#100DaysOfCode – Week 2

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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.

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#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”);) {
});

Doh!

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.

Here Kitty!

monochrome-3199102_1280.jpgI completely forgot to say that I went and saw Black Panther at the end of last month.

I enjoyed the film a lot, though I’m not sure it lives up to the hype of ‘best ever Marvel film’. For me, it was good, but not that fantastic, and in my mind, it doesn’t beat the first Avengers film, or the most recent Thor film.

Still, I can see why the African American/black community has been so excited about this film. In displaying the cultures of Wakanda, it really excels, and the African costumes and culture on display were a treat for the eye, and so too was how they were interwoven into the technically advanced nation. Native art and tech side by side. The majority black cast proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that they can carry a mainstream film without issue, and with utter presence. Also, the female leads certainly deserve the tag ‘fierce’.

Although I may have not been entirely blown away by the narrative, I highly recommend this movie, and I certainly hope there are many more films like this one. There needs to be/should be more mainstream black-cast-lead films, and Black Panther proves there are no excuses for why there shouldn’t be. Too much time has been allowed to pass since the Blade trilogy, so here’s to Black Panther 2; pronto!

OU Y2

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It’s that time of year again; the picking of my next modules for my Open University degree. I’ve not even finished my final first-year modules yet, but seeing as the option to choose my next ones has become live on the site, and I’m guaranteed to pass my first year, I’ve already picked what I’ll want to do for the first half of the second-year. My choices: M250 Object-oriented Java programming, & TT284 Web Technologies.

They’re both 30-point modules, so I’m going to be doing them at the same time. I wish the OU gave the option to start modules in February too, as being able to stagger them would make life less stressful, and I believe that’s something that’s been brought up by many other students too. But, alas, this year has not been the year for implementing that idea (that is if it’ll ever be).

Anyway, choosing these modules now leads on to my next plan, which’ll be to undertake the ‘100 days of code‘ challenge. The two modules I’ve picked involve programming. Object-oriented Java speaks for itself, but Web Technologies (looking at the course blurb) will include HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript and SQL. I have played around with HTML, CSS and JavaScript before, but I’m rather rusty when it comes to CSS and JavaScript (I’d completely forgotten about Bootstrapping in CSS!), so covering these different languages in the summer break seems like the smart thing to do. And hopefully, by doing so, I won’t be completely overwhelmed when Y2 starts.

Although my Y1 modules don’t technically finish until May/June, I’ve finished all the material, and just have the assessments to refine and hand in by their due dates. Therefore, I plan to start the challenge after the Easter weekend. Most of what I want to cover is over on FreeCodeCamp, including building a portfolio page (which is something I’m going to be in dire need of when I go job hunting in the future). Therefore, come April, I’ll be slowly working my way through the ‘basic’ portion of their Front End Development Certification. Stay tuned to see how I get on!

Monthly Reads – March 2018

20180315_112716.jpgDespite it being a busy month getting my novels prepped to turn them into paperbacks, and getting slightly addicted to playing the SIMS 4 Mobile, I managed to do some reading.

It took (literally) an entire month, but I eventually got through the coffee-table book Blue Planet II. It was a good read, certainly not the usual action-packed fiction fare I’m used to, but it was an interesting one nonetheless. As you may have guessed from the title, it covers the recent Blue Planet II TV series, and the book is full of glossy images of marine life, with short pieces on their intriguing behaviours.

There were new snippets of information provided too, at least I think they’re new, as I don’t remember hearing them being mentioned on the show. If that is the case, this book both compliments and expands on the aired shows, so it’s definitely worth getting if you were a fan of the series.

I wasn’t sure what I’d be reading next, but as it happened, I got my next Kindle freebie from IHG Rewards Club. Disappointingly, they hadn’t changed their book line-up, so I had to choose the fantasy novel I didn’t choose last time, namely Golden Age (The Shifting Tides Book 1) by James Maxwell. If the IHG Rewards Club is going to carry on sticking to the limited choice of books, come next time, I’ll either have to pick something out of my usual go-to genre, or give it a miss. Time will tell.

Anyway, the rest of the month has/will be me catching up on graphic novels and magazines. Yep, I’m one of these people who buys a magazine, flips through it, but never really reads the articles. So to save waste, I’m making sure I don’t leave them collecting dust on my floor. And once I’ve made a space, I can start on Golden Age.

Big News!

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I can finally reveal why I’ve been silent here for so long, and the reason is, I’ve been hard at work prepping my novels for release in paperback form. All you old skool book lovers (and in all honesty, I don’t blame you if you are) can now get your hands on a physical copy of my first two novels! Woo-hoo!!

And boy, has it been a labour of love…or should that just be ‘been a labour’…to get them ready. First, I updated the ebook editions, giving them another thorough once-over with various grammar/spell-checkers, plus giving in, and introducing the Oxford comma to the text.

Next was the preparing of the covers for Amazon CreateSpace. The cover for Warriors Made of Glass wasn’t too much of an issue, as I’d saved it with excessively high dpi for the ebook. It was A Candle Amongst the Stars which was the bugger, as its size and dpi was the minimum for an Amazon ebook; therefore, too low for the cover, so I had to go about manipulating it in GIMP to try and up the count without distorting the image noticeably. Hopefully, it’ll come out alright in print.

Then there was the formatting of the manuscripts themselves, and I used Amazon’s Kindle Create Add-in for Microsoft Word to automate the process. The app is in Beta, and though it streamlines the process nicely, it crashed A LOT, so if you’re thinking of using it for your own books, save your work regularly! Again Warriors Made of Glass behaved itself, and I got it exported as a pdf pretty quickly. A Candle Amongst the Stars, not so much. For some reason it wouldn’t behave when it came to page numbering, choosing to start at page 2 instead of 1. After several hours of swearing, I found a simple (typical!) solution (I manipulated the footer by hand) and managed to export the pdf before it changed its mind.

So there we have it. My novels are now in printed format. You can find them on Amazon here: A Candle Amongst the Stars and here: Warriors Made of Glass. The links take you to Amazon UK, but they’ll be available from your national site too.

Also, I’m planning to do a freebie offer on the ebook versions soon in celebration, so stay tuned for that!

Monthly Reads – February 2018

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I found something dangerous out the other day, which is, Amazon’s ComiXology app is free!

1398542416For the uninitiated, ComiXology lets you read comics and graphic novels on your smartphone/tablet. I vaguely knew about the app a while ago, but for some reason I thought it was a paid-for app. Turns out, no (though you do have to pay for the comics you want to read using it).

This could be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I can get comics cheaper on my tablet than in physical form, and I’m already eyeing up some Ghost in the Shell Manga. Conversely, it could lead me to buy more comics…and I’m already eyeing up some Ghost in the Shell Manga!

Indeed, I’ve already downloaded an X-man comic I just had to have. As you may know, I read the Essential X-Men comics, which bring together a collection of various X-men storylines into one distribution, but I had missed out on the very first comic in this most recent series. A lightbulb moment, and a quick search, and I found it on Amazon, and subsequently downloaded it. However, I don’t think I’ll be doing that for all the Essential X-Men stories from now on, as buying them in the collection magazine works out a hell of a lot cheaper. I did, however, download some free Doctor Who comics that were released during the previous years’ Free Comic Book days. Roll on May 5th when hopefully I’ll be able to get my hands on some more goodies!

I also finished off What A Fish Knows, by Jonathan Balcombe, this month, and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Despite providing a wealth of information on fish behaviour, it wasn’t at all ‘text-booky’, and Balcombe writes about fishy facts and anecdotes in a conversational manner that’s easy to take in, and more importantly, interesting to read. To quote some of the book blurb:

“What a Fish Knows draws on the latest science to present a fresh look at these remarkable creatures in all their breathtaking diversity and beauty. Fishes conduct elaborate courtship rituals and develop lifelong bonds with shoalmates. They also plan, hunt cooperatively, use tools, curry favor, deceive one another, and punish wrongdoers. We may imagine that fishes lead simple, fleeting lives—a mode of existence that boils down to a place on the food chain, rote spawning, and lots of aimless swimming. But, as Balcombe demonstrates, the truth is far richer and more complex, worthy of the grandest social novel.”

Really, the lives of fish are way more complex and deep than perhaps a lot of people realise. If you’re one of the many people who unthinkingly wolfs down fish on a regular basis, then you should read this book to find out more about the WHO you’re eating…and the pain they suffered to get on to your dinner plate. For those who forgo fish, then you too should read this, as it’ll confirm why you’re right not to eat fish, and maybe arm you with some more knowledge on the mental and physical complexity of these animals.

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Just a heads-up; blog posts are going to be a bit thin on the ground for the next month or so as I’m working on something important to do with my novel. All will be revealed at a later date!