Learn something new

It’s a new year, and we’re supposed to be improving ourselves. The news tells me about studies that allow me to eat a hamburger a week whilst saving the planet and my own health. The host of the open mic at my local has been on ginger beer this January. And our national politicians have learned to put fractious party politics and petty point-scoring aside to work together for the national interest.

Uhm, anyway…

I thought I’d get enough laurels for posting my “what I’m reading” blog on schedule at the beginning of the month, but maybe I need to do better than that. I made a killer batch of Seville marmalade (what, already? Well, I didn’t force the oranges to grow so quickly. Yes, I was shocked to see them at the greengrocer already on January like the third. But since they’re there, I do.) However, that is most certainly “something old”, and resolving to make marmalade this year is like resolving to breathe. No points awarded.

Whiteboard with a weekly schema for improving courses - stats, German, and bike repairI have therefore taken it upon myself to learn something new. Even put my super duper office whiteboard to work on getting myself organised. Its job since September or so has been to hold my monthly to-do list – not the daily one that fills up scratch pads on my very cluttered desk but the medium-term deadlines that I need to actually monitor but not necessarily actually complete before I go home each day. Now, its bottom half has a new purpose: to keep track of my progress on improvements.

The first one was easy. I’d already digitally committed myself to it. Edinburgh University (my alma mater… <sigh>) has a MOOC on statistics, and I clicked the “yeah, alright” button some time in November. I in fact clicked that same button last year, much more enthusiastically. I’m a quals guy by training, and it is commensurately what I train others in as part of my job. But ignorance repays no one, and this MOOC looked like the right thing to give me some baseline familiarity. I was very enthusiastic in saying “yeah, alright” last year.

You can see where this is going. Continue reading

Late adopters

Advert at the Moscow stationers

So last month I got a smartphone.

It’s been incredibly low on my priority list for, like, ever. I won’t bore you with a long list of reasons why. Suffice it to say, it has to do with cost, durability, replicating technologies I already have, and a desire not to be plugged in like someone from an Aldous Huxley dystopia, staring at a small screen in my hand while navigating through the world.

I’ve been a late adopter to various media and technologies: though I was quick on MySpace, as a musician, I was late to Facebook. Only got on Twitter towards the end of my PhD, when I started applying for academic jobs and realised that they might wonder why this young guy, clearly of the digital native generation, who is applying for media and comms positions, doesn’t know about this groovy medium. My wife and I held off mobile phones themselves for way long, capitulating when we moved to London and would have to balance her work, my studies, and this strange new world of school pick-ups and drop-offs. (Still, its primary use was and remains messages of the “coming home x” and “ok x” variety.)

So you see that when I have adopted a new technology, however late in the game, it’s been for the most practical of reasons. Continue reading