Monthly Archives: February 2016

His Dark Materials

One of my colleagues has just loaned/given me Northern Lights, the first in the Philip Pullman series. It was made into the movie the Golden Compass with Nicole Kidman. I think there were aspirations it would be like the Harry Potter Franchise  – fantasy novel turned huge breadwinner movie series.

It’s probably just as well I’ve been given the first book as I haven’t properly watched the movie – the large golden monkey freaked me out, like a massive yellow baboon and I find those things scary. (Actually, I have a low concentration span for fantasy movies although I quite enjoy the books, I find movies tend not to live up to what is occurring in my head.)

I’ve already read the second book and am more than halfway through the third. In which they keep referring to adventures from the first book which is both annoying and confusing as I haven’t read it. This would probably be more annoying and confusing if I was someone who liked chronology. Fortunately I’ve learned to treat books in the same manner as television series. That sometimes you miss an episode or five within a story arc but you have to be completely thick to not grasp the overall picture. So I just read backwards while reading forwards at the same time. (I also tend to skip around within a standalone book if I get bored and read the bits I missed later when I’m more awake.)

I told my colleague it’s probably best we don’t give the trilogy to her friend, who, very late in life (like I’m one to talk, reading Pullman now), has started the Harry Potter series. He’s also deeply religious and even more than the Narnia series I think he will find these books somewhat disturbing. They definitely call into question the concept of a greater universal God and an eternal afterlife in which you are still you, although the concept of your soul free in a Buddist sense is underlying.

Similar to the Alvin Maker series (for many ideas are really reinvented ones), they query whether man is really able to distinguish between good and evil -whether, in fact, we get distracted by what appears to be power and shiny white light like magpies searching earthly treasures. The concept is that blind faith in shiny  creatures who talk with silvered tongue leads to zealot crime and murder under the guise of religion and salvation.

Personally I do not think reading literature such as this should serve as an argument for or against religion. If your beliefs are in fact strong enough, they should withstand and indeed welcome your reassessment of them.

I do find the fact that books such as these do downplay the need to try live a good life towards others. The lead characters tend to feel they need to maximise how their lives will touch other people but there is the idea that it is this life that matters and you should really be enjoying it here, today, if you are not a special hero character. And I think the world could do with more people paying it all forward. But then again, aren’t we all special in our own eyes?

All in all however, I have enjoyed the last of the trilogy as it did bring about some new twists and ideas within a somewhat jaded fantasy genre where a lot of people do just reinvent what happened before. It’s gone better than book number two did which dragged a bit when I first picked it up (I did better the second time round). It’ll be interesting to see how book one goes.

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Filed under book review, religion, review

I am a worrier

I wish I was one of those people who lived blissfully calmly through life’s ups and downs. I am just not one of those people. I’m one of those people who leaves for work then spends the next four hours worrying I forgot to lock the door behind me. I have actually gone back and CHECKED halfway to work whether it was locked.

I stressed once the fridge door was open when I went away for a weekend.

The only thing that saves me from dying of an early heart attack (although this could still happen) is that I am also extremely forgetful. It’s like early onset dementia. I watched a movie yesterday I saw on the big screen not even a year ago. I swear I’d never seen it before but plus one rather irately pointed out he’d paid for tickets to take me to see it. Whatever. It was a revelation for me plot wise. I went with the BBC Sherlock Holmes quote that I didn’t have the time and energy to keep useless stuff in my head so something had to depart.

Currently I worry I fluffed a job interview as I was a bit wishy washy so he wants to stay in touch  but didn’t convert to an offer.

I worry that I will not get further interviews.

Or that I will and have to lie about going to them.

That I have been offered within my company to change teams which I dearly want.

But that if I do I will have to work longer hours.

But if I don’t that I will die of boredom.

It must be interesting to be one of those people who just lives and doesn’t over think things.

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Filed under memories, paranoia, social

Equal rights

The UK government has just published that companies over 200 in size will have to declare earnings brackets between genders in offices to help close the divide between men getting paid more than women generally.

Today I was sent an invite to an management course being run by the firm. Most of the attendees are management barring four of us. Three of us I suspect have been primed for development the fourth is a thorn in my side. His unobtrusive blandness and ass kissing combined with lack of actual ability has meant he does a lot more ‘management’ than actual work because he lacks the skills to do the hard graft. He is also on the list.

I know it sounds like sour grapes on my side but as my old boss pointed out, I am essentially bad at politics but very aware of them. I know the reason I am on that list is because I fought tooth and nail through every assessment that I wanted better skills to manage myself and others and this is a concession to shut me up.

I know that that other guy who started after me and is almost a decade younger will possibly trump me on the next step up the corporate ladder. I know that this will be because he comes from the same country as the founders of the firm, that he is vanilla and inoffensive (unlike me who will instigate change but also ruffle feathers) and that mostly importantly, he is male and can be moulded into a mini-me.

I never thought gender played a part in jobs initially. I was granted my first real job because I tenaciously stalked my boss for an answer to my job interview after he said he’d review it. He figured that this ability would stand me in good stead against any difficult clients we had and I would follow through. And in fact, although the industry is geared to men, I was taken seriously despite being a woman and very much junior and inexperienced.

A friend in the UK pointed out that as long as we show signs of viable childbearing, there was always a possibility our climb in the ranks would be slower or paused. It is true in this industry it is very hard to be a part timer and not completely married to the job. Unfortunately I am starting to see her point.

My salary has surprisingly not been overly handicapped by my gender or the fact that I never bothered to recertify my qualifications in the UK. I could earn more but there are many earning less so I feel fortunate. But I have begun to realise I will always have to fight harder to be given a chance to be at the top.

Part of this is because I am a volatile personality but I suspect part of this is also because I am a woman. I see middle aged Caucasian men who run the companies look sceptically at me. Not the clients or the team, but the directors. They can’t always visualise a board in which they would have to sit dealing with me being temperamental or hormonal or trying to take maternity leave. It’s not even conscious but they can’t figure out how to relate to me. I can SEE them struggling to think of small talk when they sit near me socially. Which is ironic because one of the things that annoys me about the social climber is he doesn’t really relate to the client and consultant team. Whereas given the opportunity, I will be out with them til the end in the pub, being one of them and I will be professional as hell the next day at 9am. But it is a fact impossible to prove this without the chance to interact with these people and this is something that has been deemed ‘unnecessary’ in my position. The position of someone who is good at their job but is almost too good at the mundane stuff but not seen as being good enough to be trialled for better because when you have people who can do leg work and people who can’t rather oddly, you give the management to the people who can’t because that is all they can do. But this curbs my chances of attending the right meetings in the right places to pick up skills and connections.

This is not perhaps fully a gender issue but I can’t help but wonder if I had been a man if my ambition and bolshy attitude would be better accepted as a fighter than because I am a woman.

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Filed under gender issues, Relationships

Budgeting tips

I want to smack plus one. He owes me some money, which is not really a big deal. I don’t really mind that so much as he then spends money in the most inconceivable places instead of thinking about it.

I’d like him to consider:

  • Bringing lunch to work. It’s considered ‘uncool’ for the most part in the UK but I reckon the average person wastes at least £200 on lunches in a working month instead of about £30 (or less – a friend worked out he could manage on 50p a day if he brought spaghetti and premade sauce in). If only he could see all the people climbing off the Gautrain with their little cooler bags!
  • That for non-perishables it counts to buy the cheaper bulk volume sometimes.
  • Having said that, you have to compare against promotions and offers and if it will spoil before you consume it all because bulk may not be cheapest or best choice.
  • That you CAN eat no name brand food on occasion and it might be almost the same – you could at least try it!
  • Water does not have to come out a bottle and be fizzy, it is sometimes drinkable out a tap.
  • Premix spices and flavouring sachets for say spaghetti bolognaise are far less economical than just mixing it off the spice rack yourself – and you can customise.
  • Get a credit card with a lower interest rate if you MUST owe the bank money – and that having said that, I’d rather you owe me interest free than the bank because in the long run if we are together, you are messing with both our futures.
  • You CAN wear a sweater in the house in the winter, the heating does not have to be cranked up to tropical, it is normal to be cold in SA in the winter indoors (which is why I try not to visit in winter).
  • Switch off the lights if you plan on being in another room for over half an hour, even with energy saving bulbs, it’s a bit pointless when noone is in the room.
  • If you do have store cards/discount cards etc and are shopping in the area, take them with and ask for the discount!
  • Know your pricing when you shop and then try hold out if there is a largish price difference to buy where it’s cheaper. Don’t just throw things willy nilly into the basket because you like them. I can’t even say it’s a man thing because standing in the Pick ‘n Pay a middle aged man grumbled to me ‘the Lays have gone up since last week, what is wrong with this place’. I think South Africans are just more aware of these things.
  • Price match is a big thing in the UK although it does require some research. It’s not really worth it for a can of soup but it’s worth considering for big things like holidays or specialised equipment – expensive items basically. It allows you to buy from the most reputable retailer at the lower cost – or just lock the lower cost.

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Filed under modern living, shopping