Monthly Reads – June 2018

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June’s been a bit of a chill month reading-wise. No long, grandiose novels, but rather two more instalments of the Death Note series, an X-Men comic, and a Marine Conservation Society magazine (which, in all honesty, I skipped through the majority of).

I’ve noticed that with the new storylines on the offing, the Essential X-Men comics have been reformatted, and are now 51p dearer. That extra few pence does, however, get me a marginally longer read (75pgs vs 69pgs) and a thicker spine with the volume info written on it (making it easier to find these instalments amongst my 100s of other volumes).
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Part 5 and 6 of Death Note has Light relinquishing his Death Note, and with it, all memory of Ryuk and his past as Kira, allowing him to help L track down a new Kira who’s appeared and is systematically killing of businessmen. I’m still enjoying this manga series very much. Book 6 also marks the half-way point in this novel series (there are 12 books altogether) so I’ve still got some way to go till I reach its conclusion.

The rest of the month has seen me go back to my DVLA books, as I’ve got my first driving lesson scheduled for the beginning of July (eep!) and I need to take my theory before then (or at least after the first couple of lessons), and I’ve pretty much forgotten everything I learnt from last month’s read-a-thon (stupid brain!). So back to learning I go!

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Bird Song and Second Drafts

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I’ve finally finished the second draft of my third novel. Seems like it’s taken me an age to read through it, and I’ve realised I’ve not included a prologue, so if I’m to keep in line with my previous novels, I need to write one. However, I’m going to put the manuscript to the side for a while, otherwise, with plenty more rewrites to come before I publish it, I’m going to start getting sick of what I’ve written, and that’s not going to help me approach it with an objective mind.

Still, I did get one piece of motivational good news, and that is someone’s bought a copy of my first novel. It’s the first sale I’ve had in about two years. So if you’re wondering if self-published authors live a glamorous life of multi-million dollar sales, no, we don’t! Writing is a labour of love with very little returns.

In other good news, the house martins have returned (again). Mum and dad managed to survive the attack on their nest, and the decimation of their first brood, and after a couple of weeks of being MIA, they came back to the nest. Dad sang the song of love, while mum cleaned the nest by kicking all the crap out of it at such an angle that it rained in through my open window. Charming! They then shored up the nest by fixing the hole, and on Sunday, they spent their first night back in it. I know, because their squabbling woke me up at 1am.

What’s interesting is they seem to have returned with reinforcements. There’s been a couple of other house martins flying about with them, and trying to get into the nest. It could be that they’re some of last year’s brood, as they do stick around to help with the next clutch, but that’s usually a clutch within the same year of them fledging, not the proceeding season. A year on, last year’s young should be setting up their own homes, with male chicks nesting close to the parents, and the female chicks buggering off to pastures new. Perhaps these guys have failed to find partners, and have decided to stick around with the parents instead. I just hope this new batch survives, because at an average lifespan of 1 – 2 years, mum and dad haven’t got long to goĀ šŸ˜”.

#100Days of Code – Weeks 7 – 9

business-1839876_1280.jpgThe last few weeks have seen me carrying on my daily coding challenge.

In week 7, I finished off Free Code Camp’sĀ Intermediate Front End Development Projects, with the last project being another API-based one; pulling in information from Twitch to load a list of online streamers. Again, getting my JSON function to work was a nightmare, and again, I had to resort to using someone else’s code for the basis of my script. However, unlike with my Wiki search engine, the initialĀ coding I’d written wasn’t too far off what needed to be done. I wanted to loop through an array, and push a person’s name, then their online/offline information, into another array. But no matter what I did, I just couldn’t get the two things to happen simultaneously, and correctly. I’d eitherĀ get a list of people’s names, followed by their info, or I’d get the people listed next to their info, but their names would be listed as ‘undefined’. In the end, it turned out that all I needed in my for-loop was the word ‘let’ at the beginning, which let the function retain the memory of its position in the array long enough for it to extract the info I needed. Jobs a good’un!

For the rest of week 7, and heading into week 8, I made headway on Free Code Camp’s Intermediate Algorithm Scripting problems. I took a rather haphazard approach to completing the tasks, as I couldn’t work all of them out straight off the bat, so I picked and completed the easier ones, with plans to come back to the more convoluted ones later. One I had no choice but to use someone else’s code, namely the one calculating the lowest common multiplier between numbers, not because the coding confused me, but the actual maths did. I’d made a promising start, and had made a program that calculated the lowest common multiplier between two numbers that worked fine, only to find the question wanted the lowest common multiplier between a range of numbers. I just couldn’t figure out the maths for that, let alone write code for it, so I had to take the easy way out.

Week 9 saw my day-streak finally broken, thanks toĀ Free Code Camp’s site undergoing a complete overhaul and being offline for a day. When it came back up, I found that the Javascript terminal had been completely revamped, and no longer had the ‘return’ functionality that allowed me previously to troubleshoot my script as I went. Someone pointed out I could do similar using F12 and console.log, but it just wasn’t the same. Additionally, I found new sections added to the modules I’d already worked through and marked off as complete. Frustrated, I bounced, and headed back over to Codecademy to learn the basics of SQL, which was the last programming language I needed to give a once-over before the second year of university starts in Sept/Oct. As it turns out, SQL is a lot less scary than I was thinking it was going to be. Unfortunately, Codecademy doesn’t cover a rather important bit of information, namely where/how tables are stored. Here’s hoping my uni course covers that.

With that done, I’ve headed back to Free Code Camp, and will spend the rest of my 100 days going over the new sections, trying to get the JS terminal to work (hopefully by then they may have reintegrated the return function again), and perhaps moving onto the ‘advanced’ sections if I have time.

Dust to Dust

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Now the crowds have cleared, I went to go see Avengers: Infinity War. And yes, it was all it was hyped to be. Marvel/Disney delivered as usual, and it was a film full of action and dry humour. Although, the banter of the Guardians team does tend to grate a bit (not to mention the fact that Star-Lord was a total d*ck in this film, and no, I have no sympathy towards his behaviour).

Leading up to this viewing, I’ve had a nightmare of a time on social media, trying to avoid all the memes and spoilers, especially those involving the names of those who died/died?/”died”. As it turns out, only two characters I thought were going to bite the dust did (in one case, literally! šŸ˜†), which was cool (though probably not for them).

Still, it sucks that I now have to wait a whole year before I can see the culmination of what’s just happened. In the meantime, I suppose I’ll have to make do with Deadpool and Ant-Man and the Wasp…oh, and the news Star Wars Solo film.

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The end of May also saw me handing in my last two assignments for my Open University first-year modules. Not sure how well I’ll do for L185: English for Academic Purposes online as the tutor (as usual) was contradicting what the question was asking for. It’s been a frustrating course simply because what the essay titles say they want to see written, and what the tutor in his mind wants to see written, tend to be completely separate things. The titles have a more generalistic tone, my tutor, not so much, and I’ve been in a case where the week before the hand-in deadline, I’ve had to rewrite and restructure my essay simply because the tutor has sent out an email detailing what he wants for the essay. Maddening! Hopefully, someone else will be marking it, and they won’t consider the information that I’ve included in my essay “wrong”. If they do, then my academic grammar and spelling will hopefully pull my score up enough to allow me to pass the module. Otherwise, there’ll be hell to pay!

Thankfully,Ā TM129: Technologies in Practice has been less of a headache. Despite a slightly lower than average score for my final TMA (thanks to one question where I completely didn’t understand what it was asking for, and despite my tutor’s notes, still don’t know what it was asking for), I achieved a distinction overall for my OCAS. Hopefully, my EMA won’t ruin that.

So that’s it, year one is now finished! Now I’m free till October (or probably September, as that’ll be when I’m likely to get my materials and the module websites will open). Time to get my drive on!

Monthly Reads – May 2018

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It took a bit of going, but I finally managed to finish readingĀ Golden Age,Ā 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, columnedĀ 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 InnĀ freebie:Ā Crimes 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 ā€“ 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 housemartinsĀ 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 midgesĀ 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 culpritĀ 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 copiedĀ 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 ā€“ Week 5

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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,Ā 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 <?phpĀ ?> 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!