Friday, 31 May 2013

# 70 (2013) Under Age

Huong Hoang (stage name Junie Hoang) recently tried to sue after it posted her real age on its Internet Movie Database. This despite Ms Hoang providing the site with a year that knocked seven years off her date of birth.

Should ages be such a closely guarded secret and are some industries so fickle that they still make a judgement on someone’s age as part of their ability to do a job? Media would be just the sort of industry to come into the line of fire for behaving like this but is it really the case or is Ms Hoang making a fuss about nothing? She has claimed publishing her real age meant work offers dried up.

Whilst the database has been accused in the past of "facilitating age discrimination" the case was thrown out of court. The site's attorneys said IMDb was not responsible for the actions taken by people who read their profiles.

But is lying about your age such a big deal if you can get away with it? I knew someone in their 50s who struggled to get work interviews. He knocked 10 years off his birth date and instantly started getting interviews and, ultimately, jobs. This I think was the single most influential piece of evidence I saw that ageism really does still exist and the damage it can cause. Age discrimination exists for all age groups of course. Teens are branded trouble makers, and the elderly as infirm and out of touch.

I have for a while been a bit hazy about my actual age. But that’s because I can get away with it. I don't look my age and I don't have all the trappings of someone in my age group so I tend not to be judged and people make a presumption as to my age which is always in my favour. But am I being a bit paranoid about owning up to it and should I take the, now rather repetative, jokes on the chin and be thankful for good genes?

Whilst researching this article I discovered that 'looking younger' syndrome is not uncommon. Apparently we live longer too. It's something to do with key pieces of DNA called telomeres, which indicate the ability of cells to replicate. Maybe I'm actually superhuman? I don't seem to be exhibiting many of the aging signs of people in my group and I know for a fact that in my family history people have lived to some very admirable ages. I've always taken forgranted how I look. But perhaps I should be nurturing it and taking better care of myself?

Thankfully I’ve never lied on a job application, but I do let people assume I am younger than I really am. Whilst I've never suffered because of my age in the work place (many people are often quite envious when they discover the truth), I find it trickier in social situations because my age can be an initial barrier if it's pointed out early on. This is primarily because I often mix with people younger than me. If they are going to find out I'd prefer it to be after they have got to know me. I don’t consider myself typical of my age and I don’t like people making assumptions because of the year I was born.

I may never grow up and if I continue to age at my current rate I may only get more defensive as I get older. Maybe I am making a fuss about nothing. After all, I'm in good company.

Salma Hayek. 46 - I kid you not (source)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

# 68 (2013) Knee Jerk Reactions

I write a lot of posts in haste. Only those that are factual are totally premeditated. But I always hit 'save' rather than 'publish'. Coming back to them a day or sometimes several days later my perspective has often changed. Sometimes it's good to vent, but initial reactions can be irrational and unfounded.

Sometimes I just need to modify my writing a bit, sometimes I delete the whole thing. Sometimes I put the posting on the back-burner if I'm not sure how I feel and then delete it.

I have never published a post without carefully reviewing it at least one day later. Untold damage can be done by not getting the whole story or a proper perspective. Posting knee jerk reactions can do more harm than good. Look at Twitter, peppered with stories of mindless posting without thinking about the consequences.

Although this blog is mine it does affect those around me. Other people, though rarely mentioned directly or indirectly, are often the subject or the cause of my postings and should they read them, it could do more harm than good.

This is definitely a place for me to post my thoughts but it still requires at least a little etiquette. And I am, if nothing else, tactful. 


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

# 67 (2013) Humans of New York

There is a wonderful page I follow on Facebook called Humans of New York. It also has a website here. It's a snap shot of one random individual, animal or object out and about in New York and their by-line.

They are simple, funny, honest, thought provoking, often sad and full of regret and they remind me that I am not the only one who has fucked up and has regrets, hopes and dreams. We all do it to some degree or other. And I am okay knowing that I am not the only one. Small comforts in small places.

'This is the third one I've saved.'

Monday, 27 May 2013

# 66 (2013) Spare Tyres

Last month I did a LOT of recycling. It included 8 car tyres which I very nearly couldn't get rid of at all thanks to new directives from the Environment Agency. Way to go guys!

Household waste recycling centres don't take tyres anymore. There is currently one in the whole of Lincolnshire at Louth but you can kiss goodbye to that soon.

Did you know that in 2011 there were something like 40,000,000 cars on the road in the UK alone and we are second only to Germany in Europe for new registrations? Even if only half those cars have their tyres changed each year, that's a lot of tyres. So where do they all go?

A few are used by outdoor activity centres, play parks and the like. They'll stay as tyres and get turned into swings and climbing equipment for activity days. That's a tiny drop into a rubbery ocean though.

In 2001 alone the Environment Agency revealed that '.....the UK scrapped 50 million tyres. According to the Used Tyre Working Group's 2001 survey, 22% were recycled, 8.3% went to energy recovery, 9.9% were retreaded, 16% were reused and 3.3% were used in landfill engineering. The remainder (approximately 40%) were landfilled, stockpiled or disposed of illegally.'

What to do with all the tyres.... (source)
The thing is this number has gone up but disposal has become harder, meaning more and more tyres are going to be dumped illegally. And then someone still has to pick them up and do something else with them. If I hadn't been able to recycle my 8 car tyres, what was I supposed to do with them?

Take a look at this video which shows some of the ways that tyres can be recycled. But is there an endless demand and with the number of waste tyres rising - something like 55 million now - how are we going to deal with them? We are now banned from putting them into landfill which means they either get stored or have to be recycled. Wastebook will tell you all about this.

Although the options might be simple - why not recycle them into new tyres - the costs of recycling are sometimes more than making new products. Whilst I was at the recyclling plant they told me that it costs more to recycle an old glass bottle than it does to make a new one. So where's the sense in companies recycling if it's not cost effective?

Everyone needs to profit. Money makes the world go round and if recycling was more profitable, everyone would be doing it. Now there's a problem worth solving.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

# 65 (2013) Money Appreciation

I find unnecessary spending rather obscene. I guess having lived at both ends of the financial scale (to a certain degree) I've learned to appreciate and be happy with the basics and abhore excessive expenditure and more than anything else - waste.

I suppose I've got very used to own brands and having only what I need. I don't get a buzz from shopping or spending money. I'd rather have it sitting in the bank where I can find it.

And this makes birthdays and Christmas rather tricky times. I come from a background where quantity has fewer limits, and where if you don't provide some guidance on gift lists, you'll end up with a million things you really don't need. I have therefore learnt to provide plenty of guidance in advance to save on pretended gratitude so that 'Thanks, I really needed that' means it.

I save all my bathroom non-essentials such as perfume or branded products for events such as this and they are easy stocking fillers for anyone because you are grateful for whatever you are given. I have put a stop to bringing back 'tat' from holidays. If you have to bring me something back make it edible because food is always at a premium and I love my food.

Food has started to make regular appearances in my birthday and Christmas gift bags. It seems sad but I get more of a kick from finding a 'luxury' product in my kitchen cupboard than I do in my bathroom.

If ever I make enough money to have spending cash at the end of the month and not have to worry I think I will always lead a relatively frugal existence. Excess funds will probably end up in the bank anyway. I appreciate and respect money and material goods more than I ever did and I don't think I could ever change. It's an inbuilt part of me now.

I no longer waste my money on alcohol or other 'kicks', expensive makeup or branded bathroom products. I just don't see the need. I don't buy entertainment except the occasional film 'treat' and you know what, that's just fine. Because it makes it more special.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

# 64 (2013) Do You Believe?

I've never lived in Scunthorpe. I've never even been to Scunthorpe. And if you've watched 'Skint' on Channel Four you probably won't ever consider going there either. And much like its predecessor 'People Like Us' on BBC Three which was set in Harpurhey, an inner city area of Manchester, it gives a closeted view of one type of person in one specific area.

The programme makers aims are clear. Ratings. Benefits, unemployment and trouble families are high on newsreels and in the minds of working people who are also struggling to make ends meet. And to say there is a little resentment towards their unemployed brethren who just 'hold out their hands for free money' would be an understatement.

TV programme makers thrive off this to create programmes they know viewers will be transfixed to. And even though the programme's subject is very specific it does nothing to enhance the reputation of the area.

Scunthorpe, the only town with a swear word in its name, is probably a very nice town. Perhaps not the Westcliff Estate where 'Skint' is set, but I'm sure there are some very friendly areas. I've been reading various comments and there are people there that love their town dearly. I'm sure Harpurhey also has its fans.

Viewers you see, won't look for the overall picture. They will watch the programmes and tar a community with the same brush. They get fired up and point fingers and so the ratings go up. TV is a very persuasive medium. You can make your programmes aim as open minded or as closed as you like and people will believe what you show them because the camera never lies, right?

But did you know that in 2011 Scunthorpe won a Google award for being the UK's fastest growing online hub? Programmes like this can have a devestating affect on areas already struggling. Of Harpurhey it was noted:

Locals are threatening to picket the BBC’s northern headquarters at MediaCity 
in Salford and claim that children from Harpurhey have been bullied at school, 
appointments at estate agents cancelled and young people turned down for 
jobs since the series began airing earlier this month. 

And no matter what the subjects of the programmes see or tell programme makers during filming, it can be a very different result once it goes on air. If you allow a documentary to be made about you, don't necessarily think you'll be portrayed in a balanced way. Once they have the material programme makers they can do pretty much what they want with it within reason. So watcher beware and don't always believe what the TV tells you. 

Harpurhey residents. But is everyone like this? (source)


Monday, 13 May 2013

# 62 (2013) Downsizing with Dignity And Without Losing Sight of the Dream

A lot has happened in the last year. And the last few months particularly have been ones of change. I have downsized my life physically and financially and attempted to deal with it emotionally. I have achieved a lot but there are still things that need to be done. It's now time to start finding ways to expand whilst still being able to live within my means.

Realising I can do this and make plans for the future has already felt like an enormous weight off my mind but I still have to implement it.

I've taken the decision to downsize my business and go back to work. It isn't able to support me and it's just too stressful trying to be productive and stay positive whilst living on air. This was not something I had planned for.

My business will become a thing of evenings and weekends but at least it will still exist and I will probably enjoy it more. The rest of the time I need to be doing something that is inspiring, fulfilling and socially more interesting whilst not losing sight of my long term aims and ambitions.

One of the problems I have is that I haven't made the most of the facilities available to me in order to promote my business. Most of that is due to lack of effort on my part and I will freely admit to that. I have lost my drive and enthusiasm for the thing I loved the most.

The reason for this is that I have never fully recovered my confidence since finishing university last May. After all the encouragement I was unexpectedly left feeling useless, incompetent at what I wanted to do and unable to fully realise my abilities and I've never been able to shake it off. I have let myself down and I was let down by the university that was supposed to be helping me onto the right road. It killed my love for clothing design and I will never forgive them for that. The knock on effect on my life has been profound and I don't think anyone knows just how much I changed in that year. But I've had enough so it's time to move on.

The city where I live is very limited work wise for both my business and employment generally and it is also full of bad memories I would like to leave behind. I have realised that nothing is going to change unless I sort myself out and I don't believe it can happen here. There are things in my life that ideally I would like to take with me and if I can I will, but it's now time to start again. It think it was going to be inevitable.

Friday, 10 May 2013

# 61 (2013) Mickey Mouse Courses - following your dream or a waste of time?

Vocational study is never far from the limelight where the news is concerned. Our UK education system is often slammed, shaken up and reworked by a Government eager to stay in power but struggling under a burgeoning number of students in the system with nowhere for them to go when they leave education. How do you keep them on - by letting them study whatever they want?

'Mickey Mouse' subjects, as so many of these degrees have now been branded, are under close scrutiny. Some of them seem completely pointless and even more give students nothing to help them in the real world of work. But surely some degrees are only perceived as 'Micky Mouse' because we don't have the industry left in this country now to absorb those talented graduates? Many craft, hands on or creative degrees are classed as 'Mickey Mouse' because our manufacture status has been lost leaving many graduates 'qualified' for their first job but unable to find relevant work.

Back in 2003 Margaret Hodge, the Higher Education Minister, defined a 'Mickey  Mouse' course as one 'where the content is perhaps not as rigorous as one would expect and where the degree itself may not have huge relevance in the labour market.' By that standard many vocational courses would fall into this category because they are less academic and because the industry is limited in terms of earning potential.

The ONS publication Graduates in the Labour Market, 2012 published in March 2006 does make for sober reading and clearly demonstrates that their financial contribution is considerably lower than those in academic subjects.

Some A-level courses also fall into this category but are more blatant in their vague direction and dubious titles. 'General Studies' or 'Critical Thinking' don't count towards University applications and many general media based studies are included under the 'Mickey Mouse' umbrella. However, these studies are carried out along side a whole host of other subjects which go on to form a broader education. A degree is more focused but courses such as 'David Beckham Studies', 'Surf Sciences' and 'Golf Management' do make you wonder what on earth is going on. How are students going to apply these courses in other areas of work if they don't get the career they are after?

Last year The Mail claimed that 9 out of 10 sixteen year old students will take at least one Mickey Mouse subject. Alongside useful subjects this is all well and good, but when they progress to university level still nurturing these as useful areas of study it does become a concern.

Many vocational subjects are important. One day when we are all sick of cheap imports, farming work abroad and need to expand our workforce effectively we will have a manufacture industry again that will be able to employ more of these graduates and those less academically able. For now it's about getting by. And if being skilled at admin, working in a call centre or selling cars are the gap fillers that keep a roof over the heads of our creative graduates in the short term, then so be it.

I'd still rather be in a humdrum day job and able to buy food and pay rent, than spending my days being creative and living off tinned beans in a tiny houseshare.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

# 60 (2013) Living Life To The Full

I read an article in The Metro (Tuesday May 7 2013) called 'It's life but not as we know it'.

It asked 'Have you visited 25 countries, performed on a stage and learned to speak two languages fluently?' It surmised that if you hadn't you weren't living life to the full. It went on to remind readers that the 'Top 50 list of ways to live life to the full' focused on 'experiences and achievements rather than having more material possessions'. What it failed to point out was that most of those 50 experiences required money in the first place. For example:

Take two holidays a year
Travel to at least 25 foreign countries
Book an impulsive last minute holiday
Go on safari
Blow money shopping

It did balance this out however by suggesting, ironically, that you should be earning 'more than your age'. In your quest for happiness and on a less monetary but no less materialistic level it also bizarrely suggested you could:

Lose 6kg (1st) in weight
Get a degree
Start a family

Contradictorily it suggested you should 'stop worrying about what other people think' whilst being sure to be 'well thought of by friends and family'. A difficult balance to follow I think given the often complicated nature of friends and family.

Stranger suggestions included 'meeting strangers', 'having a one night stand', 'dating someone exciting but completely wrong for you' and 'having an all night drinking session' which all seems like bad advice to me.

Does anyone believes this rubbish? Or have these things made you happy? Some of these items on this list would make you at least temporarily happy, but still less would have the longevity to keep you happy for long. Some, by their expense alone would end up making you miserable. Attaining this kind of lifestyle would be financially back breaking.

There are people quite happy with a simple, financially minimal existence. To a degree you can be a lot happier without the materialistic things in life. Apparently the average person can tick only 8 of the 'Top 50'. I can tick 19. I can't honestly say I am feeling that smug about it. But I bet you checked to see which ones you had achieved. So how did you do? And how did it make you feel?

Friday, 3 May 2013

# 59 (2013) The Cinderella Slayer

Modern man is a myth. And there should be more 'Cinderella Slayers' because if there were and a few more women read this article, there would be some happier single people out there.

I never had huge expectations of my partners. May be that was my downfall because I let them stick around for far too long. I was by nature a bit of a control freak and they were happy to let me take control of the bills, finances, Yeah, my boyfriends were all saps.

Whilst I didn't expect much of them I did hope they could wire a plug. But I guess that was asking too much. And the more I was let down the more I did it myself and the more redundant said partner became. And then I would eventually find no use for them and cast them out. And that is generally how my life has gone. In retrospect I blew the best years of my life. I have no idea what I was thinking. It was all a terrible terrible waste.

I am now a self sufficient individual who has a partner who doesn't depend on me. This is a new experience but an enjoyable one. I don't get to exercise my bossy nature very much and as a result it has subsided considerably. We both get to remember we are after all individual people and not one half of something more significant.

But too many women are still under the impression that the traditional relationship - man as provider and woman as homemaker - is a workable situation in modern times. I do have friends who have somehow made it a reality but to be honest they are people who have generally embraced a previous way of life and fortunate to have found it.

But there are still more being let down and even more singles both men and women refusing to budge until they find someone who ticks all the boxes. Good luck with that one.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

# 58 (2013) Association

Maybe I am being too harsh. Maybe I'm not forgiving enough. But I feel like I've been messed around so much in my life (yes I blame everyone else for the time I have wasted on them rather than my overly forgiving nature) that I tend to drop people at the first sign of hassle. This is something I have learnt in the last year or so and learnt it very well.

Some of my 'dis-associations' have been the right choice. But perhaps I should be giving some of the individuals concerned more time to prove themselves. The problem is that I get angry and annoyed and my life has very little space in it for down time, socialising, idle banter or indeed petty stress. I have wasted huge chunks of my life and my energy on people who basically didn't care and I refuse to let it happen anymore.

I have unresolved issues. We all do. But now that my life is entirely streamlined both physically and people wise it's time to take stock and change the way I do things. There is less clutter in my head, the bad people have gone and I need to slow down and make plans.

The other problem is that I just don't care anymore. I've lost the will and the desire to try. And I have lost my passion for most things. One event did this to me and I still haven't quite moved on from it. Now might be my biggest chance to prove that I can make an effort and start to enjoy the life I have. I have moved into a house with two complete strangers about whom I know nothing and who I appear on the surface to have little in common with. Now is the time to start again.

Can I handle it? I am forced to be social on a daily basis both morning and evening and share my downtime space with other people in their house. It's strange how quickly I feel that I have settled into this place considering just how apprehensive about this move I have been, but I am growing to love this space I now call home and I can't imagine being anywhere else.

Key to what I am now doing is to make sure that people understand how I tick from the outset. This has been a stumbling block of late and I am sick of going round in these circles with people.

The trouble is that once the damage is done I don't want to go back and build the bridges. In this respect I am stubborn, childish and unmoving. Many would say bloody minded and selfish. I'm not going to apologise but I am fully aware of my faults, don't think for a moment that I am not.