Edinburgh Napier University

Author: julietkinsey (Page 1 of 9)

Lego Day

Celebrating Lego Day

It’s world Lego day today. Lego is one of those toys that is ubiquitous with childhood. Anyone growing up in the West will know immediately what you mean when you mention it. It is the joy of Children everywhere, and the thing that drives most parents mad. Is there anything more painful to stand on!?!

In fact, people who have regularly experienced walking on hot coals and broken glass say Lego is by far the worst thing to walk on (source). Feeling brave? You always have a go at the Lego Firewalk. Personally, I’d rather walk on glass or coals!

History

It was in Denmark, at Ole Kirk Christiansen’s workshop where Lego was firstborn. In 1934 it became called Lego after the Danish phrase leg godt.  They were originally called Automatic Binding Bricks, but less originally they were based on the Kiddicraft Self-Locking Bricks, already patented in the UK.

Over time Lego has grown to become the biggest toy company in the world and is not only used as toys but as movies, artworks and they even made an amusement park you can visit.

Mindfulness

Lego is no longer just for children; in fact, they have many Lego sets dedicated to adults. There is some fascinating research connected to mindfulness about how doing Lego can help our mental health. We actually keep a Lego set behind each Library Help Desk you can borrow for free. Why not check one out next time you visit…if the library staff aren’t already playing with them that is!

Learn More

We have a fascinating and diverse range of materials for you to read on Lego, from issues with Dentistry (teeth and Lego are a bad mix it seems!) to build your own Lego Robots. Check out Librarysearch.napier.ac.uk.. Just type in the word “Lego” and start reading!

By Juliet Kinsey

Sources: Wikipedia

RSPB Garden Birdwatch

RSPB Garden Birdwatch

This year we’re promoting the RSPB Garden Birdwatch in our relaxation spaces. The birdwatch has been running since 1979 and it’s very simple to take part in. All you need to do is count the maximum number of each type of bird you see in an hour either in your garden, from a balcony or in a park. Your results can be entered online. This year the birdwatch runs from 27-29 January. It’s a good way to take a break from your studies and you are contributing to a valuable citizen science project. The results are published later in the year and are useful for conservation projects and make interesting reading about the state of our garden birds.

“I think the most important quality in a birdwatcher is a willingness to stand quietly and see what comes. Our everyday lives obscure a truth about existence – that at the heart of everything there lies a stillness and a light.” – Lynn Thomson, Birding with Yeats: A Mother’s Memoir.

All the information you need can be found at Big Garden Birdwatch or scan the QR code on the posters in the relaxation spaces.

You can use Library Search to find books and articles on birds, conservation and citizen science which are in our collection.

By Vivienne Hamilton

Image by Marko from Pixabay

read more about the power of nature in our article  on “thriving in nature”

Scottish Traditions: Burn’s Night

Scottish Traditions: Burn’s Night

Burns Night is a traditional celebration of Scotland’s national bard, or poet, Robert Burns. It is held on 25th January, Burns’s birthday, when Burns suppers are held. They consist of a meal, poetry recitals and songs. The first supper was held at Burns Cottage by his friends on 21st July 1801, the fifth anniversary of his death.

If you think that you don’t know any of Burns’s work, ask yourself if you have ever sung Auld Lang Syne on Hogmanay/New Year’s Eve or used the lines “My love is like a red, red rose” on a Valentine card. If you have then you are familiar with some of his best-known work. Burns wrote his first poem aged 15 and in his short life wrote a vast number of songs and poems that can be accessed here. He wrote in a light Scots dialect which was easier for those outside Scotland to understand and often wrote about very humble subjects, for example, his poem “To a Mouse” is inspired by the field mice Burns saw while ploughing on his farm.

The Life of Robert Burns

Burns was born on 25th January 1759 in Alloway south of Ayr, the son of poor tenant farmers. He received little regular schooling, but his father taught him to read and write along with arithmetic, history and geography. He was also taught Latin, French and maths by John Murdoch.

For much of his life Burns, like his father, was a tenant farmer, all the while writing poetry and songs. But he struggled to make a living from farming and when he was offered a position on a plantation in Jamaica, he decided to emigrate. He could not afford the passage and a friend suggested he try to publish some of his work to raise the funds. In 1786 Poems in the Scottish Dialect was published and became an immediate success. Later that year Burns left for Edinburgh to publish a second edition which again was successful and earned him a substantial sum of money. He was well received in Edinburgh, often a guest of aristocracy, and made many friends, some becoming sponsors.

In 1787 Burns returned to southwest Scotland taking a lease on a farm in Dumfriesshire, but he also trained as an exciseman in case the farm was unsuccessful. He gave up farming in 1791 and moved to Dumfries where he made contributions to several volumes of songs, sometimes adding his own lyrics to traditional folk melodies and composing his own melodies from fragments of tunes. He continued to write poetry too, some advocating reform such as “The Slaves Lament”.

He continued to work as an exciseman, often making long journeys on horseback in all weathers and this may have contributed to his ill-health at a rather young age for the time. On 21st July 1796 Burns died aged just 37.  His body lies in the Burns Mausoleum is St. Michael’s Kirkyard, Dumfries along with that of his wife at the time, Jean Armour.

Burns is renowned for having had many romantic relationships which resulted in several children being born, although not all survived infancy. Today over 900 people worldwide claim to be descendants of Burns.

Host your own Burns Night

Due to covid-19 restrictions, many Burn’s suppers will be cancelled this year, but you could host your own with your household.

Need some inspiration to host your own Burns Supper? Why not try out some Burns Night recipes here. Penguin books have a guide on how to run your night and for inspiration, you can listen to or read some of Burns’s work through our Library.

By Vivienne Hamilton

Learn about other World traditions on our blog by reading:

New Year Traditions from Around the World

Spanish Christmas Traditions

How to achieve your New Year’s Resolution

How to achieve your New Year’s Resolution

Why is it so hard? and what science can do to help.

It’s that time of year again when many of us make resolutions to change. Some of us set long-term goals such as losing weight, exercising more or spending time on productive hobbies. Others go for shorter-term ideas, such as following Veganuary or perhaps Dry January. A chance for us to “try out” lifestyles which are better for us.

Whatever your plans, it’s always good to try and live an improved, healthier, more considered life.

Saying that though, it’s incredibly hard to stick to these goals. The question is why? We all know what we should be doing. We all know that salad is better than a takeaway. That we should exercise more and turn off Netflix to read a good book. Somehow that knowledge alone doesn’t translate into action.

Although there is no simple answer to what motivates us, that hasn’t stopped science from finding ways to help us. So read on for some explanations of how our minds work and what we can do to work around them and achieve our desired goals.

Small Changes

One of the easiest ideas to follow is to use small changes that lead to bigger changes. Many writers promote this idea, and there is some good evidence to back it up. You can look up studies such as the “small changes/healthy Habits” study available through Librarysearch. Also, there are plenty of books based on the idea like James Clear’s “Atomic Habits” (Find it at Merchiston Library).

For many of us, big changes overwhelm us and send us running for the ice cream. No one wants to sit and eat only vegetables and drink water, however drinking one glass of water before each meal is a small, simple change that most of us can do and not feel pressured over. Skipping that extra sugar in your coffee can quickly become the norm, and taking the stairs rather than the lift can create real changes in your body. These small changes over time can help make big differences. Furthermore, doing these tiny changes keeps our brains happy, allowing us to embrace the new habit and make it a part of our routine.

Gamification

A bit of a buzzword in the last few years, this term can be applied to changing our habits by sparking the serotonin in our brains and turning something like exercise into fun. Why not use an app on your phone to turn a boring run into a race for your life away from zombie hordes? Yes, there’s an app for that! Many smartwatches and fitness trackers let you compete with friends to win virtual trophies. Or go old fashioned and simply join a team sport rather than just trudging to the gym. The comradery and the competition can help inspire you to keep to new fitness goals. You can check out some of the current research in papers like this article analysing  “Gamification for health and wellbeing: A systematic review of the literature“. Feel like going in-depth? Why not read up on conference proceedings like this conference paper ” Does Gamification Work? — A Literature Review of Empirical Studies on Gamification. Alternatively, try reading this inspiring and engaging online book “Gamify: how gamification motivates people to do extraordinary things”, available online through the Library.

Temptation Bundling

This is a fun term that basically means doing something fun at the same time as doing something you need to, but really don’t want to. It’s based on the theory known as Premack’s Principle. It is a relativity theory of reinforcement, which “states that more probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviorsSource. There is a wealth of articles on this in Librarysearch if you want a deep dive into its applications.

Here are some examples: Only watch that trashy tv show you love when you do the ironing, have difficult meetings at your favourite restaurant or listen to your favourite music whilst looking through mundane work tasks.

Present me/Future me

This is an idea that we are always “present me”, and future me is not here now so forget about them. Sadly poor future me always pays the price of present me’s decisions. So to “future-proof” yourself you need to make it easier for “present you” to make good choices. No snacks in the cupboards, have those workout clothes laid out first thing in the morning, or in your bag for work. Remove the social apps from your phone and prep healthy meals in advance. Make it easier to make good choices in the moment.

In conclusion

If you want to know how to achieve your New Year’s Resolutions, the trick is to make it easy and fun. Small changes, preparation and finding ways to make less enjoyable activities more fun is the key.

By Juliet Kinsey

Read more related articles from our blog, such as our post on meditation, or check out our Wellness Collection guides and online relaxation space.

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Scottish New Year Traditions

Scottish New Year Traditions

An old Scottish New Year tradition was First Footing – all you had to do was grab a lump of coal and a bottle of whisky and visit your neighbour to “see in” the New Year. This tradition is thought to date back to the Viking times and is quite quaint and sedate, but in modern times some of our New Year traditions have become a little bit crazy…..

Stonehaven Fireballs

This spectacular display takes place in the town of Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire. Roughly 40 people take part and at the stroke of midnight, the fireballs are lit and are whirled around by those brave enough to take part in the procession along the High Street. The balls are made from wood and fabric soaked in paraffin and then enclosed in wire mesh. The procession takes around half an hour and the balls are hurled into the sea at the end. The origins of the tradition are unclear, but it has now become a popular tourist attraction. If you can’t attend the procession, there has been a webcam allowing remote viewing in the past which will hopefully be running again this year and the link is here. You can check out previous processions online-just click here.

The Ba’, Kirkwall, Orkney

The game begins at 1pm on New Year’s Day when the Ba’ is thrown up from the Mercat Cross outside St. Magnus Cathedral. Two teams, Uppies and Doonies try to get the Ba’- a leather ball filled with cork handmade by local craftsmen- to their respective home goals. For Uppies it’s at the far end of the main street opposite the catholic church, and for Doonies it’s Kirkwall Harbour. If the Ba’ “gaas doon” then the players are expected to jump into the harbour. It’s a contest of scrums, pushing, shoving, fast sprints and sneaky smuggles. Where your allegiance lies used to depend on where you were born with Uppies being born south of the cathedral and Doonies born north of it. Now with many women being sent to Aberdeen to give birth, most men play on the side their father or grandfather played on. The game mostly takes place on the town’s main streets with businesses and homes boarding up their properties to prevent damage.

There are no rules, and a game can last for many hours with little movement of the scrum. Only when a team member manages to get the Ba’ to the outer players can a fast break or smuggle (up a player’s jumper) take place. It is then chaotic with those in possession of the Ba’ trying to get as close as possible to their goal whilst throwing the opposition off the trail by using the winding lanes in Kirkwall’s streets.

Once the winning team has reached their goal, the Ba’ is presented to a member of the team-usually someone who has participated for many years. It’s a lot easier to watch than take part in-click here to watch the Ba’ from a previous year.

The Loony Dook, South Queensferry

Held on New Year’s Day, The Loony Dook is a charity event requiring the participants to dip into the freezing cold waters of the Firth of Forth. The name comes from two Scots words, loony (a crazy person) and dook (to bathe or take a dip).

The first Loony Dook took place in 1986 when some friends suggested it would be a good hangover cure. The following year it became a charity event with proceeds going to local charities such as RNLI Queensferry. Over the years the event grew to include a fancy dress parade and became so large it had to become an organized event. Each year thousands of onlookers come to watch participants who are greeted by pipers and offered hot porridge before taking the plunge.

The event has caught on in other Scottish seaside towns along the Firth such as North Berwick, Kirkcaldy and St. Andrews so if you can’t make it to South Queensferry, then you may be able to catch the action at a different venue. If you prefer to stay warm and dry at New Year then click here to view a previous Loony Dook from the comfort of your home!

By Vivienne Hamilton

Find amazing resources on Scotland in LibrarySearch.napier.ac.uk

Read more about Scottish Traditions with this post on Burns Night.

New Year Traditions from Around the World

New Year Traditions from Around the World

A lump of coal just won’t cut it anymore. I need a more carbon-neutral gift to take to my neighbours at New Year, and you don’t get much more carbon-laden than a lump of coal. I started to wonder if there were any tips I could pick up from revellers around the world. My research didn’t offer up any gifts, but I did find some interesting traditions – some quite quirky – that I may adopt.

Japan

Let’s start in the land of the rising sun.  Joya-no-kane is the ancient Japanese tradition of ringing temple bells. The bell is typically rung 107 times on 31st December and once more when the clock strikes midnight. According to Buddhist philosophy, 108 is a holy number, representing as it does the 108 material desires that humans experience throughout the course of their lives. When the bell is struck for the 108th time, it is believed it rings away the problems and worries from the previous year. Many temples attract huge crowds of worshippers on these occasions. The Chion-in temple in Kyoto and Nara’s Todaiji temple are famous for their gigantic bells, the ringing of which requires the efforts of more than a dozen monks.

Brazil

Down in Brazil a rowdier, yet no less spiritual tradition, is unfolding as the goddess Iemanjá, Queen of the Ocean, rises out of the sea in Rio de Janeiro (in the form of a human representative). Revellers flock to the beach as fireworks explode overhead and samba music fills the air. Up to 2 million people, typically wearing white as a sign of peace, place white flowers and floating candles on the shore and send them out as offerings to the goddess, hoping that she’ll grant their wishes in the new year.  But beware – if your offer is washed back to you, Iemanjá is not pleased and may not grant your wish.

Costa Rica

Moving north, and those Costa Ricans really know how to celebrate. You’re welcome to join in as they feast all night and party on the beach. Make sure you dress for the occasion, though – and that means wearing yellow underwear for good luck. Oh, and don’t forget to throw a pan of water – containing all your worries – over your shoulder. The most endearing Costa Rican tradition, in my opinion, is the practice of taking a suitcase for a walk around the neighbourhood to ensure plenty of travel opportunities in the year to come. In these Covid-restricted times, however, it may be best to park the suitcase for the time being. Maybe next year!

Greece

Back in Europe, and the Greeks take a belts-and-braces approach to luck – letting out the bad and welcoming in the good. It’s customary for Greeks to hang an onion on their front doors as a sign of prosperity and regrowth. And on the stroke of midnight, Greeks open all their windows to release those pesky evil spirits, the kallikantzaroi. Try doing that during a Scottish Hogmanay hoolie!

Scotland

Speaking of Scotland. Here we celebrate New Year’s in a big way. The Scots call New Year Hogmanay and it’s used as an excuse for big parties such as Ceilidhs, usually involving large amounts of traditional Scottish food and drink. Once Midnight arrives it is traditional to sing Robert Burns‘ “Auld Lang Syne” whilst holding hands in a circle.

Another Scottish tradition still common is “First footing”. This involves being the first person over the threshold of another’s home bringing a symbolic gift for good luck. If you are being truly traditional it should be a dark-haired male, and he should bring with him symbolic pieces of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and a wee dram of whisky. The dark-haired male bit is believed to be a throwback to the Viking days, when a big blonde stranger arriving on your doorstep with a big axe meant big trouble, and probably not a very happy New Year! (source)

Denmark

But it’s those northerners, the Danes, who have a really smashing tradition. On New Year’s eve in Denmark, it’s time to gather up all your old broken and chipped crockery and smash it against your friends’ doors. They claim it’s a sign of lifelong friendship, and who am I to argue? After all that exertion, you reward yourself with a slice of kransekage, a huge cake made of layered marzipan. Pity there’s no plate left to serve it on.

However you celebrate, wherever you are, we wish you a very happy New Year, Akemashite Omedetou, Feliz Ano Novo, Feliz Año Nuevo, ευτυχισμένος ο καινούριος χρόνος, Godt Nytår.

By Lesley McRob

Read more about New Year on our blog with our articles on Spanish traditions and New Year’s resolutions

Image SOurce: Pixabay

Jane Austen Day

Jane Austen Day  

Picture, if you will, a walnut tripod table by a window in a country house. It’s tiny, with twelve sides and a moulded edge. Imagine a small figure writing at this table in secret, on small scraps of paper, alive to the sounds of footsteps carrying visitors into the room. Notice as this person swiftly hides those scraps away from prying eyes. The image you now have in your mind is that of Jane Austen, perhaps the best-loved author in the English-speaking world. Imagine a world without those scraps and their transformation into the six sparkling novels that she completed. How impoverished that world would be.

Jane Austen: A life

Jane wrote in secret because she was a young, unmarried woman in the late 18th century, and it was considered unseemly for ladies to indulge in anything as vulgar as writing fiction.

Luckily for us, she privately pursued her literary passions throughout her tragically short life, and the novels she bequeathed us – all published within a six-year time frame – have been in print ever since. The many television and cinematic adaptations of her work attest to the fact that literary audiences today are as hungry for her work as they were 200 years ago.

Jane Austen lived a quiet, unspectacular and financially constrained life in southern England. She rarely travelled and never married, and yet her keen and witty observations of societal norms and her brilliant insights into human relationships sing out from every page of her works. Her novels were instantly popular, but she was only identified as their author a few months after she died.

Today we celebrate Jane’s birthday, and she lives on through her characters who are as fresh and modern today as they were when she wrote them into existence: Elizabeth Bennett, the Dashwoods, Fanny Price, Emma Woodhouse, Catherine Morland, and Anne Elliot.  Oh, and the dashing Mr Darcy (be still, my beating heart!)

Resources for Jane Austen Day

You’ll find all her novels and TV adaptations on LibrarySearch.  Why not binge-read them over the holidays.

Edinburgh Napier University Login Service

In order of publication:

Sense and Sensibility (1811)

Pride and Prejudice (1813)

Mansfield Park (1814)

Emma (1815)

Persuasion (1817)

Northanger Abbey (1817)

For more information:

The Jane Austen Society UK

By Lesley McRobb

Spanish Christmas Traditions

A Spanish-style Traditional Christmas 

Christmas in Spain is not so very different from Christmas elsewhere, but there are one or two traditions that may sound slightly exotic to Scottish ears, and I’ll set them out here.

First of all, our festive period is longer, running from the 22nd of December until the 7th of January. We celebrate the end of Christmas with presents brought from faraway lands by the Three Wise Men (traditionally marked by the Epiphany). This, of course, makes the youngest members of the family very merry, but it pleases the grownups too. Traditionally Santa Claus has never been recognised in Spain, but nowadays that is changing, and like the reyes mago” (3 wise men), he now sometimes brings presents too.

The Spanish Lottery

A more recent, and much more secular tradition, is El Gordo, the Spanish Christmas Lottery. This, too, is celebrated on the 22nd of December. It’s the most popular draw of the year in Spain and is considered the biggest worldwide since it was first celebrated in 1812. Winning El Gordo’s jackpot is one of the best Spanish Christmas presents you could hope for.

As in many other parts of the world, Christmas trees, fancy city lights, and splashes of red, green, and white decorations make their appearance during the festive period. However, something quite particular we have is the Portal de Belén: tiny models of Bethlehem representing the Nativity, with many accompanying structures such as the desert, town, angels, shepherds and farm animals.

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Movember: Supporting Men’s Health

Movember: Supporting Men’s Health

Are you growing a horseshoe, or a handlebar?  A walrus, or a chopper? Or maybe you’ve decided to devise your own style and reconfigure your facial hair to your own specifications?

I’m asking you men, of course – the men of Edinburgh Napier who are doing their bit for men’s mental and physical health services by growing a moustache for the month of November. Whatever style you go for, we’re delighted that you’re supporting the various projects across mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer. By signing up and getting sponsored, you’ll not only fundraise but, perhaps more importantly, you’ll be visible, and your visibility will start a conversation. Sometimes men are reluctant to discuss intimate health concerns, but talking is a vital starting point for both physical and mental well-being.

History

The Movember movement started in Australia, a country with a reputation – warranted or not – for a macho culture that discourages discussions of male health. It’s all the more to their credit that two “Mo Bros” turned that on its head in 2003. In that year they raised no money, but since then the movement has gone worldwide and raised millions for men’s health projects.

Get Involved this Movember in Supporting Men’s Health

If you want to be involved in the movement, or support it quietly in your own way, you can find out how to do that here. https://uk.movember.com

Many UK projects are being supported by Movember this year. Everything from farming and rural community support to digital skills improvement. And there are prizes to be won. To be in with a chance of winning, why not start your own Big Moustache on Campus challenge. To find out what that’s all about, see here:

https://uk.movember.com/mospace/network/moustacheoncampus

And don’t forget to pop into any of our campus libraries to show off your whiskers. We’d love to salute your chevron!

By Lesley McRobb

Image Source: Photo by Alan Hardman on Unsplash

Read more articles on Mental Health such as World Mental Health Day.

Bonfire Night and The Gunpowder Plot

Bonfire Night and The Gunpowder Plot

According to market research Company Mintel, in 2018 UK consumers spent £316m celebrating the event variously called, `Bonfire Night’, ‘Fireworks Night’ or `Guy Fawkes Night’. The majority of that money literally went up in smoke, having been spent on fireworks and bonfires. Fireworks displays were recorded as the most popular way of marking the night, with up to 38% of the population attending some form of event. 

The Gunpowder Plot

This peculiarly British annual entertainment can be traced directly to the aftermath of a 17th Century religious and political event. The Gunpowder Plot was a failed conspiracy by a group of English Catholics. Led by Robert Catesby, they planned to blow up the Protestant King James, and his government, at the State Opening of Parliament on November 6th 1605. (Catesby had been involved in a previously failed rebellion against Queen Elizabeth from which he extricated himself only at the cost in today’s money of £6 million.) 

This was to be the prelude to a revolt that would replace James with a Catholic head of state. Ending the persecution suffered by many Catholics following the split with the Roman Church over half a century previously. 

Guy Fawkes

Though we now principally associate the name of Guy Fawkes with the plot, he was a minor player in the conspiracy. He was, however, literally left holding ‘the baby’ or in this case 36 barrels of gunpowder when, following an anonymous tip-off, the authorities searched the cellars of the Palace of Westminster and discovered the explosive cache. 

This ‘search’ continues today before every State Opening of Parliament, albeit ceremonially, with the searchers, the Yeoman of the Guard, being rewarded with a glass of port.  

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