Thursday, August 30, 2012

Do police use cell phones?

As a matter of fact, they do. In Chapter 9, of Blood Flats, Sheriff Steven Phelps uses his personal cell phone to contact a police agency outside of Hawkins County:

Behind him, Norris ordered the crowd back again, his voice cracking under obvious stress. A few male onlookers shouted back this time: By God they’re killing people in our backyard, one of them said. Don’t tell us to stand back but give us some goddamned answers.
For a brief moment Norris looked like he was going to draw his gun—then thankfully thought better of it. Norris was the wrong man for a crowd like this. One hothead among them—coupled with one miscalculation on Norris’s part—and the crowd could easily degenerate into a mob.
Phelps stood just out of earshot as he pulled his personal cell phone—rather than his police radio—from his belt to begin his requests for help and resources. For police calls beyond the county line, the cell phone was his only immediate option. His 700 MHz police radio couldn’t patch directly into the Frankfort network. Like all states in the post-9/11 world, Kentucky had plans to make all its local emergency networks compatible and interoperable statewide, with updated equipment and additional radio towers. But that would take more time, more state budget appropriations, and more federal grants.
Phelps was already having second thoughts about his decision to let McCabe run. Would he have made the same decision ten or fifteen years ago? Would he have done differently if the fugitive had been someone other than Lori Mills’s son?
There was no way of knowing.
He pushed these questions aside when a police dispatcher in Frankfort answered his call. Phelps began to set the wheels of law enforcement in motion.

- Blood Flats, Chapter 9

A reader asked me about this detail, apparently incredulous regarding the idea that law enforcement personnel would  rely on cell phones. It happens, though--especially when police in the field need to contact agencies outside their immediate operating area. 

And yes, I did confirm this item directly with the source. I sought out a Cincinnati Sheriff's Deputy (long story), who was kind enough to fill me in.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Study and time management: five practical suggestions

Several readers asked for some general tips for more effectively managing their time so that they can spend more time learning languages. What follows are five general time management tips that can be useful when learning anything new—including a language. However, these tips should be beneficial for people who want to learn other things as well.

1.) Realize that your life will always be busy and over-scheduled—unless you have no relatives, no significant other, no friends, no work responsibilities, and you live on remote island.

If you are engaged with the world at all, there will always be other factors that compete for your time and attention. The world is never going to collectively step aside and say: Now is the perfect moment for you to learn a foreign language, write a book, or do some reading that will advance your personal or professional life!”

Some of these “distractions,” of course, are actually very important, and take priority over study and self-improvement.  

I’m not going to suggest that you should ignore your legitimate responsibilities and important relationships for the sake of study and self-improvement. I am going to suggest that you develop the habit of noticing and prioritizing how you spend your time. Also, understand that using your time more effectively will require a conscious effort.

2.) Eliminate those distractions that are clearly low-value-added. I read the other day that the average person spends 8 to 12 hours per month on Facebook. Teenagers spend around 3 to 4 hours per week instant messaging their friends (and many adults are not far behind on this number.) Not surprisingly, a lot of the distractions in your life result from cell phones and the Internet. However, the old distractions haven’t gone away. Americas still spend between two and four hours per day watching television.

The point here is that if you examine your life for time-wasting activities that can be easily eliminated, you’ll probably discover a lot of low-hanging fruit—and most of that low-hanging fruit will be found online, on TV, and on your cell phone.

3.) Wake up thirty minutes earlier than usual. I am most productive first thing in the morning. The early morning is a good time to work on independent learning and enrichment projects, because the rest of the world hasn't yet laid claim to your time.

If you want to read more, learn more, and study more, develop the habit of getting out of bed early. Start by waking up thirty minutes earlier than you currently do. Thirty minutes is enough time to be more productive, but not so much time the reduction in sleep will negatively impact your performance throughout the day.

4.) Learn to use short blocks of time productively. In school, most of us were taught that “study time” should be arranged in one- to two-hour allotments of time spent in uninterrupted silence. This might be doable when you’re in the seventh grade. It isn’t a very practical target for busy adults. Therefore, you need to learn to use any available chunk of time effectively.

That might be ten minutes at the end of your lunch hour, or the twenty minutes you spend waiting for your biannual teeth cleaning in the dentist’s office.

You can accomplish this by always carrying some studying materials with you. Also, develop the habit of self-awareness. Ask yourself: How can I use the next ten or twenty minutes productively? 

5.) Study with your ears when your eyes are otherwise engaged. Purchase an iPod. No other tool will help you to mine more hidden moments of study time out of your day. All of us have time when our eyes and/or hands are engaged, but our ears are largely free: the hours you spend working out at the gym, commuting to work, or standing in line at the grocery store. You can load your iPod with materials to study. This might be a foreign language recording, or an audiobook that will teach you something.

Either way, an iPod, when properly used, can easily add thirty minutes to one hour of productive study and reading time to the average person’s day.

*    *     *

For most people, finding additional time for study (or any other independent endeavor) doesn't require a major life change. Rather, it requires a shift in mindset—and a determination to more productively employ the hours and minutes that you already have. The above five suggestions should enable you to carve out an additional one to two hours of productive time from the average day.

Do the math: That is the equivalent of giving yourself an extra 4 to 7 eight-hour days each month to learn and accomplish more.