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Boston

I’ve read a lot of books, it’s basically what I do, but I recently came across a phenomena that I’ve never really experienced before; descriptive writing that encapsulated me, and really made me want to visit the location in question.

 

Let me contextualise this a little; lately I decided to start reading some Dennis Lehane. For those of you who aren’t too sure of who he is, go and watch Mystic River, or Shutter Island, or Gone, Baby, Gone, or even the episodes of The Wire that he penned. Then come back to me.

 

I’ve read some of his stuff before, but only the main ones, the books of the afore-mentioned movies, and now I decided to start from the beginning. If anyone isn’t familiar with his writing style, it’s basically modern noir, based in Boston, with a heavy concentration on character development and plot substance. You’ll find very few throwaway characters or filler chapters here!

 

It’s the setting that I want to concentrate on here though. Lehane is a Bostonian, and this is clear to see once you pick up one of his novels, especially any of the Kenzie-Gennaro series, where the Massachusetts capital is described in such intricacies that I can’t help but feel driven towards it.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read books that have described their settings minutely before; Shakespeare and Dickens classics depict London like little other literature, and Steig Larsson must have single-handedly improved Sweden’s tourism industry ten-fold. Even authors like Zadie Smith, who sets some of her novels in and around the area I was born, and Malcolm Pryce, the author behind the seedy underbelly of a Druid-ruled sleepy town in West Wales, do not describe their setting quite like Lehane.

 

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Up by Jawbone

This might shock some of you to hear this, but I am not a fitness person! I don’t jog, I don’t cycle, I don’t swim, I eat bad stuff and I drink, a lot. However, recently I took it upon myself to fix this. I’ve tried diets, and they don’t work. I don’t stay on them long enough, and they’re not fun. I was trying to work out how I can get fit whilst not changing my habits massively, because I know I won’t stick to them. So I decided on the gym. 

 

Whilst the gym is alright, I go a couple of times a week, it had me thinking whether I could increase what exercise I do outside of the gym; walking to work and so on. Through this research, I came across Up by Jawbone. 

Up is a rubber wristband available in three different sizes, and comes with an app, either for iPhone or Android, which records all of your data. This is processed through a data connection, which sits on one end of the band, where there’s a 3.5mm jack, which is how you connect it to your phone, as well as charging, through a computer. The other end has a button, which turns the band on and off, as well as switching it to day or night mode, which is signalled by either a sun or a moon on the band. 

 

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Up 

Now, a lot of criticism of this has been ‘yeah but it’s just a pedometer’ whereas it’s quite a lot more than that. Yes, it does measure your steps, but it will also break down your steps, telling you when you were walking a lot, and when you weren’t. It also sets you a goal, in terms of steps (mine is 12,000 a day) and will tell you how far away from completing it you are, as well as what you could do to complete it if you’re not. 

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Steps per day

One of the most useful features, for me at least, is the Idle Alert, which is where the wristband will vibrate if you’ve stood still for anything between 15 minutes and 2 hours, and you can set it to different times of the day and only on different days, which helps productivity no end. 

 

Where Up is helping me the most is in the sleep measurement. I’m a very poor sleeper, and probably have some sort of insomnia, but Up is useful as it measures how I sleep, and tells me when I am in deep sleep, light sleep and awake.

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Sleep monitoring

It will also wake me up at the time I choose, through something called Smart Sleep Alerts, which starts waking me, through vibrations, from up to half an hour before my alarm, dependent on whether I’m in deep or light sleep

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The app is quite intuitive, as not only will it show all of the above, it also has social media aspects, where you can view the stats of your friends who also have the app, as well as pulling data from other fitness apps that you have, for example, whilst the app itself doesn’t have GPS capabilities, it does pull data from MapMyFitness, which does. Other apps that do this include MyFitnessPal, RynKeeper, GymPact, Sleepio and Notch. 

Image Apps that link with Up

 

Up by Jawbone retails at £99.99

 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jawbone-Medium-Fitness-Tracking-Wristband/dp/B00BQ9DOXE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375292503&sr=8-1&keywords=up+wristband

 

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Self Service

Now I could write for hours and hours and HOURS on how people’s stupidity fucks me right off. But I’m gonna try and keep this short – no one wants an essay! But something that really pisses me off is self service machines in supermarkets.

Well that’s not strictly true…I think they’re great. They mean that for misanthropic bastards such as myself, I don’t have to deal with the inane bullshit that cashiers spew out. There is nothing in my demeanour that suggest that I give a shit about what you have to say or how your day has been, nor do I want to tell you how mine has been. Don’t ask! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been in their shoes, I’ve worked supermarket tills, it’s not in the job description to be fucking nauseating.

Anyway, I digress, it’s not self service tills that piss me off, it’s the fucking idiots that can’t use them. And it’s not just old people either (that’s a whole other story) but anyone who can’t use the things. It’s not difficult. Most of them have a fucking step-by-step video on what to do.

But, and it’s a big but, if you’re physically and mentally incapable of using them, if the video is far too taxing to understand, then don’t worry, there is a solution. As the vast majority of shops that have self-service also still have cashiers available. So ignore the self-service tills. DON’T. FUCKING. USE. THEM.

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Polemics 101

Anyone ever wake up and get the feeling that they just wanna do something new? Maybe change the way you do something. Maybe change the way you are. Maybe just change the way you are around people.

I’ve had that a few times lately and, well, I just thought fuck it, why not.

A friend of mine was talking to me recently, and he suggested I become a polemicist. Now I didn’t know what one of those was, strictly speaking. I’d heard the word thrown around a few times, but when he described it as ‘someone who’s pissed off all the time’ it pretty much describes me down to a T.

So here we go. Those of you who know me will know that I swear. I swear a lot. The ‘fuck’ in the above paragraph exemplifies this. Now I don’t swear because I think it’s cool. I don’t swear to impress people. I don’t swear because I’m Irish, despite what I might tell people. And I sure as shit don’t swear because I can’t articulate myself properly without cursing. If anything it heightens my articulation. Stephen Fry once said that the people he knows who swear the most ‘tend to have the widest vocabulary and the kind of person who says swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary usually have a pretty poor vocabulary themselves’.

No, I swear because I can.

That being said, I understand that swearing, or at least my level of it, is not to everyone’s liking, so if it’s going to upset you, stop reading now…

If you’re still reading, what you should have learnt from the above micro-essay is that this is gonna be a swear-filled rant on how so many many things piss me off in the world…SO MANY.

This won’t portray me in a good light. I’m going to come off as a sanctimonious prick. But most people know me, and know I’m a sanctimonious prick anyway, so no harm done.

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Mac: are they really worth all the fuss??

Before I start, can we all have a moment’s silence please?

 

Still there? Ok cool.

The silence was for my Toshiba laptop which, whilst never ground-breaking, was a loyal servant for over 2 years, putting up with the daily torment I gave it. The laptop died a couple of days ago, after threatening to for a few months. It’s not as if I wasn’t expecting it, but it still took me by surprise, and I didn’t have a replacement. But a friend of mine did, he loaned me his Mac Mini, and I’m over the moon with it.

 

I’ve always been a bit, well, anti-Apple, but took the plunge with an iPhone, and can’t use any other phone, which is a bit of a problem as I work in a phone shop! But I’ve always, even after the iPhone, been very anti-Mac. I saw them as a waste of money, and only useful for editing things, which a hell of a lot of Mac users just don’t do.

 

Oh how wrong I was.

 

Despite being twice as old as my Toshiba laptop, the Mac Mini runs faster than that ever did, and is an absolute joy to use. Unfortunately, I think this is the beginning of the end for me. I can see myself, in little to no time, becoming an absolute Apple fanboy, and straight up refusing to use anything else. I hate the idea of being a fanboy, and being so damn narrow-minded, but it doesn’t seem like I’ve got much choice in the matter any more.

 

Anyone out there reading this that actually knows me will know that admitting I’m wrong is something I never ever do, even when I know I’m wrong. I’m a stubborn bastard at the best of times. But I was wrong about Apple. I’ve scorned them for many years, naively, and am now happy to admit that I was wrong.

 

Now to get that cheque from Mr Jobs…

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New Piece of Writing

I’ve decided to begin showcasing my writing here, with a few pieces, some I may have written for assignments, some may be for competitions, and some may just be for fun. Enjoy reading!

This first piece is an untitled piece that I wrote for an assignment, where we were told to write a piece about religion. For the purposes of this it’s going to be titled ‘God Story.’ It’s an exchange between a father and son who have differing views on religion, and whilst it’s not the typical view of religion, and might upset some people, I’m fairly proud of it.

God Story

Why didn’t James ever listen to me? Here I am, taking the trouble to tell him about how God, the fictional deity, doesn’t exist, and all he can do is sit there and listen to his damn music. I was justifying my statement with evidence as well, showing him exactly how God doesn’t exist, and still he doesn’t want to know. I’m wasted here, I really am. I should be on like Question Time or something. Somewhere they would appreciate my talent. Instead it just melted away, falling on deaf ears.

Why did he always try and be clever with his ideas? No one cares if he has proof as to why God doesn’t exist. His proof would be shallow and superficial anyway, something like “Oh, I prayed to him once, and he didn’t answer, therefore he doesn’t exist” or some other poor attempt at proof like that, it wouldn’t be any substantial proof, because there is no substantial proof that God doesn’t exist, hence the reason millions of people have devoted their lives to Him.

Why didn’t this boy listen to me? He didn’t even have to agree, all I want is a stimulating conversation. Can he not grant his Dad that? If not, then he’s a pretty damn poor son, it has to be said. The fact that my proof that I have to give him will change his world completely is beside the point. Plus, all those myths, plagues of locusts and floods, what are they all about? Clearly they are all a bunch of lies made up by the Christians to scare its worshippers. It’s like the stories your mum told you when you were little, about the man in the closet or under the bed. I mean, Noah, even if he did sail an ark, so what, you have people sailing single-handedly round the world now, but do they get heralded as a religious figure? No they certainly don’t. So why should Noah? What did he do that was so special? Exactly, nothing! He saved a load of animals. Oh well done, you started the RSPCA. Congratulations.

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Luck of the Irish strikes again

Given their impressive performance last night, in the first half at least, I figured I’d comment on yet another bad decision from an official in charge of a football match involving the Irish.

No matter how hard they try, and how well they play against some of the best teams in the world, the Republic of Ireland football team always seem to be struck with bad luck. From the awful decision on Thierry Henry’s handball in the World Cup play off back in November, which I’ll mention again later, to the first Brazil goal last night, Blackburn mifielder Keith Andrews’ unfortunate own goal, allowed to stand despite Robinho, whose shot it was that Andrews deflected beyond the ever-impressive Shay Given, being a yard offside, it seems that no officiating body of football, whether that be UEFA, FIFA, or the referees themselves, are willing to take the Irish seriously.

The playoff in November is an incident that many Irish football fans, myself included, are still very bitter about, given not only the incident, but the ignominy that Sepp Blatter, FIFA president, and Michel Platini, UEFA president, showed when the FAI made their futile request to have the game replayed, or the result overturned.

As for Henry, his was a spectacular fall from grace, tarnishing his brilliant reputation with this fallacy, echoing the careers of Diego Maradona and Zinedine Zidane, to name but two. He seems to have recovered slightly now, but he will still always be associated with this misdemeanour rather than the years that he spent as arguably the best striker in the English Premier League.

The fact that Giovanni Trappatoni is still in charge of the Republic suprises me somewhat, as I thought that the playoff would be his last stand. That he remains in his post shows that he is willing to fight for this team, and get them to their first finals since the 2002 World Cup, and whilst last night’s result was only a friendly, they can take from it their first half performance, which was impressive, and the fact that they gave arguably the best team in the world a good run for their money. They just need to sort out their luck.

The Irish nation weeps a single tear.

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