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?"

Monday, 7 July 2014

Auberge Gladstone, Plymouth

While in Plymouth, MA, I was staying at the Auberge Gladstone. I remember looking at the pictures on and thinking it looks so posh they'd probably kick me out at soon as they saw me. I went ahead and booked it anyway as it was the cheapest accommodation in the town centre for the 4th of July weekend.

It looked really nice from the outside when I arrived, and my friends said it was in a really good location, I would only need to walk 5 minutes down the road to meet them at a restaurant later that evening. When I got inside the hallway it was really cramped. I mean REALLY cramped, I struggeled getting my suitcase inside the door with the two people that run it and myself standing there. But we managed, and the man at Auberge even carried the suitcase upstairs to the room for me, which was very nice of him.

The bedroom was a decent size room with a king size bed, TV, fridge, air condition, microwave, a couple of chairs and even an electric fireplace!

The bathroom was quite big as well, it even had a chaise lounge in it! There was a very large shower. I actually couldn't quite figure out the shower; there were two shower heads, and water came out of both! I don't know if it was possible to turn one head off or not. If it was, I couldn't figure out how. The bathroom also had a hairdryer, some cups, glasses and a kettle on a shelf.

It's an old house and the floors are a little crooked but mostly that just added to the charm. The lady at Auberge gave me the keys to the room and front door, showed me where the extra towels and linens were, a list she'd compiled of different restaurants and diners as well as some tourist brochures. As she was about to leave me to it I asked her about where breakfast would be served. She then told me I should have booked breakfast in advance, but that there were plenty of places selling breakfast nearby and that I would be better off eating at one of those places!! I was very surprised at first as I though it was a bed and breakfast, which is what it say on, but it does say by the front door it's a guest house.

As I also noticed on the first day there was no "maid" service. I don't really mind not having my towels changed, I'm the only one using them after all. However, part of what's nice when PAYING to stay somewhere is that someone else empties the bins, cleans your room and makes the bed.

There was an envelope in the room saying that if I needed anything to call or leave a note at the front desk, but I don't really think I should need to do that just for someone to make my bed! On the envelope it also said: "your gratuity is greatly appreciated", why would I tip anyone when I haven't received any service that deserves a tip? The room was already paid for, I'm not going to give you a tip when you don't do anything to deserve it!

The Auberge is just around the corner from everything, so it was very handy when I wanted to take a stroll around town or down to harbour.

On both the website and it says they have a hot tub, free bicycles and books, but none of those things were pointed out to me when I arrived, they didn't tell me where to find anything that wasn't in my room. There was only one door downstairs, but as I didn't know whether that led to a private living area or common area I didn't want to just walk in. The people I met that I guess run it seemed kind of bored and not interested in what they were doing to be honest.

The only things I liked about the Auberge Gladstone was the location and the rooms I had. The rooms were absolutely gorgeous! I'm not really sure I would stay there again, simply because the people that ran it seemed so disinterested and didn't really tell me much. I do think they should "warn" people that there is no housecleaning, not because that's a bad thing, but just so people know about it when they book it, as it would put some people off.

Provincetown, MA

I went to Provincetown, also known as P-town, today. I had bought a ferry ticket before I left England, booking it for the wrong date... Ooops!! The 7th of July was stuck in my head and so that's the date I booked it for. The 7th of July was stuck in my head because that's the day my flight leaves from Boston! Luckily I noticed it right after my payment had gone through, and when I called them up they were nice enough to change the date on it for me.

It was a lovely day for a ferry ride and to walk around outside today. I've actually been surprised by how warm it's been up here, as Massachusetts gets so cold in winter I was expecting a fairly cool summer like we get in northern Europe, but it's been around 30 degrees (Celsius).

Now, silly me. I remembered to put on suncream before I left the guest house but then I left it in my room instead of putting it in my bag! Being on the sea on a sunny day without topping up your layer of suncream... That's just begging to get burned! Which is what I got.

Anyway. Provincetown was really lovely. There are lots of art galleries and speciality shops, as well as fudge and taffy shops and souvenir shops, perfect for a place with a super long beach! There's about 3000 people living in Provincetown... Unless it's summer and then it's 60000!! So of course it was really busy now!

If you have a problem with same-sex couples holding hands and kissing in public this is not the holiday destination for you. P-town is very popular with the LGBTQ community, and it was really interesting to see the influence of that in the various shops. I noticed one shop that had baby clothes saying things like I love my gay [(mums, aunt, uncle, brother etc)]. It seemed to me there were more gay men than anything else, there was approximately 10 men to 1 woman (at least!) in any given place.

Provincetown is really nice and quaint. Even though it was busy I just really liked the laid-back feel of the place. However, the best part of my day in Provincetown was when I walked past the main shops and got into the residential area, it was nice and quiet, and the houses and front gardens were so pretty I loved just walking around looking at all of them.

Plymouth, MA

The last few days has been spent in Plymouth, Massachusetts. You know, where the pilgrims landed. I even saw Plymouth rock. Although there are discussions about whether it's the real one, the one the pilgrims actually landed on, or not. If you ask me, it was a rock, I'm fairly certain or that. Apparently the rock at Plymouth is only about a third or its original size, people have been taking pieces of it to keep as souvenirs, which is why it has a fence and everything around it now.

Plymouth is a nice little town to wander around, it's quite small so it doesn't take long to see everything on the main streets. I actually went for a walk in some residential neighbourhoods the other day, I was trying to find out where I am going to take the bus back to the airport from. I enjoyed seeing the private houses. Like Norway the houses are usually built with wood, but they didn't remind me of Norway at all, the building style was so different! From what I've heard New England houses have a special look. I've not really noticed enough houses in other parts of America to know whether that's true or not. 

I had been looking forward to see the 4th of July fireworks while I was in Plymouth, but unfortunately they were cancelled because of the weather. It was the only day the weather was bad while I was in Massachusetts! I still had a really nice 4th of July though, I was at a party with my friends Anne and Nathan as well as a big part of their family and friends.

The reason I went to Plymouth was to attend my friends' Anne and Nathan's wedding. Anne and I got to know each other through a language-learning website about 10 years ago, we then became pen-pals and I started thinking of her as one of my close friends, but we didn't actually meet face-to-face until last year! Which is also when I met Nathan. I got along with him as soon as I met him and it was as if the three of us had been friends for ever. 

I was very happy they wanted me there for their special day. They are both Christian and so it was a church wedding. The ceremony was nice, and much shorter than what it is in Norway (from what I can remember), my bum didn't even have time to start getting restless from sitting down! The reception was in a really nice location overlooking a small lake, and I had a lot of fun getting to know some of the other guests. I spent most of the evening on the dance floor, which was really fun! Except from one, people seemed to have been scared of the dance floor at the other weddings I've attended.

I was sad to say goodbye to Anne and Nathan as they headed off to their honeymoon at the end of the night, we have however loosely planned the next three years, hopefully we can follow it all through! Next year the plan is for them to come to the UK since I've been to the US two years in a row.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Ramada Plaza Resort and Suites on International Drive

My first impression when I arrived at Ramada Plaza was a positive one. The lobby was big, modern and clean, with plenty of sofas and chairs for people to sit in as they waited. The staff was friendly as they told me where the breakfast was and where to go for my room.

When I got upstairs to my room, which was on the top (12th) floor in the south tower, I was pleasantly surprised at the size. I keep forgetting that everything is bigger in America. The room was big with a large, firm, double bed. It also has a small table with two chairs, two desks, a TV stand that also houses a fridge and a microwave. There was also an old kitchen part with a sink, cooker and kitchen cabinets. I don't know if it actually works, and there is no way I'd even try the cooker, as it's gas, which I don't like using, especially when it looks old.

The bathroom had a bathtub-shower combo, a hairdryer and a kettle... Why they didn't just put the kettle in the old kitchen part is beyond me. The shower pressure was really good, as you all know I can be very picky on that. It did take me a while to figure out the taps though. I had to pull the knob towards me to turn it on.

I had a magnificent view of a small lake from my room, with Wet'n'Wild on the other side of the lake. I could also see downtown Orlando in the distance as well as Islands of Adventure.

The air con unit in the room looked like it's quite old, and it was so loud I actually had to turn it off at night to be able to sleep, meaning I woke up all clammy in the mornings.

Breakfast was ok. On a few of the mornings they had waffles, they put out 3 waffle irons and a batter dispenser. I only managed to get waffles one morning when I was there early (7am) as on the other days there was a long queue. An idea might have been for the kitchen workers to cook the waffles in advance and have them ready-made on the side for people to take if they wanted. Other than waffles, when they had them, there was toast, bagels, porridge pouches, and cereal. You could have butter, peanut-butter, jam or cream cheese to spread on your bread. To me that's a bit plain, it could have been made miles better just by adding some cheese slices for example.

The Ramada Plaza provides a curtesy shuttle to and from Epcot (you can get free transfer from Epcot to the other Disney parks) and Universal studios. There are two shuttles to Epcot in the morning; 7.30am and 11.15am and only one to Universal at 10.15am. Going back there are 3 shuttles from Epcot at 6pm, 9pm and 10.05pm, but only one from Universal, at 8pm. I do wish there had been more shuttles. I realise Ramada Plaza isn't on either of the theme park resorts, and I'm not expecting a shuttle every 20 minutes, but every hour, or even every 2 hours both ways would be nice, that way people would also be able to go to both Disney and Universal in one day if they wanted to, without having to pay for a taxi. There should also be a shuttle after all parks were closed, most of the parks have something going on just before closing time (parade or fireworks).

I think I must have had a couple of different people proving my maid-service while I was here. On a couple of the days I didn't get a new face cloth, even though they took away the old one, which I though was a bit strange, whereas on other days they made sure to give me a new one. Other than that I don't really have any comment on the maid-service, my room was clean and the bed was made.

In all; Ramada Plaza has been an ok place to stay. I'm not sure if I would stay here again due to the limited bus schedule to the parks, but then again I don't know if any of the other off-resort hotels are any better.
View from my room

Being brave

This morning started with Space Mountain!! I can't believe I actually went on it! People have been telling me how amazing it is, and I figured with it being my last day in Orlando I should give it a shot. 

I didn't like it. 

If I am going to go on a roller-coaster I prefer to see what's coming up, so I can mentally prepare for it. Space Mountain was all in the dark. 

The rest of the day was spent going back and forth between Magic Kingdom, Downtown Disney and Epcot, going on various rides in each park, just little ones, like Spaceship Earth, It's a Small World and the Haunted Mansion. It was a really nice chilled out day once I survived Space Mountain. I also posted my postcards in Magic Kingdom. I'm hoping they might get a special postage stamp on them that way.

I did consider going back to Universal for my last day, purely so I could have another Butterbeer. However, Disney has more parks I could go between if I wanted to, and more rides that I liked. Universal would be cheaper if I had wanted to buy anything though.

I've had a really nice time this week in Orlando. I really needed this holiday. I'm actually nice to people again! Although that probably won't last long once I get back to reality. 

One week has been enough for Orlando, especially at this time of year. It's just too hot and sticky. I've wanted to do more than I have done, but I've just had no energy thanks to the heat and humidity. All I've wanted to do is lie down and sleep all day. I have to remember to never come in the middle of summer again!!

Tempting to get in the water with him
Thanks to the heat and humidity I haven't eaten much while down here, so I've saved a fair bit of money. I've had money left on my budget every day, even after buying a couple of gifts.

Tomorrow I am flying up to Massachusetts, where I am staying a few days for a friend's wedding. I can't wait! 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Flitting about

Sorry about the quality of the pictures, my neck and shoulders are starting to hurt from carrying my camera bag all day every day, so today I took a break and only used my phone camera.

Today started at Disney's Animal Kingdom. I went last year and wasn't too bothered about it, but I wanted to give it another chance since it had rained all day when I went last year. I went on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in the Africa section, and the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia which are both self-guided walks on foot. They were both really good, it was really nice to see the animals like tigers, hippos and gorillas. However, the best part of Animal Kingdom was Festival of the Lion King, which was simply amazing! Make sure you show up at least 20 minutes before show time as it fills up fast. And make sure you go to the second entrance if you don't have a fast pass. I was standing in the fast pass line for a couple of minutes before I realised what it was, I had just lined up in the only queue I saw.

After Animal Kingdom I went to Disney's Hollywood Studios. There I caught the Indiana Jones show, which was a lot of fun. They even got some people in the audience to stand in as extras! I wanted to see the Lights, Motors, Action! show but unfortunately it was cancelled due to technical difficulties, so I went on the Backlot Tour instead. I enjoyed it last year, and I enjoyed it this year!

As I was stood waiting to get inside to the 3D Muppets film I heard a lady next to me complain to her partner that this was going to be "15 minutes of their life they would never get back". Ok, I get it, you've spent all this money to go to Disney World and you want to see as much as possible, but you don't HAVE TO. You don't have to see something you don't want to, you don't have to see something you're only going to complain about, you've made a choice. There is plenty of other things to do and see. I glanced over at them and they didn't even have any kids in tow that they were "suffering" for. And if you're going to watch something, hoping it will be better than you think, shut up until you've actually seen it, THEN make up your mind. Ok rant over. Personally I quite enjoyed the Muppet film, not as good a 3D experience as some other 3D shows, but it was still good, and funny.

Lastly I went back to EPCOT. I didn't stay long as I wanted to catch an earlier bus back to the hotel. I bought some postcards to send to friends (which is why I wanted to go back to the hotel early, so I could write them) and a couple of souvenirs. Other than a couple of pins, I still haven't bought anything for myself though.


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