyone but I don’t think people are able to even see outside their own situation very easily. Not everyone is sitting around on a couch watching Jerry Springer, smoking pot, and waiting for their next benefit check to be deposited.
These same people that are complaining about these “lazy” people out of work are the same ones who post about how they just bought a new house, new car, were able to quit one job and start another, etc. etc. Great. I’m glad for you but there are a whole lot of other people out there who don’t have those options. “But they can just go out and work at McDonald’s"!” Really? Have you tried? I have. If you don’t have the past experience in retail, you won’t be considered at all. I applied for a customer service job the other day because working at the grocery store eons ago and the library two years ago is customer service. I was sent a message the same day with, “You don’t meet our requirements.” I’ve applied for the most menial jobs to jobs that are in the pay scale of what I made working full-time. Nothing. (The most amazing thing I’ve seen is from the ones who aren’t working but are still on the bandwagon with everyone else, shouting about how people on benefits are lazy. Um…Hello? Are you independently wealthy and forgot to mention that in your profile?) I love, love, love seeing people call out the ones who say something about the blankety-blank people who don’t work. They always respond with, “Oh I didn’t mean you, darling! You are legitimately trying to find work.” Yeah! So are 8.8% of the country so what are you even talking about?
My bottom line is that people should just be aware of the situations around them before  making some inevitably offensive statement.
And while I was writing this, the mailman brought me two job rejection letters. Yup. That.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bank of America and Downton Abbey

Diamond Jubilee landscaping

It's a quiet Thursday here. Steve's in London for a work day trip. I have the rest of this stupid cold to fight off but I did finally get Season One of Downton Abbey from LoveFilm (Steve marked it as "high priority" for me). That means I can have a day of TV, blogging and reading. I watched the first disc and so far I love the show. I love the time period, I love the characters, and I love Maggie Smith – she’s great in this! Her best line so far was, “Why does every day involve a fight with an American?” in the swivel chair scene [video].

Oh, and I have to do my practice Theory Test DVD too but that doesn't mean I will.

I was thinking last night about how my book blog doesn't get used much until I finally take the time to do a book review. I may start a Friday Reads section to just talk about what book I'm on. Whenever I do a book review, I'm at a loss because I hadn't read it for a while. This way, maybe it can be like a little note taking exercise.

We have a three day weekend coming up and no driving lessons until September. Yesterday since I was sick I was just not doing well. It frustrates me to no end that I can't just get what I should be doing. I still say it's because these roads are so different that I'm continually second guessing myself or assume some new, potential hazard will pop up by the time I get to 40mph.

It's okay though. Even after I get my license, I won't be buying a car until I have a job so there's no big rush.

Other things going on is the stupid Bank of America who are still charging me to use Barclays ATMs even though their site specifically says (as it has for years) that with the Global ATM Alliance, I will not be charged for using a Barclays ATM in England. “Use your debit card or ATM card within the Global ATM Alliance in the countries shown with no ATM operator fees or Non-Bank of America International ATM Fee.” That sounds like I shouldn’t be charged $5, doesn’t it? But, for some reason, all of a sudden, in August, I'm getting charged. And, of course, whenever I call Customer Service they try to explain it to me as if I'm wrong. I'm not. If it says no charge, there should be no charge. Whatever's gone wrong, I have no idea but I'm staying on top of it. I've already called twice about three charges.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Tuesday Seven

Gateshead Town Centre

1. I’m starting this list on Monday since I’m probably going to be home for most of the week anyway. I still have a cold (not allergies.) It’s getting better now that I armed myself with more Lemsip, blackcurrant menthol drops, Octrivine, and saline sinus wash. Saturday I was blowing my nose constantly, yesterday I woke up coughing, and today I’m in the almost okay but not quite stage. My head’s too foggy to enjoy myself if I did go outside and, besides, I doubt people want me ill at the gym and the cafe. (Though I’m pretty sure I got this blasted cold from the blasted public.)

2. I’ve set up my Theory Test for the first week in September so after I pass the computerized part of the test, I can be put on the waiting list to do the Practical Test (the actual driving part.) My instructor said the waiting list is about 6-8 weeks so that will give me the last run-down of super test preparations. Ugh. I can’t even imagine. Well, no, I guess I can, I just don’t drive confidently. Of course, in the U.S. I’ve driven for almost 20 years. The roads are wide, flat, and without a ton of parked cars on either side. Here, I’m second guessing myself constantly.

3. On Saturday we saw The Dark Knight Rises. I knew there was some chat on Twitter where most people said it was great but some said, “Well, the voice of Bane isn’t great.” And, they were right. All in all, the film was really good and I really liked Anne Hathaway as Catwoman even though I didn’t want to at first. (I get tired of seeing the same people in every movie.) I agree with the critics saying that they didn’t over-sexualize Catwoman and it was more about her character. (Plus, those goggles are amazing.) Bane’s voice was just laughable. When I first heard him talk, I was reminded of Morla, the turtle in The Neverending Story. But because I don’t pay any attention, I didn’t even realize that Bane was Tom Hardy until the end. (I knew I should recognize him but couldn’t place him.) Now, in Wuthering Heights, Tom Hardy played a freaky Heathcliff with a great accent, so it isn’t a surprise that he would have done a good job. However, apparently, the filmakers didn’t think you could understand Bane well enough, so they redubbed his voice for the final cut of the film.

4. I’ve finished the first four books of Pretty Little Liars so I’ll have to do a review for them soon. Right now, I’m re-reading one of my favourite Christopher Pike books Remember Me. I distinctly remember that old cover and how amazed I was at the novel when I read it in high school.

5. It’s a good thing I stayed home sick on Monday morning. There was a job that I was interested in, but the application wasn’t available online. I had totally forgotten that I’d emailed the HR department for the application and when I checked my email at 9:30, they had sent me the application along with a reminder that applications closed by 10AM that same day. I hurried and did the best I could with the cutting and pasting and rejigging the tables that get all messed up in Microsoft Word once you start filling in forms. I sent it off at 9:59AM, even accidentally missing a “yes or no” questions about willingness to get a CRB check done (though since I’m already a registered teacher, I’m sure they can figure out that I already have one.)

6. Today I felt well enough to go to the gym, then decided to hang around town for a while. Since I’m so stuffy, I hit Nando’s the minute they opened and asked for the hot sauce on my chicken. It was way too may calories for the day (since I also had hot dogs at home for dinner) but man, was it worth it. Sadly, I couldn’t stay to watch the cheap Tuesday movies at the theatre upstairs from Nando’s because my stupid HTC Sensation phone battery died.

7. That stupid phone. I can’t find any kind of battery saver option on it and I try to keep the task manager empty of apps running in the background but it just does not help. With that and the screen going dark when I take a photo (again, no option I can find or anything on Google regarding the issue) it’s a pretty crappy phone. Plus it randomly won’t let me send texts from time to time. I hate to say it, but I don’t think I had *that* many problems with the iPhone (or I had different issues with it.) I think I’m going to get a Samsung Galaxy 3S (or whatever new one they have by then) next year.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Me and my Twitter

Laing Art Gallery

Mashable put out an article today called Twitter: A Day in the Life. In it, it shows an infographic depicting how we, in general, are using Twitter every day.

The article starts off with, “Woke up, fell out of bed…checked my Twitter right away. Sound familiar?” For me, it does, but I rarely even bother updating anything. Actually, the article reveals that only 7% of Twitter use is an actual status update. They analysed 750,000 links posted on Twitter and 8% was regarding a product. That is why I don’t use Twitter all that often anymore directly.

Twitter has never been one of my favourite things in the world, and I’ve mentioned this plenty of times. While I understand it’s important to have a connection to the outside world via the most popular social network, I don’t particularly rush to use it except on certain occasions. Personally, I do like a lot of people do, and share interesting articles. Of course, I add links to my blog posts whenever I update it. I also click “share to Twitter” when I update my Goodreads, check in on Foursquare, or when I take a photo with Instagram.

In fact, photos make up for 36% of Twitter’s usage. That makes sense to me. I use Facebook for the same reason, and more often (Actually, I found the Mashable article via Facebook) because I know the people who are on there. With Twitter, I try to be less personal. I never update pictures of my family, and once in a while I update pictures of myself. Now, links through my blog which connects to my Flickr, fine, yes. I use that as extra storage and sharing capabilities for friends who don’t have Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes I add Youtube videos on my Tumblr but only once in a while do I notify Twitter of them.

But as far as communicating with Twitter, I chat with people off and on. Maybe once every couple of days I’ll have a brief exchange. Once in a while I have a nice conversation with someone. The rest of the time I see links to books by an author’s Twitter account, retweets of books by an author’s Twitter account, Follow Fridays, Writer Wednesday and retweets of those #FF and #WW. Granted once in a while is fine, of course, but constantly, that’s what I see.

So why do I follow these people. Well, it’s simple. Twitter ratios. Twitter has rules about your following-to-follower ratios. Now, I thought that it was for new accounts, which makes total sense when we’re still getting stupid, adult themed, diet spam message crap. But now that my Twitter account is years old, I have to deal with this rule:

Once you’ve followed 2000 users, there are limits to the number of additional users you can follow: this limit is different for every user and is based on your ratio of followers to following.

What is this magic number they want? And why do we have to have it when they know darn well I’m not a spammer and haven’t been since I opened the account? Why should I have to follow users who have no interest in discussion, only useless thank yous and retweets and book sale links? Should I just block every single account that does this? What about the people who occasionally do it and sometimes have an actual update or two? Should I risk letting them get blocked from Twitter just because I, personally, don’t want to read their updates?

I’m currently now in “Twitter jail” because of it where I can’t follow back a legitimate account because I’ve not followed the useless accounts. I really should just clean the whole account up but when I use a tool it only who I do/don’t follow back. It doesn’t give me any idea if they’re real, decent accounts or not. And what if that person is in Twitter jail too and can’t follow me back right away? I still want to follow that person because they’re real. Heck, I want to follow any celeb I want even though they don’t follow me back and, dang it, I should have every right to do that.

The bottom line is, I like Twitter but in small doses. Now, if there’s a TV show on, yes, I Tweet like mad (and most people ignore me anyway so I really shouldn’t even bother.) During the Olympics I was a Twittering fool. But all in all, nope, I’m not constantly on but I am happy when I get a nice conversation from the people I follow because I want to, not because Twitter wants me to.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Tuesday Seven

The Sage Gateshead

1. The Olympics are over and it’s back to regular daytime television. Today while Steve worked from home, I watched some more of my Pretty Little Liars and The Secret Circle episodes that are still on my V+ box.

2. The Closing Ceremony wasn’t great, no. Even British people were unhappy with the outcome. No David Bowie, no Elton John, no Duran Duran, or Tears for Fears, or Depeche Mode, or a ton of other people they could have included in the line-up (and who wouldn’t have lip-synched either.) I was happy to see The Pet Shop Boys and their fabulous entrance though.

3. Steve was home yesterday to make sure his back was all mended. He’s been throwing his back out often so we’re going to have to get him to a doctor to get some advice (or just head straight to a chiropractor.) He couldn’t lie in the bed Friday night so at 2:30AM on Saturday, we camped on the couch (the cat included.)

4. Being in the house all day made the place stuffy so I got the brilliant idea to open all the windows and let the fresh, August air in. The next day I ended up with the beginnings of an allergy attack which I’m still fighting off today. (I refuse to believe this is a cold even though I’ve gone through the motions like had a dose of Lemsip and drank my Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup.)

5.  Today I was able to get out of the house, window shop, drink coffee and read. I’m almost finished with Unbelievable: Pretty Little Liars #4. I really liked these books even though they aren’t high brow or anything. They keep the reader engaged and wanting more so that’s enough for me. Plus, it got me out of my slump where I didn’t want to read anymore YA for a while. Also, I am fully okay with the books being in third person. Generally I only choose first person POVs but this one, after I got into the first book, was fine. I like the suspense and mystery elements. It’s like a modern day Nancy Drew of sorts. (Wow, I just got flashbacks of my old Sweet Valley High books.)

6. Driving is back on tomorrow. I’ve finally bought myself a DVD-R that I can practice my theory and hazard test. I was thinking today how I’m so not in a rush to take this silly test. I mean, the Leave to Remain will be after Christmas and my Life in the UK test is so much more important than this. I don’t even know when I’ll be ready to take any of the driving tests either. I’m still not 100% confident on the roads or the stick shift.

7. After thinking that it was going to be too scary, I watched The Walking Dead Season 2 with Steve. By the second or third episode I was totally into it. At first I didn’t like the characters (because I hadn’t seen Season 1 and how they all got together) but I eventually found myself shouting at the characters and really looking forward to watching each episode. Of course, I had zombie nightmares here and there, but it wasn’t too bad. I loved the final episodes where it looked very much like a horror movie with the full moon, out in the middle of nowhere by a big farm house. Just good, good stuff. I also didn’t realize that Rick was played by a British actor who was Linton in my favourite version of Wuthering Heights. That’s a fine slightly Georgian accent he has for that show. Kudos to you, Sheriff Rick! (Now keep your kid in the house so he doesn’t screw something else up.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

These people have jobs and I don’t?

Olympic banners at Monument

Not to name names, of course, but some of these teaching recruitment agencies really drive me nuts. One of the agencies, whom I really got an impression of professionalism and with-it-ness, ends up having the worst security department. I’ve signed up with a bunch of agencies now, and only the first one I registered with in the U.K. asked me to get my Criminal Records Background check. Fair enough. Since then, I’ve been allowed to use that same one from 2011 to register with these other agencies in 2012. The “professional” agency, however, required that I pay another £44 to them to have a CRB check done. Now, I know that it use to be that all teaching agencies required a CRB for each business but that’s not the case anymore. What the “professional” agency was concerned with was that you are supposed to have a new CRB done if you haven’t been in a school for three months. Since I hadn’t worked at all in 2011, I needed a new one.

I checked this information online, found something about it, so, okay, fine. Paid the £44, heard from the agency often about how they wanted to send my resume to various schools to find teaching work. One time they wanted me to go to an interview on the morning of my driving lesson which I couldn’t get out of because they were pre-paid and I needed 48 hours notice to reschedule. Of course, “professional” agency said the school wasn’t willing to budge on the time slot, and it wasn’t that great of a school anyway.

Last Friday, I got a letter from the teaching agency’s security main office in another town. They had sent it to the wrong address, and Steve just happened to find it in the junk mail magazine racks that our overseers put in. The letter said “opened in error” across the front because, sure enough, the teaching agency security deputy hadn’t bothered to check that she sent it to the correct address. Inside the envelope was supposed to be an ID card. What I got was a photo that I gave them, a little blank, white business card to fill in, and a plastic sticky wrap.

I called the agency, telling them that my “ID Card” is M.I.A. and it was sent to the wrong address anyway. “Oh, the correct address is on file. You need to send us the photo back so we can do the ID badge.” I send it back (and waste one of my perfectly good London 2012 stamps in the process, by the way…something I’ll get to later.) Today I got another letter from “professional” teaching agency’s security deputy saying, “Sorry about sending to the wrong address. Here’s your ID card.”

I have the photo I gave them, returned (twice now), a sticky piece of plastic, and a blank business card that I have to fill out and sign. Seriously? Apparently this “professional” agency as a “do it yourself” policy.

Plus, what if a neighbour or someone else had gotten that letter? Couldn’t they just put any ol’ photo in there, sign it and no one would be the wiser? Doesn’t sound very secure to me, security deputy.

It drives me up a wall that these places can’t even be bothered to put an ID card together properly (they wouldn’t accept a digital photo, by the way, like every other agency does.) It’s terrible how they treat people who are in need of jobs as if they’re disposable because they have jobs – why should they care? They work on commission, get people on file, get paid. Meanwhile I’m trying to get into schools to get experience so I can get any kind of job but doors keep getting slammed in my face.

It seems like everything here is three times harder to get done. Not that we don’t have our share of people in the U.S.A. who plain won’t do their job or are just all-around incompetent, but I even had a Post Office worker here condescendingly “explain” to me that I can’t use the London 2012 stamps on oversees postcards because, “there’s no monetary value on them.” Sure, that’s why every stamp that was ever given to me for postcards (and large oversees packages too) never had a money value on them. I was even given London 2012 stamps specifically for my America-bound postcards at another Post Office.

But I digress. Things are good, really, I just had to vent a bit about my customer service run-ins. As we all do from time to time.

Friday, August 3, 2012

It’s August!

Cloudy day at the park.

It’s getting closer to Fall now even though Summer has been in minor moments here and there. I only had a couple of interesting occurrences happen in the past few days but they were both good.

Firstly, after having a pity party for myself about how all I do is stay at home all day and no one will employ me, I headed out with Steve in the morning and found a little hedgehog in the back yard. He looked as if he’d been hurt because he was wheezing a bit and head blood on his head. I called the RSPCA who wanted me to take him to the vet myself which I couldn’t because I have no car or any means to get there and taking an injured hedgehog on the bus would probably be tricky. I was probably a little rude with the guy on the phone too because I was just not having a good day to begin with and when I call to have someone help me with injured wildlife, I get a bit anxious. They asked if I could put the little hedgehog in a box, which I could, but I couldn’t bring him inside due to the cat. So while I waited on RSPCA to come by, I scootched my little friend into a dishpan and put him on the front lawn by the steps so I could check on him and he’d be visible when RSPCA stopped by. But the hedgehog wanted no part of that dishpan and he escaped twice. By the time RSPCA came by to get him, he was inching through the yard so I think he had some fight in him. The lady picked him up with her big welding gloves, checked him over and put him in a little cardboard container. Off he went to get fixed up. I wonder if they’ll call me to let me know how he’s doing.

Secondly, I am back to the driving. It’s better but it’s not perfect. I keep asking what the test will be like and my instructor said it was just casual driving to see if I do the manoeuvres properly. That means not throwing the car into 1st gear after leaving a green light (did it), turning into a side row at 20mph (did it), or confusing a large bus at a roundabout (do that a lot.) No, I’m not sure how soon I’ll be able to take my test for my license. I’m pretty scared to even attempt it. But I’ll have to one day here – these lessons are pricey! But, they’re worth it.

Tomorrow is Olympic game day. Exciting stuff. We’ll be seeing Brazil vs Honduras in the men’s football semi-finals. Should be a good game. We’ll wave to the camera if we get put on on the BBC Olympics 5 in HD! Wee!