boycotting starbucks

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Marketing strategies and advertising campaigns are all around us, even if we may not always know it or even see it. But the one campaign that many unsuspecting coffee drinkers seem to not be aware of is the blogging of Starbucks cups because of misspellt names.

Whether or not this started out as simple mistakes or it is a purely customer driven campaign, it is sort of genius to utilize Instagram and Facebook pics and irate tweets to populate the internet with photos of the Starbucks logo. But it really bugs me and makes me want to boycott them more.

As someone who doesn’t like Starbucks – their coffee is just really expensive foamy milk and sugar – it is just another reason for me to not walk through their ever increasing number of doors in Dublin. I’d much rather spend my hard earned Euros in small, privately owned coffee shops and the wonderful Irish coffee chain Butlers (On a side note: Butlers allows you to select a praline with each cup of tea or coffee – genius and yummy marketing strategy).

And while I do understand the hoards of tourists looking for free WiFi when they travel, in Dublin Starbucks is far from the only solution. Most places offer up their broadband for free and the whole city has lots of hotspots anyway.

So if you happen to be visiting Dublin I’d recommend you join me in a Starbuck boycott and find all the wonderful and quirky little coffee shops dotted around the place. Leave your Euros with the locals and don’t put your hard earned cash into the pockets of huge conglomerates.

some afternoon tea

some milky tea off the beaten track

early rising and sunshine

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It is so much easier to get up when you are woken by sunny skies. This morning the sun tickled my nose before the alarm went off and I enjoyed a few minutes stretching in bed.

Being woken in this gentle way is not only much better for us but seems to be the way nature intended it to be. Loud ringing, buzzing or screeching alarms are not only really annoying they are also not good for us as they often interrupt us during our deep sleep and REM phases. Since our bodies are designed to wake up in our light phases of sleep, either before or after an REM, if we are pulled out of our deep sleep we feel groggy and tired. It also means that we start the day with or bodies already feeling stressed.

There are actually five stages of sleep in a cycle, and each sleep cycle is about 90 minutes long. The first two stages are considered light , the next two (three and four) are deep and the final stage is REM ((rapid eye movement), in which you dream. It is fine when you are woken up out of the first two stages of sleep, you feel rested and  good – that is why short naps work – but once you are pulled out of one of the last three stages it’s a different story. You will feel more tempted to press the snooze button and long for more time in bed.

That is why it is always better to allow your body to wake up naturally – even if it is early – you will feel more rested for the rest of the day and you won’t feel drained or stressed before you’ve had your breakfast. And of course everything is better when the sun is shining!

long weekends and not working cars

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Today is a bank holiday – this means we all have an extra day to add on to our weekend.  And I ave to admit I am loving it. After handing in my short story final on Friday (three stories and about 7000 words) I really felt I deserved a few days off. Well, at least a few days of doing less.

So I spent the last two days at home, catching up on my reading (and sleep), designing a friends wedding invitation and not doing very much at all. However i had made plans to meet up with a friend in Enfield today, it was long overdue.

However as I tried to start my car, it just wouldn’t. It sat like a sulky tortoise outside my home and wouldn’t budge. I have no idea if it’s the battery (I hope it’s the battery) or if my car has finally decided to die. If so I am at a loss- I can’t afford  anew one. But then maybe it’s just my car taking the day off too – a bank holiday for all!

Not willing to give up I have now decided to take the train. Hopefully I can use the hour to work on my novel. After all it would be the perfect way to spend the time while green landscape whizzes by.

my little mobile office

my little mobile office

Weekly Photo Challenge: Admiration

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At first I was a little bit stumped about this weeks photo challenge – admiration – who or what do I admire?

I have some very talented friends who I greatly admire for their passion in what they do.

Everyone who decided to have kids and give up so much of themselves I admire greatly, and especially those who reared them on their own.

Those who chose to step away from convention and stand up for what they believe in or do as they please I admire for their bravery.

But their is one person I have always admired for their optimistic attitude towards life and that is my godmother. And while I know she is not easy and we definitely do not always agree on politics and many another topic she always tends to look at the bright side of life, even when times are hard. Her fashion sense may be more conservative than mine but she is very accepting of my dress sense oddities and otherness.

So with that in mind I think my admiration goes to all those eternal optimists out there, thanks for all the smiles!

the blue bench I always associate my godmother with

my godmothers blue bench

between the Liberties and Ballybough

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Since it’s been so cold and miserable, with hail and sleet raining down from grey skies, I have been taking the bus into work. I’ve tried a few different routes and have now settled on the 123 from Merino to Walkinstown. The bus takes me all the way from Ballybough Rd to the Liberties and back.

The Liberties are one of the oldest parts of Dublin and is now a growing media and tech hub. The old markets and historic buildings sit next to dynamic e-commerce centers. And whether they like it or now, gentrification is happening all around – yes there are hipsters and coffee shops sprouting like weeds between the dirty cracks of the streets.

Ballybough on the other hand is one of the more disadvantaged areas in Dublin. The name is accually derived from the term Bailebough, which in Irish comes from ‘baile’ (town) and ‘bocht’ (poor). Originally though Ballybough was known as Mud Island because of its proximity to the mud flats on which Fairview and North Strand are build.

While commuting between these two areas it becomes quickly apparent that the most colourful of Dublin residence live there. You’ll hear the ‘real’ Dublin accent and delight in their unique ability to turn a phrase or create their very own rhyming slang. And if Peter Wright, the author of “Cockney Dialect and Slang” is to be believed the Irish actually invented it to confuse the non-Irish workers.

So, if you hear someone is ‘headed to the rock-and-roll’ they’re off to collect the dole, if someone tells you ‘you’ll be brown bread’, it means you’ll be dead and if you’re a tea-leaf they think you’re a thief. One of my favorites is ‘cream-crackered’ for tired, and I love the Daniel Day when talking about the Luas (Dublin tram system).

This Dublenese is really wonderfully creative, after all who else but Dublin criminals would call someone who is unpredictable and hard to put down a Apache, or an undercover garda (Irish Police) as a ghost? And if you are ever referred to as a Micky Dazzler, they really think you’re a bot full of yourself and wear much too flashy clothes.

So if you ever are visiting Dublin or just want to enrich your vocabulary,  hop on to the 123 and take a trip with a few real Dubliners.

busstop

 

 

short story static

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On Friday I’ll be handing in my end of year short story final – 6.000 words (minimum) and at least two different stories. Since my short story attempts tend to be more minimalist than expansive, I’ll need to hand in three pieces of fiction.

While all of that isn’t really so much of an issue, and I do have two good, solid pieces (one I am particularly proud of), the third is creating a bit of a headache. Somehow I have entered a static phase, my thoughts are static and my writing is just not moving forward. And with time running out that is  not the most pleasant of feelings.

In psychology Static Thought is the term used to describe a child’s belief that the world is unchanging, that the world will always stay the same as it is in the present, and that the world has always been like that. And this is exactly how I currently feel about my story …

Somehow I can’t see where the story is going, and I am struggling to figure out where it came from. But my hope is that in a few short hours my story will have matured enough to allow for logical reasoning and complex thought structure and I can move forward. If so, the static will lift and the world will change and I will type like never before  – after all I do have a deadline looming.

hoping that the Muse will inspire me

hoping that the Muse will inspire me

 

hiccuping my way through the day

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Yesterday, I had a hiccup attack. I don’t get them very often but they can be somewhat persistent. The involuntary contractions of my diaphragm muscle seemed to be settling in for a while so I tried all the usual tricks:I held my breath, drank some water really quickly and from the wrong side of the glass, a spoon full of sugar (yuck) and one of peanut butter (yum) and I even tried pulling my tongue (not as easy as it sounds). I couldn’t quite surprise or scare myself but I did make an attempt.

But my myoclonic jerk just wouldn’t stop. Now I know that it isn’t really clear why we hiccup but what I didn’t know is that only milk-drinking mammals hiccup. And the latest theory (Howes 2012) is that hiccups have evolved to allow mammals to coordinate suckling milk while breathing. Somehow hiccups are there to allow for trapped air burbles to escape from the stomach while babies drink, making it possible for more milk to be ingested.What confuses me is, that I wasn’t drinking milk – or anything for that matter – and I’m definitely not a baby. But since hiccups do seem to be also linked to stress, excessive laughter, too much food and drink, eating and drinking too quickly, swallowing air, taking opiates and chewing gum, I am sure one of those reasons was possibly to blame.

Since we call our small daily mishaps hiccups I began to wonder if maybe those involuntary jerks of life may have reasons as simple and surprising as their namesake. But maybe it is all just trapped air.

The universe hiccups and we poor fools try to figure out why.

Writer Mathew Quick

red pens and grading

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As a lecturer I go through quite a few red pens, and this year is no different. Over the years I have discovered that my preference are gel pens, they seem to just slide over the page and allow for quicker marking, but when stuck (or when I run out of ink) I switch over to my trusty red Stabilo.

But this year, while I sit grading my students work and slash red all over their pages I can’t help but wonder how much red will be on my own pages this year. After all I am currently in the unique position to be both a student and lecturer, the grader and the gradee.

Knowing that your work will be scrutinized and compared to a grading scale is somewhat disconcerting, and not very inspiring. And while I understand the need for unification of grades I am discovering I am not really too found of being on the receiving end.

Maybe that is why I am  being a little more generous this year when it comes to giving a grade, when stuck between two I tend to go up, when working out percentages I round up. I just hope that my lecturers will do the same – after all  don’t they say, what goes around comes around?

red pens and grading scale

red pens and grading scale

 

one down, two to go

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After two long weeks of typing, deleting and editing I handed in my novel writing final, 12.500 words of my novel plus 3.00 words of reflection, in all nearly 50 pages of words. Hard won and energy sapping words.

But once I handed the printed out pages in for my professor to collect, a burden was lifted from my shoulders and I decided to take a day. So on Saturday I spent time reading and in the afternoon my neighbour sat in the warm(ish) spring sun enjoying a chat and a cup of tea.

Sadly one day was all I could allow for as I now still have my short stories final and  publishing final to hand in. So with one down, and two still left to go my time is still filled with words.And of course there are still all of my corrections and grading left to do, and I still have to cycle in to do my contract work.

With that in mind I think it is safe to say that I won’t be bored or wondering what to do in quite a while. However as the temperature rises and the sun seems to be spending a little more time in the sky everything does come a little easier.

The biggest issue I am left with however is whether I should on my novel or on my short stories for my thesis. After all I’ll be spend  most f my summer with it and I wonder which one will be the better option.

So as I contemplate my options and try and concentrate on the job(s) at hand I think it’s time for another cup of tea and maybe a cookie, after all a cookie makes nearly everything better.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Abstract

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Shapes, colour, textures – if you look close enough you’ll find that this is what are world is made up of. Abstract art is the attempt to deduce everything down, rejecting external reality in the hope that what we see will effect us in unpredictable ways. The abstract is like a valve that hopes to inspire and release what the unconscious cannot grasp, it plays with perception, allowing our imagination to run wild.

stripes - a row of stables somewhere on the north

stripes – a row of stables somewhere on the north

blue, green and beige

blue, green and beige

springs - left out

springs – left out

rusty nails

rusty nails

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