Flicking the Switch

dodontswitchSince my recent birthday I’ve found my mind dwelling on more serious subjects than I’m used to discussing.

I’m not saying I’ve grown up and become all adult-like, I’m not sure that’s a realistic possibility at this late stage in development.

I do seem to find myself wallowing on subjects that are more suited to the kind of battlefields populated by Social Justice Warriors and Ley-Heroes.

These subjects are triggered by my proximity to toxic environments and escalated by an overactive care-gland.

Homophobia, Misogyny, Racism…

BenQuixote

Ben Quixote – Equal of Heaven

None of these things affect me directly but they seem to spike a massive negative emotional response in my betazoid-center.

 

I encounter this kind of prejudice on a daily basis (to a greater or lesser degree), almost always it’s aimed at others but it riles me none-the-less.

Every time I face this kind of idiocy, the quixotic Hannuman inside of me rises and I face a primal choice:

Fight or Flight?

I’ve lost count of the number of battles I’ve lost but every now and then I win and the world within my reality tunnel gets that little bit lighter.

It’s not the losses that I’ve fought that weigh me down though; not every battle can be fought.

A friend recently posted that she had faced this kind of harassment in her workplace.

My friend’s boss had remarked upon his right to ogle the female form (ergo her own – specifically the breasticular area).

All my friend could do was rebuke the statement and attempt to put this man in his place.

The problem is, this man is in a position of power – he pays the wages, hires, fires and feels he can ogle away… and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

I’ve seen it many times, a bigoted individual in a position of power lording over their underlings.

Whether it’s the lady manager who insists on forcing male staff members to watch as she injects insulin into her upper-inner thigh or the company Director who makes comments over the quality of an employee’s sister’s breasts over a team meal; this behaviour is wrong but unbeatable.

In all these cases the offended party is either under the minimum two year employment period that it takes to actually have employment rights in this country or they do not have the support structure in their lives to make fighting the battle worth the effort.

In the case of my friend and her tit-happy employer, I was pleased to see the support her friends and acquaintances gave to her.

Many folk offered suggestions of comedic or even violent responses – not helpful directly but sometimes you need this kind of feedback to help pull you out of the pit that this kind of encounter can knock you into.

fuckswitch_fusebox

And then somebody asked her a question, the answer to which made me stop and think, to paraphrase:

How do you work there without throwing someone from a window?

The answer my friend gave really struck home:

I have a little Give a Fuck switch in my brain which goes from “Do” to “Don’t”, and a proven response time in flicking it.

I know exactly what she means… I have the very same switch.

I’m fairly confident that without that switch I’d either be in prison, hospital or worse.

What strikes me me harder is that since reading that exchange I have encountered a number of other people, from different social circles, that have used the very same analogy.

We have that one switch in common that allows us to turn off, tune out and move on.

The difference lies in how quickly we flick the switch.

fucksgivenMany years ago I realised that my own problem is that I care too much.

I’ve had a couple of psychological evaluations over the years that have highlighted a deeply ingrained need to help others and an over reliance on stressful and often negative or toxic environments.

I think I recently developed some kind of “Givafuk Switch” to help me handle those aspects of my personality and I just haven’t noticed until reading the horrors of my friend’s working environment earlier this week.

The switch helps us survive.

It keeps us in a position where we can continue to accrue survival tokens whilst we regroup and plan a strategy to win the war.

The switch helps us choose the battles we fight, so we can pick the fights we know we can win and not waste energy on those battles that are clearly unwinnable.

I discussed this at length today, with friends and colleagues and the only sensible counterpoint made was regarding those that come after us.

The switch is great for those of us on the front line now but what about those that face the same foe later on.

We’ve avoided a fight by flipping the switch and retreating but the foe is under the misapprehension that they have won a battle that never happened.

The deluded foe could go onto the next victim and there is nothing to stop the situation escalating to a greater degree of harassment – we could even be that next victim.

So the switch can be a double edged sword – a sword that my inner Monkey King is willing to wield and one that I am glad to see in the hands of other people of worth.

As it is I’m going to continue to pick my battles and rely on a newfound switch-based psychopathy to avoid the problems that giving a damn brings with it and fight another day.

Egged While Walking

eggfaceLast Monday I was assaulted, in a way that both literally and figuratively left me with egg on my face.

After successfully shedding over four stones last year, I have decided to carry over into 2014 in the same vein. So, Monday night I decided to try a new route.

My usual winter evening route has reached its expansion limits, at best I can make 6 miles on a night without straying too far into urbanity but to do more than 6 miles would mean looping over territory already covered and that would become a little too repetitive for me.

The new route takes me down into my local village and then the opposite way to my usual route. A good 7 miles minimum at first estimate.

My plan is a simple one, start 2014 at 5 – 7 miles of mixed walking and sprinting every other night and build up a mile a month until I can comfortably cover 12 miles without too much of a struggle.

Fitness wasn’t the only drive to change routes, I’ve recently started playing the augmented reality game Ingress and the only vulnerable enemy portals near me are on the new route.

So Monday night I started Endomondo and set out, down into Lindley, farming enemy portals in Ingress.

It was a nice start, despite having been relatively idle over the festive break, my fitness levels hadn’t dropped and I made a good pace through the village and up towards the M62.

3.5 miles in I cross the M62 and head on to my planned turning point, a church on route – co-incidentally the last of the enemy portals in Ingress.

The road up from the bridge over the M62 is poorly lit, poorly paved and poorly travelled. The occasional car speeds past on its way towards Rochdale but it’s my preferred walking environment – lonely and isolated.

I’d estimated that a turn around there would result in my returning home at the 7 mile mark – a circuit that could be expanded upon by moving the turning point forward by half a mile in future,

I hacked the Ingress portal and made the turn to start home, checking my progress in Endomondo to make sure I wasn’t short changing myself on distance.

I was suddenly struck in the face, throat and chest by what I took to be a hard snowball – an ice ball even.

Cold, hard and wet, I was knocked back by the blow.

Uttering an expletive, the realisation dawned that we have not had any snow yet this winter; I looked around to check as I wiped, what I thought was snow, away.

My hand came away with a mix of albumen, yolk, blood and shell.

I had been egged.

I think the embarrassment negated the rage and shock somewhat, although the anger seeped back in as my hand came away a second time doused in blood.

I could tell there was a wound, of sorts, bleeding profusely from my chin – and my throat and chest felt bruised.

The egg had hit at a fair speed. My memory, catching up with me, associated the impact with the passing by of a speeding car.

I had been egged from a passing car.

A third wipe and I determined that I was still bleeding.

One hand pressed against my chin and throat to stop the bleeding, whilst the other struggled with my, now egg-bound, phone.

The camera wouldn’t activate and so I decided to make my way back towards home (2 miles away) or hospital – (4 miles away – if needed).

The blood kept streaming, so I stopped at a local takeaway that had just closed for the night. The gentlemen inside let me in but didn’t have a mirror or first aid kit.

They let me stay there until the bleeding stopped and gave me paper towels to stop the flow.

As helpful as they were, the chaps in the takeaway couldn’t really help me identify the severity of the source of the bleeding, so I decided to set out again whilst phoning my other half for help.

When I finally got the phone free of blood and yolk, I managed to take the photograph above and realised that actually I wasn’t badly cut at all.

A swollen chin, minor cuts on the chin and in the mouth; and a chest full of egg.

In the aftermath I called 111 to go through a medical check-list and then 101 to inform the local police – although there is nothing they can do with no description of the assailant or the assailant’s vehicle.

Four days on and I have already made sure that I get out again, albeit on a third route. I did find myself flinching as cars passed but that didn’t last long.

It does seem that I am not alone, this kind of assault appears to be surprisingly common.

I’ve heard of walkers, runners, cyclists and equestrians being pelted with eggs, stones, bottles and cans; even being shot with pellet guns in more extreme cases.

I just count myself lucky that I was not hit in the eye and that I haven’t come across this activity before – hopefully it is quite rare.

Electile Dysfunction

OpophisAs I write this, the 2012 US Election is a sure win for Obama.

With only Florida to declare in their crazy colonial electoral system, Lewis Hamilton-o-like change-monger, Barack Obama looks set to sit a second term in the oval office.

Not that I care.

Actually, that’s unfair… I do care; as a world super power, whoever controls the United States has a massive impact on the world’s politics and economy.  And I’m glad that Obama got in again,the other guy scared the cheeses out of me.

The problem is that I feel almost pressured into caring.

The UK media covers no other country’s elections with the same vigour, fervour and ubiquity as its own (General Election) and those for the United States (Presidency and Candidacy).

Even our own regional elections receive less coverage.

To reinforce that statement, the United Kingdom goes to the polls again this month and I am so ill informed that I am not sure I can place a vote.

Don’t get me wrong, I will vote but I am going to have to put in a lot of effort to find out about my local candidates.

I have this problem every May, when the time comes to vote in the local elections.

Little or no information is shared by the local parties and local media do little to pass on information regarding candidates.

I am possibly being a little unfair, there may be coverage during the day whilst I am at work but local news, papers and radio do little to inform me of the choices available to me.

On November 15th 2012 the United KLingdom goes to the polls to decide who will sit as their regional Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).

This may seem trivial to some but actually it is quite important; it is very rare that we – the people – are given opportunity to have an opinion in this way and so I for one will be glad to cast a vote on the matter.

But who for?

The press are full of hype (actually they mention it as a foot note to something else, like the US Presidential Elections) over the forthcoming Elections for Police and Crime Commissioners, but they don’t give me any more details than that.

West Yorkshire‘s TV news outlets (Look North and Calendar) go into great detail about the candidates for the East Riding and Hull.

My partner tells me that there was even a labour candidate for West Yorkshire on the radio yesterday.

So my only recourse is to gather the information myself.

There is a website that tells us all about the candidates in our area: Choose My NCC.

My own region has four candidates standing, three men and a lady.

Mark Burns-Williamson appears to have done a similar job before.

Geraldine Carter is a Counsillor for Calderdale Council who has sat on Police boards before.

Cedric Christie is an independent candidate with slightly conservative views on policing (and defence of the home).

And finally, Andrew Marchington has worked with people in a similar field but in my personal opinion seems the weaker candidate.

I have no idea on their policies or selling points other than what I have just read on that website – short of emailing them and receiving pre-planned rhetoric I don’t think I’ll have any more than that to go on Next Thursday when I cast my vote.

Don’t Let the Glassdoor Hit You…etc.

I’m inspired to vent a my rage, albeit briefly.

Maybe I’m inspired to give in to rage by a recent viewing of Avengers Assemble (“Mewling Quim“? Really Mr. Whedon, you spoil us) but I am now onto my fourth attempt at ridding myself of the plague that is Glassdoor.com.

Several months ago, a few of my facebook contacts sent me invitations to join this seemingly innocuous corporate social networking site. Sort of a start-up LinkedIn where the idea is to find out “Insider Info” on potential employers or business partners.

I followed the links and instantly took a dislike to the site.

Glassdoor.com was obviously only interested in my tipping my hat to the inside secrets of my employer.

Now anybody who knows me will know who retentitively obsessive I am about loyalty to my career – the concepts of “insider secrets” or “corporate espionage” are an anathema to me.

So I removed myself from the site and had nothing more to do with it.

Which is more than I can say for Glassdoor.com.

I now receive semi-regular spam from them.

The first few times I received them I just deleted them, like I do normal junk mail.

After a while I became annoyed enough to click the link in the email that says unsubscribe (go on, click it, it changes nothing).

Still I receive the mail and I have now attempted unsubscription four times… four times!

Each time I receive the same polite message:

You’re all set – you won’t receive any more emails from us.

But each time this is proven to be a lie by the subsequent nonsense email sent from them.

Gah! Glassdoor? Assdoor more like.  They may as well re-brand as LockedIn.

Rage over.

A Third Of The Way To Eleventy One

Ragey RageyIt’s a whole leap year since my last birthday; a hellish day that was, fraught with technical failures and very nearly broke me.

I’m now a third of the way to my Eleventy First birthday, which is fine for Hobbits but it’ll likely be a struggle for me.

A year on and everything seems to have changed… and yet stayed almost the same.

My employer has moved to new, more comfortable, premises but has chosen to appoint a senior manager as a buffer between my peers on the management team and the board.

I’ve learned to handle the stress in my own way and avoid the standard methods (as these led to the problems I encountered last year); and more importantly I’ve learned where my real priorities lie.

At home, heavy machinery has moved in to start cutting away at the beautiful environment around me; with the threat of a data centre still looming across the road.

It’s been something of a sad year in parts, with many friends losing loved ones and my own Great Uncle, Derek Barber, conducting his final research into the physical existence of the soul.

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom though.

WarholI’ve run three LRP events in the last year, a banquet and two campaign events in the Lorien Trust game world.  All three were successes in their own ways and should be a good foundation for  events in the coming year.

I’ve also finally got round to reading Alan Moore’s Promethea series and, this month, started Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series (2 books in, I can’t believe I’ve never bothered before now).

Meanwhile, the national press continue to gloss over the steady decline of the United Kingdom’s economy by focusing on the Olympic Games; whilst armchair eschatologists like me sit back and ponder what manner of change 21/12/2012 will bring.

Whether you believe the mayans were onto something or they just ran out of room, the coming year does feel like a year of change…

Don’t let them immanentize the eschaton.

 

 

Troll Hunting on Twitter

This is not a troll

This is not a Troll

Earlier this month I wrote about Profanity in Social Media, being inspired by the small numbers of arrests that have been made because of offensive posts on social media sites like Twitter.

Now with the UK media embroiled in a full on pro-Olympian frenzy, the subject is back in the news.

An as yet 17 year old boy has been arrested (under the auspices of the Communications Act 2003) for tweeting Team GB athlete, Tom Daly, and telling him his Father (sadly deceased and reputedly a great inspiration to the athlete) would be disappointed in his performance…. something along the lines of:

You let your Dad down.

Granted, he’s also alleged to have threatened Tom and twitterbombed him throughout the evening.  Not really polite behaviour and certainly seeming to deserve the Olog related monicker.

As well as the discomfort of arrest, the 17 year old in question (reputedly @rileyy_69 on Twitter) has since had his Twitter account suspended and has been demonised in the news as an “Internet Troll“.

It’s difficult to judge for yourself as the tweets in question have been removed but the reports I have read state that the perpetrator tweeted his comment which was then retweeted by the victim, resulting in a great deal of support for Tom Daly and a number of accusations of idiocy for @rileyy_69.

If you scour twitter you can find references to an illusive threatening video that is alleged to be the real reason our teen-troll was arrested.  You can also find reference to a death threat that many articles neglect to mention, here.

Internet Gnoll

This is a Gnoll

The media furore since has branded the teenage tweeter “poisonous” and continued to feed the self-initiated hatestorm to the level that the original perpetrator could be said to be victim to massively multiple doses of his own medicine.

I don’t think anyone would deny that this news article has been overblown to new proportions because of the Olympics themselves and it is very easy for cynics like me to see this as an extension of the “Thou Shallt Not Befoul The Olympics” arm that seems to be slapping anyone and everyone at the moment.

It comes as no surprise to the conspiracy theorist in me that this debacle has sprung to light less than  a week after Paul Chambers won his appeal against his own tweet-related arrest in 2010.

The authorities must be over the moon that they have this opportunity to strengthen the use of the Communications Act in a scenario where the culprit is unlikely to gain popular celebrity support.

Whilst looking into Rileygate I came across this write-up that put the issues into context far better than I have here.

So, how does this latest “Twitter Arrest” effect the rest of us?

Still no trolls

Still no Trolls

Many of the Rileygate articles warn us, the general public, that we should be careful what we say online.  Whilst that may seem to be sage advice in the light of this teenage arrest, it still smacks of censorship.

Worse still, this is inconsistent censorship, that is half policed by us the public anyway. What is deemed wrong in one context may be overlooked in another and yet the search engines often neglects context when  returning their search results.

Look at the abuse piled on @Rileyy_69 since his victim brought his own friends and contacts into the mix… are they to be arrested too?

And all the while, actual trolling continues day after day unpunished; only the other day I had cause to write about the trolling and cyber-bullying that lady gamers suffer online.

So what do you think?

Do we need to be more careful in what we post online or should we take these articles in context and only worry if we’re consistently abusive to people?

Nobody Expects the Spanish Institution

English: A branch of Santander (formerly Abbey...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been wary about voicing my opinions on the usurious Spanish financial institution, Santander.

Finances are a very personal and private matter and there can be quite a stigma attached to debt.

But I feel that I have to share our story.

The ombudsman won’t do anything and so only word of mouth will warn people of the inherent dangers in working with Santander.

A few years ago, Santander took over the Alliance & Leicester building society, with whom my partner has banked for years.  In fact we also re-mortgaged with Alliance & Leicester, opening a joint account through which to manage the bills.

Santander also took over my building society of choice, Abbey (formerly the Abbey National), as well as other UK financial institutions.

Now I have no real issue with this kind of take-over. My own “regionally titled” bank is in fact Australian.

When my partner opened her Alliance & Leicester account, she had no mandatory monthly payments to make into it but when Santander took it over they upgraded it to their premium account; an account that demands £500 be paid into it every month.

The first we learned of this upgrade came when my partner was made redundant a few years ago and the fines started racking up. The account was empty but grew a negative value as the monthly fines were taken out; fines for not paying money in and then fines for going overdrawn.

We argued with Santander but were treated like scum.

We were told to go into the branch when talking over the phone and then told to phone when in the branch.

All this could have been avoided if we had been told the account had upgraded. We could have simply closed the account whilst it had money in it.

We complained through correct channels; writing to Santander and then the financial ombudsman. We explained that we felt we had been unfairly treated by being upgraded without notice.

Around the same time we also found that our Payment Protection didn’t cover her redundancy. We managed to get some of what we had paid on that returned to us.

As I mentioned before, the first issue was raised with the financial ombudsman; our claim was investigated and resulted in our being told:

You have no evidence that you were given no notice of the upgrade and Santander don’t have to offer you the old account

The response was written in a “don’t waste our time” style and just reinforced our belief that the ombudsman is there to support the banks, not the consumers.

After all this the account was several hundred pounds overdrawn and so further fees were accrued month by month.

Likewise, the joint account began to accrue fees as my partner’s wages, when she found work, were swallowed before being transferred into the joint account

– I personally refuse to hold any money with Santander, whose practice it is to take the owing balance on one account from any other that you have in credit.

So we decided we needed to pay one or both of them off and close them.

The only way we could do that is to sell our car; the current economic climate has stifled any possibility of me getting a pay rise at work over the last five years and we’re both working as hard as we can.

So we sold the car and used some of the cash to close the joint account.

Initially we were going to close my partners but she finally got through to a helpful person at Santander… somebody senior in their collections department.

She managed to get through to useful people whilst complaining that my workplace had been phoned by somebody trying to speak to her!

How Santander got my office number and then used it for a sales call is still a mystery. I was livid at the time.

The helpful person couldn’t believe that my partner hadn’t been offered a decreasing overdraft on her own account.

The principal being that she pay off the low overdraft at £50 a month and the overdraft limit decreases by £50 a month.

There would be no charges as my Partner had never been given a card for that account under Santander anyway and all the bills come out of my own bank.

On top of this kind offer (ignoring for the moment that the overdrawn figure is made up of charges we should have never had) they allowed my partner to close the joint account.

Knowing from experience (and searching the internet for similar stories) that Santander would somehow try to mess us about, my partner asked for the final balance so that we wouldn’t be told we owe more later.

We were given a balance of £491.20, which my partner paid over the phone.

She received verbal confirmation that the account was closed.

She even checked with the lady again, who reassured her by saying,

Here’s ,my extension number.  If you get any letters demanding more money, call me and I will sort them out.

Shortly before Christmas we received a statement from the closed account stating that the balance before the payment we made was £491.25.

This left an unauthorised overdraft of £0.05

5 pence!

The statement then went on to tell us that an unauthorised overdraft fee of £5 per day would be applied and that a total fee of £100 would be taken from the account on December 29th.

You can likely imagine the fury in our house at the time.

5p over because they hadn’t given us the right figure and then charge us £100 for the pleasure.

We tried several times to get through to the helpful person and as far as I know my partner has since spoken with said person and resolved the issue… but that is far from the point.

We should have never had those charges in the first place and how anyone can justify payment of £100 for a 5p error that the bank made themselves… well it’s beyond my reckoning.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the harassment and emotional stress that Santander have put my partner through; ever since they took over Alliance & Leicester, my partner has had nothing but grief from them – primarily down to their practice of paying funds into an account after direct debits have been paid out on the same day.

We could expect money to go into the account on the 1st of the month but that money would not be classed as cleared until all the day’s debits had been taken out of the account; if this happens to take you into your overdraft before the days payment is cleared – BAM! – the account is fined for going over.

I appreciate that a lot of banks are similar but I have never worked with a bank as bad as this before.