Archive for June, 2006

Apologies for the irregular service

June 26, 2006

This term has been total madness for me, but it's nearly over.  The school holidays arrive at the end of this week and I don't think I've ever needed them more in my teaching career.  You can probably expect a veritable Niagara Falls of vents come term break, as long as the marking mountain doesn't loom too high. 


Those dreaded telephone calls

June 24, 2006

I loathe and detest tele-marketers.  

I know I shouldn't, they are just doing their job and few of them would do it for a living if they had other options.  But honestly, every time the telephone rings between 5.30pm and 7.30pm I know it is probably going to be one of those painful "Sorry but I'm really not interested" conversations. 

I had one the other night who didn't know how to let go.  I'm always polite, because it's a crap job, for pathetic money and a whole Olympic Stadium full of abuse and grief, at really anti-social hours.  But this guy managed to stretch my politeness to the point where it snapped, rebounding on him quite painfully (I hope): 

Ventoletta:  "Kia ora" (Me answering the phone) 

Hapless Tele-marketer:  "Hello, can I please speak to, errr, Mrs Vent Box?" (So far, so polite) 

V:  "I'm sorry but there is no Mrs, my name is Ms Vent Box." (This always peeves me, the assumption that I'm a Mrs because I'm over a certain age, but it's not his fault.  He isn't the first to make this mistake, he won't be the last, I'm used to just correcting people and getting over it.) 

HTM:  "Ok, Mrs Vent Box.  I'm calling on behalf of Evil Empire Enterprises, we're just wanting to make you aware of a fantastic new life protection scheme that has just become available to you, and only 100,000 other lucky people."  (Ok he didn't say 100,000 he probably said "a select few" or somesuch other rubbish.  He was pretty obviously reading off a card, at speed, so I shouldn't blame him for the bad attempt to hook me in by making me feel special.) 

V:  "Is this about life insurance?  Because I'm not really interested, I already have life insurance, but thanks-"  (HTM makes mistake number one and interrupts me.) 

HTM:  "No, no it's not life insurance, it's life protection!  It's quite different.  It means that if you were unfortunately to end your life earlier than you had otherwise expected your family will be cared for.  It's really quite a revolutionary new idea!"  (At this point he was clearly no longer reading from the card, but was in fact filled with a genuine zeal about the product.  There was a hint of angry desperation in his voice too, and his friendly facade was starting to slip irretrievably downwards.  Oh dear.) 

V:  "I don't really see how this is different from life insurance, and also how it would actually protect my life.  Anyway, thank you for your call but I'm really not -"  (I'm still being polite but Ms Harsh Tone is creeping in.) 

HTM:  "But Mrs Vent Box, you are turning down the most amazing opportunity!!  Really if you would just hear me out-"  (He's quite testy by this point, like his life depends on this sale.) 

V:  "Look I'm sorry, but I already have life insurance and I'm quite happy with my current arrangements."  (Ok, this is a lie, I don't have life insurance, but I'm firmly trying to assert my desire to end this conversation and get on with my evening.) 

HTM:  "But you don't understand!  This is such a good opportunity.  Let me tell you about our wonderful life protection scheme.  It involves-"  (And so he starts reading from the card again, quite agressively, as if by sheer force of personality he can somehow keep me on the phone.) 

V:  "I have told you that I'm not interested, but you don't seem to be listening.  I've really tried to be polite but-" (Interrupts me AGAIN!  What is wrong with this man??) 

HTM:  "You are making a big mistake, this life protection scheme is-"  (He's very angry indeed, and he doesn't mind me hearing it.) 

V:  "Ok I've tried being polite but I am quite happy with my current arrangements and I hope you have better luck with your other calls this evening.  I do not wish to talk to you any further.  Goodbye."  

And thus I hung up on him. 

I felt very guilty.  It's a terrible job, and sometimes people are just rude to the poor tele-marketers for the sake of it, someone safe to take out their other irritations on.  But this guy took the chocolate eclair.  He was rude, disrespectful and couldn't take my "No" with grace.  I hope he wasn't trying to pay off his gambling debts. 

Spiced ham

June 18, 2006

We all hate spam, everyone hates spam, every single person with an email address.  I bet even spammers hate spam – they must get it from others and be irate, just as you and I, the non-spammers, are.  (At least I hope so). 

But you know something, they wouldn't keep doing it if there weren't some people who bought stuff off them, because of spam.  I'm toying with the idea that that is indeed a greater crime than sending the spam in the first place.   Forget the laws against sending spam – let's deal with the demand side of the equation.  Although Death To All Who Buy From Spam is less catchy that Death To Spammers!

I probably accidentally delete legitimate emails when I shovel my inbox free of those nasty unsolicited emails from total and utter strangers trying to get me to:
a) Buy viagra, cialis, prozac, and Dog only knows what other "embarassing" drugs that many people assumedly don't want to have to go to the doctor to get.  (Surely you don't want to take these drugs unless you need them?  In which case, shouldn't you check out whether they are necessary with an expert first?)
b) Enrol in some dodgy "Internet University" to get a piece of paper that certifies I am a Doctor of Nanotechnology, which no one will believe, except possibly for strangers you meet in dating chat rooms online. 
c) Visit their porn site, to look at hot babes and assumedly start paying per view at some point, or clicking through to the ads on their sites so they get some dosh out of the time spent programming that 'bot to harvest addresses from the internet.
d) Help out the internet equivalent of a little old lady (the child of a deposed legitimate ruler of a little known third world nation) to get their money back, whilst taking a handy cut for myself which will inevitably turn into a total raid of my bank account and possibly the stealing of my identity.

Spamming enrages me because I can't escape it.  I got an Xtra address about a year ago specifically because of their spam filter.  I shelled out because I wanted to avoid the 100-odd spam emails I was getting every single day.  It worked for about 5 months, with only a few hardy spams making it through, but now it is as bad as ever. 

I'm quite cynical about Xtra's involvement in all this.  At first the spam was virtually non-existent, but now it's at least 100 a day (again).  If I'm away for a few days it mounts to uncontrollable levels.  Not that long ago Xtra started marketing an additional "Security Suite", which allegedly stops spam for a bit of extra cash in their pockets (and out of yours and mine).  Now the reason I switched to Xtra in the first place was because of the spam filter included – so what is the difference between the spam filter I allegedly already have and the one that costs (more) money?  My guess is it's the 100 spams a day that I'm getting now, which I didn't used to get…

I've also noticed that the free email addresses I maintain (Hotmail and Gmail) for using when my address will actually be available on the internet get little spam, and it is all, accurately, directed to the Junk Mail folder.  I'm not giving MSN or Google any money for this service, but I am paying Xtra.  So how come the free service can do it fine but the paid one can't?  A mystery that it's beyond me to unravel.

And by the way, there's an official website for actual SPAM (as in that which comes in a can), which is really quite witty.  Apparently the use of the term spam for unsolicited commercial email comes directly from the Viking Spam Skit in Monty Python.  It's good to know these things.

The sad tale of Mr Individual

June 15, 2006

The list of annoying workmates that I've blabbed about on here just keeps growing.  I suppose that's the beauty of working in a big school – there are lots of "interesting" characters to write about.

Mr Individual possesses the most non-teacherly personality I have yet encountered.  He seems to actively hate children, and in fact any woman who isn't available to him for sex.  Sure, he can stomach these people, be nice to them when it's necessary for his day to go more smoothly, but the things he says behind people's backs in the staffroom…  Well let's just say it's a lot worse than anything you'll read here.

His politics are somewhat out of place in our school, but Mr Individual has no shame about sharing them.  Not that he necessarily should hold them back, but he could probably anticipate some of the hostile reactions he gets to statements about how he shouldn't have to pay for free doctors' visits for children, because he has chosen not to have any.  This is a constant source of declaimation for him – he has no kids, so he shouldn't have to fund x, y or z with his hard-earned money.  (Yes he does seem to realise the irony that he is paid from the public purse, but he also openly advocates the privatisation of the schooling system, so that's ok.  He seems to have dreams about McDonalds operating the local primary, so that it churns out perfect little fast-food workers, while the really smart ones could go on to iPod College and have their brain juices harnessed by the computer corporations instead.)

I suspect the "choice" he's made about creating and rearing offspring has been made for him by the fact that he is quite unable to attract a long term partner of any gender whatsoever.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he's never even had a pet for more than three months. 

His constant objectifying of women, in a female-dominated profession, is like some kind of bizarre death-wish.  It enrages me on a regular basis, his rants about the women's beach volleyball, his desire to go on a Strip Club Crawl, not to mention his constant physical ratings of any woman mentioned in discussions about current events.  (The Prime Minister gets a 1 on Mr Individual's meter of attractiveness – I don't think she needs to worry though, having held the position of PM for seven years and been highly successful at it probably acts as a considerable cushion against the jealous rantings of a frustrated high school teacher who doesn't even warrant any management units.)  Of course he's not likely to find himself on any calendars as Mr September any time soon, but that doesn't matter – only women need be judged on appearance, and any woman would be lucky to have Mr Individual grace her bed even for just one night, apparently.

It's quite bizarre to find him working as a teacher, especially in a public school.  I have this theory that he started out his career all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but that something horrible happened to him, which changed him irrevocably from someone who loved to teach, to a grumpy curmudgeon, old and bitter before his time.  I wonder sometimes if Mr Individual's heart was broken by another teacher, or he was falsely accused of abuse (which must be a constant worry for male teachers these days). 

Now he seems stuck in a career he ostensibly hates, but he has too much inertia to retrain or try something else.  Instead he likes to spread his hate and malice around our staffroom, perhaps trying to infect others so that he doesn't feel so alone and vulnerable.  He feels like a total individual in a profession which values collectivity, so he tries to isolate everyone else too, with his nastiness and spite.

Strangely enough, I wish something nice would happen to Mr Individual.  Something so nice that it changed him for the better, something that spoke so undeniably of the benefits of being happy, of sharing things, of the strength that being part of a group can give you, that he had some kind of epiphany.  So that Mr Individual could start seeing the colour in life, and not just the shades of grey.  Oddly I find myself wishing him love, when I'm not so angry with him that I'm actively desirous of his violent and painful death.  Maybe love could crack out the human being inside Mr Individual's carapace of disdain.

Drizzling on my parade

June 10, 2006

So prosaic to vent about the weather, but it's undeniably getting me down.  Denting my normal sunny disposition (yes, really), the drizzle is unrelenting in it's hazy fall from sky to ground.

Why do I care?  Firstly sunny weather makes me happy.  Silly I know, but it's true.  I read somewhere once that sitting outside in the sunlight with no lenses protecting your eyes somehow increases the amount of seratonin in your brain.  Nature's Prozac if you will (pity about the cancerous contra-indications).

Secondly the sun means dry laundry.  It means avoiding that great power zapper, the tumble dryer.  I'm always torn about using the dryer – I love the feel of towels that have been through it, but it's such a waste of electricity and I feel less green every time I press that grimy start button.  Plus the decrepitude of our current dryer is so advanced that it often smells like it's burning.  Of course it isn't on fire, it just likes to make a fuss.  So all in all the sun is preferred for it's drying capabilities as well as it's propensity to bring me to smile more.

And I like clear weather because the sky is so beautiful when there are big patches of blue between the white and grey.  It makes me want to lie on my back in the grass and just gaze upwards in quiet contemplation.

Drizzle is a serious impediment to my love affair with sunny days.  It is surely the Brussels Sprouts of weather.  Unfortunately, where I live, we seem to have those pesky little Brassica oleracea gemmifera for our meterological dinner at least once a week.   

I suspect one day I will finally snap and in a fit of pique move to the Bahamas in the middle of the night.  They better not have drizzle there.