Category Archives: rants

Work rage.

I swear people really are getting dumber! Year on year I see basic academic expectations (the ability to write a coherent sentence, read a brief and follow instructions) fail to be met, even after a whole year of ‘study’. Doing away with strict entry requirements is just asking for trouble: how much more can the degree classification be devalued all in the name of bums on seats and pass rates..? The students we currently have don’t care – why should they? Paying rent and buying food is more important in their day to day life than studying – and life is tough; so the odd party is better for the soul and mental well being than reading a journal or three for an assignment which, in the grand scheme of things, is only 20% of a 15 credit module, fine, I get that. But customer culture, especially this cut-price ‘get everything for nothing’ society we appear to have nurtured, does not belong in Higher Education, not if obtaining a degree is supposed to mean something.

Turning learning into business devalues learning: valuing the trappings of knowledge over the actual attainment of knowledge is all that occurs. Current intakes seem to want the award paper without the work and will do the bare minimum required to get that bit of paper. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink - unless you're a teacher. Then you'd better force feed that nag and hope it wins tomorrows race or you're fired.Sadly, because the more bits of paper we give out the more students we get in, the bare minimum is all we really ask for in the end due to pressure from above to keep that tracking spreadsheet happy: we cry the party line of ‘extend and enhance the student experience’ and we do our best to awaken interest and engagement but the sad reality is, every year fewer students respond and the bright, engaged, interested students are like rare glimmers of gold in the dross: but we – the overworked, over measured teaching staff are always to blame for low attendance or poor pass rates.

I honestly think that some of the students we’ve had this year are ‘secret shoppers’. You know, the people who sign up for things or visit places and be disagreeable/ hard to please in order to test the service. These students must be testing to see how far they have to push to fail: It’s the only explanation! I’ve had more no-shows and lack of submissions than the last 3 years combined: no work? yes, outright fails – I could rant up a storm about marking disputes over ‘satisfactory’ evidence but where there is nothing to mark at least I don’t have to rip out my hair and pull out the .5s and the .75s just to agree a grade at moderation.

We have the constantly late-submitters who argue the toss about a lateness cap being applied due to the missed deadline: which management generally uphold because, I mean, why should our paying students have to have ‘detrimental’ consequences for their actions? What’s a week here or there  (or even a whole semester for some) if by losing the lateness cap they manage to pass overall?
…but then there’s the ‘last-minuters’ (who management want us to get through by whatever means necessary as ‘the pass rate is the most important thing’) they, upon receiving a prescriptive list of the submission requirements for a basic pass (along with specific submission directions) proceed to send in a part submission via email, then another bit via StudyNet and even odd bits by hand on USB (never just one whole submission via the required directed submission route) and each time I have to point out the bits they’ve failed to address from the aforementioned list, resulting in multiple marking and feedback sessions for one assignment AFTER the official deadline – when it’s supposed to be one deadline, one submission!

These idiots (yes, idiots! I stand by the description – I’d even go so far as to call them fucking morons because really, why pay for a course and teaching expertise if you refuse to engage with it? What a waste of my time and your cash!) these idiots who have been chased and chased and reminded and cajoled and handheld through the entire process,  just shrug and begrudgingly offer up what can, at best, be generously called ‘evidence of work’ but in such piecemeal fashion that I have to keep returning it to them for improvements that need to be done just to meet the most basic pass criteria; and it all has to be checked IN MY OWN TIME because as an hourly paid  zero point contract employee I only get paid for timetabled contact time and agreed meeting hours: email and ‘informal meetings’ are not covered by my wage – yet we have to get these ungrateful, entitled, work-shy feckers to pass, otherwise the almighty spreadsheet may show crappy figures resulting in a discontinuation of the programme and therefore a loss of job for me: but what do these morons REALLY learn through this process other than helplessness and a lack of personal responsibility pays off?

I don’t mind extra help for the ones who attend, really try but struggle to ‘get it’ I’m happy to see them on my day off (well, willing) but these entitled bullshitting motherfuckers who obviously feel that their life is more important than mine: because obviously I have nothing better to do than work around them, I LIVE to respond immediately to their extension requests and stupid excuses. UUUUUUurrrrrgh! If I got paid for the hours these idiots waste I’d own my own home.

This is why no employer wants somebody who has just about scraped a pass in their degree: they know the quality of employee they will get – bottom feeders suck. If it wasn’t for the 1-2 students a year who really engage I think i’d have quit by now because some days teaching really is a thankless stressful unrewarding drudge.


Having a whine…

So, the government are happy to cut this that and the other from those most needing help in society by claiming they need to cut the spending budget; they then fork out a stupidly huge sum for a state funeral that really needn’t happen.

Seriously, why should we, the tax payer, fork out for Maggies funeral? Fair enough if the need is so great for her family to afford something decent then if we have to contribute something maybe chuck in for a coffin and a decent plot by all means; but if you must have something available for every man and his dog to view then stream the service on the web; allow the live thing to actually be for friends and family only – like every other sodding funeral going.

Set up a just giving fund for those who want to literally pay their respects with gifts to go to whatever charity the ‘Iron Lady’ held most dear but spare me and everyone else the bullshit state funeral costs; that’s just forcing insult to injury to her detractors knowing that they are paying through the nose towards honouring the memory of a person they detested.

Yes. I’m in a bad mood.

It’s not just the government pissing me off of late, things closer to home are conspiring to ruin my day as well. The viewings have stepped up on our rented property which means every other day we have strangers stomping around our home and interrupting our routine. The fact that not all of them are investors means that we stand a good chance of being given 2 months warning before becoming homeless. This does not fill me with joy as you can imagine.

The couple today look likely to make an offer from the way they were talking; the lass was practically measuring up and couldn’t stop discussing where their furniture could go – and they stayed longer than any other viewer so far,they went around the flat at least 3 times verbally rearranging our living space to suit their needs.

We find out next week where Elf has been placed for school, I’m praying I get my first choice; but then it’ll be sods law that we do and are then forced to move to another area completely where we’ll have to take whatever we’re given as a late admission *sigh* I REALLY hate this uncertainty regarding our living arrangements; it’s bloody stressful! …Which probably explains why the ME/CFS has started creeping back in to suck the life out of me over the last few weeks.

…And enthusiastic potential buyers means OF COURSE the elephant upstairs was completely silent while they were here – it’s only now when I’m trying to work that he starts the usual round of screaming for attention while attempting to come through the ceiling.

As for work; don’t get me started here. I’ll be whinging to twitter about that all afternoon if you’re really interested in my marking exploits. It’s just a shame that my work dries up between June-September which is just perfect timing if we’re forced to move out. So yes. Not best chuffed right now. *sigh* at least I have my brothers wedding to look forward to in 2 weeks right? No stress or drama expected there…

Are all governments stupid?

I’m seriously beginning to lean a little to the communist side I think because the way things are going in this country have me sitting on a slow burning rage.

The cost of living has risen to ridiculous levels and the average wage just doesn’t cover enough of that; if the government REALLY want to stop the cost of benefits to the treasury then they need to address the cost of living.

Set a basic rental level for each type of property (taking into account owner mortgage payments of course; perhaps mortgage payment +3-5% to allow for repairs etc) limit the cost of house prices by type for all new builds and establish a timetable of regular property checks to ensure the slumlord mentality doesn’t take effect; if having a roof over your head is a basic human right then if people are greedy enough to buy several properties they do not want to live in they should only be able to make enough from them for the basic maintenance costs to be covered – especially while paying off a mortgage.

Yes, I can hear people screaming already about this but look at it this way; you have to be rich to own more than one property yet most folks are struggling even to rent let alone buy; the housing benefit I do get pays for someone else to own a home that they don’t even live in and yet I can’t even consider buying my own home because even though a mortgage payment would be less than my rent I can’t afford to pay it without help.

How is that fair? I can’t get a government handout to pay a mortgage but someone else can through me and my housing benefit. Change THIS system and you immediately make things fairer.

And to ensure everyone in the population has access to an affordable healthy diet perhaps the government should start a national food store chain that allows us to buy locally sourced basics at an affordable regulated price (no alcohol though, class that as a luxury item)

So, the government would now have exact knowledge of how much each person/ family needs in order to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table because those basic rates are set and immovable – the only benefits needed above that are for bill payments + travel costs which could be set depending on where a person lives and the type of energy they use.

If the food store was set up as an internet based model then they could cut costs by emailing vouchers and shopping online; if it was set up properly then each household could just have their own account and even the need for emailed vouchers is removed; the family would automatically be credited with the amount they can spend each week/ month. I realize not every household has the internet but again, here the govt. could help by ensuring it is a necessity in every new build as part of their ‘no child left behind’ mantra; in a society where toddlers are being introduced to ipads in schools the internet at home IS a necessity.

In order to staff this enterprise without further cost to the government could mean allowing anyone to work on these without it affecting their benefits for a set amount of time each week (similar to the shelf stacking initiative fiasco but without the free labour going to a company that makes millions in profit off the backs of it) you would voluntarily sign up for your hours when you go to the job centre to sign on and instead of pay choose from vouchers to gain access to participating gyms equivalent to the hours worked or having the ability to get cinema/ theater tickets or other social/ entertainment incentives; the kind of things that they’d like to spend their money on if they had it. If they fail to attend their shift without a sick note/ evidence of job interview then just like with a normal job you get your pay docked.

The upshot? More ACTUAL jobs for people as management and some full time staff will be required to keep it running efficiently. People will be less likely to fall into the depression trap of having no work or purpose if unemployed for a lengthy amount of time as they would still have some kind of structure to their days. No food price changes means allowing families to budget properly instead of having to wait for sales and offers or bulk buys, just ensure each family gets vouchers that cover the weekly basics of a healthy diet, they can be spent individually or saved up and spent on a bulk buy according to the family needs – anything above the basic staples they can get from the normal supermarkets if they have the funds for it after paying for transport and utilities.

Obviously losing the stress caused by trying to just make ends meet will cut the number of people needing medical help and if those same people eat healthily then there is even less chance of them adding strain to the medical system thereby cutting NHS costs exponentially.

Once people have the basics covered then they are happier and hope is restored, that hope allows them to get on with life; people with hope are less inclined to turn to crime and happy people are less likely to turn to anti-social behaviour which means the strain on our police force would likely be reduced.

I know this is only the barest outline of what would be required to sort out our problems and set this in motion and I know that it would not run as smoothly as I envisage at first, but it’s still the simplest option to my mind of a way out.

Sadly this will never happen because the government only care about the rich because that is the way the world works, the rich come to power and those in power look at the ways they can make life better for themselves and their immediate circle; yes we all want the power to do that but 98.5% of us will never have the chance and the hope of a better life is getting increasingly smaller for everyone else with every year that passes.

Slumlord? You tell me.

It’s a real pain in the arse when we have a problem with the flat, we have to go through the letting agents who then email/ leave a message for the property owner who will get back to them with an instruction that seems to be along the lines of ‘to fix whatever so long as he isn’t paying for it’ and they then rush around playing the blame game for a while and if we’re lucky it gets fixed.

I LONG for the day I have my own house and when something goes wrong the only worry I have is how much it will cost me as opposed to will I get permission for the fix to occur!

The flood we had on Saturday caused by the toddler in the flat upstairs being improperly supervised in the bathroom has caused such an issue – again.

I informed the letting agents on Saturday (apologies to my twitter and facebook friends for the ensuing ranting as I played Widow Twanky and commenced clean up) I was told somebody would be out on Monday to assess the damage.

Stupidly I assumed that this meant they were sending an electrician or a surveyor – someone qualified to tell if there was actual damage to the electrics in my bathroom and kitchen since these were the light fittings through which said flood occurred.

No, instead one of the office staff arrived with her clipboard and tutted about the shame that there are no visible signs of damage and that as long as the lights had dried out we should be fine to use them.

Um.. say what?!

Forgive me for being paranoid but I am the one who witnessed the deluge pouring from my ceiling – I’m not using those switches until someone with some training tells me it’s safe to do so!

She then said they wouldn’t be sending someone out until they had a guarantee that upstairs would be paying for it.

EXCUSE ME? I have a toddler here, I NEED the use of my windowless bathroom asap – not as and when you might be able to sort something out with the owner upstairs who is ON HOLIDAY IN AFRICA!

Thankfully, the owner upstairs has a capable sister who has sorted someone out for this evening to check her damage, she is sending him down to me directly afterwards; had I waited on Kings to sort something ..well, if it’s anything like the window fiasco I’d still be waiting seeing as that job has yet to be finished.

..and even before this flood occurred I’d asked them to come check out the water pump as once again it is dying on me; I asked about that as she was making notes on her clipboard. It seems they need to check our records to see who fixed it last time so they can come out and ‘do it properly’ meaning “we don’t want to pay so we’ll assume it’s their fault and you can put up with a grudging substandard botch job after we bully them into doing it – eventually” BUT despite asking about this a week ago AND reminding the lass I spoke to on Saturday when reporting the flood – they haven’t even bothered to check the records yet let alone sort out a repairman.

So.. has anyone got a reasonably priced house in Hatfield that a responsible family can move into asap? If you drop the rent by a couple hundred on the proviso we sort out our own issues as and when need be I’d probably love you forever into the bargain! #impossibledream

Nothing of interest, just me being me.

I should be writing a follow up about my experience at #mcl3, or completing any one of the numerous draft posts I have lined up in the blog back room..

But I’m not. I’m on my blog writing whatever pours forth – because I can.

I know all the theory on what I’m ‘supposed’ to be writing (and how) but to be honest, I don’t think I care any more.
Copyblogger is one of my favourite reads and I’ve soaked up a great deal of knowledge from his generous offerings but I’m not a marketer and I’m not a product – not yet anyway.

Until my course is over and I’m in the job market I really am just rosevibe here and I once had a fair few blog friends who came around to visit purely because I was me and not some one-dimensional tweeter.
I miss that, a lot.

Over the last 2-3 years I’ve amassed quite a bit of knowledge about the web, social media, writing, conversation, e-learning, project managing, marketing, programming and jewellery making, but because I’m aware of how much I still need to learn to be as good as I want to be I never seem to find the time to put any of it into practice (coursework excepted that is) and it’s been remarked on by a few of my twitter friends (*cough* @PhilWoodMusic, @crashbox *cough*) that I talk about things but never seem to share my work..

A link tweeted by the aforementioned copyblogger for a post by Rajesh Setty explains my lack of sharing better than I could – even if saying so assumes that I think of myself as smart.

(..and we all know by now that I don’t, if I was it wouldn’t be taking me so long to figure out how xml, xslt, wsdl, soap etc work! never mind installing php on my laptop.. still haven’t done that *shame*)

I have so many ideas and half-formed projects in my mind that I need to become immortal just to see half of them through – it frustrates the hell out of me that I don’t have the energy or health to get even one off the ground. All my energies are directed into my course and my family right now – perhaps if I didn’t have ME/CFS to contend with things would be different, but as it stands – I’ll be lucky to come away with the degree I want.

..but if I get less than a 2-1 I’ll be screaming the C-B words, muchly!

I get annoyed so easily these days – mainly by people who needlessly mock others; who take delight in the misfortune of folk in the limelight and seem to have lost any semblance of nobility, civility, honour and conscience.

I’m not a saint by any means; but constant finger pointing and mob rule alongside the ‘reality shows’ and our rotten society as a whole.. it sickens me and makes me want to grab the face of the self satisfied wanker behind it all and ram it full force through the nearest window into a rusty spike.

I know.. a tad graphic – but I can’t convey the depth of Grrrrrrr! and Arrgggggh! that I feel when looking at what the people of this country have turned into in the name of multi-culturalism and political correctness when things like that are condoned and in some circles elevated to the height of fashion, wit and branded entertainment.

Now the beloved is pointing at the clock and ordering me to bed so I guess it’s probably for the best if I leave this here before I get truly riled and kiss off any chance of sleep.

..But, even after the revamp – don’t expect this blog to fully reflect my knowledge and experience, its a personal space and so will more likely reflect my feelings and opinions with the odd sprinkling of ‘professionalism’. I’m not focussed enough on one area to create something professional for myself, I’ll leave the professional stuff at work where it belongs – or create a section of the site for it ;0)

G’night all – if you love me, do me a favour and tell me something wonderful about the world, after the tv viewing and general crapness of our world on the surface, I could do with a glint of glory about this year to carry into the next.

love y’all

Vics Xx

Mancunian incompetance follows me down south

My run ins with the Manchester city council Revenues and Benefits Unit have sadly been many and incompetance is the most I have learned to expect from them over the years.

You do not believe me? I previously told the tale of how they stopped my benefits while querying a large sum in my bank account – the large sum being a backdated payment from themselves. Not backdated because I was trying to claim for more than I was currently receiving mind; backdated because they kept losing my information (and I had receipts proving the information had been handed in) it was not an easy time.

Forward to a little while back when I was living in Swinton; I had to pay the best part of £300 in over payments because I couldn’t prove that almost 10 years previously I’d not been paid income support (I hadn’t kept the ‘sorry you’re not eligible’ letters) this experience has led to much needed storage space in my flat being taken up with paperwork dating back almost a decade in case I got stung again.

I am so glad I have this paperwork because ONCE AGAIN Manchester city council are trying to force me to pay money I do not owe despite having lived outside of Manchester since July 2005.

I have received a letter informing me that in November 2005 I had a liability order for £232.71 in unpaid council tax. they want to send in the bailiffs in 14 days to reclaim it. Of course I rang up to query this.

I was told that because I’d not informed them I had left the property in question (remember this bit) I was obviously being held responsible for the amount up until the new tenant took over (01/04/2005  – 28/02/2006)
He said, so long as I could prove I’d not been in the property when the summons was sent (11/10/2005) they’ll take off the court costs. He also said that Salford council would not inform Manchester council of my move, I would have to do that myself and as I obviously hadn’t this was the result.

I was pretty certain I’d done so when making my final payments – whenever I move, the last day is spent with a long list of phone numbers and my debit card ensuring everything is stopped or transferred, I can’t think why this one move would have been handled differently, but.. benefit of the doubt as it was during the onset of the ME/CFS and my cognitive abilities were a tad impaired back then.

Anyway, having gone through all my documents I can prove that I moved out of that property in July 2005 (tenancy agreement and rent invoices) but on top of that..

Now.. Remember the little bit above about not informing them of my move..?

I have letters from the Revenues and benefits office addressed to my new place telling me that my benefits have stopped for the property in question due to moving outside of Manchester.

These are dated 20/07/2005

If I had not informed them of my move I would like to know how they managed to send these letters to my new address 2 days after I moved into it? Especially if the 2 councils do not communicate with each other – who but myself would have informed them of my move and my new address?

You know what the most disgusting thing is? If I had not kept these letters, I would be expected to fork out the best part of £200 for a debt I don’t owe. Again.

Once again, proof that the only thing you can expect when dealing with Manchester city council is incompetence.

..backdated no less.

You aren’t what you own

My immediate family have always been amazed at my ability to live quite happily on very little income – in fact the most miserable I ever was was when I tried to keep 2 jobs going to garner more disposable income. I know this as recently I’ve been culling old posts from this blog and 5 years ago I was miserable, stressed, run down and incredibly overworked and as a result developed ME/CFS.

Now I have far less income yet I and my family manage to survive quite happily on it – we don’t own a great deal but what we do own adds value to our lives and centres those lives around the home.

I think that’s the problem with most folk today, they want to own things for the sake of owning them; designer labels, the latest toy, flashy car.. Where they live tends to be more storage space than home; there’s no need for all this.

Even cigarettes and alcohol are unnecessary expenses; they add little to your life but ill health in certain cases, I know many would disagree with that but I ask you – what do they truly do for you? Do they make you happy or is it just an expensive addiction, an escape from a life you don’t really like very much?

I say: don’t pay to escape your life; save to change it.

The only thing I want to own is my own home – not for financial reasons; I don’t see it as an investment, I see it as somewhere to put down roots and raise my daughter, somewhere I can change and decorate and do to as I please.

..But most importantly I want my own home because it is somewhere that I won’t be forced to leave at the whim of the owner.

If people put more importance on the things filling the home than the home itself then in my opinion they have very skewed priorities, a home is not a base of operations, it isn’t somewhere you eat and sleep before going away to live your life – that’s a hotel or a bed and breakfast.

A home, to me at least, is the place you wish you were when you’re somewhere else, a place you want to get back to, that you want to invite others to.

More than anything in this world I want a home for me and my family. That’s why I’m pushing myself to do this degree and why I’m trying as hard as I can to make myself employable despite my health issues – I don’t want to live in storage for the rest of my life and I refuse to subject my daughter to that; even if we can’t move on, she will be able to – I’ll make sure of it.

No news is good news sometimes

In this age of instant information we’re all aware of how the media struggles to keep up and ‘beat the competition’ unfortunately this can become an irresponsible obsession.

This post was prompted by an observation, I was eating my breakfast and watching the news the other day when a ‘breaking story’ came on about a bus accident in Egypt.
‘At least 4 British holidaymakers have died of horrific injuries’ ‘everyone on the bus has sustained burns or severe injury of some type or another’. Later on the same program it came out that they didn’t actually know if any of the injured were actually British, they’d been in contact with the consulate office and she was doing the rounds of the local hospitals in search of information.

I am obviously paraphrasing here because my memory is imperfect and the actual words spoken escape me. But the thing is, these things were said before any real information was available – people watching this could have family on a package tour to Egypt, the newsreader actually said ‘we have no concrete information as of yet and there are no phone lines set up’ etc etc

So basically they were spreading rumours.

These ‘respected’ bearers of the worlds news were possibly worrying people in this country about loved ones abroad just so that they could ‘get in there first’ without having any facts to check or anything of real value to impart.

That’s like me saying ‘I heard that 2 Americans were stabbed in London yesterday, someone said one of them died, they’d only been here a few days’ then receiving  an email for more information because they have a cousin visiting London on honeymoon who hasn’t been in touch and google wasn’t helping. Ok, maybe a little far fetched but still, you see my point surely?

If something horrific occurs then the responsible thing to do is to get the basic FACTS before telling the world. At the very least the breakfast team could have waited to see if the accident actually DID include Britains, how many it included and where concerned family members could go for information.

Instant news is not news unless it’s factual, if the facts aren’t there it’s simply rumour and hearsay and really belongs away from mainstream reporting.

Clowns to the left of ME..

I’ve been following the You & Yours spot about ME/CFS on BBC Radio 4 out of idle curiosity, I’m not expecting any great shakes from it but it’s certainly pulling a few cockroaches out of the woodwork..

Perhaps my response to this post on the BBC message board is so strong because as a student having a day off through the effects of ME/CFS it felt directed at me personally, I’ve been off college today because I’ve spent the last couple of days in bed, yesterday was a complete wash out – on the plus side it’s been a long time since I had a day that bad (needed help to go to the toilet and had to eat all my meals in bed, just sitting up to play a 5 minute card game totally wore me out!)

Listening to the You & Yours section today on ME made me so angry. I work as a Disability Support Worker in a North of England university, supporting genuinely disabled students with conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, deafness, leukemia etc. with their studies. Often I have had students claim to be suffering from ME, listing the usual vague symptoms (most of which we all suffer from at some time but just dont go on about it). They then claim they are too ill to continue with studying and either slope off home or demand that Disability Service resources pay for notetakers etc to basically do their work for them. These students are always from supportive family backgrounds where parents pander to this self obsession. Websites and support groups feed the fantasy. In my experience this ‘condition’ does not exist in a medical sense. It is just another expression of the obsession with self so prevelant today. As my 93 year old Gran says: there was no ME in my day, we didn’t have the time.

It’s made me so MAD! but then, this is exactly the response we get from people all the time, sadly from people like this woman who are supposed to be there to help us.

I’m just so glad that Thelma isn’t like this! I’ve definitely dropped lucky with my support worker at college, she’s been as helpful as she could possibly be, she talked me into getting a lift key even though I feel like a prat using the lift when it’s quicker to walk (I have to admit though, not tramping up and down stairs does make a difference, i’m more alert in class!) She’d even like me to go with her to talk to people about the illness if she’s called upon to do a presentation just to make sure the correct point is put across!

Yup, thankfully MY support worker is not cut of the same cloth as Loulouham!
Anyhow, I put in my tuppence worth on the BBC message board, since my response has yet to be moderated I’ll share it with you guys here:

Unfortunately Loulouham it’s people like you who make me so angry.

Just because you cannot visibly SEE the effects of an illness does not mean it isn’t there.

The students you are maligning only manage to make it into class on their good days, the reason they have such supportive parents and carers is because THEY see what that student is like on the bad days when they can’t get out of bed and need carrying to the toilet, when they are crying at the frustration of being able to do something one day and not the next.

ME/CFS is hard enough to deal with at the best of times but when a ‘support’ worker won’t give you the support you need because they disbelieve in your illness – well I think it’s hardly surprising most of them in YOUR university leave.

Fortunately I’m studying at West Herts college on a course franchised from Hatfield university, My support worker has been both helpful and supportive, this has enabled me to study without too much worry – you see stress exacerbates this illness, people like you ADD to that stress. It seems obvious that in your capacity of support worker you have failed those students because of YOUR prejudice.

Imagine having full blown flu ALL the time, then add onto that blinding headaches, crippling pain.
SO tired that you can’t think, in so much pain you can’t function and people telling you it’s all in your head because every test comes back negative.

Go a couple of years down the road from that, you’re now accustomed to the pain so can ignore it most of the time, you husband your energy so that you can do a course of study in order to better your position in life – despite having to rest on the days you’re not in class.
Then you have to deal with the ill concealed dislike of someone who is supposed to be your liaison with staff members, sneering as you ask for help.

I assume you are aware this controversy should have been effectively ended by a report from the Chief Medical Officer for England in 2002, which concluded that ME/CFS is a genuine and disabling condition.
CFS and ME are also classified by the World Health Organisation as neurological disorders.

..but then obviously your experience is so much more balanced and objective than a report by medical professionals who stake their reputations on findings such as these.

Can our social skills be hurt or helped by what we do online?

I saw this posted in the comments of a blog post by Mediajoltz and it got me to thinking.

From personal experience I’d say immersing yourself too far in the web can only hurt your real life social skills – by that I mean; if your primary method of social contact is via a monitor and a keyboard then you will find it very hard to hold a face to face conversation with somebody without making some serious faux pas.

Conversation is a skill like any other, if you don’t practice a skill then you WILL lose it.
You can’t throw up an emoticon to soften a comment in real life and you can’t take time to frame a reply in the same way you can online – folks will be patient with you in cyberspace, they know other things could be distracting you and that gives you time to think through what you say, there’s no pressure and when you have typed your reply you have the chance to change what you’re about to say before it’s sent..

That’s not possible in a face to face situation.

For a long time I’ve thought that my verbal communication problems were a direct result of my illness. I shied away from meeting people face to face or from holding telephone conversations with people I barely knew because I was embarrassed.
I was embarrassed because I’d lost the knack of talking to people, of being able to convey a point and express myself clearly – I felt like a moron – but I blamed the illness because of the ‘brain fog’ that’s brought on by being constantly ‘tired’.

In the first year of succumbing to the damned thing I became a virtual hermit, I spent most of my time in bed and slowly lost contact with all of my friends thereby limiting my face to face contact options.
This meant my conversational skills diminished through lack of practice and I then exacerbated the problem by only ‘speaking’ to people online. Now that I’m slowly clawing back some semblance of verbal competence I struggle.
If I’m having a bad day the brain fog is a problem – but then being overly tired will cause anyone to stumble in conversations and they won’t appear at their best. My illness is directly tied to low energy levels so it’s to be expected that I’ll stumble a little more often than most.

Now that I’m back at college, I’m being forced to communicate every day with people I barely know and I yearn for the ease of a keyboard. I infinitely prefer using the net as my method of communication, it takes the strain away and allows me time to form a coherent response. It also lets me pick and choose who to converse with and when to do it – at MY convenience.

Which is where I come to my main point.
Online I probably come across as an interesting and relatively amusing person – offline I’m ‘weird’ and that’s all down to the way I live online; because for the last 3-4 years it’s the only way I’ve lived.
I struggle in a social setting not because of my illness but because my social skills are lacking. They are lacking because I’ve limited myself – online I can choose who to talk to and what to talk about and can completely disregard anything in which I have no interest or knowledge.

Which means online I am always comfortable and never have to really stretch myself – if I’m unknowledgable about the topic under discussion then google bridges the gap.
That’s not possible in a real life social situation.
I’ve become overly reliant on the net instead of my own memory, I’m constantly wishing I had access so that I can refer to things in a discussion, I’ll remember reading an article but can never remember the salient attributes of it (though that could be down to the CFS; memory problems are a recognised symptom) It’s frustrating that in real life I’ve no google back up and I can’t turn to my thesaurus if I’m struggling for a word.

This reliance also means my conversational topics are limited; hardly any of the people I speak to in ‘real life’ know the websites I frequent, they don’t ‘get’ social networking or blogging, my online musical collaborations may sound ‘cool’ but it’s not interesting if you’re not a musician and showing off pretty handmade jewelery can only take a conversation so far.

Still, at least I am aware of the areas in which I’m lacking. A little more time in the world offline observing the people around me and interacting with as many as possible should bring my social skills back up to scratch..

..Now if only most folks didn’t find my love of karaoke to be weird as well *sigh* it’s my favourite offline activity and none of the college lot are remotely interested in it 😥

Net perceptions

I had an almost argument with my Gran the other day, it’s one we’ve had before because it’s a subject on which we both have strong and opposing views.

You see, I practically live online and that worries my Gran because she honestly believes the internet is evil.

That’s right; ‘EVIL.’

She truly feels that it’s the internet that has brought about the ruin of the community and the gangs of kids walking the streets. She feels that you cannot make a true friend online, that you need to talk “mouth to mouth” as she puts it, that you have to be face to face and in each others lives in order to truly communicate and form a connection to another person.

I’ve tried to explain social networking and the things I do online to her but she won’t have it, she’s seen the relationships of 2 close friends ‘ruined by the internet’ with partners finding fresher fish on the glowing screen – my argument is that those couples were obviously unhappy and that the internet just made it easier to part ways, it wasn’t responsible for the relationships failure.

She is adamant that I’m too biased to see the evil of the net for what it truly is – if she had her way the person responsible for this wonderful technology would be shot for crimes against humanity, I on the other hand am convinced that if she would just give it a try for herself she’d see a whole world of possibilities open up for herself.

Dad chimed in to agree with me on a couple of points, for instance, I’m betting that quite a few of those kids on the street either don’t have net access at home or are not allowed to use it – personally I’d love for our government to put the internet into every household for free, at least then some of those gun toting, knife wielding kids would find something of more interest to them than standing around street corners.

But Gran thinks that would make the situation worse, everybody at home ‘tippytapping on their keyboards, nobody talking..’ She just doesn’t understand what the internet is.

The thing is, I feel that people communicate more online than they do in real life.
My take on it is that these days people are just too wary to let down their guard to somebody face to face – at home alone sat in front of a keyboard it’s very intimate, it’s just you and a computer screen, you can let out your feelings and there is no feeling of condemnation from a monitor, the person at the other end has time to frame their reply in such a way that you’re not bruised by an unintentional snort of laughter or shocked gasp.
This monitor also gives you a feeling of distance that allows you to let down your guard some, it provides enough anonymity that you can let someone in further than you would in real life because at the back of your mind you know that it’s a lot easier to ‘walk away’ from someone you haven’t physically met if it all turns sour than it is to distance yourself from someone who’s in and out of your house and who knows all of your friends and family.

When it doesn’t turn sour you can give out real life contact details, perhaps you’ll meet up, perhaps you won’t but the things you’ve shared through the imagined safety net of partial anonymity help you grow closer and forge a bond until there’s no such thing as anonymity – you know each others secrets, the fears you can’t share with anyone else and everything that’s happening in each others lives.
That’s friendship.

That’s why I love social networking, it dissolves the constraints of time, it widens the net so to speak, it removes the obstacle of distance and allows you to find people with interest and opinions in kind. It allows you to find friendship.

Yes, there are horror stories, but there are always going to be horror stories, it’s a sad fact of life, some people are just downright selfish, cruel and in some cases; evil.
Online or off it makes no difference, we just have to use common sense and trust our intuition, take our time to get to know people and accept that sometimes we make bad choices – it’s how we learn.

That’s what I’d like my Gran to accept; that a conversation online is just as valid as one face to face.

Olfactory overload

I have a rather acute sense of smell that can, on occasion, cause problems.

Usually it’s while on public transport, squashed in among the general unwashed and fighting the urge to heave..

I don’t expect to find my nostrils assaulted in such a fashion at a driving range on a windy day though!
There we were enjoying a few rounds of top golf when 2 blokes came onto the bay beside ours – sadly upwind of us. The REEK of one of ’em was enough to make my eyes water and to add insult to injury he was also smoking. Stef noticed the smoke but it took a while for the B.O. to become as apparent to him as it had been from the instant of their first appearance to my poor abused nostrils.

I’m so glad that from today I’ll at least be spared cigarette smoke even if I cannot escape the pervasive stench of body odour.
Yup, today the (in my case) long awaited smoking ban comes into effect nationwide. No longer will Stef be able to avoid accompanying me to karaoke with the excuse “I’ll come back stinking” Now he’ll just have to be honest and say “I’d rather gouge out my eyes with celery than endure a night of drunkards howling tunelessly through a P.A. system”

But hey! At least I won’t come home smelling of stale ash and nastiness any more.

Now I’ll just wish Claire and Dave luck in their latest attempt to give up that disgusting addiction, going off past attempts it’s not going to be pretty..

Begging vampires.. So uncool.

I’ve realised I’m a nice person.

No.. Really. Stop laughing! I am. I have proof.

My werewolf received an email from a high yield victim (vampire) to ‘plz stop attacking me’ and I was hit with a stomach churning sense of guilt – even though the whole point of the game is for me to hunt and attack members of the other species.

I still feel guilty actually, I’ll not attack today (but I will tomorrow *grin* he’ll have more gold then, can’t have him getting a better weapon can I?)

You see I said I was a nice person, not a REALLY nice person *grin* I may feel a twinge of guiltyness everytime I hit this guy for the gold he’s hoarding, but hey! I got belted every other day by someone when I started out and I didn’t whinge to them! I went on the forum boards and learned how to play crafty, I learned how to protect my gold and the best way to build up my character – appeals for mercy are just a low blow.

It’s taken away a little enjoyment of the game for me – even though it states on his profile sheet that he’s in the 20-25 age range, I just picture some 9 year old kid crying his heart out because he can’t get his shiny new sword..  I so do not have the killer instinct *sigh*

I remember how frustrating it was to have finally saved just enough for a new sword/ better hideout/ sentinel only to have the same person hit me again and again just before I got those last few golds and made the purchase. But the thought of messaging that person and begging for a reprieve never even crossed my mind, it’s all part of the game.

Part of me wants to go ‘ok, sorry i’ll stop’ but the main part of me is pissed that he put me in the position of feeling like that and wants to milk him for every gold he has – after all, I’ve been lenient up to now, I only hit him 4 times in the last 2 weeks – most people go to a cash cow every day! Gah!
I sent him a response with tips and hints on ways to protect his gold but a warning that I’ll still be back until either he has none or I’m sick of not being able to fight because he’s ‘protected’ it was either that or stop attacking him and Stef laughed at me when I suggested doing that (and I gotta say, I agreed with him) this guy gives me between100-250 golds every time I attack him, that means I can up my stats REALLY quickly and avoid being hit so often myself.

Yup, he’s going down. I’m just not as gleeful about it as I was yesterday..

At what time?

There I was having a pretty interesting dream when, as it dissolved around me, I was forced to realise that the sound of ‘More than a feeling’ by Boston was not in fact coming from the car radio of my dream but was actually reverberating around the bedroom through the floorboards.

I raised my still sleep sodden head to gaze at the clock only to see that it was 10 past 4 or 5, it took me three more songs (2 of which were skippy renditions of the Cyndi Lauper version of ‘I drove all night’) to manage to focus my bleary eyes enough to realise that yup, it was only 5.20am and I had in fact been asleep for a maximum of  2 hours.
This is when Stef turned over and asked me if this had been going on all night.

I’ve loaded the washing machine and I’m now sat patiently waiting for the music to stop so I can set it going, an hour of that shaking and rattling just may be enough to piss on his bonfire, sadly i doubt it because rather than being situated above his probably soon to be sleeping head, it’s over at the other side of the flat, the kitchen.

I think my next purchase is going to be taht rock polisher I’ve had my eye on and it’s going right by the front door so as I leave it on all night it can intrude upon HIS sleep for a change.

Petty? Yes, but this has been going on for months and the one time we didn’t just roll over and bitch quietly to ourselves and actually tried to get him to SHUT THE FUCK UP, round came the thugs to kick in my door and police were involved. 

Meh, it’s gone quiet now – I was all set to get the washer going but Stefs said to leave it, he wants to sleep and I can’t blame him. I just wish I could, I’m wound up and I’ve got that queasy feeling you get when your rest is interrupted, I know from experience that it’ll take a good few hours for me to be able to drop off again. So.. Guess I’ll go work my vampires for a bit and try to chill myself into calm.

All I’ll say is, this is some kind of torture, he’s making me dislike music that I’ve loved for years – I now can’t hear Dolly Parton without grinding my teeth in outrage (I know Jay, for you that’s a normal reaction) but If i start to have the same kneejerk reaction to soft rock I may well have to kill him, that’s half my karaoke repertoire and we all know how I love my karaoke!

Speaking of which, this is why we didn’t get to bed til about 2.30 this morning. We went for a drink with Dave to a nice little pub in Swinton, from there we ended up at the staff of life  – which hosts a cracking karaoke on a Saturday night. I got up and did a tune and was then berated by the KJ for not coming in earlier as it was too late for me to do another, i was a little disappointed but the atmosphere was so good in there it hardly mattered.
From there we headed back to Daves for a brew and watched an Allan Davies live stand up video – feckin’ hilarious, haven’t belly laughed like that in ages, then we wandered home and fell into bed, only to be woken now.

I think a nice calming game of Mah jongg and I’ll attempt sleepybo’s again – after all, I’m gonna be really pissed if I’m too tired for my driving lesson this evening.

Fire and Damnation

I didn’t get to have my driving lesson after all, pain interrupted my plans.

Seriously, I’m starting to feel a little paranoid, though to be fair that could just be residual pms. But since I’ve been trying to sort out getting a licence for a number of years now and each time I’ve been thwarted by finances or health issues, I am really considering the thought that just maybe it’s not meant to be..
So, I turned to the net to ease my woes, and it worked, I calmed down, life seemed brighter – the way it always does online until microsoft kicks in and the pc crashes or refuses to boot up the program I need and taunts me with the pretty blue screen of death.
Seriously.. Who the hell chose BLUE as the default colour for that screen? Surely red is a far more appropriate choice?! Or green? Green is supposed to be calming isn’t it? I’m sure that’s the real reason computers used to have green screens (at least my dads did, I think it was an amstrad.. But I digress..)

My problem over the last couple of days hasn’t just been microsoft, it’s been everything. Because of course when you are in pain and hormonal and things refuse to work it’s because the world is out to get you. Right?
Am I right? Of course I’m right!

There I was snapping at the love of my life everytime he even breathed in my general direction then feeling shitty for taking it out on him then getting pissed off at him because I felt guilty then getting even more annoyed at myself for being pissed at him.. You get the picture.
So I decided to vent my spleen on the blog – you know, empty threats directed at anything fortunate enough to avoid the monthly heamorraging (mainly men but computers, animals and tv’s were coming in for a blasting too)

I’d just finished writing a stomach churning description of my need to kill, torture and maim everything within the immediate vicinity (it was quite graphic, I was so proud) and I felt that all I needed was a suitable image to really sum it up. I googled for ‘screaming woman’ ‘female wrath’ ‘hormonal rage’ ‘woman+pms+knife’ and numerous other delightful phrases before finding the perfect thing via a few related links, you know, the kind of search you just cannot duplicate because you took so many random turns on the comment trail. I was all calmed down again and almost happy because I had sublimated my irrational temper into a rather filthy piece of writing.
That’s when firefox decided to close down on me – before I’d saved my draft, before I’d saved the image, before I was completely free of the demons that were driving me. THEN, oh yes.. THEN the pc did the hanging thing again and I had to shut it off manually.
I was not happy.

I mean REALLY not happy. The silence was deafening.
You know it’s bad when there’s silence. Screaming is good, it’s venting – let ’em scream. Worry if they become detached.

I ‘silently’ stomped over to the tv and desperately searched for something soothing to watch (in vain) then paid for an Ugly Betty marathon – the love of my life wisely refrained from complaining about this and kept his head down after making me a drink and silently passing over the chocolate truffles Nicky had bought for my birthday.

Several hours of mind numbing fluff later, I could communicate in more than grunts and evil looks so he figured it was safe to come in for a cuddle, I didn’t mind this as my guy definitely gives the best lower back rub in the world, (he’s also an obvious masochist – why the hell else would he put up with this every month?) In a much better mood I give the pc a try again, guess what? I couldn’t even twitter because the damned site is playing up, my vampire was attacked and I lost 49 golds and when I attacked a lesser player I still got creamed.. Oh, and when I tried to blog again.. Nope, shut down. Yesterday was not a good day, virtually or in reality.

Today, I stayed in bed till 11am, then I read a book, then I decided to watch ‘the history boys’ only I couldn’t watch a dvd because the media centre decided it wasn’t playing. Vista was having a paddy.. Wait? Vista? yup, fecking microsoft bumming me out again.

So I’ve asked Stef to stick Ubuntu on it. I think the poor lad’ll do it in self defense, if I’m watching stuff I’m not bitching at him about anything, the added bonus is that if I’m watching a chick flick, he stands a good chance of me coming out the other end in a loving and affectionate mood (same response to a mills & boon, I’m pathetically predictable) this is not likely to happen if I can’t access the dvd and I’m sick to the back teeth of microsoft products pissing me around.. Wish the poor lad your best eh?! I think he needs the love..