Friday, August 31, 2012

Living with Unemployment

Every morning, I wake up, throw on old clothes and trudge towards the kitchen, where I boil my morning pilaf. The rice and lentils are taken from those child-sized sacks intended for restaurateurs, the morbidly obese and those, like myself, who are tasked with rationing foodstuffs before they pinch their final penny. I chuck in hand-torn chunks of broccoli, ginger granules, garlic and salt. The broccoli is my contemporary idea of luxury. The spices are gifts of charity from my new roommates. Thus, breakfast on a budget.

Job application time follows and continues until sundown. Constantly reading from the computer screen eventually pops the blood vessels in my eyes, blotching the whites with a warning-color red.

The phone occasionally interrupts the destruction of my eyesight. When it rings, I lunge for it, in hopes to hear the reassuring words of some gentle, confident employer, offering some dream job involving cuddling puppies or public advocacy, or both (potential program: Pomeranians in the Park?). Instead, it’s usually Mom, asking if I’m still eating.

During one recent phone call, someone – not Mom – nearly lured me into a scam. A Mr. P- was offering a security position in the Nelson Building: front desk work, greeting people, giving visitors passes and directions, etc. The position presumably paid $18 an hour. Yet, I was required to pay $100 up front for three days of “security training.” In my rash excitement, I agreed to an interview, but fortunately, thrill succumbed to thought: if they required mone
y for training, I figured, couldn’t they simply deduct that money from my first paycheck? In the immortal words of Karen Dunbar:

I felt embittered. I don’t think it kindly to swindle anyone, especially the unemployed, the poor and the otherwise vulnerable people who would apply for that sort of job. Furthermore, from an occupational standpoint, I find such dirty work redundant: isn’t that what Republicans are for?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Abusive Words from a Postgraduate Adviser

My postgraduate adviser was a wise woman, and I mean that sincerely, but for whatever reason, we did not communicate well. Many of her e-mails struck me as a bit blunt. Eventually, opening my inbox and finding a message from my adviser filled me with anxiety and dread. Perhaps these examples illustrate why I began to feel that way:

"Yes - you do seem confused - what you propose now is not a coherent strategy"

"The thing is - what you seem to not be taking on board is that you only had *4* subjects out of 38 who exhibited any of the behaviour you were interested in analysing (which makes me wonder, what are the grounds for your thinking you could publish the project?) - but anyway, and so - I was hoping you might come up with this yourself (as a result of common sense - nothing to do with statistical knowledge)"

"Finally - I hope you now have sufficient information to complete your task - I don't think I can add any more, and have already provided way more information than would be normally the case in dissertation supervision."

"I don't think there is a question in this message?"

"I know you say you think it was well-written - and some individual sentences WERE well-written"

At the start of an e-mail: "Good grief! ..."

"Please contact D- about booking rooms - I think N- already told you this?"

"Actually it wasn't several weeks ago - it was 30th April (one week ago) that I suggested the meeting for tomorrow … unfortunately as you didn't confirm before now, I have now got another meeting at that time."

"Yes I remember you asked me about this last time in December ... and it's the same now, as then"

"Dear Kelsey

I am not sure if your recent emails are due to the anxiety that you have previously alluded to but the thing is - after the feedback I have already given you, the idea is that you are work with that and make your own decisions - applying the suggestions I have made throughout the Lit Review. I get the impression you are not used to working independently and this is something you will have to work hard on.  The other point I would make is that it is not good practice to contact your supervisor with questions in the day or two leading up to the final deadline! I do remember I tried hard to get you to work to a much earlier deadline but you argued for taking Easter time to do concentrated work on the Lit Review.

At the moment as I think I already said - I am away 13-16 April - for a special birthday visiting with my elderly mother who has a heart condition. She lives in the South of Spain and the signal where she is, is very intermittent.

Anyway good luck.

Best wishes


"It seems that we have a different view of meeting times and etc on quite a few occasions now.  We will need to put a new strategy in place so that doesn't happen again."

 (Note: Kelsey once worked in a library):
"...When you say you can't locate an official source [for a certain psychometric test] - not sure what you mean - do you mean academic article where the test was first mentioned? I would be surprised if you can't track that down! are you using your library skills?"

"also - the question on if I would recommend contacting [a certain academic] - I think you have asked this kind of question before - I am curious about your asking that type of question in the first place - is this an American cultural thing? or an individual difference thing?"

"[your questions] do come over sometimes like you are looking for 'spoon-feeding' - which is something that even at undergrad level supervisors need to work against!)"

But, in all fairness, my adviser could show some encouragement:

"I was reluctant to read your para out of context - but couldn't resist - have to say - it's excellent! Well done! (Now knowing you, you will now start to worry that my expectations will be raised and this may have adverse consequences!) Don't be so hard on yourself - seems like you are doing a great job."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

British Airways

After a final night of festivities with beautiful people, and after a pleasant morning listening to the radio with my wonderful Geordie friend, it was time for me to leave Scotland for the United States of America. Without the kind of hyperbole that often marks my humour, it was the happiest year of my life.

On the cab ride to the airport, passing underneath the dear dark green trees and the grey mid-rise flats, I made two resolutions for my returning. Firstly, I would give veganism yet another go. In America, the temptations of gooseberry custard pots or Yorkshire pudding would exist no longer; veganism would be easy until my American brethren devise more interesting means of making eggs and dairy appetizing. My second resolution was to give up alcohol, at least for the time being. After weeks of tons of tins of Tennants and buckets of Buckfast (for I embraced all aspects of Glaswegian culture), I was boozed-out, having drank as much as would be present at a Boris Yeltsin birthday party.

And so, I boarded my transatlantic British Airways flight, noticing once again that most of the flight attendants were middle-aged men, all stereotypically British, and all quite camp. British Airways must model their attendants after Noël Coward:

 A bald, English flight attendant asked me if I wanted something to drink. Here was the first test. I asked for a tame, respectable cup of water. Kindly the flight attendant obliged. Who needs alcohol?

Then it occurred to me that I had paid quite a lot of money for the flight over. Surely there should be perks, or at least ways of easing the uncomfortable experience of flying. Plus, on this journey, all alcohol would be provided upon request, without charge. What kind of ethanol enthusiast refuses free booze? Finally, I reasoned that two resolutions are a bit much. Being a vegan is, for me personally, easier than being a teetotaller. Why keep two resolutions? Not long before my vegan meal was brought out (and for vegan airline food, it surpassed my expectations in all the most pleasant ways), I asked for red wine.

The vegan meal and the two little bottles of red wine were handed to me by a tall Welshman with a handsome, angular face. When I spotted the beautiful Welshman a second time, I asked for Whisky, and the gentleman, that glorious, wonderful human being, came back with a broad smile and two nips of Johnny Walker Red Label. I silently lamented not having met many other folks from Wales during my stay in Scotland. I wondered if he was related to John Cale, and as that nice whisky warmth soothed and softened blood and body, I seriously contemplated giving him my 1830 copy of The Heart of Mid-Lothian, just for being such an agreeable flight attendant. It must be a difficult job. But instead, I tuned into the on-flight entertainment system, reminiscing with The Smiths and watching an episode of Father Ted.

I can’t remember how many more drinks I asked for, but the Welshman obliged every time. When the bald Englishman returned, I felt smiley drunk, and I decided that something non-alcoholic would suffice. “Tea, please.”

“Why, yes, Sir.” He held out a tray with a paper cup on it.

I reached for the cup.

“Haha, no no, Sir,” said the Englishman, “that’s the sugar! Please put the mug provided with your dinner on to the tray, and I will fill it for you.”

I did so, and he gracefully filled my mug. It was good tea.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Of Denim and Sunglasses

Being fashionable is sort of like cooking a recipe for the public eye: one must add ingredients, or clothing, to the saucepan, or the body, and then heat and stir at the proper temperature, or strut and pose in a fitting way. Well, with all sincerity, my fashion sense is as insane and faulty as the above metaphor.

I think I look good in “double denim,” with the blue top lighter than the blue bottom. This is often a controversial combination. I cannot understand why. While trudging through lashing beads of rain, double denim donned, drenched and dangling down my shoulder bones, I eyed a man ahead of me, similarly dressed and seeking shelter under a bus stop. He asked me for spare change. I instinctively checked my jean pockets, but because my coins were in my wallet, and because giving a stranger money at a bus stop from a wallet probably looks a bit sketch -- however denimed the stranger may be -- I shook my head, apologised and turned towards the rain. “You look absolutely soaked,” he called out. Was this a sudden burst of empathy from someone with whom I had failed to empathise? Was this empathy a direct result of our double denim connection? Questions for the wise.

Sunglasses might prevent me from squinting in the humid Scottish sunlight, but they also turn me into a tool. In fact, sunglasses turn everybody into a tool. This is especially true when the weather suddenly changes or when the sun gets blocked by something. Then, people who wear sunglasses becomes massive tools, like cranes or something. How can people avoid becoming tools under these baffling circumstances? As the sunlight started to dull, I first folded my pair and slid it down my shirt, but the winds of Glasgow were threatening to steal them. I then held them in my hand as if I was holding a burritto. Still feeling silly, I finally resolved to stuff them into my pocket. It is amazing how cumbersome sunglasses become when the sunlight starts hiding behind a building or a cloud. I'll end this thought with ellipses...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

13 Creepy Advertisements

Little Babies Ice Cream advertises their product with a self-cannibalising ice cream monster and bad puns.

 Humpty Dumpty apparently killing himself after a Kinder Surprise! sugar rush.

 A doll that laughs while rocking back and forth, as we shall all do in senility.

Disagreeing with Grace Jones risks jeopardising your life. Ain't she sweet?

Grotesque minced chicken advertisement from Soviet Estonia.

I definitely remember this one. Disembodied lips? In space? What is this, the Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Many Toppings, the pizza-loving brother of Mary Poppins, could not find employment as a proper nanny.

Originally, the Jolly Green Giant had only one facial expression.

Play safe or you'll lose your limbs.

If you ever wanted to torment someone with schizophrenia, buy this.

Another gem from the Soviet Union -- oh dear.

Magic Kingdom or Magic Mushrooms? You decide.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


For me, walking relieves boredom, reduces stress and provides light exercise, each temporarily alleviating my concern that my current diet of carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol could lead to weight gain. In addition to all that, walking is my “me time,” when I can simply space-out and let everything behind my eyes just slip into the clouds for a moment.

However, for all its physical and mental health benefits, “spacewalking” can be downright dangerous. For instance, during my first full day in Scotland, while approaching Glasgow Green, I almost spacewalked straight into a street fight. Spacewalkers must also contend with traffic. Traffic trips me up even on roads that I regularly cross. Recently, on one such frequently-spacewalked road, it slipped my mind that cars may volley past in both directions. After looking carefully one way and stepping into the street, a big black British cab, hurdling towards me from the other direction, squealed to a stop right behind me. I took a step backwards onto the curb and the driver drove slowly beside me; his face, as big and round as the moon, stared smiling at me, as if to say, “you silly fucking idiot.”

Most times, spacewalking simply heightens awkwardness. Yesterday was one of those rare days in Glasgow when the temperature rises a few degrees above chilly, and every true Glaswegian male responds by taking their top off. I would contest that there is something inherently awkward about walking through a Victorian city filled with half-naked men, but I digress. Anyway, while spacewalking along the Clyde, I noticed a tall man with a masculine face and broad, hairy chest in front of me. As we started negotiating space as not to crash into each other, using subtle signals as pedestrians do, I suddenly realised that the man had not only taken notice of me,  but had begun mirroring my movements. I took a false step forward, stopping myself in the second before collision. “Sorry mate,” said he. “Nae bother,” said I, passing him successfully, getting the distinct impression that I had just been cruised by a bear.

Also yesterday, about two metres after spacewalking past two Southern Asian-looking men, both about forty years old and sitting under a tree, I heard a sharp whistling sound. Slowly I turned my head. One had gotten up and was making a strange gesture at me: his wrist, moving back and forth, suggested “wanker,” but his thumb and pinky were extended, as if to say “call me.” Reconciling both, I can only assume that this gesture was some obscure request for a hand job or for phone sex. I provide neither service at this time.  Alternatively, if he meant only to extend his pinky, he could have been gesturing “posh wanker.” I was eating grapes at the time, true, but there was nothing upper-class about my clothing, which consisted of a snug white shirt, roughed-up jeans and Doc Martens…

I'll just flatter my ego and assume he was hitting on me, albeit in a hideous, vulgar manner.

I'm sexy and I know it.