Scratching the Surface of the Digital Age

It’s here. I’ve been waiting for as long as I can remember for the moment where my life becomes completely digitized. It’s a switch on an unprecedented scale where the advantages of leading a digital life blow away that of any analogue system. It’s also a switch that certainly doesn’t come overnight, and it’s a switch that must fit with your personal lifestyle.

When I was at school, teachers demanded a paper-based system whereby you handed in sheets of paper, exercise books filled with homework, and completed final exams on paper. Everything I seemed to do involved paper, yet by the time I’d reached my final year of A-Levels, aged 18, I’d concluded that paper-based systems had been completely holding me back. Without a digital device, it’s incredibly hard to look up a spelling, perform a calculation, find the definition of a word, record and playback a lecture, create beautiful documents and presentations, find information, get help with a problem. Without a digital aspect to learning and studying, you’re completely and utterly limited.

And it doesn’t stop with studying. Continue reading “Scratching the Surface of the Digital Age”

Health and Safety at the Office

This evening I walked to the coffee machine at work to refill, and on my way up to the machine I most unexpectedly alarmingly slipped on the floor, almost fell over backwards, and crashed into the kitchen side. My toes were rammed into a wall, causing one to bleed quite badly and my back was jolted. I staggered to one side and looked around to examine the floor. There was a pool of water that was lit in a certain way that made it completely impossible to see as you approached it!

I thought afterwards that Health and safety conscious employees may go ballistic about something.

My reaction was to grab some paper towels and mop up some of the water, and then to put a series of plastic cups on the floor in a semi-circle around the pool, so that it was clearly visible to anyone who may come along next. Knowing that the cleaners would clear everything up the next time they came around, I made my coffee, left the area, and got on with my evening.

For typical office environments, I don’t think there’s ever any need to make a bigger deal out of health and safety than that.

Thinking About Life

The long winding road lies ahead. I wonder whether people think about life as I do. I wonder whether people really truly consider the finite nature of life.

I’ve got to a stage in my life where I’ve seen a fair few things. I’ve seen different philosophies and beliefs. I’ve seen different morals and ethics. I’ve seen right and wrong. I think to myself,

“What is it that my life is going to be? What is it that I’m going to do with my finite time in this world?”

It’s a huge question that I believe most of us actually spend huge amounts of time trying to avoid, or perhaps never even figure it out.

Continue reading “Thinking About Life”

Visiting the US Embassy

Today I went down to London to attend an appointment at the US Embassy, and such an amazing experience it was. The embassy itself is a huge building, holding high the flags of the world, and guarded by an assortment of police and international troops. I was certainly a little nervous, and was thankful my appointment went smoothly. After taking the train to Euston Station, a taxi took me through the streets of London to the embassy, leaving  ten minutes to spare. Speaking to a women outside, I was alarmed to find that I needed a sheet of paper with my appointment time and a special bar code (as well as other documents I had with me) in order to gain entry. Thankfully the lady was helpful and pointed me to a nearby chemist across the road, who allowed me to use their wi-fi to download and print out the form within literally five minutes.

Once I had all the documents, I was able to queue for entrance, where firm and fierce airport security checks were taking place. I had had to travel to the embassy without any electronic devices, including my mobile phone and laptop, as they were not allowed into the embassy, and there was no official location to put them. I was with a lady in front of me who I thought was going to be thrown out for sure, for she was being incredibly rude – and these guards weren’t to be messed with; I for one ensured I followed every last instruction and didn’t do anything I wasn’t told to do!

Once I got through the security checks, I followed the building round to the side, and to the reception to check in. The interior was grand, the walls lined with pictures of american history and culture, and as I sat down, large screens boasted images of american flags, american icons (such as the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge), as well as the great american seal I would hope to get on my visa.

I sat down in the hall and waited to be called to one of the twenty-five booths. Once I was called to a booth it was very straight forward. Hand over the documents, have my fingerprints scanned, and answer some simple questions. After two callings to the booths my visa was approved, and I went to a final desk to arrange for a courier delivery of my visa, and return of my passport. I left the building after two hours. Next stop – America.

Beware of Darkness

I think I always try to be as optimistic and laid back as possible. I’ve decided in my naive youth to always assume the best in everyone. As philosopher St Thomas Aquinas insists; humans always seek the apparent good. And most of the time I’m happy enough in my little bubble, rocking through life to love songs from the greatest band of all time, and claiming its never the end of the world. After all, I’m a perfectly fortunate person in the sense of the opportunities in life that I’ve been given.

Every so often though, this small world of mine falls slightly apart. A crack in my beliefs form, and I realise (or perhaps remember) that where there is generosity there can be motive, where there is friendship there is sometimes betrayal, and where there is honesty there can lie deceit. Life is not about living in perpetual paranoia, nor is it about being oblivious of what lurks in the shadows. It is about being cautious, but trusting. It’s about absorbing and deflecting hits. It is about shining light into the face of darkness, so as it can rarely touch you.

Unfortunately today I witnessed a large crack in my reality. I realised that someone I’d known for a long time was not who I thought they were, and so sadly it’s time to move on and upwards. If someone isn’t who they say they are, I say forget them. Life flows on. Certainly for the most part it seems to be a smooth and beautiful journey…

“Beware of darkness… it can hit you.” – George Harrison

What’s it all about?

I’m 20. Explosion. I can see a large portion of my life in front of me… but…

What’s life all about anyway? Why is it we’re here? Are we really here to work and make money? Or to simply pass on our genes? How would it be possible to find true life fulfillment? What makes you really you? Am I happy with the person I currently am? Is society preventing me from being truly free? Should I really be asking these questions? Aren’t these important questions that you should ask yourself before you live your life?

The answers are out there somewhere. They’re probably going to be subjective answers, and they’re probably going to be very hard to find. Maybe life is about trying to find answers to questions, it certainly seems that way to me.

How to learn anything…

A teacher is someone that describes or explains some new information to someone else. The most effective teaching solution would be one that incorporates as many different methods of teaching as possible. It would comprise of audio, visual, and kinetic means, in order to appeal to all sides of the brain, and really enforce the information into your memory. A perfect teaching solution would provide as wide a variety of methods for covering the same information again and again as possible – emphasising repetition, as well as appealing to all different types of learners and all sides of the brain. The more you see the same information in different ways (e.g. text, pictures, video, or verbally), the greater the chance of being able to learn that information, understand that information, and be able to recall it at will.

There are many ways to learn something, some are more effective than others, but the best way is to use multiple ways. The best way is to start learning something by using one method (say, reading), then to go over the same information again by using a different method, for example putting it into practical use. Then, the same information should be re-covered again (at some point) in a different way, perhaps by explaining to somebody else who doesn’t understand the subject, or by applying or revisiting the knowledge in any different way. The more times one covers the same information using different methods, the greater the chance of one being able to understand whatever it is, as well as being able to securely store it into your mind. Finally, revision techniques should be applied to keep the knowledge alive and fresh. It’s clear that my opinion of this best way to both teach, and to learn, is to use a variety of different methods in order to not cover different pieces of the knowledge to be learnt – but the same pieces of knowledge. Repetition in as many different ways as possible. Be creative.

In order to perform these various learning methods, numerous different resources are necessary. If these resources are limited, then the ability to use different methods to learn the same information is greatly reduced, and thus, it will become harder to learn and understand whatever it is. Resources are vital. For teaching, a good teacher will provide as many different resources as possible, such as notes, images, verbal explanations, diagrams, animations, exercises, tasks, or projects, and whatever else he or she could creatively come up with. When learning something individually, it’s up to the individual to either create these resources (a process of learning in itself), which can be built upon or used for revision, or to find these resources from teachers (who may come in the form of traditional teachers, lecturers, internet websites or forums, books, colleagues and friends).

Sources and resources of knowledge, information and explanation are essential to the ability to learn, and their quality and quantity will affect how effectively one can learn. The more that are available, the more learning methods become available, and the greater the chance one will come away with thorough knowledge and understanding of whatever the subject matter is.

My Persuit of Happiness – A Day in the Life

Today has struck me as one of the happiest days I’ve had in a long time. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my days. I love them. But today was exceptional. My interest in happiness and self development leads me naturally to look back on the hours that have just past and try to work out why it is I have become so happy. What is it that makes me feel this way? It’s such an important life question to ask, yet I’m sure hardly anybody actually ever wonders it. What made today particularly interesting is that nothing particularly special happened to me, so, instead I’m going to try to discover what it is that has happened on this ordinary day that’s made it so enjoyable. To do this I’m going to walk through it…

At 7:00am I woke up to the sound of Pink Floyd’s Any Colour You Like getting gradually louder as it eased me out of sleep. 7:00am and I went to sleep at around 2:00am, so I’ve only had five hours of sleep. I don’t feel good. But a quick shower and breakfast meant I was well fed for the morning and good to go. I find coffee an essential, and it  certainly helps to lift my spirits, and so, perhaps, this is the first factor that contributed to my great happy day that was unknowingly to myself at time time about to embark on. I knew that I was going to be meeting some new people today and so I dressed well; jeans, shirt (tucked in), tie, jacket (a few were tried out) and shoes. I grabbed some things, including my bag and laptop, and headed out for the bus station. After arriving at the bus station I waited in the drizzling rain for 10 minutes – not fun – for the first bus to arrive to be full and drove past. I wasn’t pleased and I was beginning to run late for my first lecture of the day. The second bus arrived and I was on my way.

I arrived in the lecture theater 10 minutes late and a little rushed. After finding a seat I set up my laptop and began recording. The lecture seemed interesting and made a good introduction to the course, but nothing special. After the lecture I made my way to a lab to continue working on a program to encipher and decipher text using a code, and managed to make good progress. Starting to feel quite good about how the work was progressing, I decided to spend half an hour sorting with my bank so I’m able to pay my tuition fees before October over the phone, which went smoothly. So things were going fairly well. One of my house mates sent me a text to inform me that we would be getting new carpets in all the rooms at our house. Very pleased.

From here things got interesting. I headed over to a meeting at Kro Bar for PASS leaders, where I would meet my partner for the sessions. The room was packed with friends from the course, and I enjoyed chatting to some guys about the training we’d been going through. The University bought everyone a drink which went down very well! Importantly, I met my partner, whom I would be working with over the year. I found him friendly and genuinely interesting, and we quickly got into a good conversation. And so here’s where my mood soared from good to exceptional. Kro Bar was a blast. The place was chilled, it was full of friends, and getting along with someone I’d only just met was incredible. I became immensely happy. To add even further to that feeling a quick reflection as I left the bar made me realise something incredible. I believe that I can get on with anyone no matter who they are. I’m so proud. I’ve managed to reflect on myself and build on my weaknesses (for example listening skills), as well as pursue active research into human relations to improve the way I can interact with people – because I always believe there’s room for improvement – and I can see the improvement. Today I became happy with my progress. I left the bar feeling on top of the world. The sun came out. I walked down Oxford Road to my next lecture, with my head high, strength in my step, and a comfortable smile on my lips as other students passed by. This sense of things going well. This realisation of achievement. This feeling was happiness. What made me this happy? Getting on with other people. Befriending people. Enjoying another person’s company and letting them enjoy mine. It’s all about people. This true happiness, I thought, doesn’t come often – but when it does it’s truly beautiful.

So my next two lectures were pretty interesting, as well as being a little more entertaining, being sat next to a good friend and a good laugh. The feeling stayed high.

Following that I had my first tutorial session with some other great friends from last year. We met our new tutor as well as a new group member that we got to know. Everybody in that session seemed happy. Everyone enjoyed each others company, and, perhaps most importantly for today, so did our new group member. My friendship with a particular member seemed refreshed and alive, and, because they mean so much to me, the things that meant were amazing. I left the session happy, and after leaving my friends, and headed for a bus home.

A short walk to the bus stop, and a major road to cross. The rain was coming down as a kind of drizzle, and the wind blew hard yet soft. I didn’t wear my jacket on the way home. I didn’t need to because warmth came from my heart. I crossed the road and waited in the middle for the cars coming towards me to pause for some lights further ahead. Three lanes of traffic speeding past me on one side and three further lanes of traffic on the other side. I stood looking down the road, the wind blowing through my hair and the light rain cooling my cheeks. Pure happiness.

On the bus back I reflected on my day. A tear came to my eye. Today was beautiful. But why? What makes me happy?

Friendship.