Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My TV Blew Up - I Think the Universe is Telling me Something

There I was on Christmas Eve - surfing around on the internet with my TV on in the background when suddenly without warning - Poof! it went off. For a second I thought it was a power failure until I realised my PC was still OK. There was a strange beeping sound from the back - but all efforts at revival proved in vain - the TV is dead, deceased, defunct, kaput, gone to meet its maker, shuffled off this mortal coil, etc.

In a funny way though I realise that this is probably a really good thing - and I am wondering if it might have been caused by some software I have been playing with. The software products are designed to get me the things I life I really want by reprogramming my brain - it's all along the lines of the great little book called The Cosmic Ordering Service that I am also about to read following rave reviews from my friend Michelle. However it's the software that has been in action longest.

The first is a product called Subliminal Power which flashes positive affirmations around a select number of personal goals on screen every 5 seconds. You barely see them, but it is claimed that the subconscious mind can see them and takes these affirmations on board. I spend a lot of time in front of my PC, especially now my TV is bust, so seemed a good plan.

The second was a gift from a friend called Dream Manifestation Wizard - Also linked to affirmations but this time you write your affirmation, select a picture to represent it, record the affirmation and then every so often, in my case 30 minutes, there is a Ping and a small pop up appears with my affirmation and recording reminding me where I want to be (worded as if I am already there.)

Now you might be asking "Why would positive affirmation software cause the TV to blow up." Well it goes like this - If you ask the universe for something - cosmic order or positive affirmation etc - the Universe says "Sure, no problem - however you need to make a few changes in your life to be able to accept this change." So you ask for a new job and next thing you know you are fired. The idea is that at least now you are free to take up the new job when it arrives and you are much more motivated about getting it - i.e. you get off your ass and start really looking for a job.

Well I have been asking for a few things like getting better organised, making more money, getting fitter and losing weight - all of which cannot be achieved lying on the sofa watching TV! It's funny how in the past few days, even over Christmas, I have got so much more done because there is no TV - So I have resolved not to replace the TV and tomorrow I cancel the Sky (satellite) contract. Perhaps 2007 is going to be a really successful year at last.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Time to return to the Ancient Origins of Christmas?

If you check into the history of Christmas, you will find that the Winter Solstice is where it has its origins. Here in the Britain our religion is deeply rooted in Pagan origins and like most of the truly ancient religions the focus was on the seasons and natural phenomena - most important of all being the Sun - without which there is no life. The Sun deities were the most important in all ancient religions in China and Egypt - and the alignment of Stonehenge is towared the rising sun non both the Summer and Winter Solstices. In Ireland Newgrange a beautiful huge circular stone structure estimated to be 5,000 years old - that is older than Stonehenge and possibly older than the Pyramids, is perfectly aligned to receive the light of the Rising Solstice Sun (and possibly the light of the morning star - Venus)

The connections with Christianity are really just part of the assimilation process that Christian leaders have been used for centuries. In order to convert cultures to their beliefs. they aligned key Christian events with the important dates in the more ancient religions. It is also believed that the halo associated with Jesus is actually the sun behind his head, first appearing in images after Constantine forced the merger of Christianity with Sol Invictus (The Undefeated Sun) in 325 AD. It is not by accident that the Christian day of worship is SUNday.

The winter solstice feast on 25th December was the last feat of the year, celebrating the return on the sun from the darkness of the Solstice but also the coming winter was often a period of famine and starvation - like many animals humans would fatten up during the harvest time in the autumn. In British churches the full moon after the September Autumn Equinox is called the Harvest Moon - and the beginning of the feasts - eg Thanksgiving in the USA and Canada - The Autumn (Fall) is a time of plenty before the time of famine in the coming winter and a time to fatten up.

The other Pagan connection is with the Spring equinox in March - the time of fertility - this is the beginning of the agricultural calender when seeds are sown and the fertility festivals were a time of human impregnation - Any child conceived at this time would be born at the time of the Winter Solstice - thus our of death (the end of the harvest and the darkest time of the year came birth) The Newgrange cavern is fashioned in the form of a womb and the light of the winter solstice sun falls on a wall of crystal illuminating the cavern with it a pink glow.

So as you celebrate Christmas this year, perhaps its a time to remember that this is not a Christian festival but a much older religion founded on the The Sun, the Winter Solstice and our connection with the Mother Earth - and that perhaps by returning to that more ancient root we can begin to connect with our need to respect the Mother Earth if we wish Her to continue to support human life as we know it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Some Success in Tackling Hate Crime

I seem to be finally getting a few readers to my blogs and I will be writing about how on my Small Business Marketing Strategies blog later. But I thought it might be a good idea to give you an update today on my Hate Crime experiences - which I am glad to say seem to be coming under control.

Like all stories, the hate crime incidents I wrote about on 3rd December got worse before they got better - in fact Monday 4th December was so bad that I called 999 (911) three time that evening and suffered more broken windows and mud spots covered the front of my house. I also started having problem with the emergency call centre who seemed not to be able to grasp that a systematic night after night attack on my home by kids was more than an annoyance. Messages to the police were being relayed by email and not picked up for a couple of days, the CCTV centre was either not being notified or failed to understand the seriousness of the situation.

At the same time the kids were beginning to think there were untouchable and as well as other trans abuse, were standing 25 yards away taunting with "Why don't you call the police then?" When the police did attend, it was often two or three hours after the event. By 7:30 pm the kids has all dispersed leaving me stressed, upset and frustrated at not being able to do anything.

In the UK we have pretty much banned guns, thankfully. I have a small hunting bow and I was getting tempted to use it, if we had a gun culture here I am sure I would have fired off a few rounds and in all likelyhood have triggered a far more serious problem. If I lived in the US as a trans women there is a 1:12 chance of me being murdered for being trans - so in some ways I can count my blessings.

On Wednesday 5th however I had a meeting with the beat officer from the neighbourhood policing team and started to see a glimmer of hope that things would be done to stop this. In Hull the city is split into 7 areas, and each has a local policing team - the Local Beat Officer (a Police Constable or PC) who now manages a team of Police Community Support Officers. (PCSO) They have not had the full rigorous training of a PC, and many of them were traffic wardens who became PCSO's when the parking system was privatised. The reality is that they are what we in the UK all used to know as the "Bobby on the Beat." Their role is to patrol on foot in the community (at least 80% of their time) assisted by Special Constables who are part time police officers.

I have nothing but praise for this new approach to community policing because it is this that seems to have brought the campaign of hate against me to an end. Unfortunately the PCSOs are not on duty all the time and at weekends many get pulled into the city centre to help manage the binge drinking problems and weekend revelry .

Monday 11th everything reached a climax. A gang of about 12 boys and girls were throwing abuse, mud and stones and the only way to stop them was to stand outside of my house and face them. I reported the attack eventually after the 999 centre refused to take the call and then a breakthrough. Somehow a conversation started with one of the kids and the rest came forward to join in and I spent about 20 minutes doing the education about gender difference that our schools not just fail to do but refuse to do. "Oh the parents don't like it" they claim - Of course they don't - they had the same bigoted Christian based education their children are getting.

Suddenly the kids started to disperse and I realised that the policing team had arrived - Some kids vanished, others got their names taken and the problems were over for the night. The next two nights 4 officers were on patrol all evening which seemed to discourage any further action that week. Saturday and the officers were back in force on the beat and suddenly there is a real sense of a police presence, something many of the other neighbours are pleased to see and the gangs of kids have moved on or dispersed.

What a relief last night - the first Monday for a month when I have not had a window broken. I am now on first name terms with all the PCSOs and have heard lots of positive comments from shopkeepers and neighbours, pleased to see the impact of the police (all except the owner of the untaxed car opposite who has just picked up a big fine).

The recruitment of PCSOs is new - so this is the first time we have really experienced the impact of community policing and I must say I like it. It's a return to a time of good friendly relationships with the police with a "bobby on the beat", even if they are all dressed in flack jackets with a huge array of equipment but which thankfully in the UK does not include any guns.

I would not wish to go though this experience again - but I can say that as a result there is now a growing sense of achievement and because I have connections with the entire system, we will now all be working hard to learn from this and find a way to make sure that other people do not have to go through this because they are disabled, gay, black, old or in any other way different.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Abbey National concedes on Excessive Charges

I have been in a legal battle with my bank, Abbey National, for some months now and was scheduled to attend a meeting at the Hull County Court next Tuesday, but was very pleased to receive a somewhat scrappy photocopied and fairly anonymous letter from them this weekend to say that in view of the potential costs of defending my claim they had decided, without any admission of liability, to refund the entire £500 I had claimed. (actually the letter said $500 so I will need to watch this carefully - might actually call them before I contact the court to withdraw the claim)

I am extremely grateful to for their invaluable advice in helping me to both complete the claim and not yield to the various steadily increasing offers to settle - Holding out was definitely the right course of action. What annoys me however is that this claim should not have had to take place in the first place.

Everything started back in February when a standing order payment was honoured for an amount £30 more than my available credit. For this transgression Abbey charged me £50, £20 for an unauthorised overdraft and £30 for making a payment when there were insufficient funds. They claim this is a realistic charge for their administrative costs, however I know from having worked for a financial services software house that all the charges are automated. The only manual intervention (if any happens) is a quick look at a computer screen to decide if the payment is going to be bounced - in which case the charge is then increased to £35 for the five minutes of clerical work.

Later that month I paid a cheque in and paid another out a smaller amount on the same day. The payment in cleared a day after the payment out and my cleared account balance was just short of payment out - Another £30 charge. I didn't check my next statement when it came in so was unaware I had been charged £80 and as a result of those charges being deducted the following month my account became overdrawn by £10 for a couple of days - another £50 charge. However before my payment in had cleared two direct debits for about £5 each were paid and another £60 in charges was incurred - Total £110 -

Being now almost £200 short my account became overdrawn again and in the two of weeks it took me discover what had happened and get cleared funds into my account another £310 in charges racked up. Total in three months £500 an all as a direct result of he first £50 charge.

Abbey National claims that these charges are to encourage account holders to stay in credit - yet it is the very changes they imposed that caused me to get into arrears. More importantly all the charges I incurred were essentially due to timing. If any of the charges or the direct debits applied when there was no credit in the account were deferred for a few days, none of the charges would have occurred - but the bank will not allow charges or direct debits to be deferred. Furthermore unlike all other creditors the bank insist on us giving them to right to deduct charges when they choose to.

The Office of Fair Trading has made it clear that they feel the level of bank charges to be penal - the banks don't agree, though the credit card companies have already reduced theirs. I suspect that in addition to the cost of defending my claim beginning to exceed the amount I was claiming, they are also concerned not to have any court find against them because in total the banking industry has made over £26 billion in penalty changes over the past 6 years which they would face having to refund.

If you have been unfairly charged by a bank - its worth checking out and follow their advice to reclaim the charges. It's certainly made my Christmas a happier occasion.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Reality of Hate Crime

I "came out" on December 14th 2001 and declared to the world that I was transgender. I took that action because in the dying days of a relationship my ex threatened to tell the world and I decided that I would be better able to handle it if I told people. I had expected to be targeted by bigots but it didn't happen - until last week that is and suddenly I am under a level of sustained hate attack that frankly is beyond belief.

The bigots - no let me give them their correct name the "terrorists" are a bunch of young boys all about 12 to 15 years old. For the past three years I have had occasional problems from these and other boys when they discovered there was a "tranny" living on the street and occasionally they threw small stones at the window to get my attention. Then slowly the size of the stones increased and the force they hit the windows changed. Where once they had hung around to wave and "look at the Tranny" now they hit an run.

Last week this escalated - suddenly windows were broken and there was a clear intent to break windows. Instead of calling out "tranny" it was "Fucking Tranny" - their actions had changed from anti social behaviour to a hate crime. In addition the number of kids involved increased from half a dozen to about 20 in a series of hit and run attacks on my house. So instead of talking about hate crime I for the first time experienced being a victim of it and the stress of being under siege and feeling powerless to prevent it.

Interestingly I am actively involved with the hate crime teams in Hull and Humberside police in helping to encourage people to report incidents yet had never reported the issue I had. Big mistake. Had I reported this over the past few years it is probable that the kids initially involved would have been identified and because I don't think they had any "hate" intent, would probably have been scared off. Instead I effectively allowed them to tell the real troublemakers, the urban terrorists who travel around the city like a pack of wild dogs looking for trouble and playing a game of "catch me of you can" with the police.

Hate Crime is all about intolerance and seems to me to be grounded in ignorance. A high level of bullying at school is similarly motivated - it is people who are different who are targeted yet schools are not just reluctant but almost fearful of addressing most of the issues in the education curriculum. In Hull we have been trying for a while now to get schools include sexual orientation and gender in their education programme but they refuse claiming that parents don't want it - a vicious circle maintaining the bigotry.

Despite how I feel about being attacked, there is a very positive outcome to all this. In trying to find a solution to my problem I am working with the the neighbourhood policing team, Humberside and Hull City Council hate crime team, the anti social behaviour team, the wardens, my local councillor and other members of the local community. It is likely that as well as specific solutions related to my issue, a number of wider initiatives will happen because I am very actively involved. My experience in hate crime is being significantly increased which will benefit all hate crime initiatives throughout the city.

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