Technology and Humanity

Ordering groceries simply using our voice. Speaking face to face with people thousands of miles away. Having the ability to share everything we do, as we do it.

There is no question that our relationship with technology has developed beyond recognition over the last few decades, and even the last few years. We can do more, travel further, and delegate mundane tasks, freeing up our precious time. Technology is without a doubt a huge part of our lives; research shows that the top 10% of smartphone users touch their phones an average of 5427 times per day. Even the lesser users rack up 2617 touches a day. And with over 70% of Americans sleeping next to their smartphones, tech is something we eat, sleep and breathe. But is the infiltration of technology into our lives a positive thing? Or are there repercussions and consequences which me may not realise we are paying the price for?

 

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There is a hugely under appreciated sitcom called ‘Selfie’, starring the wonderfully talented Karen Gillan. She plays Eliza Dooley, a self obsessed, tech obsessed woman, who’s primary joys in life come from counting her Instagram followers and taking selfies. As the series progresses, she undergoes a ‘My Fair Lady’ transformation and realised she has the ability to be an intelligent, kick-ass female who seeks validation from no-one. (Amazing TV show, totally check it out.) There is a scene in one episode where she admits that she “eats, sleeps and breathes” her phone – using sleeping apps to ensure good quality sleep, calorie counters and nutritional apps to monitor her food and health, and even a breathalyser on a night out to see how many more drinks she should have. This is of course a parody, but it got me thinking about how much we rely on our phones, and technology in general. In a world where there is an app for everything, so we run the risk of becoming totally reliant on technology, to the point where owe absolve ourselves of personal responsibility?

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In one sense, apps are brilliant. We can instantly find new recipes, learn nutritional content, analyse our sleep cycles, lean a language, find our way in a new city, order a pizza…the possibilities are endless, and the ability to access so much knowledge is a brilliant step for society, equalising access to literature, music, history, politics, and education in general. I’m currently leaning 3 languages with the help of apps, and I am progressing at a much faster and more consistent rate than I would have expected (I’m terrible at languages!) due to the immediate access, interactive features and instant feedback. While working, I can convert between currencies instantly using an app, and reply to queries and emails at the touch of a button. So far so good.

There is of course, another side to this. I recently visited a brand new city, one I had never visited passed through, or knew anybody in. In many ways, it was a total adventure, and my apprehension was overtaken by excitement. I left the railway station, snapping the city sign as I left. I exited the barriers with my ticket on an app, Instagrammed a few more pics of the inside of the station, and exited into a totally new street. Out of habit, I loaded up the maps to find my destination, and I caught myself. I suddenly realised that I couldn’t remember the last time I was lost. Like properly, wonderfully lost in a brand new city, never knowing what surprises were round the next corner. Thanks to maps, I always find locations easily, and as a result spend most of the time with my eyes glued to my phone, not soaking in the world around me. Maps can obviously be a godsend if you are running late in a new city, and in some ways give you the luxury of getting lost; you can always turn on your locations to find your way back. However, just for today, just for once, I decided to let myself get totally lost.

And boy am I glad I did.

I found myself looking at things, smiling at people, noticing tiny details about the place and the architecture and the weather. I dawdled to watch an incredible musician playing his heart out on the street. I investigated a tiny, winding, Harry Potter-esque alleyway and found a fantastic tiny little shop which smelled amazing and was run by the most fascinating woman I’ve ever met. I ended up  by the river, and spent a while walking along, just enjoying the atmosphere. I had no idea where I was, and it was incredible. I also made a point of not uploading anything; if there was a particularly beautiful moment, I took a picture, but instead of immediately uploading and filtering it, I then put my phone back in my pocket and looked at it a while longer. And when I needed to get back, I loaded up the map, and quickly and safely found myself where I needed to be.

Technology is amazing. It gives us freedom, choices, knowledge. Alexa can order you more butter without you having to lift a finger. Roomba does your cleaning for you; definitely a place where technology is a winner! Apps can help you track and monitor every part of your life. Tech is defiantly here to stay, and will only improve in efficiency and prevalance. I am in no way shouting “burn the tech!” and demanding we all live naked in a hippy commune watching the corn grow (though if that’s your thing, I am so coming for a holiday.) What is important to remember is that we control technology, not the other way round. Sometimes it’s nice to switch off the WiFi, walk to the shop, take a moment to stop and soak in the vibes. Have a conversation without constantly checking your phone; free yourself from that stress.

As great as tech is, it still can’t describe the way it feels to see a beautiful sunset. To feel the magic of a Christmas market. To experience the butterflies of seeing someone new. To describe the feeling of looking into the eyes of someone you love. To smell the rain, and feel the freshness of the air after a storm. To feel the freedom of knowing who you are, what you want, and following your heart. For those things, we still need humans. And I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing at all.

Namaste

J x

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Blink

There was a moment when everything was perfect.

Like a snapshot taken at exactly the right moment.

I saw her, laughing, head thrown back, caught forever in that moment of spontaneous joy.

I was transfixed. Rooted to the spot like an ancient oak which has seen and done and experienced everything humanity is, and still stands calmly, patiently, observing.

Observing. Thats what I was doing. And it was strangely calm, considering the circumstances.

Or maybe not; after all, no one else knew about the circumstances did they?

Only me.

It was that moment before a thunderstorm, when the birds go quiet and the world goes still and holds its breath. When you look up into the sky and sense an onerous oncoming something. That split second you have to realise and take shelter before the rain comes pelting down and soaks you to the skin.

It was the experience of standing on the edge of a jubilant crowd, watching their hugs and kisses and high fives as though through an impenetrable glass wall, seeing but not hearing. On the very edge of emotion, participation, understanding.

It was that moment before you open the curtains in the morning to deep snowfall. When you stand for a second and wonder why the world is so bright and silent, why the air feels heavier, why it feels as though all the green things of the earth have gone to sleep, under a blanket of strange, pure whiteness.

It was the cliche silence before announcing the results. When you told yourself you didn’t care, but nonetheless held your breath in anticipation along with your fellow humans, becoming caught up in the waiting, skin tight, muscles taut, waiting for the axe to fall.

It was knowing that you were going to change your entire world in a split second. That once you took this step, nothing would be as it was. That the smile would die, the kisses would stop, the plug would be pulled from the music and silence would fall.

It was being powerless. All I had to do was blink, and the world would change forever.

Thats part of being human though. Have you ever tried not to blink? It is a preconditioned response  by our bodies, our helpless surrender to a power far greater than our own consciousness or desires. Like breathing or bleeding, or controlling the beat of a heart, giving it just a few more pumps before it stops forever. We can’t control that, any more than we control the sun or the weather, or that rain falling from the sky.

So maybe that exempted me from responsibility. Maybe that freed me from the guilt. It wasn’t my fault. I had no choice. Maybe I was fooling myself. Either way, intention ceased to matter. Things are as they are, happened as they happened, and I was merely the puppet.

I felt my eyes watering with the strain, my eyelashes quivering with the need to close. Were they tears? Or was it my basic biological reaction to refusing to meet a basic need? Either way, it seemed it was over.

I blinked.

And everything changed.

This post is a response to the Daily Prompt: Blink

Static

“Pertainingtoorcharacterizedbyafixedorstationarycondition…showing little or no change.”

So her situation seemed. The same. Repetition. Habits. A. B. C. Rinse, lather, repeat.

On the surface, it seemed pleasant enough. Good job, nice friends, pretty hair, big house. Successful in all the ways which matter.

Static.

Like electricity, fizzing under the surface. Running through the blue veins visible under her translucent skin, burning so intensely she wondered how on earth people didn’t see it, didn’t stare in wonder or cower back at the bright, burning electricity rushing through  her.

Static.

Like when you put a jumper on too fast over dry hair, and it takes on a life of it’s own, standing in every different direction, never to be tamed or calmed or brushed into submission. Refusing to be smoothed into the sleek style which created a uniform.

Static.

Like a shock which makes you start and jolt and pull back. One you never see coming, which leaves you surprised, eyebrows raised, mouth open.

Static.

And still, even now, they wonder why she left.

This post is a response to the Daily Post prompt: Static

Beat the January Blues!

Lets face it, January can be a pretty bleak month. The days are short, the weather is grey, the excitement and fairy lights of Christmas seem a very long time ago, and it seems even longer until payday. January also just seems so long, dragging out the days and feeling as though spring will never arrive.

So you have two choices: sit around hating January and feeling poor, fat and fed up, or realise that we all have an extremely limited time on this planet, and we need to seize the day and make it count, and other inspirational quotes.

 

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Im not going to advocate getting up at 4am and running 20 miles in the snow (unless thats your thing, in which case go for your life, I salute you from beneath my duvet), but there are little things you can do to make January more bearable, and make you less inclined to simply sit and stare at your wall until April.

  1. Get outside

This is perhaps one of the most important things you can do at this time of year. Yes, it seems counter intuitive; it’s bloody freezing out there and rains 5 days out of 7. it’s dark when you go to work, dark when you get home, and grey in between. But just trust me on this. Wrap up warm, grab a dog (probably ask permission first if it’s not yours; cute as they are, I’m not advocating dognapping) and just get some fresh air. Your Vitamin D level will improve (slightly; lets face it, theres not much sun), and you have a chance to blow away the cobwebs and move your body, and you will be surprised how much your mood improves from being cooped up in an artificially warm, central heated house in front of a screen

2. Get organised

It sounds like a cliche, and anyone who has followed me for a while will know I dislike New Years Resolutions on principle, but January is an excuse to treat yourself to some hideously overpriced but gorgeous stationary, and get thongs sorted. Physically write down all of your appointments; this helps to cement them in your brain in a way which putting them on your phone doesn’t. Don’t just include boring stuff like bills and MOT’s, schedule in some quality ‘me time’, and stick to it. Whether you go for a walk, indulge in a bath, play a video game or meet your friends, treat yourself like an appointment, and put it in the diary so you can’t ignore it.

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3. Set some goals

Look to a life beyond January: what do you want to be doing this time next year? The same thing? In which case focus on what is making you happy and keep doing it! Something different? In which case how can you get there? What baby steps can you take to achieve that? It might be tiny – finally get to the end of a book, or something huge – in a new job, location, country…everything can be broken into smaller steps to make it seem more achievable. Set a year, 6 month, month and weekly goals to make it seem manageable.

4. Create things to look forward to

Which Christmas over, it can be easy to see nothing exciting in the future in January. So be proactive, and create things you are looking forward to. Make plans with friends and loved ones – “we must go to the cinema next week and see that film!” “Lets all go to yours for wine and movie night next Thursday!” “Want to come over one day and slob about and pretend we’re teenagers with no responsibility and eat potato smilies in our PJ’s?” Make it a date, and give yourself exciting things to look forward to to break the routine.

 

5. Get a head start on your spring clean

Use the days stuck inside to get your shit together. If you have to be in the house and have run out of things to do, start a serious declutter ready for the spring. Look out clothes, shoes, books, nick racks, that thing you had to have and have never used…create space in your home, allow it to breathe. It sounds boring, but you’d be surprised how much an organised environment, filled only with things you need or love, can boost your productivity and mood.

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6. Finally binge watch that show, or start that book

If all else fails, head to Netflix, turn to Episode 1 of that show you’ve been meaning to watch, pick up and open the book that’s been on your stack for months, snuggle down under a cosy blanket, and enjoy it. After all, soon you’ll be worrying about bikini bodies (that’s another post!) and moaning that it is too nice a day to waste inside in front of the TV…so make the most of it while you can, and embrace the comfort.

Happy January guys, we can make it through!

Carpe diem,

J x

A Sneak Peek at Derry

London. New York. Paris. Rome. Tokyo.

Derry.

 

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You might argue that it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. And it is true that for many, this tiny city tucked away in the North of Northern Ireland has negative connotations, if you associate with it at all. The Troubles put this place on the map, and it is true that the scars of those times are still visible. But Derry is so much more than conflict and negativity. It is an incredible, vibrant, beautiful place which crawls into your blood and never leaves.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have regular links with Derry, and the wonderful show, Derry Girls, currently airing on Channel 4 made me homesick and nostalgic all at the same time, and I decided to take the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful city.

Whether you call it Derry, Londonderry or the Maiden City, the impact is the same. The beautiful River Foyle cut through the centre of the city, a glistening, bright blue intersected by a number of bridges, including the railway, and the controversial Peace Bridge. The views all along here are stunning, and it is a perfect place to take a moment to breathe, reflect, and enjoy the incredible vibes this city gives off.

 

Walk the walls for a taste of Derry’s rich, conflicted history. The only completely walled city in Europe, they were originally built in the 17th century to defend against English and Scottish invaders, and still maintains its four original gates: Bishopsgate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate. It is possible to walk the entirety of the walls, giving you an incredible overview of the city.

It wouldn’t be a trip to Derry without heading to some of the brilliant bars which line the streets: Peadar O’Donnels, Dungloe, Gwendor, Metro…all offer a brilliant night out, most with incredible live music, a wonderful atmosphere, and friendly, fascinating people.

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I cannot post about Derry without talking about the incredible Quaywest: to this day my favourite restaurant in the world. If you are in Derry, don’t even question me, just go there. The food is out of this world.

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Whether it’s St Patricks or Halloween, or just a regular night out, Derry always puts on an amazing show and you are guaranteed an event you will never forget!

 

Also important to mention is the Magee Campus, the Derry branch of the University of Ulster, a place which looks more like Hogwarts than Hogwarts, and where my brother was lucky enough to study for three years amongst wonderful people and inspiring teachers.

This city is beautiful, far too beautiful to explain in a simple post. It has had more than it’s fair share of challenges, but they have only served to make it a wonderful, amazing city which makes we well up every time I think of how much I wish I was there. Derry, I love you, and we will meet again soon.

If you are looking for somewhere different, visit Derry. But beware: it will crawl under your skin, and you will never every get it out. And you will never ever want to.

Until next time Derry,

J x

 

Winsome

Winsome. That’s the word I would have used.

We met by chance, became friends by intention. She had this way of biting her lip when she was concentrating, in no way intending to be sexual, which by its very nature made it enticing.

She had this way of seeing the world. This wonder at the small things. Sunsets. Hailstones. Architecture. Coffee. Everything was a wonder to behold, surveyed with a childlike innocence at the beauty which exists in life.

She moved her lips when she read in silence, following the words without a sound. She would become engrossed, lost in a world far away where I could never reach, and I got joy just from watching her glee.

Her music was her life; it ran in her blood, was permanently attached to her. She would vanish into a beat, a melody, a lyric. She found music in the rain, in the wind in the trees, in commuters complaining on a train.

Winsome. Everything about her was radiant joy.

And even when she was gone, that laugh stayed behind. Like the smell of a bonfire on a breeze. Like the glistening of a wet ground after a rainstorm. Like an echo of something loved so long ago. A childlike laugh, hanging on the breeze. That and the sweet scent of cinnamon all that remained.

Winsome. And, like a wild bird in a gilded cage, never mine to keep.

This post is a response to the Daily Post prompt: Winsome

Top Tips To Reduce Waste

We live in a world of easy accessibility, fast food, takeaway coffee, cheap products, and a society which encourages rampant materialism at any cost. I discussed the implications of this in a previous post:
The Festive Season, or How Much Stuff Can I Fit In A Trolley?, but just wanted to share the top 5 tips I have found to reduce waste as much as possible in everyday life.

  1. Plan , plan plan

If you are anything like me, you tend to eat on the go. I live a busy life, and I’m not the best cook in the world, so my meals tend to be whatever I have to hand, or picked up quickly as I pass the shop on the way home. Not only is this perhaps not the healthiest option (I reach for the frozen pizza more times than I’d care to admit on a public forum!) but it also encourages waste and overconsumption. By grabbing whatever you fancy, you forget what you may already have at home in the fridge or cupboard. This can lead to food going to waste because you simply don’t realise its there; not ideal for the environment or your bank balance. In addition, convenient food often has extra packaging to keep it fresh, and this can lead to you throwing away a lot more plastic.

2. Use the 24 or 48 hour rule

You see it. It’s beautiful. You NEED it there and then. It will make you slimmer, more beautiful, more elegant, more popular, happier, more successful…it will give you Kylie Jenner lips, Kim Kardashian hips and Miranda Kerr’s face by magic with zero effort on your part. Oh I have been there my friend. So many times. And you know what? By the time I got the dress or shoes or concealer home, I’d already fallen a little out of love with it. Or I found something in my wardrobe practically the same. Or I had no place to wear those shoes. So the must have thing ended up at the back of a drawer, until I felt so guilty that I couldn’t close said drawer properly, I had a purge of my clothes and took it to a charity shop. Until the next must have item….and so the cycle continued. My rule? If you think you want something, wait at least 24 hours – preferably 48 –  and see if you still want it as much. 9 times out of 10, you won’t. And if you’re still obsessed with it, by all means go ahead! This helps to reduce the amount of stuff you buy and never use.

3. Reduce the packaging you use

When you go into Waitrose, those bananas which are loose on the side will survive just as well if you don’t wrap them in a plastic bag for the short journey home, before chucking that bag away, only for it to never degrade on a landfill heap. Yes, people may have looked at or even, heaven forbid, touched, your veg, but guess what? It can be washed. You don’t need to wrap it in ten layers of plastic. Do you really need to put your pint of milk in a carrier bag, or can you carry it the half mile home? Make smart choices, and try to reduce the packaging you use.

4. Buy in bulk

This not only saves waste, but also money. I used to food once a fortnight for my cat Roxy, in a small bag which was then thrown away. Then I discovered Amazon, who offered me a bag twice the size for half the price. It lasts longer, saves money, and means I am throwing out the packaging once a month if that, rather than every two weeks. Buying in bulk helps to reduce the waste. Amazon do still unfortunately deliver in a box with too much packaging, but hopefully with enough noise made this can change.

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(Sorry, couldn’t resist showing her off my little Siamese queen <3)

5. Reuse wherever possible

The 5p charge for plastic bags is now part of everyday life in the UK, and the use of one-time plastic bags has fallen by 85% in England alone since the charge was introduced, with people turning to reusable bags for life, or going without where possible. But did you know you can do the same with water bottles, coffee cups and other everyday items? Some places will even give you money off if you bring your own bottle, and you can make sure you are getting use of out something more than once. If you had a coffee every day before work, that is 25 cups a month you are saving, or a whopping 300 cups a year. Food for thought!

We live in a world which is running out of space and resources, and we are the only ones with the power to stop it. By all playing our small parts, we can have a huge impact. And it is the responsibility of every one of us to do so.

Peace and stuff

J x