Popcorn for the ‘Little Grey Cells’

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So, somehow I missed out on seeing Blade Runner 2049 in the cinemas. Is it me, or was its run in British Cinemas way shorter than usual? Anyway, it’s no bad thing, as it’s been years since I watched the first, and I would’ve liked to have seen it again before watching the new one. I’m sure there’ll be a double box set out sometime in the future. However, with having missed Blade Runner 2049, I was in need of something else to see at the cinema, and urgently, as my mate’s free, Sweet Sunday, tickets were due to expire.

There was Thor: Ragnarok, but as that’d only been out for about a week, I figured it would still be packed, so we (and by ‘we’, I mean ‘I’) opted for Murder on the Orient Express. Mainly because the poster showed it to be a rather star-studded film. Plus, although I think I’ve seen one of the story’s previous incarnations, like Blade Runner, I had no recollection of what transpired, so I could go see the film with my brain a spoiler-free zone.

Looking at the reviews of the film on IMDB, people seem to be pretty bent out of shape over the fact that it was a remake, and harp on about not needing another one. Fair enough, but as there are already several versions out there, what’s one more? There has been one other film (1974), and two TV versions (2001 & 2010) of the story, and if someone hasn’t seen any of these adaptations, or if, like me, can’t remember what happened if they have, then another remake is fine. And let’s be honest, Poirot is one of those series that gets a rehash every few years with a new lead. Moreover, I don’t hear people getting their underwear in a bunch over the various Sherlock remakes that keep getting churned out. So live and let watch I say.

Overall, I found the film quite enjoyable. It was a slow, methodical burner, rather than an epic film, but then that’s what you get from the material, and given that everyone was stuck on a train, it had a somewhat claustrophobic feel to it. Additionally, although I’ve grown up with David Suchet as Poirot, I didn’t find watching Kenneth Branagh in the role too jarring. Plus, his moustache was way more epic than Suchet’s. I did have an inkling as to who the murder could’ve been about halfway through, and as it turned out, my guess was right. Whether that was good ol’ Belgian detective work on my part, or a long-forgotten neuron firing, I’ll never know. So ignore the bar-humbug nay-sayers. If you’re looking for a quiet film to go see on a rainy afternoon, then this will fit the bill nicely.

 

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Free Course: A Review – Internet of Everything (IoE)

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During my short break between Open University modules, I decided to do one of the OU’s free courses on OpenLearn. As I have a mind towards the web, I chose to do the Internet of Everything (IoE), which was listed as an introductory level science, maths & technology course. The general blurb seemed interesting enough, and it made the course sound like something that would keep my interest….

The internet of everything (IoE) is the networked connection of people, process, data and things. As more people, data and things come online, we develop processes to harness the vast amounts information being generated by all these connected people and things. The goal of this free course is to introduce fundamental concepts and technologies that enable the IoE.

[OpenLearn]

My studying of it didn’t go completely to plan, as I decided to start my second set of proper university modules as soon as the module websites opened, which truncated my free time rather. Still, I persevered, and shoe-horned in the alleged 15 hours worth of studying time. My stubbornness paid off, and I passed the course. I’m not sure what my overall grade was, but I passed each section’s test with results of over 80% (despite one question in the final assessment quiz being duff, and asking me for two answers when only one was correct).

Week 1: What is the IoE? – quiz score 87%
Week 2: Pillars of the IoE – quiz score 80%
Week 3: Connecting the unconnected – quiz score 97%
Week 4: Transitioning to the IoE – quiz score 90%
Week 5: Bringing it all together – quiz score 86%
Final assessment quiz score 87%

Anyway, with the course done and dusted, I have a few gripes/warnings to make for anyone else considering undertaking it.

First off, it took longer than 15 hours. There’s a lot of technical detail and waffle in this course, and I’m sure getting through it took me twice as long as it was supposed to. Which is saying something, as I usually breeze through OpenLearn courses in less time than they state it should take.

This brings me to my second gripe, which is, although the blurb says it’s an introductory-level course, I would disagree. Coming at it with computer knowledge already in hand (like I did, having just completed an ICT module) is a good idea if you want to better understand the material when it goes into TCP/IPs, gateways, security, and the like. Otherwise, the module text may come across a bit more technical than you’re prepared for.

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Thirdly, although it’s listed as a STEM-type course, in a lot of places it feels more ‘business management’ in its wording, and because of that tone, I did get bogged down and bored in places. The overall tone of the course was probably down to the people who were responsible for creating it, which leads me to my final complaint…. The course is a collaboration between The Open University and Cisco Systems, which means the material provided comes across as a protracted advert for Cisco Systems at times.

Despite these issues, at the end of the course I did feel as though I understood better what the IoE meant (it’s different to the IoT, but includes the IoT), and how it can be integrated into our lives and businesses, but I doubt I’ll be drawing on this knowledge in the future.

So, in summary, if you have a bit ICT knowledge to hand, and want to know more about what the IoE is, how it’s being implemented, and what it means for businesses in the future, then you may want to consider this course. However, be prepared for a lot of business-type waffle, and be aware that the course may take you longer to work through than it states. The test quizzes are no walk in the park either, so be prepared to actually re-read the material before doing them.

Pumpkins and Pass Marks

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Another one of those posts that’s just a couple of smaller topics mushed together.

First up, I got my results back for my TU100 (My Digital Life) module, and I’m more than happy with the results, having passed it with a distinction. Initially, my score was a more than respectable…

Overall Examinable Score: 94%
Overall Continuous Assessment Score: 86%
Result: Distinction

But the next day I got an email saying they’d miscalculated my score. *Dun dun dun…!* However, this turned out to be good news, as they’d failed to take into account my online-exam, and my overall continuous assessment score (OCAS) went up to 90%!

I must say, I’m genuinely surprised by my OES score. I was expecting it to be in the 80’s. One of the questions asked me to write a couple of pieces of text as if applying for a job, which considering I’m still unemployed, I figured I’d do badly at. There were also some calculations I had to do, and while the maths was simple, last time I did calculations in a TMA I lost marks for layout. I also had to do some argument mapping, which I sucked the big one at during the practice goes in the module. All in all, I was positive I’d lose major marks over these, yet I managed to get 94%. Unfortunately, you don’t get the marked version of the final assessments back, so I have no idea what I rocked, and what I could’ve done better at, which sucks. Now all I have to do is keep this momentum up for the next five-and-a-half-years. Easy! *ahem*

October ended with good ol’ Halloween. Me being me, I gutted and carved a pumpkin, nearly crippling my hand in the process.

Happy Halloween y'all 🎃🐋 #halloween #halloweekend #pumpkin #pumpkincarving #samhain #whaletail #whale #marine #marinelife

A post shared by Kate Llewellin (@kllewellin_cetologist) on

The guts I used to make soup, which allowed me to use up the last 2 bottles of utterly disgusting BrewDog’s Nanny State (vegan and alcohol-free) IPA I had. I’d bought the stuff as something different to drink on a Saturday night, but I didn’t make it through the first bottle. Ugh, it was too bitter and so rank! So, I veganised this Pumpkin Soup with Beer and Cheese recipe, using Oatly Cream in place of whole milk, and Tesco’s vegan Jalapeno And Chilli Cheese. The result was passable. The bitterness of the beer still came through (tbh, I doubt anything short of a nuclear explosion could eradicate that stuff’s taste), but the soup’s overall creaminess helped reduce the gag factor.

The seeds I roasted…or rather, I burnt to a crisp. Honestly, it’s a toss of the coin as to whether I get them right. So far, I’ve only ever once managed to cook them okay, and that time was not this year. So into the recycling they went.

So that’s all that done for another year. Not long to go now till Yule!

Monthly Reads – October 2017

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

[The Three Laws of Robotics: Issac Asimov]

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I’ve finally read I, Robot! And none too soon, as I’ve been breezing ahead with my Open University material, and I’m now several weeks ahead in my TM129 studies.

I have to say, the way the book is structured is completely different to what I was expecting, having only ever seen the movie. I’d read that it was laid out in a series of short stories, but I didn’t realise the stories had no real bearing on the movie of the same name.

In reality, the book revolves around an unknown interviewer, and his questioning of Dr. Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist at US Robots. She relates, through these short stories, the evolution of robots and robotics through the mid 21st Century. Simultaneously, the actual writer of the stories, Isaac Asimov, explores his three laws of robotics, and how they interplay with each other in unusual situations, or if their precedent with respect to each other is changed.

Still, despite the stories being completely different to the movie, I found I, Robot to be very interesting, and in places gripping. It gives the reader an idea of what the future of human and robotic/artificial intelligence (AI) interactions could be like, with family companions, superintelligent robots, mind-reading robots, anti-robot laws, and humanity-controlling ‘machines’ being considered through its chapters.

The narrative does come across as a bit aged in places, with characters smoking in buildings, and robots saying “golly”, but even so, Asimov’s view of the AI of the future is pretty believable. However, in reality, we’re a long way off in terms of the types of AI Asimov conjures up in his book. For example, Google’s AI is apparently no smarter than a 6-year-old. Further, there’s unlikely to be a ‘positronic brain’ in the offing anytime soon, to help speed up AI advancement. So, despite the AI scare stories that have been thrown about of late, we’re not heading towards a robot uprising anytime soon.

As well as I, Robot, I read my monthly Essential X-Men magazine, and a Garfield book I had to tag on to an Amazon order to get free posting. But with I, Robot finished, it’s back to my Kindle backlog of free fantasy novels. I’ve started on Pax of Wildly Women, by V.C. Bestor, so stay tuned for its review in November’s Monthly Reads post.

Choosing a New Path at the OU

Recently, I was mooching about the Open University’s revamped study pages, when I stumbled across a widget that lets you plan out your future module choices. This got me thinking more in-depth about what path I wanted to follow.

monitor-1307227_1280As I’ve said before, I’m doing an Open Degree, which gives me plenty of flexibility, but I’ve chosen to follow, more or less, the Computer Science route, but with the two Creative Writing modules thrown in. But the question was, what Computer Science route? The OU provides lots of different ICT modules. Some big (60 points), like the now dearly departed My Digital Life (TU100) was, and others small (30 points), like Technologies in Practice (TM129) is. Luckily I had a vague notion of what I was interested in, namely web page design, and as it happens, the OU has a path for that.

For the Open Degree, the OU helpfully provides lots of different study plans based on possible routes of interest, as (and speaking from experience) choosing what to do when given free module reign can be fairly daunting and confusing. I happened to have a bit more of a direction in mind, as I wanted to make a bespoke degree that would help me with web communications, but I still wasn’t sure what modules to do. However, one of the routes created by the OU happens to be Web Development…

This route provides an insight into the internet technologies required to design and create web, cloud and mobile applications and services together with an appreciation of both technical and business perspectives. [OU website]

Stumbling across this has made me completely rethink what I was going to study in the second year. I had planned on doing Communication and Information Technologies (TM255), which (while it contains the word communications) focuses more on data sharing, wireless networks, online collaboration and the like, which, if I’m honest, wasn’t really the path I wanted to take. But thanks to the route map, I’ve shifted focus, and plan to do two half-modules in its place, namely Object-Oriented Java Programming (M250) and Web Technologies (TT284). This, in turn, led me to think about my third-year modules, and given that some of the modules I want to take will be ending during my duration of study, I had to plan carefully what I wanted to take and when.

Subsequently, I made a thing…..

Year/ Term Course no. Course title Size Oct – year May/June -year
1b TM129 Technologies in practice 30 2017 2018
L185 English for academic purposes online 30 2017 2018
2a TT284 Web technologies 30 2018 2019
M250 Object-oriented Java programming 30 2018 2019
2b A215 Creative writing 60 2019 2020
3a A363 Advanced creative writing 60 2020 2021
3b TM356 or TM352 Interaction design and the user experience 30 2021 2022
Web, mobile and cloud technologies 30 2021 2022
TM470 The computing and IT project 30 2021/2* 2022/3*

*I May have to wait until I complete the previous IT module, or I may be able to start it at the same time

I’m undecided between TM356 and TM352, but I should have a better idea of things once I’ve done the second year modules. TM356 has an exam as part of its marking process, and I don’t do well in exams. Being able to do coursework, and having time to consider my answers, is way better for me. Conversely, TM356 ends in a project, which is a bit impractical, seeing as my final module is also a project. Which means, if I do the modules simultaneously, I’ll be having to work on two projects simultaneously (unless I can do the same project for both). It’s a lot to think about, but thankfully I have a few years to go before I have to make a hard and fast decision.

Plus, during the holiday between the first and second year, I can do a free Java course to prep myself.

Actually, doing all this has got me quite excited for my future studies. Knowing what I want to study, and when it’s coming up, has got me quite invigorated. Kinda makes me sad it takes so long to complete a module, and then wait for the next to start.

Brollies Up: It’s Kingsman Time

Thanks to my mate’s chocolate addiction, I was able to nab a couple of free cinema tickets through Sweet Sundays. So, of course, I had to use them to go and see Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

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I have to say, the critics have been unduly…well…critical. The film was a hoot and a half, and I certainly didn’t notice its over two hours run time. Ok, it wasn’t as good as the first, but then what sequel ever is? Still, it definitely doesn’t deserve the mauling it’s gotten from the pole-up-their-backsides-critics. Apparently, there’s going to be a third film, rounding off the trilogy, and I’m so up for that. Also, the film had over an hour’s footage cut from it, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for an extended director’s cut. Yep, I would happily sit through four hours of Kingsman, so the film couldn’t have been that bad. I sat through over two hours of Transformers: Age of Extinction, after which I vowed never to do that again, and I haven’t. The Last Knight be damned!

I have to say, up until Kingsman, I don’t think I’ve actually seen Colin Firth in a movie. The films he’s usually in aren’t really my thing, namely period dramas, or chick-flicks. So having seen him in the two films has made me realise what a great actor he is, especially in the sequel. He has the ability, with barely a change in expression, to go from someone who looks like a fragile, doddery old man, to an avenging kick-ass hero. It’s oh so subtle, but oh so obvious.

Also, how have I never heard of Pedro Pascal before? I mean Agent Whiskey…DA!-AMN! Now I get the whole women crushing on cowboys thing [insert crude jokes about whips and being lassoed here]. Anyway, getting back on track, not to be too spoilery, but his character deserved way better.

In conclusion: Go see this movie! It has action from the very start (with Matthew Vaughn’s slickly choreographed fight scenes taking centre stage as per usual), humour, unnecessarily attractive cowboys, and Elton John. If you haven’t seen the original, see that first. It’s bloody hysterical (if you can get past Samuel L. Jackson’s annoying lisp), and will set things up nicely.

Lastly…. Damn you “Take Me Home, Country Roads”! Damn you to hell!

Monthly Reads – September 2017

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So September was a bit of a cleanup month literary-wise. As much as I wanted to get stuck into I Robot, I had one book to finish, one I started reading several months ago, but put on hiatus to read other things; namely Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. As I wasn’t needing the I Robot text until the second half of my robotics block, I figured I had time to finish off Harry Potter.

I’ve read all the Harry Potter novels before, but had begun re-reading them in the light of knowledge that having read them all before brings (i.e., being able to pick up on foreshadowing events and other little titbits). They’re standing the test of time, but dear gods I regularly want to give Harry a slap. He’s rather self-absorbed, and extremely slow on the uptake. Definitely not Ravenclaw material!

I think the reason I put this book down for so long is that I knew what was coming, i.e. the senseless death of Cedric (no spoiler alert! If you haven’t read the books or seen the movies yet it’s your fault for living under a stone!). It breaks my heart that a good-hearted Hufflepuff should meet his end like that. Thank you JK for the brutal feels! Still, I cracked on…. My chapter reading getting decidedly slower as I neared the inevitable betrayal. But I persevered and reached the end. But for now, I think I’ll leave the Order of the Phoenix for a while. I haven’t the strength to deal with Umbridge just yet.

Still, with The Goblet of Fire done and dusted, I can start cracking on (finally!) with I Robot.