Author: Nessie

Healthy(ish) ‘on the go’ muffins

Breakfast – banana and dark chocolate oat muffins

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Ingredients:

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of oats
  • 1 tablespoon of self raising flour
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 tablespoon of Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1/2 cup of dark chocolate pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutemg
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Recipe:

  1. Mash one banana in a bowl and combine all ingredients with it, mix well
  2. Chop the other banana and add to mixture
  3. Pour mixture into a muffin tray
  4. Bake in the oven at 170c for 30 minutes

Lunch – bacon, broccoli, potato and cheese egg muffins

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Ingredients:

  • 5 rations of bacon
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 cups of broccoli
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable stock
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 cup of cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 of a large potato
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Seasoning- salt, pepper, dried basil, dried parsley
  • 4 eggs

Recipe:

  1. Fry the bacon in a pan until crisp
  2. Add chopped shallots and fry on a medium heat for five minutes
  3. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute
  4. Add the vegetable stock to the pan and crumble in a chicken stock cube
  5. Add the chopped broccoli and grated potato and stir on a medium heat for five minutes
  6. In a large bowl, add the eggs, cheese, seasoning and mixture from the pan, mix well
  7. Pour the mixture into muffin tins and bake at 170c for 20minutes

 

Shakshuka

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Ingredients:

  • Half an onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (I used Jamie Oliver’s)
  • Seasoning – cumin, paprika, chili flakes, salt, pepper, parsley, basil
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • Feta
  • Ciabatta

Recipe:

  1. Fry the onion and garlic until soft
  2. Add tomato sauce, seasoning and sugar to the pan, also crumble in a handful of feta and cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat until slightly reduced
  3. Move sauce aside to create a space to add the eggs
  4. Cover sauce with a lid, for around five minutes, until eggs are cooked/runny in the middle
  5. Once cooked, take off heat and crumble feta over
  6. Toast slices of ciabatta to dip into sauce

The future of Artificial Intelligence

It’s very rare that you get a set guest speakers including the likes of Elon Musk, Nick Bostrom and Sam Harris all on the same panel. The entirety of the video is quite interesting, yet there are two points I find particularly insightful, which I will discuss below. I will also mention a few of my own views on the developments of AI.

The host asked the panel about their thoughts and predictions on the potential positive outcomes and benefits of AI. One of the speakers responded in saying that this is actually a very tricky question. If you were to go back to the ancestral times and ask a Neanderthal what advancements they would like to see in future – they would only be able to think so far ahead. For instance, they might say that they would like their spears to be more stable, or for the wood of their homes to be more waterproof. They would not be able to suggest using a 3D printer to create better tools or to install internet access to communicate with other members of their group. Therefore, it is difficult to predict what benefits AI could have to humanity in future, simply because many concepts are currently incompressible to human beings.

Another guest speaker also made an interesting point which I had not considered before. One of the major questions regarding the developments of AI is whether or not AI will achieve consciousness. To human beings, consciousness is what makes us aware, it is what makes us an intelligent species. However, what if there is a level of awareness higher than consciousness. A level which humans cannot comprehend or obtain. What if AI develop an algorithm to access something higher than consciousness and what would this mean for humanity. This point made me think back to a quote in the 2013 movie “Her”. In this movie, an operating system with AI is designed to adapt and evolve. Eventually, this system is able to break through the realms of human comprehension and access an undiscovered state – “It’s like I’m reading a book… and it’s a book I deeply love. But I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you… and the words of our story… but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed”.

My personal views on AI are that it is inevitably the next step in evolution, the important question to ask, is what will this mean for humanity? Right now AI and humans have a mutual beneficial relationship. AI benefits us in terms of making advancements and solving problems, and in turn, we benefit AI because we are creating and teaching them. I believe that for a period of time, the advancements of AI will be exciting and highly progressive – AI may find a cure for cancer and come up with solutions to managing major environmental issues such as climate change or plastic pollution. But what happens when AI surpass human capabilities, and can eventually do everything that humans can and more. And what happens if and when AI develop some level of consciousness. This reciprocal beneficial relationship between humans and AI will then be shifted. Eventually there will come a point where humans can no longer serve as any benefit to AI. Yet, what humans will still be capable of, is harming AI. Individuals or nations may come to realise the momentous risks of AI to humanity and decide to pull the plug. If and when AI recognise this threat by humans, what will they do? Logically speaking, it would seem most likely that they would eliminate us.

While I am all for the developments and evolution of AI, I believe that a lot of people underestimate and fail to understand the threats of this. One of the major issues is – how do we create AI in a safe environment. Personally, I do not believe this is a permanent possibility. When AI surpass human level intelligence, they will be able to detect any fault and any bug in systems that humans have created. Even if AI have a specific goal, there is the possibility that they will be able to reprogramme themselves and their goals. When you really think about it, in future, AI could create world panic and chaos in an instant. For example, on a universal scale, all AI would need to do is break through all bank account protection systems, set everyone’s bank account value to zero – and you have achieved worldwide pandemonium.

To be completely honest, in many senses I view humans as being parasites of the earth. I believe we are at a point in evolution in which we are destructive, a species driven my consumerism, self-indulgence and greed. We tend to think more as individuals rather than as a species. If we are to continue to survive and evolve then I believe we need to either merge or be taken over by AI. To some, this may not sound optimistic, but personally, I find this incredibly exciting and I would feel proud if a greater artificial being were to replace our species (although this all depends on whether AI are inherently “good”). I also just want to add, that I am no expert on this subject – I do not have a degree in physics or computer science, so if some of you reading this have further or alternative views please let me know in the comments. If you disagree with any points I have made, also, please let me know in the comments. I have created this blog to learn and I am very open to new ideas and perspectives, so would love to hear your views on this.

Bacon and Courgette pasta bake in a creamy Parmesan and white wine sauce

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Ingredients:

  • 500g pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 rations of bacon
  • 2 large courgettes
  • 4 large cloves of garlic
  • 3/4 bottle of white wine
  • 2 cups of cream
  • 1 1/2 packets of parmesan
  • Seasoning – salt, pepper, nutmeg, dried basil and parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of butter

Recipe:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 bake
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the bacon, fry until crisp
  3. Add the garlic and chopped courgettes
  4. Add the white wine to the pan, bring to boil and reduce for 10 minutes
  5. At the same time cook the pasta until aldente and place on a cooking tray
  6. Turn the heat to low and add the cream, butter, seasoning and parmesan to sauce
  7. Pour sauce on top of pasta in the tray
  8. Sprinkle extra Parmesan over the top
  9. Place tray in oven and cook for 10 minutes until the tops are golden brown

Social Media – should I disconnect?

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A couple of months ago I decided to completely minimise my social media profiles, which you can read about here https://thebranchingmind.com/2017/04/19/breaking-away-from-social-media/. So far, I have been incredibly happy with this decision because it has allowed me to live in the present – to live for myself and to view the world through my own lens rather than living for the online world and perceiving life through the lens of a camera. However, even though I have minimised my profiles, I still have social media and I still browse through it. What I find interesting is that I never used to be the type of person to compare myself to others because I knew social media was fake; it’s a place where only the altered versions of people’s lives are presented rather than the real versions. Since moving back to New Zealand, I have suddenly started comparing my life to the lives of others. I believe the reason for this is simply because I am bored. When I was living in Hong Kong and Brisbane, I could walk out of my door and I would be met with vibrancy, excitement, architecture, nature and a whole range of different sights and activities. Now, I walk outside of my door and I basically just have two options of things to do; go to Takapuna beach or into the city. There are a few other things I could do/places I could visit, however, these places are quite inconvenient to get to (especially without a car). Therefore, I usually end up spending far more time in my flat, on my computer, pointlessly browsing through social media.

I’m starting to find that with each day that passes, the more disgusted I become with the online world. One reasons for this is because social media is based on materialism and superficiality. Above are some screenshots I took from my Instagram a few days before I deleted it. Let’s just depict some of these images. What do you see? I see several girls looking fulfilled and refreshed on their extravagant and luxurious holidays, numerous Kodak milestone moments, people in expensive designer clothes, and oh look someone’s posted a picture of their new, flashy car. Everyone looks so flawless, so happy and their lives seem so…perfect. Is this real, everyday life? No it’s not. This definitely isn’t my everyday life. Therefore, processing and internalising images like the ones above are obviously going to make my life seem insignificant.

Another reason I am feeling increasingly repulsed by social media is because I am becoming more and more interested in world problems and environmental issues. I’m fascinated with topics regarding climate change, ocean acidification, plastic pollution and overpopulation. When I become aware of all the damage and destruction that humanity has caused and continues to cause the world – and then browse through the narcissistic and self-indulgent world of social media, it genuinely revolts me. It basically signifies why all of these issues have occurred in the first place – because the vast majority of humans are driven by greed.

For these reasons, I decided to delete my Instagram account and I am also considering removing my Facebook profile. The only problem with this, is that I could end up completely isolating myself from the online world and reducing a significant part of my social life. There are several people I only communicate with on Facebook. If I delete my Facebook account then I will be cutting ties with these people and will most likely lose contact with them. This is the sole only reason as to why I may consider keeping this social media platform, along with using it as an educational platform to keep up with world events and scientific/technological advances.

I also just want to add that I haven’t created this post as a means of ranting my frustrations. More so, I am looking for advice. If any of you have experienced what I am experiencing, what have you done about it? And if you have completely disconnected from the online world, did this help or did it hinder your life? At the end of the day, social media is a strange and sad phenomenon. It’s a place where we are connected to others, most of which we don’t speak to, haven’t seen in years, or in some cases, have never met at all. Yet, we continuously observe their lives and they observe ours. I do not want to look back on my life in future and regret spending so much time in a fake reality on an online world.  It’s bizarre and it is pointless. What do any of us actually gain from this? If you have any advice, please let me know by leaving a comment or posting a message on the ‘contact’ page. I would really appreciate pointers from others on this!

Life update: post-teaching

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Around seven months ago I made a post regarding my reasons for leaving teaching (https://thebranchingmind.com/2016/12/20/the-truth-about-teaching/). After leaving the profession I decided to return to University to pursue a new career (https://thebranchingmind.com/2017/03/15/returning-to-university-at-age-25/). While I don’t necessarily want to use this blog to discuss my personal life, a few of you have asked me how I am getting on. Several people have messaged, confessing that they are miserable within the teaching profession, they feel stuck and do not know what the next step is. For these reasons, I thought it would be useful to provide a quick update on how my life has progressed since leaving the teaching profession.

  • No more depressed ruts. Working as a teacher for three years, at least once every couple of months I would slip into a depressed state because I was so unhappy and so unfulfilled within the job. I felt as though I had failed in my career, failed as a human being and ultimately, failed at life. I remember sitting at tables with the children, doing tedious activities, plastering a false smile on my face while telling them how lovely their paintings and drawings all were. Yet, in the back of my mind I would be thinking “what am I doing with my life? I feel no passion for this job and I don’t feel like I’m achieving anything. Is this really all I am going to do with my life? I could have accomplished so much, I could have had any career, yet I chose this…”. It has now been seven months since I left teaching and I have not experienced a single depressed rut. During my time as a teacher, I remember making calls to my Mum almost every week in tears, ranting about how much I despised the job and how I was not meant for the role. Since then I have cried once – when I got accepted into the dentistry course, and they were happy tears!
  • Feeling positive about the future. While working as a teacher, I felt stuck with no escape. I had made the detrimental decision to take the teaching course at University, these were the cards I had been dealt, therefore I had no other option but to remain in the profession. What else was I going to do, I couldn’t go back to University again? I felt no excitement or enthusiasm about coming into work each day, about life or my future. It was as though I was experiencing life as a robot – waking up solemn and miserable, spending eight exhausting and mentally mundane hours on the job, coming home shattered, getting takeout because I was too tired to cook, bed by eight, not falling asleep until midnight due to anxiety about the day ahead, and repeat. I spent a considerable amount of time each day and night contemplating what the actual purpose of my life was. If I wasn’t enjoying life then what was the point of my existence? However, post teaching, I feel so much more positive and content with my new course in dentistry. I find it comforting to know that I am now working towards a career that will better suit my interests and personality. I am incredibly excited about eventually earning a higher salary, to possibly set up my own practice, to be able to save money and to continue travelling abroad. I also find it encouraging to know that in this new job, the end of the working day will be the end of my working day. With teaching, the work never stopped, the end of your working day, was never really the end.
  • No more sickness. Working as a teacher, I would catch colds and become ill almost every single month. In the past seven months, I have caught a cold once! Not only that, but I no longer have to come home everyday with aching legs, back pain, and feeling utterly physically exhausted. Additionally, I now have the time and mental energy to pursue other interests and areas of my life.

Overall, I feel 100% confident in my decision of leaving teaching and returning to University. The more time that passes, the more I realise just how unfitting teaching was for my character. I am so relieved that I did not stick with the career solely due to fear of the unknown. However, it hasn’t all been entirely positive. While the majority of people have been supportive and understanding of my decision to go back to University. There were a couple of people who were unsupportive and critical of this choice – stating that I was going to be in my late twenties once graduated and that I would be behind in life. I found such criticisms slightly upsetting and I began second guessing myself “am I really making the right decision? Should I have stayed in a career I was miserable in?”. Excuse my unformal language, but in hindsight I should have thought, screw the critics! They have not walked in my shoes or experienced what I have experienced, so there is not point internalising the negative views of others. Not to mention, everyone’s life path is different. People have different life goals and aspirations, so who’s to say I will be behind?

In all honesty, going into teaching was one of the utmost worst decisions I have ever made in my life, while leaving teaching has undoubtedly been one of the best. Interestingly, one of the biggest fears I have developed over this past year, is the fear of ‘what if?’. What if I hadn’t come to the realisation that I needed to leave teaching? What if I really had wasted this one life that I have? If you are unhappy and feel stuck in your career, take a risk and change that. I can’t stress enough just how important it is to be in a career you are content with. What is the point in wasting your life, spending fifty odd years working in a job you despise? And if anyone questions or criticises your decision to take the plunge and start again, screw them! It’s your life and you need to trust your own instincts. Take control of the situation and do what’s best for you – you won’t regret it.

Chocolate Banoffee Pie

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Recipe from https://www.carnation.co.uk/Recipes/7/Cheats-Chocolate-Banoffee-Pie

Ingredients:

  • 85g butter, melted
  • 250g dark chocolate digestive biscuits, finely crushed
  • 200g dark chocolate, melted
  • 397g can Carnation Caramel
  • 4 bananas
  • 300ml carton whipping cream, lightly whipped

Recipe:

  1. Tip the biscuit crumbs into a bowl. Add the butter and mix in. Spoon the crumbs into the base and about halfway up the sides of the tin to make a pie shell. Chill for 10 minutes.
  2. Melt the chocolate gently in the microwave then mix in the Carnation Caramel. Beat until smooth. Spread the filling over the biscuit base and chill for about 1 hour, until firm or until ready to serve.
  3. Slice the banana and fold half of them into the whipped cream and spoon over the base. Decorate with the remaining bananas and dust liberally with cocoa powder (or shaved chocolate).