March 30, 2012

Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

I want to laugh, cry, scream and kiss everyone within reach: It's over!

{via}
As of now I've got my life back! WOOHOO! 

After weeks of stressing, late nights/early mornings, way too much coffee, not enough sleep and nightmares about going on to do a PhD....it's over. 

Ideally I'd be partying like a rockstar these next few days as I celebrate this new found freedom. But in reality? I'll be catching up on sleep and letting my mushed brain recuperate. 
Bring on lazy afternoons on the rooftop terrace with a good book and a cold beer.

XXX

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March 29, 2012

Bright lights at the end of a long, dark, twisted tunnel



The end is nigh! Here are a few things I'm looking forward to once I've been freed of this hell experience that is a Master's.

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1. Drinking fruity, summery drinks in the sun | 2. Paris next week with one of my besties | 3. Wearing SHORTS! And sandals & ballet pumps! | 4. Experiencing Amsterdam in the Spring | 5. Catching up on some much needed LEISURELY reading | 6. Queen's Day at the end of April |7. The Big Smoke in May!
XXX
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March 28, 2012

Wednesday's Window to the World: Koh Tao, Thailand

View from our 'classrom' window in Koh Tao, Thailand. We were taking a PADI Open Water dive course during our holiday and even though we dragged our butts to class very early every morning and moaned about our hangovers, I'd go back and do it all over again in a heartbeat    - Malou Morgan, 2010
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March 27, 2012

Not yet lost the plot...

Here's a few things keeping me sane right now:


1. Oh Pinterest, how I love thee! Amazing images to take you away for 5 minutes (or more...) and think of things other than your assignments.
Want to sell your soul? Drop me an email for an invite or follow my pins.

2. Skype sesh with loony toons like my brothers remind me that I've not yet lost the plot. Time difference is a gem in times like these because when I need a pick-me-up at 4am there's bound to be a friend who's wide awake somewhere across the world.


 

3. Music - I like to listen to a mix of chilled out, upbeat and soothing songs when I work and something a wee bit wilder when I need a break. These are all really chilled:

Bat for Lashes - Daniel (Live Lounge Radio 4)

James Vincent McMorrow - We don't Eat

Gotye - Smoke & Mirrors

Ben Taylor -Wicked Way

Alex Clare - Damn your eyes


4. 'View from your Window' on Facebook; members of this group brighten my day with their amazing photos from around the world! Feel free to join in and contribute! The more the merrier :) 

Any other study distractions you would recommend?

XXX
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March 26, 2012

Manic Monday: The Most Astounding Fact

Astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked in an interview with TIME magazine, "What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?" The concept may be a bit much to grasp for a crazy Monday in the office but it's a beautiful and inspiring video. This is his answer: 


Happy Monday!

XXX

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March 24, 2012

Beavis & Butthead turn 21

My twin brothers turn 21 today! Bit of a crazy concept to grasp as their older sister...I guess they'll always be 12 year old nerds in my eyes. They're in Miami celebrating together at a huge music festival right now. Not only am I incredibly jealous of this but the fact that they're going sky diving together later this week is the cherry on top. Really wish I was there with them to celebrate! Since I'm here in Amsterdam I decided to send them a bit of virtual love instead (With help from some of their friends!) It was so difficult trying to decide on what content to use from not, I have SO many photos & videos...but I guess the rest will be used as blackmail from now on.


It's the first time I've ever tinkered with video, as I'm sure you could tell. I used Vimeo to embed the video into this post rather than using a YouTube video because I find the image and sound quality of Vimeo is much better.  It's  a very finicky process and I nearly drove myself crazy making this! But it's definitely inspired me to keep trying and give video editing another go. 

I know they'll quarrel with me for making this video but I love coming up with new ways to push their buttons; I made sure to keep it at a tolerable level of soppy and cute and I hope they'll get a laugh out of this. 

Happy Birthday boys!

xxx
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March 21, 2012

Wednesday's Window to the World : Mumbai, India

View from my cabin on a rig off of Mumbai. As a commercial diver this is what part of life on the deep blue sea looks like - James Masse-Dowd, 2011
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March 20, 2012

UnDutchable: Dairy free in the land of Dairy

Just before Christmas I came to the shocking conclusion that I may be allergic to Dutch dairy - my quarter life crisis has hit me kinda early. 


Not only do I live in Holland, the country known for it's cows, sweet milk, chocolate and cheese but I absolutely love dairy. I drank half a litre of milk every day without fail and every meal had some form of dairy product incorporated in it. As kids we requested cheese and mayo from Dutch family and friends who came to visit us in Barbados. Dutch milk is slightly sweet and quite creamy - a sign of a happy cow. The Dutch are some of the tallest people in the world and studies have linked this to the dairy they consume - rich in protein and other yummy stuff. I could go on forever about the awesomeness of Dutch dairy. But you'll just have to trust me; 

it's a.m.a.z.i.n.g.
 Unfortunately, my skin didn't care about any of this because it's too rich and creamy for little ol' me. Out went scoffing cheese daily, to having to think about what I eat and drinking ridiculous amounts of water.

These are the changes I've made so far:

Regular milk --- soy milk (euch) 
Regular cheese (young Edam) --- goat's cheese
 Yogurt/Cream --- imported, skimmed Greek yogurt 
Cupcake icing --- Whipped Greek yogurt with vanilla essence
White chocolate/milk chocolate --- Dark, 100% cocoa Fairtrade chocolate

I've been trying this on and off since Christmas but quite seriously the past few weeks. Deep down, I'm hoping my skin issue is because of a lack of sea breeze and sunshine and not because of too much dairy, alcohol or any other indulgences.
 I'll wait about two months to see if there's any significant improvement (Finger's crossed because this is driving me insane) 
If not, it's back to the drawing board with a cafe latte in hand and a bowl of the creamiest pasta ever.

Any other dairy free survivors out there? 

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March 19, 2012

Manic Monday: The Road We've Traveled

During our Political Marketing class last week we discussed 'The Road We've Traveled'  - Obama's newest campaign video which was released last Thursday. It's interesting to see what Davis Guggenheim (the director of 'An Inconvenient Truth') has come up with as part of Obama's re election campaign. He managed to pack a lot into this 17 minute 'docu-drama' - using Tom Hanks as narrator to highlight the issues which Obama was faced with and the challenges that have been overcome since his Presidency such as Osama Bin Laden's assassination and withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. Despite your personal opinions on Obama as a president this video emphasizes a few of the reasons he's liked as a person: his assuredness, his charisma and his way with words. 


XXX
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March 18, 2012

Undutchable: Canal Cruisin'


I love last minute change of plans; especially when they make you drop what you're doing and join some friends on a cruise around Amsterdam. It was overcast and chilly but cozy and warm at the same time; puttering along the canals as the sun went down, we got glimpses of everyone else's Saturday afternoons thanks to massive windows with no curtains (It's a Dutch thing: during the war they were made to keep everything in full view, to ensure that they weren't hiding anyone and they've kept up the habit)


It was a welcomed distraction on St.Paddy's Day :)

XXX

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March 15, 2012

Bloggy Break

Blogging has become a bit like how Annie Leibovitz once described photography: 

"One doesn't stop seeing. One doesn't stop framing. It doesn't turn off and turn on. It's on all the time.


I'm constantly scribbling things down or making a mental note to share something interesting that I've read, watched or discussed and usually I can fit this all in with my regular routine. Unfortunately, this whole MSc thing really isn't as much fun as I'd like it to be right now and the pressure's on. I'm going to take a break from Skip to Malou* until sometime in April thanks to my crazy workload and the fact that I have the attention span of a squirrel....

On top of that I have lots of content that I'd like to pile onto this blog along with some coding that needs to be finished. So I'll still be snapping away, scribbling and mentally coming up with posts but there are far more important things to worry about right now...like getting this Master's under my belt and making it through this month! 



ciao for now!

XXX

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March 14, 2012

Wednesday's Window to the World: Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa

Graffiti on the Mew Way bridge, taken from my car as I was driving into Khayelitsha, Cape Town where I have been volunteering at Baphumelele Children’s Home  - Torie Meyer, 2011

The graffiti was done by Faith47 - a graffiti artist from Cape Town who grew up during the Apartheid regime. The background of political activism during Apartheid has inspired Faith47 to embark on a series of large-scale works across South Africa, featuring statements from the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter was written in 1955 by thousands of South African anti-apartheid activists working together fighting the system. At the time the Charter was banned, but after apartheid ended, it formed the basis of the country's constitution. Her work has even made waves in the international street art scene. A Berlin-based publisher has just released a book profiling her work. Armed with spray cans, tins of paint and paint brushes, Faith47 has written statements from the Freedom Charter across the country...on walls, pavements, and on the bridge leading into the Khayelitsha township, one of the poorest in Cape Town with over a million people. Of this particular work, Faith47 said “I wanted to highlight the inequalities, and install the feeling that it hasn't happened yet – people are quite aware that they are not all sharing in the country’s wealth”.
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March 13, 2012

Slave to your smart phone? There's an app for that.

A friend shared this article on the Schumpeter blog in The Economist the other day and it discusses a scary truth: We're a society addicted to our phones. 



Ofcom, Britain’s telecommunications regulator, says that a startling 60% of teenagers who use smartphones describe themselves as “highly addicted” to their devices. So do 37% of adults.  This infographic shows some interesting statistics on the use of cell phones around the world. (FYI: 15% of Americans answer their phone during sex...)
We joke about feeling anxious when forgetting our phones at home; feeling a 'phantom ringing' in our pockets or just being lost without it...but come to think of it, it's pretty crazy. Have you ever avoided an awkward situation by checking your phone? I know I have and I'm definitely not the only one. 

I have a love hate relationship with my Blackberry. Besides the fact that it's an outdated piece of junk, my phone is my constant companion and a source of comfort (Though I hate phone noises and it's constantly on silent, much to everyone's annoyance) But it's always with me; the last thing I see before I go to sleep and the first thing I check when I wake up...A big part of this 'hyperconnective' addiction for me is having friends and family all over the place; online interaction is the easiest way to keep in touch & keep up with them across different time zones. I feel like I'm missing out on a virtual party if I don't check Facebook, my email, news websites, Twitter, blogs daily...

Here are some interesting facts I picked out from the article:


  • When Martin Lindstrom, a branding guru, tried to identify the ten sounds that affect people most powerfully, he found that a vibrating phone came third, after the Intel chime and a giggling baby.
  • Hyperconnectivity exaggerates some of the most destabilising trends in the modern workplace: the decline of certainty (as organisations abandon bureaucracy in favour of adhocracy), the rise of global supply chains and the general cult of flexibility.
  • Several studies have shown what ought to be common sense: that people think more deeply if they are not constantly distracted.

Dinner table conversations are interrupted by people checking their phones, sometimes tweeting about what a great conversation they're not having. Incessantly checking your phone is a pet peeve of mine; 5 years ago, if you were having a conversation with someone and they suddenly interrupted you by getting up and walking off, it would have been considered a bit rude, right? I think it's the same with smart phones; you're interrupting a conversation and diverting your attention elsewhere by checking your phone for the latest Facebook updates. It's usually not important enough to warrant such an interruption; let's be serious, you're not going to miss that much online. Or maybe what is being discussed is simply not interesting enough for you.

Yet there are no rules when it comes to having your phone at the dinner table. Some friends find it annoying to have your phone resting upside down on the table, others use theirs constantly whilst some leave theirs in their pockets. Where's the book on etiquette in the new age??

Luckily, there are ways to outsmart our smart phones. The Boston Consulting Group, learned to manage hyperconnectivity better. The firm introduced rules about when people were expected to be offline, and encouraged them to work together to make this possible. Many macho consultants mocked the exercise at first—surely only wimps switch off their smartphones? But eventually it forced people to work more productively while reducing burnout.

Battling the problem can also be a lot of fun. Last year, Times Square featured urban furniture installations called 'Meeting Bowls' for friends and even strangers to turn off their phones and chat! It promoted dialogue and good old fashioned friendliness in the Big Apple


Banning browsing before breakfast can reintroduce a modicum of civilisation. Banning texting at weekends or, say, on Thursdays, can really show the iPhone who is boss. 

Another way of doing this is by banning phones at the dinner table. It works at my Mum's house and we have great conversations, just like old times. What's easier is just insisting that you turn yours off from time to time.

I could go on and on with this discussion...but I'd rather do it in person. There's SO much to be said about the social, psychological, mental and physical affects of smart phone addiction. It's not all bad either, I think we just need to re adjust the balance between virtual and reality.

Just as the abundance of junk food means that people have to be more disciplined about their eating habits, so the abundance of junk information means they have to be more disciplined about their browsing habits.


XXX


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March 12, 2012

Manic Monday: Facebook Friend

This isn't exactly the kind of ad you'd expect to see between your trashy episodes of Jersey Shore yet last week this short clip on modern day slavery by Anti Slavery International popped up: 


Millions of men, women and children around the world are forced to lead lives as slaves. Although this exploitation is often not called slavery, the conditions are the same. Bonded labour, early forced marriage, forced labour, slavery by descent, trafficking and child labour are all forms of modern day slavery. 

An estimated 126 million children around the world in work that is harmful to their health and welfare. That's 126 million little kids who are robbed of their childhood in countries such as Haiti, Costa Rica, England and The Netherlands. This issue is directly linked to the KONY2012 campaign that went viral last week - Anti Slavery International reports that there are about 300,000 child soldiers involved in over 30 areas of conflict worldwide, some even younger than 10 years old. 

This simple ad prompted quite a lot of discussion and debate - how is it that slavery is still alive and kicking today? How is the average person involved in this trade and what can you do about it? The KONY2012 campaign has proven that there is power in numbers (to what extent we are yet to discover) but many voices combined can be pretty loud. 


Imagine if every human rights issue in this world had an amazing marketing strategy like the KONY2012 campaign? Let's hope the interest stirred by these films results in more credible attempts to deal with what should be eminently fixable problems.


XXX

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March 9, 2012

Spring Break

I love the promise of Spring; flowers blooming, people smiling...
Spring also means Summer is just around the corner! 

Having studied in England I never experienced a true 'Spring Break' but I'm dying to slip into a pair of shorts & sandals again and feel the sun on my skin. Although, having said that, I tried on H&M's new bikinis the other day (in winter, what was I thinking?!) and *ahem* let's just say I'm grateful for the 3 month heads up before Summer...time to hit the gym!

Here's a pretty amazing video shot in Antigua & Barbuda giving an accurate portrayal of island life throughout the Caribbean; sunny, beautiful and 'Spring Break' style all year round. Enjoy!



XXX

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March 8, 2012

Guest Post: The Mermaid Chronicles*

Today I'm featuring talented surfer, writer and videographer Devon from over at Mermaid Chronicles because I'm stressed out, the sky is grey and rainy and I needed a sunny pick-me-up. You can thank me later.










                                                                             
Happy, colourful, inspiring and down to earth are how I would describe Devon and her beautiful little blog about her discoveries in the ocean, in life, and in love. 
Even her "About" page is cute; both Devon and her husband Scott are water babies through and through! I love reading about her travels, adventures, thoughts and reflections.


Her feature on sailing and surfing in the West Indies is one of my favourites and has an amazing video accompanying it caled "Wind Writing":


I've spent many holidays on a boat sailing in this exact same area of the West Indies and it's one of the most beautiful places on earth. Loads of happy memories came flooding back when I watch this video. I know you'll enjoy this: 


Make sure to check out Devon's other videos over at The Mermaid Chronicles!

XXX


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March 7, 2012

Wednesday's Window to the World: Trondheim, Norway


View from our cabin window in Trondheim, Norway - Stephanie Dykiert (2011)

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March 6, 2012

Kony 2012



Many of us watch on average 5 lighthearted, funny or silly clips online everyday in between our Facebook stalking, blogging, browsing and recreational media usage. Today, along with that make sure to take the half an hour needed to watch this clip; I promise you it's worth your time.


This campaign was started by Invisible Children and aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice. 

This video represents everything our new media generation is about; hope, unity and using the power of grassroots, social media platforms to be heard and bring about change. I'm sure my Political Communications classmates will love it because it has everything we study and analyse wrapped into one incredibly well presented strategy using a fantastic video (love the 3D modeling), website and inspirational social interaction

I don't need to say more about the Kony 2012 campaign if you've taken the time to watch this, except that you should visit their website for more information.


They wanted viral and I'm pretty sure they're going to get a lot more than that.




XXX
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A few interesting stories

Whilst roaming the world wide web, these articles struck me the most these past few days. They make for interesting dinner party debates, especially the one on McDonald's - everyone loves a good discussion on animal rights when there's a vegetarian at the table.

(Click on the title for the full article



Deep in the forests of south-eastern Cameroon a chimpanzee fell to the hunter's gun and became one more hunk of African bushmeat. It happened to be carrying a virus that would enter the hunter's bloodstream and mutate into HIV. This is how HIV is thought to have entered the human bloodline circa 1900. Over a century later Craig Timberg and Daniel Halperin, authors of Tinderbox: How the West Sparked the Aids Epidemic and How the World Can Finally Overcome It, argue that the bustling trading towns and routes of Africa, hectic places jammed with people and energy, were the ideal breeding ground (no pun intended) for one of the world's deadliest viruses.



A great article looking at the history and meaning of this fashion staple, worn by everyone from presidents to cowboys. What is it about jeans that everyone loves? Perhaps it's that they reflect us and they reflect the lives that we've had in them, their versatility or their cultural significance.


Well, sort of. McDonald's made a turn in the right direction by announcing a laudable course of action regarding the sows (female pigs) in their supply chain: that its' suppliers of pork in the US  provide plans for phasing out gestation crates by May 2012. A gestation crate is a small metal crate used for intense pig farming throughout the world. It is intended to house sows during pregnancy but many spend the majority of their lives in these crates as they are repeatedly artificially impregnated. This ban applies to the US specifically (In the EU, the crates are being phased out by 2013 after four weeks of pregnancy. They're already banned in Sweden and in the UK, and will be banned in Denmark from 2014.) The fact that one of the biggest supply chains in the world is finally acknowledging pressure from animal welfare groups highlights the need for more people to choose responsibly sourced food and animal products. I didn't want to put a shocking photo of this on my blog but you can read more about gestation crates here and here



Ever heard of behavioral targeting? Companies track your online behavior in order to understand you as a 'customer' - where you live, what you like to buy online, your colour preferences, etc...Like hiring an online private investigator. 'Collison' Creator Gary Kovacs (and CEO of Mozilla) used a personal example : he said that by the time his daughter had visited four sites over breakfast, she was being tracked by 25 different places. And in the course of a day, he says, he found himself being tracked by 150. It's quite scary to think of how much information can be collected without you even realizing it. This issue was brought to the media's attention when Target figured out a customer was pregnant before her family didCollusion looks to offer more transparency to users by creating a visualization of how your data is being spread to different companies as you navigate the web. Each time it detects data being sent to a behavioral tracker, it creates a red (advertisers), grey (websites) or blue dot on the visualization and shows the links between the sites you visit and the trackers they work with.



recent study found that Pinterest drove more referral traffic to sites in January than Google+, Reddit, YouTube, LinkedIn and MySpace all combined. It’s also threatening to unseat Twitter, Google news, Google images, Gmail and Stumble Upon in the coming months to slide into the number two spot behind Facebook.  I take comfort in knowing that there a gazilion other people out there who love to procrastinate by pinning pretty things.

XXX

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March 4, 2012

Manic Monday: Waterlust


This video, shot using the amazing little gadget that is the GoPro, makes me miss home in so many ways and now I'm itching to jump in the water, any water! At this point even the canals could be an option....If this doesn't get your adrenaline pumping I don't know what will.



XXX

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Sunday Snapshots: Frozen Canals in Amsterdam


These winter shots are way overdue as the snow has now melted and everything is back to normal (boo!) but I couldn't help but post a few of these on here. I was like a kid in a candy shop during this time; everything looked so beautiful under a layer of crisp white fluff that I was snapping away like a loony toon! The canals hadn't frozen over like this in over 15 years so it was quite a treat to walk on water :) We skated to the groceries (by 'we' I mean 'everyone in Amsterdam but myself' - I have serious knee issues so I didn't dare put on skates but walked or slid on the ice like a sock ninja instead), took evening strolls and generally 'frolicked' :) Everyone was smiling and super excited to be a part of it all - there were canal parties, 'skating' discos', hot chocolate being sold on the canals by young entrepreneurs, sledding & even cafes moving their terraces onto the ice! And though it was sunny it was FREEZING cold so days spent outside were followed by cosy evenings inside with a big bowl of piping hot soup :)



XXX


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