The Facebook intrusion

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FB sharing
Facebook is open to just about anyone to create their own profile and share their every waking thought with “friends”. Everyone who uses it tends to like to share information about themselves in different ways, which has given us a range of different types of user – from the over-sharing archiver who has pictures and comments for everything, the humble bragger and keyboard warrior who like to give social commentary reserved strictly for online audiences only, and the proud parents and relationship partners who feel the need to profess their love publicly.  It certainly makes for an interesting mix and a kind of weird perspective on the world we live in today.

Is that really you?
Online personasWe don’t all use Facebook to detail every minor detail of our lives (- although some do!) but it has to be said, no matter how humdrum your life may be, Facebook does give all of us an outlet to feel important and individual by designing an interesting, online Self that projects a vicarious image to the world.

Are we being bias?
There’s an argument to say that Facebook decides what information we consume by what it’s algorithms dictate appears on our feed. After all, it makes sense that the posts we “like” most and those from people who “like” our posts be made most visible because Facebook deems them most relevant to us. But in turn, this makes all other posts (and challenging views) invisible to us, which could suggest we’re just seeing a picture of agreement that simply confirms our biases and gives us comfort in a homogenous perspective. So while we think the Facebook social media architects are giving us more personalised interactions, perhaps all they’re actually doing is amplifying our biases by killing diversity, and stifling us by telling us what information to consume.

You WILL share everything!
Facebook is one of the worst perpetrators of automatic disclosure online. This so-called “frictionless sharing” means that anywhere you go and anything you do online can potentially be posted straight to your Facebook page without you even realising it.

Facebook like to share too!
facebook-privacyWe have to face facts, Facebook is selling each and every one of us out. As soon as you sign into Facebook and accept their terms, you sign away all rights. The cookies embedded on your device to access the application can track everything you do, including accessing your private messages. (So I suppose it makes sense that Facebook would pay $22 billion for the hugely popular group chat application, WhatsApp, now too!)

A Bulgarian teacher, Salim Virani, has documented how Facebook has systematically violated our lives and sold us out again and again (over a dozen times) to make money over the years. And with the privacy change that happened from 30 January he details some scary findings that Facebook achieve from new powers that will irreversibly eliminate our privacy.

Virani wites: “Facebook is demanding to track what you buy, and your financial information like bank account and credit card numbers. You’ve already agreed to it in the new terms of service. It’s already started sharing data with Mastercard. They’ll use the fact that you stayed on Facebook as permission to make deals with all kinds banks and financial institutions to get your data from them. They’ll call it anonymous, but like they trick your friends to reveal your data to third-parties with apps, they’ll create loopholes here too.”

“Facebook is also insisting to track your location via your phone’s GPS, everywhere and all the time. It’ll know exactly who you spend your time with… They’ll know how many times you’ve been to the doctor or hospital, and be able to share that with prospective insurers and employers. They’ll know when you’re secretly job hunting , and will sell your endorsement for job sites to your friends and colleagues – you’ll be revealed.”

“They’ll know everything that can be revealed about your location, and they’ll use it however they want to make a quick buck.”

You can’t leave – no really, all your peers are here!
What the Facebook party looks likeNo one wants to be the first to leave a party – even when everyone is aware the exciting time has passed and the atmosphere is petering out. Instead you hang in there a bit longer and make the effort to keep up with everyone, no matter how mind-numbingly dull things get, simply because everyone’s there and you have to be a part of it. The same could be said for Facebook. It’s the big room you can’t leave because, ultimately, it represents the online You and you need to be seen at the party.

Amanda Hess puts it perfectly: “Facebook is the living dead: the most popular, least relevant social network where teenagers and adults alike gather out of fear of missing out on things that don’t even make them happy.”

Some people literally can’t live without FB
internet-addictionFacebook has such devoted fans that some people claim to be addicted and unable to live without it.  In fact there is said to be over 350 million people suffering from Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) sucking up their time.

What is perhaps most disturbing, is that one in every three people who use Facebook and other social network sites say they often feel lonelier and more jealous after spending time on them.

Our Friendlier UK Festivals

UK festivals seem to be getting less friendly on the wallet and more restrictive to making our younger and canine family members welcome.  Here’s my breakdown of top child and dog friendly festivals in the UK in 2016…

 

Leamington Peace Festival
18th- 19th June 2016
£ FREE
A diverse and jam packed time table of events, workshops, talks, stalls and performances every year, showcasing local talent, crafts and causes as well as raising awareness on worldwide issues.

 

Dentdale Music & Beer Festival
24 – 26th June 2016, various venues, Sedbergh
£ FREE
A weekend of family fun held on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This festival takes place at various venues, pubs, and the campsites in and around Dent.

The Sun Inn and the George & Dragon provide real ales, home cooked food and a great atmosphere in the centre of Dent.
A separate area on the festival field will be dedicated to entertaining the children with a number of children’s games with a mix of live entertainment as well.

The music is usually spontaneous (although occasionally organised) so you won’t miss out wherever you are.

 

Stainsby Festival
15 – 17 July 2016
£20 day – £55 full weekend

A well-established, intimate and family friendly event in a beautiful rural setting, held in large marquees on a greenfield site in the picturesque hamlet of Stainsby, Derbyshire.  Held in large marquees in the picturesque Stainsby in Derbyshire, Stainsby Festival is a charity event with a focus on live music: hearing, playing, writing, performing, and learning. There are lots of activities for children, great comfort food, and exciting live music. Dogs are warmly welcomed as long as they are kept on a lead and all poop is scooped.

 

Ely Folk Festival
8th – 10th July 2016
£24 day – £81 full weekend camping
Taking place in the pretty cathedral city of Ely, this festival provides the opportunity to enjoy folk music in an intimate and friendly environment. As a dog friendly and activity packed event, Ely Folk Festival is perfect for a weekend camping trip or just a day out in the sun.

 

Cropredy Festival
11th – 13th August 2016
£70 day – £120 full weekend (& kids under 12 go free)

Cropredy is a picturesque village, five miles North of Banbury, which plays host to up to 20,000 music lovers each August for the annual Fairport Cropredy Convention, a festival that specialises in music that’s all about fun and positivity. The festival has a truly communal atmosphere, giving kids a warm welcome with special events such as teaching circus skills, and admitting all dogs.

 

Farmer Phil’s Music Festival
12th – 14th August 2016
£35 day – £75 weekend
Nestled in the rolling fields of Shropshire, Farmer Phil’s Music Festival is an all-encompassing, family friendly event that features 40 live music acts in three days. As well as great music, the festival also features unique entertainment such as magic shows and comedy acts, making it a great option for the whole family, including your dog.

 

Shrewsbury Folk Festival
26th – 29th August 2016
£35 day – £160 weekend
As one of Britain’s favourite folk festivals, Shrewsbury Folk Festival prides itself on providing a distinctive mix of folk and roots music. The festival is a great option for all campers, featuring amazing music, great food and drink, incredible dance, and lots of kid friendly activities.

 

Foodies Festival at Alexandra Palace
27th – 29th August 2016
£16 day – £25 (3 day)
Foodies Festival is officially the biggest food festival across the UK, featuring pop-up restaurants, street food, cooking demos, wine and champagne theatre and a vintage tea tent. Spice lovers can take part in the daily Chilli Eating Challenge or if you have a more mellow palate head to one of the stages for an eclectic mix of live music. Dogs are permitted if kept on a short lead.

 

 

Soprano-isms

“More is lost by indecision than by wrong choices” – forge ahead… Even when in doubt, assert yourself!

 

“You don’t s**t where you eat. And you really don’t s**t where I eat.”  – don’t piss on your own chips. Moreover, don’t let anyone else piss on your chips either!

 

“How can you trust a guy who can literally go f*** themselves?” – Paulie explains that snakes have both male and female body parts… “That’s why somebody you don’t trust, you call a snake.”

 

“You know, Tony, it’s a multiple choice thing with you. ‘Cause I can’t tell if you’re old-fashioned, you’re paranoid, or just a f**king asshole.” – Carmela to Tony

 

“There’s an old Italian saying: you fuck up once, you lose two teeth.” – do it right or pay/ die trying!

 

Wine faves

This is my growing list of select favourite wines:

White wines

Black Cottage Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Marlborough
Grape: Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)
Cost: £10.99
Lovely crisp, fruity white wine. Can only be described as having the personality of some of my favourite red wines – packing some punch!

Split Rock Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Grape: Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)
Cost: £9.99 (Laithwaites)
Easy-drinking, notes of gooseberry and citrus. Crisp, fresh, fruity and smooth.

 

Red wines

Porta 6 2012 Lisboa
Grape: Castelão, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional
Origin: Alenquer and Cadaval mountain regions, north of Lisbon, Portugal
Cost: £9.99
Full-bodied with smells and tastes of forest fruit flavours and touches of spice. Goes down far too easily! 🙂

Churchill Estates 2008/2009 Douro
Grape: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca
Origin: Portugal
Cost: £11.49 (Special offer £9.99)
Smooth, fruity, full-bodied, velvety red.

Red Heads Rack 1 Shiraz Cabernet 2008
Grape: Shiraz
Origin: McLaren Vale, Australia
Cost: £9.99 (Laithwaites)
Immense, dark, fruity flavour with an interesting layer of toasty vanilla complexity. A big, ripe wine with lovely structure.

Wolf Blass Red Label Shiraz Cabernet 2008
Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz
Origin: South Eastern Australia
Cost: £7.49 (Special offer £5.99)
A sumptuous, juicy red delivering plenty of ripe plum and red berry fruit flavours on both nose and palate, lifted by a subtle hint of spice and soft tannins on the finish.

Trio Reserva 2009
Grape: Cabernet Franc, Shiraz
Origin: Chile (D.O. Maipo Valley)
Cost: £8.99
A three grape blend that has distinct tastes of blackcurrant, plum and cherry. The Cabernet Franc adds something a bit different to add to the silkiness.

Montgras Reserva 2011
Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon – Syrah
Origin: Chile (Colchagua Valley)
Cost: £8.99 (Waitrose special £6.74)
Medium-full bodied, deep red wine with rich berry flavours and subtle cocoa and spice aromas.

 

Sparkling

Codorníu Reina Maria Cristina Blanc de Noirs 2010
Grape: Pinot Noir (Austria)
Cost: £14.99 (Special offer £9.99)
A lovely Cava that beats many higher priced champagnes hands down. Rich, creamy, full flavour, not too fizzy with dense bubbles.

Feeding nine billion people

How we can take action (- excerpts from www.feedingninebillion.com/take-action)

10 actions which would make a difference…

1. Shop at a farmers market

Farmers markets are one venue where you can buy directly from farmers.
Buying directly from the farmer helps the farmer retain more money from every pound spent than if they are sold through conventional food retail outlets like supermarkets. In addition to supporting farmer livelihoods, purchasing directly from your food producer lets you ask questions about how your food was grown. Not all vendors at farmers’ markets sell produce they grew themselves: different farmers markets have different rules about what can be sold.

Check out this site to search for local farmers markets in your area www.localfoods.org.uk

2. Join a community shared agriculture (CSA)

This is where the community shares in both the risks of farming and the bounty of the harvest. The way it works is you buy a ‘share’ of the farmer’s harvest in advance, giving the farmer the start up funds they need to grow their crops. Then you receive a box of food every week during the harvest. Similar to buying direct from farmers at farmers’ markets, buying direct from farmers through a CSA helps the farmer retain a greater portion of every pound you spend.

Simply post your search in Google for your nearest. I found this little gem for a CSA in Milton Keynes: www.foodtrain.org.uk

3.Try growing your own food

Growing your own food will increase your knowledge of food and reduce the miles your food has to travel to just about zero.  Additionally, you’ll gain a greater appreciation for the lifestyle of a farmer.

There are numerous books on the topics of growing your own food.  The internet will provide you with a vast wealth of knowledge, however if you prefer a book, one title is “The Backyard Homestead” which will provide any aspiring gardener with the basic knowledge to get started.

4. Experience farm life

As the world shifts to predominantly urban, the plight of a farmers is increasingly farther removed from our consciousness.  To gain an appreciation for our food, it is important to understand where it comes from.  Try holidaying at a farm.

5. Eat in season

When you’re eating peppers in the middle of winter, they came from a long way away.  Eating in season means that the food you’re eating is from the same region and that you’re supporting regional farmers.  For advice on how to do this, see the links below.

6.Eat efficiently

Foods from animals generally require more land, water and fossil fuels to produce than plant foods because not all of the feed livestock consume is converted into meat, milk and eggs. Try experimenting with vegetarian recipes or start a Meatless Monday tradition to cut back on your animal food consumption. There are many factors that contribute to efficient food production. For example, organic, grass-fed beef raised and consumed locally could be more efficient in terms of resources consumed in production than industrially produced fruits, vegetables, or vegetarian protein options produced and processed long distances from where they are consumed and shipped half way around the world to get into our supermarkets. Become informed about where your food comes from and what is required to produce it so that you can make more efficient choices.

7. Become informed about food

Gaining knowledge our the food system will help you make better choices and understand the current issues regarding food.  The www.feedingninebillion.com website provides some useful pointers.

8. Concentrate on food waste

Estimates state that globally, 30% of the food grown is wasted at some point between the field and the dinner plate.  Much of this waste is on the consumer end, as those leftovers aren’t as appealing on their third day.  Try making this a focus in your kitchen by being conscious of it and planning smaller meals so there aren’t so many leftovers to be wasted.  Additionally, preserving and processing raw vegetables is a great way to lower the amount of food waste in your kitchen.  The food waste you do have you could compost.

As a society, we are continually using more of the earth to store our garbage.  When you throw out compost this fills up the space in landfills and required us to use even more space for our garbage.  Additionally, if you try growing your own food, the compost will help improve the quality of your food.  Learn more about composting.

9.Volunteer professional skills or donate

There are many organizations which are working tirelessly to improve our food system in many ways.  They require resources to keep their efforts alive.  Consider donating or volunteering your skills and time as a way to get involved and make a difference.

Let’s have ‘The Talk’

overpopulation-scalesBy 1850, we had reproduced so successfully that in 200,000 years we had 1 billion people on Earth.  The next billion came in 100 years.  Now we add 1 billion people to the planet every 12 years!

In 2011 the world population reached 7 billion people.

As a species, we are a biological success story – we survive.
We are also a religious success story – we have gone forth and multiplied.

But now we have to stop… or it will be our downfall.

Every day we add 229,000 people to the planet. This is unsustainable… which means the world’s population has to stop growing.

The question is how?  Will it stop over famine, disease, war over resources or will it stop growing because people choose to have smaller families?

Actress Alexandra Paul discusses her lifelong concern about human overpopulation and the fears we all have about discussing the issue. (January 2013)

The fastest and most efficient way to stabilise the world population is to send girls to school and to empower women. To give everyone access to an education on birth control.

 

Stand-out moments of 2012

2012 was an eventful year. It was both turbulent and destructive yet celebratory and joyous.

Olympics2012 best moments
In this year, we really saw the “Great” in Great Britain served up and shared with the rest of the world – from the amazing staging of the golden Games to an entrancing summer of sport and the Queen’s diamond Jubilee.  Despite the weather, people congregated and partied together in celebration of our British heroes.

Gary Dobson and David Norris were finally found guilty of Stephen Lawrence’s murder of 1993.
Later in the year, the British public saw the BBC in disrepute as the Jimmy Savile case erupted with 450 sexual abuse allegations made against him.  BBC director general, George Entwhistle resigned (with a £450,000 severance payment!) after just 54 days in the job (when a Newsnight report led to former Tory treasurer Lord McAlpine being wrongly accused of child abuse on Entwhistle’s watch) and the Lord Leveson report gave rise to question the need for greater press regulation.

Elsewhere, we saw the devastating effects of global climate change taking their toll – not least as we learned that the Arctic sea ice (aka the world’s natural air-conditioning unit) had shrunk to a record low, global sea levels were continuing to rise faster than predicted and the world was at the mercy of more extreme weather conditions – such as Hurricane Sandy that went on to destroy swathes of the east coast of America late in the year.

And while we saw austerity provoke discord in Spain and Greece, calling for a 130 billion euro bailout package for Greece, we also saw Edvard Munch’s harrowing painting, The Scream, (no. 5, 1948) sell for 140 million dollars.

Wars continued, including that in Syria which has seen over 44,551 people killed in the Syria crisis since March 2011 – with over 100 (many of them children) added in the Houla massacre in March 2012.

Soulful songstress, Whitney Houston died, as did Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta Island tortoises- a Galapagos giant and reportedly the rarest creature on earth.

Obama was re-elected to win a second term and a fearless Austrian dare-devil called Felix broke the sound barrier in a fall to Earth from space.

See it all here in the Guardian’s  interactive guide to the most extraordinary news and viral videos of 2012.