Monthly Archives

October 2011

Five for Friday, Holidays, Just stuff, Life in general, Marriage, what I think

Five for Friday: Why I'm looking forward to Christmas

Amaretto and coffee in a snowman mugYes, I know. It’s stupidly early to be saying the C word but I don’t care; I love this time of year, the drop in temperature, the cosy nights and the run up to Christmas. Here’s why I can’t wait for Chrimbo 2011:

1) This time last year me and hubbles were preparing to get wed, so we pretty much missed out on the Christmas build up. We plan on more than making up for it this year though, and have already started taking amaretto in our coffee, watching festive films and planning where to put the Christmas tree. This year (having moved house since last Chrimbo) we’ll be getting a real Christmas tree from the greengrocers down the road, which we frequent every Saturday; taking my parents into town for the switching on of the Christmas lights when they visit from the shire for the weekend; saving our pennies to invest in a whole new set of Christmas decorations to complement the new house; and watching The Hogfather over and over again.

2) Our first wedding anniversary! We’ll have made it to one whole year of happy marriage on December 5th and we’re spending it here. Three days and two nights of just us, some relaxation, some Christmas shopping and tasty food. Bliss.

3) A trip to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. We went a couple of years ago in the pouring rain and while the weather didn’t put a dampener on it – no pun intended – it would be nice to go when it’s dry. We’ll do sightseeing in the morning, lunch in the afternoon and head over to the festivities of wonderland and top up on gluhwein and bratwursts in the German market, browse the trinkets on sale and show off our best hat-scarf-and-glove combos.

4) Ice skating at the local garden centre. I love Frosts – another sign I’m getting older, I love spending weekends in garden centres – but Frosts has a special feel about it and it has its very own ice rink in the winter, I’ve just doscovered. I actually hate ice skating and am beyond crap at it – I think my balance was thrown out at birth along with the placenta – but I’m game for a laugh this year. My reward will be a huge mug of hot chocolate and a few mince pies.

5) A festive baking fest! I make the best mulled wine on the planet, thanks to an adapted version of my mum’s recipe which I may or may not share at some point in the future. But this year I’m going to try mince pies – yes, I’m taking on pastry, how very ambitious, as well as some kind of festive chutney. Cheese and biscuits are going to make an appearance in my house this December and I want to be chutneyed up in preparation. Hubby has also pledged to make amaretto cheesecake and ice biscuits (yes, he’s a metrosexual and takes as much pride in baking as I do.)

Roll on the festivities! Ho, ho, ho!

Just stuff, Life in general, Media, Serious stuff, Technology, topical, what I think

Give an hour to help someone online

Give an Hour logoIt’s my mum’s birthday next week. She goes away for the weekend and I spent a good five minutes this morning scratting around, trying to locate her address so her birthday card will reach her before she goes.

But I couldn’t find it. Not on my phone, not in the back of my diary, not in any emails. I know the street name, I’m not that stupid, and of course the town. But the postcode and house number? Clueless.

And I didn’t want to resort to calling and asking her or dropping her an email, I really should have it filed away somewhere reachable so I don’t have to ask for it every time I want to post something.

So what did I do? I turned to the delights of the world wide web, of course. First stop, Google Street View where I took a virtual stroll down mum’s street and located her bright blue front door. I then zoomed in to see she lives at number 43. Excellent.

Then I hopped over to Royal Mail’s postcode finder, tapped in the house number and street name and disovered her postcode. Fabulous.

Five minutes and the job was done. Card in envelope, stamp licked, address written, posted. But without the internet mum’s card would have been sent tomorrow and most likely arrived too late. The internet saved me!

So that’s why, after the clocks fall back an hour this weekend, I’ll be using those extra 60 minutes to show someone the benefits of being online. It’s part of the Race Online campaign to Give an Hour in a bid to get the whole of the UK online by the end of 2012. And there are nine milli0n people in the UK currently offline! How crazy is that?

I couldn’t do what I do without the web; I couldn’t do my job, I couldn’t blog and I’d be much less connected and knowledgeable without it. I could write 20 posts about why being online is so bloody fabulous, but I shalln’t bore you.

Instead, I implore you to give an hour too, when you can find the time, to show someone how to get connected, whether it’s saving money by comparing utility billss, shopping online or finding out what’s on TV.

And if that doesn’t inspire you, here’s a lovely story from my buddy Christian.

 

Journalism, Media, Online journalism, social media, Technology

A spoon, a blow torch and a network of digital editors…

Digital Editors Network logoYou can’t beat a better introduction to a conference than for a speaker to heat a spoon with a blowtorch and pledge to place it on a delegate’s tongue to test if she’s lying. Apparently, if you tell the truth your mouth is moist, the tongue/hot spoon combo will create steam and it won’t hurt. If you’re lying, however, your mouth goes dry and a hot spoon on a tongue will result in blistering. Ouch.

Of course, the speaker didn’t go through with his pledge but he’d made his point and made it well. He also said that it’s not that easy to spot a lie – there are other factors that come into play, such as nerves, which can create the false impression that’s someone’s lying.

This intro was the start of the Digital Editors Network meetup at UCL in Preston on October 20th which I had the pleasure of attending. I also hooked up with some folk from the Midland News Association, the organisation I used to work for, as well as two former students of Paul Bradshaw, my MA tutor. That man knows everyone!

So, the #den2011 conf opened with a session on truth telling – and its potential impact on journalism. Can journalists tell when the people they interview are telling the truth or not? Well, given that this was a digital-themed conference, body language isn’t a pleasure us journalists get to experience so often, with most news gathering done online. Fact checking via Twitter, interviewing via phone or email, or researching with Google doesn’t offer the chance to judge body language and we’d need to be pretty proficient in it to call someone on their lie, based on a shrug of the shoulder or a change in their tone.

That said, it was hugely fascinating to learn about our core emotions and how we express them. And more so how those facial expressions of happiness, sadness, contempt, surprise or disgust are universal, applicable to people across history and culture. Our great, great grandfathers, African tribesman and our own children will all express disgust with the same facial expression and Cliff Lansley – the speak with the blowtorch, conducted a lively and engaging talk about how our bodies can give away so much about what we’re feeling.

For the rest of the conference – which is more directly relevant to journalism – please hop over to my Journo Nest blog, the one where I write about my MA in Online Journalism and the advantrues of my learning experience, of which #den2011 contributed.

There I write about ex-Brimingham Post editr Marc Reeves and TheBusinessDesk.com – a case study of old fashioned journalism in an online environment; Grig Davidovitz, a journalist and multimedia strategist, on ‘the product is dead, long live the experience’; and Paul Gallagher, Head of Online at the Manchester Evening News on live blogging.

Journalism, Media, Online journalism, social media, Technology

A spoon, a blow torch and a network of digital editors…

Digital Editors Network logoYou can’t beat a better introduction to a conference than for a speaker to heat a spoon with a blowtorch and pledge to place it on a delegate’s tongue to test if she’s lying. Apparently, if you tell the truth your mouth is moist, the tongue/hot spoon combo will create steam and it won’t hurt. If you’re lying, however, your mouth goes dry and a hot spoon on a tongue will result in blistering. Ouch.

Of course, the speaker didn’t go through with his pledge but he’d made his point and made it well. He also said that it’s not that easy to spot a lie – there are other factors that come into play, such as nerves, which can create the false impression that’s someone’s lying.

This intro was the start of the Digital Editors Network meetup at UCL in Preston on October 20th which I had the pleasure of attending. I also hooked up with some folk from the Midland News Association, the organisation I used to work for, as well as two former students of Paul Bradshaw, my MA tutor. That man knows everyone!

So, the #den2011 conf opened with a session on truth telling – and its potential impact on journalism. Can journalists tell when the people they interview are telling the truth or not? Well, given that this was a digital-themed conference, body language isn’t a pleasure us journalists get to experience so often, with most news gathering done online. Fact checking via Twitter, interviewing via phone or email, or researching with Google doesn’t offer the chance to judge body language and we’d need to be pretty proficient in it to call someone on their lie, based on a shrug of the shoulder or a change in their tone.

That said, it was hugely fascinating to learn about our core emotions and how we express them. And more so how those facial expressions of happiness, sadness, contempt, surprise or disgust are universal, applicable to people across history and culture. Our great, great grandfathers, African tribesman and our own children will all express disgust with the same facial expression and Cliff Lansley – the speak with the blowtorch, conducted a lively and engaging talk about how our bodies can give away so much about what we’re feeling.

For the rest of the conference – which is more directly relevant to journalism – please hop over to my Journo Nest blog, the one where I write about my MA in Online Journalism and the advantrues of my learning experience, of which #den2011 contributed.

There I write about ex-Brimingham Post editr Marc Reeves and TheBusinessDesk.com – a case study of old fashioned journalism in an online environment; Grig Davidovitz, a journalist and multimedia strategist, on ‘the product is dead, long live the experience’; and Paul Gallagher, Head of Online at the Manchester Evening News on live blogging.

Just stuff, Life in general, Six for Saturday, what I think, work

Six for Saturday: ways to shake off 'office aches'

Man stretching at deskAs those of you who spend your time chained to a desk will know, it’s not terribly good for you. Human bodies weren’t designed to sit down all day, in front of computer screens and with tensions building up in necks and shoulders. We were meant to run free, extend our limbs and relax. But in the real world that’s not always possible.

As someone with bad posture, this applies to me more than most; my body works against me most of the time, just because of the way I hold myself.  I spend all day at a computer; most evenings involve the laptop and inbetween I’m on the iPhone, texting, calling, checking emails or fiddling with apps. And it’s not healthy.

So my six for Saturday are tips to survive the ‘office ache’, the uncomfortable feeling you get from spending too much time at a desk.

1) Get in position. This is the most obvious, but if you have a desk job, make sure you’re sitting properly. Your eyes should meet the top of your computer screen, your chair should be straight backed and high enough so your arms sit comfortably on the desk. Don’t cross your legs under the desk and domake sure everything you need and use regularly is within easy reach, no stretching. And if you’re not sure if you’re in the right position, get an occupational health bod in to tell you.

2) Be smart when using the smartphone. Next time you’re texting from your phone, stop, hold your position and take stock. Are you hunched over, shoulders forward, eyes straining to see the screen? Bad, bad, bad. Think of your posture at all times, sit and stand up straight when you can and if you get numbness in your hand from texting, work harder on your posture and try to limit it.

3) Stretch and be limber. Get outside and get some air. Walk tall, open your chest, hold your head high and breathe in the air. Relax your limbs, stretch yourself out and try and ease away some of the tensions of the day. I take my dog for a walk every lunch time – not always convenient on busy days when I have loads to do but it forces me to take a break, get some exercise and unwind. Think of your body as one of those slinkies (the toys you used to get in your Christmas stockings as kids, that cleverly slink down the stairs). Your body is supposed to move fluidly, be light and not stiff and clunky. Take some time to stretch out, roll your neck from side to side, roll your shoulder blades and loosen up.

4) Massage and/or reflexology are often seen as luxury treatments. For me, they’re essential. Years ago, job stress manifested itself in the form of neck and shoulder pain and the only way I could get rid of it was through massage or reflexology, the latter being the most relaxing treatment ever! If the desk job causes you tension – through the nature of your job and the position – physically – you find yourself in for most of the day – then get a massage, once a month, every other month or as often as you need. It’ll help, promise. I use someone who comes to the house, which is more convenient and less time-consuming for me, and means I can chill out at home straight after, rather than undo the therapist’s good work by driving home in traffic.

5) Take time out. The best way to avoid office ache, is not to sit at a desk all day and give yourself time off from computers, smartphones and laptops. It’s not always possible but try and take one weekend a month off – no technology, just relaxation, books, walks and whatever else you enjoy. Leave the computers, phones and emails on  Friday night and ignore them until Monday morning. It’s hard to do, but good for you. To really break the habit, head somewhere with no internet access or phone signal so you have no choice but to be offline for a while.

 

Picture by Chirag D. Shah via Flickr under Creative Commons licence