An Empty Cage

On the 11th January 2011 I welcomed in to my home a lovely little tan-and-white hamster I named Mindy. As in the girl from Kick Ass, not Mork and Mindy! She was this tiny, very very frightened little thing who instantly wiggled her way into my heart.

Mindy when I first got her.

Over the next few weeks I spent time getting her accustomed to humans, taming her and encouraging her to sit in my hand. It wasn’t an easy process. Many hamster chocolate drops were required. She also had to learn my fingers were not food! Read More…

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2012 Travel Plans

I love travelling. I’m hardly happier than when I’m on the road, seeing new sights and meeting new people. The Germans use the term ‘wanderlust’ to describe a strong desire to travel and see the world, and I’m the first to confess I have it bad.

My parent’s probably instilled this love in me at a young age – we’ve been going on family holidays for as long as I can remember and they were never the ‘beach and pool’ ones, but cultural, filled with new sights and sounds. We’ve spent many wonderful summers in France, Italy, southern Germany, and even ventured as far afield as Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Czech Republic, not to mention the obligatory Orlando experience.

On my own, I’ve visited a lot of South East Asia, Oceania, Western USA and various places in Europe and Africa (a fairly complete list of all the countries I’ve been to is here).

So what are my latest plans? Yes, I do have some. I always try and have at least one trip planned because it gives me something to look forward to!

So for 2012 this is what I have coming up: Read More…

Pillow Fort

I have ended up with an absolutely horrific cold which has been making me feel miserable. I confess, I am a real wuss about being sick. I hate that it stops me doing all the fun things, like exercise, but yet it’s not bad enough to stop me doing the important stuff, like work >.< Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t put my life on hold or anything, and it only stops me doing the ‘fun stuff’ because I let it. I’ve learnt the hard way that trying to force myself to keep on exercising and training while sick only makes things far far worse (a Boxing Day trip to hospital a few years back with pneumonia was a lesson learned – trust me!). But I can still grumble about it.

So to cheer myself up today I reverted to being a small child and did something I haven’t done in years.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you, my pillow fort!

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Inspirational Photographers

My attempts at shooting in RAW this weekend failed (due to having to reformat card, and the camera being old and broken) and as I have to hand the dSLR back to my department this week I’m not sure I’m going to get another chance to play with it before then. So instead of sharing with you my work I thought I’d have a quick chat about the photographers that inspire me.

I have four particular favourites which I wanted to show you, but they are by no means exclusive. Photography, like art and beauty, is subjective, so what I like and find inspiring may not appeal to everyone, but I hope some of these appeal to you! If one day my work is half as good as any of these below, I shall be a very happy snapper! I have a long way to go…

Peter Lik

"Eternal Beauty"

I first became aware of Peter Lik whilst travelling. I found a gallery of his in Noosa, Australia (he is Australian by birth but has now relocated to the States) and I liked what I saw. Imagine my surprise then when I hit Vegas and found he has a number of permanent galleries there (Forum Shops, Venetian Shops, Mandalay Bay) and after having a really good look at his work I fell in love with it.

Not only are his landscapes stunning (especially those of the prairies with storms) and his images of the canyons just beautiful (like the one above), the way he displays his work is fairly unique – backlit images that bring out the best in these photos. I confess, as soon as I have enough money I fully intend to purchase at least one of his works.  Read More…

Starbucks and Me

Ok, I will admit I am slightly biased when it comes to Starbucks as I worked in one of their branches for almost two years. I can’t speak for the whole world, but in England I found them to be a fantastic company to work for. As a part-timer using it to pay my bills while studying at Uni, I couldn’t have asked for a better job. The pay was decent, (around the £6.50/hour mark – I’ve worked for much less!), the hours flexible and I also got sick pay AND holiday pay to boot! And free coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. That came in very handy during my finals!

I know big corporations get a lot of flak in this day and age but I always admired Starbucks’ efforts to help the communities they sourced their coffee from. I’m sure it’s not perfect (and don’t get me started on their attitude towards the military), but with a lot of their coffee moving over to FairTrade I think there is some sense of a nicer way to do business.

Even after I left my job, I still always pick a Starbucks coffee over any other when I’m out and about. I can’t help it. Vanilla lattes = a little slice of happiness.

So with all that in mind, I was so happy to read this article in the news this morning: Christian Pastor Calls For Starbucks Boycott Over Gay Marriage Support.

Starbucks has joined more than 100 other firms in supporting Washington State’s same-sex marriage bill. Good for them! Read More…

Magician – Raymond. E. Feist

Firstly apologies for being M.I.A. this past week or so. End of semester at uni and ended up buried under a ton of work. Gah! Luckily all that is handed in now and my second (and final!) semester started today.

Anyway thought I’d kick off with a new review – book review this time so here we go:

Magician – Raymond. E. Feist

I should begin by saying that the version I have read is the revised edition, the “author’s cut” as it were, with 15,000 words added that he had had to cut from his original version due to publisher’s preference. I have never read it as an ‘original’ copy but, as Feist states in his foreward to this edition, “nothing profound has been changed. No characters previously dead are now alive, no battles lost are now won, and two boys still find the same destiny”.

I love this book. It may appear to be typical fantasy fare and if I’m being perfectly honest it is in many ways. Very swords-and-sorcery, with epic battles, magic, Princes, Kings, journeys, elves, dwarves, romance… blah blah blah. But that’s not all this book is. Get beyond the traditional fantasy elements and there’s a whole lot more to this book.

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Why I am an Atheist

PZ Myers on his wonderful Pharyngula blog has been asking for essays on why people are atheists, so I thought I’d write my own. Below is what I wrote originally, but it went on a fair bit so I’ve submitted a heavily edited version to him. If it gets put up on his blog I shall let you all know! Apologies in advance for the length of this post!

Why I am an Atheist 

I realise that I am incredibly lucky. I am a college-educated, very well-travelled Western woman from a nominally middle-class family, born into a society where religion is rarely mentioned in polite (or even impolite) company. My parents didn’t go in for religion in a big way, but did try and thrust some Christian beliefs onto me. I have vague memories of Sunday schools, of being Mary in a Nativity and of attending services as Brownie where they let me ring the church bells (while being carefully watched to make sure I didn’t disappear up into the belfry), but I don’t recall having any strong religious convictions. To me, God was just the nice man in the sky who you sent your wishes to. A bit like Santa Claus, but at least you got presents from him at Christmas; God never seemed to grant my wishes (and if Santa couldn’t get me a pony then what hope did God have?!).

I had a minor ‘crisis of faith’ when I was nine and my beloved hamster Shadow fell sick. I spent a worried night praying that she would be ok, but alas in the morning she was dead and I was heartbroken. I thought it unfair that God had ignored my prayers and had taken something precious from me. I didn’t understand what I’d done to deserve her death, falling in to the (rather arrogant) trap that somehow it was my fault she had died. I clearly hadn’t been religious enough to warrant God saving her. But as children do I bounced back and forgot my little waver of faith.

From a young age I was a voracious reader and one of my most treasured books (which I still have to this day) was an encyclopaedia of Gods, Goddesses and Heroes from around the world – from the Classical Mediterranean and the Norse, to the exotic; Central American, African, Asian… complete with their myths and legends. Already I was aware that not everyone had always believed in ‘my’ God, and some people in the world still didn’t.

When I was ten my father’s job took us to Cyprus, which is a fascinating country for those that know anything about its history, and a perfect place to visit the nearby Middle East from. My parents were very keen on encouraging us to travel and two trips in particular changed the way I viewed the world. Read More…

Travel Page

Just a quick post to say I’ve created a travel page with links to some of the write-ups I’ve done for places I’ve visited. If you’re so inclined, please feel free to have a look! More will be added when I have the time to update 😀

Dating

So I’ve had a productive morning so far. I’ve submitted an assignment for uni, opened the door to a plumber in my towel (amusing aside – I was in the shower, thought the door was my housemate so jumped out to answer it, turned out to be a young, cute and rather flustered young man. Oops.) and I’ve arranged a date.

Well, it’s sort of a date. In the, I’m not entirely sure, those exact words weren’t used, it’s more a catch up with an old friend with the hint there may be something more. I haven’t seen this guy in about four years – we were in a university club together and then he went off sailing and I went off travelling. A while ago via the medium of Facebook he asked if I’d like to go out sometime. I said yes, and then nothing really came of it. Many months, a few Facebook chats and lots of ‘pokes’ later, we’ve finally set a day.

Tomorrow. Talk about last minute.

This not-really-a-date-possibly-a-date got me thinking about the notion of ‘dating’ itself. My last real date was three years and two boyfriends ago, so it’s been a while. Not that I haven’t met guys or anything; I just haven’t done the meet for a drink or go to the cinema with someone with possible romantic connotations for some time. And to be honest, I’ve never really been on many outings that could fall into the ‘date’ category.

And I don’t think it’s just me (though who knows, it might be!)

For us in England the whole dating thing is a little strange. We don’t really do it. Not the way our American friends across the pond do. I was amazed in California how many times complete strangers stopped me in the street and asked me to go for a coffee or lunch with them, how the guy in Madam Tussauds in Hollywood gave me his phone number (he wasn’t the only one) or how the man at Immigration just tried to chat me up instead of giving me the nth degree on why I wanted to enter his country. I don’t mean this to sound like I’m bragging, “oh look how awesome I am, all these guys after me”. I know I’m not ugly, but I’m not model gorgeous either, sort of average really. And I’m happy (mostly, depending on my mood) with how I look. But I know I’m not the sort of girl that guys stop dead in the street to stare at. What I’m trying to say was how alien I found all this. Never in England. None of this has ever happened to me, nor any of my friends as far as I’m aware in my home country. The most you get is wolf-whistles and lewd comments made by builders, but only while they’re in front of their mates. And as for being ‘chatted up’ in a bar, pick up lines such as “get your coat, you’ve pulled” seem to be used more to illicit a laugh than seriously. At least, I hope no one uses them seriously!

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Interesting Forum

While browsing some links on an atheist blog, I found a ping-back linked to a rather interesting forum: Islamic Awakening. I haven’t had time for a good nosey but one thread has caught my eye in relation to the talk on sharia law at Queen Mary, University of London I mentioned in a previous post. Entitled “Urgent- Calling all muslims to East London today!!!“, it is a call for Muslims to come out and protest at the debate. You can read the full thing here but some worrying extracts include (copied exactly, I take no responsibility for grammar, spelling or general coherency):

From the first post:

Who gave these kuffar the right to speak? Let me ask you – if a bunch of kuffar got together and were given the right to touch your mother up and analyse her, then would you stand by and let it happen? Then what about your deen?!! Remember, these guys hate religion and are not looking to have an unbiased debate. Please be here by 7 pm. to let them know what we think. Back in my day no-one in UNi would dare even look the wrong way at a muslim, because we used to represent our deen and didnt take kindly to it being insulted. It is only when the pacifists ecame numerous that the kuffar dared to raise their heads.

I don’t think anyone wants to ‘touch up’ anyone’s mother. I’m not even sure mothers were to be mentioned in the debate…

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