Scam Alert! Save Our Oceans? Save Your Money!

They want you to buy their over-priced costume jewellery (by midnight)!

Hey guys. This is an update on a post I wrote a while ago about the jewellery company: Save Our Oceans. Since they seem to be continuing their shenanigans…

So, picture the scene: you just woke up. And you do what any sane person who just woke up does: check Facebook! You’re browsing through posts… Carl and Carly are having their second very public break-up this month, Steph’s posted yet another picture of her tits, and Michelle just added 53 blurry photos of her drooling 2-year-old with boogers up his nose. Then you come across this post:

FREE GIVEAWAY!!!
AMAZING!! UNIQUE!!
PREMIUM JEWELLERY!!!
RRP $79.99!!
FREE!!!
ONLY 500 AVAILABLE!!!
QUICK!
BUY BUY BUY!
ENDS MIDNIGHT!!!

And it’s something like, idk, dolphin earrings or a turtle necklace or an octopus ring or a fancy looking watch. And the offer ends midnight, so better be quick!

The jewellery looks so nice and expensive and unique. And it’s by a company called Save Our Oceans. They sound so trustworthy and reputable, right? They sound so giving and caring and generous. They want to save our oceans! They want to resuscitate turtles! We must support their cause!

 

Wrong! It’s a scam!

Back away from the link…

Or do what any sane person would do: SHOOT THE COMPUTER!

GirlShootsLaptop

Pow pow!

Ahem, anyway, If you proceed to “purchase” their free giveaway, you’ll find that they, in fact, charge a fee – it varies: $5.99…, $10.99… – for “shipping and handling”.

But, so? That’s still a bargain on a $49.99 item, right?

no

No.

That’s what they want you to think! All their “free” $10.99 giveaway items can be found on Ebay (and other online retailers) for around 99c with FREE P&P. Not fake “free”; the actual real kind of free. What Save Our Oceans are selling is in fact cheap Chinese crap (no offence China!). It’s the kind of stuff you’ll also see at tourist markets if you go abroad, also priced around 10 bucks, 15 bucks, 49.99! Merchants buy this stuff from China for peanuts then sell it at massive mark-ups. (Which is kinda what big corporations do too, but eh, we’ll kick their ass another day.)

This doesn’t just apply to their giveaways but also to their full-priced items, some of which can sell for around $49.99! Save Our Oceans is a big, fat scam run by big, fat, crooked con artists who do not give a crap about resuscitating turtles! They just want your money! And they want it by MIDNIGHT!

By the way, do not give these people any of your contact details: not your email, not your phone number, nadda! They will spam you constantly with more scams! Like how you can save $10 on this 99c piece of crap if you purchase it for $35.99 by MIDNIGHT! (They’re really obsessed with midnight, makes me wonder if they’re vampires or something. Gotta get their money before they head out to the Blood Bars…)

Save Our Oceans’ Facebook page (I’m not gonna give them traffic by linking, you probably came from there anyway…) is dedicated not to saving our oceans but to selling cheap costume jewellery at extortionate prices. Take a look yourself and you’ll see constant “giveaways” and “special offers” which claim to be short-term and limited-stock but actually repeat every few days and no-one seems to notice…

twilight

What can be done about this? Not much! We live in a society that favors con artists and punishes people who have a problem with that.

I called the company out on their Facebook page but I get the feeling they delete any negative comments. I also reported them to Facebook but they are still active. I don’t know much about law but it is very probable that it’s perfectly legal for them to do this. They’re “technically” charging people for P&P so that’s not really a crime. Even false advertising is rarely considered a crime in a world where Donald Trump is president so… :shrug:

crying

My advice is eat lots of chocolates and hope they impeach him – er, wait – I mean, just try to inform others about this scam and if your see Save Our Oceans on your feed try to raise awareness among your Facebook friends that there are places like Ebay where the exact same items are available at a fraction of the cost – and it doesn’t involve getting scammed and spammed. Save Our Oceans currently gets around 1.7K likes on their “giveaways” and disturbingly about 50,000 shares! So that’s no small amount of scamming! Also, if you guys see any other scams you think need calling out, give me a heads up.

Well, catch you later! I’m gonna go see what dirt Carly is saying about Carl…

Falling in Love with North Carolina

Sometimes, when we’re lost and pondering our best next step, the universe gives us a sign…

I’ve been wanting to move to the USA since, well, forever. It was kinda a fluke that I was born in the UK rather than the USA anyway, so I see this as just… correcting an error. I can’t move for at least a year while I get some money together, but I find if I have a goal I want to achieve, it helps me to visualize it and be real specific with my visualization. It’s some sort of manifestation thing, idk. So, I figured I need to think about WHERE I wanna live in the USA so I can visualize it.

I know I wanna live somewhere warm cause I cannot deal with the cold, it’s gotta be ethnically diverse cause I don’t wanna be just looking at people who look like me all damn day, it’s gotta have some greenery and water cause I need nature around, but also close (by some form of triangulation) to my friends (who all live in different, random states in the US).

I’d been thinking about Florida, which ticked some of those boxes, but it’s far away from anyone I know.

I thought about California, but WHERE in California? People said, “How about Frisco?” but I don’t particularly dig San Francisco. Or LA, or San Diego… None of these places felt like home.

Sometimes things just feel right, don’t they? That’s what I’ve been looking for, a “feeling”. Cause ideally, wherever I end up living would be my home for life, so it’s gotta feel right.

Now, slight detour… this is where the universe makes its cameo (word up!)… many moons ago, I knew this man, I guess you might call it “friendship”… and let’s call the man, idk, “Reynold”, ok? We were this really weird duo… I was this curly, blonde haired, rebellious lil white kid and Reynold was a grumpy old black man. He’d lived in the Bronx his whole life, never gone anywhere, didn’t want to.

Anyway, my favorite pastime was winding Reynold up. One day, over ice cream in the Bronx I said “Reynold, one day I’m gonna move here and I’m gonna be your neighbor and I’m gonna annoy you forever and ever”. Reynold furrowed his brow and shook his head disapprovingly. He’s always been a man of few words.

As the years passed, we drifted apart.

Then last month I got a letter from him in the mail. I kinda just threw it somewhere and forgot about it until today when I was going through some old things and I picked up a stack of papers and Reynold’s letter dropped on the floor.

I opened the letter…
Aliquo,
I have moved. See address.
Reynold

Like I say, he’s a man of few words…

So I looked at the return address on the envelope: North Carolina. I was surprised he’d finally moved after all those years… Then I started to wondering where North Carolina was. Bear with me, I’m British! I know the location of many US states better than I know the location of UK counties but NC had escaped me!

I looked it up only cause I was curious where he was at, I wasn’t thinking of it as a place to live. Then I started to have a look at pictures of the streets and landmarks and the weather and started to kinda fall in love with North Carolina. Not because my old friend is there, although it would be ironic if we actually did end up living in the same state!

But, y’know, NC just kinda ticks all the boxes: it’s warm, it’s ethnically diverse, it’s green, it’s a coastal state so there’s plenty of water, it kinda triangulates with where my friends are at. And, it looks stunning! It’s funny that I’m so picky about wanting everything (beaches and mountains) and North Carolina seems to have it all! Delicious Southern food? BBQs? Cook-outs? Big wedges of warm, sticky apple pie? I’m there in my head already!

And what struck me the most was that I used to have a lucky cat – sounds weird, but whatever – and, I’m not gonna say the cat’s name (no, not “Lucky”, give me some credit!) but there is a place in North Carolina that is my lucky cat’s name! And it’s not a common name so… it’s just like all these pieces are clicking together. At least that’s how it feels anyway. It feels right.

Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know. But I am visiting the USA later this year and NC is within detour distance, so I’m gonna check it out. I’m so excited! Maybe I’ll buy Reynold an ice cream while I’m there… ya never know!

Talking To Official People

Bleh! I get scared having to talk to Official People! Like, y’know, people who wear suits and speak posh. It takes me way out of my comfort zone.

I had to message my union today. I know, it could be worse, at least I didn’t have to talk to a bank manager or one of those estate agent people, or, worse, a lawyer.

But anyway, I’m about to enrol on a Masters course but my university said I can get a discount on my fees IF I’m a union member. And technically I am a union member. And obviously, I want this discount, who wouldn’t? But I don’t have a “union representative” (as far as I know) because I’m not currently employed. And my university says I have to have a chat with my union representative about my course :gulp: AND get my union representative to sign a form :panic:

I’d love to just forget all about it, but it’s an £800 reduction IF I can actually get it. That’s a lot of money! So I have to try, right?

But this meant I had to contact my union to see if any of this makes sense to them. A task which I have procrastinated about and put off and stayed awake thinking about for the past week.

Oh, and I hate phones! I cannot speak on the phone, I get all nervous and can’t keep my tone level and I make strange noises like a fish :blub blub blub: … So, finally, I worked up the courage to email my union. But what typically happens when I email Official People is they respond with “give us a call!” :faint: Why bother having an email address if I still have to call you?!  How am I supposed to explain all this verbally? I start blubbing like a fish just thinking about it.

So now I’ve sent the email, I’m terrified of checking my emails and seeing “give us a call!”. Also, I feel like a dumb-ass for having to ask them if I have a union representative or not. I don’t really know much about unions, except that as a newly qualified teacher I was eligible to join one for cheap, so I did.

Even if they get back with good news (which they probably won’t, knowing my luck!), I’m still going to have to talk to an official person either live or over the phone in order to get my form signed :shudder: and I have limited time to do this in :puke:

I try to imagine Official People as being human just like the rest of us… but I can’t! I see them as other-worldly beings who have the power to vaporise me if I displease them. Eek! But I guess I can’t avoid checking my emails forever… I just have to think that in a month’s time I won’t even remember all this. There are some benefits to having a bad memory!

I’m Jealous of Everyone

Yes, I admit it. I’m jealous of literally everyone.

Some guy on a train once told me the different between “jealousy” and “envy”. It went something like this: Jealousy is when your man is looking at another woman; envy is when you want to steal your neighbor’s car.

But, whatever! I know as a teacher I should care more about semantics, but I don’t. Jealousy is just an easier go-to word for me, but I see jealousy and envy as interchangeable.

Why am I jealous of everyone? I don’t know! Probably because I’m dissatisfied with my life. And don’t give me all those proverbs about being “happy with what you have.” Yadda yadda. Stuff like that is why I did nothing with my life for 7 years while I tried to make peace with living on a poverty wage. Since I scrapped that idea and became a jealous, envious bish, my life has improved substantially.

Everyone thinks jealousy is all bad and evil, right?

To me, it’s not. I don’t want the person I’m jealous of to suffer. I don’t want to “take” what they have. I also don’t want to be them or live their life. I typically have tons of admiration for the people I’m jealous of. I look up to them, I think they’re awesome. And the act of being jealous of them is sort of a motivator for me, it spurs me on to try to improve my life. I think to myself:

I want what they have.

I don’t have what they have.

How can I get what they have?

 

Unfinished List Of People I Envy

  1. Women who look good (they have nice clothes, do their hair, etc)
  2. Women younger than me
  3. Women who own their own home
  4. Women who got asked to dance at prom
  5. Women who got to go to prom
  6. Women who have “high school reunions”, whatever those are
  7. Women who have a loving partner
  8. Women who are comfortable in their own skin
  9. Women who can juggle career-husband-kids
  10. Women who run their own business
  11. Women who run their own magazine
  12. Women who don’t have cellulite
  13. Women who can get up on a stage and speak
  14. Women who get asked out by men who don’t look like slobs
  15. Women who have breasts (that are actually visible)
  16. Women who “go to lunch with the girls”
  17. Jodie Foster
  18. People who have a garage
  19. People who have a garden
  20. People who have a garden fence
  21. People who are articulate
  22. People who always got straight-A’s in school
  23. People who got to be class president or student rep
  24. People who had happy, loving childhoods
  25. People who got to go to sleepovers when they were a kid
  26. People who got to go to camp when they were a kid
  27. People who’ve had pillow fights at least once in their life
  28. People who have parents who actually act like parents
  29. People who have friends they’ve known since childhood
  30. People who can write good
  31. People who have published books
  32. People who are entrepreneurs
  33. People who are part of a community
  34. People who can go to the local store without having heart palpitations
  35. People who are calm
  36. People who can paint
  37. People who can play a musical instrument
  38. People who can focus enough to achieve things quickly
  39. People who can drive
  40. People who own a nice car
  41. People born into money
  42. People who have travelled the world
  43. People who have had actual birthday parties (where people show up)
  44. People who are “at peace” (no, I don’t mean dead…)
  45. People who have big families
  46. People who are content
  47. People who are confident
  48. People who are funny
  49. People who are missed when they’re not around
  50. People who have good friends
  51. People who have had loving, stable relationships
  52. People who have an impressive work history
  53. People who are chatty
  54. People who live close to nature
  55. People who have an impressive resume
  56. People who live in America
  57. People who have a PhD

The irony is, as I write this on my laptop while sitting in a cafe, an elderly lady stares at me from the next table… with a look… that almost appears to be… jealousy.

Nah…!

What Happens If You Don’t Sleep?

You know what happens if you don’t sleep?

I’ll tell you…….

If you don’t sleep…….

You eventually…….……

fall asleep!

That’s it!

Nothing bad happens!

People are crazy:

“If you don’t sleep, YOU DIE!!!”

“If you don’t sleep, your brain fills with water, YOUR BRAIN DROWNS!!!”

No.

All that happens is you will eventually get so tired…….

that you will…….

just……

                 fall…….

       asleep….

no…..

     matter……

                                                    how…….

hard…….

                                            you…….

       try…..

                        not…….

to….

Good night.

Why I Hate Motivational Speakers

This post is for all of you who buy into these cult leaders…

You know why people become motivational speakers? I’ll tell you why people become motivational speakers. People become motivational speakers because they want to be worshipped like gods. They have the Messiah Complex. Notice that 99.99% of motivational speakers are dudes. It’s very common for dudes to have Messiah Complexes. They watch too many films about Ancient Egypt when they’re kids and then think it must be the best thing ever to have a harem. So, they grow up and turn their Messiah Complex into a reality by becoming a motivational speaker. It’s also a little bit BDSM: They are the god (dominant) and all their followers are their bitches (submissives).

At some point in the past, your motivational speaker was just a loser like you. Usually a rich loser though. Most of them come from money, even if they (of course!) try to imply otherwise. Then they discover the power of words. Words affect people.

Sometimes it’s the vocabulary, words like: wish, believe, joy, dream, triumph, strength, courage, success, money, power, goal, love, passion, achieve, push, you, you, you, you, you… – lots of repetition! – and don’t forget “we” because “we” are a “team”, “we” are “united” in “unity”.

Sometimes it’s the rhythm. Something good comedians and verbal poets know all about. Hypnotists too. Have you ever listened to chanting? Or the beat of a drum? And it does something to you? …ba-da-dum…ba-da-dum…ba-da-dum… It sort of connects with your atoms, your heart starts beating in tune to it and it takes you somewhere else? Words can be spoken with such a rhythm that they sort of put you into a little trance. Motivational coaches take advantage of this to convince you to buy their shit and join their haram. Surely, it can’t have escaped you that they all talk in that same Shopping Channel voice, right?

They don’t want you to become successful! They don’t want you to have a good life! Motivational speakers don’t actually motivate people to do anything (except buy their shit). If they did, it wouldn’t be very good for business, would it? I mean, at some point, they’d probably run out of clients from motivating all these people to live happy, satisfactory lives, right?

If motivational speakers are so good, how come they don’t come with a money-back guarantee? How come the same people keep going back to their shows year-in, year-out? I know this chick who has been following a motivational speaker for the past 5 years (along with many other thirsty women) because he has the “power” to enable her find her dream man. She is still single! It makes me think of Weight Watchers or something…

Motivational speakers exist solely to tell dumb people what they want to hear. Of course they do it with a paternalistic, authoritarian tone… that’s all part of the dom-sub thing. Think about what kind of people follow motivational speakers? Who are their target audience? Low-life, bored, old, dissatisfied, fat lazy slobs. Desperate housewives. People who are having a shitty life and want to be reassured that it’s “OK”. People who want to believe they can change their life by listening to someone talking for 18 hours.

Hell, if you take all the time you spend listening to motivational speakers (live, on YouTube, on Twitter, DVDs, books…), you could actually have achieved something! And you wouldn’t be so broke. It makes me think of Scientology or something…

But it’s OK. The motivational speaker is here to reassure you. Cause that’s what motivational speakers do. They tell you what you want to hear. “It’s OK you’re lazy”, “It’s OK you wasted 2 years watching my DVDs”, “It’s OK you haven’t done anything with your life”, “It’s OK my shows bankrupted you”, “Of course you can become a guitar hero at the age of 67! Why not?”, “You can be whatever you want, if you just wish it really, really hard”, they’ll say while flashing you a Hollywood smile. Cash or card?

People Don’t Need to Know I’m Gonna be Homeless.

Everyone thinks I’m going off to live this wonderful life in the big city; I’m too ashamed to tell them the truth…

I’ve been accepted onto a Masters course in the big city – London! Sounds great, right? I mean, this is a good thing! It’s great! I’m happy about it! This was my dream…

Rewind to how this all came about. A glorious spring morning in 2016, I was lying on the floor, bawling my eyes out and trying to think of the quickest way to kill myself. Because my life had counted for nothing. I had dreams… That’s only human, right? Some people have big dreams, some people have simple dreams, and some people are quite happy waking up and going to work and coming home and eating their TV dinner in front of some reality TV show and going to bed and waking up and living Ground Hog Day every damn day of their damn lives in Punxsutawney, Pissville. But, I’d had enough! I was literally sick to death of living in Punxsutawney, Pissville!

My dream was to move to America (where everyone I know lives) and be a professor. Y’see, I’m an academic person. Some people love hair & beauty. Some people love soccer. I love education. I love learning new things about the world. And everyone I know lives in America; I’m lonely in the UK. In that moment of lying on the floor, bawling my eyes out, I realized that there were only two options available to me. So I stopped crying, picked myself up and started working towards my goal of moving to America and becoming a professor. Getting a really useful Masters qualification is the second big step towards that goal (the first was getting my teaching qualification). America doesn’t just let anyone in. I need to become… impressive.

Problem is… I’m broke. I’ve always been broke. I’ve been sleeping on couches since I was 15. People talk about “2nd generation poverty” or “3rd generation poverty” but I don’t think any of my ancestors ever knew anything besides poverty. My great-great-great grandmother earned a few bucks by collecting dead bodies of sailors who had washed up on the shore. In fact, poverty is so normal to me that I don’t understand how or why other people my age have so much money… I see people with rich parents, mortgages, cars and stable jobs as, like, these magical beings… like, they must be blessed or something.

Rewind to summer 2008, I finished my bachelor degree just in time for the economic meltdown and ended up working dead-end, minimal-wage jobs. Like a lot of millenials, I was stuck in the infinity loop of over-qualified-under-experienced. (And they wonder why millenials aren’t having kids? We can’t afford kids!) Getting laughed out of low-pay interviews because we’re overqualified; getting laughed out of higher-pay jobs because we have no experience. Not that I get many interviews in a climate where 100 people are applying for every job and 99 of them have better CVs than I do.

I have to do this Masters degree. For me, there is no option. It’s this, or the roof of a multi-storey carpark. It should be a happy occasion. I’m moving to the big city! I love learning and this is a stepping stone towards my dreams. But universities are screwing over their Masters students with extortionate fees. So I’m going to be homeless. Not homeless like a tramp, but homeless like I’ll be living in youth hostels for the academic year. Although, considering I currently live on a couch in someone’s living room, and two months ago I was sleeping on a floor… perhaps it will be a slight upgrade. But I dread not having any privacy and I’m concerned about my valuables being stolen and I worry about sleeping next to strangers who could potentially be psychopaths…

Rewind to 2016, the government introduced student loans for Masters degrees. Which is great! I could not do my Masters without this funding. But unlike at bachelor level where you have two separate amounts for your fees and for your living expenses, the Masters funding is just one lump sum for everything. You get up to £10,280 total, maximum, final. As soon as the government announced this, many universities in England rammed up their Masters fees from previously being between £2,000-£6,000 to now being, you guessed it, £10,280.

Because they can.

Most universities in the UK are money-obsessed and have zero consideration for their students mental and physical well-being.

And so students are left with nothing to live off.

The government knew full well that most universities would charge as much as they could get away with. It’s criminal that universities don’t have to justify why a course has increased by up to £8,000 in the span of one academic year. On top of that, universities will toss out any student they think might struggle because they’re obsessed with ratings. The latter is understandable but the former goes against the ethos that educational establishments are supposed to be held by. How can an institution claim to be inclusive and support diversity and equality when they a) only accept top performing students, b) charge fees that exclude most people?

So now that the universities are charging such high fees, how are students supposed to live?

My university is not quite charging £10,280. No, they’re charging £8,500. I could study a cheaper Masters but that would mean ending up with a less useful qualification (think: Msc. Baby Farts), which would mean lower future wages and less ability to move to the USA, so that’s not a risk I’m willing to take. I can only do this once, may as well make it count. But this leaves me with £1,780 to live off for 10-months. That’s £178 per month….

Obviously, I’ll get a job, but I don’t know how long that will take or how much I’ll be able to earn in the limited hours available between studying.

Quick math lesson…

Costs for the academic year:

  • Hostel accommodation = $4,000 (MINUS £2220. Notice I’m already in minus figures by several grand and I’m homeless and haven’t even bought a damn sandwich yet…)
  • Money I owe people = £2400 (-£4620)
  • Food/Drink/Clothes/Toiletries = £1000 (-£5620)
  • Travel costs = £500 (-£6120)
  • Stationary & Books = £300 (-£6420)
  • P.O Box address = £200 (-£6620)
  • Trip to Disneyland = wait… What? Ok, fine, no Disneyland.

Compare this with Undergraduate degrees where students get their £9,000 per year fees paid and various grants and loans to cover living costs up to £9,000 per year. It’s not mega-bucks, but it’s far better than £1780. Another comparison: For my teacher training course that I did last year, I got £8000 fees paid, a £9,000 maintenance loan, and a £4,000 bursary.

Why is it so impossible to offer the same for Masters students? Why? WHY!? They know damn well they can afford it, so why?! Why are we being screwed over and forced to live below the poverty line when other students are given maintenance loans?

And this £6620 debt is while living like a homeless person, and putting my physical and mental well-being in danger. This isn’t living some luxury life. And this is all just to attend a university course. To try to get somewhere with my life. To try to get a decent job so I can earn a decent wage so I can eventually own my own home sometime before I die and eventually live close to my friends and be able to put a little door mat out on the porch like a normal person and invite people over for lemonade like a normal person, instead of living like a fucking nomad.

On top of making me homeless, my university has the audacity to tell me to get a Career and Professional Development loan which would cost me £280 per month to repay. (You have to repay the CPDL as soon as your course finishes.) Yet there is no guarantee I’ll have a job by then that can pay £280 on top of rent, bills, food, and my existing £240 per month debts. So, I’d just be worse off.

My university also has the audacity to tell me I shouldn’t work while doing my Masters because I should focus on my studies. If they didn’t bankrupt me I wouldn’t need to work while I study. I wouldn’t need to be homeless. That was their choice. I have to live in squalor while they have their champaign luncheon in their 5 * luxury, air-conditioned, leather-chaired, marble-floored meeting room.

I don’t know who to be more mad at: the universities or the government. I think they’re both as bad as each other.

Universities are earning so much excess money these days that they’ve become like encapsulated worlds, buying up every other building, engulfing neighbouring schools, colleges and office blocks, buying brand new technology for every department then throwing it all away 6 months later, spending thousands of self-congratulatory dinner parties, while their students starve and live in rat-infested closets with 5 other people like its Dharavi or Karachi, or some other god-awful dimension of hell.

Fast forward to today, I’m going through the process of throwing away 99% of my belongings. I won’t have anywhere to store anything at the hostel so I’ll just take a few essentials. I recall the words of an acquaintance I bumped into a few days earlier… “You’ll have to let me know where you’re living in London. I’ll come visit!” She was hugging me and excited about my big adventure. I just smiled and nodded. People don’t need to know I’m going to be homeless. They all think I’m heading to the big city to live an amazing life. I take down memories from shelves and throw them in the trash. A funny thought crosses my mind: “It’s almost like dying…”

I can only hope I’ll be reborn as a butterfly.

“Real Women Wear Dresses!”

Random Musings on Gender

I just saw a post on Facebook that totally wound me up…

We need to break down gender stereotypes. But that’s not really happening because feminism is a dirty word and chauvinism is back in fashion. What’s worse is women are enforcing gender roles just as much as men.

I’m not going to talk about the Facebook post. I can’t even-

I’m gonna talk about a party…

So, I go to this party and all the women (in dresses) are all…, well…, just picture a bunch of feminine women screaming and all talking at once… (I know I’m complaining about women being women. The irony is not lost on me.)

“Oh look at you!” “No look at you!” “Oh you’re so beautiful!” “No, you!” “I love your hair!” “I love yours!” “I love your earrings!” “Yours are amazing!” “I just love your dress, it’s so you!” “Omg, I love your shoes, did you get those at DaddysMoney.com?” “OMG! You’re amazing!” “No, you!” etc etc...

And then they notice me and they’re like “oh…… Hi Aliquo” cause I’m not wearing a dress and 5 gallons of make-up, therefore I’m not “beautiful”.

Which is fine. Fuck “beautiful”. I’m content being a bad-ass motherfucker. But they look at me with… idk, confusion…? Pity…? Idk. Like I’m “other”. Like I’m an alien. Like I’m somehow not quite a woman. I’m somehow… “less”.

My point is, we still have this view: real women wear dresses and make-up and are beautiful. If a woman is wearing a baseball cap and cargo pants then she’s not beautiful and not a real woman.

We need to tear that Poster Girl perspective off the wall.

Before some dick comes and puts words in my mouth, I’m not saying women shouldn’t value that shit if they want to. I know women who want to do hair and makeup and dresses and be extra-feminine. That’s fine, that’s their thing. But equally, I, and other non-dress wearing women, shouldn’t be made to feel like we’re “less woman” just cause we don’t have a breeze blowing up our coochies.

The number of times I get asked (by women!) if I’m a lesbian… Da Fuq!? Cause I’m wearing trousers?! Da actual fuq!?

Just for fun here’s other gender-role shit girls say to me:
1. “Oh you don’t have a boyfriend. Don’t worry! You’ll find someone!” (Excuse me for having standards…)
2. “It’s not good to be too independent you know!” (Actually, it’s not good to be too DE-pendent)
3. Me: “I wanna own my own home someday” Other woman (genuine confusion): “Why? Just find a rich guy and move in with him, duh!”
4. “Ew, I’d hate to be in my 30s like you cuz no man wants a woman in her 30s!!! I’m gonna make sure I’m pregnant and married by 29!”

Bonus round – gender-role shit guys say to me:
(Picture some guy who looks like Mr. T from the A-Team)
1. {on a date} Mr. T (in very serious tone): “Do you cook?”
Me: “No.”
Mr. T: “Well, you’ll have to learn!”

2. {same date} Mr. T: “Behind every great man is a woman… who knows that she is right where she belongs!”

3. {same date} Mr. T: “What do you need achievements for? Achievements are for men!”

Learning to Code

So I’m 30-something, I recently completed a teaching qualification and in September I embark on a Master’s degree in Computer Science. Since I don’t currently have any teaching work, I’m spending my summer creating lesson plans, writing teaching articles and, before-all-else: coding! Truth is, I know nothing about Computer Science! I totally cheated on the Computer Science entrance test – shhh! But, it’s ok cause I have two solid months to learn this stuff before the course starts.

I wanna let you guys know if you want to learn coding, if you want to be a computer programmer, if you want to be a tech nerd, then you damn well can be! :bangs fists on table: Hell, if I can do this, anyone can! This is like quantum physics to me but I have an offer letter from a pretty decent university in the bag. I know, I know, the “cheating” thing… Do we really have to keep bringing that up?

Anyway, people try all kinds of fancy methods to learn stuff but any kind of learning boils down to this sacred rule: get the damn shit in your head! The best way to do that is through rote learning. In the West, we notoriously hate rote learning, instead preferring holistic methods involving “feelings” and “journeys”. Meanwhile, over in China where rote learning is common, they slay the rest of us in pretty much all of their subject pass rates. Coincidence? I don’t think so!

My main method of learning to code is: code, code, code. I see code (on a website, in a video, in a book, on the back of a toilet door…); I write code (in NetBeans, txt files, or in my bad-ass coding notebook). I don’t know what the hell these codes are or what the hell they do, I just write them. Sometimes I’ll open a text document and just copy out a simple programme over and over and over and over. You have to engage with new knowledge around 70 times before it enters long-term memory.

Don’t let that depress you! Go eat some chocolate… Feel better? Good!

Look, rote learning doesn’t have to be boring: it can be like a challenge: how many times can you type out the code in 5 minutes? How fast can you write the code 20 times? Can you think of different ways to write it?

Immerse yourself in the code; learn to love it.

As you keep writing codes, things will gradually start to make sense. Almost like learning a new language (well, it kinda is a language!), you’ll notice certain “words” keep popping up, and you’ll start to learn the grammar and syntax rules (yes, computer languages have those!). Don’t be afraid to experiment with codes and make lots of mistakes, that’s an essential part of the learning process. Also, don’t worry that you have no clue yet. Sometimes we get put off learning because we think we need to know all of everything right now.

When I stopped worrying about the “why” and “what”, I started writing much better codes. There’s this guy over at Simple Programmer who says “trust the process”. That would be my advice to anyone about anything at all in life, ever. Any learning is hard initially. Don’t sweat it, just keep coding and one day you’ll look at the screen and think, “Woah, did I just write that?!”

Book Review: Black Like Me

After hearing about Black Like Me in Lynn Thaler’s review, I just knew I had to read it. The book was written in 1959 by John Griffin, a wealthy white man from Texas. The writer goes on a journey to discover what it truly means to be black in the 1950s deep South. But he knows he’s not going to get a true picture of the situation as a white man. So, he decides to become ‘black’ through a series of medication, sun lamps and skin dye.

At first, I was sceptical about the book, and the author. Did he really manage to convince people he was black? There are some pictures in the book but since they’re low quality, bad-angle, black and white photos, it’s hard to tell. Was he nuts? Did he actually go to the South in what amounts to blackface? I was also sceptical of his motives. Perhaps he genuinely wanted to know what black people were experiencing, but did he also want to appropriate black culture? Did he actually care about the people he was writing about or was it all for the realization of some twisted fantasy? And since he himself was writing the book, how much of his conversations with black folk could be considered true and accurate?

Nonetheless, the story is intriguing. It usually takes me a year to read a book; this one I read in two days. It gives valuable insights into the black experience in the 1950s deep South from the murder of Mack Parker, to the Civil Rights Movement and the assassination of Martin Luther King, to the changing cultural landscape as blacks fought for equality in an exhausting, never-ending tug-o-war with whites determined to maintain the status quo which kept them on top.

From a 21st century perspective, it’s easy to find fault with this book: he wears blackface, he calls blacks “negros”, women are viewed as subordinate citizens. Perhaps this is why the story is rarely promoted in this era. But logically we should take its 1950s origins into account. Griffin was probably about as enlightened as a middle-class, middle-aged, white man from Texas could be for the time.

Griffin admits he initially had some prejudices about blacks as a result of his upbringing and the lies he’d been told. By experiencing life as a black man and through the kindness he received from the black community, these negative beliefs soon disappeared. It’s obvious from reading the book that he did care about the suffering of blacks in the South. He notices many prejudices that are so ingrained for whites that few would consider them, especially in the 1950s, and he explains how he repeatedly tried to get whites to wake up to their conditioning.

This book was written before the Civil Rights Movement and at a time when blacks were still heavily segregated in the South with their own water fountains, rest rooms, cafes and so forth. Blacks were considered to have ‘equal (but separate) rights’ – this was an illusion. The mere right to eat, live and breathe were as thin and precarious as eggshells. One wrong look, one raised voice, one sudden movement and a black person could find themselves on the receiving end of a lynch mob with their ‘rights’ nowhere to be found.

As you read Black Like Me, you’re hit with the reality that this could easily be a book written about racial inequality today. His first stop is New Orleans, a relatively “cosmopolitan” city for the time but nonetheless still a place where black people lived in poverty and experienced mass discrimination. The black people he meets lament the fact that their children see little point in education because it does not grant them the same opportunities as white children. The author describes the black children’s futures as being “mutilated” by the poverty and racism they are subjected to. It’s painful to read how much black parents had to sacrifice just to try and give their children opportunities. One man sent his children out of the South to receive education, saying how he would never see them again. For their own sake, he didn’t want them to return.

There are many parallels between the reality for blacks in the 1950s and blacks today. Griffin describes (updated version) how, in the late 1960s, black communities started to grow concerned for young black males, fearing that their lack of positive public role models could cause them to feel hopeless about their futures. When the author talks about the problems of black poverty in the South, one can’t help but think that it sounds just like the struggles many blacks go through today. Black kids can’t get a decent education or jobs, people can’t afford to buy a house or get a mortgage, or live a decent life. Nothing has changed in nearly 70 years.

The book is intended for white people; it makes us come face-to-face with the reality of ourselves. Racism is not always obvious… on his experiences travelling through New Orleans as a black man, Griffins notes: “My first vague, favorable impression… came from courtesies of the whites towards [blacks] in New Orleans. But this was superficial. All the courtesies in the world do not cover up the one vital and massive discourtesy – that [blacks are] treated not even as a second-class citizen, but as a tenth-class one”
The book displays the constant low-key racism he encountered at every turn: after a very long day of walking around in search of work, the author takes a bus back to his hostel. But the bus driver doesn’t let him off at his stop and continues for a further 8 blocks until white people want to get off, only then does he allow Griffin to get off.

He describes how polarized his experiences where as a black man than they had been as a white man. At one stop on his journey, he received a venomously hateful glare from a ticket seller when he politely asks to buy a ticket: “I was truly dumbfounded by this deep fury that possessed her… I framed the question in my mind: ‘Pardon me, but have I done something to offend you?’ But I realized I had done nothing – my color offended her.”

Every action becomes difficult and fraught with danger: cashing travellers’ cheques, using a restroom, getting a bus, finding a cafe to eat in or some place to get a drink of water, a hotel to sleep, somewhere to sit, having to pause to scan everyplace for a ‘colored’ sign so he didn’t accidentally use the wrong facilities. And these facilities always seemed to be miles out of the way while the white facilities were conveniently located. He describes the constant minefield and the delicate balance in navigating daily life as a person of color. He couldn’t believe how a person “could deprive another of anything so basic as the need to quench thirst or use the rest room.” He felt as though he had entered “some strange country suspended in ugliness.” You feel his frustration of walking 10 miles in the blistering heat only to not be able to sit down or use a rest room. But at the same time, the knowledge that he is in fact a white man does not escape the reader. Help is always just a phone call away.

His experiences could never be fully real because he was insulated by his inner whiteness. If in any real danger, he could have revealed himself as white, he could have removed the ‘black’. The people he wrote about could not. Several times he mentions how if only the racist white people had known he was white, they would surely have been ashamed of themselves! All this state is that they would have behaved differently towards him as a white man than a black man, something the reader already figured.

Occasionally, the writer excuses the racist behaviour of white people as “individual act[s]… not typical.” Some reviewers feel he is too lenient regarding the behaviour of whites. Certainly, this is true in some parts but you get the feeling Griffin was an optimist who wanted to see the best in all people. However, he states how depressed and disappointed he was to encounter yet another racist white on his travels, and to find one who treated him as an equal was nothing short of a miracle! Numerous times he exposes the dark underbelly of white society.

He describes the curiosity of many white men towards black males who they viewed as hypersexed. He notes the perversion these white men had for black women and girls. How they would pay a handsome sum to have sex with under-aged black girls and were obsessed with black sexuality. In Alabama, he encounters a truck driver who proudly proclaims to have purposely hired black women so he could have sex with them, and if they refused his advances, they didn’t get paid.

Despite their racism, many white men in the South thought it was just fine to rape black women who they had no regard for. Black women were considered the property of black men, and by raping them the white men could assuage their own sexual insecurities.

“It shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it terrifies you.”

A snapshot of the time takes us to Mississippi and the murder of Mack Charles Parker, a black male accused of raping a white woman. While awaiting trial, police officers, who had already beaten him severely, allowed an angry mob into his jail cell. He was further beaten before being taken by car to a bridge where he was shot and then his lifeless body was thrown into the water below. He was 23. No one was ever brought to justice despite the perpetrators being named and known. The KKK won that day in Mississippi just like it had on many other days before.

Whites saw blacks as “a different species… akin to an animal.”

It’s clear from the book that, for many blacks, life in the South was just a seemingly endless continuation of slavery. Temporary freedom only came in the form of escapism – drink, drugs and sex; permanent freedom only in the form of death.

In Mississippi, Griffin’s fear of staying in the ghetto meant he didn’t even stay one night, depriving the reader of what would have been a very interesting perspective of black Mississippi life during this fraught time. But, understandably, the author is concerned for his welfare, just as any of us would be in the same shoes. A call to a white friend gives him a place to stay for the night. A luxury no black had.

He eventually decides to visit a safer coastal town in Mississippi instead, however again he doesn’t spend much time there and stays out of the fray. He further has the luxury of staying with another white friend and his wealth meant he wasn’t relying on work to feed him. He didn’t know what it was truly like to be black in Mississippi. He didn’t know what it was like to have no choices, to have to find work before he could eat, to have to sleep in the loud, dangerous ghetto every night in fear of his life.

In Mobile, white companies made it as difficult as possible for blacks to get jobs or earn decent money in the hope they would then leave the area. The whites knew it was only a matter of time before equality would break through. When that day came, they wanted to make sure there were no blacks in the neighborhood for them to be forced to hire. Meanwhile, the working blacks in Mobile were kept in constant debt, never earning enough to make something of their lives.

He talks about the severe injustice blacks in Mississippi faced every day, the worries for their futures, the fear of lynch mobs, the hatred of their inhumane treatment. He describes the Valentino blacks and the shade envy. The blacks who denounced their own race because they saw it as a cage, preventing them from ever being free. He describes how they would live and die never knowing what it was like to simply go in a decent-looking café – luxuries “separated from [them] by only a door”.

As you read the pages, you feel the poison of hate and racism, mainly from the whites, but also from some blacks who understandably cursed the whites for their endless misery. He describes the way blacks had to be polite to the whites even in the face of outright aggression, for fear of reprisals.

Over in Mississippi, blacks paid taxes for services only whites could use, such as the beaches. Black men were not permitted to vote. They had every legal right to do so, but the whites, who controlled everything, found various ways to intimidate them or invalidate their votes. Even if they could have voted, it’s not as if they had their own representation among the candidates. Their choice would have been between one white supremacist or another.

There were two types of whites at this time: racist and shameful. Some might say all were guilty of contributing to the ill treatment of blacks. There were occasional whites who spoke out against the cruelty but they could not rid the blacks of their predicament. “Significantly, this was considered high treason”. A white showing support for blacks could lose everything: their job, house, family, even their life. But this was a price that some whites felt necessary to pay in order to bring awareness of Southern black living conditions to the rest of the world. However, the racism was too prolific, too deeply rooted for it to be easily destroyed.

Some whites would, intentionally or otherwise, patronize the blacks, pretending to be their friend (if no other whites were around to see) but would reduce themselves to racist insults at a moment’s notice. Most whites where cowards in front of their own people, afraid to rock the boat or show compassion to blacks for fear of the repercussions.

Griffin surmises that due to the lack of genuine communication between the races, blacks understand whites as much as whites understand blacks. If something isn’t done “it will be a senseless tragedy of ignorant against ignorant, injustice answering injustice – a holocaust that will drag down the innocent… then we will all pay”. “No one [is] free” until justice works for all people, not just white people. But those conversations are difficult to have with so much history, hatred and pain between the two races. Griffin comments that whites aren’t ready to hear the truth, nor listen for that matter. His comments were made in the 1960s but apply just as easily to the current situation.

He speaks of the changes brought about by Martin Luther King, the hope that one man gave to a nation, and the effects of the Civil Rights Movement, how it helped, but did not cure, the sickness. The movement was the worst time, he claims, because racial tensions were so high that people feared a new holocaust. He states how some white Civil Rights supporters did more harm than good, because their idea of helping blacks was to turn them into “imitation whites”.

He indicated that, towards the late 1960s, what helped the most was black people gradually taking ownership of their communities, running black banks, owning and supporting black businesses, building black schools with black teachers and black history. Whether this is an adequate solution, I don’t know.

Having now read the book, it seems obvious from the words on the pages that Griffin had decent intentions. He saw the problem – maybe not all of it, but enough of it – he wanted to expose it, and he did. Through his story, white people can learn some aspects of the daily discrimination blacks have to endure. We can never fully understand, but even some understanding helps us to realize our privilege and our prejudice.

“I believe that before we can truly dialogue with one another we must first perceive intellectually… that there is no Other – that the Other is simply Oneself in all the significant essentials. This alone is the key that can unlock the prison… neutralize the poisons of the stereotype that allow [people] to go on benevolently justifying their abuses against humanity.”

As an aside, I wish someone would make a movie based on this book. One was made in the 1960s but is typical of many from the time: cheaply made, overdramatized, badly acted, badly produced, and badly directed. Furthermore, the white actor in blackface is unrealistic, obviously white and even ‘acts’ extremely white in the role. There have been many great movies in recent years to cast a spotlight on racial inequality and I think this movie could be added to such a list if it were remade in an appropriate and sensitive way.