Book addict turned occasional reader

DSC_0018

I think with a lot of reminiscence about post it notes I would fill in as a kid. Every three months i would take a new post it and make a list of the books I was planning to read for the next three months. The list would include about ten books and it would hang on a small area on the side of a book shelf (I liked to call this area my notice board). Back then I couldn’t live without reading and I usually got every single book read.

Lets fast forward 12 years. Nowadays I don’t think I finish eight books in a year… I visit book stores frequently. They are my safe place. There’s nothing more I like than the feeling of picking a book and all thinking of the plots, characters and surroundings it has between its covers. Reading can take you into a whole different world. A well written book can stretch your imagination to picture the scenes of a book in your head that you feel like you’re present at place. Reading sure is a great from of entertainment, but it can do a lot more.

Books can comfort us. They can be a temporary escape from our problems and they can put into words what we feel in with astonishing precision. Our favourite characters may feel more like friends than fiction. They mold our ideals and we pick up what’s best in them. What would Harry/Hermione/Nancy Drew do, I would ask myself as a kid when I wanted to do something I knew would later on haunt my conscience. Books give us a chance to see from a different perspective. Trying to understand a different kind of character will requires us to twist and turn our own way of thinking. It will make us question our believes. Make us think in a way we haven’t thought before. If we let it, it will make us more open minded.

However, a book can also be a series of uninteresting events binded together to make a book. Who ever first said don’t judge a book by it’s covers knew what he was talking about. It is impossible to tell whether the beautiful (and pricy) hard cover you just bought will blow your mind or bore you to death.

As a kid I didn’t discriminate. Most of the time I would finish the book I’d started even if was a bit boring. Sadly, as an adult most of the books I start remain unfinished. I buy new books all the time but unless they manage to hook me right from the start they will lie untouched on night stand for months until I admit to myself that I won’t finish it (any time soon) and put it on my book shelf. This is how it happened…

When I was in primary school I had really good library close. I’d go there almost every day and borrowed anything that seemed interesting. I didn’t want to miss out on anything… After primary school I changed schools and there was no good library near by. I had always wanted a library of my own and I thought that that would be a good time to start. So my library visits became more and more rare and my visits to the book store became almost a weekly thing. When it was my money at stake I was (obviously) far more selective. I’d reach for classics and prize winners.

For me, high school was a time for reinventing myself. I wanted to become smarter, a deep thinker, someone well read. Trying to better yourself is a very good thing, but my goals were affecting the books I bought. I would start reading a book with the intention that by the final page I would be able to converse about “important issues” without mumbling, stuttering and awe everyone with my argumentative skills. I should’ve known that that’s not how reading works… Somewhere in that process it came to a point where the results of reading reading became more important than reading itself and I stopped enjoying as much as I used to.

Right now there are plenty of books I’d like to read (there always is). I can’t possibly go back my old pace of couple of books a week, but I made a New Year’s resolution of finishing one book every month. I’ve also decided to start using the library again (need to find my library card, though).  And yes, I still can’t resist buying a book that has Pulitzer winning on the cover. I’m reading one right now and yes, it’s a bit boring.

Advertisements

Food on my face -switching to natural skincare

oil_collection

(image from eatright.org)

When it comes to skincare I can go a long way just with kitchen products. I use honey as a moisturising mask, citrus fruits for exfoliating and my all time favourite skincare products is organic, cold-pressed oils which I use for cleansing as well as moisturising.

When I was in my early teens I visited Bangladesh and we went to my  grandparents’ house in the countryside. The countryside in Bangladesh has the most exquisite nature, a very colourful lifestyle and insects that glow in the dark. However, the vain little teenager that I was, I focused mainly on people’s skins. Most local girls had clear, creamy complexions that all the Instagram filters combined couldn’t give me. Since we are talking about the rural areas, it’s pretty safe to assume that the  girls didn’t have an arsenal of Cliniques and Kiehls in their bathroom cupboards or slab foundation on their faces every morning. Instead, they used stuff like coconut water and olive oil on their skin. This is a harsh generalisation, but why is it that women in modern societies with all our cleansers, exfoliators and serums don’t seem to get nearly as good results as these girls did with just a few simple products? Was it the absence of synthetic chemicals in their skincare routine or was is something else? I didn’t come back home and abandon my Niveas and L’oreals, but the possibility of getting excellent results with just using minimal amount got stuck in my brain.

As I got older I took a real interest on what our everyday cosmetics consists of and how they might affect us. As I learned how parabens and alcohol might affect our skin, I started avoiding conventional cosmetics and looking for other options and what I had observed in Bangladesh many years ago became convenient. Although not all synthetic substances are harmful, it became very important for me that I knew exactly what I was putting on my face. It felt safer to moisturise my face with avocado oil, because well… it’s just avocado oil and nothing else.

One thing that I also find funny is how conventional skincare products are marketed to the consumers. The ingredient, which manufacturers highlight and on which they base the effectiveness of the product, is most of the time a natural one such as argan oil or aloe vera extract (I’ve personally never seen a product that has Now with PEG-10 Stearate written on it as a marketing strategy). Sadly, the natural ingredient in question is usually very far down the ingredient list, which means there’s probably a minuscule amount of it. So instead of buying an expensive cream which had about 2% of  say olive oil in it, I’d just buy a full bottle of olive oil, which was actually the cheaper option.

Switching to non-synthetic skincare has worked for me very well, but it’s not a magical solution to every single skin problem and it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Which ever one you prefer, I think it’s important to have some idea what exactly you’re paying for and will it benefit you or do the exact opposite. On that note, I’ll go through some of the disadvantages natural ingredients may ha.

  1.   Because of the lack of preservatives they don’t last as long.
  2.   Natural doesn’t automatically mean that no side affects. Like any other natural substance they    might cause an allergic reactions.
  3. Some people argue that oils, honey etc. as such have molecules that are so large that they are unable to go through the pores of our skins and benefit them the same way as actual skincare products. In theory, this makes a lot of sense, however, in practise I have nothing has worked for me as well.

Four tips on how to not graduate on time

Universally speaking student life in Finland has been made easy. University level education is free and if certain minimum requirements are fulfilled we’re entitled to a student allowance. Despite of all this (according to some because of all this) many students have trouble graduating in time.

Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong taking some extra time to finish your studies, so that you can work, focus on your hobbies or just lead a less hectic life. As long as it’s a conscious decision. It becomes a problem when you can’t control the phase of your studies and end up falling behind. If falling behind could be embodied as an object, it would be the mould growing in your cellar. It gets worse and worse and after a certain point it is very hard to fix. It also causes the person dealing with it a great deal on anxiety and stress.

As for me, not graduating in time is something I definitely didn’t plan. There’re various reasons behind that, but looking back to my past years in university, I’ve gathered some mines I stepped into, which you might want to avoid if you’re just starting your higher level studies.

  1. Deal with this later

I have no idea if this is common among freshmen but it took me a good long time to get used to how independent studying was at university. Course requirements varied from course to course and unlike in high school, there was no teacher to give me constant reminders to turn in my assignments. Sure, the lecturers did go through them at the first lecture and I used to sit in the middle rows and store all that (very crucial) information into an imaginary file in my brain labeled deal with this later. My later would mean sometimes almost halfway through the course (whereas university later usually means the following week) and I would realise that I had missed an important lab or a paper deadline. My advice: do not for a moment think that you’ll remember all the requirements for all the courses you have in a semester. 

The requirement are listed on the course website, which is enough for some students. I needed more extreme measures. After stumbling from course to course like a drunk person who has no clue what’s going on, I did what I do best -went shopping. I bought a beautiful, wax cover, pocket-sized Moleskine and started to write down assignments and deadlines for every single course that I took. This was to make sure that I’ve through them at least once. After that, I could decide whether I wanted to do those assignment or not.

2.    You can’t sit with me

For some people it’s easy -they are bubbly and vivacious and find their own place within any group. For others, such as myself, climbing a mountain seems like an easier task. Whether you belong in one of those two categories or you’re somewhere in between, it’s always a good idea to make at least one friend from your university.

I wish I could say that I’m behind on my studies because of an overflowing social calendar. Or because all of my study group meetings turned into catching up with friends. That was not the case.

Studying is obviously main purpose of going to university, but a student life which only consists of lectures and labs and assignments without social contact is a bleak experience and doesn’t really motivate anyone to go to school. Being detached from school can have disastrous effects on your studies and I personally believe that the best motivation to attend classes regularly is when your know that you’ll meet your friends there.

That being said, I do know many people who are progressing just fine with their studies even though they’re not “socially active”, so this is not carved in rock (none of these are), it’s just something that affected my progress.

3.   “I’ll do it next year”

This might be the single most important (or least unimportant) thing I have to say. All through middle school and high school I used to get pretty good grades and I was determined to keep that up in university. However, the phase in uni was far more hectic than I had imagined.

Anyone who reads my report sheet will no doubt think that I’m just lazy. They would be only partially correct. I sat through hours of lectures and did hundreds of calculations, but I have nothing to show for it. It’s actually fucking annoying. As exam week approached and work load piled up, I’d drop off courses and always assure myself that I’d do it next year when I have more time and get a better grade. That time it seemed smart and responsible. Here’s the problem in my process of thought. I had, due to momentary brain disfunction no doubt, assumed that I would have more time in later stages of my studies. Postponing a course for later will almost always mean that you’ll have postpone another course to make time for the course you postponed previously and the cycle goes on…

It all comes down to accepting a few “bad” grades in your report sheet. They’re annoying, but they are way better than having just a handful of courses with top notch grades.

4.  Just not interested

Studying for a degree in a field that doesn’t interest you much is one the most depressing things ever. One option would be to quit what you’re doing and seek the profession you want. The thought is scary, yet wonderful if you succeed. This is where my student life takes a happier turn. I did end up applying for the subject I initially wanted to study and I got accepted. And yes, it was kinda wonderful.

However, people tend to get more responsibilities as they get older and sometimes changing your field or starting a new degree from scratch isn’t an option. If that is the case, the best thing to do is to focus on the positive. If you’re studying engineering but wanted to become an artist, think of the financial stability you’re more likely to have in the future. Or if you’re working in customer service and wanted to be lawyer, think of all the extra time you’ll have for your friends and family. Every profession has its downsides -even the profession of your dream.

Taylor Swift, Spotify and me, the cheapskate

It appears that Taylor Swift has removed all of her music from Spotify. Most of us know what heart-break or a break up feels like. I’m talking about the feeling where you feel trapped and  powerless and a slight pressure in your chest. Learning for the first time that one of my favourite artists had gone bye-bye on my primary source of music felt a bit like a heart-break.  A heart-break in its minimal degree, but a heart-break nonetheless. I was trapped in a world where I wasn’t able to just press the play-button as listen to ‘Sparks fly’ like before.

As far as I know, Spotify gets its income from selling add space and premium memberships. According to Spotify 70% of its revenue goes to the music community, which seems fair. I mean, maintaining a channel the size of Spotify probably isn’t cheap. However, even with 70% profits going to the music community it’s obvious that artists get a lot less money from streaming channels than they would if consumers would buy their albums. In the end it all comes down to us, the listeners. Are we willing to pay more for music? Premium membership costs me about 10 euros per month which I think is extremely cheap. A huge selection of music you access anywhere and anytime and listen to the songs as many times as you want. I personally would be willing to pay way more than I pay right now. It would still be a lot cheaper than buying the songs individually and artists might have a slightly more positive attitude towards “free” streaming channels…

I understand Taylor’s decision to keep her newest 1989 from Spotify to increase its sales. I wasn’t planning on buying 1989, but wait for it to come to Spotify like all the other cheapskates. Now that it’s not probably going to happen any time soon, many of Taylor’s fans might go ahead and just buy the album.

But why remove the entire collection, though? More than anything, this action sends a strong message. However Taylor’s label Big Machine hasn’t commented on the issue and Ms. Swift herself, despite being very active in social media, hasn’t so much as posted a tweet about it.

I believe most Spotify users will (eventually) find peace with Spotify’s current content minus Swift and listen to Taylor’s as an occasional treat from places like Youtube. At least, that is what I intend to do. As much I love Taylor’s music I’m not going to rush to stores for her older production. First of all, I don’t think I own a CD-player that works and downloading the entire album to my computer and then transferring it to my Spotify library seems like a fuss. Secondly, there’s something wrong with my iTunes account and it’s not letting me buy anything (fixing it is one my list). But mostly, because I like having all of my music in one place and even with Taylor gone (from Spotify) it still has the majority of my favourite artists. So unless Katy Parry, Adele and the Fray follow Taylor’s path I think I’ll stick with Spotify…

I was also disappointed to find out that Evanescence’s old hit song Bring me to live too wasn’t available on Spotify anymore. That song came out of 2002. Really, Evanescence..? How much money do you actually think you can still make from it?