10 Modern Day Irritations That We Shouldn’t Have To Endure

These days we take the internet and other technological advances for granted to communicate with one another, and to look up things, but how many do we put up with that we shouldn’t have to? Patience is not one of my strongest traits, and here are some things that I wish didn’t exist, but do, and am sure a huge percentage of the population loathe them as well, but what can we do but vent and sympathize with one another!

  1. Click and bait. Whether it’s a headline (Yahoo are the worst) or an email header, I just want to scream ‘Say what you mean for the love of God!’ People hate these vile and deceitful combination of words, so why do people carry on using them? Recently a favorite website of mine has started sending me emails with click and bait, and I can only assume they have an intern doing them who thinks it works. Anything that begins, ‘You’re not going to believe this until you open it’ or ‘Look what happened when…’ is going to disappoint. The worst thing is I have seen ads hiring people to come up with click and bait headers. I can’t imagine people will admit to that on their résumé.
  2. Spam. Before the technological revolution of cellphones and the internet, people called what we coin ‘spam’ as mailshots, and junk mail. It didn’t really matter so much when it was in the post as you could throw it out, and the envelopes were handy to scribble messages on if they were lying around. Plus it kept the postal service and the postie in business. However, spam in your inbox that clogs up your storage space on your email account or phone is annoying. I loathe it, and am grateful for the spam filters even though some genuine messages slip through. When I do occasionally check it, I feel dirty as if I am being violated with rude and crude messages, and fake messages addressing me. I just wonder why these people bother. I despise cold calling and while I understand one needs to pitch for work and new clients, spam is not messaging the way to go, ever.
  3. The options when you get an automated message. As soon as I hear the automated messages, I sigh as I have to decide on which option is best suited to me. Sometimes there isn’t one and I have to wait until they have all been listed and ‘hold’ for someone to assist me which is the idea in the first place of calling. How many times have to you had to repeat those options, or wondered what if I pick the wrong one? You see some companies have call centers around the world, and we mistakenly think all departments are in the same building (but they ought to be!). I hate the automated messages, because if you have a low battery on your phone or poor reception, you can spend ages trying to get a simple thing done, and yes, once by the time I got to the right person my battery had died.
  4. 404 Page Not found. Usually this means you have the wrong URL, the page has been deleted, or the website has gone down or has been abandoned.  It’s a pain, especially when people send incomplete links, or a site decides to take down a special offer. I would curse myself for not taking a screenshot of a voucher code that was taken down, so  I now screenshot a lot because of this. If a company needs to delete, what are they hiding? Just say the offer has ended.
  5. Pop up/under ads. I have to admit that these irritate me so much that even though you can block them, the pop unders still creep in. They are invasive and often spammy ads. To me, a decent website wouldn’t have them, yet many newspaper ones contain multiple ads. I know they need to make money but not pop ups please, or those with media that stream as soon as you open the page. I now put my volume on silent just in case, but then wonder why the page is loading so slowly and find several flashing ads streaming on the page.
  6. Reality shows. There are so many now that you can’t really go a day without one being in the gossip columns, and these reality stars are what keeps these magazines afloat. The shows are cheap to make as people are desperate for stardom (and get paid peanuts), and the audience is guaranteed as long as there are pretty people with scandals. The problem is that the shows are manipulated reality, where people are caught doing silly and foolish things in the name of entertainment. I can’t see why it would be entertaining to watch people make mistakes live and forever enshrined on film. One of my friends was one such person, and I fear she will never really shake off the public perceptions of her as she got involved in  a few romantic tangles for the world to see.
  7. Trolls (bullies, and those that aren’t so bright). They are the bane of society; they have too much time, are billy no mates, and it’s the only way they get anyone to notice them. Trolls are bullies in waiting as they feel they have a right to attack others without just cause. They don’t, and the worst is on Facebook as no one can monitor them. You have to block them instead or delete their posts. I do try and ignore them, but they seem to be breeding like rabbits high on weed.
  8. People who cross the road/or walk aimlessly while looking at their phones. As my brother would say, they deserve to get run over. I’m not that cruel, but they are the cause of accidents and yes, if they did get run over, they should pay the driver for any damage to the car. Why? They don’t have the right of way when they aren’t looking where they are going. I hate it when I am walking down the street and someone stops to text and they feel they have that right, or they when people cross a road while texting. It’s stupid and dangerous. I’m surprised that more people haven’t died from this. Drivers shouldn’t text when they are driving and neither should pedestrians if they can’t look up and see where they are going.
  9. Scam/cold calls from Indian call centers. While some people still fall for these scammers, with caller ID it’s a little harder for these scammers to operate. However, since BT allowed people to buy and use numbers that can hide where they are located, it has become a bit of a minefield again. Being woken up at 8 a.m. with a call that has a pause followed by a greeting of ‘Good afternoon’ you know it’s scam, especially when they say there is a problem with your internet when you don’t have it. There was a time I would be polite, but they woke me up, wanted to scam me, and yes, I just hang up now. The worst is when they asked for me by name and I pretended I had died, and they went on to ask if anyone was interested in what they were selling.
  10. Hackers. Now there are ethical hackers (white hats) and those who steal information and either sell it, or blackmail people with what they have (black hats). The white hats do this to help expose vulnerabilities, while the black hats illegal activities are aimed at destroying and harming. I would include whistleblowers here, because everyone has a right to privacy. Let’s face it who hasn’t written an email in anger or to vent? Having it shared without permission isn’t ethical, nor is the sharing of classified and confidential information. I don’t feel the excuse some hackers come out with is acceptable, especially those who say they just wanted to see if they could do it, and others who say they think it’s in the public interest. There are proper channels for this after all, and if you let one off the hook it sends a message that hacking is okay, and it’s not—it’s illegal. Dangerous actions costs lives!

How To Spot And Deal With A Psycho

I’m not a therapist or psychologist, but I have dealt with and dodged more than my fair share of let’s say unstable folk, that some would say are a little psycho. I’ve been stalked a few times; once by a student (who was a policeman), then by a client, and I’ve had a couple of online nutters that I managed to get rid of because fortunately I never gave my real name. First of all you need to spot a psycho, and then avoid them without upsetting them because they are unpredictable. If that isn’t possible, or you realized a bit late in the day they weren’t what they seemed, cut all ties, and don’t hesitate. While some may not harm you physically, they can make life difficult and stressful by trolling, or stalking you, plus if you upset them they can turn. Here are a few things to look out for, and they may well save you mentally in the long run, and perhaps even your life:

  • People who list their achievements, where they have worked, and who they know are doing it to seek attention. Often it is grossly exaggerated, so beware of these people as they try to impress you to gain trust quickly. Personally red flags start waving in the air when this happens to me.
  • Be careful of those who push for private details such as phone numbers, email addresses, and social media contacts. Most people ask for one, and then build up to sharing other details when they are more comfortable. Unless there is a shared network such as a mutual friend or company, it maybe best to just message on Facebook without adding anyone as a friend, or to give a work email or one that is used for junk mail. If you don’t have a spare email for subscriptions or newsletters, then consider setting one up. These days it’s wise to have separate public work and protected personal social media accounts; it’s normal and acceptable.
  • Don’t feel obliged to respond to any prying communications, but reply if and  when it’s convenient for you. Psychos tend to be impatient and insistent, and that can lead to stalking. Someone that constantly texts, leaves voicemails or instant messages without a break to pressurize you into something, then that’s unstable behavior.
  • Be polite, and let them down gently if they are insistent. A good way is to say that you will be away and won’t have any internet or cellphone reception for a while. Sometimes a break is enough to create some distance. If that doesn’t work, then you may have to resort to blocking, or saying your spam filter is strong if challenged to say that no messages were received.  Don’t open them as some browsers can track and inform a sender when an email has been delivered, open, and read, and some may send viruses. It maybe an idea to keep them in a separate folder in case you need evidence for a restraining order.
  • Never admit to an unstable person that you were too busy to reply as they can turn on you. Of course you have no obligation to them, but for your own safety it maybe safer to feign forgetfulness, a lost password, or a tale of a lost or stolen phone. A minor catastrophe can be a good distraction.

Now, how to get rid of them if they don’t get the hint when you have put off meeting or responding to any communications? First ask others in confidence, by phone or in person if possible if you think someone unstable is becoming a problem. Be careful of online interaction as screenshots or forwarded emails can make things worse if shared and it falls into the wrong inbox. You maybe overreacting, or they may have seen the signs and were unsure whether to say something. That’s often the case, and I will hold my hand up to being guilty here. I sometimes think it’s none of my business or that someone can handle it, whereas I have found people have been grateful for support and also reaffirmation that they weren’t imagining things. Here is what to do if something doesn’t feel right and you think an unstable person is affecting your life:

  • Do a basic internet search of their name and any details you have. Try to use  public wi-fi or do it in a library, as some searches can be traced. Most people have some digital footprint, but if they don’t, that doesn’t mean they are deceitful, but that they wish to protect their privacy. I have a small digital footprint, mainly because I have been stalked before, but I do exist. Make sure they aren’t wanted for a crime, on the run, or have other names. People can have other names such as a maiden name, or pen or stage names, but usually are upfront about it. I had a flatmate whose boyfriend seemed a bit dodgy. I looked him up to find he didn’t exist, but tracked him down and found that he used his mother’s maiden name because he had been in jail. I kind of needed to know that as he was staying over in my flat, with access to everything.
  • If you see unusual activity on your emails or social media, then change the passwords as a precaution. An alternative is to deactivate for a while if the person is a little unstable, because they may take it personally if they find out only they are blocked. Some will try to hack into your details or will browse your profile to find out more information, and then try and befriend your friends. I had a few people that randomly befriended my friends. It was embarrassing when people asked why they were requesting to be friends, and I had no answer. They were quickly blocked. Hide your friends list just in case.
  • Eventually you may have  to block their email address, their number, and on your social media. The best time to do it is in the early hours when they least expect it. Increase all your privacy settings, and switch off your voicemail for a while.
  • You must cut ties, and that may mean mutual acquaintances too (or keep a distance). If they are singled out they may make things worse—this is why it’s best to spot the issue early on to avoid such drastic action. Unstable people are usually narcissists, and a word or action can trigger things. Don’t risk it!
  • If things get worse, then seek legal advice in obtaining a restraining order. Keep evidence of texts and emails. These days stalking can turn from an obsession to actual harm. While part of you may feel you can cope, it can take a toll on your mental health and prevention is better than cure.
  • In drastic situations consider moving, and changing your phone number. It goes without saying to screen all calls, and make sure any emails opened are from people you know. It’s not unusual for unstable people to try and send spam emails, viruses, or to post phone numbers on sex sites. I had some strange calls when people starting calling me up for services that I was not offering, as someone had posted my number somewhere public.

We learn from experience and sadly that means there maybe some unpleasant events along the way. It’s not always easy to spot an unstable person as they can be charming, flattering, and can also be helpful at first, therefore you won’t immediately spot the signs. People who are too eager, who are too open about their activities or feelings use this as a means to show enthusiasm and to garner trust. I mean, why wouldn’t you trust someone who tells you how they feel and what they are doing all of the time? In reality, not many people do, and those who overshare are usually very needy, and do it for attention. The best thing to do is not to interact and engage because it encourages and enables them.

Today stalking and harassing people online as well as in real life is a dangerous issue, and while I have been stalked before doesn’t mean that it won’t or can’t happen again. I am however more aware of the tell tale signs, and I am cautious, and don’t give out too much personal information. Yes, I use screen names and pen names not to hide, but to protect myself. While some social media platforms demand you use your real name to prevent fake profiles, there is nothing wrong in using a nickname or abbreviation of your name to prevent people from finding you. What people need to remember is that everyone has a right to privacy, but also need to take some responsibility to protect their identity and their personal information. Obviously some people won’t appreciate someone looking them up, but if they have nothing to hide then there shouldn’t be a problem. As for online dating, checking someone’s real details is a must if you are going to meet them, and don’t give away too much such as where you live. It’s too risky!

As they say, don’t poke the bear, but walk away and don’t look back.

Why Snowflakes Are Dangerous

No, I don’t mean the fluffy stuff that falls during winter or that adorns a multitude of Christmas card scenes (although when they turn into ice flakes they can sting in minus temperatures, and impair your vision during a nor’easter). The contemporary meaning of a ‘snowflake’ or a ‘special snowflake’ is aimed primarily at the millennial generation who tend to think they are always right (usually with no evidence or a theory), struggle with criticism, and cannot accept when they are wrong or have made a mistake, and who have escalated levels of entitlement. However, snowflakes aren’t solely millennials as some are now seeing this kind of behavior as acceptable, and is spreading to all generations. This is dangerous, especially as millennials are now becoming parents to the next generation and encouraging this blinkered and narrow mindset of behaviors.

It’s dangerous too, as many are bosses, teachers, and who publish their views online and in print, and thus influence the masses, including those who are easily manipulated or ones that aren’t so bright. Slowly this kind of attitude has become acceptable, even though it is essentially a derogatory term, however you want to dress it up. The problem is many snowflakes don’t wish to listen, and it only takes one other to agree with them for them to assume they are right and everyone else is wrong. Often people choose not to engage with them, mainly because it’s a waste of breath and effort to try to rationally discuss things with people who can only see a single viewpoint, but the danger here is that with no one challenging them, again they presume they are correct.

I’ve stumbled across various snowflake outbursts and just ignore them, but recently I decided to challenge one because it was so ludicrous and it could have cost some unsuspecting innocent their job. On Facebook someone was having a rant about a beauty counter not giving her some foundation samples. The responses were mainly in the region of people encouraging the poster to complain. One even went so far as to say write to the area manager and call them to report them for refusing to give out samples! I decided it was time to step in—a few said it depended on the counter and if there were samples available or not, and others were all for getting the counter personnel in as much trouble they could muster. I simply and logically told them all that a free sample is given at the discretion of the staff member, therefore, just because you are there doesn’t mean you are entitled to receive a sample. What if there really were no samples, what if they were the wrong shade or for the wrong skin type? The danger is that that snowflakes encourage one another; my response got one like, and the post encouraging people to call the area manager to complain because a free sample was refused had over a dozen likes. I can tell you now the area manager would do something (rightly or wrongly as brand image is important) because it’s a power trip, even if the staff member was right in not handing out non-existent or incorrect samples. Companies hate complaints, and while some will ignore petty ones, while some will go overboard under the guise of a faux sense of power.

A snowflake may think they are entitled and that they are being lied to, and don’t think of the consequences. That staff member may get fired, warned, turned down for a promotion due to an exaggerated and unsubstantiated accusation. Is that right, reasonable, or fair? All I can do is shake my head at snowflakes, because the more people that agree with them (other snowflakes) then they will just carry on behaving in such a manner, thus they may influence the next generation of ultra snowflakes. I call upon all out there to challenge a snowflake when they are being basically a Prima Donna in order to save society. One can disagree on many topics (I accept many will hate Marmite as long as they accept not all vegetarians like zucchini) and still be civil, and that’s part of being a rational adult human being.

Too many vloggers, and Twitter stars, think they can get away with saying and doing anything, because they appeal to a certain sector of society. An apology is too late, but perhaps it stems from an inflated sense of ego and adulation due to the number of followers they have, or plain inexperience and naivety? Just because someone is popular doesn’t mean they are right, just as the most expensive face cream may not be the best in the world, or the most famous champagne the best tasting one on the market. The same goes for celebrities; they are free to express their beliefs and opinions, but it doesn’t mean that they are right, nor do some assume that they are. As accusations fly around social media accounts once a celebrity endorses or criticizes something, snowflakes need to get they were just expressing a viewpoint—something we all as humans are theoretically free to do. I have a feeling some snowflakes are going to get crushed into slush before they figure out life isn’t perfect, not everyone is going to agree with you, and that learning to accept you are wrong and criticism is called growing up and becoming and responsible member of society. I ignored snowflakes before, but I realize now by ignoring them they have mistaken that as others agreeing with them. Time to catch and save those delicate, and fragile snowflakes now before it’s too late.

How To End A Friendship Quickly…

Easy, claim you’re a Trump supporter (or if you are in the US say you voted for him) and people will think you are crazy, and end your friendship. This may also work if you have been trying to end a relationship, and didn’t know how. It seems to have worked as many friendships have indeed ended, and family rifts that never existed appeared in the last few months.

God Help The USA…I didn’t watch the inauguration of the latest US President—I make it habit to avoid watching mistakes if I can help it. It was like watching your best friend going back to her cheating mobster, criminal, and abusive husband after buying her off with a new house, and a promise to change things. You know it’s just talk, and you’ll end up picking up the pieces again, so it’s a case of waiting, and bracing yourself for the worst.

The Women’s Marches that occurred around the world in protest created more unity and support from the public, as far as Antarctica. Although I’m not a protester, I’m glad people are using their voice and are speaking from a need to unite rather than from fear. What concerns me (and they are in the minority) are the people who are misinformed and who spread hate among their fellow citizens. People may lose their healthcare with the repeal of the ACA, but the ones who cry this is a good thing can afford their own healthcare and are in good health—they don’t need it, but that doesn’t mean one day they won’t need affordable healthcare. Maybe then they will think beyond their selfish needs if they become unemployed, lose their jobs and home, or face bankruptcy and can no longer afford healthcare?

From time to time I scour Facebook for reactions, and it does appear that Trump supporters tend to write in capital letters (obviously unaware that you only use it for the first letter of a word!) and use the same phrases over and over—it’s like a cult. Trump has brainwashed a percentage of the population, and while the rest of the world can see it, many are in a state of denial. Who can save them? While Hillary Clinton maybe no saint, to call her criminal is ironic against a man who has several hundred pending court cases against him. Clinton has none, and as Secretary of State, her actions were protected as she was acting on behalf of the government and not as an individual. A friend of mine said last night that by not voting Clinton in, a World War was prevented, but they could provide no evidence of this. It was just an opinion based on misinformation. Quite the contrary, a World War is more of a threat with someone in charge who has no experience of governance and a basic understanding of politics.

Do people really believe (Trump’s campaign manager) Kellyann Conway’s phrase of alternative truths? In plain English, that is called a lie—when people delude themselves with what they choose to believe. If it’s not a fact it’s called an opinion and not a truth, and while we are all entitled to opinions, there are things that are factual. The problem is many people don’t wish to accept them. I hear people cry that Trump was democratically elected and to get over it, but was he? Was the election rigged, with the reports of hacking from multiple sources, how can one honestly say it was a democratic decision? Each time Conway opens her mouth, I have to stop myself laughing. I pity her in that she doesn’t see how stupid she looks, then she did look stupid in her outfit on inauguration day, where people have compared it to what the cartoon character Paddington Bear would wear.

Friendships have been strained, and I have a few friends who voted or who supported Trump, and I honestly don’t know how to speak to them. What people don’t understand is that what Trump represents (racism, and discrimination, among the most prominent issues) reflects their beliefs too. Two are immigrants; one is well off and another poor, and their only reasoning for supporting Trump is the classic phrase of crooked Hillary. Well, Trump has conned many more people, over decades, so I don’t know how they can’t see that. Many want and hope for change—the change they want is material as in more wealth, and that simply isn’t possible for everyone. I don’t know if the voters will admit they made a mistake or blame something else when it doesn’t happen, but I suspect the former.

I’m not in any hurry to return to the US, and I wonder how to broach the topic of who voted for whom when I greet family and friends. Meanwhile, as protesters march in unity, how much good will that do except to annoy Trump. Shouldn’t these people have come out and voted rather than stay at home, and I read somewhere someone said they voted for Bernie, again, all they did was reduce Clinton’s vote and gave Trump a hand. I remember voting Conservative (in the UK) not because I liked the candidate, but to keep Ed Miliband (Labour) out. It’s called tactical voting, something that either Americans don’t understand or know they can do. It’s a lesson many Americans won’t forget, and while some people say ‘give him a chance,’ well, then what? Grin and bear it, and then suffer for a few years? No one wants another World War, but often those who start them are ones with no experience and a grandiose sense of power. Oh, and Trump is half German (both grandparents were German, thus his father was German) and half Scottish, so it may well be in the genes. I expect more of a war on words across the media and social media, but how useful and constructive is that, and is that going to create jobs and ensure those who need healthcare get it?

I don’t wish to lose any friends, so I’ll keep quiet if the topic arises and signal a halt, and make it known that I don’t support Trump’s policies (what policies) or beliefs. It’s not even political, it’s about moral and common decency and choosing to admire someone who is dishonest. Maybe I just don’t understand humans, but perhaps people are just more greedy and selfish than I thought? I don’t think for a moment Ivanka and Chelsea are still friends, and I think that’s wishful thinking on Ivanka’s part. She can try and salvage her own reputation, but the key word is try.

10 Things I’ve Learnt Not To Take For Granted

As humans we take things for granted, and its’ only when we lose them or don’t have access to things that we learn to appreciate them, and realize how much we need them and miss them. Throughout life we learn by hook or by crook what works for us, and makes life that bit more enjoyable and pleasant. They maybe small pleasures, but they make the difference between a good day and one that could have been worse…

  1. Clean fresh air ~ I’ve lived in London, Hong Kong, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York, and if the smog doesn’t get you, then the humidity during summer will. Breathing in cool, clean, and fresh air is hard these days, but when you do, it’s a joy. After spending humid summers in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles, air conditioning isn’t the same as inhaling fresh air. Trying to sleep in humidity is a nightmare, and I get cranky, besides feeling sticky and uncomfortable. I’m always in a better mood when there is fresh air (but preferably no rain).
  2. A home cooked meal ~ A while back my kitchen ceiling collapsed, and I had to learn to live without a kitchen until the insurance was sorted out. How I missed a home cooked meal! Having microwave meals when you have no choice isn’t fun. I’ve also traveled the world and worked abroad, that meant eating out all of the time, and after a while,  I craved a simple home cooked meal. It can taste better than anything else, even if it’s simply egg and chips, but how you want them. I missed making my own pasta dishes, adding my own combination of sauces, and scrambling my eggs just how I liked them. I remember going to my friend’s house and asking if I could make a bowl of pasta for myself because I missed it so much and she thought it was strange. Only when you don’t have it do you miss it.
  3. Honest and true friendships ~ Many of us lose friends because they drift away, or there is a falling out and no one makes up. I found out how many true friends I had when I moved house, and in some ways it was a test—one that many sadly failed, however, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve also been surprised at the friendships that have grown and endured the test of time, and they weren’t the ones I was expecting.
  4. The consequences of morality and integrity ~ I’ve learnt that having morals and integrity comes with consequences, because people don’t value them. It may mean financial hardship, courtroom battles, the loss of friendships, or rifts with family members when you choose integrity over money and loyalty. The important thing is that you can look yourself in the mirror and know you did the right thing, and not cheat. I can sleep at night as my conscience is clear, although I know many of my former friends may still sleep soundly, but they, as I discovered lacked morals and integrity. One can only be loyal when someone is honest; to cover up a deceit enables them, and makes you complicit.  People have expected me to lie for them or to go along with activities that were less than honest out of a misguided sense of loyalty or naivety, and I have said ‘no’. Some friends were lost, but really I found out what they were really like.
  5. The importance of my mental health ~ These days, we are told we are supposed to put up with things because that’s what strong people do. I would disagree, because your mental health is important, and it can be worn down when people try to brainwash you, or expect you do to things because they can (an abuse of power). Never underestimate your mental health, and put it first above trying to please others, or doing something you don’t want to do. Stand up for yourself diplomatically, but never let anyone tell you that you are weak because you disagree with something.
  6. Silence ~ Never underestimate the power of silence—hearing your own thoughts with no distractions is rare these days with cellphones, and apps going off all of the time. I actually switch mine off these days, and I think back to the days when I used to have three (work), and answered them day and night. Learn to switch it off, and you will discover a realm of contentment.
  7. Being a vegetarian ~ I became a vegetarian as a teenager when there was a salmonella scandal, followed by a mad cow disease outbreak, so it just made sense to be safe. A quarter of a decade later, I think it’s kept me healthier than most of my peers and made me examine food labels and my diet. I’m not one of those vegetarians that preaches as I like a pizza every now and then, and adore onion rings (vegetarian, but not exactly healthy), but it has made me more responsible about my diet and health. I question where my food has come from, and what really is in it. A loaf of bread isn’t just wheat, water, and yeast these days—some contain sugar and animal fats. Read and be aware.
  8. A decent and reliable pen ~ I’m always on the hunt for a good pen that writes quickly, and smoothly. It’s not a lot to ask, but ballpoints run out, gel pen tips can break, and fountain pens are too messy. Whenever I find one I like I buy them in bulk, because there is nothing better than writing with a pen where the ink flows and the barrel is easy to hold. My pet hate is a pen running out, and I keep them everywhere in the house or in my bag. In fact I can have a panic attack if I try to write and can’t find a pen that works. My current favorites are uniball and zebra pens, in black ink of course.
  9. Trusting my intuition ~ I can’t guarantee that everyone’s intuition is going to be right, but in my own experience it has been right at least 90% of the time. What I needed to do was trust it rather than listen to other people who dismissed it. We have intuition for a reason, and we should use it rather than doubt it.
  10. Manners ~ People take manners for granted—I don’t. It doesn’t matter how well educated you are, or how rich you are, if you don’t have manners, then you are a poor person. I’ve always been a sticker for manners, and if people don’t exhibit them, then that first impression lasts. You can never say ‘thank you’ or ‘please’ too often, and is better to say it and mean it, than not to out of misguided entitlement. Manners are free, simple to use, and I ask why don’t people use them? Perhaps they have never been taught, or that they think it doesn’t matter; they always matter, and even if someone ignores you, the simple fact is that it is they who have no manners. You may not ever see that person again, but a thank you goes a long way and make a person feel appreciated and their day a better one. I’ve been on the other side, and it does make a difference.

The End Of ‘Salem’

I mean the television show and not the city (town really) north of Boston. The last four episodes will be shown in the New Year, and while some of it is fantasy and far fetched, the fact they have used the real names of some people as characters has been controversial to say the least. I honestly didn’t think the show should have lasted more than two seasons, but watched the third (and last) out of curiosity to see where the writers were taking the plots. No one should be disappointed or surprised in it ending, because it was inevitable, and while I enjoyed some parts of the show, there were too many elements that I could never accept or get a grasp of.

  • The accents ~ What I found annoying is that nearly everyone had an English accent or a version of a New England accent except for the odd child actor and one of the main characters, John Alden who spoke in a Southern twang. It just lacked credibility and consistency, as in those days people had all arrived from England and would be using an English accent.
  • The characters bore no resemblance to their namesakes ~ People need to remember that the characters don’t depict the real life characters back then with the exception of maybe Rebecca Nurse (but she was old in real life when she was hanged). Cotton Mather was no hero, but one who tried to gain favor and power by spreading fear; Mary Sibley was in fact the one who could have been responsible for the Witch hysteria when she told Tituba how to bake a witch cake (she was the sister-in-law of Samuel Parris), John Hathorne was a rogue, and Mercy Lewis was very simple.
  • The set and costumes were good ~ However, trying to recreate Salem back then was never going to be easy, and the costumes were too elaborate for a Puritan colony. Nice, but unrealistic. The woods were realistic, and many of the woods still look like that in Salem.
  • Historically, some things were accurate and others were not, but the witch rituals are fantasy. One thing that was true was the role religion and fear played in the community. People did listen to what was said, and believed it. People were easily brainwashed with religion, now they are brainwashed with social media.

I’m not sure how the show will end—will the devil take over the world? Will Tituba change sides again, and how can John Alden save them? I struggle to find a favorite character; Anne is annoying and stupid; Cotton is a weak alcoholic, but he did love Gloriana and try to save her; Tituba, I like her ability to survive, but I would never trust her, and I don’t see the point of Isaac or Mercy in season three at all.

I actually used to live in Salem, and it still milks the reputation or rather infamy of it from the Witch Trials. Can there be a happy ending? Theoretically Tituba and Mary are dead (magic has given them life again), and if the devil is playing chess with God, then why isn’t he doing anything? How many more times can John Alden get shot and stabbed and not die, and why does he walk into a clean home each time he comes back from an adventure?

Ultimately it is a love story of John and Mary, and Cotton and Gloriana to a lesser extent in that love can conquer all. Maybe it’s all a dream and Mary wakes up after giving birth, and John returns from war to find Mary dying from childbirth? To be honest it was getting a little silly with the devil wanting to marry his mother, Isaac trying to kill Mercy, and Anne who doesn’t have a clue what she is doing. Surely the residents of Salem must be wondering who this young boy is and where had he been all this time? Maybe they are oblivious to it all, and I don’t think much as changed—Salem is as corrupt today as it was then, and that’s from experience. I want a happy ending, and even though I despised Cotton Mather in real life, he appears to be the only one who knows what is going on in the show! I want to see him find Gloriana and for her to tell him what Anne did. Will the hero and heroine save Salem and the world? Maybe this is prophetic of what is happening in the USA now? Perhaps it will all end with the devil taking over?

10 Things The US Presidential Election Has Taught Us About Americans

It would be unfair to tag a whole nation of immigrants based on the outcome of the vote for President, but I’m afraid it’s how the rest of the world views and judges Americans on their beliefs and standards. A President typically embodies and echoes the morals and standards of the people, and is a person that is looked up to; that parents use as a model figure for their children to aspire to. I doubt that many will use Trump as a model citizen, but while some Americans admit that the world is laughing at them (yes, they are correct) others are crossing their fingers and everything else and suddenly praying that their vote for change was not an arrogant mistake on their part. The world is praying with you. I saw a meme declaring ‘good luck’ from the people of Germany (#BeenThereDoneThat).

  1. Not many people understand what the Electoral College does ~ It’s slightly worrying that the majority of the electorate had no idea what the Electoral College does, and people have called for it to be scrapped. That’s nigh on improbable as it will take an Amendment to repeal the Amendment in the Constitution that outlines the electoral procedure. However, it was implemented as a means to ensure there was an impartial body to vote for the President as well as giving the people a say. Sadly since only 20 states allow electors to vote without being bound to the popular vote, the other 30 electoral states that bind the electors have effectively voided the legitimacy of the Electoral College. Ideally, states should not bind any votes, and is theoretically unconstitutional.
  2. Conservatives say they aren’t racist ~ Republican supporters are pretty rude and hostile towards Liberals and call them cry babies, whiners, moaners when they are merely expressing their opinions. It’s a little hard not to see them as racist when the KKK officially endorses Trump and members campaigned for him.
  3. Liberals call Trump supporters stupid and deluded ~ Not all Republicans though, because a few have come out opposing Trump. They may not all be stupid, but could have been brainwashed.
  4. 25% of the electorate have mental health issues ~ That is 25% of the electorate that registered and bothered to vote. It’s hard for the world to understand how any sane person would vote for a renowned con man and fraudster to govern their country and to represent them. Clearly they need help, but maybe they don’t have healthcare, oh, but once the Affordable Care Act gets repealed then more people won’t have access to healthcare, so the insanity continues.
  5. Gary Johnson didn’t know what Aleppo was and people still voted for him ~ Well, it’s only the headline news where millions of people have been killed and where refugees are from. It appears people voted for him not because they thought he would be a good President or would win, but purely because they hated the other candidates and wanted to say they had voted. Why make a non-vote to ease the conscience?
  6. Americans believe what they read on social media ~ Social media is a means of expression, and a place to say what your think as well as being a medium to convey facts. The problem is many people cannot differentiate between them.
  7. The Mexican Wall ~ This was a standing joke, and no, there will be no wall, and no the Mexicans aren’t paying for it either. I recall chants of people supporting the wall. They were fools to believe it was ever going to get built.
  8. Immigration, illegals, or Muslims? ~ Whom do the Americans want to keep out? It seems everyone; they don’t want anyone but Americans living and working there, but they have a Green Card Lottery that allows people to apply and to become automatic citizens, and most of these people aren’t really qualified either as it’s a lottery as long as they have the right ethnic minority background. The thing is all Americans are immigrants, except for the Native Americans who were already there.
  9. Americans are afraid of recounts ~ Jill Stein spearheaded a campaign to ask for recounts in states that did not tally with predicted outcomes, which were then blocked. Why were Americans afraid to admit there may have been fraudulent votes? A recount would prove that the electoral process was working, whereas people only block things when there is something to hide. Why bother having a state law allowing a recount and then to change it when someone wishes to apply that law?
  10. The F.B.I., C.I.A., and D.N.I., all agree there is evidence of foreign interference in the election ~ Even Republicans in Congress agree there is evidence to support this. The only people who don’t believe this are Trump supporters and Trump himself. There have been major cyber hacking incidents already, and it’s not improbable or unlikely given that hackers chose to only reveal the Democrats emails and not the Republican ones that had been hacked. Most hackers do it to prove they can hack anything rather than to make a political statement. American systems can be hacked!

Americans don’t have it as bad as they think, which they will soon discover the hard way. Meanwhile, it’s hard to look to America and its citizens without derision, but as a laughing stock. It happened in Italy with Berlusconi, and it was a matter of gathering evidence to impeach him. Many believe this is the case with Trump. Now, if only those former students who stupidly signed up to Trump University didn’t settle, then Trump would not have been eligible for office. However, the mere fact they were silly enough to sign up for a non-accredited institution says it all.

There are a few patriots that have been trying to save the country from what is an inevitable downfall, but then again, that is the role of Congress. In ye old days anyone in the way would get murdered, these days they just get paid off by selling their soul to the devil…

Thoughts On The Crisis In America

Is it that bad, or am I being a tad dramatic? I’ve been told I can be a drama queen, but right now America is unstable, and I’ve never seen Americans behaving so ‘un-American’. Politics aside, what I don’t understand is why Americans are being mean, rude, and pretty much nasty to people that they don’t know online if they don’t support Trump in becoming the next President of their country. Surely freedom of speech means everyone is entitled to their own opinion without being attacked? I’m sure many of the former Presidents are shaking their heads too.

What I don’t understand is this opposition to a recount and the hostility towards Jill Stein. She has a right to a recount, and has followed the procedures, which the states in question have altered on a whim. Why allow a recount only to prevent people from having it once they make an application? Only people or groups that have something to hide would try to block a recount, and cries of it’s a waste of money and time has no validity—it’s not tax payers money, the people involved are volunteers, and those state officials, well that’s their job.

Then there is the CIA declaring that they have evidence that external forces (Russia) have interfered with the election process, and the GOP want it investigated, but not Trump. Something isn’t right here. One should be concerned if the CIA have evidence, and one can only surmise that Trump is dismissing it because he doesn’t want people to dig any further. Besides that, surely if Russia or any hackers wanted to prove they could hack into any system, wouldn’t they have released Trump’s emails too?

There has been the smell of foul play on more than one occasion, but it still beggars belief as to why people voted for someone with no experience, who mocks minorities, has no actual policies, and has proven to be untrustworthy? Are 25 percent of Americans not that bright, were they conned, or did they hate Clinton so much they voted against her on purpose? Either way it’s a concern, and I have a couple of friends who admitted they voted for Trump, and to be honest I don’t have a response for them. They know I do not share that view. I cannot fathom why they would support him, and their response is always Clinton has done bad things. Newsflash, so has Trump, but isn’t it better the devil you know?

I had another conversation with an American friend who wouldn’t say who she voted for, but she simply said that change was needed. That’s what people say when they don’t want to admit they voted for Trump in fear that people will judge them as racist. Again, of course if you support a racist, you are in fact saying that is acceptable behavior. There is no grey area here—if you support someone who has settled fraud cases, been racist and rude to minority groups, you don’t get to say you aren’t racist if you voted for them. You enable them and have voted for the whole package. I’m also tired of people saying, “Give him a chance…” or “Let’s wait and see…” because so far his choice of cabinet has included racists, and those with far right policies. If you look back to Hitler’s era, all the politicians took the same stance, to see if he would back down and gave him a chance. We all know how that turned out with World War II, millions dead, and 70 years on, people are still suffering from the after effects. Are we on the brink of WW III or Civil War?

Many of my friends supported Bernie Sanders, and he seems a decent chap and one that had the best interests of the country at heart, but he was never going to win. Not from a lack of experience, but his hands would have been tied with the Republican majority in Congress. I’m glad he is a Senator in Vermont, and is a great state that I would choose to live in. He can do good things there, and I hope he speaks out and challenges those in Congress for the people. I’m not a Socialist or Liberal, but I know right from wrong.

Looking at the Constitution, there was no failsafe for foreign or external interference as back then all votes were counted by hand in person (as it is done in the UK). Today, with electronic voting and a population far greater than the Framers had to contend with, there needs to be some protection for the electoral system. What exists now is not enough. If there is proof there was interference, then it renders the election void and invalid, but the system doesn’t have a means to directly resolve that situation. Congress could pass an amendment, but is there time, and would Trump oppose? In the UK if there was evidence of tampering, then action would be taken, but as votes are hand counted it would be very difficult to do.

Many look to the faithless electors and while each state can choose the electors and how they vote, for the states that force them to vote according to the popular vote in the state, that defies the very essence of the Constitution. Electors should be free to vote for whom they wish without fear of reprisals from the state legislature. That is why the Electoral College was set up, so that the elected voters could vote freely without pressure or coercion. Theoretically, states that impose fines or punishments are acting unconstitutionally even though the SCOTUS (Ray v. Blair, 343 US 214) held that the Constitution does not require electors to be free to choose and may be pledged to make a specific vote. However, that defies the concept of the Electoral College, where electors are not supposed to have any political bias according to Alexander Hamilton (The Federalist Papers 68) and also the dissent from Justice Jackson. Votes from a state can also be rejected, but only if both houses agree to this and is formally objected in writing by a member of each house. This occurred during the 1872 election where the Arkansas and Louisiana votes were rejected due to irregularities.

The closest we get is the Twentieth Amendment:

“Section 3. If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

However, it’s vague and open to interpretation, because who declares an election is void? Surely Congress must if evidence is presented to show that there was tampering? One thing we can all agree on is that America is unstable, and the people are divided. Sadly, the US doesn’t seem such a great place to live or to visit right now…

My Love/Hate Relationship With Beauty Boxes

Beauty boxes aren’t new, but with social media and the internet it has allowed the beauty box business to thrive with special offers, and the young generation to refer their friends with free marketing. Birchbox made it popular again, but who is silly enough pay for a box of free samples? Throw in a pretty box and the young and gullible will, and add a full sized product and it becomes a bargain. I love my beauty products, but I’m not so hot in surprises as I like to know what I am getting which is why I don’t like beauty boxes unless I have a good idea of what will be in it. Can’t people see why they never tell you what’s in it? It’s not so you can have a surprise, it’s so they can put whatever they want in it and it makes sure you buy it and can’t return it.

Basically, you are paying for the box or bag it comes and the shipping, as samples are by law not to be sold. The craze is dying out slowly, as more boxes are cropping up with the same samples, or the odd full sized item, which is often a discontinued item. To the savvy shopper they will know that, but as the target audience is the young 18-30 year old age group who probably don’t have a huge beauty arsenal, or can’t afford premium brands they won’t mind. They are being taken advantage of, and I highlighted this in a Reddit thread only to be attacked by people telling me I get $5 back in points for each box and to stop moaning. I bet they aren’t so cocky now as Birchbox (since July in the US) have stopped that and only offer points when you purchase, and when you do the first reviews. Not such a great deal after all now, and am sure they are eating their words. In the UK, they still offer £5 worth of points for the reviews, but I can see that disappearing in the near future.

What I am tired of is companies talking down to you as if you are an idiot, I mean do I want a spoiler or not? Why would any sane person not want a spoiler and to know if they are going to get value for money? I bought a 6 month subscription to Birchbox for half price, and most months my excitement lasted a total of a couple of minutes, and like many people most items got left in a box and never used. I know this as I joined a few swap clubs and everyone has the same things to swap, as no one wanted them. To add insult to injury, the Birchbox customer service is a joke, so much so that I will dedicate a whole article on them, and report them to trading standards later on.

Many of these makeshift companies  work around small print and loopholes, designed to wear down a beauty enthusiast when things go wrong. The winner there is LookFantastic, where the beauty boxes are at least all the same, but their customer service is so poor that they force customers to prove that an item is faulty or that it hasn’t been received. They auto renew subscriptions with no notice (not technically illegal, but not ethical), and store your card details even if you delete them. When you are right, they don’t apologize and make you jump through hoops to get a refund. I had my card debited for an order I never placed, never got an apology, and only got a refund after quoting trading standards laws as there was no order number generated, thus unsolicited goods must be refunded at their own cost. No matter how amazing the contents of a beauty box is there is no way I would trust them with my money again.

Then there is the unprofessionalism—companies pretending they are beauty experts when they curate the boxes. Knock it off; we all know that they compile a box from what samples or products they can get hold of. One company pretends to have a beauty editor who was a professional make-up artist (Love me Beauty), whereas if you look up her credentials she is a shareholder of the company and left University not so long ago. All the blog posts are about what she does (gym visits, what she has baked, and the coffee she drinks), and barely has any credible information. The items they actually offer are limited, and the customer service so bad they don’t allow any visitor posts on their Facebook page. I hate companies pretending to be professional when they are not.

Another company has such a bad website (Cohorted) I just won’t buy from them, as well as pretending they are beauty experts. I can’t take them seriously when they spell the name of the company wrong (Molton Brown was spelt Molten Brown over a dozen times). They post the wrong photo with the description of the item, they ask you to pay a month in advance to pre-order a box, and the recommended value of the limited offer boxes they sell are grossly inflated; it just smacks of unprofessionalism. These companies won’t last long, and people are getting sucked in, but not I. I pity those who have been, and judging by the reviews, there have been a few.

There are some decent boxes that I buy, but I pick what I like and would rather buy a limited edition one where I can see what I am getting. I haven’t been tempted by the beauty advent calendar craze either—surely people can see that they are sample sizes just packaged nicely? Maybe some people aren’t that bright, but I haven’t found one that is genuinely great value yet, but they sell out and the business is all about money. Me, I’d rather spend my money on what I will use. Recently I bought a great value spa week box  (£20) with an Elemis face cream (30 ml) that was worth more than the box alone (£50). It’s no surprise that one sold out within days. Now that’s called a bargain beauty box, with full or half sized products.

Buying a box of small samples in a pretty bag or box has appealed to a sector of the demographic, but it is a rip off unless the products are full sized (or special travel sizes), and you know what you are getting. I hate getting ripped off, but love it when I get a bargain. I’ve found a few, and have a good stock of some premium brands, but when a box tries to palm me off with a sachet, that’s the worst. One very sad Birchbox had three sachets in it (out of five products), and when I reviewed it I wished I could have given it a minus. I felt truly ripped off and pitied those who had paid full price. I took little comfort in having paid half price, and also got the £5 paid back in points, and convinced myself that I more or less got the box for free and just paid for the shipping.

Maybe I should I set up my own beauty box business instead as clearly there are many people who will pay for a pretty box of free samples? Customers are demanding better quality of brands, sizes, and importantly customer service, and most are not delivering. I’m ended all my subscriptions, and only have one that can be cancelled at anytime and who also give you a preview before they bill you. If only all companies were like this…

My American Tipping Nightmares

Everyone loves American tourists, as they are renowned to be big tippers, whereas most American servers despair at European tourists as they have a reputation for not tipping generously. Let me give you an insight as to why this is so, and why when British people tip in the US it can bring on a bout of anxiety. Having lived in both countries on and off, I see the dilemmas and cultural differences, but that doesn’t influence my preference to tip or not. I only really grasped how important the tipping culture is in the US when my cousin, who used to be a maître d at Indochine and 150 Wooster (a while back now) in New York City, told me if people didn’t leave at least 20 percent as a tip they would chase them. I realize now that she wasn’t joking, but you must understand in most countries, restaurants do pay their staff the minimum wage, and not like the US where the minimum wage is allowed to be made up with tips.

In the UK, people generally tip 10 percent and round up at the same time; if the bill is £18, most people would leave £20 because it would look mean to ask for 20 pence change, so in fact the tip is 12 percent. People do tip 15-20 percent for exceptional service, but still round up rather than calculate an exact amount from a percentage. However, in the US, 15 percent is deemed normal for average service, and 20 percent is considered the minimum one should leave. If the bill is $32, then a 20 percent tip would be $6.40; some people would round it up to $40 making it 25 percent, but most calculate it exactly to the cent.

Then there is the tip jar that I struggle to understand—I get why they exist in cafés and diners where you go in to grab a coffee or a sub, and will leave a tip if the service in general was good, but not self-service restaurants. Do you feel guilty if the jar is sparse and you opt to take your change rather than put it in the jar? I did at first (and watched them watching what I chose to do) and got over that quite quickly. I was once in a self-service organic café where the line was long (20 minute wait), basically as there was one cashier taking orders and the money, and it wasn’t a cheap café either. I paid by card and there was still the option to add a service charge on the slip, which I added zero to without hesitation, as well as a tip jar glaring me in the face. Why should I tip when the cashier never even looked at me and I hadn’t even got my order yet? How could I ascertain how much to give when I haven’t received any actual service? They yell when your order is ready; you have to collect it and then clear up after yourself too. I can’t see any reason why I should tip in a place where the only interaction was to place an order and pay for it, and everything else I did myself?

My British friend, Sara and I would hang out at a local café to use the Wi-Fi (and feel a bit guilty), but would order coffee, tea, a muffin, and banana bread. When it came to the tip, both of us would sigh and wonder what to leave as it was a regular hangout. The bill came to just under $15, and we had been there for a couple of hours. We spent 10 minutes discussing and calculating the various percentages, unsure whether we should tip precisely or over tip. We worked out 20 percent would have been $17, but to wait for $3 change would have looked too cheap, so we ended up leaving $20 which worked out to be a 40 percent tip. The service was fine and friendly, but the whole experience was more about how the servers would perceive us than how much we wanted to leave, and caused so much anxiety we ran out as soon as we could.

Another awkward situation arose when I offered to buy a pizza and beer for a friend who had helped me out, I mean that’s not expensive to share a pizza and have a drink each? The question is whether to tip on drinks or not, and most people say not to, because they are bringing you a drink. What I find annoying is the breakdown on the check of the food, beverages, tax, and service charge, and then suggestions for tip amounts. We ended up with a pizza a couple of sides, and he had several beers. He suggested I leave 25 percent as a tip as the server was someone he knew. I was opposed to leaving so much as we didn’t get any special treatment and the service wasn’t exactly fast in a quiet local place. So the pizza and beer ended up costing me $60 and I have to admit I begrudged the tip, which was equivalent to buying another whole pizza pie. To me a tip should to equate to buying the server a drink, not a whole meal.

I learned my lesson when it came to ordering in a pub though; there was one side of nachos and the rest was drinks. The service was bad and slow, the server had no idea of what wines there were and we ended up having to go in and get someone to take our order. Again, the American friend advised us when it came to tipping that it should still be 20 percent despite the slow service and the fact we only had drinks. The tip equated to another glass of wine, and I put down what I wanted (10 percent) and told him if he wanted to look good by tipping well he could make up the rest. I make no apology for failing to tip because someone expects it and because of the minimum wage law loophole that exists.

I’ve since found not all states are as bad, the following states pay a full cash minimum hourly wage to tipped staff;

California $10, Alaska $9.75, Oregon $9.75, Washington $9.47

(https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/tipped.htm)

If these states can do it, why can’t others? That means that tips are given in addition to the wages, just as it should be, and how it is in pretty much the rest of the world! Maybe it’s time for the US to understand how uncomfortable and awkward tipping is in a situation that is supposed to be relaxing and fun? The general rule of double the tax is fine in Massachusetts (6.25 percent), but works out to be nearly 20 percent in New York. For a Brit that’s way too much, and now I opt for 10-15 percent and round up to the dollar as a compromise. I think I would rather stick to states or establishments that pay their staff well because they value them rather than feel obliged to pay the staff wages via a tip.

It really is so much simpler in the UK—you pay the price you see on the menu, and then tip if you want to, knowing the staff still get paid (admittedly not always that much, but at least minimum wage), and I have been to places that have service charges included who remove it when the service was bad without asking. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s fair and transparent. You can read what the tipping etiquette is on most websites (and it differs greatly), but if it is written by an American in a city, that opinion will differ greatly from someone in a less populated area. A tip is not, and should not be classed as a wage; it’s not the responsibility of the customer to pay wages, but employers have a loophole that allows tips to be counted towards the hourly minimum. It’s their choice to pay the staff or not, and those who do pay at least the full minimum will have happier and harder working staff, and customers who won’t be made to feel guilty if they don’t tip 25 percent.