What to *really* expect when you give blood

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Yesterday, I gave blood for the first time [HOLDS FOR APPLAUSE]. As the first person in history to do this selfless deed, I decided to write a less clinical guide to what you can expect, as there are things the blood transfusion services won’t tell you.

Sorry, that’s needlessly sinister. They’re lovely, really, and it’s such an easy process. But yeah, there are a few things you need to keep in mind before you head to a clinic.

  • Thoroughly go over the disqualifying criteria before you make the trek. There’s so much that will rule you out, in Ireland at least. Look through this FAQ and check the rules for any of your ailments. Gotten a piercing or tattoo less than 120 days ago? Sorry. Had an abortion or given birth less than 12 months ago? Off with ya. Male-on-male sex with or without a condom in the past year rules you out, but a woman having had sex with a man who has slept with men in the past year is a no-go zone. Did Carrie Bradshaw write that rule? At least they lifted the lifetime ban. Travel’s a big one, too. Yesterday one person was sent home because they had been in Greece, where there was a malaria outbreak in 2017. You can check each country’s travel risk here. Funnily enough, I think Irish people can’t donate in the US because of mad cow disease! Furthermore, I was ruled out for years because I was underweight, but I’ve finally closed the thigh gap. I will not delete this pun, why don’t YOU delete your Anyway, here’s the form I filled out.
  • To avoid fainting, eating salty food the night before is a good idea. They also advise avoiding hot showers or baths and alcohol afterwards. Our university blood drive was held during the liver-destroying RAG week, which doesn’t bode well for the latter clause.
  • If you lose your nerve, you can leave any time before donating. Just tell one of the officials or nurses. I’m not sure what happens if you start having a panic attack after they insert the needle, though. Ask them about that…
  • Wear loose-sleeved clothing! Stupidly, I wore a long-sleeved shirt that was loose around the upper arm, but tapered in at the wrist without me realising. I ended up pulling my arm out from underneath the shirt and protecting my modesty with my cardigan wrapped around me like a blanket.
  • You need to spare a lot of time. I went in at two and I didn’t leave until around quarter to five, and there wasn’t a huge amount of people there or anything. If there’s a blood drive at your university, don’t expect to be in and out in the hour between lectures.
  • There’s loads of waiting, and you can’t really listen to music because they call out your name. The Wi-Fi will probably be kind of shitty as well because there will be dozens of other bored people there sucking on it. So bring a book or something.
  • They recommend drinking 500ml/two cups of water and eating something substantial in the three hours before donating. They’ll have loads of food and drink there, so you don’t need to bring anything, but it won’t be health shop fare if that’s your thing. My clinic had Nature Valley and Nutrigrain bars, biscuits, Taytos, still water and fizzy drinks.
  • When you donate for the first time, you’ll speak to a nurse. They will ask you all the questions you’ve already answered on the questionnaire, but more in-depth and really quickly, so make sure you don’t accidentally admit to being a heroin addict. I indicated I had fainted in the past, even though it hasn’t happened since I was a child, and they really grilled me about that. Then they’ll jab your finger to test your haemoglobin levels. It feels like a sharp pinch for half a second, nothing painful. Then, more waiting!
  • Finally, the time comes to drain you of your precious fluids! First things first, you lie back on a comfortable stretcher-like bed thing. They give you a stress ball (which, to be honest, was a bit too hard for me to squeeze without stress), get you to stick your arm out palm-up and put that tight inflatable cuff thing around your upper arm. They wipe your inner arm with alcohol (so bear that in mind if you have sensitive skin or eczema) and chat to you for a few minutes while you squeeze your ball or your arse cheeks (no really, they recommend trying that in the booklet they make you read).
  • Then, the scary part: inserting the needle into your vein. It hurts a liittle, but only very briefly. The actual blood transfer doesn’t hurt at all. I was just lying there, watching my blood flow down a tube, happy as Larry. They take about a pint of blood – the human body contains eight to ten pints, so not much at all. The time it takes varies from person to person, anywhere from 3-15 minutes. I think it took about 10 for me, but I wasn’t counting. Like I said, I could see your blood flowing into the tube, but not into the bag.
  • Once they remove the needle, they stick a really big plaster on the puncture wound and have you apply pressure on it for a few minutes with your other hand. They get you to stand up slowly, bring you over to another bed and have you wait around for 10-15 minutes in case of adverse effects. There’ll be drinks, chocolate, crisps and biscuits that you can take if you want. I spent my time Googling and came across an article that claimed that your body burns 600 calories replenishing a pint of blood, so go crazy. Then you can go home, taking all the chocolate, pens and trolley keys you want with you. I felt more energised than ever, for some reason, and had no issues with fainting or dizziness. I was practically bouncing out of there, which is probably a sign of delirium, but hey, free pen!

There can be soreness and bruising in the following days, but you’ll know this in advance because they really drill it into you. If you become ill in the following fortnight, you ring the helpline and… they help you, I guess? I can’t really say because I feel fine, if maybe slightly colder. Here’s my ‘wound’ 24 hours later:

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My arm is kind of purple, I realise, but that’s just my normal colour. A little bit of bleeding, but no bruising. The plaster’s all crinkled because I slept with my arm crooked, and in spite of that it’s not sore at all. I think the plaster itself is the most uncomfortable thing because there’s a big wedge of cotton on it, but I’m leaving it on for another day or two just in case.

I hope you’re a bit more reassured about the process, now! It’s scary in theory but it’s really easy. The number of blood donations keeps dropping and dropping, so donate when you can.

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Bad dates

This week, I have learned a few things.

  1. A sexual encounter can only be rebuffed by using the word “no”, preferably in the tone of Anakin Skywalker and accompanied by a taser to the crotch. Even if you are pushing them away, telling them you feel “forced”, dragging their fingers out of your mouth, going limp, and flat-out saying you do not want to have sex, it’s not enough unless you use the magic word. Non-verbal cues are v. confusing, so please confront anyone who nods or shakes their head in any circumstances from now on.
  2. Many men don’t care if the woman is not feeling the sex at all. Our vaginas are just warm toilet roll tubes for a man to stuff and poke, and our bodies are fleshy boogie boards they can practice flailing around on for their trip to Bondi Beach. So it goes.
  3. The above only applies to 22-year-old one night stands, however, because ew, trashy! They don’t even remember the fall of the Berlin Wall or Muppet Babies or anything important like that.
  4. It is a terrible idea to trash someone’s highlights and lipstick when they criticise your journalistic skills, even if their criticism smacks of internalised misogyny. It will destroy your credibility and distract from the real story, especially if your work is hosted on a website called Babe.net.
  5. Babe.net is not  an archived website for a tween magazine circa 2004, and this is horrendously disappointing. I want to download glamour shots of ponies and Hilary Duff and get advice on using roll-on body glitter.

 

 

Somebody stop Blake Lively

Hello! It’s been a while since I posted, not that I have any great excuses for that. I’m preparing for exams and sending off final essays, but the radio silence is mainly due to my tendency to go feral whenever I have a break from college. Stringing together vocabulary? The only thing that’s stringing together is my filthy hair. Ba-dum-tish!

I have listed this blog on my CV. That was probably a bad idea.

Aside from me sabotaging my job prospects, it’s funny I write this in a state of squalor. Today’s post deals with its antithesis. You see, the actress Blake Lively was being honoured at Variety’s Power of Women event for using her celebrity status to bring attention to worthy causes But it was a confrontation on the red carpet that hogged headlines. When a reporter asked about her “power outfit”, a bemused Lively was not having it. She shot back, “Come on, you want to talk about an outfit here, today?” she responded. “No way. Come on. Come on, we’re about building women up. Come on, outfits? Would you ask a man that?”

Hm.

I mean, she has a point, I suppose. You may have heard about the #AskHerMore project from a couple of years ago, where female celebrities requested that red carpet reporters asked them about their work and causes rather than outfits and nails, like they would do with their male counterparts. Their intentions are good, but personally, I feel that fashion is the main reason celebrities walk the red carpet in the first place. It seems strange to me that most of these people pay huge salaries to stylists to find glamorous clothes for them, only to refuse to talk about them.* Can’t they just wear a plain suit or go in a back door if they don’t want to talk about the millions of dollars worth of jewellery they’re wearing? Nobody asks the guys about what they’re wearing because 99.9% of red carpet dudes are dressed in the same thing. The only men I can think of who mix it up are Jared Leto and Pharrell Williams, and they definitely get asked about fashion. Plus, some of the smartest and wittiest journalists are fashion writers. As it is predominantly an interest of women and gay men, it seems suspect to designate fashion as a trite interest that only appeals to airheads. Look, I’m probably just biased because I’d die if someone starting asking me questions about Syria while a cinched dress was puncturing my lungs.

On the other hand, this was a far more serious event than the MTV Movie Awards. Fellow speakers included Jessica Chastain on her work for Planned Parenthood, Chelsea Clinton on combating childhood obesity and Gayle King on access to college for low-income families. Fair enough, Blake, clearly there are more important discussion topics at hand than power dressing. Okay, so let’s focus on the speech, since she’s so set on that. Let’s see, she spoke about… child pornography?

WAIT A MINUTE.

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I didn’t pick this image just because it makes Woody look creepy, by the way. They’re all like this.

Blake Lively, an actress who not only worked with but sidestepped probing questions about Woody Allen, speaking out against paedophilia?!? The Woody Allen who Dylan Farrow has repeatedly accused, only to receive huge backlash, of molesting her? Who wrote a movie about a fortysomething man dating a teenage girl? Who took naked pictures of, and then married, his stepdaughter? (Oh but that’s okay, of course, because she was over eighteen. My mouth, it’s full of bile.) I guess she still hasn’t gotten around to reading Ronan Farrow’s essay…

Also hilarious: That she was introduced by Salma “Who are you when you’re not black and you’re not a woman?” Hayek. These two need to rewrite the Wikipedia entry on feminism, they’ve got it down to a fine art.

Yeah, it seems feminism only suits Blake Lively when it’s good for her career. It’s easy to pop off about her wokeness when she doesn’t have to act accountable for supporting the poster child of Hollywood’s power imbalance. (“BUT HE WRITES SUCH GOOD ROLES FOR WOMEN!!!”, replies every Oscar-hungry starlet.) She would have been better off talking about her clothes. If she’d kept her mouth shut, her hypocrisy might have sailed by unnoticed.

*Though I suppose studios might cover the costs of that. Not all of it though; Anna Kendrick had to pay more than her monthly rent for some shoes she only wore once.

Is your Android phone lagging after updating to Nougat? Try this!

I updated my Moto G4 recently from Android from Marshmallow to Nougat without doing much research, because (a) I get overexcited whenever an update window pops up, and (b) Marshmallows are inferior to Mars bars. The process went off without a hitch… except for the fact that my rebooting phone screamed out “HELLO MOTO!!!” in the silent library where I was updating it. The spluttering I was doing, God.

However, I noticed for the next few days that my phone was extremely laggy. Whereas on Marshmallow things ran very smoothly, my updated phone was struggling with RAM-chomping apps like Chrome. Even Google Keyboard and Quick Settings were skittish.

Panic alarms went off in my brain! My phone had been perfectly fine, and I’d made a HAMES of it. Why couldn’t I have been happy with the wonderful things I had? It was like Jay-Z cheating on Beyoncé with Becky! I braced myself for having to do some sort of downgrade that would bollocks everything up further.

But two minutes on Google and I realised my problem probably had a simpler solution. There’s something called a cache partition, which is different from the normal cache… uh, I think. Don’t quiz me too much on these things. After updates, it seems like this yoke gets like my pores after I use Miss Sporty foundation: PLUGGED UP. And you can’t clear it from the Settings. No, you have to go into this scary Matrix-looking menu that’s a bit fiddly to access.

Woah.
Screenshot from ITJungles on Youtube

NB: The procedure I describe below works for the Moto G4. I think all Androids use a similar process, but just to be sure, check the manufacturer’s website. Google your phone’s model and “clear cache partition” and you should find tailored instructions.

Oh and don’t you worry, doing this shouldn’t wipe out your personal data. Emphasis on shouldn’t. It probably could! Phones seem to like doing that sort of thing. You might as well back up your phone anyway; those Russian hackers haven’t seen any of your nudes for ages and they’re getting thirsty.

[ACTUAL SOLUTION BEGINS HERE, SKIMMERS.]

  1. Turn off your phone.
  2. Hold down the power button and the volume down button at the same time.
  3. You’ll have to scroll with the volume buttons, so press volume down until you see an option called “Recovery Mode”.
  4. Press the power button to select.
  5. Your phone will restart. Wait until you see a black screen with the Android robot having a snooze. Brace yourself; this bit is a little awkward. Hold the power button and, while keeping that button pressed, tap the volume up key once. Then, release the power button.
  6. With the volume keys, scroll to “Wipe Cache Partition” and select by pressing the power button.
  7. Select “Reboot System Now” and press the power button.

Your phone will now restart. My cache partition was cleared very quickly, but it could take a few minutes. Think of it like one of those videos where someone tears at a ginormous antiquated blackhead. It takes time! (I’m really overdoing the pore metaphors… metapores?)

Now your smartphone should back at peak potential. You might even wring a whole six months more out of it before it needs replacing! And yes, it WAS necessary to link to the blackhead video, thanks for asking.

 

 

Yes, it’s a distraction tactic; but why shouldn’t emigrants get the vote?

I was delighted to hear yesterday morning that a referendum will be held to extend voting rights to Irish citizens living abroad for presidential elections. Considering there is a mass exodus of our people every twenty years or so, and considering how we Irish hold onto our national identity with pride no matter how long we’ve been gone, it’s surprising that emigrants can currently have no say in the running of the country. Of course, in past times it would have been hard keep yourself informed about Irish politics. You’d have to wait until the local shop got in the Irish papers a week late, if they got it at all, or spend ages fiddling with the AM dial. Now you can just look online; in fact, there are probably plenty of ex-pats who are more knowledgeable of Irish society than the people who have voting rights at home! Remember how many people came #HomeToVote for the marriage referendum? That shows dedication; that Irish people, no matter where they are, are keeping a keen eye on goings-on in their homeland.

I thought everyone would be pleased, but the online reaction is actually quite mixed. Looking at Twitter and The Journal’s comment section, which obviously aren’t always the cleanest streams to dip your feet in, some say that since emigrants don’t pay tax here, they can wash their hands of the financial implications of their vote. By that logic, shouldn’t anyone on social welfare have their vote stripped? (I know a lot of people who would argue that, sadly…) As a student who is currently unemployed, should I have no input? What about people who live in Ireland but dodge taxes? Are they more entitled to a vote to someone who only emigrated because they could find no work here, or people who were so fed up with how the country was being run that they left?

More compelling is the argument that this is a relatively unimportant issue when compared to the need for a referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment; why do we need to go through a Citizen’s Assembly and march through the rain in our thousands for an honest discussion about abortion, while the government allows this referendum to pass through without half as much hand-wringing? It’s a fair point, but I think the Repeal campaigners are forgetting that abortion has only recently become a topic for debate at all here. We were still locking up unwed mothers when the Macarena was in the charts. The public discourse has come on in leaps and bounds. According to an Irish Times poll, 75% of respondents wanted to repeal the Eighth Amendment. But the same poll shows that only 19% favoured UK-style abortion on demand. I think this shows that Irish people are still very sensitive about abortion; we currently see it as a last resort rather than a right.  We’re coming to terms with “good” abortion, like in cases of rape or fatal foetal abnormalities, but “bad” abortions, like terminating an unplanned pregnancy, are still taboo. I agree that it’s frustrating that progress has been so slow, but voting rights and abortion rights don’t hold the same weight in Irish society.

I’d love to get more in-depth, but I’ll leave it at this for now: I think as long as you lived in Ireland long enough to keep up-to-date with the political situation, you should be able to have your say. And I hate to say it, but it is only the presidential election, not general elections. As much as I love Michael D., he doesn’t do much more than the Rose of Tralee. Now that I mention it, there’s something wrong if you can enter a beauty pageant but can’t vote…

A bad case of Ed Head

Oh hi guys, has anyone seen my glasses? I think I lost them when Laura Snapes’ gloriously brutal takedown of Ed Sheeran blew me away. You should really read the whole thing, but here are some of the most cutting comments:

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Thank you Laura Snapes. Thank you. Back in 2010, when I first heard ‘The A-Team’, the minute I heard the daft lyrics “…lately her face seems/Slowly sinking, wasting/Crumbling like pastries,” I tuned out. Ed seemed like just another inoffensive, whiny white guy with an acoustic guitar (© Todd in the Shadows). But for some reason, half my class became obsessed with his album +. Any time they had the chance to play music, his voice would come hiccupping out of the speakers. It drove me up the wall, it did! I must admit I was an insufferable snob at the time (“At the time?”, says you), so he was already at a disadvantage. But even as I came to own my love of loud, tacky pop, I still wasn’t able to warm to him. Yet he seemed to become bigger and bigger, aided by the juggernaut that is Taylor Swift, who dares call him ” …the James Taylor to my Carole King…” . And now, this aggressively mediocre, trend-hopping Francie Brady is a superstar. Have a look at the current Irish single charts:

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Like, is that even legal? Does his management have a team of slave workers constantly spinning the album on Spotify, like gold farmers in World of Warcraft?

Every day I open my inbox and find emails bigging up Ed’s new album from shops I didn’t even know sold music. My Facebook news feed is full of my fellow Galwegians peeing their pants because he acknowledged our existence. Hello, the song isn’t even about a Galway girl? She’s from Limerick! Damn this sly ginge for stealing Steve Earle’s thunder. (Nancy Mulligan, about his Irish granny, is better because it doesn’t sound like Fáilte Ireland co-wrote it).

I realise how petty, childish and bitter this post is.  My actual feelings lean more towards bewilderment. I just don’t understand how he became so big. Genuinely cannot fathom it. There are a million guys of his ilk on street corners all over the world; how did Ed Sheeran capture the zeitgeist when so many others didn’t? And how has his career flourished, when most artists in his vein quickly disappear?

It’s not really about the music. I will take Ed Sheeran over the Country & Irish monstrosities that have somehow escaped from my parents’ clock radio. (UPDATE 16 April: OH GOD THEY’VE STARTED COVERING HIM). No, it’s the amount of people who believe that Ed’s bog-standard pub jams are saving music. He’s the type of singer branded as authentic by people who don’t turn the dial away from iRadio. “He plays real music, not that [insert interchangable popstar here] rubbish!” they protest. He writes his own songs? Why, you don’t say! Clearly he’s better than Frank Sinatra, Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross, who rarely had a hand in their songwriting. These people would call a gurgling drain a maestro if someone stuffed a guitar down there. I don’t care who writes the songs so long as they’re enjoyable, and I’m not going to applaud someone who writes wishy-washy songs just because they wrote them. I wrote this post all by myself – it doesn’t make my writing remarkable or praiseworthy. Let’s face it, I probably deserve to be brought down a few pegs! DESTROY THIS POST!

Plus, he’s a gobshite. Apologies to the Journalism department in NUI Galway for swearing. He wrote a song shaming Ellie Goulding for sleeping with someone else… then SINGS IN THE NEXT LINE IT WASN’T A SERIOUS RELATIONSHIP:

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He shows up to interviews drunk. He bragged about how easy it was to sleep with Taylor Swift’s friends. He keeps rapping. None of these are grievous offences, considering you can rape people and still have loyal fans. But oh, it rankles!

On the other hand, he did clout Justin Bieber in the face with a golf club. Stop the presses: I take it all back. Ed, you’re a hero. Keep it up.

My spine-busting guide to reading on a budget

It’s World Book Day! Well, at least it is in the UK and Ireland; we host ‘World’ Book Day on a different day to the rest of the world, apparently to avoid clashing with the Easter Holidays. Ain’t reading grand? I’ve already taught you so much in 36 words!

It’s never too late to become a bookworm. After a childhood dominated by books, I unfortunately got out of the habit of reading when I was about twelve. Funnily enough, I got my first laptop around the same time. Absolutely no connection there, yeah?  When I entered college, I decided I would make a point to read as much as possible. I set up a Goodreads profile, and it has worked out really well because you can treat reading like you’re trying to get on the Candy Crush scoreboards. I read 248 books last year, which is the kind of statistic that sounds good and bad at the same time because it implies I never leave the house. Which, er, I can’t comment on at this moment in time.

“248?!?” I hear you say. “Wow, Marie, not only are you so erudite and articulate and classy, but you must be loaded too!” Oh thank you, but I’m not wealthy! I haven’t totted up how much money I spend on books, but I imagine it’s relatively little compared to the shocking amount I spend on nuts (blasted almond price hikes in Aldi). Read on, and I’ll share my tips on getting the most books for your buck.

Charity Shops Are Your Best Friend

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Some of my purtier charity shop finds. Look how artfully battered Love in the Time of Cholera is!

Charity shops are often bursting with books in good condition for rock-bottom prices.  Plenty of people drop off new books after one read-through, and you’ll never know what you might find. There are other bonuses too: your money goes to a good cause, instead of Satan’s bestie Peter Thiel, and you can artfully arrange the vintage, well-thumbed books on your shelves to impress your hipster friends. We all win! Just avoid all those copies of Fifty Shades of Grey. You know why.

Don’t Forget Your Local Library!

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Libraries are the natural stop for bookworms on a budget, but they’ve really upped their game in the last few years. Not only can you borrow books, audiobooks, DVDs, and CDs, but many libraries have joined forces with apps that let you download eBooks, eAudiobooks and magazines for the grand price of zero dolla, as long as you have a library card. My local library uses Borrowbox for books and Zinio For Libraries for magazines, but there are loads of other apps; check out your local library’s website and see what services they offer.

If you’re a student, don’t forget your school or campus library! You can easily overlook the fact that they stock a good range of contemporary fiction beside all those terrifying textbooks. It doesn’t count as procrastination if you’re reading something. That’s what I tell myself.

Discount Stores Are Full of Hidden Gems

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I bought all these in Dealz. It’s great for finding unusual books you’d never think of trying out at full price.

The book sections in pound shops are often full of duds, but keep an eye out and you’ll snatch some unbelievable bargains. I’ve spotted bestsellers by Jon Ronson and Caitlin Moran in Dealz (AKA Poundland for you Brits) for €1.50. You’ll probably exit the store with a fly catcher, an adult colouring book, and a box of biscuits with the ingredients written in Dutch, but these are the sacrifices Man must make in the pursuit of knowledge.

 

🎵Who Made Project Gutenberg- A Star?!?🎵

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Project Gutenberg is a brilliant project that digitises and archives literary work in the public domain. On their website, they offer a great selection of classics by Shakesphere, the Brontës, Jane Austin, Leo Tolstoy, Oscar Wilde etc., and all for free. It’s brilliant for students of English or Philosophy, because a lot of the texts you’ll be studying are available.

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Now you have no excuses not to read!  Now I’m off to struggle though this slog of an Anaïs Nin book I’m reading. Hey, I didn’t say you’d enjoy all your new novels.