Carbonara (non-traditional)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 packet of pancetta or bacon
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/3 bottle of chardonnay
  • 500g of pappardelle pasta
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon of cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon of butter
  • 100g of parmesan
  • Seasoning – salt, pepper, parsley

Recipe:

  1. In a frying pan, add olive oil to a pan and fry pancetta until crisp
  2. Add the chopped garlic and fry until slightly brown
  3. Add chardonnay and cook on a medium-high heat for 10 minutes
  4. Boil pasta
  5. In a bowl add egg yolks, cream, parmesan, seasoning and butter, mix well
  6. Once pasta is aldente and the wine has reduced, add it to the bowl and combine all ingredients

Materialism vs. Minimalism

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Many people today, particularly those living in OECD countries, live in what you could call a ‘consumerist society’. Cultures driven by self-indulgence and materialism – the more material items you own, the higher your perceived status. But does the possession of material items really increase happiness? Research suggests otherwise. In fact, studies have found that it is experience that leads to greater happiness rather than the amount of “stuff” one owns.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I worked a part-time job and spent every single dime I earned on material items – new clothes, jewellery, shoes and so forth. I would buy a new party dress every other week, sometimes only to wear the dress once and never again. The idea of materialism was a social ideal that had been projected onto me and engrained within my mentality from a very young age – the bigger the house, the bigger the garden, the more ‘things’ someone owned, the better. It wasn’t until I began working overseas, had to pack up my life into one suitcase and keep only the necessary and essential items, that I began to ponder over the topic of minimalism.

While I may not be the utmost dedicated minimalist, the past three years, I have definitely adopted a more minimalistic lifestyle. Being a student, I don’t really have any other choice. What I have learned, is that I actually prefer this lifestyle. I like knowing exactly what items I own and that I could easily pack up my life into one suitcase if I needed to, I like not having clutter. This lifestyle has also changed the way I consume – when I go shopping I no longer feel the urge to splurge on material items. For instance, if I see a jumper I like, instead of impulsively going ahead and purchasing it, I stop and ask myself “I already own four jumpers, they all serve the purpose of keeping me warm, so do I really need another one?”. The same applies to jewellery, I have two pairs of earrings, one necklace, and two rings, all of which come to under $30NZD. I don’t feel as though I need any more than this. I was actually watching a video a few days ago on a vloggers ‘room tour’ and was quite astounded at what I saw – fifteen draws stacked full of jewellery, twenty handbags, eight pairs of jeans, twenty different nail varnishes. I just didn’t understand it, all these items serve the same function, so why would someone need so many versions of it?

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Embracing minimalism has also allowed me to analyse and apply this concept to other areas of life. One thing I have learned over the past few years, is that human beings tend to passively go through life without questioning what it is they are doing and why. Here, I will provide three examples of this – engagement, weddings and homes. Unfortunately there is the social ideal that the more money one spends on an engagement ring, the more moral value it possesses. Personally, I find this to be an absolutely absurd concept. A man that can only afford to spend $200 on a ring, could love their partner just as much as someone who were to spend $20,000 on a ring. At the end of the day, the amount of money a person spends on a tiny circular object that sits on your finger does not represent how much you love that person or how committed you are to them. The same applies to weddings. To break it down, the average human lives 788,400 hours, and the average wedding lasts four hours and costs $35,000 NZD. Therefore, the average person spends $35,000 on an event that lasts 0.0005% of their life. When you really think about it, this is utterly disgusting. While this might sound cliché, there are millions of people in the world that struggle to afford food and shelter, every single day of their lives. To spend $35,000 on an event that lasts 0.0005% of a life would surely seem unfathomable to these people. Furthermore, another interesting finding is that in many OECD countries home sizes have dramatically increased over the past decade, despite family sizes becoming smaller. One study found that on average, a family that owns a large home (approx 2000 square feet) will make use of only 68% of the space, with some rooms going almost completely unused. It seems like many of us need a complete re-evaluation of our lifestyles.

I suppose the main point of this post, is to encourage you to think beyond the social ideals and to question everything you do. Could your money be spent on something of more personal and moral value rather than purely material value? Ask yourself – when you come to the end of your life, would you feel more fulfilled reminiscing over all the material items you owned, or how you used your finances on something more meaningful/on someway to give back to the community and contribute to the world? Research has found that splurging on material items leads to only temporary satisfaction, so instead, why not splurge on purposeful and meaningful experiences that will leave you with lifelong fulfillment.

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 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 mutually 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

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).