What's In A Name?

A tweet from Paula scrolled past the other day.  She said, "That thing after you've finished having children when you realise you've got fave names left over..." This got me thinking - choosing a name for a child is a huge responsibility.  But that is only just the beginning...

Certain areas of our identity are structured through biological make-up and parentage, for example, race, ethnicity and gender, but the way in which we act can be used to control how we see ourselves and how others see us.  Freud argued that our identity is formed and shaped in the subconscious using childhood experiences and our natural need to be pleasured and sated.  Adapting these through the development of personality and desire is a way to control our identity as an adult.

Society, in any form, is established by its structure and interaction and the translation of rules and regulations.  We have to develop our identity and establish the presentation of ourselves to others.  It doesn't matter what anyone says - we are always judged upon first appearances.  That may be by how we sound on the telephone, how we look when we first meet someone, by our name on a letter or, even more recently, our username online.  Using online society as an example, shows that we identify with different social groups and use multiple identities for personal advantage.

We mirror other people both in real life and online to create an identity that fits into a specific situation.  We used to be able to rely on expressions, gestures and oral communication to help with recognition but, with a computer screen between us and the rest of the world, we have to rely on the way in which fellow users portray themselves, and vice versa.

Creating an identity means that we have to redefine and reconstruct our own vision of ourself to be accepted both as a group member and an individual.  When I chose my children's names I was very careful not to give them names that could potentially be considered unusual or bucked a trend but did that mean I was taking away their identity by 'normalising' them?

Wealth and social class can be very influential in the structure of identity as they can bring security, power and control to a social situation.  Or it can be eradicated by the same.  We now live in a world where national identity is a key part of society and rights of citizenship are challenged in cultures across the world.

We all know that Katie Hopkins has recently rocked the boat with her very narrow-minded attitude towards names given to children (although that was just the tip of the iceberg) and I remember an article on Parentdish which was written in a similar vein.  Look closely and you'll see I'm quoted in that article - my viewpoint might surprise you but think back to what I have just said about first impressions - my prejudice doesn't necessarily continue afterwards.

Who didn't giggle when they worked out that Kim Kardashian's baby's full name would be "North West"?
Who wasn't really surprised that William and Kate gave their son a regal name?
We also have "Cricket" (Busy Phillips), "Rex" (Fearne Cotton), "Jett" (Katie Price), "Maxwell" (traditionally a male name but gifted to her daughter by Jessica Simpson)... and the list goes on.

Prompted by a tweet from Lynn where she asked her daughter who in her class has the coolest name and she answered "me" (it is pretty cool but she shortens it on her blog) I had a think about my own name.  I hated my name for a long time.  My first name is very 1970's and my maiden name is German.  I changed my first name at a defining point in my life and there is a very distinct divide of people who call me by one name or the other.  With regards to my surname I now know that I should have embraced it and learnt to love it as it really did make me stand out from the crowd.

I asked my Twitter followers if they were happy with their own name and the majority of them aren't which really surprised me.  Does this mean that no matter what name we give our children (or that our parents gave us) they're not going to be happy with it?  Is this all about forming our own identity rather than someone choosing it for us?

Maybe our identity is determined by association and how we actively present this?  I mentioned in my recent talk at Preston Geek Up that I conduct my online activity in my own name because I want to be responsible for what I put out there but this also means that anyone can type my name into any search engine and find out quite a lot of information about me.  If I had used my maiden name or a pseudonym then maybe I could have kept an air of mystery about me.

What do you think?


[REVIEW] Kingston MobileLite Wireless

The Kingston MobileLite Wireless is an ingenious piece of kit and has become something that I carry with me at all times now.  This 3-in-1 device is not just about being connected but more about having unlimited access to files and photos from your portable hard drive (and other storage devices), streaming content to multiple devices and backing up your mobile phone battery.

Kingston MobileLite Wireless

Confused?  Let me break it down for you.

Portable Card Reader

The MobileLite Wireless works as a portable card reader to give you unlimited access to all of your data, anywhere you are.  I have been using it with both a SD card and my external hard drive to access presentations for work.  You can also store photographs, music, documents and more in the same way. 

Wireless and Streaming

Using the MobileLite app, available on iOS and Android, content can be shared and stored to three devices at once.  This is great for children on car journeys or if someone wants to watch a film in bed. 

Back-Up Battery

You can use the MobileLite unit to keep the power flowing without having to plug your phone or tablet into the wall.  The battery life on my phone is shocking because I'm addicted to Candy Crush Saga and keep checking my twitter account but because the MobileLite Wireless has a built-in 1800AH battery it can be used as a mobile device booster, which is the lifeline I was looking for. 

My thoughts

With the MobileLite Wireless unit you get a USB lead and a SD card adaptor.  At first, the unit seems very 'plasticky' and not very sturdy and I was disappointed not to actually receive a memory card with the unit.  However, those thoughts have now been eradicated because of how useful the unit is and how easy it is to set up.  It's been a lifesaver on many occasion when my mobile phone battery has been on its last legs (a regular occurrence) and it also means that I don't have to clog my mobile phone or tablet up with photos and videos.  This is great because I don't use up valuable memory space but also if I ever lost my phone (or tablet) or had it stolen then there are less personal pictures on there.

The RRP at the time of this review was £49.99 on Amazon.


The Big Cheese, Episode 2

The Big Cheese
The Big Cheese, Episode 2 aired last night on Preston FM.  We now have Episodes 3 and 4 "in the can" but I'll keep reminding you to listen in.  I'm already seeing what can be improved on and the team are settling into their roles in the show.  

If you didn't get chance to hear the show then you'll be pleased to hear that I uploaded it to MixCloud for your aural pleasure.  I'd love to hear what you think.

PS.  Don't forget you can catch updates on Facebook and follow the live show tweets on the hashtag #BigCheeseQuiz.


Songs That Sound Like Other Songs

I have a theory about music.  An octave contains only eight notes and even with the use of higher and lower octaves and sharps and flats, there is only so many ways in which to order these notes before obvious similarities start appearing in songs.  So when I was recording another episode of The Big Cheese for Preston FM and played an Adam And The Ants track as part of the music round I wasn't too surprised when Steve, one of the panelists asked me if I knew that it was a blatant rip-off of a Rolf Harris track.

So I got home and had a listen and they are definitely very much alike.  Tell me if you agree...

Adam and the Ants - Prince Charming

Rolf Harris - War Canoe

Apparently, according to this interview with Danny Baker, Rolf didn't know about the similarities until someone told him and they settled out of court.

It reminded me of another couple of tracks which I've always though sounded like each other.  Tell me what you think about this - Cornershop with Brimful of Asha versus The View with Same Jeans

And on my travels around t'internet I found a website called 'Sounds Just Like' which allows you to listen to songs that sound like other songs side by side (although there are some really obscure examples).  Check out the song that sounds like A Spoonful Of Sugar from Mary Poppins, one that is really comparable to Lady Madonna by The Beatles and how much Ke$ha and Katy Perry's songs sound alike.

What songs do you think sound like other songs?

Edited to add:   As reminded by someone on Twitter, HOW could I forget to include the amazing Axis of Awesome's Four Chord Song which demonstrates this theory perfectly!


The Gallery - World Photography Day

Monday 19th August was World Photography Day which is all about celebrating photography. So, of course, Tara has requested that this week's Gallery pictures represent what you were doing on World Photography Day.

I wish I could have gone off exploring somewhere exciting or interesting with my camera. Instead, I had one of the most mind-blowingly busy days and almost forgot to snap a pic.  It started with a desk day at work, catching up after being out of the office delivering a course last week.  Later, at home, I live-tweeted the first episode of my new radio quiz show, The Big Cheese and then shot straight out of the door to speak at #PrestonGeekUp which was the most awesome experience. 

So, to capture that unusual (geek) moment I took a 'point of view' picture of some of the lovely people listening to my talk.  And they were listening intently.  They was no tweeting every third sentence or scribbling of notes but actual listening.  And asking of questions.  And the giving of opinions.  And making the event more interesting, interactive and enjoyable for the people in the room.  It's not the best ever photograph that I've taken (far from it) but it is a moment that I'm proud of.  And for me, that's what photography should be about.  Capturing those special moments in life.  The 'one off's'

Prestong Geek Up

There will be much more amazing pictures over on The Gallery (an online, continuous, digital photo album) so pop on over and have a browse through them.  Let's celebrate photography for the range of abilities, experiences and very individual points of view.


The Big Cheese, Episode 1

Preston FM logo
After completing my radio presenter training at Preston FM I was giving the opportunity to create a show of my own.  I have a few ideas on a list but the ultimate goal is to create an enjoyable listening experience.  After a bit of a brainstorming session with the rather fabulous, Will B, I sent out this to be included in the Preston FM newsletter:

Pilot for a new panel show.  Nickie O'Hara is piloting a brand new show for Preston FM. The panel show will be half an hour long and will incorporate general knowledge style and music-based quiz questions. Humorous input from panelists is a must. Recording will take place outside of the studio setting at a time and place convenient to all involved but an evening commitment is preferred. If you are interested in taking part in this "I'm Sorry I Haven't Got An Egg Head To Mock The Week" quiz experience please email Nickie.

Well, I love it when a plan comes together.  A great mix of people replied to the request and we arranged to meet up to discuss how feasible this idea actually was.  Two of the team were very well rehearsed with the technical side of 'outside broadcasting' and everyone seemed really keen on the idea. A venue was decided upon, equipment was arranged and a date for recording was agreed.

The Big Cheese logo
And so The Big Cheese was born.

Two shows have since been recorded and the first was broadcast on Preston FM yesterday evening.  If you missed it, have a listen in here but you can tune in on Monday's at 6.30pm on 103.2FM in the local (Preston) area or online on TuneIn.

I am providing the themes and the questions myself (incorporating research used for the Friday Twiz) and I've had to teach myself how to edit sound files using Audacity (boy, that was a crash course and a half). For a first show it's not bad but we all know where we can make improvements. It's nerve-wracking waiting for listener feedback but the team is gearing up to record the next couple of episodes.

If you've got time to have a listen, let me know what you think.  We will be live tweeting the episodes using the hashtag #BigCheeseQuiz and you can keep up to date with all the news on The Big Cheese Facebook page.

Soundtrack To My Life - Sonya

soundtrack to my life
This week, on Soundtrack To My Life, I hand over to Sonya.  She's a mum to three and has an opinion on everything.  I'm very interested in her musical choices as she has played in bands herself all across Europe (I bet she's got a few stories to tell) and can still be persuaded to pick up that bass guitar again from time to time.  For now, it's over to Sonya...


David Bowie - Starman 

I first came across David Bowie when I saw him on the Spiders From Mars tour in 1973. Admittedly I had what is known as a 'restricted view' , what with being in utero and all, but it was definitely love at first listen. I still love him now and have seen him perform several times since, the last time being at Glastonbury more than ten years ago now. There are so many utterly awesome songs by him, but this particular one has special memories attached as it is also the one my Dad used to sing to me as a lullaby when I was small. Let The Children boogie indeed!

Adam and the Ants - Kings of the Wild Frontier 

I got this aged 6 and it was my first ever record, unless you count the Jungle Book soundtrack what my Nan did buy me (which is also awesome!). From a young girl dancing to the tribal beat on her chalk drawn hopscotch, via the pre-teen with burgundy pedal pushers and a white stripe on her nose, all the way up to the present day, he has stayed in my life through every decade! I finally got to see him live while pregnant with Syd, and he played lots of the early punk stuff that I adore, as well as the big hits. I still have a picture of him on my bedroom wall, although these days it is an arty canvas as opposed to something torn from the pages of Smash Hits magazine.

Billy Bragg - Milkman of Human Kindness 

Lord Billington of Bragg is my favourite lyricist of all times. And among my favourite public speakers too. His passion is always apparent, his rants resonate with me, I share many of his political views, even if I lack his ability to convey them with such style. Again hard to pick a favourite, but I often spout on about the thing the world is really lacking these days is the ability to be kind, listen to the words of this song if you have time, they are ace!

Green Day - Longview 

I am passionate about many musical artists. But these are the top of a very long list. I have no idea why, but their punk pop songs just make me feel better about the world every time I hear them. Even the angry ones. Especially the angry ones. From the first time I heard this song I was hooked, and it has led to many a crazy adventure, sometimes involving wimples and puppets and film cameras, but that dear reader is another story.

Take Me I'm Yours - Squeeze

5 is not enough songs for me. AARRGGGHHH! Which of the many, many on my shortlist of 43 songs that I ended up with after being asked to join in this fabulous series shall I pick last?!? I may have to come back another time with the songs that remind me of my kids, my bands, my Kim Deal worship, my folk heritage, my discovery of punk, my Smiths cardigan wearing years and all the others in between. But for my last song I will talk about love.

You know those books where the heroine realises the love of her life has been there all along and she just didn't know it was him. Well that was me. We had been friends for a decade when we fell in love. I am not one for soppy missives, but he makes me happy, and I make him happy, and it sort of started with this song. Dreams are made of this.


soundtrack to my lifeSonya's blog is appropriately called The Ramblings of a Formerly Rock'n'Roll Mum (have a look at some of her band memories and music posts - really interesting reads) and on Twitter as @SonyaCisco.

If you want to join in with Soundtrack To My Life you can complete this form and I'll be in touch when your feature is due to go live.  Click on the mix-tape to the right to read all the "Soundtrack To My Life" entries.


Over at The High Tea Cast... I am translating the Sidebar Of Shame

high tea cast logo
Over at The High Tea Cast this month I've been fulfilling a much-needed service - translating the Sidebar of Shame.  I've probably omitted loads of their much-used phrases so go and share your favourites in the comments.


Soundtrack To My Life - Liz

soundtrack to my life
Soundtrack To My Life has returned!  To take us through her musical journey this week is Liz - blogger and communications extraordinaire!  Liz is on the mum blogger circuit and writes about life as a full time, self-employed woman with two sons at primary school and her marriage to her "Lovely Bloke".  So now, it's over to Liz...


Barry White - My First, My Last, My Everything

My first choice is "My First, My Last, My Everything" by Barry White. It has seen me through happy and sad times. It's something that still makes me feel good whenever I hear it!

I have chosen to share this version with the Ally McBeal cast dancing in it because I can do that dance. I've spent many, many hours practising it and am waiting for the moment to come when I do it for an audience!!

Tina Turner - Simply The Best

My second choice is Tina Turner's "Simply the best". I love it because it's a song that I've listened to with my mum and dad, in the car, as a child.

We used to trek to my grandparents in Chesterfield every other weekend and the journeys were filled with Tina Turner and Motown. I still love listening to them both today. And still do air guitar at the appropriate points in the Tina songs!

Dr Hook - Years From Now

The third song is the one that I as meant to go down the aisle to - Dr Hook's "Years From Now". On the day, the CD didn't work and a group of people were dispatched to their cars to see what CD's were in the glove box to find something that I could go down the aisle to!!!

It's a song that I've known since my childhood and is something that Lovely Bloke could agree on. He's very much into Lenny Kravitz and I'm into disco and dance, so it's something in the middle!

And if you're interested. The song that I ended up going down the aisle to was Norah Jones "Come Away With Me..."

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

My fourth song choice is "Rudolph the red nosed reindeer". I sing this to our boys in the night, when they can't sleep. I sing it when they are unwell. I sing it when they have fallen over and are upset.

It's used as an alternative to my other song I have for them, which is from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I kid you not.

Embrace - Ashes

My fifth choice is "Ashes" by Embrace. It's from the album that I was listening to the year that I was single and doing internet dating. The album covered me emotionally from the excitement of gearing up to meet new dates, the highs of meeting some really great blokes who've turned out to be lifelong friends and the aftermath of some truly awful dates.

The album also saw me through the first few weeks of working out if Lovely Bloke was "the one".  So it's fitting that it's my last pick, because it's the song and album that took my from one phase of my life, into the next one....

Who knows what the next five songs will be?


soundtrack to my lifeYou can find Liz over at Cambridge Mummy (or her business website is Weston Communications) and on Twitter as @TheLizWeston and she is most definitely on my "To Meet" list!

If you want to join in with Soundtrack To My Life you can complete this form and I'll be in touch when your feature is due to go live.  Click on the mix-tape to the right to read all the "Soundtrack To My Life" entries.

Which Vacuum Cleaner Is Best For My Home?

There’s an overwhelming array of vacuum cleaners available on the modern market which can render many of us not so much spoilt, but certainly confused about which one is best. When considering purchasing a vacuum cleaner, it’s important to consider a few points to help ascertain the kind of cleaner that will be most suited to your specific needs.

Consider how often you vacuum your carpets

Whether you tackle heavily trafficked areas on a daily or weekly basis, the type of vacuum you use can make cleaning less of a chore. If vacuuming is part of your daily routine, a lightweight model may be adequate for maintaining your home. For less frequent but more heavy-duty cleaning, you may need a larger model, with a bigger capacity for collecting dust.

Similarly, the size of your home will have an impact on your choice. Wall to wall carpeting in a substantial family home may require a large model that’s tough enough to tackle the task.

Contemplate a product’s cleaning power

The suction power and cyclonic strength of a vacuum cleaner will determine how well it deals with dirt and debris. If you have a hectic home with hoards of animals and children, then chances are you’ll need a powerful machine to pick up pet hair and cope with crumbs.

The cleaner’s filtration level and its ability to agitate fibres and draw up dirt are also key points for consideration, particularly if householders are aggravated by allergies. At the other end of the scale, a single person in a small home may find a handheld vacuum cleaner a useful addition to their cleaning cupboard.

Choose style and substance

The style of cleaner you should choose isn’t simply a case of personal taste. Bagless vacuum cleaners negate the necessity for replacement bags, but can sometimes expose the user to dust when emptying the canister. For this reason, allergy sufferers may prefer to use vacuum bags which contain the dust particles and thus reduce the risk of unnecessary exposure to allergens.

When examining the appeal of different makes and models, manoeuvrability may be a key concern. Upright models offer ease of movement around a room, whereas cylinder styles are often better suited to stairs and harder to reach nooks and crannies. When making a choice, consider the features that will help make light work of your household chores. 

This is a sponsored post. 
Please see my disclosure policy for more details.

Do You Take Responsibility For Your Online Behaviour?

In the main, social media is held in high esteem in my world and there are many branches to it.  It has been a constant learning curve over many years and I continue to expand certain networks, use different platforms for different purposes and generally enjoy my time on there with my imaginary online friends.

Looking at the bigger picture, social media is relatively new.  Depending on how long you have been online, your choice of platform determines how you update your social network.  Social media – usually Facebook - is used extensively by non-bloggers to connect to their friends and family.  Twitter has been seen very much a place to have mini conversations and connect with people outside of the immediate circle of real life friends and Google Plus has been adopted by many a geek because of the intricacy of the networking facilities in line with the incorporation of visual tools and inclusion in Google’s own search engine.  Social media is also seen as a way to promote articles that have been written and many organisations are aware that they need an online presence to promote their flairs and wares.

Social media and blogging inevitably cross paths.  Bloggers use many different social media platforms and tools to push their new posts out to their wider network and engage in discussion about what they have written.  Social media channels are being seen as the place to engage in campaigns and charity fund raisers.  Sharing of updates is similar to the effect of ripples in a pond. 

But we occasionally lose control of that.  And a shitstorm happens.  And that’s when social media becomes a sad place to be.

Who teaches us how to behave online?  The ethos of “if you wouldn’t say it to their face then don’t say it at all” doesn’t quite work when it is easy to hide behind a screen with one or more usernames.  Online abuse and trolling has been going on since the dawn of (internet) time and we are constantly repeating the message to be accountable for what we put out there.  But the abuse and the trolling doesn’t stop.  And, in my mind, it never will, but you can take responsibility for yourself and for your close network.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you will have heard about the #banknotes campaign (I wrote about it here), brought to many people’s attention initially by Eva Keogan and Caroline Criado-Perez at Cybher 13 and then through The Women’s Room.  Online presence and sharing of support was generated in a positive way.  It was seen to be an important enough necessity to reverse a decision made by a higher echelon and joyous appreciation was heard across the interwebs. 

That was until it was considered to be a move to Encourage Feminism and Turn Us All Into Lesbians.  The online attacks started, mainly directed at Caroline Criado-Perez who headed the #banknotes campaign but it then extended anyone who dared to support Caroline, including well known activists, journalists and normal women speaking out for something they believed needed to happen.

Also, there was the story of a blogger within my network who experienced an altercation in her local supermarket, blogged about it and because of the theme of the incident (the sexualisation of children), it was picked up on and it went viral.  There are now forum discussions dedicated to dissecting the information appearing on news sites and creating their own hate campaign around it, digging around the internet, looking for ‘leads’ to use to discredit this person further.  How do I know?  Because I experienced a hugely inflated number of hits on a Soundtrack to my Life post that this person had submitted a few months ago.  There is always a trail left on the internet.  You always know (more or less) how people have found your blog.

We are hearing more and more reports about young people feeling the need to take their own lives after being subjected to bullying and online abuse through other social media networks aimed at their generation (Ask.FM, Bebo, to name but a few).  Through research for work I have found a number of reports about networkers who actively seek to create hate campaigns and have a merry band of followers.  Their response when interviewed is that the punishment doesn't fit the crime and they can always create a new identity to carry on their mission.  The pack mentality displayed by online social media users (and currently some users on the Twitter platform are the main culprits) is shocking and heartbreaking. 

Who should be policing the social media platforms?  Should it be us, the users?  Or should it be monitored by the owners/creators of the platforms?  Yes, we have to be liable for the order in which we punch letters into the keyboard so that they are displayed on the screen but we live in a world where our right to free speech sometimes seems to be more important than the feelings of another human being.

I have written an article on Geekalicious about the value and the responsibility behind a ‘retweet’ on Twitter (the sharing of someone else’s update).  It’s worth a read if you’re not familiar with the terminology or how Twitter works.  Over the past few weeks people have rewteeted blunt and speculative tweets from outspoken people and ended up embroiled in conversations that have spiraled out of control.  Others have attempted to voice an opinion but certain parts of those opinions have been taken out of context and used to abuse or troll.

Whatever your status in this world, if you have access to a computer and an internet connection, you are of privileged standing.  Freedom of speech gives you the opportunity to voice your opinion and take part in discussion but the second you resort to insults you lose your credibility.

One of my own personal ethos’s is to view your actions, learn from them and make changes for the better.  I apply this to both my personal and professional life.  Earlier this week I read an article from Sian To, founder of Cybher, on the Cison blog.  The headline and article was purposefully worded to taunt and to encourage discussion to a certain extent, however a small group of people saw it as a personal attack.  During a discussion about this article on Twitter I was also subjected to abuse because I chose to agree with the majority of the article.

Back in 1968, shortly after Martin Luther King’s assassination, there was an experiment led by Jane Elliott – a teacher who created the brown eyes/blue eyes experiment - to help explain racism and segregation to her class of 8-year olds.  When we give groups of people a ‘name’ we inadvertently segregate them.  They spend more time together, they lean on each other, support each other and believe in each other.  When one person steps away from that group they become the ‘odd one out’ and effectively cause a rip-tide effect.

To make a change you have to be prepared to be that odd one out.  You may make mistakes on the way but if you go back to re-evaluating, learning and changing then you continue to progress.  

Online activity is not the same as it was when I first discovered the internet way back when (too many years to count, but probably around 2001) but there has always been outspoken service users.  Some know how to conduct themselves online, some know how to start valuable discussions which may make people learn or widen their view and some hide behind their screen name and continue to make waves in negative ways. 

One of the main reasons I chose to blog and conduct my online activity in my own name is so that I can take responsibility for my own actions.  The buck stops here.  I’m open to having my views challenged and learning from my mistakes.  I also want to find a way to teach tolerance towards others, just in the same way we expect our children to.

I’ll leave you with this TED talk from Juan Enriquez.  Back over on Geekalicious I asked how aware are you of your digital footprint and here Juan explains that your online activity is as permanent as a tattoo and has effects on our personal privacy.

view here if not available

Point of note:  The comment section remains open for appropriate discussion.  I reserve the right to remove any defamatory or abusive comments as detailed in my disclosure policy.  I respect the right to your opinion but also advocate the need for adult discussion.  Thank you.

Diary Dilemma - Retiring The Filofax

Yes, you read that title correctly.  I'm hyperventilating into a brown paper bag as I type.

However, I am trying to streamline my diary at the moment and after trying to run two Filofax lives (one work, one home) I think the only way to re-discover my love for my Filofax is to stop using them for a bit. 

two filofaxes and a personal planner

So I am going from an A5 Black Zipped Metropol and Personal Spring Green Chameleon to one from the Personal Planner website.  I suppose, in many ways, the idea behind the PP is like a Filofax in that you can create your own style and feel.  I have got mine to run from August to July to fit in with the educational year for work and mixed and matched the additional pages at the back to suit my needs for work and home.

I have tried all sorts of ways to perfect the double-life Filofax but there isn't anything that completely suits my needs.  It's been a time of change this year at work and maybe that's the issue - no continuity, lots of scribbling out and moving appointments and sessions around.

My ideal layout would be a week-on-one-page double diary (one side for work, one side for home) with plenty of space for notes and some additional pages at the back.  And yes, I know I could create my own printables but it's a lot of faffing about, isn't it?  The Dodo pad is the nearest I've come to finding my perfect layout but whilst the paper is excellent quality it makes the Filofax so 'full' and heavy.  Using different colour pens and drawing lines/boxes didn't work either but I did discover the Pilot FriXion erasable pens!  I went and ordered this set of five from Amazon.

Temperley for FilofaxSo if this doesn't work then I can see myself designing my own diary system and bidding for some funding to get it off the ground.

BUT... I'm not completely denying myself the Filofax love though.  I still have my Temperley as my purse (with a minimal 3-month diary and notepaper on the compact rings).  I was gutted recently when the zip broke but a quick email to Filofax, quoting my original order number saw them supply a Freepost return address and a replacement was sent out within a week.  Absolutely astounding service.   

What sort of diary system do you use?  Are you still a paper-and-pen person or a gadget junkie using the apps on your phone or tablet?  Do you find that one method works or do you use a mixture of a few?

#beatcancersooner - How Can You Help?

Today I have two posts for you about Cancer Research UK which tie in with my recent Race For Life activity and fund-raising.  You can find the other one here.  As you know, I also host a series called "Cancer - Your Story" which encourages sharing of personal stories by those who have been affected by cancer in whichever shape or form.  If you would like to contribute to the series, please get in touch.  


Beat Cancer Sooner

A month ago, a billboard with a human twist stopped commuters in their paths as Cancer Research UK launched a new campaign asking everyone across the UK to take one million actions to "Beat Cancer Sooner".  Adam, Anna, Parminder and Linda, who have all survived cancer, became part of the billboard at London Victoria Station.  The image above is from Cancer Research UK's TV advert.

The new campaign (#beatcancersooner) is asking people around the UK to help generate 1 million actions against cancer. By ‘actions’ they mean things that will make a real impact, like signing up to fundraising events (you can still donate via my Race For Life Just Giving page), volunteering, classifying cancer cells on the Cell Slider website (of which I have published more about in my other post today) and sharing information about cancer and campaigns on social media. The more people who get involved, the more awareness can be raised about the role of research in bringing forward the day that all cancers are cured.

One million actions to beat cancer sooner

Thanks to all supporters the work that CRUK put into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has seen survival rates double in the last 40 years. And each year they help millions of people get the information they need to understand the disease, as well as campaigning on key cancer issues.

But there is still a long way to go before anyone can say all cancers are cured and survival rates for some cancers are not improving.  More work needs to be done in the fights against cancer and your help is needed to encourage as many people as possible to join us to help #beatcancersooner.

There is loads of information on the Cancer Research UK Facebook Page or you can follow them on Twitter or circle the +Cancer Research UK page on Google Plus 


 Thanks to CRUK for the additional information.  
Please take some time to click the links to learn more. 


Please view my disclosure policy for more details about publication of posts of this nature.
No payment was received for this post.

Cell Slider – Pitching in to Find the Cure

Today I have two posts for you about Cancer Research UK which tie in with my recent Race For Life activity and fund-raising.  You can find the other one here.  As you know, I also host a series called "Cancer - Your Story" which encourages sharing of personal stories by those who have been affected by cancer in whichever shape or form.  If you would like to contribute to the series, please get in touch.  


In today’s increasingly digitized landscape, we are surrounded by data.  Between mobile technologies, an always-intensifying reliance on computers, and the web’s seemingly endless networking platforms, we compile a staggering amount of information.  So researchers today face the historically unique challenge of having too much information.  Or rather, to put it another way, researchers have too few methods for analysing the vast amounts of data they can now collect.  And while this problem is an obstacle for all analysts, medical research is one area in which it has proven particularly frustrating.  Fortunately, however, a solution has now been pioneered, which is having a profound impact on the scientific community.  Years from now, we may look back on ‘crowdsourcing’ as the single most influential technological resource of the 21st century.  Thanks to a collaborative project between Zooniverse and Cancer Research UK, crowdsourcing has now joined the global effort to cure cancer. 

What is Cell Slider?

Cell Slider was launched in October 2012 as a solution for breast cancer researchers daunted by the insurmountable levels of data they were attempting to sort through.  Cellslider.net enlists visitors to categorise and identify cancerous cells in microscopic slides of real tumors, taken from biopsies in clinical trials.  By crowdsourcing the simple task, researchers are overcoming a serious data backlog, dedicating more time to difficult projects, and making enormous strides in the race to cure cancer.

How it Works

Visitors to the site are guided through a brief tutorial, which teaches them to discern cancerous cells from connective tissue and blood cells.  They are then shown a series of slides, and prompted to identify the approximate number of cancerous cells, the relative color (bright yellow indicates high oestrogen levels), and overall percentage of cancerous to non-cancerous cells in each sample. 

The project aims to analyse more than 2 million samples at a rate that exponentially exceeds the speed at which researchers were formerly working, and so-called ‘citizen scientists’ are now processing about 600 slides each hour.  As the site gains popularity, this volume will continue to accelerate.  And thanks to the efforts of volunteer software developers, the project was recently given a significant boost in the form of a gamified app, which lets users analyse slides while playing a simple game on their mobile devices. 

Precision in Volume

Because the information collected through the cell slider website is completely anonymous and doesn’t directly affect individual patients, any mistakes visitors might make are insignificant.  The project ensures that each slide is analysed many times by many different Citizen Scientists––to ensure accuracy through redundancy––and the sheer volume of data means that minor mistakes won’t mar the study’s conclusions. 

Beyond Cancer

The idea behind Cell Slider was originally conceived by Zooniverse, which has been hosting similar projects since 2007.  Their crowdsourced research platform now helps analyse images from the Hubble Telescope and Mars Rover, along with data collected by archeologists, biologists, and climate researchers. Both their impact on the scientific community and the enthusiastic response they have seen from visitors stands as a testament to the immeasurable value of web-based collaborative research. 

Despite today’s most sophisticated analytic software, the human mind is still the world’s most powerful tool for analysing data.  The web has connected us on a global scale that was simply unimaginable a few decades ago.  As sites like Wikipedia and Zooniverse have shown, we can now speak of (and have begun to harness) an aggregate human mind—a global intelligence that transcends culture, language, education, and geography.  By working together, sharing resources, and pooling knowledge, we can solve some of the direst challenges facing our species. 

Thanks to the breast cancer team at CRUK for this look into the future of scientific research. 
Visit the site to learn more.


Please view my disclosure policy for more details about publication of posts of this nature.
No payment was received for this post.

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