Friday, 18 May 2012

the hunt

More on the job hunt today, I'm afraid.

Interestingly, I've already had a couple of good sniffs.  Indeed, I appear to have been asked to interview for a couple of jobs - well, tentatively.  They're not fully confirmed just yet.

I've been a bit surprised, actually, as you obviously hear about how the economy is in the toilet all the time, but there have actually been loads of jobs on the websites I've been using.  In fact there's been sufficient that I've been able to be choosey about which ones I apply for.

Now don't get me wrong - I'm not saying there are more jobs than you could shake a stick at, but I've definitely not been desperately applying for all jobs because there were so few around.  I'm guessing this is a reflection of the fact that I now have a good few year's experience and I'm not straying outside of that area of experience.

My guess is it's hard for people with no experience moving into new areas or freshly entering the job market.  Certainly a lot of the jobs I'm looking at are asking for experience, though I think that's something of a reflection of what I'm going for as well - you wouldn't employ a new person in the role.

One thing I would definitely say is that this thing of using recruitment agents is rubbish.  A lot of them really don't do anything like a good job.

Now this isn't borne of bitterness or anything, but you have to remember that I'm sort of in a similar area and if I'd been putting up some of the job description they do I would, quite frankly, be embarrassed.

I mean, if you're advertising a job surely you'd at least make sure that when you copied and pasted the job description the company supplied you with the text was all fully copied across and decently formatted.  I've seen descriptions where the sentences on each item of a bullet list were all cut in half so it became unreadable.

What's worse is they're very protectionist.  They put up the job description but they won't say what the company is, which you can sort of see as being fair enough as they want to stop you going direct, but they won't even put what sector it is.

So in my case I'm really not interested in construction or the company may be in the health sector and want someone with lots of health experience.  So if they don't put the sector and I apply then it's just a waste of everybody's time.

Of course, the worst crime they commit is not replying.

Given that these companies get fees for finding people and that's all they do it's quite poor behaviour.  To me they're kinda on a level with Estate Agents.  They have too much power and are providing a service which really shouldn't be needed.  Especially in this day and age, but the irony is they seem to have actually gained greater power with the internet.

You can kind of understand it from the view of the company that's using them.  They act as a sort of first filter, since I imagine if you put up a job you get hundreds of applications, the vast majority of which are no hoppers.  Of course the problem is these recruitment agents don't really know what the job requires, they're just comparing your CV to the spec, and the spec may not be that good or they may not understand it properly.

Thursday, 17 May 2012


I didn't really post much last week.

That was primarily due to a double whammy of having to get back up to speed / pick up all sorts of stuff that had happened while I was away and applying for jobs.  The applying for jobs bit was the thing that took up most of the spare time I would usually use to do things like write my blog posts.

I finally finished doing my CV while I was on holiday.  The tricky part was coming up with some stuff to match the technical sections in my CV.  I've basically divided the CV up into two parts - technical stuff and bid writing stuff.

The technical part was easy to populate because I could just take the material I use for my work CV (I get put into bids and obviously do technical work as a contractor like I did earlier in the year) and tweak it so it was a bit more appropriate to the format, etc.

The difficult bit was the bid writer side, because I only really do that internally to my company so there was no pre-existing material.  The real challenge was dividing both up in such a way that they matched stylistically.

The technical stuff easily divides up into a series of discrete projects, but the bid writing was better divided up into areas of activity with each project as a single example of me doing that.

In the end I came up with what I think is a relatively smart CV that brings out both sides quite well.  My idea was that by making a CV like that I could adapt it if I wanted to do a technical or bid writing job.

Bid writing is of more interest to me.  I think.  It's certainly been a lot easier going through the job descriptions on the websites and thinking whether I could do the role or not.

The technical / analytical searches have generally produced loads more results (probably a ratio of 20 to 1!) but the big problem is that I don't have much of the specific experience with the analytical software like SPSS, SAS or SQL.  So while I could learn and probably have all the other skills, that means it's not even worth applying.

One thing that's also been interesting is the salaries.  The analyst roles are reasonably well paid, but it's broadly similar to my current salary.  Unless, that is, it's in the financial sector, and then the money goes quite high.  For the bid writing roles the worst salaries are equivalent to what I'm currently on and generally are a bit higher (backing up one of my issues where I currently work).

As part of this whole process I also had a rather significant haircut - the buzzcut of the title.

I've been thinking about getting it all trimmed off for a while as I've actually started to thin on top.  This wouldn't be so bad but unfortunately my hair is really fluffy and tends to stick straight up unless it's more than an inch long or so.  The trouble there is when it gets that long it tends to acquire some weird curliness, but only in certain parts.  My sideburns get very curly, but more on the right than the left, for example.

The buzzcut is also super easy to maintain and I can also now do it myself, saving myself money.  I mean, it's not a lot of money, but given how long a haircut takes it's surprisingly expensive.  We're talking an equivalent day rate in the order of £350 a day and that's a lot for the type of level of work it is.

I am a little worried though as I fear it makes me look too aggressive / thuggish.  A part of the issue is that, while my hair is thinning it's not receding, but also I have quite dark hair so it's not a subtle thing.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

sucker punch

I struggled with Sucker Punch.

The problem was I felt it was trying hard to do something clever but not quite achieving it.

The clever thing it was trying to do revolved around exploitation.  There were several levels to this.  One was quite obvious - the exploitation of young women by popular culture.  This was examined through a whole series of contradictory elements such as the girls dancing and questions over empowerment.  But there were other themes - family's (natural and forced), violence (real and for titillation), the use & abuse of cultures (Hollywood's wholesale taking of tropes from other cultures), for example.

My problem came in that it was trying to have its cake and eat it.

Now I don't fundamentally have a problem with this, it's just that here it didn't quite work.

So the film is exploring the exploitation of beautiful young girls as eye candy.  It's trying to point out that this is wrong.  But it's also doing it itself.

The film is exploring the use of false empowerment - girls presented as being empowered, but actually being 'enslaved' and used.  But it's also doing this itself.

I guess the issue is that it failed to undermine these issues.  In the end it simply used them itself.  It would have been far better if it had parodied them or somehow undercut them.  It made it all feel slightly pointless.

The other issue I had was the fact that it felt like a series of individual things stuck together.  It's quite normal for action films to effectively be a series of heavily designed action vignettes that are almost glued together.  Weirdly they're like musicals in a way - there's the song and dance bits and then there's the stuff that moves you as briskly as possible between each of these.

Well in Sucker Punch this goes to an extreme with each of the vignettes feeling like an individual movie.  But this is to the extent that each one is completely different in style, tone and theme.  Indeed, each uses a particular set of tropes such that one is a far eastern thing, another is a World War 2 thing (and also a zombie thing) and another is a LotR fantasy thing.

The trouble is that the switch back and forth between these is extremely jarring.  Part of this is where the exploration of themes comes in - the wholesale plundering of other cultures, the exploitation, etc.  But the real difficult I had is that generally these are really cool.

In particular they feel like the best bits of anime, games, western comic books and movies all welded together.

I dunno, perhaps the coolness was meant to be the part that undermines the issues?  Instead to me it felt like all it did was reinforce them.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

spanish grand prix

Spanish Grand Prix this last weekend.

Usually Spain is a bit boring.  A big part of this is because it's where they do the winter testing and it's also where they used to do some of the in-season testing back before they cut it out to help reduce costs.

In the past that has meant the teams and many of the drivers know the track intimately, but it also means they know each other's performance at the track very well too.  Obviously if you keep using the same track over and over then the final result come race day is likely to reflect what you saw when you were practicing too.

However, thanks to Pirelli even tracks like Spain have been given a new lease of life in terms of the quality of the races and this last weekend was no exception.  The race was a good one with lots of on (and off) track action.

Of particular note was obviously that Williams has managed to win a race for the first time in something like 10 years.  They've been going through quite a rough patch recently Williams and haven't really even been in contention for being a mid-field team for a while.  Last year was there worst ever season, but this year their fortunes seem to have turned through the full 180 degrees.

Also Sauber and Lotus both seem to have made some serious steps and are very much contention.  Indeed, it's such an open season that we've had five separate winners in each of the five races this year.

Another clear example is that Alonso is currently sitting at the top of the table, despite having not won any of the races and everyone saying the Ferrari car this year is terrible.

There were a couple of sour notes.  Having had the victory and celebrating Frank Williams's 70th Birthday there was a fire in their pits after the race and four people got injured.  Fire has always been one of the riskiest elements in Grand Prix and it's claimed more than a few lives over the years.

The other sour note was Lewis Hamilton who, having done a stunner of a lap in the final stages of qualifying was then told to turn off his car while out on the circuit as he was low on fuel.  The cars are required to give a sample of fuel from the tank following qualifying to make sure they're not adding in anything to improve performance.

This is actually quite a lot (1 litre) and if they can't give this then there are quite serious penalties.  It came about because of a similar incident involving Lewis a while back where he ran out of fuel on his in lap.  This time the team told him to stop so they would be able to give the sample.

Now I believe there is also a regulation that says you can't do this either - knowingly under fill your car (more fuel = more weight and makes you slower) and stop.  However, McLaren indicated it was an error, but the stewards didn't accept this and demoted him right to the back of the grid.

This seemed un-necessarily harsh, given that the weight reduction would only have given him 2 or 3 tenths (he was half a second quicker) and he'd already set a quick time that would have put him 6th.

And this after the last race in Bahrain where Rosberg tried to run Hamilton and Alonso off the road and Hamilton overtook off the track and yet nobody received any punishment at all.

One of the things that did amuse me about it was when Hamilton pulled up the booing of the crowd was epic.  Lewis isn't the most popular fellow in Spain given how fanatically they love Alonso and the year they spent as team mates at McLaren.

Monday, 14 May 2012

glowing orb of brightness

There was a rather sudden change in the weather last Friday.

Suddenly the sky went this weird colour that I heard people describing as "blue" and there was this bright yellow ball floating in sky that appeared to produce a curious warming sensation on exposed flesh.

Some people said that finally the weather was nice, but I knew the truth.  We have been plunged into a nightmare scenario designed by the cosmetics companies to get us all to spend our entire earnings on gloopy creams that protect us from this burning sky globe.

That's quite enough of that.  Yes, this weekend the weather gave us a brief respite from the constant drizzle, rain, torrential downpours and miserable, chilly grey dampness that has been the British climate for the last couple of months.

It's weird; the grey and wet weather has actually been getting to me the last few months.  It's not so much that we've had some it's that it's been continuous and incredibly repressive.  A bit of rain I don't mind at all, but when you get soaked to the bone every time you leave your house it gets to be a bit much after a while.

Actually the weather we had was just how I like sunny weather.  It was nice and bright, but it wasn't hot.  Even when you were out in the full glare of the mid-day sun it was still pleasant.  I don't like it when it gets really hot and it doesn't matter if you're in the shade or not, you just feel clammy and sweaty all the time.

Of course today it's clouded over.  It's not actually raining here yet, but I understand it's on its way.

I did actually have a few pictures I took that I wanted to upload about the weather while I was on holiday.  Unfortunately I've not downloaded them off my phone and while I'm sure I could e-mail them or something similar I can't be bothered to work out how to do that.  I'll therefore do it later and blog about it then.  Let's just say it was mildly moist.