How not to Irritate at the Airport

Airports should probably be labelled with a public health warning because of the stress they induce. They’re crowded with a mass of people all seeking different locations in different languages. The result is a swarm of chaos filled with swinging suitcases and screaming children. Every day the news doesn’t report on a riot at an airport is a surprise. Somehow the chaos succeeds and safely transports people to every country on the globe. However, the triumph can only last so long. The law of averages dictates that someday this system must fall apart. I think we can delay this though. By lessening our irritating traveling traits perhaps airports can remain brawl free a little longer.

 

The Golden Rule of Waiting in Line

In every airport there are two vital queues. Firstly, there is the baggage check line, followed by the wait to board the plane. How you behave in these social structures determines your fellow travelers perception of you. The golden rule for any queue is space. Waiting in lines is understandably irritating but feeling someone else’s breath on your ear is worse. You have to provide the person in front of you with enough room to drop something and bend down to retrieve it, without feeling obliged to buy them dinner afterwards.  Shortening each other’s personal space doesn’t make the process any quicker. After all, we are all boarding the same plane or waiting for the individual who forgot to take their laptop out of their carry-on bag. A little consideration for each other’s breathing space makes for a much smoother wait.

 

The People Getting the 16:35 Flight to Shanghai

If there was an award for the most appalling passengers it would go to these people. Approximately twelve individuals whose collective failures managed to be irritating in every part of the airport. Beginning at baggage check we have two young men and a lady. The trio’s biggest accomplishment was taking eighteen minuets to be scanned and collect their luggage. They achieved this through their desire to keep all personal belongings in their pockets, refusing the separate the liquids from their luggage and hiding hair straighteners and laptops under their clothes. Their collective efforts were an effective tester of airport security and proved just how safe air travel can be.

Once the Shanghai destined party were safely ushered through baggage check they descended into duty free shopping. It was relief to other passengers to see them browsing discount chocolate and reduced price alcohol. Avoiding their crowd I headed to the long passport control line. The relief was short lived as all twelve party members came rushing with their new purchases, attempting to push to the front of the queue. Only one individual offered an explanation for their behaviour. Essentially, they had been shopping so long that they forgot their flight was departing in ten minutes. Armed with discounts they managed to push to the front of a line every body had been waiting in for nearly half an hour. Their collaborative irking deserves a lifetime ban from air travel. To achieve this I have appealed to several UN bodies but have received no response.  The next logical step seems to be crowdfunding. My goal is to gather enough cash to only send these people on cruises.

Conserve your Carry on

The price for extra baggage is excessive. It’s no wonder people attempt to cram excess carry-on luggage onto the plane.  Flight staff rarely check the amount of cargo people are trying to smuggle onto the aircraft. Most of the time they are too busy or it’s not worth the hassle of engaging a cranky traveler who is over eager to complain.  The result of this lack of regulation is a serious lack of space. People are scrambling to stuff their slightly too large cases into the over head compartment, willing to crush everybody else’s belongings in the process.  When the compartments are opened upon landing several suitcases descend on people’s head. On average four passengers are removed from the aircraft on stretchers for immediate medical attention. In order to reduce airplane injuries we should attempt to only take an appropriate amount of luggage and remember that your family’s coats can under the seat, instead of taking up valuable storage space.

 

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Beating the January Blues

The festive season is truly over and we have all returned to work. Another twelve months stands before the next holiday period. Everybody’s face is as grey as the weather outside as the memory of December’s celebrations are fading like a dream. It’s no surprise that January becomes the month that most people change jobs. There’s an urge for excitement again and a desire to seize the next year.  Even if you are happy in your job the blues may still come creeping. To help your beat them  I have put together a short list of tips, hopefully making the winter months more enjoyable.

Treat Your Self

Even if it feels like the pages of the calendar flip by quickly a year is still a long time. Having something to look forward to breaks down the months. Book yourself a mini-break. The promise of sunshine or another culture makes the stresses of every day slip by a little easier. If you can’t wait that long then maybe it’s time for a day to indulge yourself. It doesn’t need to be huge expense. Buy a face-mask or wander around museums and galleries. Anything that gives you a little time for yourself is a good thing. People may say it’s selfish but the truth is that a bit of time to recharge is essential for everybody. We are human beings not robots. Living everyday for the demands of others is the existence of a machine and doesn’t promote an emotionally stable person. Sometimes you just have to treat your self in order to treat others to the best side of you.

No New Year New Me Nonesense

As soon as midnight strikes on New Years Eve social media becomes flooded with statuses. The posters are all proclaiming that profound changes in their lifestyle are about to occur. They are going to go to the gym, give up smoking and despite drinking two bottles of champagne last night they are definitely quitting alcohol. We all know that these attempts rarely last. The reason for this is because they are negative. Starting the New Year by guilting yourself into giving something up like drinking or fatty food isn’t going to make you feel better. Instead of starting the next twelve months with some encouragement you’ve given yourself a lecture.

Rather than revolving our lifestyle changes around something we dislike in ourselves it may be better to choose a positive target. It’s time to focus on increasing our self-worth an value instead of detracting from it. The question is, how do we go about doing this? Firstly you have to figure out what you want to do. Have you always wanted to paint or sew yourself a dress? Then it’s the perfect time to give it a go. Find a group in your area, watch online tutorials and get your hands messy. You’re going to be appalling at first but given time you will achieve, increasing your creativity and developing a new skill. Do you spend eight hours a day in front of a computer screen and have no idea how it works? Thankfully the internet is flooded with free online courses (like https://www.coursera.org/) that range from programing to art history. Engaging your brain can only be a positive, stretching your view of everyday life. Ultimately, when we are picking changes it’s best to choose something that will make us feel better about ourselves. Seeing ourselves develop and expand is an endorphin boost to beat the blues of everyday life.

 

Be Kind to Yourself

There are 7.6 billion  Homo Sapiens spinning on a giant rock in a small corner of space. Each of us wakes up every day, hopefully eats, goes to the bathroom and eventually goes back to bed. If you make it through those waking hours then well done. Did you manage to do something a little better than the day before? Congratulations! If today defeated you a little be kind to yourself because there is always tomorrow. The next day might be the best day of your life.

 

 

Maya Angelou’s Most Memorable Lessons

Some days life can knock you down and sending your hiding under the duvet. On these occasions I find myself before the bookshelf. The pages contain past wisdom, with the power to perk me up and send me back into the struggle. From Camus I learned to keep pushing the eternal boulder with a smile like Sisyphus.  Whilst the Stoics and Buddha teach how to accept the inevitable. When times seem especially tough I turn back to one of my favourite teachers: Maya Angelou. It is simply Dr Angelou’s positivity that picks me up again, preparing my return to the wider world. I’d like to share some of her most enriching expressions. Hopefully, I don’t infringe too many copyright laws along the way.

 

Love Liberates

This is a simple lesson and it’s probably one you’re already aware of, “if you love something, sometimes you have to let it go.” Even though concept is common knowledge it’s hard to exercise. Like most things Love liberates is easier said than done. After all, complex emotions and bonds are easily muddled by every day existence. Our intentions can be perfectly pure in wanting the upmost for another but how we express these intentions can be binding. If you are blessed enough be loved and have people that you love then it’s worth loving a little like Dr Angelou.

 

Homo Sum Humani Nihil a me Alienum Puto

If you’re anything like me then your Latin language skills are none existent. Thankfully there are a number of slightly different  translations of the sentence. Angelou offers, “I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me.” Although she was multifaceted person Angelou wasn’t a time traveler from Ancient Rome. The phrase originates from the playwright Terence. A slave who penned himself to freedom during the heights of the Roman Empire.

Dr Angelou emphasised the importance of these words and internalising their lesson. Doing so allows you enjoy  the great achievements of our species. All the components for ingenuity, compassion and creation rest within you. Conversely, any destructive act a human can commit is within capabilities. This makes you empathise and stops you from imparting a moral judgement on another.

Homo Sum Humani Nihil a me Alienum Puto is a hard lesson to live. I must fail about a hundred times a day. But it’s always worth trying again. Offering understanding to yourself and others can only bring people closer.

 

And Still I Rise

There’s only so long you can lounge in your melancholy. If I need something to kick me into the shower and out into the sunshine then I remember And Still I Rise. When I hear the poem I am reminded of the effort that came before this day: A thousand hunter gatherers who scrapped through harsh winters for our survival; the immeasurable love and support that pushed me to this point in time; every drop of rain water and every rotation of the earth has projected me here. The lesson I learn from Dr Angelou’s poem is that the battle of life must be loved. It’s going to knock you down but eventually you will stand up again.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman Review

After the indulgence of the Christmas period and the unfortunately rapid return to work I found myself exhausted. To cure my January Blues I retired from the reawakening world and I spent my Saturday night (and majority of Sunday) curled up with Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology and the last of the season’s chocolates. I hadn’t intended to indulge both days in the stories but after the first few pages the outcome was inevitable.

If you ever attempted to explore the world of the Old Norse Gods then you’re confronted with a lack of modern interpretations. Most likely you’ll be offered the Poetic and Prose Eddas, quickly followed by Marvel’s dissimilar Comic Book hero. Last year I attempted the poetic Edda and enjoyed the lyrical stories. However, it’s not an easily accessible book and not recommended for young readers. Gaiman’s contribution is a perfect solution to this problem.

Norse Mythology presents the usual cast of Odin, Thor, Loki and others in an easily understandable way. The deeds and downfalls of the old Scandinavian Gods are depicted in a light and engaging manner.  Gaiman’s re-imagining has the unique quality of appealing to both adults and younger readers, which all myths should do. His style makes for easy reading and this simplicity allows the quality of the original stories to shine. In his introduction Gaiman writes that he chose the tales because of his childhood fondness. Hopefully, he was also interested in the myths of other lands too. A whole series of the world’s ancient stories in this style is worthy of any bookshelf.

The Days Out That Didn’t Happen

Research claims that the optimal amount of holiday time is eight days. Just over a week away  is the perfect time frame to improve your mood and recharge you for work again. Defying science I recently found myself with twelve free days. Dividing my time between Stockholm and Manchester, I intended to develop my interests in art and design, returning to my colleagues as a matured individual. Unfortunately, this did not go according to plan because of a conspiracy to close all museums and galleries when I wanted to visit. The twelve days past and I only managed to browse one museum. However, I can still dream and write up a list of my desired days out, pretending I occupied each venue.

Färgfabriken

Established in its current incarnation in 1995 Färgfabriken is a gallery dedicated to art, architecture and urban planning. The word ‘fabrik’ translates from Swedish as factory, a fitting title that reflects the building’s original industrial purpose when built in 1889. Located in Liljehomen it would have been a perfect afternoon’s exploration. Usually, I take the airport bus straight to the area before heading to ICA for supplies. Not only is the location convenient for myself but the focus on art reflects my interests. On the other hand, architecture and urban planning are fresh realms for my imagination. I usually prefer to explore design through objects as opposed to buildings, so the opportunity to develop an interest in a new medium is intriguing. Alas, the gallery is currently closed for rehanging. Exhibitions don’t reopen until the end of January but the cafe is running still. It’s disappointing that i haven’t seen something so close to where I normally reside. However, the delay peaks my interest further and Färgfabriken is a must visit next year.

Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art

The CFCCA can be found in Manchester’s Northern quarter and promised to be the beginning to my Monday trawl of the city’s galleries. My plan was to peruse the CFCCA, grab some lunch with my friend and finish the day browsing the University’s collection. However, a more thorough search of CFCCA website would have revealed that the gallery isn’t open on Mondays. This left a hole in the morning’s plans and the Christmas market lured us in with mulled wine. Time passed and the University’s gallery had the dropped for the Manchester gallery, bowling and of course more wine.

It’s disappointing to have attempted to visit the CFCCA on a day when it wasn’t accessible. Their collection was alluring due to complexity of modern Chinese culture. I was hoping to examine expressions that detailed existence from such an influential country. With the largest population the breadth of creation must surely be far reaching. Similarly, the experiences of Native Chinese artists compared with those living abroad or children of immigrants provides even richer layers and opportunities for artistic expression.

Despite the set back the day wasn’t lost. Manchester gallery is never disappointing and I enjoyed introducing my friend to Pre-Raphaelite painting. It’s a good feeling to repeat a gallery and reacquaint yourself with your favourite paintings. The gallery appears to have taken Giacometti Alberto’s portrait of  his mother out of circulation. It’s a piece I’m particularly fond of and slightly saddened to see it gone. Thankfully there are still copies online. The following one in courtesy of Manchester gallery’s website.

Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities (Östasiatiska)

Stockholm’s Östasiatiska  was my second opportunity to absorb Asian culture. I can’t explain why I’m heavily attracted to East Asian art but I know it always has me enthralled. Examining simple tea sets and art prints as well as clothing and sculpture   always enjoyable. With a free day I decided that Östasiatiska would be a perfect ending to this month’s Stockholm visit. The museum offers an exploration of Korean, Japanese and Chinese arts. These range from traditional Korean furniture and tea ceremony sets to a sculpture gallery. After absorbing all the artifacts there’s a cafe that even sells flower tea. If there was a tick list for an ideal afternoon then Östasiatiska potentially gets full marks.

Unlike the galleries this museum was open during my visit. My issue was trying to locate the building. It’s situated in Skeppsholmen along with several other museums worth wandering. In truth, I have been to the island several times but this time I got off at the wrong tube station and became lost. With evening drawing in and evening plans looming I decided the destination was a lost cause. I found myself in the national library again. Ideally, I would have preferred to traverse new knowledge but the library is a beautiful , circular building worth revisiting. Just like galleries and museums, libraries always provide a moment of calm and culture against the calamity of the city outside.

 

 

Doing Battle with the ‘D’ Key

I’ve had my laptop for about five years. It was a gift for when I went to university. The machine has survived my clumsy care surprisingly well. I’ve smashed the screen once, split tea, water and pizza on it as well. The right hand corner is now murky from a coco cola attack. Despite the neglect the device functions well and doesn’t want to retire to the dustbin just yet. I’m uncertain if this computer or the last McDonalds burger meal in Iceland will last longer. However, although the technology is than the Greek economy it does have a single flaw: The D key is jammed.

The problem started about a year ago, after I last spilled a drink onto it. In an effort at recovery I removed as many detachable parts as possible. During this attempt something became lodged in the keyboard and that has become impossible to shift. Typing now induces the same pain as beginner guitar lessons. I’m waiting on the day my fingers adjust to the required shape and pressure of the letter. This evolution appears to be taking the usual time it takes species to adapt. By the time my digits have accustom themselves to the new environment global warming will have destroyed most of the habitable planet.

There are a few things I’ve tried in order to rectify the issue. Firstly, I endeavored to copy and paste every d I used. This technique inhibited the flow of writing too much. The time taken to reach down the keyboard and click paste felt longer than the extra pressure required. Next, I pretended that the key didn’t exist. I typed as usual, skipping the letter and ignoring the its place in the English language. At the end of the paragraph I went back and auto-corrected every misspelled word. This is harder to accomplish than it would appear. You have to teach yourself how to spell fundamental words incorrectly. I wouldn’t recommend this method because at best it is vexing and at worse you may regress to toddler level spelling.

The solution to the problem is to either dislodge the key and remove the blockage or completely replace the keyboard. I have a replacement already. In fact, I’ve had a new set of keys for nearly twelve months. Unfortunately, I don’t trust myself with a delicate procedure after the accidents I’ve already inflicted on the machine. The alternative is to let somebody else do the operation but that requires sacrificing my favourite piece of technology for a few hours. Instead, I’ll keep the tricky key, take extra care and be grateful for something as mundane as the letter D.

 

Pokemon Ultra Sun: Gen VII and the Growth of the Games

It has taken me six days to complete Pokemon Ultra Sun. I would have finished sooner if I wasn’t an adult and had to work in between playing. Regardless, I’m content with the time sunk into the Pokemon company’s latest title because I believe it is their best offering yet. In fact, I am grateful to be playing the game later in life as I have been able to play most of the other titles as well. This has allowed me to watch the series develop and mature into the current generation. I’d like to highlight some of the evolutions in the games that have begun to thrive in the newest editions.

Storytelling

Since the original Red, Blue and Yellow titles the Pokemon games have followed a standard formula. Each new edition gained slightly more features, a new set of critters to catch and benefited from the upgrades in recent technology. Over time the games became fairly standard in their content. You start your journey as a child to collect that region’s badges; another child forms some form of rivalry with you and will attempt to defeat you throughout the game; you have to foil the plans of the country’s evil team and capture the legendary Poke; finally you defeat the Pokemon League, become Champion and all there’s left to do is collect every creature to complete your Pokedex.

I won’t deny that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon share all of these common traits that epitomise the series. However, the newest games expand heavily outside of this. Instead of the traditional eight gym set up, you have to complete a series of trials. The trials always conclude with you fighting a totem Pokemon instead of a gym leader. These beasts are buffer versions of what you normally encounter in the wild and present a harder challenge than can be found in most Pokemon games. Frequently, I found myself defeated by these new obstacles.

Until Ultra Sun and Moon your journey to become the region’s Pokemon champion was always hindered by an evil team e.g. Rocket, Plasma, Magma etc. The new games not only boast Team Skull but you also have to contend with the Aether Foundation, the Ultra Recon Squad (are they bad, good or just cyborgs?) as well as the post game Rainbow Rocket whose ranks include every villain from the previous titles. The expansion of the story is perhaps due to technology as well as how much time developers can pour into the games. No matter what the cause of the fresher and more expansive story is, the result is a more engaging and unique experience.

Variety

After seven generations of games the Pokemon franchise has expanded a lot. The original 150 creatures has multiplied into 807, which is an awful lot to choose from. The Alola region offers over 400 of these to capture. I put my starter in the box and made my team completely of Pokemon that resemble dogs.  This was only possible because after so many games the world has a ridiculous variety of creatures to choose from. Not only are there a lot of Pokemon to fill your party but you can also catch almost every legendary (I don’t think Mew, Celebi or Shaymin are available). The plethora of options allow for endless combinations and fresh ways to play. This is developed further by regional variants. These variants take the standard Pokemon you have come to know and exposes them to different biological diversity. A new region provides new environmental pressures and their result is abstractly evolved Pokes.

Features

In the older games there wasn’t much to distract you from the main story. If you wanted an early Dratini or Porygon you could always gamble all your money in Game Corner. Likewise, Gen IV offered mining opportunities for rare stones and secret bases were available in Gen III but none of these side features engaged me for very long. Most of them demanded you play with friends or weren’t fun enough to distract from the story line. Ultra Sun and Moon offer more rewarding features such as a surfing mini game to get between cities. Surfing whilst fun also rewards your for your efforts and skill with TMs.

In the same vein, you can ride on a legendary Pokemon throughout space. In this feature you dodge electro-balls, garner energy for boosted speed and are rewarded for your skill by traveling through wormholes where rare Pokemon reside. The new mini-games are more appealing because they are not just distracting. Even though you aren’t forced to play them they offer rare and unique rewards that are often unattainable elsewhere in the game. Dedicating your time to them is essential to completing your Pokedex and providing a complete experience of Ultra Sun and Moon.

Overall, when I think back across my time with the Pokemon franchise I am happy to see how it has grown. The content is more plentiful and richer, the game play is more challenging and whilst a lot of the traditions of the series remain untouched there is original ideas being offered. The accumulations of the franchise so far has potentially produced the best game to date. Apparently Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are the last titles to be released on the 3DS console. It may be a few years before we see a new game and who knows what format it will take but if the most recent games are any indication then the franchise can only get better.