Monday, 28 November 2011

Apparently I'm a Slasher . . .

Rumour has it that if you can categorise yourself like this: Student/croupier/mooter/partner/swimmer you might be a slasher too! This idea and it's dramatic name, (believe me I don't feel like a baddie in a low budget horror) caught my attention recently and got me thinking. I've done a lot of different jobs in my life for a lot of different people, in environments as varied as casinos, cruise ships, offices and luxury hotels, I've been a sales manager, croupier and auctioneer and now find myself ½ way through my law degree, working full time to pay for it, all the while trying to have some kind of life. It's not always easy, in fact it gets quite hard at times!

It's for this reason that I try to find ways and means of making it easier. Why make life any more difficult than it has to be, right? Saying that I didn't need to go back to university, or take on any of the extra responsibilities that I have and they all make life more difficult than it has to be, I digress. With all these fun little extras not to forget the major events such as work and Uni how do we best become a successful 'slasher'? (Believe me when I say I'm wincing every time I use the term, it's almost as bad as saying I'll be taking a 'proactive approach' implementing 'blue-sky' thinking, I'm not a fan of management speak, it all strikes me as a bit Orwellian). So my top tips for successful slashing, or to use a less scary adjective/metaphor, juggling, are en-route, it's all about being organised and having a bit of self discipline.

Once upon a time I had a busy job and a fancy pda machine, I relied on it for everything, one day it broke and my life collapsed. On that day, or at the very least on a day not long after (when the tears of rage and the pain of loss had subsided) I rushed out and bought myself a wee paper diary. Which was awesome, paper doesn't crash, lose your files etc, etc. This was how it went for a good few years until a few happy months ago when I got my first proper smart-phone. I now have in my pocket at all times the perfect tool for keeping on top of everything. With the use of a few cracking apps, I find myself able to organise my life and also get some degree of reading and work done away from home and on my breaks at work, happy days!

The apps I'd most recommend are:
  1. Polaris Office: lets you read and edit documents spreadsheets and power-point files
  2. Wordnet: an excellent free dictionary app
  3. Sugarsync: Lets you send and pick up your files from any computer you use,
  4. Due Today: An excellent to do list app, which also lets you set reminders
  5. Touch Calendar: A brilliant calendar app which can bring together existing calendars into a single diary allowing you to edit them.

I find that with these few programs along with the standard email and internet options available with most smart-phones today it's very easy to keep track of everything and make sure you're on top of all your responsibilities. The only occasional problem is battery life, for that reason I’ve almost always got a USB cable with me that'll let me charge my phone from any computer with a USB port.

Anyhoo, busy busy, off to work then I've got an assignment to submit!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Procrastination, Dusty Tomes and Hi-Tech toys

Having a few minor computer problems and struggling to find the motivation to work at home has seen me actually drag myself out of the house this week in order to go to University. That's right, no Westlaw, no printing things off, no reading cases from a computer screen or kindle, I've actually been in to the library, found the law section, and blew the dust off of a few good old fashioned books . . . and I’ve quite enjoyed it.

I posted earlier this year about the difference between live lectures and webcasts, and the idea that going to Uni should be about going to Uni. It seems I’ve been a little lazy, I’d been going to lectures but not spending a great deal of time anywhere else on the campus, which I now regret immensely! Spending the time in the library, reading the cases from the musky old books makes me feel a great deal more connected to the material. I must confess that it’s a new experience for me to be able to smell the material I’m reading, there’s something very warm and a great deal less sterile about reading  cases and journal articles on paper, old, old paper as opposed to the screen of my (much loved) kindle

I must stress at this point my love of technology, I’ve got a fancy top of the line android phone, and later this month I’m planning on ditching my netbook in favour of a tablet/netbook hybrid machine, I love cloud storage and Spotify. I’ve dabbled in Linux, was the first of my friends to own a kindle, do most of my shopping via the eBay app on my phone and am a bit of a tweet deck junkie. I’m just starting to think that Marshall McLuhan’s much quoted ‘the medium is the message’ is becoming more and more true today. We’re more and more excited about the fancy phone and the fact that it can do cool things than we are about the value that those things can bring to our lives. I’ve been reading You are Not a Gadget: a Manifesto by Jaron Lanier and think some of his ideas are brilliant, for example, by endlessly re-tweeting the opinions or stories of others you’re nothing more than a mirror, reflecting the thoughts of another. Lanier is a champion for the creation of original content, which is something I whole-heartedly approve of.  

I suppose what I’m getting at, without trying to overly romanticise things is that reading law, reading anything for that matter is about communication. The tools we use to communicate are more and more often becoming hi-tech, and it’s easy to get lost in the joy of the toy rather than find the time to really engage with the material. I’ve found that by switching off the screen and reading from the dusty, musky book, which doesn’t have any functions other than the communication of information, I’ve gained a little something. 

That said, I did write this while I was supposed to be working on an essay and if you’re reading this you’ll probably be doing so from a screen . . .