Data collection

I’ve found the exams I’ve taken this year to be really quite intense and it turns out that the closer it gets to the day itself, and the more intense the revision is, the less room I have in my head for anything else. Whether that is writing on my own blog, connecting with people on Twitter, keeping up with news online, or listening to podcasts, everything comes to a grinding halt.

The world around me doesn't stop turning though, inconsiderate as it is, and so I've been searching for ways to put everything in a holding pattern until I'm ready to deal with it. As of this latest exam period, I think I've found the right combination of tools to keep tabs on everything I need to know.


Things

The first step is getting things out of my head. My initial point of extraction still involves a pen and paper but I've recently managed to get my digital to do list in order. For the longest time, I've been using Things but in a wonky way that I cobbled together myself.

Their recent integration with the notifications/widgets sidebar on Yosemite for Mac has meant going back to the drawing board. I actually went back and found out what the Today view (the one showing up in said sidebar) actually does and it turns out, it's very useful!

You throw all your to-dos into the inbox, as soon as you have access to the app (desktop, mobile, you know the kind of thing). Then you assign them a time, a category and move them to a project or into a timely folder. Things will then scan your folders and projects each day and present you with a list in the Today view. You go through and accept items you intend to do that day, or put off ones you know aren't going to get done.

Let's be fair, at the moment, my list is very much full of items I intended to do that day and haven't, but it all seems a bit more manageable now I'm using the app how it was intended. Whodathunkit?


Safari reading list

Although there wasn't a lot of time for tweeting over the past few weeks, I did peruse my Twitter accounts. I used to get bogged down in reading everything I found interesting straight away, lest it be lost in the sea of information that Twitter floods you with. Not any more. Now it's a simple case of scanning through the list, and sending all the interesting links to the reading list for viewing later.

That latter step hasn't really managed to come around that often for me, and I think it's a problem not just for brief periods of insanity like when studying but in general for all busy people. I saw one person commenting that they were adding links to their "read-it-never" list, and I can see how that would happen.

Hopefully I can get it under control, though, because filtering down information into this list is like creating your own RSS feed reader of content you actually care about. That can only be a good thing.


Evernote

This tool for keeping notes, pictures, links, lists, everything, has been around for a long time but I've never really thought I had a use for it. In the end, you just have to dive in and start using it, so I did the Lynda course and got on with it. The brilliance of the app doesn't start to shine through until you use it and then just keep using it.

Now, I'll stumble across something and think about Evernote, where I previously never would have thought it could be used for such a thing - for example, those travel leaflets you inevitably pick up when visiting a tourist attraction, and hold onto because you might want to go there someday? I just snapped a picture and filed away in Evernote, thus avoiding the inevitable desk clutter!

Evernote can also play a part in the reading list process above, because whilst reading all the links I've put into the list, any that I want to keep around for a long time can go into Evernote (for ideas, for creativity, for further use in the future), rather than bloating the reading list. Everything is starting to play its part!


I can see the workflow as it begins to take shape but I'm not quite there yet. It still needs polishing and I've got quite a lot of catching up to do at this point, but technology seems to be working for me at last. You just have to embrace it!

Crushed it

Pitch Perfect 2! A trailer! So much awesome!

Fat Amy continues to steal the show, but I can't wait to see the group back together. And bonus Hailee Steinfield who appears to be in every film ever these days.

Tales from the script

One of our favourite things to do on Sidepodcast is look back at the stupid things we said a year, two years or more ago. Because you can't search an mp3, that often means scrabbling for what is in the show notes, or better yet, looking back at the transcript for our word for word conversation.

Transcribing is a lengthy process, however, and when it comes down to it, we don't have time to record podcasts at the moment let alone sit down and write them out in prose.

Step in one of the best tools for transcribing I've ever seen. In beta at the moment, oTranscribe does one thing but does it BRILLIANTLY. If you've ever tried to transcribe anything longer than a minute, there's only two things you need to know about this tool.

  1. You don't need to flip between windows, like media player and text document.
  2. It auto-magically goes back a second or two when you unpause, just so you can recap where you were.

It's all kinds of genius, and I look forward to both a) making podcasts in the future and then b) transcribing them with greater ease.

Hating on eight - Capaldi's Doctor leaves me cold

I gave it four episodes, and in the end I'm going to have to admit that Peter Capaldi's Doctor - so far - is not for me. The first episode I had to give the benefit of the doubt because it was a regeneration episode, one in which the characters were finding their feet and getting to know each other all over again.

The second episode was instantly forgettable - something about a Dalek? The third was more entertaining, but for the Robin Hood aspect rather than the Doctor being the star of the show. When he was shooting the arrows, I just thought... this doesn't feel right. I just finished watching the fourth episode in the series, one which a few have claimed as one of the best, and it was fine, a bit tense, but ultimately not gripping.

I want to like this Doctor, Capaldi appears to be doing a fine job and plenty of people have lauded his commitment to the role. I'm just not feeling it at all. I can't see any connection to the previous iterations, and there's nothing captivating me about him. As I mentioned in that first episode review, he doesn't appear to have a personality trait to latch on to. Except perhaps being mean to Clara.

I'm sad about that, I wanted this new partnership to work. I'm relieved that the relationship between Clara and this older version of the Doctor isn't awkward like I worried it might be. They seem to get on fine. But for me, Clara has never had the same presence as some of the companions that have gone before, and if you combine that with a Doctor that is also lacking, then there isn't much to cling on to.

So maybe I'll give the rest of the series a miss. Maybe I'll check back in if there's another cast change or something mega to watch for. Maybe not. It's okay, there are plenty of other things out there for me to watch. And from the tweets I've seen that say "thank god, Doctor Who is finally watchable again", there'll be more than enough viewers ready to take my place.

Half castle, half fort, all awesome

My interest in forts, bunkers and castles is well-documented, and recently I managed to squeeze in a visit to another place of interest that falls into this category. Somehow, it is both fort and castle, as Hurst Castle on the south coast was initially a Tudor dwelling, converted into a sea defending fort during the war. The castle is at the end of long shingle walkway that takes it out of you if you try and walk it. Well, so I’m told. Naturally, I took a boat.

What I love most about forts is there are just so many nooks and crannies. There are so many places to hide, and thus so many to investigate. I was dashing down the paths, up and down stairs, in and out of rooms, some of which were dark and quite intimidating. Never has my iPhone torchlight come in handy quite so much.

Some of the rooms have been converted to displays about the local lighthouse heritage association, but I was more interested in those that had been left mostly alone. The underground theatre, the shower block, particularly the gunpowder room – a huge dark circular room at the bottom of a dank staircase.

Then of course, at the top, you’ve got the lookout towers and some pretty impressive views. Looking across the fort, you get a really clear idea of the juxtaposition of old and new (or old and not quite so old), where the stone castle meets the brick fort. So many great lines and corners, just truly a joy to behold. I've posted more pictures over on Flickr, but highly recommend a visit of your own!

Graze anatomy

Our experiments in expanding our food intake have so far taken in the excellent delivery service that is HelloFresh (still going strong, by the way, a few meals that haven’t been to our taste, but otherwise I’ve reached Apprentice chef level and am rapidly heading towards sous!) but we didn’t stop there.

I’ve been aware of Graze for a long time, but never taken the plunge and ordered a box. Graze offer selections of healthy (and not so healthy) snacks, delivered to your door each week, from a choice of hundreds. You don’t get to specifically pick which ones you want but you can say what you do and don’t like, and those you would never want to receive. The great thing about Graze is, the boxes are long and thin, meaning they fit right through the letterbox and can be delivered by the postman. Genius!

I hadn’t been tempted by Graze before because it seemed quite expensive. £3.99 for four snacks on a regular basis. But having said that, we’d probably spend that on other snacks and this way you’ve got the added bonus of trying out some new and interesting combinations, knowing it's not too bad for you, and having that little thrill of anticipation when another box lands on the doormat.

So far, the various types of flapjack have gone down well, as has anything with chocolate. There are some that don’t really work for me – Indian chutney style dippers seem like a nice idea but aren’t really something I’d want to eat by themselves or at work, for instance. For the most part, there are selections of dried fruits and chocolates, interesting combinations and things to try. This week we even got a little sachet of microwave popcorn!

I can’t see this being something we do for the long term, but it’s fun to have little taste samples delivered each week. I’m also very intrigued by the “Big Boxes” they will be introducing soon. If you can hand pick bigger bags of the most delicious treats, I’m going to be very tempted.