30 December 2015

Maybe a writer is what I'm supposed to be, after all.


My novel, Journeyman, is out and starting to sell respectably well, considering it's the work of an unknown. I'm quite happy about that, and looking forward to what the next year (and next books in the series) will bring.

And it's the penultimate day of 2015. During this year, I've been looking harder than ever for some sort of employment, and every time I think I'm getting somewhere, I get knocked right back to square one.

I know what a lot of people are probably thinking, whether or not they are reading what I have to say: 'oh, but you've got a degree, why are you being so picky and claiming that you're entitled?' Well, I'm not. I've been applying for everything I think I can do, from cleaning in the early mornings, to telesales, to trainee software developer roles. Nobody will take me on, usually because either:
  1. I'm not experienced enough.
  2. My degree isn't good enough.
  3. I have a degree.


And I'm not joking. I've been volunteering at a charity shop near to where I live for something like sixteen months now, and so I've gained experience working behind a till, in the warehouse, doing deliveries, accepting donations... pretty much everything except answering phonecalls. OK, I'll grant that this isn't the most beautiful list of working experience, but it's all I've got at the moment. But will shops take me on? Will they buggery. 

As far as experience as a programmer goes, I have no professional experience because nodoby has actually let me gain any. Simple as that. As a hobbyist programmer, I've written libraries to control VT100 terminals on Unix/Linux, and once even designed an instruction set and implemented it as a crude simulator (including writing a simple assembler) over a weekend. But because they were only the experiments of a hobbyist, they don't count even slightly as being experience.


I have training as a software developer, and know about five languages fluently and could pick up others as needed very quickly. Much of what I've done, however, has been as a hobbyist, which means that software houses aren't interested. Or so it seems. And, since my honours degree is only third-class (due to mental health during my honours year and a very awkward dissertation supervisor), graduate schemes won't take me on. Conversely, apprenticeships won't take me on because I have a degree. Which means I'm between a rock and a hard place, pretty much literally.

Types of Work

What I know counts for bugger all, seriously. These are the types of work I've applied for:
  • Kitchen Assistant at a care home.
  • Telesales
  • Programmer
  • IT Technician
  • IT Helpdesk
  • Admin/data entry
  • Cleaner
I've even had interviews for most of these, but never had a job out of it. Let's take a look at why.

Kitchen Assistant: alright, this job went to a friend of mine who needed it a hell of a lot more than me at the time, so I'm not going to cut my throat about it. But what riled me about it was that I didn't get the job because I chalked all their fancy-named standards up to common sense. Wash hands before handling food. Wash plates/cutlery properly, with scalding water and plenty of detergent. Wash hands after handling raw meat. Make sure meat is completely cooked. Blah. I knew all that, but because I didn't know all the special acronyms and TLAs which applied to them.

Telesales, while something I abhor, is a valid means to earn a wage. I have a good telephone manner and am very interested in pleasing the customer (short of going and fucking myself, which I am aware that many customers may request), and bloody need the money, which I am aware that many telesales companies rely on in their staff. Any joy? Pft, they didn't even get back to me.

Of course I've gone for lots of jobs as a programmer, as I've said above. Lots of web development stuff, some in-house POS type stuff. Some security-related stuff. Never got any further than an initial interview for any of them. Why? Because no experience, even when I've demonstrably had more knowledge than even the nerds who were interviewing me. Ich sheiss du nicht; I asked one prospective employer about what secure coding practices they had in place - asked the main programmer, mark you - and he said 'um, we've got a firewall.' In that specific case, I'm glad I didn't get that job, because I'm not sure I want to work for someone so profoundly stupid. But there have been lots of really good chances that I've had and not succeeded in, invariably because I've not got any prior professional experience as a programmer. I mean... what? And then there was a time I applied for an apprenticeship quite recently, and they just simply sent me an email back saying 'no.' Aaaaaalrighty then.

Working as an IT technician is something I can do as well as anything else, and probably at least as well as anyone else. I've been around hardware all my life, having been constantly building, repairing, and rebuilding my own boxes since I was about eleven. I know all standards of components that have been in use since the mid-eighties (I started on old hardware that wouldn't be missed if I broke it), right up to today. But nope. Either not hiring or not interested.

Same has gone with helpdesk work. I know a lot about operating systems, networks, common software, blah, and never even got an interview. Why? No idea; they never even get back to me.

Cleaning work... mostly they don't bother getting back to me, so there's no point in really mentioning it.

But the admin stuff, there's a corker for you. Had two interviews for admin jobs recently; one at ****** *********** and one at ******, both fairly near to where I live. Well, I say "interviews," the one at ****** *********** was an interview, and the other was something else, which I'll go into more detail about in a moment.

****** *********** went really well, and both the people interviewing seemed pretty impressed with me as a person, and with my abilities. I came out feeling like I'd done a pretty good job, but later that day I got a call saying I hadn't got it; one of the others had pretty much the same abilities as me but more experience. Cool, whatever - you need the guy who can prove he'll be good for you rather than the wildcard.

****** was a different story, though. I'd got a phonecall from them a couple of weeks ago, saying effectively that I'd got a job. All I needed to do was confirm a few things and print some forms, fill them out, and take them into the office yesterday. Awesome, amazing - someone's giving me a chance! I knew someone would give me a job by the end of the year.

So, yesterday comes and I go to the office, armed with my forms, my pen, and an ID photo I'd had taken, and was presented with a contract of employment to sign. Here's where it gets a bit silly: ****, who met me there, told me to sign it and didn't give me any time to read it. I signed it and handed it back, without thinking to ask for a copy myself, for my own reference and archiving purposes. And that was it: I was told they'd do a background check on me and once that was done (about two weeks) I'd be able to start. No what-ifs, maybes, buts, caveats, or anything like that.

Off home I toddled, and later that afternoon I got a phonecall saying my application with ****** wasn't being progressed any further. Wait, WTF? How does that make sense? **** told me on the phone that it had been her decision, and that they would email me with full feedback. Which, so far, I haven't yet received.

Right. So it was her decision. Which, given that she hadn't been around me long enough to pass judgment, gives rise to the following questions:
  1. If I wasn't suitable, why was I invited to meet with this person and led to believe I had a job?
  2. This person had only been in the same room as me for about ten minutes but subsequently decided not to "pursue the application any further:" what grounds were there?
Of course only one of these questions needs answering, because whichever one is relevant would rule out the other, and whichever one is relevant would (of course) be answered by the feedback I asked for by email. What's more, the answers to these questions would be simple, meaning that there shouldn't be any delay in dreaming up responses to them.


OK, I get it. You think I'm being pissy and "entitled" and just generally being a whingy little bitch. Maybe I am, but I don't think getting any of it out of my system will do any harm to anyone. To be completely honest, I'm not even that angry. All I am is perplexed. It makes no sense.

Being a Writer

Which brings me back to my original point: maybe I'm just supposed to write. Because, as I see it, every time I go for a job I get knocked back, but Journeyman is starting to do fairly well. Or, at least, well enough to satisfy me for the time being. I find the idea a little difficult to swallow, but at the same time exciting. It does feel like I've found myself through writing, more so than ever I did as a programmer or anything else.

So, of course, I'm going to carry on looking for a "real job." Actually looking, not pretending, because - as much as I love writing - I need the wage that a job pays, not the instability of my pay being subject to my popularity at any given time.

But now, I honestly think that a writer is what I am "meant" to be, and I think I have reason to.

20 December 2015

I am getting *no better* at this.

OK, it's December. That means it's something like five months since I last wrote anything here.

That's not entirely because I couldn't be bothered though, if I'm honest. For a while I was a little put-out, because after spending ages writing an entry to put up, the site just dropped it, and I was pretty annoyed. So I just walked off, so to speak.

But, bygones and all that. It's a website, and isn't going to take a lesson from me getting annoyed with it.


Force of the Gods

The book's done, edited, and out today on Kindle, under the name Journeyman - The Force of the Gods: Part I. Bit of a mouthful, I guess, but I can be a little bit verbose when I want to be. If anyone's interested in looking at Journeyman, here's the link: linky.

It's been a fun book to write, but it's only the first part of a three-part story, the second part of which is pretty much planned and ready to start writing, so I'll be getting on with that in the new year.

You might notice that I've not put a paperback version of Journeyman anywhere yet. That's because I'm trying to get in touch with literary agents before I give in and start doing it myself; it just seems that if it's worth trying, it's worth trying. I don't want to wimp out of trying because I'm scared of being rejected. If you know what I mean.


Everything I had recorded is still lost, like I said in my last entry. But that's OK, beause I still can remember it all, and while I didn't get round to start rerecording it again yet, I will be doing soon. A lot of it needed rerecording anyway, because the playing, recording, editing, and mixing were all rough as gravel. Which isn't much use.

I've resolved to start practicing the ukulele again. Once upon a time, I was pretty good at it, and a fairly well-respected player, even had something of a small following on YouTube. But then I got into university and didn't have time to shave, let alone keep practicing a musical instrument. But now I've pretty much only got time on my hands, and have to find imaginative and not-wasteful ways to use it until I can actually find a job.

Windows 10

It's out. It got old. They updated it.

I can't say I'm as impressed. Not because I got used to it, but pretty much because, as always, it was really good when it was in beta - but then once it came out they seemed to start cutting corners. Bits started going wrong in updates, drivers were being updated wrong... just bits were going wrong. Though that could just be me.


Apart from all this, I'm just trying to keep going. Like I said, find constructive ways to pass my time, rather than lounge on the couch watching Australia's Biggest Loser, which seems to be good enough for some people I know. Which means I'm doing my writing, practicing my music again, looking for work, and also I'm thinking of getting back into programming again. Because, y'know, that's what I'm actually trained in. So I'm trying to decide how best to go about that. I guess I'll figure it out and let you know at some point.

Until then.

16 July 2015

Life is happening.

And it's happening to other people as well as me.

My brother moved out of our parents' house - where I'm still living, stereotypical nerd - in early February or so, to live with his fiancée, about ten miles away. In late May we found out that they are pregnant, and soon after they moved away to her parents' place in this awful place I call Down South. In the last couple of days we've found out what sex the baby is going to be, and a name has been decided upon, which I've just found out this evening. So, life is happening.

In my own life, things are taking a slightly less break-neck pace: I didn't get either of the jobs I was interviewed for last month, though an old classmate from when I was at university added me on LinkedIn last week, and I found out it that it had been him who got one of the jobs I'd gone for - the one in Lancaster, if you read my last entry. So, good for him. I hope he's the better man for the job.

I'm working on the novel, one chapter at a time. Right now I'm taking a moment's break from writing chapter thirty-eight of The Force of the Gods to write this, with a coffee to hand, and a copy of The Dark Side of the Moon playing on my headphones.

A couple of weeks ago (actually, the night those great thunderstorms happened) I had a thrommy at my laptop and gave it a smack in just the wrong place, so the hard drive crashed. Properly. So, thank fuck that FotG is stored elsewhere. However, all the recordings I'd done for my other little pet-project, a rock opera I'm calling Riding The Threads, were lost. But again, thank fuck that I had all the lyrics and music written down, and that I've got (if I say so myself) a fantastic memory for music. So, once I've finished the draft of this volume of FotG, I'll be getting to work on remaking all those recordings. It could be a blessing in disguise, considering that I'm now a lot more skilled at the various instruments I was overdubbing to make the recordings I had. So the rest of my year is pretty much planned.

Windows 10: I've been playing with it. Actually, I've been dogfooding it since it came out in September last year, and I'm impressed with how far it's come. And this evening I upgraded, through the Windows Insider programme, to the latest build, which I hear is the version to be released to manufacturing (TH1, 10240). It's come a hell of a long way, and I'm very impressed. I'm also impressed with the phone version, which I'm running on my Lumia 535 quite happily. It seems like Microsoft aren't the pillocks that people seem to have them for.

But, in all of these cases, time will tell.

4 June 2015

More Progress.

Well, I'm into chapter 24 of my novel. It's getting darker now, more than I expected, and if it carries on according to the plan I wrote, the rest should write pretty quickly and really start moving in the story quite soon.

Also I had a job interview today (yesterday), in Lancaster. It's been a while since I've been in Lancaster, it was very fun.

So I've got plenty to be going on with for the time being.

25 May 2015

Lessons Learned.


I've come to the end of chapter twenty in my novel, The Force of the Gods, and realized something.

Chapter divisions sometimes work better in the plan than they do when you're actually writing. Which means that when I've finished writing and start editing it, one of the first things I'll be doing is rearranging a few - or a lot - of the chapter divisions. Fewer, longer, chapters seems like an attractive idea to me right now.

But I'm making a lot of progress, and (if I say so myself) I believe that I have a reason and a right to be proud. Sort of.

Also, while I'm here, I'm going to plug my first book again, Singularity.

Here's the UK link, and the US link. It's free until Thursday, so get a copy while you can.


21 May 2015


Good evening.

I have started chapter nineteen of my novel, which for the time being is called The Force of the Gods (Volume I: Journeyman). That means I'm a three-and-a-halfth of the way into the first draft. At forty-thousand words so far, it's proving to be easier to write than I had initially imagined, and far more fun.

I have also been continuing with my efforts as regards my electronics and radio stuff. Having made all my own components for my spark gap transmitter (shown below), I have thought it might be fun to attempt to make some more components of my own for possible future projects.
Hand-wound Ruhmkorff coil and homemade foil-leaf capacitor.
So that's the main part of the transmitter: a home-made Ruhmkorff (induction) coil - as in all hand-wound, all 12,000 thousand turns of the damn' thing - with a crude adjustable spark-gap, which will produce about a five-millimetre spark, which works out at a little over 16,000 volts, and a capacitor that comes to 54.5 nF.

I haven't got an interrupter or a commutator working yet (because I tried to make them myself too, but all they got me was hot batteries), but even just touching the battery wires to the terminals has transmitted across a room.

Next thing to make will be a tuning circuit, consisting of a choke coil and a smaller, possibly adjustable capacitor (possibly even a Leyden jar), because at the moment when it transmits, it transmits from the long-wave band to the short-wave, via everything in between.

So, yeah. And on top of that, as my own take on basket-weaving, I recently made another foil-leaf capacitor, just to see how big I could be patient enough to make:

Large homemade foil capacitor.
Which measured at 49μF - around a hundred times what I had expected it to, based on how many foil leaves I used to make it. Charging from a 9V battery for twenty seconds, it then provided a current of ~0.45V for a little under two minutes. Not bad for tinfoil and paper. Even if it is the size of a packet of cigarettes.

I am also making attempts at coming up with an elecytrolytic capacitor (using sodium bicarbonate). I've done one so far, which measured at a little under 70μF, but hadn't sealed the container correctly, which meant that within two days the electrolyte had evaporated, leaving it useless.

Capacitors. Probably useless for me to make, but I've gained a pretty good understanding of how they work now, which to me is what it's about.

12 May 2015

I am not dead.

Greetings. When I started this blog, it had been with the intention of becoming involved with the Internet in a more active and productive way; to become part of the wider community. Sadly, however, that sort of thing hasn't ever come naturally to me, so I've not been thinking of posting.

I have, however, got plenty to post about.


I got engaged to my wonderful partner on the 11th of March, at the river in Thornton. We haven't thought about dates yet, but we're working toward being able to come up with something. As someone who's never considered the possibility of being on a 'long engagement,' I am happily standing corrected: we want to be married and we intend to be, so I'm more than happy to be in this for the 'long haul;' that's the point, isn't it?


Singularity is published as a paperback and as a Kindle ebook. It has met with some limited success and gained a couple of really encouraging reviews. I know I have to do more to get people to read it, but self-promotion has never been one of my strong points.


I am still working on the piece of music I've been writing and recording, but as I've been recording in a conservatory, it's hard to find the right moment to do so and not have birds, rain, or lawnmowers come up on the audio track.


I've got back into radio. To people who have known me for a long time, this shouldn't come as much of a surprize, because I've been interested on and off for most of my life.

As part of my rekindled interest in radio, I've built a few crystal sets, some using the standard 1N34A germanium diode that everyone uses, and some using pyrite and carborundum crystals, and one even using the blued razor blade described in a number of resources and termed as a 'foxhole radio.' That worked, but not fantastically well.

I've also made a couple of coherers, with the intention of building a proper coherer receiver (probably in the Marconi style). Having made a few, I'm planning on using the best one for making the receiver set.

But the biggest radio-related thing I've done recently is building a spark-gap transmitter, all from scratch. This has included winding a Ruhmkorff coil entirely by hand (without a bobbin-winder!) and assembling my own foil-leaf capacitor. Because it's wide-band, I haven't connected it to an aerial longer than eighteen inches, because I'd rather not have Ofcom crawling up my arse.

Making the capacitor for the transmitter led me into thinking about other, earlier electronics ideas as well, so I've made a couple of different sized capacitors, and even a Leyden jar, as well as a few early instruments (such as electroscopes and the like) for doing some of my own recreated experiments. Most of these have worked quite well. The most interesting thing I've noticed so far is that if I charge a Leyden jar from a piezo-sparker (from an electric lighter), the jar transmits a 'pop' signal that echoes that of the sparker, which echoes a few times at an interval of a second or so.

I want a Wimshurst machine.

More writing

I'm writing another book, this time the first volume of a three-part fantasy novel. I will possibly post parts of it as I write, but I'm not going to right now. I've been planning this story in the back of my mind for the best part of a decade, though, so I'm hoping that finally writing it down will do the story I've been creating justice...

12 January 2015

I am now a published author.

...well, actually, I was a published author as of the evening of the sixth, this month. So that's nearly a week.

But anyway, here it is, available to buy and read: Singularity. It's a small paperback and is available for £5.99. I've had some very encouraging feedback from the people who have read it so far, and if interest is shown I will be producing an ebook version of it.

I am looking forward to doing more, as and when I have such an epiphany as to inspire me.