Thursday, December 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Calling: Endgame by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

The Calling: Endgame is a 2014 Children’s book written by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton and published by Harper Collins Children Books. It was released on 7 October 2014 and its ISBN is 9780062332585.


Twelve thousand years ago, they came. They descended from the sky amid smoke and fire, and created humanity and gave us rules to live by. They needed gold and they built our earliest civilizations to mine it for them. When they had what they needed, they left. But before they left, they told us someday they would come back, and when they did, a game would be played. A game that would determine our future.

This is Endgame.

For ten thousand years the lines have existed in secret. The 12 original lines of humanity. Each had to have a Player prepared at all times. They have trained generation after generation after generation. In weapons, languages, history, tactics, disguise assassination. Together the players are everything: strong, kind, ruthless, loyal, smart, stupid, ugly, lustful, mean, fickle, beautiful, calculating, lazy, exuberant, weak. They are good and evil. Like you. Like all.

This is Endgame.

When the game starts, the players will have to find three keys. The keys are somewhere on earth. The only rule of their Endgame is that there are no rules. Whoever finds the keys first wins the game. Endgame: The Calling is about the hunt for the first key. And just as it tells the story of the hunt for a hidden key, written into the book is a puzzle. It invites readers to play their own Endgame and to try to solve the puzzle. Whoever does will open a case filled with gold. Alongside the puzzle will be a revolutionary mobile game built by Google’s Niantic Labs that will allow you to play a real-world version of Endgame where you can join one of the lines and do battle with people around you.

Will exuberance beat strength? Stupidity top kindness? Laziness thwart beauty? Will the winner be good or evil? There is only one way to find out.

People of Earth.
Endgame has begun.


I bought it after I got an advanced sample from NetGalley which I have recently tried to get into more. Who knew a Kindle would come in handy. The description of the book had me intrigued and by the time I got through the sample I knew I had to have the full version to see what happened, well what happened at first as it is a series and not a standalone book.


I am not sure whether this is YA or Children’s though some of the content and the violence involved seems to push it over into YA. Still what matters is the content of the book and in this case it is almost entirely great compelling stuff.

This feels a bit like a disaster movie as it does take quite a few tropes from that genre, the multiple locations and multiple main characters, the book starts off with 12 and then brings in a few more so we get to see a variety of outlooks and takes on all things Endgame which for me just makes things even more fun.

I am not going to talk about the Players I don’t want to spoil it for you. If you are interested in getting a better idea I think you can still access the Sampler on NetGalley so check it out if you want a taste. I love the exotic locations and the bits of historical notes thrown in there, it motivates me to at least do the occasional Wikipedia or Google search to see which part of the legends and history mentioned are real and which are just added in there to fit in with the mythology of the series.

The characters are in a lot of ways superhuman in the way that is just about believable if you factor in the trained from birth thing and the fact that the writer does take pains to ensure that the characters tend to be specialists and not just capable of any and everything and the fact that preparation is a big part of why they are so formidable. There is also that aspect of them being underestimated by the world at large due to their age.

The lore is rich and interesting and doesn’t bog down the plot which can often happen in the first of a series. I can’t mention this book without the crazy puzzle based competition that is being used to promote it where through clues and puzzles contained within the books people can be lead on a global search whose prize is lots of gold (I kid you not).

I would recommend The Calling for fans of adventure and ensemble casts. The characters are larger than life but not ridiculous and the story is interesting and left me hungry for the next instalment of the series. Feel free to share your thoughts about The Calling below.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

CWP: The Second Week

So thank you for joining me on my journey to nowhere let’s get to it on Mondays I go to Seetec for a three and a half hour session of pointlessness. But looking for work is not pointless they scream of course not BUT trying to use the outdated and ridiculously restrictive computers. They are stuck on Internet Explorer 10 which doesn’t like a lot of recruitment websites as a rule. Add to that the fact that you can’t right click which you think is a small thing but is huge when you start thinking about things like wanting to right click and open a few sites you found on a job board. Plus as it will be clear later you have to be very careful about having your personal documents of any kind on a Seetec system (more on this later). To sum it up though if I compared my time spent on applying for a job at Seetec to applying to one at one I would say that it easily takes 2.5 times longer to do most applications at Seetec and that is when the rest of the people there are behaving and not kicking off.

I made it a point after the joke of my first week of CWP to talk to Seetec about my concerns, unfortunately when I went to reception I was informed the manager was the only one who knew anything about the CWP, it seems that redundancy is a foreign concept to Seetec. Anyway I was fobbed off on an advisor who admitted the above and also told me a little about the history of CWP in the area. There was a man with the job of going around the area I’m thinking county wide or further and sought out work placements for CWP but he left months ago and there hasn’t been a proper staff replacement. The Seetec Manager is managing the placements available for my town it seems and there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of them.

I told the advisor of my issues that the place where I work is a Learning Centre with Maths, IT and English courses and a large part of my role there was helping students which I felt very uncomfortable with. I am not a teacher nor do I have any relevant experience in that side of things, I’m a trainer but that is a very different thing and I do not have experience teaching people with learning difficulties or other issues, during that first week I felt less thrown in the deep end then shoved off a cliff to be perfectly honest.

The advisor’s answer was to call them up and talk to them about it for a bit then without warning putting me on the spot handing the phone over to me where I was asked by one of the staff there if it my concerns meant that I did not want any involvement with the students. I haven’t seen a better stitch up since I used to watch ER. In theory I could say yes I want no involvement in dealing with the learners but that sounds a lot like a reason for a sanction for not partaking in a MAN and a lot of you out there know how hard it is to fight something like that and more importantly how expensive. So I felt I had no choice but to equivocate and just request less time dealing with students and more admin duties.

To you an idea of the centre it is open plan with three workstations for the members of staff; twenty workstations for learners arranged in clusters of four; a small closet they choose to call a meeting room and a downstairs classroom for group sessions. There is no way that their promises of less dealing with students were going to be kept to but I wasn’t really left with a viable alternative.

I have to say that the teaching of the learners isn’t the only problem. The place is a hot mess, the core staff of three have some of the worst communication skills I have ever seen but at the top of it the manager is just unbelievable. The first thing that springs to mind is her habit of speaking to you while not looking at you which to me is just disrespectful, then she has a habit of asking you to do something through someone else like “Can John go and grab the wallets from the shelf” instead of just turning to John and asking. The other thing is her complete inability to listen, the amount of times I have been given a task, done it, moved on to another task only for her to raise her voice and ask why her task hasn’t been done is infuriating I have no idea how she managed to get that position. More to the point I have no idea why people like this are working and I’m kicking and screaming just to get an interview.

The other point during my talk with the advisor was that Seetec shared my CV without my consent and furthermore when they should not have had access to it in the first place. The advisor tried to badger me saying “Yes we have the right” even after I explained the data waiver. It was only after he said “there was a thing you signed at the beginning” and my answer of “No I did not sign that” that it seemed to finally sink in for him.

That issue with the whole ignoring of my data protection had to be passed on for the manager to deal with so with my issues with the placement outstanding it was agreed that I would come into Seetec first thing in Tuesday morning to discuss it with the manager. I did not hold out much hope for anything real to come out of it.

Next morning I came in and went into the manager’s office at Seetec, “You have some issues with your placement?”

“Yes and other things, the advisor recorded them on the system” she then had to leave to talk to the advisor so that she could find out where the notes were as I refused to go over everything from the day before when there was a record, apparently they don’t believe in emailing each other or doing a morning meeting.

So she came back and we discussed the issues and basically her line was “I don’t want you to end up in a charity store” well neither do I, I also want the Jobcentre to honour their letter saying that they would give me an appointment to properly hear my appeal against being sent on the CWP in the first place which I sent 4 weeks ago. Anyway the long and the short of it is I went back to the placement after Seetec in case you were wondering and nothing had changed they didn’t even know I was coming in that day despite me having said so on the phone while at Seetec not an hour before because they don’t talk to each other.

And before I sign off from this rather large post I should talk about the response to my complaint about Seetec sharing my CV, the manager says that she only passed it on to Seetec Colchester as if that was some amazing loophole in the system, I then made it clear that I had a copy of my incorrect CV directly from the placement itself and it didn’t get there without first being sent by Seetec. I then went on to tell them how they SHOULD have dealt with it which is contact me when they found a prospective placement and get me to send out my CV. I got an apology out of the manager but don’t blame me for being wholly unimpressed considering the fact that they are breaking a law and the fact that they have done it before to me. Those are facts added to my awful experiences with them in the past which you can get some idea of from searching on the blog for Seetec.

So as it stands I am stuck at this place with no real training being offered, no skills to improve my CV and very little chance of not being made to serve my 6 month sentence for being guilty of being unemployed. The last chance is with the Jobcentre who sent me on the course but by the sound of the letter that they sent me apologising for the lack of a response it sounds more like they will eventually invite me in once they have invented a “proper” reason to have sent me on CWP instead of the BS non-response given by my jobcentre advisor.

Sorry for making you wade through all of that.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

GAMING POST: Do You Drive Stick?

Some of you fine, smart and incredibly attractive readers might remember that I spend a bit of time playing Ultra Street Fighter IV on my PS3 as training to try and participate in Tournaments.

Well I found a local tournament which is nice and this lunch time I headed to the venue and invested £250 on a little research and to see how using a Fight stick feels. The Fight Stick that I used was the Mad Catz Fight Stick Tournament Edition.

Foolishly jumping in to Blanka’s Electricity Ultra would have been less jarring.

In my defence the last time I used any Fight Stick style controllers in anger with any modicum of skill was before the birth of Hit Girl. Think about that for a second, let it sink in… no stop thinking about Chloe Grace Moretz I was just making a point, this is serious business people.

Anyway switching from pad to Fight Stick is hard make no mistake shoryuken forums says it should take 2/3 months to switchover from a pad and I think that is probably right. I was  initially jumping all over the place even more than my top 1500 PS3 Juri usually does, it took me a solid five minutes before I could manage two of her fireballs in a row and then I got cocky proceeding to mess up for absolutely ages. Juri is pretty easy on the execution  but I would still put my success rate at around 10% over the course of the session.

Not something I’d want to repeat on Ranked without a few solid sessions of training. One thing I will say is that when I switched to Decapre and Chun Li things got substantially easier. Air DCM was a little trickier to pull off but quickly got easier. Charge characters SEEM easier with a Fight Stick but that’s on a 40 minute session, after a week maybe ask me again I may have changed my opinion. That’s enough from me feel free to drop a comment about changing controller types and whether or not you stuck with it and look for a report from the tournament if I manage to make it sometime during the weekend probably Sunday. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

First Day At Community Work Placement

So this is the second day of my start at my placement, I will be not be naming it here to lessen the chance of blowback. On my first day I got in early not necessarily by choice that is just the train timetable crumbles. I was the third person to get in before me were two other members of staff both of whom had no idea I was coming and were definitely not prepared for me.

Then the manager came in and things… pretty much stayed the same. I spent hours just waiting for a tour of the office. At no point did they sit me down and talk to me about what they expected me to do, they were incredibly vague.

The manager barely acknowledged me the whole time when she wanted me to do something did she come to me and explain? No she went to another member of staff in my hearing telling them what I should do it was incredibly rude and made me feel like I was worthless.

I was told that everyone would muck in on the less desirable tasks and then got a taste of those tasks when I was taking some documents downstairs to a classroom got handed the manager’s glass of water to take down with me. Maybe I made too much of it but it just felt wrong.

Oh and here is where we get into the rules and regulation stuff. To fully understand the import of this we need to go back to before the placement last week Monday when I was at Seetec and the Manager sprang the fact that I had a placement on me without warning. Now some of you out there have a tingle of where this is going but let me lay it out for the rest.

If you ever get sent to a Work Programme or Community Work Placement Provider or like me if you do the double because you did something unspeakable in a past life THE MOST IMPORTANT THING to remember is DO NOT SIGN the data waiver. The data waiver is this form in the case of Seetec that is at the back of the booklet you get to keep that tells you all about the wonderful things Seetec will do for you, if you read the small print you will realise that if signed will authorise Seetec to do whatever they want with your CV and personal information leaving little real comeback for you.

As far as I know you can revoke the data waiver later I think it is in the regulations but you’ll learn that the DWP and Work Programme Providers (WPPs) only ever use the rules and regulations that benefit them and do the best to hide the ones that protect you.

So I did not sign the data waiver both times I went to Seetec so that means that they cannot share my information with third parties, that is a bit legalese so you probably want an example of what a third party is, a placement for the Community Work Programme is a third party so when the Seetec Manager handed me my letter/Job Seekers’ Direction and said “the manager was very excited to have you at the placement after seeing your CV” I knew that yet again Seetec had done something very, very wrong AGAIN.

Seetec should never have shared my CV with the placement I got sent to, they broke laws in doing so, Seetec never should have kept a copy of my CV I made it clear to them on a number of occasions in WRITING that I did not consent to them holding a copy of my CV. What they should have done is got in contact with me and asked me to send my CV to the placement, of course I could have refused but wouldn’t as I find that 5 attempts at wrongful sanctions in two years is probably as much as I can take without just giving up. However it seems Seetec much like the DWP who referred me to the CWP without informing me of my write to appeal just don’t do rules.

There is more to be said next time perhaps I will write more about the actual experience of CWP and whether this placement is helping me to learn new skills or is based around my preferred job type. Got questions about something you didn’t understand then just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you if I can answer or at least try to point you in a direction that can help.

Friday, November 7, 2014


I had hoped I would never have to come back to this place after a host of bad experiences but here I was again. The first thing I was treated to was an appointment time that Seetec didn’t know about, it was actually set up for a time during their lunch period. A taste of things to come? I hope not.

As a result of the jobcentre and Seetec not being able to work out an appointment between them I was treated to an induction by the manager who I have an outstanding complaint against, so that was fun. Still she treated me with respect and didn’t do anything wrong and explained how Community Work Placement works which I’m not going into as you probably already know having come to this.

There isn’t much in the way of placements for administration and I’ve been told that if they can’t find me a placement then I will get placed in another industry.

I had an interesting talk with one of the advisors at Seetec who always treated me well who was surprised that I got sent on CWP as he knows I am ready to work and also knows how much work I’ve put on things like getting interviews. He admitted to me that it was likely because I had educated myself on what I SHOULD expect from the Jobcentre. Also because I challenged him on the punitive Claimant Commitments they are largely a tool to sanction people right off the unemployment figures.

I still have a challenge to the referral to Community Work Placement in with the Jobcentre Plus Manager so we will see what happens. For now I will follow the rules and not keep up a further fuss and trust in the system. Trust BUT Verify.

For all others out there struggling in the same way, if you are someone who was recently made unemployed or if you have a good employment record you should consider challenging the CWP referral especially if like me you have already had a volunteer position set up.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

#MorganvilleLive - Rewatch Marathon For Morganville: The Series

Love Morganville?

Been too busy to check out Morganville The Series over at Geek & Sundry?

How would you like a chance to watch the show alongside author Rachel Caine?

How would you like to hear from Claire (Lindsay Seidel) and Shane (Jordan Taylor Farris) and send them your questions as you rewatch all six episodes?

On Monday November 3 at 11am Pacific Standard Time 7pm Greenwich Mean Time the rewatch will begin with the two actors and you get to follow along and participate in the discussion using the hashtag #MorganvilleLive. 

Not to sound like a cheesy late night informercial BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE one lucky fan who takes part will win a live Skype session with Amber Benson who plays Amelie in Morganville: The Series but is well known for her role as Tara on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The giveaway goes live November 3 11am PST, 7pm GMT.

You can learn about all things Morganville the show and the books through the links below. I hope I will see you there for #MorganvilleLive.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

MORGANVILLE THE SERIES Behind The Scenes Exclusives

Have you been following Morganville The Series? Have you been enjoying #Halloweek on Geek and Sundry? Need more Morganville check out these Exclusive images.

Morganville had its World Exclusive Premiere at London Comic Con at MCM, I was lucky enough to be there and it was a blast to hear from author Rachel Caine and the Cast of the show. Robert Picardo was on particular form if there is YouTube footage out there it is worth watching.

A quick guide to Morganville Vampires by yours truly

Maybe you’re a fan of the Morganville Vampires series of books and you haven’t yet taken the leap to see if the series captures the heart and soul of that amazing series. Perhaps you like all things Vampires but haven’t yet read the books either way I can’t recommend the series enough so much that I am just going to put the first two episodes here.

Morganville: The Series – The show stars fan favorites Robert Picardo as Oliver (Star Trek: Voyager) and Amber Benson (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) as Amelie, as well as Lindsay Seidel (Claire), Jordan Taylor Farris (Shane), Haileigh Todd (Eve), Ben Easter (Michael), Nikki Donley (Hannah), Afomia Hailemeskel (Monica), Jessi Mechler (Gina), Taylor Murphy (Jennifer), Gregory Connors (Brandon) and Chase Ryan Jeffery (Myrnin). It is directed by Blake Calhoun, known for his award-winning and groundbreaking digital series Pink and Continuum, the show was filmed on location in Texas on a Blackmagic camera.

So you can experience in a similar way to how I did except without that female Saiyan warrior sat in the row in front of you.

After you make it through those make sure to take a longer look at the Geek & Sundry Channel on YouTube there is so much more awesome contained within I particularly recommend Caper.
Anyway I have promised you exclusive content so behold.

First we have Jessi Mechler (Gina) waiting for her shoot in Chemistry class

Second Susanna Gibbs and Jordan Farris (Shane) on set

So that's it from me just to remind you that Morganville The Series is the direct result of its fans and an incredible campaign run by Rachel Caine on Kickstarter which was then matched by Geek & Sundry. No big Hollywood studios just real fans with a passion for a series they have been enjoying for 8 years wanting to see it come to life onscreen. If you'd like to help make sure to Tweet out the new episodes when you watch them and keep an eye on the Morganville The Series and Rachel and tell them and Geek and Sundry what you think of the show so far.
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