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Archive for April, 2012

It’s that time of the year again! It’s bigger than Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, Diwali, the 4th of July or even the Queen’s birthday…today is Earth Day! And the reason why it’s bigger is because Earth Day doesn’t limit itself to any one group of people. It’s literally targeted at the whole Earth. The tradition started in 1970 in the United States and it went global in the 1990s, with more than 500 million people in 175 countries observing it today.

This time last year I had only just heard about Earth Day and I wrote a blog post about it exploring a bit of the history and also discussing an article offering some environment related volunteering ideas. I’ll obviously try to do something different this year.

Some people might dismiss things like Earth Day as hippie, naive or foolish. But I think it’s naive and foolish to think that Earth Day isn’t important. Earth Day is not about holding hands and singing folk music together (as lovely as that may be). It’s about stopping and realising that certain habits of our society are self-destructive and unsustainable.

This powerful video from artist Chris Jordan shows us his unique photographic take on what Western culture looks like today and he manages to translate some meaning from shocking statistics. His pictures and words are deeply moving. I won’t say any more but I encourage everyone, believers and non-believers, to watch this video:

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Not quite sure what is going on today but I am easily distracted. This might not help but it’s funky.

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Quote of the day

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At the moment I’m in the middle of writing my dissertation (with a week to go before my first draft is due and a month before the final  deadline), as well as working on two other assignments and preparing for a job interview. Needless to say, I have been stressing out about everything and I even made myself a day to day schedule of the ‘targets’ I need to hit from now until my last deadline. Pretty crazy!

Having manned up and moved on from the “why have you left everything until the last moment” lamentation, I resolutely set out to work all day every day without interruptions and be as productive as possible! Needless to say, it didn’t work. Despite having the whole house to myself, provisions of healthy and unhealthy snacks, and determination on my side, the old enemy, PROCRASTINATION, reared it’s ugly head. If you’re a student yourself, you will be very familiar with the irresistible itch of having to check your email, facebook, or any other number of social networking websites every few minutes. Coupled with my irrational urge to google anything that goes through my mind while I’m trying to do work, clean my room or do any other household chores, by the end of the second day, I had not gotten very far with my schedule and was once again in panic mode.

Luckily, feeling like procrastination was winning over concentration, I accepted an invitation from a friend to go over for some drinks. We spent the evening talking and of course our common enemy, work, worked its way into the conversation. Complaining that I couldn’t seem to concentrate on my work for any significant period of time, my friend proposed to me the most simple, obvious and frankly genius solution: a work method where you concentrate for two hours and then take a one hour break.

Thinking about it, I realised that of course trying to work throughout the whole day without any real breaks didn’t have any chance of success because the human concentration powers are not that great. However, by imposing myself a finite and relatively short two-hour work period, with the promise of a real break at the other end, I was able to truly concentrate and get a lot of work done. Today I managed to do four two hour blocks and then another hour before taking the evening off! That’s nine hours of actual work, something that I think has never happened before in my life. And the best part is that I didn’t feel stressed during the day, because I was taking regular breaks.

Today was the second day of my experiment with the ‘two hours on – one hour off’ work method and so far I’m loving it. I would recommend it to everyone, not just students. The best part is that it’s not some kind of fantastic innovation, just a smarter way to work. I think frankly people have unfair expectations of themselves and their ability to do work. I think it’s ludicrous to expect to be able to work straight from sunrise to sunset, even when you’re feeling the crushing pressure of deadlines. So if you’re in a situation similar to mine, do yourself a favour and try this method for at least one day. You might find that concentration can sometimes conquer procrastination!

I don't usually like these pictures but in this case it illustrates my point very well!

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Last week I went on a short city-break to Stockholm, Sweden. I’d never been to a Scandinavian country before and despite the freezing temperatures, I enjoyed my time there very much. I don’t want to write a long-winded travel article type of thing, just highlight a few things I was particularly impressed with and what I think is worth doing, as well as some travelling tips:

1. Local knowledge – this applies to any holiday, especially if you’re trying to get as much out of your limited time as possible – it’s good to research the place you’re going to and seek out the main attractions and things to do, but nothing beats local knowledge! The main reason I had such a good time was because by asking locals about the best museums and areas to visit and the best places to eat, we were able to see a lot more of the city than we expected, have some great meals out (for decent prices) and get a real flavour of the place.

2. Stockholm transport – the Metro system in Stockholm is very easy to use. It has only three lines, trains come often and, shock and awe, it runs throughout the night! After having experienced the capricious London Underground, this was a breath of fresh air. Don’t waste your money on pay as you go if you’re planning on using the metro at least a couple of times a day. You can get one day, three day or weekly travel cards which make it quite affordable.

3. The archipelago – Stockholm is very different to other cities I’ve visited before in that it’s build on a series of islands. For example, the old city Gamla Stan is on a self contained island. There is a whole island dedicated to museums, an amusement park and a natural reserve. And so on. What is interesting is that when you go from island to island, the differences in architecture are quite pronounced and often you feel like you’re visiting a series of small cities. I found this very interesting and it definitely kept things fresh.

4. Museums – as is most often the case on a city break, museums are at the top of the list of things to do! Stockholm is not lacking in them: according to one of the brochures I brought home, there are over 84 museums in the city. Pretty impressive but with such a large number, it’s hard to narrow it down. I would definitely recommend the Skansen museum, which is part zoo, part heritage museum. It’s set in an extensive natural reserve and the zoo, which consists of spacious enclosures, gives you the opportunity to see some of the most iconic Nordic animals, such as wolves or reindeer. The heritage part consists of various buildings from different periods, including farm houses, workshops and mills which provide a capsule history of life in Sweden throughout the ages. Visiting Skansen can take up as much as half a day. In terms of choosing other museums, I think the best idea is to ask locals what they enjoy the most. We also visited the Fotografiska museum which is a modern photography museum at the recommendation of our local hosts. This was one of the best museums I have ever been to. The exhibitions were fascinating and they were cleverly combined with multimedia elements such as films. The view from the museum cafe over Stockholm is also unbeatable!

5. Budget – for anyone thinking of going to Sweden and Scandinavia in general, the prices will shock you even if you’re coming from somewhere like London. I would say on average things were at least twice as expensive as in London. The most pronounced differences were in meals out and drinks. Also, museums charge quite high entrance fees in Stockholm (around 100 KR or about £10). However, with a little bit of local knowledge you will be able to get the most out of your money. On a recommendation, we went to a wonderful Lebanese restaurant which was delicious, had great atmosphere and was decently priced. The main lesson is that you shouldn’t panic, try to assess which places are clearly geared at the gullible tourist and avoid them.

I think that’s about it for now. In conclusion I had a really enjoyable trip, got to experience a new culture and see beautiful architecture, and last but not least had some great meals. If you have any specific questions please feel free to comment and I will answer based on what I experienced. I’ll leave you with a few pictures of Stockholm!

Gamla Stan (The Old City) with it's narrow, pebbled streets

Fotografiska museum

Panoramic view of Stockholm

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