Newsflash: Best Hotel In Sydney Discovered, Actually Values Guests

I never understood the true meaning of ‘bittersweet’ until I stayed at 1888 Hotel.

Sweet because it was only the best stay ever, yet bitter because now I can’t stay anywhere else.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to stay in a restored warehouse crossed with the treehouse of your dreams, then 1888 Hotel will put your wondering mind to rest.

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The foyer’s ‘selfie-space’.

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How did I discover 1888 Hotel?

I was faced with the challenge of only wanting to stay somewhere cheap, but needing to stay fairly close to Darling Harbour for the following day’s activities.

LOL.

Cheap’ and ‘Darling Harbour’ seldom appear in the same sentence, however you can now feel free to note me as the pioneer of such syntax.

So, after ensuring the “Cheap as shit” and “Nearest to Cool Shit To See/Do” filters were on, the beacon of light that is 1888 Hotel shone through the screen and into my life. At the top of the list, the ‘Shoebox’ room at 1888 was going at a rate of $215 for a Tuesday night (yeah, we use the word ‘cheap’ pretty loosely in Sydney).

Why You Should Stay Here

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The lobby bar and kitchen

Aside from the fact that it is a heritage listed boutique hotel, the best thing about 1888 is the decor and atmosphere. The former woolshed now boutique hotel still bears its original ironbark beams, and along with period windows and a living tree in the foyer, the warm treehouse-meets-warehouse vibe fills the air.

On the flip-side, this hotel wins in all aspects of modernity, too. With two glass elevators, vibrant Australian contemporary artwork, a very tech-savvy foyer (hello, iMac station and countless USB ports), free wi-fi and in-room complimentary iPads, this place is a Gen Y’s nirvana.

Why you DEFINITELY Should Stay Here

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Our King Suite

OK, let’s not forget why I’m actually taking the time to write about a random hotel I stayed at in Sydney. The service and the features! The staff were impeccably kind, and really seemed to enjoy the fact that they work for the best* hotel in Sydney, so much that they basically just threw perks at us.

Not only were we upgraded from the Shoebox room to the King Room upon arrival, we were also treated to the mini-bar free of charge all because we checked-in late and missed out on the hotel’s free happy hour! In my eyes, a hotel that offers guests a free happy hour daily is not a hotel, it’s a home.

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Other great perks of 1888 Hotel are:

  • Gigantic walk-in rain showers. Embrace this rare opportunity of knowing it is OK to not feel bad about taking showers that are way too long.
  • A complimentary goodie bag to help you enjoy your stay, including chocolate, mints, chips, fruit, biscuits and more. Say ‘toodaloo m***** f*****’ to late night Maccas runs and 7-11 trips.
  • Highly Instagrammable and very ‘likeable’ rooms with minimalistic design, contemporary artwork and exposed brickwork.
  • Instagram the crap out of your stay for the chance to win a free night. Your followers are going to get annoyed, but eh, all in the name of free crap, right?
  • The assortment of complimentary T2 teas. Because Lipton is too mainstream, duh.
  • If you have over 10,000 Instagram followers, you stay the night free.
  • The free happy hour.
  • Close proximity to Darling Harbour.
  • The free happy hour.
  • Good times are never far away with the lobby encompassing a kitchen and bar.
  • The free happy hour.
  • The selfie space in the foyer: literally a hanging photo frame beckoning you to take a picture behind it. You know you want to.
  • The free happy hour.

But don’t say I didn’t warn you, this place is scarily enticing and addictive and so god damn homey that you’ll definitely be back for more.

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All a Gen Y needs: Free wifi, iPad, snacks, beer and tea
decor design
How a blue pillow does so much, no one will ever know.
Creative Design
How the rooms are marked: They don’t call it the ‘Instagram Hotel’ for nothing
goodies
Thanks, we did.
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The walk-in rain shower in all its glory

*In my opinion. Which, mind you, is right 99% of the time. You can thank me later.

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4 Unexpected Things I Learnt From Yoga

4 Unexpected Things I Learnt From Yoga

I entered my first yoga class with great expectations. I was going to learn about peace of mind, good posture, inner strength and all that other imaginary stuff. Quite the contrary. Here’s what I really learnt during yoga.

1. You need a pedicure

…Or at least look after your feet. Between this stretch and that pose, I found myself constantly staring at my feet. So much for peace of mind; my dry heels and jagged nails were too much of a distraction for any of that. Plus my chipped nail polish wasn’t helping. To be fair, whatever brand it was is damn good, since I last painted my toes two months ago before a night out. I know this because my pinkie toe wasn’t painted. Y’know, the strap on my stilettos covered it so like, why bother painting it if no one is going to see it?

2. Shed your skin before you get in

Literally. The amount of tiny white flakes I saw fall during the down dog posture was equally concerning and impressive- was I really at the gym or was I at Thredbo? No one would know the difference. Except me, of course. And the bunch of unused exfoliators and moisturisers I’ve got sitting at home. But in all seriousness, exfoliating is not only important for your skin and mat hygiene, but also for your fellow yogis on carpeted floors. If you really want to keep your Winter Wonderland theme going, or if you’re just lazy like me, wear full length pants to keep snowfall flaking to a minimum.

3. Loud breathers are the spawn of Satan

A bit harsh? Not really. I can understand deep breaths for therapeutic reasons, but loud, orgasmic breaths are truly distracting and disturbing. I wonder if that’s what peace of mind sounds like? If so, I’ll have what she’s having. Until then, can we just agree to keep breathing in the form of plain air sans any vocal enhancement? Thanks.

4. It actually works

I’m yet to discover peace of mind, good posture or inner strength- I’m still convinced they don’t exist – but yoga really does make you feel great. So many people (including my past self) consider yoga a bunch of boring stretches and unnecessary meditation and breathing before they’ve even given it a chance. After a few classes, I’ve decided yoga is bloody great. You leave feeling light with relaxed muscles, loose limbs and a (sometimes false, in my case) sense of flexibility. Just make sure you take note of points 1-3 beforehand.

What Not To Say To A Foodie

I’m usually one of those people who look for the positives in everybody, but when it comes to this particular thing, sorry I’m not sorry, but you’ve reached your limits. You’ve actually shut down my brain’s mental capacity to look past those irksome words and it’s an instant Australian Idol-esque ‘no’ from me.

“Are you sharing?”

Only those close to me know how much I hate it when I’m ordering food at a restaurant, and the waiter stops me mid-sentence to ask if I’m sharing with someone else. Or when the waiter comes out with cheese fries, a large pizza and a fried chicken ranch salad (because I’m on a diet) and asks “Are you sharing?” Then it’s all over. Hell no, you did not just insult me and my five meals. What would make you think I would want to share this delicious spread of food with anyone else? If I was sharing this with my partner/friend/mum I think we would’ve stated so and asked for extra plates to share the food. Now you’ve gone and made it totally awkward, but mostly for yourself. Just put the dishes on the table, don’t say another word and quickly run back into the kitchen and scold yourself for assuming.

What gets me through these tough times is my loved ones. I was recently out for lunch with my best friend and we ordered pizzas. When the waiter (a different one that did not take our order) came out with one of the pizzas, they uttered the poison-laced words, “Is this just to share?” Thankfully, my best friend had it covered and gave a very terse “No.”

I may be rubbing off on those around me, which is actually me just doing a good deed for humankind in hopes that it will prevent this happening to others in the future, so yeah I’ll claim that.

Note: to everyone in hospitality- please never assume, just bring out the dish and ask who it’s for to avoid the whole did-you-just-call-me-fat-what-are-you-insinuating-no-we-aren’t-sharing-are-you-seriously-feeling-ok-why-would-you-ask-that situation.

Another note: I am fully aware that this maybe, possibly, could be a reflection of my underlying insecurities but hey, the customer is always right so bring in another round of onion rings, no questions asked. Except for if I would like dipping sauce with those, and in that case, yes, I would, please and thanks.

Rape culture: it’s a jungle out there

I’ve been hearing a huge amount of sex-shaming, victim-blaming comments recently (sigh, again), so thought I’d share this piece again to remind people of just how harmful internalised misogyny is.

EpicuriouslyAmy

“She was basically asking for it. I mean, look at what she’s wearing!”- Sound familiar? Most people who have a Facebook or Twitter account, or generally have an internet connection, would have seen the latest pictures circulating of Rihanna at the CFDA Awards. Notable for the sheer number she wore, allowing onlookers a glimpse of what lies beneath; a nude g-string and a pair of nipples. Oh the outrage! Boobs! Bums! I can’t believe what I am seeing! Rihanna Hold on- yes I can. While the ‘suitability’ of the dress has been questioned and outright blasted, there are more concerning issues at hand. Rihanna The real reason I felt it necessary to draw attention to Rihanna at the CFDA Awards is not because of her dress or its suitability, but because of the general public’s reaction to it. Scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook, the pictures of Rihanna appear here, there, and everywhere. The other thing that…

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The Internet of Things

I still remember growing up watching the Back To the Future trilogy, and just being so excited for the noughties because I could finally get a hoverboard and a house with intelligent devices like keyless doors, phones with video calls and automated curtains. (Oh, and let’s not forget that awesome microwave that turns a tiny palm-sized packet into a fresh pizza in a matter of seconds.)

Great Scott! Some of this is sounding a lot like The Internet of Things! Could we already be there?

The term ‘Internet of Things’ was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton (Duncan, 2014). It refers to the idea of objects being connected to the Internet and becoming tangibly social so that they can do things that previously only humans could have done with an Internet connection (Mitew, 2014).

Duncan (2014) details the possibilities of the Internet of Things, explaining that devices would be able to sense aspects of the real world such as temperature, lighting, presence of people and objects as well as be able to report that real-world data. He concludes this would result in a lot more information being consumed and produced by machines that would communicate between themselves to improve the quality of our lives- or so we hope.

People are either thrilled at the idea of the Internet of Things, or absolutely terrified. Many are quick to recount The Terminator films, while others, like me, are still anticipating owning a house just like Marty McFly’s from BTTF part II.

Bleeker (2006) describes the Internet of Things as “a network in which socially meaningful exchanges take place, where culture is made, experiences circulated through media sharing- only with objects and human agents.”

From this, we can see that human civilisation has certainly already entered the era of the Internet of Things, and it is definitely not something in the far future we see in cyber-utopian (or dystopian, for that matter) films. It is, in fact, hear and now and already making positive advances.

Earlier this week I came across an article on Daily Life that detailed a story about how woman’s autistic son considers Apple’s voice command, Siri, his best friend. The article wonderfully highlighted the benefits of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and above all, it incredibly corroborates Bleeker’s statement of ‘socially meaningful exchanges’ taking place.

The Internet of Things still has a long way to go; we are still waiting on bathroom cabinets to tell us when our toilet paper is running low, a fridge to tell us when we need to update the groceries and a whole house-full of devices that can detect when we have woken up so they can start the coffee machine, switch on the TV, get the shower running and draw the blinds (Duncan, 2014). But do not fear, the Internet of Things is already here.

Dark fiber and new concerns

Earlier this week, I learnt some quite terrifying things about the Internet and it how it’s being used. I’ll have to admit, I am quick to dismiss anything regarding hackers, theft and fraud impeding my Internet use or devices, and I have often only just glossed over the idea of government censorship on the Internet. So while I felt like a huge failure of a communications and media student for not knowing these things earlier, I soon found out a lot of peers and friends alike were also hearing of them for the first time.

There is no ‘delete button’ in cyberspace

Ironic, right? Nope. While I was previously aware that whatever we put on the Internet is there forever, I was pretty concerned when I found out that whatever we are actually doing on the Internet is also always being recorded without our control (Mitew, 2014). Apparently, it is easier to record everything than to delete unwanted bits of information. This makes me kind of feel bad for taking up so much of the Internet’s space with hundreds of photos of my breakfasts and my beagle, but then I also feel like saying something witty and philosophical about revenge and karma and privacy as well.

Hackers can’t all be like Snowden

Okay, well this I knew already, but learning about LulzSec just made it seem all the more real that hackers may just be ordinary people looking for the next hack adrenaline rush (such disappoint, much sad). In one of their attacks, they targeted Sony’s PlayStation network by compromising users’ personal and confidential details such as birth dates, email address and bank details. Why? Just for the lols, apparently. And to prove how insecure their system is. Makes sense… kind of. Good one.

The government is a bunch of trolls

The biggest bombshell of the week for me was learning about the US government’s creation of fake online identities as a means to subvert public discourse. WHAT?! Okay, I could be naïve or my interests just never got me that deep into Google, but learning that governments have created a “fake virtual army of people” (Mitew, 2014) shocked me. Lee (2012) detailed that these false personas were fully equipped with all social media accounts and email addresses to pull off the act, and were designed to subvert public discourse by ‘countering misinformation’ and to create a ‘semblance of consensus’. This could be the most concerning of all things happening in cyberspace right now, and in accordance with Mitew, it is possibly even more pernicious than all other cyber attacks.

To hack, or not to hack? That is the question

In an unnecessary film sequel, the infamous Anchor Man Ron Burgundy finally started making some sense towards the end when he said:You see, folks, I’ve read a lot of news in my day, but it’s…it’s taken me until now to realise what real news is. Real news is supposed to let people know what the powerful are up to, so that that power doesn’t become corrupt. But what happens when the powerful own the news?”

*

In 2006, Julian Assange’s first act of hacktivism for his site Wikileaks was with the release of their video ‘Collateral Murder’, with the intention of exposing the unjust realities of modern warfare (Khatchadourian, 2010).

The term ‘hacktivism’ refers to using computers and networks to ‘debate and sustain a political issue, promote free speech, and support human rights’ (Paganini, n.d.).

The origins of hacking lay within the realm of military action. During the Second World War, hackers were breaking into other countries’ computer systems to gain access to secret information codes (Mitew, 2014). Although in more recent times, with ever-advancing technologies, we have seen a huge rise in the hacking phenomenon but not necessarily to gain information to report back to one’s own country, but instead as medium for activism. There has been a shift; with a large focus now not on gaining information about ‘the other’, but instead hackers are breaking into and exposing computer systems of their own communities and countries, too. Hackers, like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, are leaking information to media outlets and onto the Internet to expose the unjust and exploitative nature of those in power to the public, making them hacktivists.

Assange summed this shift up perfectly in an article with Raffi Khatchadourian in 2010 for The New Yorker, when he defined the human struggle “not as left verus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution.”

Similarly in another instance of an individual versus institution, we have whistleblower Edward Snowden’s case; a systems administrator and computer professional working for the NSA who leaked details of classified US government surveillance programs (Mitew, 2014).

Hacktivists like Assange and whistleblowers like Snowden share the mission to expose injustice served by those in power, with the belief that everyone should have access to everything in order to build an independent online public sphere (Mitew, 2014).

Some may call this technological determinism at its finest, and others may not see the use in hacktivism at all. But when Assange stated Wikileaks’ primary targets were the oppressive regimes in China and Russia (Khatchadourian, 2010), it’s certainly not hard to see reason with Wikileaks.

Unfortuantely, not all hackers become hacktivists, and a lot of information that is stolen is not useful nor ethical. Hacking has been used for far less ambitious things, such as 4chan’s releasing of over 200,000 snapchats and the nude celebrity leaks (Grey, 2014), perpetuating the stigma associated with hackers.

On that note- do you feel that all information should be free and flowing with accessibility to everyone? Do you believe that Assange and Snowden were right in their hacktivism?

“If you want to liberate a country, give them the Internet”

‘Wael Ghonim, the young Google executive who has became a symbol of Egypt’s pro-democracy uprising after he launched the original Facebook page credited with sparking the initial protest, called the Egyptian upheaval, “Revolution 2.0.”

“If you want to liberate a country, give them the internet,” Ghonim said.’ (Gustin, 2011)

Screen shot 2014-10-14 at 5.04.34 PM

Up until very recently, I believed that social media was the root cause of the Arab Spring revolutions. Quite obliviously, I considered the terms ‘Twitter revolution’ and ‘Arab Spring’ to be interchangeable. However, Morosov’s 2011 Guardian article ‘Facebook and Twitter are just places revolutionaries go’ raised a number of points to prove why my prior opinions on the matter are problematic.

Rather than being the root cause of revolution, Morosov describes social media as mere communication tools. He says the importance of Facebook and Twitter in recent revolutions are overstated, resulting in the role of real-life workshops, organisations and street-activism engagement to be overlooked or entirely dismissed.

Another important point Morosov makes is that these ‘social media revolutions’ emphasise the role of tools and downplay human agency, which works in favour of Americans as it gives them something to feel proud of and feel as though they contributed to events in the Middle east. The West has widely perceived these uprisings as ‘spontaneous’ and not possible without Facebook, allowing the U.S. to feel somewhat responsible and deserving of credit to the Arab Spring. This is a troubled line of thinking, because as Morosov states, “if, of course, the uprising was not spontaneous and its leaders chose Facebook simply because that’s where everybody is, it’s a far less glamorous story.”

Evidently, communication is the point of social media, so it irks me to so blatantly obviously call Facebook and Twitter ‘just’ communication tools in the context of these revolutions. Agreeing with Popova (2010), I’d say that if something is creating awareness, it is the starting point of activism, which she defines as “any action or set of actions, be it organised, grassroots or self-initiated, that aims to resolve a problem that diminishes the quality of life of individuals, communities or society.”

There are a number of interpretations of social media’s role in revolutions, and I identify best with the ‘Idealist 2.0’. I believe that the revolutions were enabled by social media but this is not some cyber-utopian idealism, but because it is simply the result of new media allowing a new message to be spread. This is because as Mitew (2014) observes, the internet, and social media especially, works effectively for political change due it’s speed, scalable openness and ability to reach out to the masses.

While the web can breed a culture of ‘slacktivism’, I feel any attempts of activism online is an important starting point for any movement. Similarly, Popova says “we have ample evidence that the social web not only brings critical awareness to issues of humanitarian and ecological importance, but also incites action around them.”

Gustin’s (2011) response to the question “Did social media cause the revolution?” is a perfect way to sum up the debate. “No. But these tools did speed up the process by helping to organize the revolutionaries, transmit their message to the world and galvanize international support… It acts like an accelerant to conditions which already exist in the country. Twitter and YouTube serve as amplification for what’s happening on the ground.”

Social media and the transformation of Journalism

Social media and the transformation of journalism

The rise of social media has seen a rise in the prominence of citizen journalism. Not only is Twitter and Instagram a great starting point for businesses and celebrities to promote their projects/goods/services, but it has also provided users a platform with opportunity to become a journalist. By blogging, reviewing, photographing, sharing links and commenting on global issues, consumers become prosumers; where participation is its own reward (Mitew, 2014), resulting in a cyber-culture where citizen journalism is quite often merely standard behaviour and use of the Internet but also becoming a growing, deliberate practice online.

To look at the concept of citizen journalism we first must acknowledge the status and workings of traditional journalism. Axel Bruns (2009) stated mainstream journalism “offers news-as-product; a collection of easily digestible reports based on research, ready for consumption,” while citizen journalism “provides news-as-process” which entails a continuation and unfinished coverage of events and topics that encourages user participation.

Furthermore, Goode (2009) defines citizen journalism as a “range of web-based practices whereby ‘ordinary’ users engage in journalistic practices”, but also the term is used loosely and covers activities such as re-posting, linking and commenting on news information provided by professionals or news companies.

Thanks to social media sites such as Twitter, citizen journalism has been given a chance to fully develop and flourish. Johnson (2009) said with social networks, live searching and link-sharing that “Twitter has amounted to the most interesting alternative to Google’s near monopoly in searching.”

To compare Twitter to Google is actually mind-blowing, when you really consider that more often people are getting their news faster from Twitter and choose this as their news source and search engine for current issues. This information is important, because if enough people are tweeting about the same thing, it becomes ‘news’. Johnson sums this up perfectly when he says “Tweets become valuable when aggregated,” drawing a connection of individual contributions to the metaphor “a bridge of pebbles”. One tweet may seem worthless but if every person from a city writes one tweet on the same subject, it becomes a fortified bridge and a link from the cyber world to real-life issues.

Perfect examples of single tweets, or pebbles, forming news, or a bridge, are the use of social media, particularly Twitter, during the Arab Spring, and more recently the Ferguson protests.

Apple deems U2 ‘the sweetest thing’ and a reflection on operating systems

Apple deems U2 ‘the sweetest thing’ and a reflection on operating systems

This week the Internet kind of exploded –again-, with social media commentary expressing a range of emotions in response to Apple ‘gifting’ every iTunes user (aka millions of people) a copy of Irish rock band U2’s latest album ‘Songs of Innocence’.

On a scale of “Yay, free music!” to “How do I delete this virus called U2 off my device?”, how did you react to the news?

My brother went something along the lines of “What the frak?! They got me too! Damn you, U2!”

Just when he thought he’d escaped the wrath of the almighty iCloud, Apple was there to remind him that he had a choice when he was buying a new phone, and he will damn-well use it and he will damn-well like it!

Which brings forth this week’s topic of the operating systems Android and Apple’s iOS and what they really mean for users and mobile net.

An exemplary text on the topic is Eric Raymond’s book The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Published in 1999, Raymond described a closed operating system like iOS as being like a cathedral; stable, hierarchical and only made public at the end of the building process. On the contrary, an open operating system like Android is like the open architecture of a bazaar; an open marketplace with users creating, contributing and taking simultaneously as they wish.

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These open and closed operating systems such as iOS and Android have become a hot topic of discussion particularly in recent years as mobile net is ever-expanding and rising, becoming more important as newer devices are being created each year. As these devices are an extension of what we see on our computer screens (Mitew, 2014), they become a mini computer. The issue then is, depending on which operating system you choose; this mini-computer device like your mobile phone or tablet is accessible in different ways.

Apple’s closed, exclusive system, iOS, doesn’t allow external codes, programs or applications outside of Apple or Apple’s approval to enter, enabling complete control of the systems and Apple devices (Worstall, 2012). This explains the forceful gifting of U2’s album to your iCloud account. The pros being security and simplicity throughout all your devices, and cons are the limitations and restricted usage of devices and a less personal experience.

Android, on the other hand, as an open operating system, is trying to say the mobile web should be open and provide the same experience to users regardless of the device (Holland, 2014). Andy Rubin, creator of Android, described his OS as having “the spirit of Linux and the reach of Windows… It would be a global, open operating system for the wireless future” (Roth, 2008).

Still not sure what’s right for you? For further information on iOS and Android features, see the links below.

http://lifehacker.com/5801862/top-10-awesome-android-features-that-the-iphone-doesnt-have

http://www.valuewalk.com/2014/09/iphone-6-plays-catchup-to-android/

http://www.okcupid.com/tests/the-best-operating-system-for-you-test

References

Roth, D. (2008) ‘Google’s Open Source Android OS Will Free the Wireless Web’. Wired

Raymond, E. (2001) The Cathedral and the Bazaar [pp.1-31]

Worstall, T. (2012) ‘The Problem with Apple’s Closed Apps Universe’. Forbes