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! 😆), 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, 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!

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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!

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.

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!

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…..

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*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.

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.

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!