TL;DR version: I’m raising money for cancer research in 2013. I’ve shaved my head and beard and won’t be cutting either until 2014. You can donate here: justgiving.com/letting-grow(I’m aiming to raise £7,866 – or one pound for every Twitter follower I had on 01/01/2013!)
We’ve had better Christmases.
The week before the big day our one year-old daughter tripped, fell and gashed her head. We rushed to hospital, got it bandaged up and she had to have stitches under a general anaesthetic the next morning. The doctors and nurses at Newcastle RVI were fantastic.
Then, on Christmas Eve she vomited. And then kept vomiting every half an hour. Then my son got it. Then my wife. Finally, I got it – although (mercifully) not nearly as severely as the rest of the family. We’re all just recovering now.
When you’re ill with something like a vomiting bug it’s comforting to know that in a few days you’ll be back to normal. It’s a temporary thing, something to endure for a short period of time. What the experience brought home to me, however, was what the festive period must be like when you don’t have an end in sight. When you don’t necessarily know that everything’s going to be OK. And, to be fair, even for those who are confident that their chemotherapy is going to work, undergoing it is an ordeal far worse than we experienced.
Let’s beat cancer in our lifetime. Let’s raise some money for Cancer Research.
Usually I trim my hair and beard about once a week. But in 2013 I won’t be cutting it at all. Symbolically, I’ve razored it all down so there’s no trace of hair anywhere on my head. It’ll grow steadily over the course of the year and by the end of it I’ll probably have to tie it back.
Every time I write a blog post I’ll update the photograph of myself here as well as my avatar on Twitter. There’ll be a constant reminder in both places to donate to Cancer Research. Even if only one in ten of the 90,000 unique visitors who came to this site last year gave just one pound we’d raise £9,000. That’s more than the £7,866 target I’ve set – one pound for each of my Twitter followers as of 01/01/2013.
So, if you or someone you know has been affected by cancer, please do what you can:
A couple of months ago I wrote a post entitled How I Use a MacBook Pro (May 2011). Since that time I’ve stumbled across a blog entitled The Setup which asks a range of creative people four questions about how they roll. I’ve realised the benefit of putting what I do into words, complete with links. Once you’ve read what’s below, I suggest heading over to usesthis.com to check out other people’s contributions!
I’m Doug Belshaw and I work at Northumbria University where JISC infoNet are hosted. I’ve also recently started an educational consultancy called Synechism Ltd and am co-kickstarter of Purpos/ed. At heart I’m an educator interested particularly in social justice issues, digital literacies, mobile learning and open educational resources. Prior to that I worked in schools and academies as Director of e-Learning and taught History for seven years.
2. What hardware are you using?
I’m pretty much attached to either my iPhone 4 or (work-provided) early-2010 MacBook Pro most of the time. Occasionally I break out my iPad (original wifi version) but I prefer my Kindle for reading. I write in Moleskine notebooks and then scan them in so that they’re available to me digitally anywhere, using the Tim Ferriss method of indexing. At work, although I try to use my MacBook Pro as much as possible, I’ve just had my work machine upgraded to a fairly decent spec (AMD Athlon II X2 3Ghz with 4GB RAM and Windows 7). Multiple desktops are a must – I run dual monitors on my work PC and six virtual desktops via Spaces on the MacBook Pro.
3. And what software?
I experiment with software regularly, but my staple apps and webapps are the following. I’m not a big fan of email, but GMail (I’ve got 5 accounts) makes life more bearable – as does the Sparrow app. I’ve found that Xobni makes Outlook bearable. My job would be a lot harder without Skype for interviewing and catching up with people and TweetDeck for keeping my finger on the pulse (I’m also a big fan of LinkedIn Signal, Google+ and Quora for this). I’m a lot less frustrated regarding passwords now that I’ve transferred wholesale to LastPass.
Dropbox keeps my files in sync between my machines, and I just love the fact that I can send a link to a large file in there from the iPhone app wherever I am. Google Apps is a wonderful service and I’m a massive fan of Google Calendar – I’m so much more organised due to its reminder functions. For keeping up with RSS feeds I use Feedly, which is a front end for Google Reader. I flirt with Evernote from time to time, using it sporadically but I’m still grappling with how to use it effectively. Licorize is my go-to place to store bits of digital things.
Shorter writing tends to be via WordPress or Google Docs, with longer stuff powered by Scrivener, with which I’ve been writing my doctoral thesis. Papers is a godsend for organising academic journal articles. I’ve recently downloaded iA Writer for the iPad which looks useful – I’m going to have to get myself the offical keyboard. If I’m presenting I’ll use Keynote, which I find to be a wonderfully useful tool. Despite having Adobe CS5 provided through work, I mainly use Keynote and Seashore for image creation and editing. If I’m brainstorming I’ll use XMind.
Spotify, Last.fm and SomaFM provide the tunes to which I listen for most of my waking hours. I also listen to a lot of podcasts whilst commuting and doing tasks that don’t require much in the way of creativity. I’ve recently come across the DownCast iPhone app which making this a more positive and hassle-free experience (it downloads podcasts in the background).
Right now I’m alternating between Google Chrome and nightly builds of Webkit, but up until recently was using Rockmelt as my browser. I’m a bit of a browser tart.
4. What would be your dream setup?
I’d love a Mac Pro. A geeky aim in life for me is for any app to load on my Mac without it ‘bouncing’ in the dock. That would be awesome. I’d also love a 30″ Apple Cinema display, but that probably isn’t happening anytime soon. I’d also love not to have to go into the office every day and be able to work remotely from something like an OfficePOD at home. I’ve got a study, but it’s a garage conversion so can be loud and is too much part of the house to be productive. For now, I’ll have to make do with coffee shops (where I’m able, bizarrely, to get in the zone).
Usually new mobile phones are known about well in advance of their launch. Everything from specs to early reviews are made available in order to create a buzz around the product. For example, a couple of years ago I was sent an LG Shine and encouraged (although not instructed) to take photos of it and blog about it. With the Dell Streak, however, apart from a great video at jkkmobile I stumbled across on the night before it was released in the UK, I’d heard nothing about it!
Full specs of the device can be found here, but the highlights are that it’s an Android tablet/smartphone hybrid with a 5″ screen. Yes, five inch! :-p
Let’s just get past the two (related) questions I’ve been asked most frequently over the last couple of weeks:
Is it too big?
Don’t you feel a bit stupid putting it to your ear to, you know, make phone calls?
It’s certainly on the upper limit of what counts as a phone size wise. Some, undoubtedly, will find it too big. But given that I tended to use my iPhone more for Twitter and other internet based activities than for phone calls, I don’t!
It’s not Dom Joly size and I don’t really suffer from self esteem issues anyway. As for people who think that phones should only be able to make phone calls, get back in your cave please… 😉
Things I really like:
The whole experience and speed of the device makes it über-slick
Spotify, Dropbox and other official apps are better (to my mind) than their iPhone counterparts
The size of the screen makes everything… just better
It’s really quite thin
Several virtual desktops means you can organize your stuff
I don’t have to jail break it to set it up the way I want it
Widgets provide real-time updates
The camera is legendary and the in-phone editing functions are actually useful
Inspired by the wonderful infographic-style resumés of graphic designers on display at FastCompany and Cool Infographics, I decided to have a go at my own. For best results, click through to view it full-size! :-p
Before you ask, I used Keynote, part of iWork 09. It’s a wonderful drawing package! 😀
Tom Barrett (for being a truly inspirational educator and collaborator)
Over and above these I’ll be giving some to members of my family, so I’ll have 2 spare to give away. If you’d like one of these, please leave a comment below explaining why! Thanks to those who requested a copy in the comments below – the two that were up for grabs are going to Daniel Dainty & Julian Wood! :-p
I was surprised that Laura Walker’s blog post of her (successful) expression of interest in the ‘Director of E-Learning position at her school was in first place. I was pleased for her, and for Dan Stucke – another Director of E-Learning – whose blog post also featured on the front page.
But… where am I? It sounds a bit egotistical, I know, but I was kind of expecting to be there too. Where’s the link to my Director of E-Learning interview blog post? Some may construe this blog post as a blatant attempt to point out to Google that I’m a Director of E-Learning too, thank you very much and to get my name on that front page.
I’ve been tagged in another meme, this time the ‘7 Things You May Not Know About Me’ one by Alev Elci. As I participated in the ‘5 Things’ meme back on teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk in 2006 here, I’ll cheat by just adding two. :-p
6. I have a rather dry sense of humour. More like Martini Extra Dry, in fact…
7. I’m not great at geography. Unlike my wife Hannah, who has top-down maps of places in her head, I can still get lost using a combination of my Sat-Nav and GPS feature of Google Maps on my iPhone. On the other hand, at any given time I could probably tell you pretty accurately which way is North, South, East or West. Bizarre.
Nick Dennis and I are at the Schools History Project Conference this weekend. We’re doing a couple of sessions entitled Skype Captain and the World of Tomorrow: using new technologies to promote collaboration beyond the classroom. The page which goes with our session is at:
If all goes well, we’re planning to broadcast the second session (10.30am BST, Sunday 6th July 2008) live over the Internet via UStream. The broadcast will appear in the box below and at this URL and will be recorded for later viewing. 🙂