A Second Life in Second Life

So I’ve recently done a section on virtual worlds in my Open University module (My Digital Life), and a lot of it was about the use of Second Life in the realms of education, business and pleasure. It got me thinking and intrigued about the place again. Many years ago I tried logging in, but my old PC simply couldn’t handle it, and my foray into the world died before it even started.

By the end of the section, I had succumbed to curiosity. Armed with my more powerful Linux laptop, I signed up again, got a new avatar, and I entered the world at the OU’s remaining island (Deep Think).

I didn’t meet anybody while I was there, which was probably a good thing. It gave me a chance to wander round and get a feel of the place undisturbed. But more importantly, I had major problems using the edit avatar menu, and on several occasions I inadvertently ended up butt naked. Being alone certainly saved my avatar’s blushes.

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I’ve called my cat Mor’du

After my wander, I went and visited the International Space Flight Museum, which was actually pretty cool.

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I went back a couple of times, mainly to tweak my avatar’s look. I also visited another museum, namely the Museum of Natural History of Vienna, where I looked at dinosaurs, and managed to get trapped under the floor. But again, I didn’t see anyone else.

Do I think I’ll be going back to Second Life? Probably not. But it’s handy having an avatar if a get-together is ever on the cards.

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Decisions Decisions

The time finally arrived for me to choose my second lot of modules for my Open University degree, something that I’d been waiting excitedly for.

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As you may know, I chose to do the Open Degree, basically to give myself a bit more flexibility in the modules I can choose, and I’m basically doing Information and Computing Technology combined with Creative Writing. Sort of an ICT major, Writing minor kinda deal. I’m still in the midst of doing ‘My Digital Life’, which, though a little outdated (it’s the last time it’s running), I’ve found to be interesting and informative, but I had 60 credits left to fill, to complete what will technically be my first year of study. And so, choices had to be made.

Since beginning this degree, I’ve already known one of the other first year modules I wanted to take, which is ‘English for Academic Purposes Online’, and which’ll be my first languages module. But at 30 credits, this left me having to decide on another 30-pointer, which wasn’t easy. I didn’t want to learn a language, or retail management, or delve into essential mathematics. This left me with two options:

  1. An introductory statistics module.
  2. A module delving into robotics, networking and Linux.

The sensible part of my brain told me to do statistics. After all, I’m a scientist, and if I ever manage to get a science-based job, statistics may well be needed. The other part of my brain said, “But robots!” As I was having trouble deciding, I put some feelers out to my social media followers, asking what they’d do. To be honest, the masses weren’t much help. My Twitter poll got one vote, for robots, and my Facebook post got one comment, again for robots. However, the FB post was the clincher, as they basically said I could do a statistics course anytime, and thinking about it, they’re right. I’m sure if I did a Google search now, I could find any number of free statistics MOOCS online. So, with that in mind, I’ve chosen ‘Technologies in Practice’ as my third first-year module.

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These choices mean I also know what type of degree I’ll end up getting in six year’s time. My second and third years will be split 50:50 between computing and language modules, but my first is going to be split 75:25 between computing and language modules. Meaning the majority of my modules will be science ones, therefore, my final degree will be a BSc. Woo, another science degree!

As an aside, did you know the first year Open University modules don’t count to the final pass mark? I didn’t! I’ve been busting my hump to try and keep my overall grade for TU100 within distinction level, panicking whenever I’ve got a low(ish) mark, only to find I’m stress over nothing. Basically, I just need to get a passing grade to make it to the second year. Still, I guess it shows I’m making an effort, and setting my personal bar high.

But robots! Yay!

Party Hardly

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I remember my first time being a fresher…well…almost. I remember nearly not having a place to live as the uni ballsed-up my accommodation application. I remember the week of getting to know my housemates with the help of copious amounts of watered-down Fosters. I remember walking home to my digs drunkenly leaning on my housemate, who was doing the exact same thing to me. I remember signing up to societies; the Sailing Club, which I never attended because I couldn’t figure out where they were based, and the Scuba Diving Club, that I attended on and off for three years. I remember the freebee bags filled with fresher essentials like condoms, pamphlets, and other junk that I never looked at again. It was a great time. A chaotic, exciting, and stressful time. That was the autumn of 199(something).

This time around, Fresher’s Week has been a rather sedate affair. Monday consisted of listening to a radio broadcast by the Open University’s Student Union, followed by a live chat meet and greet on Facebook. No chances for fresher’s flu there. Tuesday was another live FB chat on joinable Societies. I had already signed up to the Dr Turing Society, which, as I’ve begun with an ICT module, seemed the appropriate thing to do. However, as the latest message in the group was posted back in Nov 2016, I’m none too hopeful about its level of activity. Wednesday’s live chat was about ‘Meeting OU Students in Your Area’. Unfortunately, I had agreed to go see Assassin’s Creed that night (which I’ll rant about later) so missed it. Thursday and Friday were covering topics that didn’t really concern me, so that was that; Fresher’s Week done.

Still, there were a couple of happy occurrence for me during Fresher’s Week. Firstly, I won an OU pencil case for a photo of my study area, so that was pretty cool. Was hoping for an OU hoody, but as I need a pencil case too, I’m not complaining. Secondly, I had a pleasant accidental finding this week in that, now I’m an OU student, I can access research articles behind pay-walls. It’s just a shame I’ll probably never have time to read them.

Yes I may be a ‘mature’ student who no longer drinks her weight in booze, but the isolated nature of it all left me feeling a little, well, isolated. Doing a distance course is a very different kettle of fish to being in a bricks-&-mortar university. Don’t get me wrong, the concept behind the OU is great; allowing those from all walks of life the chance to study without having to uproot themselves. But being away from the student life means the whole thing lacks a certain something. When you’re at a university, you know (or at least you should know) you’re there to study. There’s a certain feeling you have. A sense of responsibility, urgency, and comradery. Away from it all, that doesn’t really happen. Maybe it will further down the line, but at present I feel a little disjointed with the whole thing.

That being said, I’ve got an early start on things. Term doesn’t officially start until Saturday, but I figured I might as well strike while the iron’s lukewarm. Starting studying early will either allow me to get ahead on the modules, in which case it’ll give me a buffer of a few days should the universe decide to throw a curve-ball my way. Or, if I find I’ve completely rusted up with respect to studying, I’ve got a few extra days to get my head back in the game. So begins six long years of extra stress.

Now…. on to Assassin’s Creed. So…. It wasn’t a terrible movie, nor was it a great movie. It was a meh kind of movie. I’ve never played the Assassin’s Creed series, but I do know a little of its law, and I suppose it was, to a certain extent, reflected in the film. At one point Fassbender took his shirt off for no good reason, though I’m not complaining too much about that *wink, wink*, however, there were two moments that majorly irked me *spoiler alert*.

First off, Marion Cotillard. Now, I have no problem with people with accents being in films, it’s nice to hear something other than an American drawl, but for the love of gods, e-nun-ci-ate! Her very last line in the film was lost. I heard: “Ida did this, mumble mumble mumble.” Me: “Who the hell’s Ida?” My mate reckons she actually said, “I did this, mumble mumble mumble.” Nope, he didn’t know what her last line was either. And apparently, we’re not the only ones….

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If anybody out there does know what it was, please tell me.

Second moan…. We’re at the penultimate scene, at the Templer’s meet up. There we see the last assassins converging, exchanging weapons surreptitiously, their cloaked forms appear to be everywhere amongst the crowd. They wait. We’re building up to a major fight scene, you can feel it. Then Fassbender’s character walks onto the stage, slits the guys throat in full view of the crowd, and everyone runs away screaming. Dafuq? What were all those close-up shots about? They were completely irrelevant. Plus, there were only two assassins left other than Fassbender’s, not, as the shots would have you believe, many. It was a rubbish scene, and someone needs a boot up the arse over it.

So that’s that. Studying now begins in earnest, and at some point I’ll be slotting in some manuscript editing. Here’s to a stressful few months!

Hashtag Change – Subtitle: #AmEditing

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So this week has been a week of starting new things.

First up, my Open University course, and I spent Sunday making my way through the introductory guide book to my first module. Credit where credit’s due, the OU sets their course out in such a way you’re eased into things. It may seem a bit ‘baby being spoon fed’ at times, but I think it’s an important method for those who’ve been away from studying for a while (2003 MSc graduate y’all!). The first block of the module is annotated with pointers in the margin, reminding you to make notes in your Learning Journal, or highlighting where a good place to take a break in the text is, and the first two Tutorial Assessments have an entire week devoted to them so you’re not rushed. There are also moments set out to re-evaluate your learning, through their Module Review Form, which makes you think about why you’re learning, and what parts are important to you. In a way, helping to keep you motivated. Later on in your studies you’re left to your own devices, but the idea is that the first few weeks you use the pointers to help get back into the swing of things, and studying eventually becomes easier. To be honest, having read through the guide, I’m quite excited now. I went to Tesco’s over the weekend and bought some cheapo highlighters, folders, and dividers, and I’m all ready to go. With my dummy assignment already in the bag I kinda got the urge to start early, that way I have a few days leeway should anything go tits-up or, who knows, a miracle happens and I get a job interview.

Second up, my novel writing, alluded to by this blog’s title. Yep, I’ve gone from #AmWriting to #AmEditing. It’s been what? About a year? I averaged about 3,000 words a week, and my manuscript stands at 140,279 words. Actually, there’s still some more writing to come. A few of the chapters need a proper ending, and descriptions will need to be buffed up (you writers out there will know the kind of things I mean), however, the bulk is D.O.N.E! The last few days have been a general editing of the format, as well as a quick spelling and grammar check, but now I get to put the damn thing a way and not touch it for a few weeks. That way, when I come to the first read through, I’m going at it fresh.

Actually the timings have worked out quiet nicely, what with finishing my manuscript just before I start trying to learn how to study again. This way, I can give my studies a bit more attention. Me in January 2017 is certainly seeing some changes.

But as good things start, so good things end, and after just three episodes, we say a (possibly) final goodbye to Sherlock. Overall, I have to say I enjoyed the season. I did feel the final part was not its strongest. It seemed to be along the lines of the Crystal Maze meets Saw. Not really ‘Sherlocky’ in my opinion. The ending was rushed and a bit muddled. John (should have if they’d paid attention to the script) got his feet ripped off, and the pyrotechnic special effects were laughable (I guess they blew the budget on aerial shots of The Island). Still, it was nice to see more of Mycroft. He can certainly strap on a pair when he sees fit. Hopefully we’ll see more of Sherlock in the future. Maybe not as a series, if rumours are to be believed, but the occasional Xmas special wouldn’t go amiss. Fingers crossed hey!?

A Surprising Delivery

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As mentioned in my last post, I’ve decided to do an Open University Degree. After signing up I had several sleepless nights filled with, “Oh my gods what’ve I done,” kinda thoughts. I questioned whether it was truly worth it; Argued that, “why the hell shouldn’t I do it, it’ll give me something to be proud of in six years,” (hopefully); and basically went around and around in my head with an anxiety-filled and stress-filled rhetoric.

My decision for the affirmative got buoyed a bit on Sunday. Then is when I do my usual fruitless search of various job listing emails to see if there’s anything I’m in the least bit qualified to apply for. There wasn’t, as per, but I did see a social media job advertised that listed among its prerequisites a degree in either Journalism, Marketing or…. Creative Writing. Ding, ding, ding, we have a module winner! Unfortunately, I won’t be tackling those particular modules for close to two years yet, but it’s good to know that some employees are looking for qualifications in that area.

Then with Monday came a cube-shaped dose of reality. My course stuff was delivered! This came as a total surprise because a) the course doesn’t start until the end of the month, and b) I wasn’t expecting any material. The OU site is all about how they have online resource material, so I just assumed that’s where all my reading texts would be. Imagine my surprise when a delivery driver turned up at my door (which I opened dressed in just my PJs! Doh!) and handed me a VERY heavy box. Opening it I found several large textbooks, plus some computer parts. There was no escaping the truth, I had officially become a student again.

 

The blurb on the OU’s website relating to the TU100 module, My Digital Life, didn’t make it seem this technically involved. Quite frankly, it’s a good job I know my way around a computer, and have dabbled in free online python programing courses, otherwise on opening that box, and flipping through the material, I would have had a panic attack. To be honest, I’m still bricking it, but just a little less than if I was going into this from a standing start. Apparently this is the last time the course is being run, and it’s being broken down into two parts for future semester enrolments. I’m not surprised!

So now the fun begins, and I don’t just mean the learning part. Now I need to become a Time Management Expert. I have my novel writing to do, which’ll eventually become my novel editing to do. I also do social media, web editing, and newsletter writing on a volunteer basis for MARINElife. Plus I do research writing for the Aquarium Welfare Association (again as a volunteer). Then there’s my fitness training. Then there’s my own social media stuff, across two further accounts, as well as this blog. All of which I need to jigsaw together in such a way that I can do the course, and keep up all the other demands, without going nuts. To be honest, it’s probably a good thing I’m unemployed and have no social life at the moment. Gods help me when/if I ever do find gainful employment again (a social life is overrated anyway).

Final thought: Sherlock makes my brain hurt…but I love it!