Friday, 19 September 2014

It's a NO, Scotland remains part of the UK.

The majority of Scotland has voted 'no' for "independence".

Dundee City, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire all had a majority of 'yes' voters, but the majority of the rest of Scotland voting 'no'. (source BBC)

I think they've made the right choice for their country. In my opinion they kind of rushed into things with having the referendum now. The Scottish parliament has only existed since 1999, 15 years is nothing really.

It will be interesting to see how the 'yes' campaigners like Salmond reacts to this outcome. It will also be interesting to see how the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK (rUK) will be now, and whether Scotland gets any more power in any way.

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened in the case of a 'yes' vote, both with Scotland and the rUK. But who knows, maybe they'll try again in a few decades and who knows what will happen then.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Interested in politics for the first time ever

Tomorrow, the people of Scotland will be voting on wether they want to be independent from the rest of the UK (rUK) or not. I've been hearing about this for a while, but it wasn't until a few days ago that I realised it's actually quite interesting. Just think about it. If Scotland does become independent we will be witnessing an important part of political history.

I remembered a course had been advertised on Future Learn about understanding the referendum a while back. When I first saw it I had just thought "not really bothered, nothing to do with me". However, I am very happy this course is still open now that I have developed an interest, it's open for another 2 weeks if anybody is interested in joining. I only signed up for it yesterday, but I have already managed to finish the 4 weeks of course material that is open.

It has been really interesting to learn a little bit more about Scotland's political history and why they want the referendum.

Scotland say they want independence, but they just want an independent parliament. They still want the Queen as head of state. To me, that's not really independence. Independence is having your own king/queen/president/whatever as well as the rest of the government.

What I think is a shame is that only people living in Scotland is eligible to vote, Scots living outside Scotland doesn't have a say.

What has surprised me the most isn't really what's on the course though, it's what people on the course would vote. Every week there has been a poll, where the students can say what they would vote if they were able to. With being late to join I've only done one poll. The results through the weeks has surprised me though. The people voting yes for independence has actually increased! After going through the course material as well as the statements of the two different sides I am surprised anyone would still vote yes. But, everyone is different and that's what makes the world an interesting place.

The vote is tomorrow, and I am really looking forward to find out the result. In a way I'm not too bothered which way it goes. I think it would be best for both parts to stay in a union, but at the same time it would be interesting to se how it goes if Scotland does get independence. Whichever way it goes it will be close and there will be a lot of disappointed people.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Thornbridge Brewery

On Wednesday I went to Thornbridge Brewery with the Meetup group I'm a member of.

Phil and I caught the bus to Bakewell and walked to the brewery. It's only a 10 minute walk, and this way Phil could sample as much beer as he wanted and not worry about driving afterwards. We walked along the river to get to the brewery, it was a really nice walk. I guessing that if we had walked along the road, the footpath would have been very narrow, if there was one at all.

For those of you that know me you might be wondering what I was doing at a brewery tour at all, seeing as I don't like beer. I still don't like beer. It was more for the social aspect; to get out of the house and do something different, maybe even learn something new, and of course to spend some time with nice people.

The brewery was surprisingly difficult to find. I had turned the GPS on my phone on and when it told me we had reached out destination we were standing outside a kind of small industrial park and there were no signs pointing to the brewery. We did notice a map by the entrance, which actually led us in the wrong direction at first, as it looked like you didn't have to go through the gates. Once we did walk through the gates we had to walk for a while before there finally was a sign that said Thornbridge Brewery, from there it was easy to just follow the signs to the brewery. So it's not like it was super difficult to find or anything, but it would have been nice if there had been a proper sign outside the gates so that we knew straight away to go though them.

While we waited for the tour to start we got to hang out in the shop, which had a lot of sofas and chairs to sit down on, it was almost like a bright cosy pub. The main attraction for most people in this room was the bar. We all got a half pint glass and could sample the various brews they had on offer. They only did 4 or 5 brews on their little bar, but you could have as much as you wanted.

I sampled the Baize chocolate mint stout... I couldn't really taste the chocolate at all! Didn't enjoy it. I did sample some of the lagers as well, and although a couple of them were quite fresh, I wouldn't sit down and drink any of them.

I really enjoyed the tour of the brewery. It's a small one but there was still a lot to see. As I hadn't heard of Thornbridge before I went on the tour I thought it was just a small brewery that only supplied beer to local pubs, so I was very surprised to learn how many countries they export their beer to. They export beer to Japan, USA, Sweden and Australia amongst others.

I thought it was a really nice way to spend the afternoon, and I really enjoyed it, even without drinking beer.

We paid £7.50 each for the tour, included in the price we got all the samples we wanted in the bar both before and after the tour, and we also got to keep the half pint glass they served the samples in, which i think they sold in the shop for around £3.50, so you really got your money's worth!

Definitely a nice day out, especially if you are interested in, and like beer, and if you don't.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

My favourite place

I love the countryside.

Listening to the birds' dawn chorus in the mornings
The wind rustling the leaves
The silence of the empty roads
The clear, starry, night skies

The different plants and animals
Sounds and aromas
The differences of countrysides around the world
The similarities

The fjords and mountains of Norway, equally beautiful at any time of year.
The snowcapped mountains in winter
Everything coming to life in spring
The lush greenery of summer
The fiery colours of autumn

The rolling hills of the UK countryside.
The hedges and old dry stone walls separating the fields
The little old villages that time forgot
The ruins of civilisations that was.

Why sustainability?

As mentioned earlier, I have recently started an online course called Sustainability, society and you.

Environmental sustainability is something I have been interested in for a while now. I think I really started to think about it when I lived and worked as an au pair in England 7 years ago, as the family I worked for was very environmental conscious, so of course that made me think about it.

The main reason sustainability matters to me is because of concerns for the future.

There is currently 7 billion people living on our planet, 100 years ago it was only 1.6 billion! If the world's populations keeps increasing at this rate the world will run out of food and fresh water. It would be nice to find ways to make sure that doesn't happen.

However, as I have learnt more about the environment and climate change I have realised that sustainability isn't just something for future generations, it is something we should be concerned about now.

The thing that worries me is how people refuse to acknowledge the issues the planet is currently facing due to pollution and industrialisation. Even if you don't believe in climate change, what would be the harm in trying to live a more sustainable and environmental lifestyle?

Sustainable choices

Today I started a new course on Future Learn, it's called Sustainability, society and you. The course is just in its last week at the moment so make sure you sign up quickly if you're interested. I'm not sure I'll be able to finish it before it finishes but as I think it's an interesting topic I decided to at least have a go at it.

As you can probably imagine sustainability is a topic with a lot of different opinions, and this course gives you a lot of food for thought. I am still in the week 1 section of the course and there was a poll with 3 questions to answer, as well as giving reasons for your choices. After submitting my choices I was able to see the poll results. Not surprising, the votes were almost tied on every question. There was only one result that surprised me, which I will tell you about in a little bit.

The questions were as follows:

1. Which is better for the environment - incineration of waste, or disposal via landfill? 

This is the question I struggled the most with. Incineration or disposal via landfill of waste? It's a tricky one as, like everything, both have pros and cons. In the end I chose incineration.
  • Incineration can reduce the amount of waste in landfills by about 85%
  • Reduce toxic leakages from landfills into soil
  • It can make people lazy and stop them from recycling since it's all going to be burned anyway, and so it can lead to a waste of important and finite resources
  • Incineration can generate electricity and heat
  • Even though the modern incinerators use filters and processes to remove many of the harmful particulates and toxins from the hot flue exhaust gasses, they still don't filter out the smallest particles, which can cause health problems
I think the best is of course to reduce our waste, then incinerate what is possible to incinerate, and the rest gets recycled or goes to a landfill. It wouldn't be the most pleasant job to sort through the trash before it gets incinerated but at least it might "rescue" some of the important and finite resources. 

Or maybe people could get a separate bin for incineration? Just like we have a bin for recycling, garden waste and trash here in the UK we could have a 4th one for incineration, with a leaflet telling us what can go in it, like they do with the recycling bin. That way people will still hopefully recycle as well as reducing waste to the landfills.

2. Which do you think is more sustainable? Drying your hands with hot air dryers or using paper towels?

Another tricky one. 

I know paper towels are often more hygienic but I'm not sure about the environmental benefits. At first I wanted to say paper towels as they can be recycled, but then I realised they can't be as they will be dirty after use. 

I did end up saying hot air dryers are more sustainable. However, I do think that mostly applies if you're using a sustainable energy source to power it, like solar or wind power.

3. If you have the option of using a dishwasher, do you think it is more sustainable than washing up by hand?

Now, this is the one that surprised me, not the question but the poll results. Apparently more people think washing up by hand is more sustainable. To be completely honest I did believe that myself a few years ago, but think about it;

Washing up by hand usually means that you use more water. I don't have a dishwasher at the moment and I do find that, to avoid my kitchen counter looking messy, I do the dishes very often, thereby wasting a lot of water by filling the sink up every time I do the dishes. If you have a dishwasher you can put more dishes in it than you would leave on the counter (as they would be out of view) and it would only use one cycle of water for each time you used it.

The main reason people think washing up by hand is more sustainable is because the dishwasher uses electricity, but these days you can get very eco-friendly dishwashers, just remember to check the rating before you buy it. You can also power your home with sustainable energy and save the environment and your money that way.

What do you think? Which is more sustainable?

- Incineration or landfill? 
- Hot air dryer or paper towels? 
- Dishwasher or washing up by hand?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Eden - A novel with a lot of truth to it

Title: Eden - A novel with a lot of truth to it
Author: D. Kevin May, Ph. D.  

Phil lent me this book a few days ago, telling me it's a really good book and I have to read it. I'm glad he did.

The first thing that came to mind as I started reading it is that May is not a writer, the writing style can be a bit confusing at times and the layout of the book is not what you would expect from a novel. However, that's understandable as it is a retelling of true events with varying degrees of accuracy as May himself writes in the prologue.

The book has a lot of religion in it. The main character (May) is a very religious person and thinks about God a lot, God has a big influence on his life. I'm not a religious person, and the first time I realised just how religious he was while reading the book it almost made me a little uncomfortable, but his belief is an important part of the book and it was quite interesting to get an insight into his thoughts on his own beliefs.

It's a very thought provoking book, I actually already started writing this post while I was on page 44, I just had to make sure I got my thoughts on it down before I forgot. However, although it was thought-provoking and I wanted to find out what would happen, I did struggle getting through it, it didn't really keep my attention. Starting to write this review, of sorts, helped me finish the book I think, as I wanted to finish the review also.

The first half of the book was weird and very thought provoking, but the second half was just weird, to me anyway. It was an interesting book, to be honest I can't quite believe it's supposed to be true, but weird things happen in real life.

Memorable quotes:
"[...] we must take things down to the human level. We are here to live out our destiny. Your path is already plotted, it's up to you to see that path and trust that which [...] the Universe places in your footsteps. Carpe diem!"

"Life is about each of us reaching our full potential. Our destiny. Self-actualization, that place where we actually become like God. To reach that level, you must learn to view the world through your passions. That which drives you from the heart. What is it that your heart desires?"


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