B****y Hell That was fast!

I was writing a bit of whimsy, gawd ‘elp us! when my email flashed an incoming note from a publisher. I was a bit surprised because I wasn’t expecting anything at the moment. There is a piece with an American publisher which allegedly is still being considered for publication but which I expect is propping up a wobbly desk somewhere and I would be (pleasantly) amazed if I heard any more from them. There is another story out there, but I know that publisher and they aren’t going to reply just yet. Then there was a story I’d submitted to a prestigious SF magazine for consideration, but that was yesterday and I couldn’t imagine anyone being that quick.

Wrong.

I guess some things suck so bad that all you need is a glance.

First up, I’m impressed they even got around to looking at it within 24 hours. That is frankly amazing.
Second I’m distinctly teed off that they can take one look and bin it. I know, I know, and they were quite clear that ‘it wasn’t what they were looking for at the moment’, but let’s face it that sits right up there with ‘ it’s not you it’s me’ in the greater scheme of crappy let downs. I think what we can read from that sequence of events is – reader opened the email and went; ‘Nah fam, s’rubbish innit?’ or the US equivalent.

I’m guessing that given the number I was in the submissions queue and the fact it was c12,000 words long, they didn’t actually read the whole thing before pressing the preformatted get stuffed email button. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful it wasn’t really ‘get stuffed’, my ego is fragile enough, and it is nice not to be left hanging about for months wondering what is going on, but…

It would have been nice if they could have perhaps waited another 24 hours just to preserve the mystique, the glimmer of a possibility that they may have actually read more than the title or first paragraph before going, ‘Jeez, no way!’– bin. I mean I could treasure that 24 hours of hope without fretting and at least buy into the ‘not quite what we are looking for at the moment.’ But less than 24 hours! I mean how long have they actually been working in the States? A morning? That means they probably didn’t even get past the covering letter.

Ah well.

Maybe leave the whimsy about blood doning for the time being, and go and sulk for a bit.

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End of (Another) Era.

I just took my son to his primary school for the last time this morning. He had his leavers’ assembly yesterday and the sports day was the day before that. He seems okay with all this. No tears or complaints. A little moan about the weather not being sunny today when it should be bright and cheerful to see them all off.

The school has been brilliant. In distant times, when my daughter left the same school for example, there were some really disastrous leavers assemblies. How to celebrate your years in primary school and welcome the move to pastures new? With a You Tube video, complete with doom laden American voice over reminiscent of those cold war information films, warning how our children must work ever harder to combat the menacing challenge of the Chinese economic powerhouse on our borders? There were tears. And the kids were upset as well. I’m surprised there weren’t serious complaints to the Local Authority. It was a catalyst for me taking a more active role in the governing body.

The new head has a much more upbeat approach. The day is emotional enough without winding it up with mawkish end of an era speeches and ceremonies that go on for two or more hours, reducing ten and eleven year olds to heaps of mush. He has a celebratory approach and he has released the teachers to be joyful in encouraging the children to remember their time and achievements positively. To cement friendships and build a firmer foundation for their move to the future. A short, positive, joyous celebration of seven years of shared challenge, triumph and laughter. Spot on.

Of course there will be challenges. Nobody is hiding their head. But the way to meet this is with a raised spirit and a smile over that firm chin, not with gritted teeth and words of doom echoing in your head.

So well done to the head, the management team and the staff. And most of all to the children who said how they wanted to celebrate their time together, and pulled it all together in rapid time and superb order. Good humour and jokes and mutual support and recognition abounded.

So now they are all right, can someone put a parents leaving assembly on for me please? I hate endings and after 13 years association with the school I suddenly have no reason to go back. Having sent two children through the school, having been a governor and chair of governors, my wife having been secretary of the PTA, I suddenly find myself a complete outsider.

Maybe my son will help me celebrate the past and the future. Football and model aircraft and playing with toy tanks beckon. I’m feeling a bit better already.

CV Weasel Words

My daughter rang me up about half an hour ago. She was filling in her UCAS application and she was asking for some information about what her mother’s occupation is. Not that she doesn’t know very well what her Mum does but everything that is in her job title and description doesn’t fit the UCAS profiles. We came up with something but it isn’t as precise as it could be because UCAS has its own ideas about how the world is. We spoke about CVs in general and what you have to put in them and how you do it. It’s been a long time since I did one and I always hated it, even when it got me an interview and a job. So I was looking for some advice online. I suspected what I was stepping into, but I hadn’t realised how much worse it it is now than it was only a few years ago.

I came across this – not the most egregious example and I apologise if I appear to be picking on the person concerned. I am not. I despise all the advice of this nature and the system that promotes and sustains it. I am sure her intent was pure and good.

 

“Changing CVs

Mrs Mills says it is important that applicants put modesty aside and show self-confidence in their CV.

“If you are not confident about your skills and abilities then why should an employer have faith in you,” she says.”

 

And there in a nutshell is what has gone wrong with British employers, employment practices and business in the UK.

Nothing about ability note – just as long as you are confident in yourself. You might be a dribbling moron but as long as you can make a noisy self obsessed case for yourself you get the prize.

You see it’s a lot easier to pick a screaming weasel out of a box than to actually do some work yourself, think about what you want the person in the role you are advertising to be and do some reading, research and interviewing of candidates relevant to that specification.

No – PICK ME!!! – is what gets you noticed.

 

And why do we wonder when we get ‘customer care’ departments that don’t, ‘delivery teams’ that can’t, and managers who fail? Because we are optimising business for the gloss, the glitter and no substance.

I have an enormous contempt for the obsession with badly thought out, but elaborately marketed, HR personality testing that demand thousands of pounds to tell you the bleeding obvious that teams need more than just a bunch of top psychopath predators to produce results.

They don’t put it quite like that of course and make up all sorts of names for imaginary ‘personality types’ like ‘completer/finishers’ or ‘Ghengis Khan’ managers or ‘innovative wazaks’.

What they mean is you need people who have a mix of skills and attitudes otherwise you compound your errors and spend all your time ‘blue skying’ or infighting for power and not actually doing the job. And in that respect they do tell us something useful – but you don’t need to pay more than about a tenner to read any sensible book on team building – or go and talk to a member of the armed services for free.

So you need to get someone who can think about the problem from a different perspective, someone who can be critical of the plans and someone to remind everyone that the aim is to make and sell rulers not revolutionise the Euclidian desktop space environment vis a vis mensuration mechanics. And some people to write it down and tell management, workers and customers what the hell is going on (and for God’s sake don’t tell the finance director or he/she’ll stop everything. Then someone to DO IT!

So what do HR do? Get a consultancy firm to do the recruitment. And what do they do? Apply whatever fashionable bollocks is currently in vogue and wait for some shouty, preened idiot to turn up and pretend they are a genius. They then make up some dribble to wrap the candy coated buffoon in and trouser the fee. Leaving the business to realise they have yet another loud mouthed twit who can read and copy the latest ‘how to land a job’ plan and pass it off as their own.

Meanwhile they thoughtful, intelligent but honest perfect fit for the job types don’t even get an interview.

And we wonder why French business employs people who work significantly shorter hours than their UK counterparts but are massively more productive than UK businesses?

It’s one of your own dribbly guru sayings people!

SMARTER NOT HARDER!

Yet we let management experts produce so much of this fluff and guff that even when they accidentally produce a correct answer we can’t dig it out from the background screaming.

 

Do some work.

Think about it.

And for God’s sake look for quality not noise.

What Happened Next

The laptop arrived and after a slight hiccup with getting Office 365 registered, we got it set up and guess what – it streams Netflix after all!

As we were starting the process, I got a call from PCWorld Customer Relations in response to my online complaint. They were very apologetic and said they had contacted the store manager to find out out what was happening there. No offer of any recompense for my time, trouble and general embuggerance though. I didn’t write for that, but you may think that if they really cared about their staff messing people about that much they may have offered a peripheral or piece of software or a voucher to go with the apology.

Still, getting an unequivocal ‘sorry’ felt like some sort of vindication.

SHOPPING

I tried to buy a laptop for my daughter yesterday. I did buy a laptop for my daughter yesterday, eventually.

She knew what she wanted, she did her research, found a good deal online, checked the reviews and we decided that it was a good deal. We knew it wasn’t a perfect thing. It was not really suitable as a gaming engine. She doesn’t game. It streamed Netflix okay apparently and was great for emails, word processing and had MS Office 365 free for a year (not a bargain in my book, given MS’s recent rapacious attitude to ‘monetising’ something they used to bundle for free). All in all she made a considered judgement based on available funds, her intended use, price and availability. We considered an online purchase but she wanted to see and touch the machine before buying and I like to give custom to local branches of places I use. Both a sentimental response and naked self interest; I want to be able to look someone in the eye and ask questions, get after sales service.

So we drove off to PCWorld in Newport Harlech Retail Park.

I’ve bought stuff from PCWorld before. They weren’t always the most switched on but in Lisburn in NI and in Newport when they were in Spytty; they were fine and generally pretty helpful.

They merged their store with their Curry’s outlet a few years ago and moved to the new site.

We walked in and found the item on display. An assistant asked if we needed help, but that point we declined as we wanted to look around. We played with the machine, checked a few other machines to compare portability and technical spec, and it is fair to say; looks. She remained happy with her choice. We asked an assistant if we could have a word about purchasing the item.

His immediate response was polite but diffident about the idea. He pointed out it wouldn’t allow heavy gaming. I pointed out we didn’t want it for that. He pointed out other shortcomings, some of which were valid and which my daughter had already researched and discounted as not relevant. Others were frankly not technically accurate – he claimed the processor was underpowered (it may be compared to some), and not dual core (which it is, and is also not completely relevant to what we talking about). Its speed is the same as one she is already using and it can be clocked to run faster if needed. He said it was a glorified tablet and couldn’t stream video – odd as this is precisely what people do with tablets and this model is sold to do. He was obviously trying to move us to a more expensive solution which she had specifically rejected in her research as unnecessary.

We went outside for a five minute break to gather our thoughts.

Refreshed and my daughter convinced of the accuracy of her researches and what she wanted we went back in to PCWorld. We couldn’t see the assistant we had initially spoken to so I approached another bearded chap and said robustly but pleasantly with a smile on my face that I wished to purchase this item, pointing to the laptop.
His face fell and he told me, in a dismissive manner that he wouldn’t bother with that and besides it wasn’t in stock. He’d have to order it in. I said we would order it and asked how long it would take. He said it would be in the next day if I paid by card in advance and five days if I paid cash (I think he meant on arrival but he didn’t say that – I cannot see what difference in delivery speed cash or card would make).

I said I’d pay by card now.

He said he didn’t think I should buy it and launched into the ‘reasons’. He said if I came back in a few months he wouldn’t replace it. I asked what the warranty was on it and he said a year, so I pointed out I could return within the year (let’s leave aside consumer protection legislation, messed about though it has been since the Sales of Goods Act was replaced). He said it depended what for and that people returned it saying it was slow, and he wouldn’t do anything about that – seeking to avoid statutory rights and directly contradicting everything the sales information on the machine in the store, on the blurb in store and on all the advertising online and on television.

At that point I lost my temper and told him we weren’t buying anything and this was a disgrace. I went to walk out of the store, my poor daughter at my side.

He sarcastically called after me ‘And thank you too sir, Have a Good Day’.

I turned back on my heel and his friend ran off and he moved behind the display.

I realised this was silly and told him I had no particular problem with him (a blatant lie on reflection, I would like to have rearranged his smug face) but I thought his company policy was appalling, advertising one thing and then trying not to sell the machine and avoid their statutory obligations.

We went home and checked online. Theirs was still the best bargain so despite my feeling towards them we purchased it online from them. Out of interest when opting for the free next day delivery I checked to see what the position was regarding pick up at a local store.

In store and on display at PCWorld Harlech Retail Park available for collection within the hour!

What happened?

Train wreck

Photo via VisualHunt

Well September was going well wasn’t it? And then October arrived and I must have offended that particular month.

It wasn’t too bad to start with really, except I was distracted from writing for the site. An idea got lobbed to me by one of the writers in the group I attend and I had a story in one go. It pretty much wrote itself in very short order. I have just finished a fifth rewrite. I hate rewrites. The trouble is that as it sits at present it is just over 8,000 words long which is almost completely unsellable. Too long for short story outlets and not long enough for a stand alone novelette/novella. It might do as an idea for a longer piece, although I like the pace and don’t think the basic idea will carry much more superstructure. On the other hand I am not sure I can chop sufficient out to hit a modern short story length without making it totally incomprehensible.

But that only took a short part of the month at the beginning and a couple of days recently.

So what else happened?

Well I had a lovely week in Northern Ireland with family for a wedding. Although I had a laptop with me, I didn’t write anything. Lots of ideas from the visit and I am making notes like mad while I remember the ideas, but nothing in a finished state for here.

On a less positive note I was in the gym, on a static bicycle, not doing anything particularly excessive and right at the end of my half hour, before I had chance to get near any weights, I felt my heart go blip into Atrial Fibrilation again.

A couple of days in hospital getting it down below 100 beats per minute and five days in total before it flipped back into normal rhythm. At the moment I am waiting a call for electro-cardioversion (which I no longer need but I will have to have the ecg trace to prove it). That teed me off a little as you may imagine, so what with going off at tangents and wondering if my heart was going to gallop off into the sunset (c170 beats per minute for no good reason at one stage) I have neglected this site. Sorry!

With any luck, now I have got my Mayan story out of the way and my heart isn’t racing around my chest cavity I can get back to Pendragon and the rest.

Fingers crossed!