Alex Denning

hey, I'm alex. I'm a blogger, student and social marketer.

Half as good

Last year a friend who’d been at Oxford for a couple of months at that point said to me I get why terms are only eight weeks. Nobody could handle it if they’re any longer.

Tomorrow I have the last of my contact hours for this half of term and then I’ve got a week and a half off for reading week. I’ve got horrible man-flu and to be honest I quite fancy a rest.

Whilst stuff is go it’s very easy to focus on the stuff that needs to be done immediately and leave the stuff that isn’t immediately pressing but you’d still like to get done for a later date — or just leave it indefinitely.

Little breaks are handy for recapping and working out what actually needs to be done.

A month ago I wrote about my habit-buliding goals for 2015 and how I was going to use a simple tally to keep me on track with buliding habits for the things I wanted to do, but didn’t need to do right that second.

At the end of the first period I’ve completed approximately half of what I set out to do. Fifteen Headspace sessions, four runs, eight word-writing-sessions and a book.

Half is not really ideally and half is effectively the product of me not really getting particularly hooked into actually completing what I set out to do. I tried to “bulid habits” and basically I’ve just not done very well.

In part I think the goals weren’t great; for February I’ll be aiming to publish rather than just write and I was a bit overambitious with how much I’d go running, especially when it’s so cold.

But, February is a new month and a new opportunity to kick on and start getting things done. Maybe next month I can manage a whole three quarters.

Know Your Rights, Kids

I was writing an incredibly long and prose-driven post about how I ended up getting my kinda rubbish laptop replaced with a shiny new Macbook last week and whilst the contents were useful it wasn’t particularly interest. So here’s the same information but condensed for your convenience.

  • I bought a laptop eighteen months ago, recently the screen broke on it.
  • The manufacturer wanted me to pay quite a lot to have it looked at + whatever it’d cost to get it fixed.
  • The place were I purchased it claimed I only had a one year warranty.
  • Under the Sale of Goods Act I actually have up to six years covered.
  • Repeatedly stating what the place where I purchased it from’s legal obligations were eventually got someone to speak to a manager, who approved me getting a new laptop to the value of the old one since they don’t sell the model I originally bought anymore.
  • I ended up replacing my kinda crappy laptop with a Macbook.

That’s more or less all you need to know. I had vague knowledge about the EU insiting on two year warranties for all electrical products so did a search on that, and turns out in the UK one has up to six years which is handy.

Just being insistent that it doesn’t matter the product is “out of warranty” eventually got me somewhere and saved me having to get the laptop fixed at my own expense. It would seem I was meant to be informed about what my rights are, but clearly that didn’t happen.

So the next time your laptop or phone breaks, check Which’s website and spend an hour on the phone to wherever you bought it from. Worth it.

How teenagers use social networks, not written by a teenager

I really can’t stand articles “written by a teenager” that every now and again go viral. These articles — written by real-life teens (the main selling point here) — give you the definitive outlook of all teenagers with regards to social media.

I was recently a teenager. I am admittedly a year out of touch, but that still makes me relatively well qualified to comment here.

Here are some pointers:

  • “Teenagers” is not a single homogenised group who all think exactly the same way, all use their phones and laptops in exactly the same way and all think in exactly the same way.
  • “Teenagers” refers to a literally everyone between the ages of thirteen and nineteen. During that period teenagers grow up significantly; it’s probably one of the most significant six-year periods of their lives. There is absolutely no way you can draw generalisations about nineteen year-olds that still apply to thirteen or fourteen year-olds.
  • Even if you could homogenise smaller age ranges, there’s no consideration of gender, social class, social status and so on and so forth. It’s relatively little coincidence that overtime I’ve seen an article like this it’s been written by a white male middle class kid.

The next time you seen an article written by a real teenager that tells you some startling fact about how teenagers use a single social network slightly differently to how they’re perceived to use said social network, and that teenagers actually use this other social network you hadn’t heard of in a way you don’t quite understand or expect, just remember it’s only relatively absurd to make sweeping generalisations about a relatively small group.

Rant over, that’s all.

New Year, New Habits

“Building habits” is all the range these days. Instead of new year’s resolutions if one is a cool kid one should have habits for the new year.

People like Leo Babauta write about habits, James Clear writes every week on habits and Lifehacker‘s posts on new year’s resolutions all advocate some form of habit building. So habits are the things that anyone who’s anyone is advocating.

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At the Brandenburg Gate with James (left) and Tobias (right).

2014 In Review What I've Done/What Have I Done

I’m about to hit two years of sevenironcows and possibly one of the things I’m most proud of is deciding to name my annual here’s stuff I’ve done post “What I’ve Done/What Have I Done”. If you’re interested, this is what I wrote a year ago.

2014, I think, has been an excellent year. If in 2013 I learnt a lot, in 2014 I developed a lot. I’m a lot more confident, I feel better, I’m a lot more adventurous. I don’t know I’ve been more creative, but I’ve certainly continued to pursue my creative endeavours and developed new ones.

I said a year ago I wanted to travel more and that’s been a major success this year. I’ve visited a ton of places, with my major excursion being a month-long trip around Europe this summer. I went with my friend James and he was great at making sure I pushed boundaries of what I’d normally do and I’ve certainly kept some of that spontaneity and yes attitude with me.

Having done one backpacking trip I’m absolutely going to be doing more and I’m a lot more confident about going to more adventurous places. Next Summer I’m hoping to spend a much longer time travelling in one go, hitting Morocco, Istanbul and the bits of the Mediterranean I missed this year. Travel remains very high up on my agenda.

I’ve always vaguely prescribed to a kinda minimalist attitude, but living out of a backpack for a month really demonstrated how much stuff one needs. I’ve not been very good at really applying any of this thinking/philosophy/whatever you want to call it either at home or at my house in Coventry. I’d like to get better at that in 2015.

Along similar lines I started using Headspace at the same time as I started my European travels. I’d always been curious about meditation and it was definitely a very positive move to start doing it and applying mindfulness to everyday life. So that’s been a plus. Negative has been I’ve not been very good at regularly practicing, going in fits and spurts and never managing more than two or three days in succession.

I’m toying with the idea of being unnecessarily aggressive in goals for doing Headspace in 2015. Literally every day? It’d be an interesting way of doing it.

I announced that I launched my new blog a couple of months ago, but since then I’ve not actually published anything. I say this ever year but I’d like to majorly fix that in 2015.

We’ve also reached the two-year anniversary of sevenironcows. I started this site up at the start of 2013 cause I wanted my own little space of internet and I whilst I initially planned on blogging once a week (and did so for the majority of last year), this year I’ve become less fussed about frequency of writing; I write a lot more when I’m at home and that’s fine. I would have liked to have published a couple more posts this year, but I’m pretty happy with my content output, especially the adventure posts.

University obviously dominates my entire existence during term time and the first term of my second year (ie the most recent one) was extremely busy. Being on the executive committees of both Warwick Labour and BrassSoc meant my evenings were always busy and whilst I like being busy and will always fill whatever quantity of time I have available with stuff, one can be too busy and I think I reached this point a couple of times last term.

I’ve been really enjoying my degree, though, and I’ve definitely allayed the fears I had before I joined that it would be a bit of a waste of time. Whilst arguably my learning about the abstract workings of capitalism doesn’t really help anybody, I at least find it interesting to better understand the world and whatnot.

All in all, good work in 2014 Alex. It’s been a very exciting year and I’m very much looking forward to what 2015 has in store. Onwards!

Sep7

I read way too many travel blogs

Like any self-respecting twenty-something geek I subscribe to a lot of blogs and use Feedly to collate all of them into a convenient single place (side note, I also use Press on my phone/tablet which is a really really nice RSS reader). Feedly is a pretty good at organising all of these sites into categories and naturally one of my categories is travel.

So I read a lot of travel blogs. Significantly more travel blogs than any other type of blog. Over the last couple of weeks with “best blogs of 2015 lists” making an appearance I’ve significantly widended my reading, too.

I read quite a wide variety of travel blogs and I’ve come to the conclusion that nobody has yet nailed the travel blog.

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Four terms down, five to go

So I’ve completed another term at Warwick and I’m now 4/9 of the way through my time there. Which is kinda a crazy statistic. I seriously hesitated about going at all, given I was having a great time at Miniclip during my gap year, but I’m so glad I did. Not to be pretentious (a sure fire way to be more pretentious), but having spent a year and a half studying politics and international relations I feel I’m getting somewhere better understanding both myself and the world which has been constructed around me.

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Visiting Bristol 2014

Last weekend I headed down to Bristol with Warwick’s PhotoSoc. I’d only been to Bristol once before and it rained more or less the whole time, so it was good to experience the city properly.

I soaked up some culture, drank a lot of coffee, caught up with friends but the huge highlight was being there for the fireworks to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The bridge is the iconic symbol of Bristol and the fifteen minute display launched off the bridge was fantastic.

Naturally I snapped some photos. They are below for your visual enjoyment.

Work is boring, Adam Smith said so.

“The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects too are, perhaps, always the same, or very nearly the same … has no occasion to exert his understanding … His dexterity at his own particular trade seems, in this manner, to be acquired at the expence of his intellectual, social, and martial values. (Smith 1998 [1776]: 429-30) “

Visiting Manchester 2014

I’ve made my way around a lot of Great British Cities in the last couple of months and now I’ve got Manchester to add to the list. After visiting a place and snapping some photos I’ve got into the habit of uploading them here and labeling them as my “adventures”. I can only kinda do the same for Manchester. I didn’t actually take any photos of Manchester.

So I drove up with three friends from London in my trusty Skoda last Sunday for Labour Party Conference. Despite getting off to an appalling start and scraping my front bumper whilst reversing out of my parents’ drive, the journey was fine and we got to Manchester in good time and in one piece.P9980821

It was my first Conference and once there I quickly learned the tricks of the trade. Go to exciting fringe events, don’t feel bad about taking free wine and don’t be nervous talking to anyone — and look confident, ’cause confidence gets you into just about anywhere.

P9980834

Whilst we explored the pubs around the conference center, we didn’t really go much further than that, hence my difficulty in putting together this post about Manchester. What I did see of the city was very nice, though. Lots of culture and I’m gonna have to go back.

On the last day of Conference we shamelessly got pictures with everyone and anyone. Below are those pictures. Thanks Manchester, let’s do it again sometime.

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