Monday, December 23, 2013

New Feature: VOTE FOR YOUR MAXIM FIVE

So just the other day I noticed that the Maxim Top 100 Voting Page is open which gave me an idea. If you check my Page section you will see a new Tab called strangely enough Maxim Top 100 where I have assembled Five Actresses who in my opinion deserve to be in the final breakdown. On the tab you will see a picture of each person as well as a brief write up of why you should vote for them. If you have the time to do a few write-ins I will appreciate it as perhaps the actresses might to.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Weekend Roundup

So what have I been up to this week read on for the likely not particularly interesting details.

I delivered my letter to Seetec over a week ago which means that the two week deadline for the manager to get back to me will be up next week. If she fails to write back after telling me to put my complaint in writing then I plan to submit a formal complaint to Seetec head office but I'm hoping that won't be necessary. Monday is also the date of my monthly review so stay tuned for all the fun that is likely to take place during that meeting.

In terms of jobs the week that was proved decent in terms of job searches so I applied for 6 jobs from a variety of places, on that note I am becoming more than a little worried about the likelihood of Universal Jobmatch becoming mandatory, the site is garbage and full of fake jobs and agencies trawling for your data and it is set up to allow for easy push button sanctions once the government signs away our data protection rights giving the DWP access to our job searches.

Not everything that I did this week was quite so dour for instance there was Blogging.

Young Fitness Model Reni Ichelva

Leven Rambin, Sometimes Blonde, Always Hot Demi-Goddess

Vanessa Lengies, Canadian Cutie

If you feel so inclined click on a link, leave a comment, your time and consideration is appreciated.

That is all from me for now unless something unexpected happens you will probably hear from me again on Monday or Tuesday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 13, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Daylighters By Rachel Caine

Daylighters is the 15th and final novel in the long running YA urban fantasy series Morganville Vampires written by Rachel Caine. The series is the subject of a new webseries that was funded through a Kickstarter campaign like the Veronica Mars movie. 
Daylighters was released on the 5th of November by Allison & Busby and the ISBN is 0749012714.


PLOT

Something drastic has happened in Morganville while Claire and her friends were away. The town looks cleaner and happier than they've ever seen it before, but when their incoming group is arrested and separated - vampires from humans - they realise that the changes definitely aren't for the better.

It seems that an organisation called the Daylight Foundation has offered the population of Morganville something they've never had: hope of a vampire-free future. And while it sounds like salvation - even for the vampires themselves - the truth is far more sinister and deadly. Now, Claire, Shane and Eve need to find a way to break their friends out of Daylighter custody, before the vampires of Morganville meet their untimely end ...Includes a brand new and exclusive Morganville short story.

WHY I BOUGHT THIS

Morganville Vampires is one of the best YA series I have ever read, it is one of the few series around that maintains it level instead of having one excellent instalment then several mediocre ones. The quality of the writing continues through the series which is impressive given the length of the series.

WHAT I THOUGHT

It has all been all leading up to this, it is amazing to think about the character growth of the main cast of Morganville which when I consider is around a dozen or so characters is very impressive. Rachel Caine is an amazing writer with the ability to breathe real life into characters and make them something other than what you expect.

That probably wasn’t very clear, to explain think of the last few YA books you’ve read then think of how many times you’re introduced to The Bully, The Heart throb, The Queen Bitch and The Nerd but do they ever rise above that, sometimes one or two might but generally they just stay one dimensional.

Claire Danvers is the most realistic protagonist I have ever read in a YA book, hands down. I am not saying all other protagonists are bad it is just that some of them become too much of an ideal or superhuman. Claire starts out unsure of herself and meek but full of potential, potential that she achieves because of her friends you can’t get a better message then that.

Shane has always been a bit of a strange case with me I don’t necessarily like him but I certainly respect him rising above a terrible past to become someone who can support and respect Claire. That is another thing that comes through within Morganville gender parity which comes through less than you might expect in a lot of YA I read though some of that is intentional to show female leads challenging patriarchal systems but I digress. Shane and Claire work they seem to be two sides of the same coin.

The way vampires are represented is also interesting to say the least and goes through somewhat of an arc. They begin as the de facto face of evil and pretty much represent everything that is wrong in the world of Morganville. You slip on a pavement blame a vampire, the weather is crappy blame a vampire. As we move through the books we see things aren’t that simple and that the humans of Morganville and beyond can be just as ruthless and destructive as the vampires.

Daylighters was a very nice way to see out the end of Morganville Vampires putting the YA series above the top for a portrayal of one girl’s journey into womanhood complete with crossbows, extinguisher grenades and a lot of blood.



Monday, December 9, 2013

What I've Been Up To + This Week

So what have I been up to. If you were around last week you will have heard the latest from Seetec that because I have failed to get a job from my previous interviews they will no longer pay for any travel expenses that I accrue. Not that they have paid for all that many of them in the past but that is yet another story. So we left things with the Seetec Manager telling me that if I disagreed with that decision then I should write a letter to her.

That letter went to Seetec the next day and I hand delivered it as last time I made a complaint about them they managed to lose the first one I sent. In the letter I specified a written response within 14 days of the letter if it doesn’t come within that time or they fob me off with just an oral response then I’m going to escalate things and send an actual complaint letter to their head office and maybe copy if to DWP.

I do have some good news well at least partly good in my view. After about 5 months of back and forth I finally had my unfair sanction over ruled or at least the money from the sanction given over with a letter following up in a few days saying that “the doubt no longer applies”.

Really after an appeal, a letter to my MP, a reconsideration, formal procedure appeal and another letter to my MP to get them to admit the obvious that Seetec were disregarding the rules and regulations they signed up to and that DWP were doing nothing to keep them in line shame it took them nearly half a year and cost me a lot of money in fines and missed bills.

I will be filing a complaint about that too but I don’t hold a lot of hope out for it, I probably wouldn’t have bothered if they had actually written a proper letter to me with an explanation or you know an apology but they this is the government we are talking about and as an unemployed person they barely register me as human.
The plan for this week is signing on Monday, job search on Tuesday but other than that there is not a lot going on but at the end of this week there should be some job deadlines coming up so hopefully something develops from that.


If I get a response from Seetec I might transcribe it for you guys minus personal details of course just sharing evidence like others have with me. We are all in this together after all. That is all I can think of to share for now so I will leave it there and hope your Holiday season is going a bit more smoothly than mine.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Seetec: No Support For You Or You or You


So today I came in to Seetec for another pointless Job Search session after a good job interview yesterday so you can probably guess what I am here to talk about. I handed in my bus ticket to get the travel expenses paid and headed off to a money talk. After I came out of that and went to do my job search I printed out the interview confirmation e-mail and got back to applying. Later on just before my hour was up (was that on purpose) my advisor came over to see me, this was a continuation of the last monthly review where I laid out in detail all the barriers to employer that Seetec was placing in front of me after she accused me of being defensive while being there.

The first thing she asked was why I didn’t take the train to the interview, the barracks where the interview was being held was nowhere near the either of the train stations in the town and I just went with a bus because it was cheaper and more straightforward after all if I have learned nothing from Seetec it is that travel expenses reimbursement is not a forgone conclusion so best to look after your own limited budget first.

Anyway after that she then went on to say that the manager at this Seetec branch had laid down the law and decided that I would no longer be eligible for travel expenses to any further job interviews that I may get for myself (Seetec has failed to offer me any job interviews in my time there). My advisor then went on to explain that this was because in my past job interviews had not resulted in a job.

Let me give you a second to consider that.

A little more.

Ok yes you read that correctly because I was unsuccessful in my previous interviews I can now no longer get any help with going to interviews from the people paid by the government to get me into work. Yeah. So many emotions, so many words so few of them have any place on a blog like this though so we move on, my advisor also said that if I had an issue with it I needed to put it in writing to the manager in question. I should also say that my advisor seemed generally upset with these developments which is a credit to her as I do believe that she has always tried to help but has been let down by a lack of proper training from Seetec.

So as you can imagine this had shaking my head and wanting to roll my eyes at yet another reason for not giving me back my travel expenses, I think this is the fourth reason given since I made a formal complaint to head office nearly a year ago. The letter asking for written details as to why Seetec are refusing to pay further travel expenses is already written and sitting on my table to be hand delivered tomorrow, Seetec have form for losing complaints in the mail so I figure it is better that way and thankfully I live within walking distance of the office.

So I guess if you are interested in this back and forth check in with me in fourteen days which is the deadline I specified in the letter.

Thanks for reading, comments will be read and replied to if requested. Stay warm people.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

#NaNoWriMo Check Out An Excerpt

So here as promised check out a small excerpt from the novel I am currently working on for National Novel Writing Month positive comments and positive criticism are of course welcome but I will leave redrafting until after November ends in an effort to up my rather pathetic current Total Word Count.

Obviously this story is copyrighted by me.

Gold Coast, Australia

The cute accents were the delicious frosting on her Australian cake. She had been relaxing at the beachfront property leased by her employers and just taking some time off. After that job in Hong Kong there has been what another two or three she couldn’t quite be sure as she sipped on her ice cold pineapple and lemonade juice.

There was that car chase in Tokyo, then the thing with the horses in Kentucky, the unrelentingly cold nights of Siberia yeah she thought that was all of them and having remembered her jobs she remembered why she had these times off to collect herself, to pamper herself and just to be something other than the ideally camouflaged operative that she was.

They had said it was a strength of hers the ability to switch off avoiding or at least putting off the chance of burnout that all too often happens to good soldiers turning them into something that was a lot less about honour and discipline and more about cruelty. She was no girl scout but she didn’t take pleasure in inflicting pain or death it simply was preferable to her own demise and necessary for the completion of the jobs she took.

They said it was at least partly down to being trained at such a tender age but Mission couldn’t be sure her thoughts on the subject were that people were just different some more suited to jobs and roles than others, she had met enough of them after all criss-crossing the globe half a dozen times on her jobs.

It was true she admitted though that she could switch gears easily enough she had done other jobs and they were fun but of course they didn’t pay nearly as well as covert gigs and she had grown expensive tastes over the years plus she really liked working with her team they had grown into a bit of a family despite all efforts to do that lone wolf thing. It was true she liked her alone time but who doesn’t like to curl up with a good book crank a few chapters and then disassemble and clean HK .45 in their down time.

She was a little bored though just relaxing in her top floor apartment so she resolved to go to the beach, swimming in a chlorinated pool with the ocean less than 10 miles away was sacrilege if she ever heard it so she selected her beach attire grabbed an oversized t and board shorts locked up and went downstairs and into the bright Australian afternoon.

She slipped into the yellow FTO GPX she had the use of while here and drove out of the car park and out onto the main road in the direction of Halcyon Cove the local beach and while it may appear to the untrained eye that the young woman who strolled out of her holiday apartment without a care in the world the reality was that she was always aware of her immediate environment and didn’t take any unnecessary risks. When you do what she did for a living it was amazing how people could just ghost write out of nowhere pull out a gun and start shooting at you without even a “by your leave” so once again it paid to be careful.

Even the FTO was as close to bug proof as possible with all sorts of counter-surveillance measure that Mission couldn’t begin to understand but she was assured by those that did it worked very well indeed. There was a centre console that the uninitiated would just assume was a DVD player or one of those over the top diagnostic readouts from Fast & Furious but in reality its sensors were pointed outwards to pick up on any transmissions nearby.

Within minutes Mission was pulling into the car park next to the beach. After setting the anti-surveillance passive sweeping and syncing it to her wrist chrono she grabbed her tote bag with beach towel, her current book Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead and some snacks. Then it was off onto the red hot sands to find a slightly less busy place to set up and continue her relaxing time off, at least that was the plan.

It only took 5 minutes of walking to find a suitable spot which was mostly spent weaving through the towels and parasols of sun kissed people. As she shook out the beach towel which incidentally had an adorable picture of a chibi style Goten and Trunks she pulled off your top and then slipped off her board shorts. This was the part that she always felt a little funny about, strange to be so weird about showing flesh when she was a trained killer but she was.

To the wandering eyes out there sunning themselves they would see a 20 something very athletic woman standing at 5ft 8 inches tall with short spiky blonde hair and green eyes and a neutral complexion. The closest comparison people are likely to make were with a sprinter as evidenced by her finely muscled legs and arms, and Mission wouldn’t deny it she had to maintain herself far and above just being a healthy young woman. Hanging from a ledge by your fingertips for an hour just for a job is not something that happens as a result of just eating your greens.


Even if she didn’t necessarily like showing off her body Mission wasn’t one to balk at fashion so she was proud of her yellow bathing suit with open side panels that hinted at her six pack abs while leaving most of it to the imagination. She liked it because it looked like one of those ridiculous battle suits that the anime heroine would have to fight in so many shows with the fight likely resulting in it being reduced to shreds.


SEETEC: But Wait There's More

So more fun with Seetec. Something that I noticed after I wrote down my previous thoughts about being challenged about my disability. My advisor was talking about me being defensive when I came into the Seetec offices, I explained to her that this was as a result of them putting barrier after barrier to me getting back into work. Chief of these barriers was the whole ongoing fight over support with travel expenses for interviews.

Anyway we were talking about it and then my advisor said that the reason for not paying future expenses was because of the feedback they received after getting in contact with a job I interviewed for. Which job I asked and they told me, it wasn’t a job that they even paid the interview expenses for yet here they were trying to say that because of one “supposedly” bad interview they wouldn’t be paying for any further ones.

The feedback that the adviser gave me (which she said came from the head of the interview panel from my interview) made a number of accusations including me being rude to the interview panel, and a non-existent incident regarding an interruption to the interview and a lot else. I was so flabbergasted that I e-mailed the head of the interview team and she replied back with an entirely different set of feedback which said I was quiet and perhaps not outgoing enough for the role, quiet and one of the rudest people she had ever met seem a little far apart I think you’ll agree.

That is not the point though the fact is all my adviser could say when I confirmed for her that interview was one I paid for was “Oh, right” clearly either my advisor or the manager came up with that lie to try and get me to stop going on about the whole expenses thing I have no way to tell who though.

So we have here an example of Seetec actively lying to their customers about pretty much the most important thing for unemployed people looking for work – interview feedback. I feel like I should be surprised but I’m just not. I almost wonder if my advisor being nice and the manager trying to constantly screw me over, is just some kind of messed up good cop bad cop routine that is how paranoid I am when I cross the threshold into Seetec every month.


So that is that wish me luck for my interview on Friday hopefully it might be a way out of all of this and into a good job.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Seetec - Maybe Train Your Staff?

So I have not written about my experiences with Seetec recently, my Work Programme Provider mostly because they tend not to be noteworthy. I just come in and mostly get told to put my personality forward more in interviews and smile so you guys don’t need to hear about that. Something happened this visit though that troubled me and I think I need to share it in case it is happening to others out there.


As part of my Work Programme thing I have to do fortnightly job searches at Seetec on their slow heavily restricted computers that only run IE 8. Not the main issue but worth mentioning as I have told them time and again that IE 8 doesn’t work with a fair few of the job sites I visit but I digress. At the last job search session I was given a paper application form for a job I’d already applied for because Seetec apparently have a link with the employer, fair enough not a problem but things get weird from there.

The application was straightforward and also had an equal opportunities section in it which asked the usual questions, racial background and whether or not you have a disability stuff like that. I filled it in and gave it to my advisor and didn’t think much more of it. Today during the meeting I was asked about that application and I replied that I had heard nothing after some talk it emerged that she had never sent the application.
Obviously I was confused as to why she did not send it out, but then she let me know.

“I didn’t know you had a disability.” She said. To which I responded ok but what did that have to do with not sending out the application? My advisor said that she needed to know that all the details on the application were correct.

So was she accusing me of lying on an application? Who knows I wasn’t going to put that to her after already being called defensive.

So what is this disability she asked, which made me uncomfortable as a question to be posed in a busy office where I from my seat next to her I could literally touch to other advisors and their clients without leaving my seat. Anyway she asked so I told her, which then brought the response I don’t think that is a disability. I then explained to her the intricacies of what a disability is and why I felt uncomfortable talking about it, she then went on to tell me about some relative with a similar condition which really wasn’t helpful or necessary and really at this point I just wanted to get out of there.

I don’t write this because I think that the advisor was being intentionally rude, I think she could have thought a little more before speaking at certain points but I think what this really highlights is the lack of training that the staff at Seetec receive is this is how they deal with disability issues with users. The advisor has struck me as very professional in most of our dealings so if she has a problem I think though obviously I can’t prove that this issue is one that runs throughout my local Seetec branch.

My issue now is whether or not to do anything about this, make a formal complaint or talk to the manager perhaps though I have had no end of issues with that manager as highlighted in my earlier posts which you can see here and here regarding getting help with expenses so I don’t feel comfortable with that as she always comes across as very confrontational. I will have to sleep on it maybe discuss it with my mom tomorrow as I go fix her computer.


I am more than happy to hear from you guys even if you think I’m over reacting.

Monday, November 11, 2013

FILM REVIEW: Odd Thomas

Odd Thomas is a 2013 film written and directed by Stephen Sommers. The film stars Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin and Willem Dafoe and was released on the 17 July 2013. The film is based on Odd Thomas the lead character of the Odd Thomas series written by popular horror writer Dean Koontz.



















PLOT

In a California desert town, a short-order cook with clairvoyant abilities encounters a mysterious man with a link to dark, threatening forces.

WHY I WATCHED

This film came out of nowhere as far as I could see with a serious cast. Anton Yelchin ends up working as Odd. I thought it was worth taking another chance of a film to movie adaption and I thought that maybe with this not being a YA book.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I was blown away by Odd Thomas, imagine if you will every mistake and out and out crazy change that Hollywood has made in recent book to movie translations or you know just remember The Golden Compass film and after you manage to stop screaming come back and read the rest of this review.

Odd Thomas manages to dodge the potholes that so many other book-to-films fell into by simply sticking to the script. It seems that with Dean Koontz on board for the screenplay the world of Pico Mundo springs onto screen vividly and for a fan of the books feels like home.
A brave decision was to keep the voice over (narration) from the book series, Odd Thomas is a POV narration and I have seen enough previous offerings from Hollywood to show that usually they really, really hate that but it stays in here and works magnificently. It is an essential tool for the viewer because this film and its supernatural origins are likely nothing they have seen bother without prior knowledge of the books.

I can’t finish this without talking about the great performances put in by Anton Yelchin and Addison Timlin. Anton is great as Odd portraying a genuine man at ease in his own skin despite the everyday horrors of his life and Addison is great and very visually distracting as the fiery and independent Stormy. Those two hold the film together and they have great onscreen chemistry.

Could this be the most accurate book to film ever made I think so and I would highly recommend fans of the supernatural to check this out even if you had never heard of Odd Thomas before.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo Is Here!!!

National Novel Writing Month is here people. All the planning, all the umming and ahing about which title to go with and the scribbled notes and half remembered idea come down to this and the next 30 days. I'd like to wish everyone going for it good luck and plentiful storylines.


As for me I will be trying hard again I am 50/50 about whether I can survive the challenge but I'm convinced I can at least get close to that finishing line.

National Novel Writing Month - Official Website

Check back and I should drop brief little updates and a link to my progress.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

FILM REVIEW: Violet & Daisy




Violet & Daisy is a 2011 Crime Comedy starring Saoirse Ronan, Alexis Bledel and the late James Gandolfini. It was written and directed by Geoffrey Fletcher and actually released on 5 June 2013. This review contains spoilers so please be aware of that while reading through it.

PLOT

Two teenage assassins accept what they think will be a quick-and-easy job, until an unexpected target throws them off their plan.

WHY I WATCHED

I broke my cardinal rule with this film in that I saw it on the front of IMDB and decided to check out the trailer which for those who read my reviews often is generally taboo with me. Still the trailer sucked me in and I decided then and there that I had to watch this very weird very interesting film. Plus I always take a second look at films with Saoirse Ronan I even liked The Host and though I never really watched Gilmore Girls I heard enough about it to take notice of Alexis Bledel.

WHAT I THOUGHT

Violet & Daisy is one very weird film and in that it succeeds in being very entertaining. The problem with a lot of films these days is that they are just too predictable, the guy is going to get that much too hot girl, one man is going to take down 100 ninjas and so on and so on. This film is in no way easy to read, it asks a lot of questions and just about answers them by the end.

Not everyone is going to be able to root for two teenage assassins working for the mob but if you can then you can sit back and watch their witty unreal banter with a real smile on your face. Premise aside though this film does stay with the weird all the way through. For instance the film is divided into chapters with I guess what could be called themes as they are highlighted at each intermission.



There are a few inter-related stories running through this film though to be fair James Gandolfini’s character is the only one we really get any back story on. I was left with questions about Daisy was she just naïve or is she developmentally challenged? She was so sweet you couldn't help but be on her side throughout the film.
The chapters are interesting and do a bit of jumping around in time over some seminal scenes that happen during the film at first it is maybe a little confusing but you get the idea soon enough and from then on it works pretty well and sort of sends the film off towards arty but thankfully steering clear of pretentious.

Violet is a bit of enigma made even more so by that Boston accent that keeps coming and going throughout the film, is she a sociopath or just a woman who likes her work. I am not sure but she does make for an interesting character who you want to learn more about but unfortunately don’t.

I can’t really talk about a film like this without talking about the violence therein; it is on the fantasy side of things meaning violence with seemingly no consequences. If that is a problem for you then this movie is not a good choice.

Best Part

Saoirse Ronan she just has something about her that makes you like her.  She seems to be exceptionally good at choosing her projects (The Host was good I’m telling you) and she is great in this role.

Worst Part

The lack of any meaningful back story to either of those girls rankles with me I think I could have definitely gotten more out of this and invested more in Violet and Daisy if I had known just a little more about them.

Conclusion

Overall I would say that Violet and Daisy is an engaging film well worth a look. Don’t go in expecting an action epic instead settle in for a film with some thrills and spills which sucks you in and hits you right in the feels.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

+1 (Plus One) Movie Review


Plus One (+1) is a Sci-Fi/Thriller released on 10 March 2013. It was written by Bill Gullo and Dennis Iliadis and directed by Dennis Iliadis. PLEASE BE AWARE OF SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.



PLOT

Three college friends hit the biggest party of the year, where a mysterious phenomenon disrupts the night, quickly descending into a chaos that challenges their friendships -- and whether they can stay alive.

WHY I WATCHED

I don’t know about this one really, this film doesn’t have any actors and actresses I closely follow. The premise was what dragged me in I prefer plot outlines like the one above nice and vague and I’m not someone who will watch a trailer unless it is something quantifiable like X-Men or The Avengers as we all know what is up with that except all too often I think trailers take either all the best scenes or make the plot and likely ending of the movie so obvious it renders watching the movie pointless.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I love it when I can go into a film like this not knowing anything with no hype to ruin things and just watch and come to my own conclusions. The setting at a house party is interesting it has been done before but it really works here where a number of different stories weaved together.
The film is certainly not perfect the whole random falling objects with strange powers. It is never explained although the last scene might go some way into offering a bit of an explanation.
The actors do a great job of throwing a little life into characters that are always going to veer towards one dimensional because of the lack of back story we are privy to. You end up liking some and probably hating others.


To the story itself David is a very messed up very sad individual. It seems like the writers wanted to envision the worse possible boyfriend, the stalking, drop your friends for your girl type. I didn’t like him from the moment he did the weird stalker turn up at his girl’s big competition and even less when he lip locked that girl (how much can you love your girl if you can’t recognise her from behind).

Teddy and Allison are much more likeable and were what kept me invested in the ongoing craziness as the party and the sci-fi craziness both reach their crescendo. Teddy shines as a guy with the confidence of ten men and Allison with her dialogue that wouldn't feel out of place on a Whedon project is just that cool geek we all wish we knew.


The pre-meditated murder of David’s girlfriend is controversial but I can see why it is in their as the whole theme of the movie is just like she said that of replacing someone which seems to be the choice David made as soon as he understood what was happening. At the beginning of the movie you might be fooled into believing that he is just a hopeless sap in love but by the end we see something a lot darker though the heavy hints start much sooner than that.


In closing if you want a thriller with a sci-fi twist all wrapped up in what had to be one of the biggest house parties ever then you won’t go wrong with this. I had a great time watching it.

Monday, September 30, 2013

300th POST!!! Where I speak of my day and job stuff



[First Off 300 Posts WOOOOO]

So today was a busy day for me well sort of at least 3 hours of fun walking up and down the mean streets of Clacton (just a clichéd phrase Clacton isn’t that mean it just has some problems) anyway it started with a trip to my local MP who I have found myself almost constantly having to go to in my dealings with Seetec. This time it was about a four week sanction for being sick and phoning in to Seetec which should have been fine but wasn’t. In case you didn’t know what SHOULD happen when a job seeker is on the Work Programme and is ill they should inform their Work Programme Provider who then has a statutory requirement to inform the job centre which then will sent out an absence form.

Well that did not happen it all fell over when Seetec were required to do something that didn’t lead directly to a payment so the process fell over resulting in a four week sanction. That is despite a written reason for my absence and an official appeal both sent to the DWP. It is things like this which drive me mad to be honest especially in the face of the current media storm calling the unemployed scroungers and these new Conservative plans. The government want us to play by all these rules heaped on rules but I get Seetec telling me they won’t help with the costs of attending interviews outside the local area despite my job seekers agreement requiring me to travel up to 90 minutes to find work. Next thing you know they will try sanctioning me for attending interviews in London, it is not as crazy as it sounds.

So last time I signed at the job centre for my JSA I got this notice that from next time (also known as today) I would be required to sign at Seetec instead of at my local jobcentre. Now the first thought might be that makes sense and streamlines things but I find myself worried by this. An interesting thing that happened at the signing ,which as far as I can tell is still done my a member of JSA staff, is that when I went to hand over my job evidence I was told that it would be unnecessary and that Seetec were now responsible totally for looking at my job seeking evidence.

What is the problem you ask? Well what Seetec consider a suitable job and what I consider a suitable job are very much polls apart. I have lost count of the times my advisor had said things like look at this 20 hour a week minimum wage job why don’t you apply for that? And I have to answer again and again that I would be losing even more money than I am now on JSA if I took that. Make no mistake people Seetec and other WPP (Work Programme Providers) are about getting you ANY job, so they don’t care that you are the potential main bread winner with a young family they will try their hardest to palm you off on a 10 hour a week cleaning job because “well it is a job and something else might come along”.


If Seetec can now decide what job evidence is valid or not and send out even more false doubts it is just another tool in the arsenal of intimidation, they could actually look at my evidence at a monthly review where I’m required to apply for at least 10 jobs with a general proviso to look for a local opportunity and say hey that admin job in Chelmsford, or that student support assistant job at Queen Mary Students’ Union in London doesn’t count because we told you, you’re not allowed to apply for jobs out of the local area. They try to do it now and I think after a recent incident where I barely managed to get my interview expenses back they are going to be trying to do it even more. Be warned, be concerned just remember in the end to be strong. 


Found this thanks to a retweet on my Twitter timeline I did not make it.
I just find it makes a lot of sense.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Seetec - Update On The Struggle

So an update to endless problems with Seetec/Work Programme. Last time I was trying to get help with attending an interview in London for a promising administration job, £43 is a lot to magic out of the air when you only get £71 a week. Seetec however were being incredibly obstinate and were using a variety of reasons like the Enterprise oscillating their shield frequency in an attempt to deny me help and indeed a chance at a job.


Their main go to is Seetec don’t pay for jobs outside the local area (my local area is one of the most deprived in the UK). Now I remember my induction and initial interviews with Seetec when I forced onto this useless WPP with a history of bullying me and at no point did they say, “hey we know times are tough and competition for jobs is crazy but we only want you to look for jobs locally” because if that would have happened I would have called bullshit and raised holy hell. Like with a lot of things that Seetec say they tend to fall apart when they get examined.


Anyway the upside of the story is that they finally paid back my travel expenses today which you might say yay but after arguing back and forth about it for over a week during the preparation for a very competitive job. This is what Seetec do to people working their hardest to find a job they put obstacle after obstacle in front of them. I can only hope that continually to fight them and to raise issues at the level of my MP and soon with my local job centre might result in someone actually taking notice of this. That is my hope it is more likely though that I will just be denounced as just one of these ‘scroungers’ which the government has successfully fooled the majority of the public into believing outnumber the honest hard working job seekers slowly drowning in a sea of debt.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Some Thoughts About Interviews

So things have settled down in the house of Shaft. Over the last few months even though it hasn't really ever felt like it I have been pretty lucky with getting job interviews but for those of us in the know getting the interview isn't even anywhere near half the job. If you ask my SEETEC advisor you can smile your way straight into a job and for some people with an easy smile and charisma (Han Solo people like that) but it is not that easy for the rest of us. I'm a serious person and I don't think that is something that should be a negative in the job market (unless you're a professional clown I suppose) but the only feedback that my SEETEC advisor is willing to offer is smile more and that I am too serious.


She says that I don't smile enough when I am at SEETEC and I can confirm that is true. Is it because the Work Programme is demeaning and that in the past while at SEETEC I was bullied by the manager and had no redress. That could be it, but then could it be because of that time when SEETEC tried to get me sanctioned (where the DWP withhold your Job Seekers Allowance because you failed to properly look for work) because I informed them I could not attend an appointment because I had got myself a job interview? Could it have been the many times where they refused to help with the cost of attending interviews which is in clear violation to the rules and regulations?

Really in the end who knows why I look so grumpy while attending appointments at SEETEC but that is beside the point as I like most sensible people try to put my best self forward at job interviews, due to that whole chance of them paying you money to work for them after the fact. For some reason which if you were to ask me I would say is down to the fact that the advisors have a very limited view of the job market and jobseekers and as I don't fit into that narrow band. I've gotten off topic this is about interviews which to me have always seemed a strange way of getting work.



In an interview you answer questions and it is all about how you come across to the perspective employer or their representatives. Fine in theory but taking a closer look is that really the best way to choose workers? In some feedback I have got back from prospective employers from administrative/receptionist roles is that they didn't think I came across as friendly, one even said that I did not seem enthused about working in an SU HE environment, they couldn't be more wrong in their assessment of me and that is the rub. On one side we are always told not to judge people by our preconceived notions but I can't help but feel judged by these interview panels as a non-traditional prospective employee. I have the experience I have the skills so when I read some of the feedback I can't help but laugh in that sort of way that contains no warmth or hope at all.

Anyway enough of this I need to go study for my next interview.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

FILM REVIEW: Blood The Last Vampire

Blood The Last Vampire is a 2009 Hong Kong remake of the popular 2000 anime. Directed by Chris Nahon and starring Gianna Jun and Allison Miller, it is described as action/horror/thriller which is pretty spot on. It was released on the 26 June 2009 in the UK.


PLOT

A vampire named Saya, who is part of covert government agency that hunts and destroys demons in a post-WWII Japan, is inserted in a military school to discover which one of her classmates is a demon in disguise.

WHY I WATCHED

I remember Blood The Last Vampire it was a great film but shockingly short at 48 minutes. I figure it was worth checking this out as it would seem to be a fairly straightforward thing to turn this story into a live action, we’re not talking the latest Gundam or even DragonBall (because we all know how the latter went).

WHAT I THOUGHT

I was wondering what to expect, things like this can easily go wrong. I have watched the original Anime release but that was a long time ago so I don’t remember much about it but you certainly don’t need to have watched the original.



The pacing is pretty slow at the beginning with quite a lot of info-dumping going on but once that is out of the way things really get going and it shifts into high gear. There is a reasonably large cast of characters and there are a few other sub plots that tie into Saya’s story eventually.

Some people may be annoyed that the plot gets sidetracked by the General’s daughter and her contribution to the story. Her inclusion can be thought of as the Westernisation of the film to appeal more to those strange people for whom senseless violence and bloodshed is not enough to make a film. It works though it adds something to the story and in some way makes the whole Saya against the Horde slightly more believable.

So in closing I would definitely recommend this for the anime completists out there as a fun and action packed ride.

WATCH FOR…
Great fight choreography
Fleshing out of the origin and background of the story (may or may not be canon?)
DON’T WATCH FOR…

A copy of the original Blood The Last Vampire

Sunday, August 25, 2013

VIDEO GAMES: My Thoughts on World of Warcraft 5,4

A Nightmare month after the death of the fan in my HP Pavilion G6 (less than a year old apparently this fault is pretty well documented on the Internet) and I’m still waiting for it to be fixed though that is down to the fact that I just got paid not any fault with the repair shop. To say I’m a little twitchy about being away from WoW would be understated it has though given me time to do some reading and clear up some misconceptions I had.


The first thing that I sorted out was the Connected Realms feature which I and a lot of others thought that would be launching with 5.4 but that is not the case it actually will be launched AFTER 5.4 with no real timeline on that. I would put Connected Realms as one of the top 5 ranked features that I was looking to. I always tend to stay away from the changes to spells and stuff as that really only matters after the launch.

I am looking forward to the catch up stuff for the legendary as to be honest those initial drop rates of Sigils were KILLING me something like 7 weeks of LFR without getting the 10 and 10. Before the fan died I was 17 and 9 so hopefully it should be over soon once I get my laptop back.

One thing I hope that the Connected Realm thing might deal with is the ridiculous ilvl requirements that we get on the trade channels 515ilvl for a heroic scenario, that is pretty much the level of current Normal gear and so over the top it was ridiculous. I was running HC scenario with ilvl 480 with no problems and I was hardly being boosted by the other two. Some of the lesser run scenarios can be a problem because they are just plain weird but they are certainly not DPS checks.

Anyway I can’t finish this WoW post without remarking on the awesomeness of that 5.4 trailer, it was definitely worth waiting for and went someway to reigniting my passion for WoW though that was probably aided by the fact that I haven’t been able to play for more than a month.
Questions For You:

11.       Do you like the idea of Connected Realms or not?
22.       What size of realm are you on?
33.       Does the Legendary chain feel grindy or too RNG?


Answers in the comments. Much appreciated.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

FILM REVIEW: Man of Tai Chi

Man of Tai Chi is a 2013 martial arts film starring Tiger Hu Chen, Keanu Reeves and Karen Mok and directed by Keanu Reeves. It was released on the 5th of July 2013 in China.


PLOT

A young martial artist's unparalleled Tai Chi skills land him in a highly lucrative underworld fight club.

WHY I WATCHED

Keanu Reeves as a director you got to at least give it a try right? There has been a lot of hype about another of Keanu’s films but this one came out first and is more my speed as I prefer unarmed combat to swords, although swords are beautiful pieces of arts.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I was really surprised by Man of Tai Chi and that surprise was pleasant. This was a nostalgic trip back to those awesome Hong Kong made films that used to play late night when I was a youngster. Those martial arts films are so different from what we get today which in my opinion are lacking and an attempt to go mainstream by combining it with other genres.



Man of Tai Chi is a barebones martial arts offering and just shuts up and gets on with it. There is only a hint of a possible future romance and nothing to detract from the story which is of a man who has come to a crossroads in his life and must choose which path to take.

The fights are excellent and pretty much stay away from the curse of modern day action films which is wire work. I only noticed the use of them in a couple of fights and fortunately it only irked me for an instant. In general the fights are expertly choreographed and feature excellent martial arts instead of just the usual brawling.

I can’t review this without talking about Keanu Reeves, I don’t know much about making films so I can’t comment on his directing other than to say I enjoyed the film. He also has a role in the film though which is something I can talk about. Donaka Mark is a seriously dark guy and his tendency to spout weird one-liners manages to work with Keanu’s unique delivery, trust me when I say he comes across as plenty sinister enough. Special mention has to go to Donaka’s 2nd in command that came close to stealing the show away from Tiger, the man has a face stonier than Mt. Everest but I found myself staring at him even when he’s in the background of a scene.

If the story of a man battling his darker nature and solid martial arts action sounds like your idea of a fun evening then Man of Tai Chi is right up your alley. Also Hollywood take note, no panoramic views, super slo-mo or CG and this still works 50% than half the martial arts based films they are making right now.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

FILM REVIEW: Red Line

Red Line is a 2013 Thriller starring Nicole Gale Anderson, John Billingsley and Kunal Sharma. The film was directed by Robert Kirbyson and written by Robert Kirbyson and Tara Stone and was released n the US on the 16th July 2013. As of writing this review it has scored a 5.7 on IMDB.

PLOT

A Los Angeles subway train is brought to a slamming stop, the tunnel partially collapsed, and several people injured. The survivors must figure out what caused it, and must deal with the greater danger that soon faces them.

WHY I WATCHED


I could talk about the immediately interesting idea of the plot or the fact that I like the contained nature of the action as it all takes in a subway train. The real reason though that brought me here was Nicole Gale Anderson who I did not know about until I started watching the CW Beauty and the Beast reboot starring Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan. Apparently she is also going to be the star of the upcoming Pretty Little Liar’s spinoff Ravenwood.

WHAT I THOUGHT

It is amazing how well a simple idea can be executed with a small budget. This is a fine example of that, a small efficient movie that does what it sets out to do. At the heart of Red Line is a story about people and fear and that is what holds the attention of the audience so well.  The pacing is excellent, the film doesn’t need to constantly go at break neck speed even the quieter moments are filled with tension.

Everything in the film is set in the narrow confines of that train with a small cast it definitely promotes a feeling of claustrophobia which then leads to the paranoia around who it is we can trust. The actors do a pretty good job as it is their job to sell the peril and later the despair of being trapped down there with a killer with no way out.

Another factor that makes the film interesting is that in essence it is really a cut down whodunit with all the suspects trapped inside the train, while it is not quite Agatha Christie it does give your mind something to work away on while moving through the film.


This is a film that I can easily recommend for a fun night in something that will make you think even while entertaining you. Something that surprised me was the article that popped into my inbox while I was writing up this review check it out to see how unusual Red Line as a production really is.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Star Wars Crucible by Troy Denning

Star Wars Crucible is a 2013 Stars Wars Expanded Universe novel written by Troy Denning. It was released on 9th July 2013 by Lucas Books with an ISBN of 0345511425.

PLOT

Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo, and Luke Skywalker return in an all-new Star Wars adventure, which will challenge them in ways they never expected—and forever alter their understanding of life and the Force.


 
When Han and Leia Solo arrive at Lando Calrissian’s Outer Rim mining operation to help him thwart a hostile takeover, their aim is just to even up the odds and lay down the law. Then monstrous aliens arrive with a message, and mere threats escalate into violent sabotage with mass fatalities. When the dust settles, what began as corporate warfare becomes a battle with much higher stakes—and far deadlier consequences.
 
Now Han, Leia, and Luke team up once again in a quest to defeat a dangerous adversary bent on galaxy-wide domination. Only this time, the Empire is not the enemy. It is a pair of ruthless geniuses with a lethal ally and a lifelong vendetta against Han Solo. And when the murderous duo gets the drop on Han, he finds himself outgunned in the fight of his life. To save him, and the galaxy, Luke and Leia must brave a gauntlet of treachery, terrorism, and the untold power of an enigmatic artifact capable of bending space, time, and even the Force itself into an apocalyptic nightmare.
 

WHY I BOUGHT IT

I am a long time fan of Stars Wars Expanded Universe and I was eagerly anticipating the next chapter after Apocalypse. I wasn’t sure which direction it would go in but I was happy to see a story involving Luke, Leia and Han. Although it seemed clear at first that it would not be a direct follow on from the previous series.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I think Crucible was a really good way to pass on the torch; the only unfortunate thing is that we don’t know where the torch is being passed to. If you are unsure of what I mean then you should check out this interview with the author which explains thing well.


To summarise now that Disney has bought up the rights for Star Wars and are releasing at least one new film and there is more than a question as to whether this might be mean a retconning of the Expanded Universe.
Now onto the book itself, it is clear from the outset that this is one for long standing fans of Star Wars, I mean we start out with a good old fashioned bar shootout and there are numerous Easter eggs like that packed in that I will just leave you to find for yourselves.

The story is an interesting one and ties together enough of the threads left dangling after the end of Apocalypse while still establishing its own story and even taking the time to introduce a new character that looks like they will be around for awhile.

One of the things that really allowed me to feel like I was in the world of the Expanded Universe is the depth of the characters personalities , thanks to the 45 in universe years we really do know what to expect from these three who have been there since the beginning of Star Wars. Luckily this manages to stay on the right side of things as even though we know the characters so well the interactions and the story doesn't ever begin to feel like we have seen it all before it all feels new and fresh.

Although this book is in the majority about the Big Three so to speak there is space for other characters including an interesting snippet about a young and arrogant Jedi youngling who I hope we will see again in a juicier role. We also get introduced to a cocky young miner whom I hesitate to Han Solo II (Han Yolo? Sham Solo) who looks like he might be sticking around for awhile.


After Crucible I can only hope that this is not the end of the Expanded Universe and that Disney won’t let greed and pandering to film studios effectively destroy 45 years of in universe history.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cleaning Things Up


So hmm maybe last month I had an inspection of my rented accommodation which means beforehand I had to do a clean and a clear up of the flat which generally looks like a bomb site otherwise. The main problem is space and a distinct lack storage options, I think this place needs to be IKEA’d but anyway it can be cleaned up but not in anyway that supports someone living.

Cleaning up my flat got me thinking about trying to clean things up personally trying to get my life in order as much as something like that is possible without a job. Anyway I think the first step is to get more organised in terms of upcoming events, interviews and the like. Too often I have nearly forgotten about important appointments because I didn’t centralise all the dates I had to follow.

I'm not sure if I should use my phone to do it or try a diary. I have thought about e-mail or maybe Google Calendar or whatever it is called. I will have to see though after I do something about the seemingly endless paperwork I have stocked up over the last few years. Nothing is more worrying to me than tearing up some seemingly useless paperwork that I’ll need to prove I paid something.

Maybe I’m just one of those Hoarder cases waiting to happen.

Interviews and Feedback

Feedback the bane of my existence it seems as so many places that you would think of as respectable established businesses fail to provide on requests. As far as I’m concerned if you have an actual HR department then there is no excuse for not providing useful feedback on an interview short of said interview consisting of me walking into the interview of delivering 3 stone cold stunners to the panel (I rarely do this).

If the interviewee (is that a word) turns up makes an effort and justifies your shortlisting of him or her then the other side of that bargain is you taking the time to note down why they lost out to the person you picked for the job. We study up on your business we write a decent application and we turn up bright eyed and bushy tailed surely that is enough for earn feedback.

Enough with the negative stuff.

STEAM



STEAM SALE. ZOMG. First time that I have had either the money or the hardware for the Steam Sale to matter me. I decided to make my first purchase (hopefully only) in the form of Defiance after all I’m a big fan of the show and I think I am more likely to try that game with its mixed content then a straight up FPS.