Tuesday 28 July 2009

Books I've Been Reading

This week is already 10 times better than last week. Most of my team are back from their annual leave time, and I am busy. I feel useful, fulfilled, and overall just - you know - awake. This is a really good thing, as I've always been the kind of person who needs to feel useful. I've been reading a few books lately. I won't do full-on reviews for these ones, as there's a few of them and they weren't moving enough for an entire review. They were entertaining enough for an honourable mention though...

The first one was "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser

I never saw the movie that was based on this book, but I can tell you that the book was certainly eye opening, and taught me a fair bit about the fast food industry that I didn't know before. I've said it before in other book reviews, but the thing about food is that it touches absolutely every aspect of life as we know it. Food is basically what we're made of, food is business, food is political, food is environmental, food influences absolutely everything in the world that lives in many different ways. The thing about fast food is that it's full of crap (quite literally), it holds very little nutritional value (if any), and it is a business that is corrupt right through the entire system, from the earth to the animal, to the slaughterhouse, to the restaurant where we so greedily gobble up those cheap meals that really aren't so cheap when you look at it in it's proper perspective. Though I was averse to fast food before I read the book, I certainly am 150% more averse to it after reading it. Thanks Eric for opening our eyes further. (I know I said that none of the books were moving enough for an entire review, but if any of them really were - it was this one. It was just a while back that I finished it, and therefore is not as fresh in my mind as some of the more recent ones)

The second one was "Elephants On Acid and Other Bizarre Experiments" by Alex Boese

This was a really interesting book. I read almost the entire thing on my bus trip to Leeds which took an entire day. I discovered it when I was at Sue Anne's house. Typical kind of book to find at a Scientist's house I suppose. The title and bright colours attracted me at first, (let's be honest) but then I opened the book and found LOADS of fascinating stories about whacky experiments that have been performed through the years by Scientists with the best of intentions. The one which the author got the title from was quite possibly the saddest thing I have ever read. Some scientists thought it would be a good idea to see what an Elephant would do on LSD. Unfortunately nobody knew how much LSD an Elephant could handle, so they gave poor Tusko a whopping 297 milligrams of LSD. Unfortunately this proved to be a huge mistake. Poor Tusko died quite a painful death all in the name of Science. None of the other stories are quite as sad as that one though. They're fascinating really, and totally worth reading even for the likes of non-scientists such as myself.

The third book I read recently was "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen

You may remember that I mentioned discovering this one a few months back. Well, yes - I finally read it and umm - I have to say it was mildly entertaining. But, for a true Jane fan, it is difficult not to pick out the glaring errors that Mr. Grahame-Smith made when re-writing the classic beloved by so many. You can also tell that he doesn't really have much literary experience. It seems to me that he just had a thought one day along the lines of - "Pride and Prejudice - AND - Zombies" and thought - how brilliant is that. Likely his girlfriend made him watch the BBC P&P and the thought came to him in a blinding flash of sheer brilliance. It is a brilliant idea really, but I feel that if he really knew the characters better, and the general period that the book was written in - he could have taken it and run with it in a really intelligently creative, yet still hilarious manner. However, that being said - it was good. I laughed out loud at some points. Good fun overall. The character Elizabeth Bennet and even Mr. Darcy have totally different personalities altogether in this book. Don't expect gentility and cordiality. These people are true killing machines!!!! I mean, they take out the living (mainly Ninjas) and the un-dead with sheer ruthlessness. Any guy who's girlfriend has made them sit through BBC P&P will probably think it is the MOST brilliant thing they have ever read.

The book I'm currently reading is "Stardust" by Neil Gaiman

I am REALLY enjoying this book. Neil is a genius. How DOES he know the world of Faerie so well? I'm not sure, but I have a theory that he's been there before. I saw the movie for this book when it first came out, and I thought it was brilliant. The book though - is better as I'm discovering at the moment. This man has amazing talent. I think I'll be reading his other works in the future.

That's all I have for book reviews today folks. Happy Reading!!!

Thursday 23 July 2009

This Has Been the Longest Week of my Life!

I seem to be having a great deal of trouble finding motivation to get up and go to work this week. This is due to a couple of factors, but the main one is that my programme director has been away for a month, and I am TOTALLY caught up as far as I can go without her direction. I've been begging co-workers to share their work-load with me, and they have been very obliging in offering me things to do, but there are many things which they just have to do themselves I guess. So, most of the time, I've been moving my cursor around the screen, and just randomly clicking on things to make sure they're still there. There have been a couple of student enquiries over the last couple of days - which was exciting. But, after quickly addressing their queries, I ran out of things to do again. It's also been really really boring around the office, as EVERYONE with the exception of a skeleton staff is away. I miss the buzz, the excitement, the friendly faces...

Anyway, I only have one more painful day to endure, and then my programme director is back Monday. Unfortunately, I'll have to deliver to her the bad news that I'm leaving and going to another school within the University. I've already e-mailed her about it, but she likely hasn't read it yet. (who reads e-mails on vacation?) She knew I was likely to get the job, so it won't be so much of a surprise to her. I sure have enjoyed working with this group, so it will be hard to leave them behind. Onward and upward to new things though. I'll make new friends, and keep the old ones. That seems to be the story of my life. I get around you know... haha.

One more day of the longest week of my life. Let's hope next week is better. So far, I am expecting it to be so.

Thursday 16 July 2009

The Green Smoothie Experiment

So, I've been trying this new thing for about a couple of months now. My friend Pam in Australia told me about it, and I thought - you know the idea is sound, it makes sense, so why not give it a go?

Check out this link... (link)

The idea in it's simplicity is to take a cup of fruit of some kind, (I use mixed berries usually because their full of anti-oxidants) 2 or 3 big handfuls of something green and leafy, a cup of water, maybe a banana, maybe some honey, perhaps a bit of spice (I've been experimenting with cinnamon); put it all in a blender and drink it.

I have to say, I'm really impressed overall with how I look, feel, and generally live now that I'm on the green smoothies.

I admit, when I first went to the website, I thought - ok, what's all this? Is this some sort of pyramid scheme or something? Or an opportunity for someone to sell my e-mail address? Truth is, it absolutely isn't. These people just want to give out recipes for green smoothies. I signed up and received loads of recipes for Green smoothies. I didn't follow them though if I'm honest about it. They did give me some interesting ideas for what to put into my smoothies though. I mean, these people live in Australia, and they have every fruit/vegetable known to human kind available to them. I live in Scotland, I've got Spinach, Kale, and dark green lettuce. Plus, it can get expensive to buy all kinds of exotic fruits.

Simply done, I've been using frozen berries bought at Tesco for £1.29, putting them into my 1000 watt blender with 3 big handfuls of spinach or kale, water, banana, honey (just a touch), and cinnamon. I usually save a small container for the morning, but I've been taking the entire thing for supper. (that's me replacing meals again - I can do that since I only answer to myself) You don't have to replace meals though, you can just add it to your normal every day diet, and still reap the benefits. It's amazing.

My skin, hair, and overall energy level, health, cravings, cholesterol, GI tract (loads of fibre) have improved immensely. You should give it a go for a month, and see what happens for you. It's amazing really.

That's what I've been doing lately with my diet. Regular, normal healthy eating for Breakfast, and Lunch, extra healthy Green smoothie for dinner. I've also been trying really hard to keep up the Yoga. I have to say, those two things combined are seriously powerful...

Tuesday 14 July 2009

News From My World...

Wow, I can't believe I skipped an entire month of blogging. Sorry to my fan. Miss you mbfm. I've really not been doing too much exciting stuff for the last little while. For the most part, it's been work. So, really - I couldn't find much inspiration for blog material. Though, before I moved to Scotland, I had even less of a life than I do now, and I found loads of inspiration, so I really have no excuse whatsoever. Perhaps I was driven by the goal? Who knows, lets not psycho-analyze my blog frequencies...

Though, I do have bits of news.

Well, as you know I've been working at the University of Dundee for some time in a temporary position covering a maternity leave. My contract is up September 4th, so recently while out at lunch with my team, and also the girl who I am covering, I realized - yes - indeed she is coming back, and soon. So I was really stressed out. I've been applying for jobs as they come up in the University. I mean, if I'm internal, why wouldn't I take advantage of that and use my position to obtain an internal position within the same organization? Though, I have been applying, and interviewing to no avail. Almost every interviewer (with the exception of 1) said that there was absolutely nothing I could have done differently in my interview, but that they had found someone else with more "relevant" experience. I couldn't wrap my head around what this "relevant" experience was. After all, admin is admin, is admin. You can't get more relevant than that - but that's just my opinion. So, frustrating time.

So there I was, feeling down, and annoyed, and frustrated at my financial stress, and also slightly depressed about other, rather sluggish, immobile portions of my life. (One can guess quite easily which portions) So, what did I do? The same thing I do every time I'm feeling this way. I cried into my pillow, and poured out my heart in sad, but fervent prayer to my God. After I cried myself to sleep, I woke up the next day - and went to work as usual.

What happened?

Well, I had a meeting that morning with some colleagues, and there we all were, sitting around a table, discussing the business at hand, and joking about a bit. They were all talking about the autumn, and what they would be doing (I'm not sure what we were talking about to be honest with you, it's all a blur), but then somehow, I interjected "I don't know if I'll even have a job in the autumn" quite sadly. Then everyone went "awww", haha, and then the convener of the small meeting said "What? What's all this? You won't be working with us?" and then I explained about my contract, etc. He asked me why I hadn't applied for this job that he posted with another school he is involved with (still within the University) I really, honestly have no idea why I hadn't applied for the job, except to say that perhaps I was just a little bit sad, and perhaps at the point where I had lost a bit of hope. (I know how pathetic that sounds, but it's true - haha) Anyway, they arranged with HR to make it all legal, and get my application in, references, etc. So, there was a little hope, I had an interview lined up - that very day. There were other things which happened that day which gave me a bit of hope in the other portions of my life that need attention, so umm, that was really good.

So, long story short - I had the interview - swept them off their feet, and now I am the happy occupier of a permanent, full-time position at the University of Dundee. I'll be working at the Graduate School of Natural Resources Law, Policy and Management. Which incidentally, my good friend is the class president of. I'll be crunching numbers as I have before. (to be honest, many years ago, but those skills don't really go away if you truly love numbers) I also have more hope in general about my life and portions thereof. I'm hopeful things will change for the better - soonish.

There's other news...

At church, in my congregation, I was asked to take a leadership position in the Women's organization. The position is that of 1st Counselor in the Relief Society - for those who know what that means. When my Bishop asked me to take the calling, I was all - ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!! Because after all, I'm me, and with all of my struggles as late, I haven't been at my best, or even my strongest. Here I was thinking, how can I be an example to these ladies, who are likely much better prepared for such a responsibility? I realized of course, that God knows what he's doing, and if I'm going to be here a while, I might as well be doing something useful. So, I took the calling. So far, it's been a prime motivator to do better overall in my life, and to get out and be among people / serve people, not feeling sorry for myself so much.

So, that's news in the world of Becky. I also recently went on a trip to Leeds for a week, and visited a fair number of my extended family. It was lovely, and really really needed. It's nice to know that I have family not too far away. Here's a few pictures of the Yorkshire Dales that I took whilst there...

These pictures were taken at a place called "Blubberhouses". How did such a lovely place receive such a ridiculous name you ask? So did I. So, I looked it up where all of the answers are - wikipedia...


* From the blueberry: Hargrove's History of Knaresborough.
* From the Blue Boar, a former inn.
* Early spellings include "Bluburgh", "Bluborrow", "Bluburhouse", (1172) "Bluberhusum". These may come from:-
o Anglo-Saxon burh = "fort".[2]
o From "Blueberg" = "blue mountain".[3]
o Anglo-Saxon bluberhūs = "the house(s) which is/are at the bubbling stream"[4], with a later regularized plural; the -um form came from the Anglo-Saxon dative plural case æt bluberhūsum = "at the houses which ...".

So there you have it. No, it has nothing whatsoever to do with whale blubber, or blubbering (as in crying)

p.s. If anyone wants to see all of the pictures from my trip, they can see them here... (link)