Sunday, 29 July 2012

I have a paper that says so.


It's official, I'm now just a little bit more educated as the average 18 year old American. Apparently the average American has graduated high school and done a little college/university. I've managed to jump both those hurdles at the same time. I've got a diploma from a university.

Today I received my diploma. I've officially been awarded a Higher National Diploma (with distinction) in Computer Games Programming. Aside from one subject I had near perfect marks.

The HND is basically higher education for those who couldn't quite make the mark. It was designed as a gateway to those who either didn't get quite good enough grades to get on a degree course, or those who left it too long and whose grades are no longer valid.

I, and others on the award, often referred to us as the slow group. Many of our subjects were spoon fed to us and, whether they realised it or not, many of the lectures treated us quite differently than they did the degree students. By that I mean, the workload was much lighter, the marking was a bit looser, the assignments were a little bit easier, and we quite literally took the same class three times over, just to make sure it all sunk in I guess. In one to one sessions the tutor would speak to us in a way that you might find you speak to someone who, it's all that stable and may bit you if provoked.

Other teachers however, swung the opposite way, they were aggressively positive about our abilities, or they just liked to make fun of our educational status as often as possible. It wasn't a problem, it was just something I noticed. In one of my first lectures, while we were getting out our safety scissors and circles of paper, the lecturer (whose quite known for this type of comment) stood in front of us and the first thing he said to us was "You're all here on a HND award correct? So it's safe then to say, that you already know something, quite a lot probably, about failure. And hopefully, but not hugely likely, a little something about how to avoid it."Yes he really talks like that. I always imagined that all of his dialogue was written as a narrative by Douglas Adams.

Every so often we'd get a boost of confidence when a degree student would see some of our work and be astonished as the difficulty. I'm still pretty proud that we came out having learned more Java than the degree web developers, and more programming languages that any of the other subjects, but that's more to the award being Games Programming than anything else. It swung the other way when the degree students would look at our math's work, or system development work and say "I can help you with that I did it in 6th Form... (7th-ish grade) for those of you in America.

But still. I can't fault the skills I've come away with. I now know 5 programming languages encompassing both OOP and procedural languages, basic AI techniques, basic physics programming, engine design, game design, systems design and development, and technically academic writing techniques, and have reasonably extensive experience in each.

From here I move on to a condensed final year of the BSc degree course known as a Top-up. From what I can tell it's effectively the last 2 years of the BSc hons award crammed into two semesters with third semester for our project stuck on the end. We're moving from the short bus to the hover bus, it should be fun.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

For every allergic action.

There's an equal and opposite allergic reaction according to Newton.

While camping at Wickstead park this weekend Jack had an allergic reaction. On Sunday morning he greeted us first thing in the morning with a swollen face that wasn't captured particularly well on camera.

The night before Jack had been asking what things he s allergic to, we proudly proclaimed that he had no known allergies, although he does have very sensitive skin, that's not really the same thing. Shows what we know I guess.

After a lengthy process of elimination we've narrowed it down to the hand soap in the washrooms, the derivative of some local plant, or an undetected bite of some sort. But the reality is that we really don't know what caused it.

The school sent him home on Tuesday, when I picked him up he looked like death, his skin was a weird color, his eyes were red and swollen. The rash had flared up again and he seemed to be lacking in modivation when it came to moving. So it was decided, now that the school was sending him home I figured I shoulda probably have a doctor look at him. When it comes to doctors I'm reluctant, especially when it comes to GPs. It's not so much that I dont have faith in their abilities, which I can't say that I do generally speaking, it's that the best I've come to expect is them confirming that it is exactly what I thought it was. We managed to get him to the doctor finally and he told us that it was exactly what we thought it was and to keep doing what we were doing...

So after a few days of the anti-histamines doing nothing for his rash we took him back to a different doctor. Now that we'd taken him to the doctor once we're mentally dependant on their opinions. Jack's super tough immune system has gotten us used to his almost never getting sick, when he is sick it's hard not to be a little bit panicky about it. That's the problem with having inherited a super-human immune system, only the toughest of the tough get through. This doctor, our official GP, said it was probably viral and that it would clear up on its own... So looks like he's got to fight this commando virus on his own.

So now we're a week on and Jack is looking better but still ill. He's a peculiar mix of anxious and exhausted and has broken out in spots on his face. He's got a sporadic fever, his eyes are still quite red and sore looking his appetite is all over the place and he's just generally not himself.

Get well soon kiddo.
As you can see from the Kung Fu pose, he doesn't look well.

Sunday, 15 July 2012


Presenting my latest creation, Cleverlist.
This is a shopping list app that I wrote for my wife. She designed the interface and everything else and I developed it. This app learns your shopping habits and tries to predict what item in the store you're going to arrive at next. The more you use this app, the more accurate it becomes. 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

33000 reads around the world


Jack's school are holding a read-a-thon in leiu of the queen's jubilee. They were calling it a reading passport, Jack came home very excited about it. He made sure that we found the passport in his bag and told us that if he read for enough minutes, he could be a diamond reader and get an award. He really wanted to be a diamond reader.

Helen and I reviewed the document and did the math, they had to be joking. The passport was a series of circles that lay out a trek around the world. Each circle represented 500 miles and ten minutes reading. There were 66 of these circles, the equivalent to 33,000 miles. They had until the end of the month.

Helen and I did the math and determined that in order for Jack to be a diamond reader he would have to read a minimum or twenty minutes a day. Getting Jack to watch one of his favorite movies for longer than twenty minutes is a challenge, getting him to read for any amount of time was nearly impossible, because he's not very good at it he gets discouraged and frustrated very easily. Thankfully the promise of honourable mention and an award is about the best motivator that I've ever seen for Jack. He was a boy on a mission.

So here we are, three days until the deadline and this morning Jack handed in a fully completed reading passport this morning. In a few days he will be awarded a diamond reader. Jack is very proud of himself.