Friday, 30 January 2015

Photo Friday #5: Jude and the Forest

Photo Friday is a weekly event on this blog where I pick a photo that means something to me and talk about it. This week's photo is of my little brother when he was five. 

I think it's a really nice photo for one just taken using my iPod. There must have been a nice mist or lighting or something, I don't know. But anyway, this is from a day Dad took us for a walk in the woods. I think it was Townley Hall, but I can't remember. 

Anyway, there was a swing over a big ravine. It was very dangerous because it was just a small log tied onto a blue rope looped over a branch high above, but we all took turns hanging on for dear life as Dad pushed us across the ravine on it. It was exhilarating, and a trust exercise because it was pretty much impossible to get off the swing without someone catching you and holding you back, you built up a lot of momentum and would just fall into the ravine otherwise. 

I kinda can't believe we let a five-year-old do that now. Falling would have meant death. Wow. But yeah, it was a lovely day and we loved that swing.

As we were walking back Jude crawled under a gap in a tree trunk and I got this picture of him looking adorable. It was a nice moment.

Also, the title of this post sounds like an MG book.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Starting to Study

After all the "complacency" accusations at the PT Meeting, I'm starting to study. I know it's playing right into their hands, but I'm going to try to ignore my pride and do what's wise. I'm posting about it to increase my commitment because no one likes to be embarrassed. 

Here's what I'm doing.

Last night was the first time, really, where I actually studied (rather than cramming the night before/day of a test). I started with History, because it's the one subject I've hated since the start of the year and I'm trying to reset that.

In great timing, we started an entirely new course in History yesterday (new book and everything) about America from 1945 to 1989. I find it a lot more interesting than stodgy old Irish tenant farmers, so I tried to transform that goodwill into motivation by making flashcards about what we'd covered that day. Technically it was a piece of card folded a lot into flashcard sizes but not cut out for not-losing purposes. I want to do this section really really well. Speaking of which, I need to do that for what we covered today. *Adds to the TODO list* 

I did all my homework (in copies and everything, not on loose pages) which was nice. I also read part of the chapter and did some questions (orally) on Enzymes for Biology. I'm trying not to neglect Biology like I usually do and then have to cram it all into the last minute before a common exam. Oh, and I wrote in my Physics notes on time which is unusual for me.

Today I made flashcards (same type) for the first chapter of Chemistry and did essentially all the Core Revision questions in Algebra 1 in my maths book. It was a really great refresher as I'd forgotten a lot but I felt it coming back. After a while I got lost in it. I adore undetermined coefficients and triple simultaneous equations (at least the ones I've had to do so far. Please don't scare me by contradicting me). I really have to make a blog post singing my Maths teacher's praises because she has an amazing style of teaching and I'm very motivated to work and get an A1 in her class now. Oh, and while I left my Maths copy at home last night, I redid the homework in school rather than just leaving it. The repetition was good for learning, though quite challenging as I didn't have any of my notes to look over.

Also, in a move that makes me very happy, I bought 5 new copies! They're just normal copies but it's great. Now I can have my required French Homework, French Oral, Physics 3, Chemistry Definitions and Biology Homework copies. All is right in the world. Oh, and even though I hate the way the French teacher teaches, I typed up the vocab I got in class today which was good repetition.

Let's just hope I can keep it up. I need to start writing my Chemistry Definitions in and catch up on my many missing English notes soon (alliteration!). All that's left on the TODO list for today is to come up with 20 article ideas and those History flashcards.


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Parent-Teacher Meetings

I had my Fifth Year Parent-Teacher Meetings yesterday, and I'm going to describe them here (hopefully without providing any identifying details). 

First, a qualifier (c'mon, this is me): I wasn't present, so these are just what mam told me the teachers told her. For all I know, she twisted the stories to try for a moral lesson. But I'll just tell you what I heard. 

My Maths, Physics and Chemistry teachers said I can get an A1 in the Leaving Cert and that I'm definitely doing Higher Level. 

My Maths teacher seems to really like me (yay!) saying I grasp concepts immediately and am very engaged in class, and that I'm a lovely girl. She said she knows I don't look back over my notes though and that I need to study because she's not going to accept less than an A1 from me. She only said I'm in the top two or three in the class. On that note, today she gave us a type of question we hadn't seen before and said to come up and get chocolate if we solved it. I was the third person up, which I'm pretty pleased about. She did say I should get to the top if I work like the others though. 

Chemistry teacher was short the way Mam told it. She said I get concepts quickly but need to work on my definitions and she knows that's because I'm engaged in class and understand things but aren't learning things off when I go home. Which is true. She also said it's clear that I like Chemistry, and that I seem to have a natural aptitude for it. Duh.

Physics was actually the first one Mam went to but screw chronology. Physics teacher had glowing reviews (apparently), said I have a beautiful mind (and get concepts, etc., I presume). He thinks I'm a lovely girl, very engaged. I found out today that he said to Niamh's mam that having the two of us in his class is great craic. He also said I got 93% in a test after messing a ton of classes, which I don't remember but I'll take his word for it...

My History teacher's comments were quite mixed. She said I must love history (HA!), that I ask questions no one else does and that I have a great flair for essays. However, she also said she can tell I'm coasting, that I don't revise and I'm complacent. How I hate that word. I also need to speak louder in class apparently. I don't know what it is - maybe it's that I sit at the back - because teachers can hear me perfectly fine in every other class.

English teacher said I have a "brilliant mind" (concerned by the similarities) but I write before thinking and that my essays sent by email are better than my written ones because i can edit, so I need to plan before writing. am very engaged etc. Probably the most mixed comments I've ever received from an English teacher.

French teacher said I have a natural flair for the language but she's noticed I never hand up assignments and need to work on my accent. She says I'm complacent. Soz, but I'm gonna have to disagree. I do homework in all the other classes, there's a reason I sporadically do it in yours. 

Irish teacher said good things (but he is very laid back), that I'm very engaged, doing fine and he really likes me. I'm a nice, happy girl apparently. I like the good comments on my personality; in first and second year they used to voice concerns about my lack of friends. 

Basically all of them were saying I can go for the A1 but I need to bother studying so I should, like, do that. I did actually study today - I've done six History flashcards (shocker), all my homework and I'm about to study Enzymes for Biology. The principal also came over to speak to mam and was very complimentary.

No one mentioned my habitual lateness or disorganisation, which was surprising. Maybe they've just gotten bored of saying it. 

I was a little freaked out by how well some of the teachers copped onto my modus operandi of paying a huge amount of attention and asking and answering lots of questions so I learn it there and then, and then coasting along on that. I will make an effort. I'm currently teaching the boyf logs because his teacher skipped them, but after that I promise I'll read some of the Enzymes chapter and do some questions. 

(Note: If you think this is boasting, remember that you chose to read what I warned you was an honest account of what I was told about the PT meeting.)

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Dublin, a Date and a Reunion

I got back last night and meant to post it then, but here you go. I'm just going to call Saturday today and Schedule it, hush. Oh, and I'm just going to go chronologically with all the minutiae. Read if you want.

I'd been looking forward to today for months. I'd been planning to go to the cinema and then go for dinner at Jerry's house, but he cancelled that a few days before. Luckily, Ciarán then invited me into town and Jerry would still be there for the CTYI reunion (there's one for Dublin CTYIzens every Saturday) so I still went up.

I got up at 8am and took the 9.35 train, which got me to Dublin for 10.40-ish. I found my way to Grafton St. by 11, then went shopping for a late Christmas present for Jerry because I lose things. I had to go to literally ten clothes shops looking for a hat as he'd requested, and I hate clothes shops. Anyway, I didn't have any luck finding a hat so then I just went to Tiger and got a few things. Tiger is a delightfully odd shop. I got him novelty party glasses, a pedometer, pens and a notebook. I think it was the most I've ever spent on a birthday present for someone. Getting older can suck sometimes. 

Once I'd finished that (at 11.50) I went to the Disney store, where I was supposed to meet Ciarán at 12. I got impatient and hung out with CTYI people for a while, then went back to the Disney store until he finally turned up. Quite impressively, considering the hug from behind knocked me over. Good job. 

I gave Jerry his present and he seemed happy enough, but it's hard to tell with him. I tried. It gets a bit foggy from here, but I think myself and Ciarán went off somewhere. Uncommunicative as always, Ciarán didn't say it was a date but it totally was. We went snack shopping and managed to spend €14 on sweets in EuroGiant, which is kind of disgraceful but yeah. I had a tenner handy so I spent that, thinking I'd get change later. I did, indirectly. Anyway. Then Ciarán brought me to an ice-cream shop he likes called Murphys. 

He bought a 3-flavour icecream that we shared. I chose strawberry and caramel and he chose cinammon, which he said was divine. Not that exact word but whatever. We went down the back and I showed him my dress as it was finally warm enough to temporarily take off my hoody. I then put it back on and leaned on him and we shared the ice-cream. Totally not a date at all, guys. Use your words, Ciarán. 

After that, we went back to the Rock Gardens and chatted. We always saw someone with an amazing blond afro, and there's only one person I know with hair that great. We debated over whether it was Ogden for a while until eventually he said hi and we talked for ages. He was doing his Maths assignments (he's in his first year of studying Mathematics in Trinity), which were fairly complicated. Anyway, Ogden is really awesome. He advised me to try get the Naughton scholarship; he got it, and he gets €5,000 a year for college (niiiice). I'd been planning to do that anyway but it was a good reminder.

Around half 2, CTYIzens left came back from Asia Market and filled up the Rock Gardens, as they do. Some girl had a ukulele and they were singing along to things. There was also a preponderance of fezzes worn by Whovians. I kept thinking about bloody Kay. Anyway, Ciarán and Ogden were doing Diablo stuff as Ogden also spouted maths formulae, which is something he tends to do. Then Odgen left because his girlfriend had an interview with Intel, I think, and we hung out for a bit. 

Eventually, we all walked to Apache Pizza, as is traditional. I thought there were only five of us going, but once we got there there were at least twelve and probably more. Someone ordered three communal pizzas and we all dug in. Did I mention I love these people? I had a big downer, though, because suddenly I realised that I was missing €20. Dad had given me €50 that morning and asked me to give him €15 back, and I should have had at least €25 euro left but I had €3 in coins. When I said that, Dáire was an angel and gave me a fiver. Also, John Joe had arrived, it was great to see him. 

The pizzas were great. I texted Seán the whole time off Ciarán's phone, which was funny because we were both pretending Ciarán couldn't see the messages. Handy way to let him know things. Tommy/Fez let me use his phone to check cinema times. I was planning to go see The Theory of Everything with Jerry and Ciarán, but at the last minute Jerry pulled out because he supposedly didn't want to be a third wheel. That was sad. We did hug a lot as I was leaving, though, and then he said he'd been planning to pay for my ticket anyway (because he is a ridiculously good person) and then gave me a tenner saying he didn't want it back. So now I'm a bad person. I'll pay them back eventually, I promise. Then I hugged everyone, and oh wow CTYI is amazing for replenishing hug stores, it just makes me super happy. 

Then myself and Ciarán left and walked to the Savoy. Ciarán bought tickets for The Theory of Everything (€8 each) (more debt) (well, it was a date so I don't know if it counts). The movie was pretty good, better in the first half (interesting, since I'd read the first half of the screenplay. It's a really fantastic screenplay). There was some awkwardness wondering if/when certain things would be said/done, but anyway. We held hands during. Ciarán's dad was waiting outside the cinema when it ended and he walked us back to Tara Street so I could get my train. His dad invited me to stay over sometime. I then couldn't find my ticket and had to buy another (argh). I don't actually remember if we hugged goodbye but I assume we did. 

That night Ciarán asked me out over Skype messenger, not following the script at all. I was apparently coaching Seán for nothing. So I got him to call me and redo it, which was better. I said yes. So it seems I have a boyfriend now. Hm.

I skyped Kay for a while, though not for as long as the night before (jesus, that conversation) while texting Ciarán. In fairness, Kay lives in Cork and I miss him a ton whereas Ciarán's around steadily, so I think that's fair. 

So that was the day. Quite eventful, and an inevitability finally came to pass. Tada.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Photo Friday #4: My First Date

Photo Friday is a weekly event on this blog where I pick an image that means something to me and talk about it. 

So this is from the first time I met up with James, my first boyfriend. It was, I think, 6th January 2013, and we were in a local shopping centre. James lives an hour away so he was nice enough to come down (and get off before his stop). It wasn't officially a date between myself and James, but it was a double date with another couple, Niamh and Cahal. Niamh is in my year at school and Cahal is my second boyfriend. Heh. 

It's hard to remember the details, but we went to McDonalds and the shopping centre, and had a really great time chatting. I remember talking to James about this girl with hydrophobia, and laughing every time Niamh/Cahal tried to say we were a couple.

I think around this time we were actually talking to each other late at night (one time we talked 'til 3 am), so it was going to happen, but I didn't want to move that fast. Niamh actually gave out to me in school afterwards, saying the whole point had been for us to shift, so what was the point?

But like, ew, shifting. 

We loitered in Waterstones for an hour, just sitting facing each other in the YA section and chatting. It was magical - I love that place. They did eventually make us leave but they were nice to let us stay the hour.

It was a new experience, definitely. Very teenager-y, for the first time, I guess.

Our second date (a real one this time) was on Valentine's Day. 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Why I'm Against the Junior Cert Reforms

Irish secondary school students have a day off today, because the ASTI (Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland) is having a strike, the second in two months, to protest against Junior Cert reforms.

For a while now, the Junior Cert has been a set of big exams you take at the end of your third year in secondary school. You study a range of subjects (I did 10), and some have two exams (Maths, English, Irish). Some subjects with a practical element have a project that gets you a certain percentage of your mark (e.g. in CSPE the project is 60%, in Religion it's nearer 20%), but generally the bulk of your grade in each subject comes from one final exam you sit in June. 

First year in secondary school is very relaxed, and you often drop or pick up subjects. You do the bulk of the work in Second Year, and then a lot of Third Year is spent revising. From around December of Third Year, the pressure really starts to pick up as Mocks approach, and teachers expect you to spend all your time studying.

So a lot of people don't like the current system, saying it puts too much pressure on students.

From my very biased position, I have to disagree. 

Now, let's get some things out of the way; I am two years past my Junior Cert, so this isn't going to affect me. I enjoy school and am a huge nerd. Importantly, I'm a really good test-taker. Someone who knows just as much as me but isn't a good test-taker could get a much lower grade because they don't know how to get things onto the page properly. Anyway, disclaimer over.

I think the exams are effective. They're supposed to test what you know, and they do. Pretty simple. There's always going to be stress in life, and 14/15 really isn't that young. The Junior Cert has a very important role in preparing students for the Leaving Cert that they can't get anywhere else. You can't go on without a dress rehearsal, and no the Mocks do not count.

My biggest problem is with the proposed alternative, i.e. continuous assessment. So the idea, as far as I can see, is that instead of testing students via big exams at the end of a cycle, students are constantly graded on their homework or assignments they continuously hand up throughout the year. 

Again, I'm biased, but I would hate this system. For one thing, I'd do really badly in it; I'm incredibly forgetful so I very often bring homework in late, forget it or lose it altogether. Points off. I also miss a lot of class for my various activities (e.g. Young Scientist, choir, public speaking), so that would presumably also get me marked down. Way to punish people for being involved. At the moment, teachers don't complain too much about me missing class (to do things that are very important for my wider education) if I still do decently in tests, and that's the way I like it. 

Also, who would mark these continuous assessments? The government originally said teachers should. They've now dropped that to say teachers should mark 40%, which is what ASTI is striking about today. Even if it's only 40%, it's still a fundamentally stupid idea. 

Teachers are only human, and it'd be impossible for them to be completely impartial. It's also trying to make them do more unpaid work. Yeah, teachers already correct students' homework, but this is a relationship between student and teacher intended to help the student learn and improve on their mistakes. If those early mistakes count for marks, what's the point of doing a course? The new measures would mean teachers would have to (pretend to) be impartial, and wouldn't be able to help students to the same extent because they're now Big Scary Examiners. Examiners need to be far removed from the student, otherwise all sorts of bias creep in. So why don't we randomise the homework? Because we can't, if we did they wouldn't be teachers. Teachers recognise their students' handwriting and/or know they've had a recent bereavement, they're going to take that into account. (Oh, and I'm strongly in favour of letting students type homework/exams to solve the handwriting issue, but that's another post.)

The problem is compounded when other parties come into the equation. If a teacher gives a kid a low grade that matters (as they would under continuous assessment), parents are absolutely going to storm into the school and cause a fuss. Subjectivity would be a killer here. What if private schools mysteriously give students higher grades? Fees go up, and if you want to do well you have to pay. That sounds pretty dodgy to me. What about teachers in a bad mood, or teachers who hold students to a different standard? The examination system is currently independent - nobody knows who you are apart from your 5-digit exam number - and rigorous, and that could all be in jeopardy.

Also, the implementation of this system is questionable to say the least. Teachers of First Year English have no idea what they're supposed to be teaching because the people proposing reforms don't know themselves. It's a frustrating situation for everyone, and all because apparently even proponents of the reforms don't care about them enough to make sure they're ready in time for implementation.

We need to keep Ireland's educational standards up. We're currently 9th in the world, but this isn't helping. Homework is often just repeating what the teacher said or using something that's clearly in the book (particularly at Junior Cert level) and that's really not going to test students.

I do agree that there's too much emphasis on rote memorization (particularly in JC History, Geography, Religion and LC Biology) - I believe in learning by understanding - but the exams at the moment have been improving in that regard. I hate how much memorization there is in LC History, but the essays really do test how well you can analyse and express what you've learned. 

So I think continuous assessment, particularly with teachers grading their own students' work, is a bad idea. But my personal stake in the matter is this:

Until now, the exams have been favouring one type of student - the good test-taker. This change won't even the field, it'll just flip the imbalance to favour a different group of students. And that's no solution. 

Some reforms are necessary (I would say particularly of the curricula), but this isn't it. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Gender Ratio in Shakespeare

In English today, I realised that Goneril, Regan and Cordelia are the only female characters I can think of in King Lear. Obviously they're very important in the play, but I think that's interesting in itself; it seems that when Shakespeare was making up throwaway characters, they were just automatically male.

So I wanted to test that with his other plays. I'm using this site which lists all vaguely important characters in each play, and will do a total of each tally at the end. 

All's Well That Ends Well

Female: 6
Male: 7

Antony & Cleopatra

Female: 8
Male: 26

It was hard to tell the gender of the ancient names, so I just went with my gut and said Cleopatra's attendants were female. And looked some of them up.

As You Like it

Female: 4
Male: 16
Not Clear: 1


This one was difficult as there are a lot of unnamed characters. I only included the ones for which I had a number and could discern gender.

Female: 4
Male: 13


Female: 3
Male: 23


Female: 2
Male: 18

Henry IV (Part I)

Female: 3
Male: 18

Henry V

Female: 4
Male: 33

Henry VIII

Female: 5
Male: 32

Julius Caesar

Female: 2
Male: 31

King John

Female: 4
Male: 16

King Lear

Female: 3 (as I thought!)
Male: 17

Love's Labour's Lost

Female: 5
Male: 13


Female: 7
Male: 21

Measure for Measure

Female: 5
Male: 19

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Female: 4
Male: 16

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Female: 6 (chose two of the fairies for each gender)
Male: 15

Much Ado About Nothing

Female: 3
Male: 14


Female: 3
Male: 11


Female: 5
Male: 12

Richard II

Female: 4
Male: 24

Romeo & Juliet

Female: 4
Male: 20

The Taming of the Shrew

Female: 4
Male: 17

The Tempest

Female: 4
Male: 14

Timon of Athens

Female: 2
Male: 19

Titus Andronicus

Female: 3
Male: 18

Troilus and Cressida

Female: 4
Male: 21

Twelfth Night

Female: 3
Male: 11

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Female: 3
Male: 10

The Two Noble Kinsmen

Female: 6
Male: 20

The Winter's Tale

Female: 7
Male: 13

Whew. That was a lot to go through. The totals are: *frantically adds*

Female: 130
Male: 558

Men outnumbered women on all counts, but the extent to which they did is quite surprising. The total number of characters is 688; women made up 18.9% of this total, with men making up the remaining 81.1%. 

That doesn't even account for the problem of Shakespeare automatically making disposable characters male, as most of those characters aren't counted in this tally. 

I can't believe I just sorted through 688 characters for this but there you go. Men: women in Shakespeare is roughly 19:81, or even more roughly 20:80, or 1:4. So women make up less than a fifth of his characters. While they are often formidable women, that's not great. And I noticed that the source I used often referred to the women as "wife of" "daughter of" rather than in their own right. 

So there you go. I didn't include sequels, but I think that sample size is big enough. 

Julius Caesar was the worst offender, with 15.5 times as many males as females, whereas All's Well that Ends Well was almost equal, with just one seventh in the difference. 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Hi, Writing Elitists, I'm a Sellout

Just look at that provocative title. Tell me I'm cool. 

So, I'm part of a teen writers group on Facebook, and it seems like every day that someone says their "charries" are speaking to them, directing the story, popping up unwanted with snappy bits of dialogue. Some have said their characters are their best friends. Their stories are their babies, they say, and they're just creative types, nothing can be done.

That's rubbish. Break the bubble.

The majority of writers have at least done away with searching for their muse. Big writing blogs say "Real writers don't wait for the muse. Real writers sit down and write." And that is true. Of course, there will always be the people who say "Oh, I'd love to write a novel if only I had the time" "I'm just waiting for the muse to come to me" "I am an artist". But I think we're all so over them. 

And yet writing is still seen as this magical, abstract thing that you have to be born with. 

You know what I do when I write?

I start with an idea, which comes from a connection between two or more things. Two people. A character and an event. If it's a particularly interesting event, even one might do. Then I develop a plot by thinking of possibilities and mapping them through to their logical conclusion. The creativity lies in choosing between possibilities. Once I have my outline, I write.

During first drafts, I write 1000 words a day. It keeps me going so I don't stagnate, and it reminds me that I have to keep getting words down. They are the currency of the work. Creativity comes when I sit down and write, and if it doesn't I plod along until it does. Eventually an idea will sense my desperation and come, but only if I don't give up.

But you have to remember that these ideas are simply thoughts. Everyone has them, it's only a matter of training yourself to notice them and record them. I do believe one can be a talented writer; there's your aptitude with words, of course (that's the easiest to measure), but then there's also your ability to carry plot lines, to pace stories, to build vibrant characters, to help readers suspend disbelief. 

That doesn't include some direct line to the font of all magic. I think I'll puke if I hear another person say their writing is an expression of their faith, or that it comes from god. 

Stop glamourising your job. Writing is a fun job, because you get to do it in your pyjamas in bed without fear of anyone rejecting or condemning you (that comes later, when the book is on submission). Your books are projects that take a lot of dedication to create, but they are not babies.

Characters cannot write their own plot. It's not as fun, but you can literally build characters by ticking off boxes (headstrong, curious, tall, lanky, warm-hearted). We usually prefer to develop them more than that, obviously, but there's no essential essence.

I've learned lessons about this from my freelancing (though I haven't sold much lately because Young Scientist and laziness). What I care about with my freelance articles is the money. I get $100 per 2000-word article from one site and $50 from another. Those go into my CTYI fund. It's not exactly artistic, but it's using my skills as a job. In the meantime, I toil away on novels, waiting until one is good enough. 

You can spend your writing time in the clouds if you wish, but please, come back down to earth at some point. 

Monday, 19 January 2015

My Embarrassing Old Facebook Posts

I joined Facebook in February 2011, when I was six months shy of 13. What an awful idea. I'm going to start in late 2011 and go down the rabbit hole, watching as things get progressively worse. 

I just constantly shared things from Wattpad (I was writing an 8th Year Dramione story). Note to self: "I only have 3 fans" is not something you publicise. Maintain the illusion!

15th October 2011 (age 13) - "O. M. F. G.... WHAT. IS. WITH. JOHNNY. AND. HIS. GUYLINER?!! Why are they making a joke out of him? They must be bloody mad." 

I have no idea who Johnny is. Someone on X Factor, maybe. 

30th September 2011 (age 13) "Your mum held you in her stomach for nine months, she watched her feet swell, she struggled to climb stairs, she got breathless quick, she suffered many sleepless nights. She became your nurse, your chef, your teacher and your friend. She struggled for you, most of us take our mum for granted when there's people who have lost or never seen theirs. So copy this if you love your mum <3 xx" 

Oh no, this was the Elle who still believed in chain mail. 

Now, we can see that my typing is pretty terrible ("Y would u think I hate u?"), but that's not why I'm angry at this post. While I was still a naive first year who liked to sing and command attention all the time, people would take advantage. They used to ask this girl, Emer, for autographs (Emer had a "We <3 Emer" website about herself) and then they started doing it to me. I knew they were trying to make fun of me, but it's still hard to get out of the situation. They're like "sign my journal", and if you refuse you're rude. 

That time I was a One Direction fan, and used the ":L" face. 

In fairness, I didn't write this atrociously bad English, but ugh why did I do Schoolstars, why?

17th September 2011 - "Went to town :L Saw Niamh McNally, Katie O' Keeffe and Mrs. Kerrisk with her son :L :)"

I'm using :L as a full stop here. Also, my life was clearly very interesting at the time. 

16th September 2011 - "Bored :Z"

Yes. Truly modern art. So succint.

14th September 2011 - "One Direction infection getting worse all the time!!! :D I love you NialyHarryLouisZaynLiam but esp ZaynHarryNiall! <3"

I'm so embarrassed. Also, my apologies to Louis and Liam.

10th September 2011 - "Red r black - One direction :D <3 ... I think I'm converting to the 1D religion after seeing that video!"

I'm genuinely concerned about how many of these posts were about One Direction. 

4th September 2011 - Have to redo a load of maths hw b/c my little brother Jude scribbled all over it in pink hilighter ( how do ya spell that?) ... :/

It's highlighter. Idiot. 

3rd September 2011 - "Wat time is x factor on at tonite anyone? Xxx"

Please stop embarrassing yourself. 

Thanks for the ":/ :L", Aoibhán, you're too kind. 

24th August 2011 - "Child said to his mom, "Mommy, I colored your sheets with lipstick!" In anger she started to hit her child until he was unconscious. Then,she regretted what she had done,and crying said to her child, "Please open your eyes!" But it was too late, his tiny heart had stoppedbeating. When she walked into her bedroom,the sheet said "I LOVE YOU MOMMY." Copy and paste this if you're against child abuse </3"


16th August 2011 - "Never late 4 school, never bein sent outa class, never in detention, never ditched school, alwayd done my homework, always studied hard, never back chatted to a teacher, ... Put this as your status and hu eva likes it thinks your lien :)"

Okay, not only is the language in this post horrific, I liked my own status. 

Next I copypasted a lot of "I support cancer survivors", "stillborn babies go to heaven" and "Autism awareness week" posts but you know the drill with those.

6th August 2011 (age 12) - "I'm reading :L xxxxxxxxxxxxx"

This was posted above yet another Wattpad share. I'm obviously very affectionate while I read.

This whole post is such a trainwreck. In my defence, I honestly thought I got a C. I actually got an A1 (97%). Oops. I remember that was the year where I was upset because two of my grades were A2s rather than A1s. Ah, first year. 

20th June 2011 (age 12) - "ImPerfectShine is after posting five bitchy comments on sum of my oldest Youtube videos nd I'm just like WTF be like that :s :L"

Yes, those Youtube videos (me doing covers) were awful, but people's comments were incredibly mean and led me to set them all to Private or delete them. I'm pretty sure one of the perpetrators was this girl in my class who I won't name and her brother. God, I hated them. 

18th June 2011 - "Can't find my fones battery! :(:(:(:(:( where the hell is it?????:("

No matter how many sad faces or question marks you use, Elle, Facebook can't help you there. 

"I gotta admit...even if she won't ,Tony Faulkner is still a very persistent person wooo fighting for the rights of non chickenneds!:L"

If it weren't for the :L, I'd think this was a spambot. So many questions. Who is Tony Faulkner? What are non-chickenneds, and why are their rights threatened?

27th June 2011 - "got icecrreamm cos did well in all o dem yayay ;L xX ;L"

Twelve-year-old Elle is presumably happy about doing well in all of her end-of-year 1st Year exams. Even though she got an A in English, she persists in writing these awful, awful posts. And ;L, really? 

22nd June 2011 - "a buk i wuz readin i was sitin bside chloe carpenter ona bus nd she saw the name of one o the characters kiiiinda typical :L am i ever goin to escape the hole book thing :L"

This is a comment I wrote on one of my posts. It's interesting because it proves that I was actually a huge bookworm at the time (see spelling of "character", me asking will I ever escape the whole book thing), but I suppressed it to seem cool on Facebook. Don't do that, kids. 

15th June 2011 - "At a sleepover at Ciara byrne's house nd she's having a total hissy fit about Bugs in the tent also moya is scared of the wires strangling her so I'm just like , callllmmm down, kk? :L Good fun otherwise though : L xx"

Yeah guys, callllmmm down. 

11th June 2011 - "its my lil bros bday 2day hes 7 :L"

Thanks, Elle, for that scintillating post. 

Look at the sham face. Aren't I just so cool?

7th June 2011 - "new viiiiideoo- cant see one of my eyes in the thumbnail:S :L blacked out :L" 

(comment) "didnt check my utube yesterday, day b4 i had 700 now i have a thousand nd sumthin :L:L:L:L:L:L"

New rule: anyone who writes ":L" isn't allowed post Youtube videos. 

I posted a new profile picture (standard, of my face), and someone commented ":L" (how I hate that emoticon) so I said:

"What's so funny?Huh!?"

My sister and I. Yep, that's really not how mascara/eyeliner is supposed to work. 

I commented this on one of my statuses about Tayto Park:

"Pretty gud...eagle sky adventure zone is de best but u hav 2 pay 4 a go cloe wil tel u tmoz x using al my credit 4 this"

You do in fact have to pay for a go. I was decent at writing at the time, but no, go ahead, use numbers. 


Yeah, don't do that. But the thrilling saga continues!

22nd March 2011 - "gtg byeeeeeeeeeee"

Contrary to your belief, younger Elle, no one cared. You don't have to inform your Facebook Friends when you log off.

20th March 2011 - "does anyone no how to get videos onto youtube?"

This one isn't particularly badly-written, I just want to mark the historic moment where I made that awful, awful choice. 

I am a bug. 

18th March 2011 - "saw never say never earlier it was gud"

A truly insightful review. 

8 March 2011 - "ayomide u luky bitch lol"

I didn't tag Ayomide, nor did I give any indication as to why she was lucky. Sigh. 

5th March 2011 - "I got my hair cut"

Fascinating. An icon of our times.

So this girl called Thea posted on my wall saying "welcome to Facebook". In response, I made an entirely separate post saying:

"hi thea tanx x its addictive !!!!!!!"

Not addictive enough for me to know how it works, apparently.

22nd February 2011 - "gtg goin to smyths byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

Yet another example of me unnecessarily saying goodbye to Facebook. Earlier in the day I also posted "gtg" so I could go have dinner. 

At last: my very first Facebook post, my first profile picture, and it is ....


In conclusion: I was painfully awkward, friendless and a show-off. However, I think my early Facebook use wasn't actually that bad (others would be a lot worse; at least I don't have any pictures of drinking or whatever). And it was a necessary evil to make me the fabulously witty person I am today. 

(I'm kidding. Shut up.)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

5 Reasons I Prefer Blogging to Vlogging

I was planning to call this "Why Blogging is Easier than Vlogging" but that comes across as lazy and is restrictive. Headline deception!

Less Technical

If you can post Facebook statuses, you can use a Blogger template to run a blog. But there's so much extra work involved in recording, editing and distributing a video that it's prohibitive. Even a total technophobe can write their blog posts on paper and get someone else to type them up (though that doesn't make them a very true blogger). 


I know badly-taken videos do go viral on Youtube sometimes, but they're almost always one-hit wonders. To consistently do well on Youtube (or another platform, I guess) you need a good camera, possibly a tripod (or, like, a stack of books), maybe editing software ... What I'm saying is that there's a lot more hardware needed for vlogging, and none of it is cheap. 

Fewer Skills Required

As a blogger, you should be a good writer and/or funny and/or useful. If you're a vlogger, you still have to do all that (at least, I would - I need a script), but you also have to be a good speaker, preferably photogenic, engaging... It just really ups the barrier.

Less Preparation

For a video, you need to keep in mind your background (i.e. clean your room), lighting, energy level, in-frame distractions. If I were to film a video at this time of year, there are only eight hours a week in which I could do it; It's dark before I go to school and dark when I come home, so since I need natural light I only have the middle of the day at the weekend. When I tend to be doing stuff. If someone comes into the room while you're filming, you have to either edit it out or start again (because sometimes it's impossible to edit out).

And then you have blogging, where you can literally do it in bed with your laptop on your chest, wearing pyjamas (or less), and no one has to know. You can write a blog post in stages, coming back to the document whenever you feel like it, but if you do that with a video people will notice the light/your appearance changing.


This is the biggest reason, I think. Editing a video is awful, because unless you're really good at it it leaves traces (and it takes time to get good, time in which people see your mistakes). 

Now, I'm not talking about the difficulty of finding fault with your own work. That applies pretty equally to any creative work. 

But backspacing is an awful lot easier than cutting a video, because the cut is visible in the final video (again, for the inexperienced. Famous vloggers have got this down, obviously, but they probably don't use Windows Movie Maker). 


So there you have it, that's why I'm more comfortable blogging than vlogging. Vlogging seems to be more rewarding when you look at the teenage stars it's made, but I think blogging suits me a lot more. Feel free to agree/disagree in the comments. 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

5 Reasons to Sponsor a Prize in the BTYSTE

It's a week from the event, and I really want to write this post. 

Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with the Exhibition apart from being a student there for the past two years, and these opinions are my own. 

Media Coverage

The BTYSTE is probably the most publicized Irish science event of the year. With all the cameras around, your logo is bound to be seen. Better yet, people will be seen interacting with it, because anything goes at the YS, so it's not just annoying advertising. 

More Prizes

There were over 120 prizes at the Young Scientist this year, many of them Special Awards (i.e. from companies). While people do it for the research/friends/experience, you can't deny that prizes motivate students to enter. There are a lot of Category Awards (72, I think), but still around 80% of projects went home with nothing this year. A Special Award is great for people who didn't get Category Awards (though yes, of course the sense of competition must be conserved). 

More prizes -> more students -> bigger and better exhibition.

Other Publicity

Sponsoring a Special Award gets your company name and logo in the Exhibition Guide (and on the website), read by many of the tens of thousands of people who visit the Exhibition over the four days. 

Also, students who win Special Awards say the name of your company when they tell people what they won. "I won the Teagasc Special Award." "I won the Google Best Girl Special Award" I myself won the Intellectual Ventures Special Award (as well as a Category Award), but when telling people I always follow with "So I get a trip to Seattle", which brings me to my next point. 


I don't really have a choice but to like Intellectual Ventures (IV) - which is probably their insidious plan (JK). They're giving me an all-expenses-paid trip to Seattle to visit their HQ, plus a visit to their Dublin office, when the furthest I've ever been is currently Germany. 

Bribery, in this case, is a victimless crime. If you give kids prizes, those kids and their friends will like you. Unless you're actually evil. And even then...

Good Associations

The BTYSTE is a great event to be associated with, prestigious as it is. The nerds who frequent the Exhibition love it, and so they associate your company with all the other cool stuff happening there. Before the Exhibition I didn't even know Jack Restan Displays or Perrigo (etc.) existed, but now they've been heavily promoted in front of a captive audience of 1000 teenagers (plus tens of thousands of less-captive adults). Want to capture the teenage market? There you go.

it's an easy way to be cool.*

*Cool in nerd terms, which you may or may not be going for. 


The Exhibition's pretty great the way it is, and of course we don't want too many prizes because that could lower the standard. But companies drop out (didn't Élan?) so we need a steady flow. Also, I'm not recommending sponsoring a prize just for the publicity. But even if a company sponsors without loving the BTYSTE, they might learn. After all, many students go in without really loving science and come out with a passion for it. Is it naive to want that to happen with companies? Don't be a faceless corporation. There are some really good things to stand for, and the YS is one of them.