99 days without facebook

Switch off your phone and switch on your brain

 

We’ve written in this magazine before about how facebook has changed our lives and the way we understand communication and friendship.  Love it or hate it, fb can be a useful tool if you use it sensibly but… do you remember what living without facebook was like? Meeting up with your friends everyday, in real life and actually face to face, not checking your phone or feeling the need to let everyone know where you are or sharing your thoughts every 10 minutes? Sharing experiences online is great, but is it the same if no one is really there? How much do you miss of what is happening all around you  while you are on the phone?

 

 

Would you quit facebook for three months if it meant that you’d be a happier person? Would you like to come off facebook so you can enjoy this summer holiday for real, but you don’t have the willpower?

I am afraid the only way of finding out whether there is a life outside of facebook or not, is to force yourself to stop using the social media platform for a while.

The non-profit organization Just can help you if you want to try! This project is called 99 Days of Freedom and it was launched by Netherlands-based creative agency Just. Given that facebook’s 1.2 billion users spend an average of 17 minutes on the site a day, Just estimates that 99 Days’ participants will save 28 hours of wasted time over three months. The non-profit’s directors suggest using that time to volunteer, learn a new skill or spend more quality time with your family.

 

The 99 days project website

 

 

99 Days of Freedom is a reaction to the news that fb is indeed using the data we provide it and the comments we leave to study us.  You can read here about fb’s experiment on you.

The creators of this project do not even ask you to delete your profile forever (which sounds pretty scary); instead, they invite users to log off facebook for 99 days, replace their profile photo with a “time off” image, start a countdown clock, and take time each month to consider whether they might actually be happier offline.

Will you accept the challenge?

 

Vocabulary

Check up (verb) : an examination to see if everything is in order.

Willpower (noun): self-control and determination.

Countdown (noun): the act of counting backwards.

 

Life is what happens while you are looking at your smartphone

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Posted in Technology

The most expensive potato salad in the world

‘Crowdfunding’ is one of those terms that nobody had heard of -and wouldn’t have understood- just ten years ago. Now it’s a common practice to fund all sorts of things, from covering medical treatment to starting up film projects. In these times of financial and institutional crisis and fierce competition, the Internet has become the best way to find attention and money for any cause or purpose. It’s immediate, accessible and open, empowering anybody with an idea to reach backers anywhere on Earth.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo have become great platforms for all kinds of initiatives, allowing anybody, anywhere, to participate and pitch in with whatever they can offer. By the same token, anybody can create a campaign and try to gain support for their initiative- no matter how crazy.

Take Zack ‘Danger’ Brown from Columbus (Ohio, US) who created a kickstarter page to raise the 10 dollars he needed to make a potato salad. With donations rising to over $50,000 we could safely say that it is the most expensive potato salad in the history of potato salad. Or salads. Or food! His plea is simple: “Basically I’m just making potato salad. I haven’t decided what kind yet”. After exceeding his modest goal of $10 he decided to accept all donations until the deadline, next August 2, with a minimum pledge of $1.

People who participate in crowdfunding projects aren’t always guaranteed any return on their investment at all, but in the bigger crowdfunding campaigns they are often rewarded with future products, shares or prizes. As donations started growing, so did Zack’s potato salad offer package: from having a potato carved with your own name to choosing an ingredient or even hanging out in the kitchen where he will be cooking. When the stakes went even higher he stretched his goals, including a second potato salad recipe, better mayonnaise, hiring a chef, doing a live stream of the cook-out and even renting out a party hall to invite the whole Internet to his potato salad party.

 

Zack's Kickstarter potato salad page

His success has taken everybody by surprise,- and made many angry. With crowdfunding becoming more and more popular, many websites have emerged and with them a vast number of causes to support. While Zack’s petition is now taking up all the media attention, other “more serious” petitions are struggling to break through and get backers. There is a growing debate as to where to draw the line between legit petitions and tasteless trolling, a task that is difficult in the era of freedom of speech and free market. After all, our cash is ours to spend on whatever we fancy. Some think that the difference between this campaign and more “deserving” ones is that Zack’s is actually better and, far from being boring or samey, lets backers participate in the joke… and the fun.

Apparently the average backing amount is about $6.70. Would you donate this kind of money to the salad campaign? Would you rather spend it on some other initiative? What’s your opinion on websites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo? Would you ever use them to raise money for something?

 

What do you think?

To add more controversy to the case, yesterday the food corporation Kraft launched a video homage in the form of a ballad about the perfect dressing for Zack’s salad. Do you think that the whole fun about the idea is lost when a commercial brand gets involved? Do you think it casts suspicion on Zack’s original plea for money?

 

Let’s cook!

Even Jamie Oliver has jumped on the bandwagon of the potato salad craze and has done his own recipe homage in his youtube channel “What’s Jamie eating today?”

 

Vocabulary:

  • Backer (n): a person who gives financial or other support
  • Plea (n): an appeal or request
  • Pledge (n): a payment, promise or contribution you make expecting something in return. In websites such as Kickstarter members who launch a campaign make an appeal for money promising to do something if the financial goal is achieved (e.g. making a potato salad)
  • Pitch in (v): to cooperate or contribute
  • Stakes (n): an investment in business, with the hope of financial gain
  • Draw the line (idiom): to set a limit or to separate one thing from another
  • Legit (adj): informal for legitimate, real.
  • Fancy (v): in this context it means to like
  • Samey (adj): (colloquial) repetitive, same as everything or anyone else in their class
  • Jump on the bandwagon (idiom): to support something that is popular

 

Let us know your recipe for potato salad below in the comments!

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Posted in Now

How much do you really know about the World Cup?

Bart-brazil-cake

By now, there’s not a place on Earth where you could possibly hide from the the football World Cup fever that has taken over the media and infected almost  everybody. Even those who are not generally interested in football (or sport) can’t help falling for the hot topic of the month, including myself, I must confess.

We’ve heard, seen and read so much about this competition that it is difficult to tell the real expert from the seasonal aficionado. If you think that you know everything about football and the World Cup, then this quiz by The Guardian is your chance to show your expertise and put your mastery to the test.

If your results show that there is some room for improvement or if you are just a lover of trivia,you will find The Telegraph’s top 50 greatest World Cup moments here.

To brush up on your footie vocabulary skills here’s a game to test specific terminology. See how many goals you can score!

This World Cup has had some extremely high-score matches (7-1?  Ouch!). It has also been unpredictable, with big surprises like Costa Rica’s race to the semis and epic defeats of giants like Spain and Brazil.

Do you think you can guess this year’s winner? How good were your predictions for the previous phases of the competition?

Click here to measure your guesses against other Guardian readers’ and try to make the best prediction for the big Cup  final on Sunday.

Germany-argentina

Vocabulary

  • Aficionado (n):a person who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity, subject, or pastime. It’s a bit of a false friend for Spanish speakers in some contexts!
  • Expertise (n): expert skill or knowledge in a particular field
  • Mastery (n): comprehensive knowledge or skill in a particular subject or activity; control or superiority over something or someone.
  • Footie (n): short and colloquial for ‘football’.

What do you think has been the biggest surprise so far this World Cup? Let us know below in the comments.

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Posted in Sports

Grammar like you’ve never learned it before

partygorillasquare

Have you ever wondered what the expression “i.e.” means? Or how to use “whom”? Textbooks, grammar manuals and lately the Internet are our main sources of information when in doubt about how to say or write something. We’ve got to admit that language learning resources are not always the most fun things, and probably one would get out more from them were they less boring.

commas

Even native speakers have problems of the with the spelling of certain words in their own language and the use of punctuations marks. The Oatmeal has a collection of seriously funny charts that explain some tricky aspects of the English language, from the usage of the semicolon or the apostrophe and the meaning of ‘literally’ to the most commonly misspelled words.

If you like this kind of stuff, you’ll find lots of comic strips and quizzes in the website, including this one to test your spelling skills for twitter.

Ready for the challenge?

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Posted in Fun!

Staycationing like a pro: eating in Barcelona

Barcelona eat out

Barcelona is one of the major tourist centres in Europe so there are a million and one guidebooks for travellers, many of which are specialized to cater to all kinds tastes, interests and purposes. If you have just moved to the city, or even if you are Barcelonian born and bred, it is always interesting to know what’s going on in your city, especially in this cosmopolitan, fast-paced melting pot of the Mediterranean.

Regina Winkle-Bryan is an American freelance writer who has lived in Barcelona for the last 8 years… and spent a good portion of that time eating and drinking! She and Adrián Benítez Martos are the creators of the Eat Guides, publications written by hungry local connoisseurs of the best food spots.  The Eat Guides are aimed at other locals or tourists interested in making the most of the gastronomy on offer of the place they are visiting.

Barcelona Eat out2

Their first publication is the issue dedicated to Barcelona, with 40 recommended eateries and bars that they have tried and tested while living in the city. They include not only high-end restaurants but also family-run establishments and, in general, affordable eating places suitable for all tastes and budgets. They focus on Catalan and Spanish food but also include other types of cuisine, taking into account vegetarians and those who have food allergies too. Their guide is honest, fun and simple as they are not chefs nor experts and all they want is to share their experiences exploring the city and, above all, enjoying food.

They also participate in the Internet project called The Spain Scoop, where English-speaking expats living in Spain (but who still have the curious eyes of a traveller) write about their new home, recommending hidden spots, amazing local food and anything else  you can imagine. It is a great way to rediscover places that you already know —and it will surely reveal hidden gems round the corner from yours!

Vocabulary

  • Cater for (v): to provide or supply what is needed or required, either food or any other type of service.
  • Born and bred (adj phrase): this expression describes someone who was born and grew up in a particular place and has the typical character of someone who lives there
  • Connoisseur (n): a person with special knowledge or appreciation of a field, esp in the arts
  • High-end (adj): the most expensive of a range of products
  • Expat (n): short for ‘expatriate’; someone who lives in a country different from their country of origin
  • Hidden gem (np):a gem is normally a precious stone but it can also refer figuratively to anything that is prized or appreciated because of its beauty or its worth. A ‘hidden gem” is something very remarkable but that very few people know about, as for instance a tiny plaza in your city that only some locals know about.
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Posted in Lifestyle

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