You Can Make Anything Go Viral

bouquet wedding love bride
Photo by Alicia Zinn on

I believe that some of the most powerful ways to draw attention to a political issue are through performance art and making a public spectacle. In my news wanderings today, I discovered two very interesting examples of this.

The first, was a woman in Cairo who dressed in a formal white wedding dress and wandered the streets. She did this to make a statement about how woman in Egypt are pressured into getting married and producing children. This woman is only 27 years old, an interior designer and working on getting her MA in performing arts. She has years ahead of her to find a mate and marry. However, her family is already saying she is an old spinster. Egypt is known for having conservative values, and so perhaps this isn’t surprising that the culture pushes marriage and home life.
But what struck me most about this news piece, and this very blatant performance art piece about feminism, is that this is a pressure I feel as well. In the last month, 6 of my childhood friends have become engaged. 2 other friends have already had babies! And I am only 21. And, as ridiculous as it is, when I see their announcements and engagement photo’s on my Facebook feed, I feel lack I am somehow inadequate and don’t compare to them. It couldn’t be sillier, I should feel wildly successful with all that I have accomplished in my life thus far. I graduated with my BA two years early, I was awarded a prestigious international scholarship for my Master’s degree, I am the president of a staff student association, and I am a member of a university sports team. I am in no way lacking of accomplishments, but I still feel as if I don’t equal my friends because I am nowhere near getting married.
It is insane that I feel the same about marriage in a modern, liberal, country as a woman who lives in the conservative Middle East. I am truly inspired by this single Egyptian woman for having the courage to be so outspoken about a feminist issue. While society’s pressure on woman might not be viewed by most as a political issue, I think it is. Society is what sets politics. Woman still feeling like marriage is a requirement to females is an important political issue that should be discussed more. And luckily, this Egyptian non-bride is sparking that conversation.
 The second, and equally entertaining of using public spectacle to draw attention to a political issue takes place across the world in Changsha, China. A Chinese court has just approved the installation of a massive T.V monitor screen outside of the city train station. On this screen will be displayed the photos, and details of people who have committed a crime, been ordered a fine, but have neglected to pay. I think this is absolutely brilliant! No longer will people be allowed to be dead beats! If a co-worker notices your picture on the screen, and comes to work asking you about it, the shame and embarrassment will be enough to force you into paying! Sadly, I don’t think America or the UK could get away with this system, only a country that has a government with more centralized absolute power could manage to allow this. But imagine the things that could get done if America was able to put a monitor in front of Grand Central Station! Parents that neglected to pay child support, or people who had insane parking fines would not be able to hide away from their problems. When I really think about the root of the idea, drawing attention to criminals (petty non-fine paying criminals, but criminals all the same) is it really so different from the public sex offenders list? Given, sexual crimes are way way more awful than not paying a fine, but society doesn’t seem to reject having that list. So maybe in the future America could have a public way of announcing who is trying to get out of paying their fines. Just some food for thought.

How To Save Your Money Post-Holiday Season

20161204_102554The holidays are over!! For those of us who are always on a budget, it is the best and worst time of the year. The best because of free food and gifts, but the worst because we have to purchase things for our loved ones. I know that once Christmas was over, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I’ve gradually learned to start buying items earlier and earlier in the year. If you really want to save money on your 2018 Xmas, you need to start shopping now! All stores (in UK and USA) are discounting their holiday stock to get rid of it! There will be cheap lights, ornaments, and holiday themed decor galore in the shops. So, if you like to have a blinged out Christmas house but you are poor, then buy now, decorate later!
Not only are Christmas decorations on sale, but so are a lot of stocking stuffers and gifts. Children’s toys are marked down, winter clothing, knick knacks, basically anything that the stores put out in December is now on sale. Even though we are in the middle of the cold season, stores will soon begin selling spring and summer wardrobes. This means that long sleeve tops and thick winter coats are all on sale. TK Maxx is selling some of their coats for 50%. Winter boots are also a thing to keep your eye out for, because now is the only time a low budget can afford to buy them.
Take advantage of this!! If you need to buy a loved one some jewellery, now is the best time to do it. Most jewellers are doing 30-50% off in an effort to move the extra items they purchased. If your wife has a birthday in the year 2018, save yourself some money and hassle and buy it now.
The last thing to purchase now is all the left-over holiday food. I don’t mean old ham or turkeys, but the Christmas themed bags of candy, candy canes, hot chocolate, junk food. This isn’t so much a money saver in the UK, because they don’t have much holiday food (except mince pies) but in the US, Target, Walmart and your local grocery store will be filling shelves with these holiday treats. I used to wait till the day after Christmas and take the money I had been given to buy in bulk all the candy I couldn’t usually afford.
Take my advice and brave the malls and shops now!! You will (hopefully) have some holiday gift money that you can spend to buy gifts, food, and clothes you will need later in 2018. In the long term, this will save you loads of cash and stress!


Why You Shouldn’t Pay For a Fitness Subscriptions

2017-06-19_21.44.05[1]I recently tried an online subscription fitness service. Some popular ones are Bikini Bod, Fitness Blender, Fit Body Guide (FBG) and Beachbody. I tried Beachbody ( a more detailed review will come soon). When I began, I had the question of: Are they worth the $$$?
Online fitness services are basically like gym classes you can do in the privacy of your own living room. I’m a big fan because during the first year of my fitness journey I was too shy to workout in front of anyone! I felt embarrassed by my exercise wardrobe, my abilities or lack of, and my low levels of endurance. So, at home fitness was the only way for me to go.
The benefit of the services like FBG is you get a workout plan for several weeks or months. They usually also come with online support and diet plans. It encompasses everything, and is supposed to make becoming healthy more accessible to the everyday person.
The question that needed answering is it really better than what I can find for free online? I only tried Beachbody, therefore I can’t speak for all online fitness programs. But, I didn’t find it hugely different from what I could access on Youtube or via fitness tutorials on Pinterest. In fact, I found it slightly more restrictive. I like to try new workouts constantly and I try and train a different thing everyday. Monday might be abs, and Tuesday might be a HIIT workout. I like to mix it up, otherwise I’ll get bored and just quit exercising.
With many of the online programs you get workouts that work different body parts, but not necessarily in new and exciting ways. For instance, today I did a barre workout but last week I did cardio dance. If you pay for the online fitness, you are likely to get 1 workout program created by a trainer that sticks to a similar style of movement. A little too boring for me.
In addition there is the cost aspect. I can plan my own weekly workouts for free just using Youtube with only slightly more effort than it takes to log into the online programs. And Youtube is free. As for the diet aspect, there are plenty of diets online you can find for free. However, doctors have found one of the most effective is intuitive eating where you eat what your body wants in the proper portions. No eliminating foods.
My review is that if you live a #doitcheap lifestyle like me, then what you get from online fitness subscriptions is not worth the money. If you need more support to stay on track, ask a friend. If you find that your fitness flatlines using the free workouts on Youtube, then join a gym. Youtube will teach you how to use the stuff and you can still tailor it and be more effective than the online classes. Overall, save yo money and just do Youtube.

You MUST Add ‘Origin’ To Your 2018 Reading List

24171946_10214772928821363_888742527_nI believe the Robert Langdon series is so beloved because the character is a modern day Indiana Jones. An academic (which appeals to us cerebral types) who goes on thrilling, dangerous adventures seeking to solve a mystery and discover some groundbreaking truth. Who wouldn’t want to read that?
After ‘The Lost Symbol’ I thought that I had seen the last of Langdon and Dan Brown. But, through my social media stalking, roughly a year ago I realized that Brown was in fact writing a 4th book in his Langdon series, and I’ve been salivating in anticipation ever since. I was so excited that when I actually bought the book that I deliberately only allowed myself to read a chapter at a time. But eventually, my restraint ran out and I had to finish it!
There are three things that are fantastic about Dan Brown as a writer. First is his ability to fit 300 pages worth of plot into a time span of only a few days. In the case of ‘Origin’ the entire book occurs over a period of less than 24 hours. Langdon is invited to a secretive media presentation hosted by Kirsch (an old pupil) that was being held in Madrid’s premier modern art museum. During his virtual tour, Langdon is introduced to Winston, Kirsch futuristic artificial intelligence. Winston guides Langdon through the museum and finally into the presentation.
Inside a massive art installation, Langdon is taken on a sensory journey that explains religion, the origin of mankind, and concludes with two central questions. These questions are the scientific breakthrough Kirsch has invited Langdon to see. Alas, before revealing his achievement, Kirsch is murdered in cold blood by a fanatical religious Spanish naval officer. Langdon felt he owed a debt to his former student, thus, he resolved to release the breakthrough with the help of Winston. Tagging along for the ride was a beautiful Amal who helped construct the installation for Kirsch before his demise (Brown knows that every good hero needs a woman by his side, as Langdon always has a brilliant female assistant). The three set off on a path across the city and Spain in a bid to discover how to unlock the encypted presentation.
Here is the second brilliant thing about Brown as an author, he has a puzzling mind that can produce puzzles, hints, and clues in seemingly innocuous things that no one else could think of. Brown does this by weaving together art, nature, science, religion, and in ‘Origin’, technology. Amal and Langdon rely on a specially designed smart phone designed by Kirsch to lead them back to Kirsch apartment where they attempt to find the master password to Kirsch science presentation. Langdon uses his skills to recall text to basically delve through an entire library in the space of an hour. Meanwhile, the duo are being hunted by the police as Langdon has been accused of kidnapping by the Royal Palace of Spain.
Eventually, Langdon realizes that the password hint is hidden in a tome that Kirsch donated to a modern church within Barcelona. This is where the third amazing thing about Brown emerges. Throughout ‘Orgin’ and all of his novels, Brown is able to interpret religion in a way that makes it seem alive and interesting. With the help of a Catholic priest, Langdon and Amal discover the password and attempt to rush off to the stronghold of Winston. Unfortunately, the crazy Spanish navy killer catches them and attempts to kill Langdon (it wouldn’t be a true Brown novel if his protagonist didn’t face death at least once). Luckily, Langdon survives and escapes to the find the supercomputer Winston, which is hidden within another church.
After a night of trials and dangers, Amal and Langdon finally reach the physical computer version of Winston and release Kirsch breakthrough to the world. Kirsch had managed to make a supercomputer strong enough to simulate the origin of man. The computer proves that life on earth emerged not from God, but chemicals and energy. Kirsch goes on to explain that he also simulated where life on earth was going. Kirsch predicted that humans and tech would merge into a new species. In the end, Langdon achieved his goal of publicising his students work. Sadly, he still doesn’t get the beautiful girl Amal, who is quickly spirited away. Langdon goes on to make one further discovery, that I won’t reveal to you. Some things need to remain a surprise.
To conclude, I was taught that every good review needs to include at least one thing that could be improved on. It is probably the best advice I’ve ever been given because it forces me to be critical of things I love. In the case of ‘Origin’, I question if Brown was reaching too far outside his comfort zone. The beauty of Langdon is that his talents/knowledge lie in classical art, symbolism and religion. It almost felt uncomfortable to read about Langdon being involved in so much technology. Furthermore, some of the scientific leaps described in ‘Orgin’ seem a bit too far fetched. I believe they are possible, but not for decades. Lastly, can Langdon ever get the girl? He deserves some peace and happiness.
Nonetheless, I loved ‘Origin’. It was a thought provoking read that taught me new things about architecture, Spain, and technology. I forcefully recommend that you read not only ‘Origin’ but all of the Langdon series. You will never be bored, and I guarentee you will be educated in a variety of areas. Furthermore, I pray that this isn’t the last I hear of Robert Langdon. He is simple too good a character to retire.
I aspire to be an author like Dan Brown. He manages to make intriguing, complicated characters that maintain mass appeal. Brown also has a way of provoking thought by constantly weaving religion and symbolism into everything. It makes me wonder what Brown’s actual views on religion are. I could easily research this, but I choose to let it remain a unanswered question. Maybe he will tell me himself one day when I’m also a best selling author and we meet for coffee.

Top Tips To Make Black Friday Shopping Easier For You!

recite-rbrji5It may seem unusual to post Black Friday shopping advice two days after the event, but gotta live it to write it!
People in the UK aren’t as familiar with Black Friday as Americans are. Most think it is weird and unnecessary. In trying to explain it, I had to start at my first Black Friday. I was a junior at university, I had some money, and it was the first time I wasn’t wrapped up in family stuff over Thanksgiving. My friends and I decided to go out shopping, just to see what we could find. I ended up buying a set of stacking diamond rings for $100. It was an insanely good deal, and I still have the rings. It was my first big purchase for myself. I think that is why I’ve always viewed Black Friday favourably.
Before moving to England I worked in retail for a year at Kohls (a department store like Debenhams but cheaper). It was by far one of my favorite jobs ever. My first real day at work was actually Black Friday. And it wasn’t utter madness like you hear about in the media. People waited patiently in line, they weren’t rude or demanding. It was busy, but not unruly. The crazed mobs are the exception to the Black Friday rule, from what I have seen, people are prepared to wait in long lines and spend hours shopping because they know they are getting a good deal.
In the US, the major department stores do amazing Black Friday deals. They release their ad a week or two in advance, so customers can prepare a list. The stores deliberately stock large quantities of the discounted items because they know they will run out. There is always extra staff, and you can usually get an additional discount off the price advertised. For example, I got a Black Friday deal of a full sized heated blanket for $30 with an extra 15% off. Major steal! I think that if you are determined, in the US you can get some really good bargains on Black Friday. The cost is that you will wait in lines and the stores will be busy, and you will be giving up an entire day just to snatch the savings (worth it if you are truly a #doitcheap person like me).
Black Friday in the UK is not nearly as good. None of the stores have any good discounts. What New Look and M&S fail to realize is that American stores do so well during Black Friday because they deliberately order certain goods to sell cheap on the day (so they aren’t losing money). Where as in the UK, they just discount the full priced items, and not by much. I checked a bunch of stores in person and online to see if I could get any Xmas gifts on the cheap in the UK on Black Friday. I got no deals.
The only worthwhile site for Black Friday in the UK was Amazon. I bought a phone for $20 cheaper than I could find it elsewhere and my husband got headphones for $20 cheaper as well. But unless you need to make a big tech purchase, even the Amazon Black Friday deal’s aren’t that great. Many of them are only slightly discounted.
So, my overall Black Friday impression. In the UK it sucks. The British just haven’t evolved to the smart selling techniques of America. Don’t be tricked into buying any British “Black Friday” deals. However, in the US, Black Friday is a gold mine, if you have the patience or are happy to buy online and wait a week. I bought almost all my family’s gifts online during Black Friday and I saved at least $200. But, I had to do a lot of research, price comparisons and digging through websites to find the best deals. If you are prepared to put in the effort, than Black Friday is a must do for the #doitcheap shopper.
Added bonus (from someone who has worked in retail) about a week after Black Friday a lot of stores will put clothing and home goods into their clearance areas. They need to clear out Black Friday goods and left over autumn products to make room for the December Christmas items. So, check out Kohls or Macy’s clearance rack the week after Thanksgiving and you will probably find some good stuff.