Thursday, 30 April 2015

My April Favourites 2015! // Plus Monthly Updates

"The term 'April Showers' is actually a reference to the tears cried by students realising how much revision they still haven't done." - Twitter user @clara2808_.

April is almost over, and as the quote above suggests, I've probably done far too much procrastination and not enough revision. Despite that, I still feel as though I haven't written enough blogs (or watched enough Netflix) - but at least there's one here for you all now. I'll start with my favourites and go into the updates.


I haven't had time for much else, so it's basically just music this month! Firstly, I've become obsessed with Don Broco. It took me about an hour I think, to go from jamming to Money, Power, Fame to completely falling in love with the video and listening to all their other latest tracks, such as You Wanna Know and What You Do To Me (which are equally as brilliant). I love it when you can hear a good British accent through the lyrics. They're very Lower Than Atlantis-esque, although I originally came across them after listening to Mallory Knox. I'd say they have a little bit of an 80s vibe. Their album comes out in August, and although I don't make a habit of buying CDs, I'll make an exception for music I'm completely in love with. You can watch the (amazing) video to Money, Power, Fame here.

Another band I've been loving is one that's a little bit less well-known, called Light You Up. I heard them first on Kerrang!s music channel with All We've Ever Known and I enjoyed that, but it's Lifebox that I really connected with. Lifebox is an acoustic song with beautiful lyrics, and -again- a video that I really love (100% less cars being blown up, though). You can catch that one here. One of my friends has said he's met them and they're really nice guys and they're great live, too, so it's a bit of a win-win!

Sorry, but the links to YouTube won't stop there, either, because I'm about to start swooning over the boys from 2Cellos. For anyone who doesn't know who they are already, 2Cellos is made up of three guys: (you guessed it) two playing cellos and one drummer. Together, they perform usually upbeat covers of popular rock songs on the cello. They shred. It's amazing. What really caught my attention though was their performance at the Colloseum in Croatia (the Arena Pula) which aired on Sky Arts 2 last night. It was just visually stunning - one of the most beautiful places for a gig I have ever seen. It was night-time and I just remember thinking how all the people in the city must be able to hear the music. Their cover of U2's With Or Without You almost brought me to tears.


The most eagle-eyed of you might have noticed that I've messed around with the theme and layout of my blog this month. I've added a few new features - like the extended 'About Me' section, as well as a list of my favourite bloggers, including my friends Grace/Liv and Maria - but the biggest difference is the colour scheme. I felt like my old background - the brown map - was too dark, even though it was perfect at conveying my desire to travel. I've replaced it with this kind of light-lemony-yellow colour (great description there, Meaghan) with a border of birds, which could still symbolise travelling and freedom.

Speaking of freedom, me and Liv decided recently that we're gonna clamp down on plagiarism in the blogging community; because freedom of speech doesn't equate to the freedom to steal other people's work. I've started the #BloggersAgainstPlagiarism hashtag, to let people know about the work we're going to be doing informing original authors of their work being duplicated online. E-mails have already started going out for that, and I'm so excited that I'll be able to feed back their responses to you!

The most important change though is that I'm probably going to be moving soon! It's both exciting and scary to be moving at this age - leaving the house I've lived in all my life - especially as I'm going to have to adapt to living with three new people! Hopefully the new house will be only just down the road though, so it'll be closer to town. This means I can invite Em & Maria on more girly nights out (pictured below) in local pubs and clubs, and also means I'll be a couple of minutes closer to my boyfriend, which isn't a bad thing.

Another important one is that I've started applying for apprenticeships, which is something I wasn't even considering last month! My friend Emily suggested getting an appointment at Space at Connexions in Derby which helps young people to come to a decision about what they want to do. I spoke to a lovely guy called Phil there, who asked me about what I enjoy doing. I told him about my blog, my love of writing and mentioned that I've always liked the idea of working in an office as I feel that's where I'd be most productive. He said I sounded like I'd be good in marketing, as I enjoy doing reviews, and so he put me in touch with apprenticeships in business administration. As it happens, I've just come off the phone to an employer who says they're going to recommend me to an office close to where I'm going to be living! It isn't in Derby, where I wanted to work, but still, how can I not be happy with that? Now I just have to read the information and decide whether or not I want to reply!

There we go, I'm going to leave you on a bit of a cliffhanger!
See you next time and thanks for reading!
Meaghan x

Monday, 27 April 2015

Identifying Plagiarism in the Blogging Community // Please Acknowledge Your Source!

I can tell you, I should not be writing this blog; I should be working on my A-level homework that's piling up. However, as I sat down to write a response to the mock exam question that's due in tomorrow, I just couldn't get this issue out of my head. As an A-level student, aspiring professional writer/journalist and a somewhat-regular blogger, I can't tell you how much the thought of someone stealing my/others' work infuriates me. In the blogging community, I know so many people whose work is legitimate, and honestly, it makes me proud. Many of you that I know, write how you talk, and so much of your personality shines through this way. There is however, at least one blog I am aware of - many of you will know/suspect which - that I would say is a (not so) shining example of plagiarism. Finding out someone you know is a plagiarist can be upsetting, especially when their blog is one you enjoyed reading.

Plagiarism: the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.
DISCLAIMER: Don't worry, I haven't plagiarised this definition, it's an automatic Google-generation. Would be a bit ironic, though, wouldn't it? ;)

The idea for this blogpost was thought up by myself and one of my blogging and real-life friends. Liv, whose blog you can find here (I really need a 'Favourite Blogs' section... I'm working on it) has recently been accused of copying another blogger and it's on this point that I'd like to stand up for her. Talking about the same topics as someone else IS NOT technically plagiarism (thanks to freedom of speech laws), especially if you have completely different opinions or have talked about the topic from a different angle/perspective. Adapting an idea and making it your own is not the same as outright copying someone's work, and it is certainly not illegal. Plagiarism on the other hand, is completely and utterly illegal, as the expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property and is protected by copyright laws. Failure to acknowledge these laws is considered a form of literary theft. ( If you acknowledge the author whose work you've shared - as I have just shown - that's also NOT plagiarism. So what should you do if you suspect someone is using plagiarism to gain popularity in the blogging community? First you'll need to prove yourself right or wrong.

It's easy to identify plagiarism. Do any of you watch Catfish: The TV Show? It's as easy to catch a plagiarist as it is to catch a catfish. Catfish presenters Nēv and Max use a technique which involves dragging a suspected catfish's profile picture into a search engine and looking for matches. Suspect plagiarism in a blog that you read? Copy and paste some of their content into Google (alternatively, your school or college might have a plagiarism checker which would make this whole process a little bit easier for you). And I'm not talking about a common sentence. "Today I went to the shop" is something 3000 different people could have written, completely honestly and without stealing work from another person. There should be unique trigger words in the sentence you search, and the sentence you choose should be relatively long. Found an exact match in an article that was written months before? That's plagiarism, my friends.

But why do people plagiarise, and what can be done about it? Plagiarism usually occurs for one of three reasons: 1) to gain popularity using someone else's ideas (this is actually quite similar to the definition of a poseur, a typical example of a person who might use plagiarism for their own means) 2) to pass an exam or essay, fearing that their own work isn't good enough, or 3) simply because they cannot be bothered to exert the effort to write their own content. Either way, it's disgusting, if you ask me. Plagiarists are potentially benefiting from an article which someone else has taken time and effort to write. The original author may have struggled to write their article, so why should plagiarists get to skip the hard work! It's time we called them out.

ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: The source of this picture can be located by clicking on it.

One solution could be to comment on the blog of this person, if comments are enabled. Ask them to acknowledge their sources. If they then don't resolve the issue, you could resort to finding the sources yourself, and e-mailing the original author(s), exposing the plagiarist and leaving them to the consequences of their actions. The authors have more of an authority to get it removed, and, of course, can even stage a legal intervention if it's that serious. Otherwise, you can expose the blog on social media and call for a boycott. Copying and pasting their content into Google to see where they got their sources is all well and good if that's as far as you're willing to go, but it also has a downside because it gives the plagiarists' blog more views and higher statistics. Calling for a boycott of their blog, however, is sure to have the opposite effect in the long-term.

Please take care to acknowledge your sources!

Meaghan x

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Capitalism and Voting // Two Weeks Until Election Day

2015 is the year I turned eighteen, and thus, is the first time I'll be able to vote for a party which I think should govern our country. With election day looming, and as a huge fan of Russell Brand, I have frequented his online YouTube show, The Trews, in which he often discusses the corruption of the media/Britain's political system and the effects it has on society and the working class. I don't think I've ever so continuously agreed with a human being more. In particular, I enjoyed Episode 279, "Is Capitalism A Religion?" which you can find here if you have a spare 8 minutes. However to spare you the trouble, I'm going to tell you, briefly, why he's right.

Russell says, "Capitalism is a religion; it has its books, it has its rituals, it has its ministers, it has its institutions. If you are a heretic, you will be condemned. If you disagree with its rules and its systems, you will be imprisoned. If you become an expert in it, a high minister, you will be richly rewarded... Capitalism is an extreme ideology that creates inequality."

Capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state, or, as Russell puts it, "the extreme global ideology that everything is a monetary resource" or "has monetary value". It's a saddening thought, but one we all know; the government are set to make money out of us until we die. And when we're not workers, we're consumers. Any money that you are paid by your employer is most likely put straight back into the system when we buy on the high street. By this system, the money goes straight back up to the top; the richer get richer and the poorer get poorer. We, the working class, get to keep hardly any of our money, while those unable to work are left on benefits living only on what the government decide they are worth. And this is why I believe that Capitalism is fundamentally flawed. I suppose that makes me a heretic.

My mother was diagnosed with Schizophrenia (and other, physical, disorders) when I was fairly young, and now lives in a council house/flat. As she was deemed mentally unfit to properly care for me and my younger sister, my dad fought for custody of us during their divorce. This means we have always only been able to see our mum at weekends, and while this system has always worked for us, it became more difficult when the Conservatives came into office and established the bedroom tax. In a nutshell, the bedroom tax is when "the amount of housing benefit paid to a claimant is reduced if the property they are renting is judged to have more bedrooms than necessary". My mum's flat has two downstairs bedrooms, one is her own, and one which my sister and I share at weekends. But, because we are not permanent residents of the house, my mum has to pay extra money, ON TOP OF RENT, to keep the extra room. Bear in mind that, if my sister and I were still under sixteen, we would still be legally required to spend weekends with our mother. Is it fair that she has to pay extra to, effectively, just obey the law, especially as she isn't able to make much money for herself, due to her condition? No. Especially as, in time, she might need someone there to look after her permanently.

I very strongly believe that it is wrong to tax the poorest of people, when all the money is at the "top" of society. If only you could get the rich to part with some of theirs! After seeing the financial struggle that my mum is going through at the hands of the bedroom tax - while those in Westminster get richer - I, myself, am desperate for the tax to be scrapped. This meant that I was very close to deciding to vote Labour, who promised to do just that. I agree with most of what they stand for... but isn't it all really just a question of whether the policies in their manifestos will actually be implemented, if they do get into power? And I don't truthfully believe the answer to that question is "yes". Although I don't agree with UKIP's policies AT ALL, I had to agree with Nigel Farage when he said there isn't enough of a difference between Labour and Conservative anymore. That leaves me with a choice: to trust in the Party I most agree with NOT to fuck up this country, and vote for them, or, alternatively, not to vote at all. I don't trust any politician at the moment. I believe they're all self-interested in one way or another. Off-shore bank accounts, TWO kitchens? While people are homeless and starving in this country? I don't want to contribute to the system that allows them to do those things. Moreover, I would actually feel guilty and partly responsible if I had helped to elect a party that goes on to lie to the public or f*ck up the economy, or any other such terrible things.

Here I get to bring in my favourite analogy of the moment: if you don't like any of the sandwiches at Subway, would you buy a sandwich from Subway? Of course you wouldn't! So why vote for the best out of a bad bunch? As Russell says, give us something to vote for. You have two weeks to change my mind!