Monthly Reads – May 2018


It took a bit of going, but I finally managed to finish reading Golden Age,
by James Maxwell. Not because it was in any way bad, merely because I was only reading one or two short chapters a night before bed.

This is the first of a series of four, setting the scene with the kidnapping of a princess, the coming of war, and the completion of a prophecy. The princess in question is, thankfully, not a typical fantasy ‘damsel in distress’, and is more than capable of thinking critically, and looking after herself. The narrative takes place in a fantasy land that is clearly based around ancient Greece and Egypt, with the protagonists living in the ‘Greek’ region, with agoras, columned temples, and the inhabitants clothed in chitons, whilst the antagonist of the story is building a giant pyramid tomb to appease his sun god. Oh, and there are some shape-shifter type creatures thrown into the mix.

As I said previously, I got this novel as a freebie from being a member of the Holiday Inn’s Club. Overall, it was a well-written an enjoyable story, albeit a bit brutal in places, but I don’t think I’ll be purchasing any further instalments. Yes, it was good, but the narrative wasn’t such that I felt invested enough in the characters to want to continue following their story arcs, not like with my other Holiday Inn freebieCrimes Against Magic (Hellequin Chronicles, #1) by Steve McHugh.

With this recent novel done and dusted, it’s back to the Death Note series, and volumes 5 and 6.


#100DaysOfCode – Week 6 (and a bit)

business-2717066_1280.jpgThis week has been all about heartbreak and intermediate front end development projects.

First up, the heartbreak! As I reported last week, the housemartins had returned, and had finally settled into their old nest. Then, just days later, I opened my curtains to find blood on the end of the guttering, and their nest missing a sizable chunk out of its front.

I have no idea if mum and dad are both alive, though one, maybe two housemartins have been spotted flying through the clouds of midges that hang out in the back garden, so there’s hope. I’m genuinely gutted for them! I was fully expecting them to raise two clutches this year; now, maybe not even one. The culprit is unknown, but could either be a woodpecker (they’ll rip through a wooden birdhouse to get at fledgelings, so a muddy wall is no deterrent to them) or magpies (there’s a large family that live in the hedgerow). Nature, why you gotta be so cruel?

My coding this week has, likewise, had its ups and downs. The first two Free Code Camp projects I tackled were relatively easy, and in just a couple of days apiece I created a random ocean quotes generator and a weather app. They’re a bit rough-and-ready, but they work, and that’s the important right now. The third project, however, gave me major issues. It’s a Wikipedia search engine that pulls in entries from the main site based on user-entered search terms. I created the random article button no problems, but actually getting the programme to load a list of Wiki pages stymied, as Wikipedia’s help page on its API was being rather fast and loose with the term ‘help’. In the end, I resorted to copying working code from someone else, then modifying it by adding my own ‘click-to-search’ button. It’s not 100%, because if you type too fast into the search box, it gets confused (that’s the fault of the code I copied over, not me mucking about with it), but overall it works.

Man, I’m hating on JASON right now, and I still have one more project to go. Although, in my defence, Free Code Camp’s coverage of JASON topic was pretty quick and simplistic, so it’s no wonder I’m confused half the time.

#100DaysOfCode – Week 5


Neither noisy house martins, nor the hottest May Day Bank Holiday on record, could stem my coding tide, and the start of week 5 saw me covering the basics of JSON APIs & Ajax with Free Code Camp, after which, I had a little detour to Codecademy to learn the basics of PHP.

In actuality, Codecademy’s PHP course has been discontinued, and if you go straight to their website, it’s not findable. However, they’ve not actually deleted it fully, and Google remembers all (unless EU law dictates otherwise). So when I did a search for free PHP courses, Google threw it up. It doesn’t completely work, as whenever you finish off a section of the course it only registers as 1% complete, but you still get the badges associated with completing each section, and the course code itself still works.

Honestly, I had no idea what PHP was about, having never touched it before, but it turns out it’s relatively simple. Basically, it’s like the love-child of HTML and JavaScript, and instead of writing all your JS code in script tags at the top of your page, you can pop it in the <?php ?> tags anywhere in your HTML code, and it can generate numbers, create lists, and add text directly to the web page. In many ways, it’s simpler than JS, except objects, which are a bit more convoluted when it comes to creating them.

Overall, I feel as if I’ve got the hang of basic PHP, so I’ll be ready for my Open University module in Web Technologies come Autumn. I still need to go over the basics of SQL, but I think I’ll go back to Free Code Camp and do a couple of their Intermediate Front End Development Projects first, just to mix things up a bit.

And what do I mean by noisy house martins? Well, the little, feathered, crap-machines that built a nest over the window of my room last year returned in late April, and have finally settled down to nest, and boy, do they like to argue with each other….

This is 12 hours a day, 7 days a week! How I missed them!

#100DaysOfCode – Weeks 3 & 4


My #100DaysofCode Challenge has been going on unabated. I’ve been doing about 2 hours every weekday, then fitting a one-hour quickie in on Saturday and Sunday.

Overall, things have been going well. I’ve worked through arrays, the basics of functions, Booleans, if/else/if-else statements, the switch statement (which is very handy to know), for/while loops, and objects. I struggled a bit on day 15, as my mind just didn’t want to focus, but I ploughed on regardless, and got through all the theory lessons.

After the theory came the practicals, in the form of basic algorithm scripting practicals. There were 16 overall, and I somehow managed to do all of them with only a little bit of help from Google for one of them. There is certainly something to be said about the feeling of accomplishment you get when you press ‘run’ and everything works.

I did get stymied by one practical, and in all honestly, I thought I was going to have to give up and just copy the answer. It took me nearly three days to get my function to work, whereas the other practicals generally took me less than an hour. In the end, it was one of those cases where you go, “oh, I wonder what will happen if I do this small line of code,” and suddenly everything worked. Typical!

Week 5 will see me finishing off the basic theory, then I’ll have to choose whether I carry on with Free Code Camp (and do the Intermediate Front End Development Projects), or take a detour to learn the basics of PHP in preparation for my Y2 uni module in Web Technologies. As usual, I’ll keep you posted.

Monthly Reads – April 2018


April has been a different month reading-wise. On one hand, there’s been my ‘normal’ reading, and I’ve been ploughing through my recent ebook freebie, Golden Age,
by James Maxwell (which has been a good read so far), plus my usual X-Men comic (which brought the storyline, which began pretty much when I started reading them again, to a conclusion). On the other hand, I’ve been doing some rather more ‘practical’ reading….

I have come to realise that being stuck in the middle of rural Wales, with limited public transport options, is not conducive to finding work, travelling to job interviews (trains are effing expensive in this country!), or having a social life. So, with that in mind, I have decided to bite the bullet, learn to drive, and actually get a car.

I did take proper driving lessons many decades ago. I even got as far as taking (and passing) the theory test. Unfortunately, I never found myself in a position where I could a) afford a car, b) afford to run a car, and/or c) have some place to put said car if I did have one. Therefore, I never took the practical, despite my instructor telling me I was good to go.

However, I’ve now come to the realisation that in order to gain some semblance of independence, it’s a case of having to burn money to make money. Getting a car means getting a job. Getting a job means being able to afford my own place (even if it’s just a small rented flat someplace). Getting a flat means getting a cat (or 6!). Considering my mature age, I shouldn’t be living in the spare room of my mate’s house, and be reliant on him to drive me to the supermarket. The whole situation isn’t helping my confidence much either.

Somehow, I don’t think this learning-to-drive thing is going to be a breeze. I’m not a confident driver by any means; I struggle with gear-changing, and have the attention span of a gnat. To cover the former, I’m planning on learning to drive in, then purchasing, an automatic car, so I don’t have to worry about getting stymied by the gear stick (I don’t do gears!). The latter will hopefully improve with experience.

This has meant some extensive reading this month covering the highway code, traffic signs, plus the Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills, as I prep myself for getting behind the wheel again.


Guess what make of car I want to get!

#DevAfter30 is one thing, #DrivingAfter30 is going to be something else entirely…!

#100DaysOfCode – Week 2


For my second week of the 100 days of code challenge, I began with the eportfolio projects. This ended up being a relatively simple task, but I did get stymied a couple of times. The first was when I tried to figure out a way to keep my menu (nav) bar fixed to the top of the page. One solution I found that was a possibility was data-spy=”affix”; however, it wouldn’t play ball. In the end, I found a different (working) solution by accident, while looking at padding and margin settings on W3Schools. There, further down the page, I found the command  ‘fixed-top’. Ureka!

The next problem came when I tried to get the menu items to highlight as I scrolled down the page. It wasn’t a necessary requirement for completing the project, but as the example portfolio had it, I tried to include it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any luck trying to replicate the functionality. I found something called data-spy=”scroll”, but again, it did nothing. There is a possibility that data-spy is a JavaScript function, so as I hadn’t covered JS in the course yet, I abandoned the idea, and marked off my project as done.

With my basic portfolio complete, it was time to actually start re-learning JavaScript, and the rest of the week saw me covering variables, strings, and arrays, which are all fairly simple to grasp (though indexing arrays in arrays does give me a bit of a headache).

Overall, I seem to be getting along okay with Free Code Camp’s course, and I’m making good progress. Hopefully, things will continue this way during my next week! I’m also hoping that as things progress, I’ll have some proper projects to link to my portfolio, otherwise, I’m going to have to make up some websites to create myself.

#100DaysOfCode – Week 1

blur-1853305_1280.jpgMy first week of coding went off without a hitch (pretty much).

I worked through the introductory sections in Free Code Camp, which covered HTML, CSS, Bootstrap, and jQuery. I’ve done courses in all these languages before with Codecademy, but I’d forgotten quite a bit. HTML and CSS I had no issue with, but I’d forgotten Bootstrap was even a thing, and had forgotten everything about jQuery, so it was good to cover them again. I even learnt a few new bits and pieces, such as the ‘alt’ attribute in images, and how to import Google fonts.

When I once again got the hang of using these languages, I worked quickly through the practice lesson sections, and with only one minor, initial hiccup. I had long-forgotten where, in the jQuery ‘document ready function’, I was supposed to stick each new function, but that was partly Free Code Camp’s fault, as they didn’t explain it clearly, and a quick look at my old notes showed me why everything was going gaga.

jQuery ‘document ready function’
$(document).ready(function() {

jQuery functions goes here…
$(document).ready(function() {
$(“button”).addClass(“animated bounce”);

not here!
$(document).ready(function($(“button”).addClass(“animated bounce”);) {


With the refresh done, it was time for the training wheels to come of, and to delve into Free Code Camp’s basic front end development projects. The first was a simple tribute page. Unsurprisingly, being the biologist that I am, I did one for the man, the legend, Sir David Attenborough.

Doing this page made me realise one thing; coding sucks me in! I had a problem with trying to centralise the image, and instead of just tackling it afresh the next day, I fretted about continuously during my two hours of exercising, and then spent my entire evening mucking about with the code.  So much for just an hour coding a day! In the end, I cheesed the code a bit, as I couldn’t get the photo caption font to wrap properly, so I stuck a <br> in it.

However, all this faffing meant for my second week I could begin the second project, which is an important one; a web portfolio. This is something I’ll need to display my abilities to future employees, so is something I’ll be taking more time over. I’ll let you know how it goes.