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Ten Must Have Free New York apps for newbies

Posted by admin on Oct 15, 2012 in lists, news, technology

AlmostZara has now gone international, and I’ve moved my main residence from London to New York City. After going through the various stages of culture shock- meeting after midnight is normal, everyone takes home leftovers from restaurants and my monthly metro card is a quarter of the price it is in London– I’ve been getting to grips with local apps.

A hardcore cellphone junkie, I can’t live without my handset, and in a new city making sure you have the most relevant and useful apps is a must. The following apps are the ones that have become invaluable to me in the last few months, and they help me manage everything from transport issues to finding out cinema times. This might sound pretty basic, but most of these are ones that I had to be told about by my peers- a search through the Android marketplace proved pretty useless in helping me narrow down the apps I needed for everyday life.

In no particular order here are my top ten apps for navigating New York City.

Embark NYC

The New York metro is many things- 24 hour, air conditioned, and full of crazy people offering you candy for $3. What it doesn’t have is any easily accessible maps for the system- unless you like holding a broadsheet to your face as you work out where the C train is (Clue: There is no C Train-FAIL!) Embark NYC is a free app, and its wonderfulness lies in its basic simplicity. You have the whole NYC Metro stations at your fingertips, you can zoom in and out with finger swipes and it’s great to work out just where the different trains interest. If you want to be more advanced you can set it to calculate different journeys for you and to alert you to the best route, but I prefer it for its simple navigation and basic layout. It beats Google Maps and the MTA app by miles, and though it’s basic, that’s just what makes it so wonderful. Did I mention it’s free? Read more…

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The Five Technology Lies you’re guilty of

Posted by admin on Jul 16, 2012 in lists, opinion, technology

Technology has brought us many things; the inability to ever get honestly lost anymore, dinner parties where mobiles get their own place setting and an encyclopedia of knowledge at our fingertips  (thus forbidding us the option of successfully cheating at Scrabble). With all these amazing additions to out lives comes one major downside- the inability to ever be fully turned off- this wired world means we are always connected, and this can be a little bit draining, as no one likes worried phonecalls if you haven’t updated Facebook for two days. It’s hard for people to lie low whilst living in the world 2.0, so in order to cope with the unwanted infringement of private lives a few technology lies have evolved which are hard to disprove but easy to use. Shake your head at that and deny you’re anything less than honest in your dealing with folks? Right, how about when your Mum calls or you’re required to be a plus one for the birthday of someone you hate? I don’t think the following will come as any surprise to you, but it might make you feel better to realize that other people equally embrace escapism from the world by doing the exact same things. Try not to fret too much at these tips as inevitably they’ll all be redundant in 5 years when tech evolves. Here are the five most common technology lies told- as chosen by me (and possibly used on you all at various times).

‘I never got your email’ a.k.a Your email went into my Junk folder

Occasionally really important emails DO go into the spam filter, but in all likelihood MOST of them don’t, so if I haven’t replied to you it’s because I don’t want to. I’d never say that though, so when I get one of those awful pesky follow up ‘did you get my email’ emails, the little white spam filter lie slips easily out and keeps everyone happy. This can be foiled with the sneaky ‘alert when opened’ software many Outlook users enable, but that just means the emailer will be judging you, rather than calling you on your bullshit.

You also have to think what their motivation is- if they know you have opened their email and not replied, surely they should take the hint? On a personal level this would be rude, but in business where a high volume of emails get sent everyday, this generally means that their email was irrelevant or not priority at the moment. Follow ups  just serve to demoralize each side, and can only foster feelings of resentment. If it’s a friend you’re lying too, well, I’m not that interested in their baby photos either- that’s what Facebook is for, so go put that gooey first step/first smile/first poop pics up there so I can ignore them at my leisure and not fill up my inbox with them. Read more…

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Outdoor London Summer 2012 : Five cool activities to do

Posted by admin on Jun 14, 2012 in lists, news, travel

I realize that when the word summer and 2012 get placed in a sentence the images of athletes and torchbearers automatically come to mind,  and though this will no doubt be a ‘once in a lifetime opprotunity’ (to quote) there’s also a lot of OTHER super cool stuff going on in London this year. Naturally, I’m drawn to the unusual and the surreal that London Town offers up, and this summer there’s a full array of cool activities to help you get your London love affair on.

I think it’s important to keep rediscovering the place you live in, as you’ll constantly be surprised by what you find by turning down a new street or checking out the backroom of a bar. Some of my coolest London experiences have been accidental- a night at Shunt turned into a marathon weekend, secret supper clubs popping up in London landmarks- and by making sure I never (or rarely) say not to an invitation out means I get to see many sides of London.

Up at the 02: A trip OVER the Millennium Dome

The 02 (formerly known as the Millennium Dome) is a iconic London monument, and now you get to enjoy a rather different view of this structure. Forget about the weightlifting trials that will be happening inside- how about going over the dome? Up at the 02 offers a cool way to see London Town, and an extra shot of adrenalin for people who aren’t too afraid of heights. An amazing looking walkway has been erected over the roof- 53 metres over ground level.

Your experience starts at ‘Base Camp’ where you get briefed and outfitted in a jumpsuit, and then get harnessed and lead up the structure. You’ll get to see a 360 view of the city- and feel like king of the world (possibly). This takes place from 10am-10pm, so if you time it right you could catch the sun setting on the capital which I imagine would look pretty epic. Read more…

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Seven Strange Ways Technology is integrated in South Korea

Posted by admin on May 27, 2012 in lists, technology, travel

Considering so many electronic companies (Samsung and LG I’m talking about you) are based out of South Korea I was expecting that Seoul (the capital city) would be some kind of sci-fi like cityscape, with towering buildings, holograms and jetpacks available for all (OK, maybe not the jetpacks). Instead I found a city- a country, really- full of eccentricities and contradictions with higgledy piggledy street vendors lying side by side flashing billboards and skyscrapers; and ancient pagodas resting in their shadow!

South Korea does seem technologically advanced when compared to London and the USA, but the technological advances are subtle rather than in your face teleporting chutes and holographic manifestations (Yes, a little Futurama inspired here).

I’m going to share some of the ways South Korea impressed me techwise- and how it was more about a combination of all the little things than anything big that made it stand out as advanced.

Fingerprint scanning lockers at all stations

When you arrive in a big city the last thing you want to do is lug your luggage around- especially if you’re only staying for a night. South Korea offered banks of lockers at all the train stations I visited (from the capital Seoul to the cities of Daegu and Busan) where you could store your luggage for 24 hours for the approximate price of 80p. What took these lockers up a tech step was the fact that once you’d inserted your money you didn’t get a key or a code for the locker- you had to place your FINGER on their scanning device and it then ‘locked’ the locker. Read more…

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Strange and wonderful new spa treatments

Posted by admin on Apr 16, 2012 in beauty, lists

The spa world is an ever changing beast, as beauty addicts are always on the lookout for the latest hot facial or relaxing treatment. Spas are getting more inventive to cater to their thrill seeking clientele, and spa menus nowadays offer far more than the traditional facial, massage and manicure combo. Some of the latest treatments to hit the spa scene offer rather esoteric beauty benefits, and some will increase your adrenaline just by looking at the photos! Here are some of the strange and wonderful spa treatments now available.

Tickle Therapy

Tickle therapy may sound like a kind of torture to those with sensitive skins, but the CosquilleArte spa in Spain believes this can have very therapeutic benefits. This isn’t tickling as you know it- rather than being tickled till you squirm, this therapy is all about soft fingertip like strokes, and is performed by two people so you get a 20 finger sensation. Fingers are gently traced around the body and often aided by feathers to provide a treatment that soothes and relaxes the senses. Isabel Aires, the creator of tickle therapy says it allows ‘customers to return to a state of childhood, recalling earlier stages of pleasure and play to move to a state of wellbeing and relaxation.’ Tempted? Sounds a lot better when she puts it like that… Read more…

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Five Feminist and Funny female focused websites

Posted by admin on Feb 28, 2012 in lists, news, opinion

In the last week there has been a lot of hype about a website called Vagenda Magazine. This is surprising for two reasons; 1, the website is barely two months old, and 2, whilst funny, incisive and clever there already exists a plethora of websites that do a similar job to this site. The lure of Vagenda is that it takes everyday topics that are constantly thrown at women and breaks them down into digestible sarcastic nutshells, threaded through with humour and intelligence. Features include stuff such as ‘Your Body is a Battleground‘ and ‘Cliff Notes for Cosmo’.

I’m a fan of the site, and love that its gaining such traction even though it’s still in its infancy. The hype that has surrounded it though has made me realize that though I personally know ( and bookmark) similarly well written women’s sites, it’s possible that OTHER people may not have heard of them and be privy to their personal brand of humour, media dissection and all round snarkitude. In lieu of this alarming fact, I’m going to share with you some of the favourite female-centric sites on my bookmarks bar for you to enjoy. I realize that you may notice some major missing offenders (The F Word, before you mention it) and that’s not because these sites aren’t important or powerful or share good content, it’s that IMO they lack the entertainment factor, which is what scares so many women away from the word feminism. I’m not going to have a massive diatribe now about what that word really means or connotes, but merely share with you five websites that take a lighthearted look at women’s issues, whilst still firmly keeping up the girl power flag.

The Beheld

The tagline of this blog is ‘beauty and what it means’, and if you delve a little deeper into that phrase you get this explanation.

‘What I care about is: How does our appearance affect how we move through the world? What is the relationship between our “beauty labor” and our visibility? What can we glean from women’s history—from Cleopatra and her kohl to the “lipstick liberation” of the 1920s to Naomi Wolf’s groundbreaking 1991 book The Beauty Myth—about the role of appearance, beauty, and cosmetics in our lives? How do we experience being seen, seeing others, and seeing ourselves?’

Written by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano the blog dissects the use of beauty in today’s society, and analyzes the trends and changes in this domain. Forget fluff pieces about ‘the best way to wear red lipstick’, the blog is a though  provoking journey through top stories in the beauty industry, all with a feministing flavour and some insightful comments. Never preachy, this site is a place to share information and to muse on it, and Autumn is great in the way she allows you to make up your own mind about various issues. The topics range from the everyday to the eclectic and include features such as Thoughts on A Word where she delves into the etymology of commonly used beauty phrases like glamour or vaingloriuous, and Beauty Blogosphere round-ups that are far more detailed than the usual fluff pieces (and leave me with a browser full of open links and a feeling of guilt). Other  blog posts are more detailed- such as Modeling as Modern Day Physiognomy, but the tone remains intelligent Read more…

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Los Angeles : Five alternative things to do on a City of Angels Trip

Posted by admin on Feb 3, 2012 in lists, travel

So you’ve been to Los Angeles more than once and ticked off everything your Lonely Planet guide suggested would be fun. You can now rules out a Segway tour of Santa Monica, a drum circle on Venice Beach, an adventurous foray into a Venice pharmacy (followed with a quick back away -you’re really going to sell me what!?) and the usual thrills of Hollywood Boulevard, the Hollywood Sign and the Getty Museum. Depending on your age, career and personal inclinations you may also want to add West Hollywood to that list, Westwood ( a mecca for students and fraternities), Rodeo Drive (lovely on the eyes, hard on the wallet) and Griffith Park (pretty, but watch out for snakes).

Now you can happily tell everyone that you’ve ‘done LA’- but wait! There’s so much more to the sunshine state than 24 hour McDonald drive throughs and exploring new food outlets such as Taco Bell and Jack In The Box (written by a UK based person, OK?).

Within the city of Los Angeles there exists a panoply of alternative attractions all which will add a little more joy to your Los Angeles expedition, so I’d suggest you to sit up straight and get your CTRL+C fingers at the ready.

In no particular order I’d like to welcome you to my five unusual hot spots in Los Angeles– where the crazy never ends and all adults can become kids again.

The LAX Firing Range: Tuition

Sure, you’ve played plenty of Gears of War but have you ever held a 9mm semi automatic Glock in your hands? The answer may be yes if you’re from abroad or have visited Vegas, but even then it’s unlikley that you’ve loaded the magazine, taken apart the gun or looked inside the machine and learnt how to aim correctly.

LAX Firing Range offer a 2 hour training session that costs $99 (including tax) and which takes you from a gasping sweating gun fearing Brit into an armed and dangerous ninja. OK, in reality you turn from someone who whimpers at every bang to a competent and calculated shooter, who memorizes the rules of combat. Taught by a straight up speaking ex marine, the first rule was that on a semi automatic,  ‘The Safety is the trigger button’. Seriously. The next few rules were equally thrilling (for someone with a Die Hard fetish).

To quote, Rule One: Only point at something you are willing to destroy, Rule 2: Only point when you are ready to shoot and Rule 3: Always check if your gun is loaded.

The 2 hour class taught me how to take a gun apart, put it back together, check if the chamber had bullets in it, learn the release and load buttons for the magazine and learn how to disable a gun if the magazine was empty- but a bullet was still in the chamber.

Read more…

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