Category Archives: waffle

blurb and meanderings

The future of TV, news and you

While reminiscing about my 14yr old self and the paper round I endured, it suddenly occurred to me that my 2 year old daughter will likely never experience such a thing – not just because of the safety issues involved these days (seriously.. Just WHY is it so much more dangerous NOW for a 14 year old girl to walk the streets alone at 6am than it was 20 years ago?) but because the likelihood of hard copy deliveries still being around in a decades time is looking a bit slim.

The ‘always on, always connected’ mentality of folks growing up in this internet enabled world, combined with the growing interest in being green and the always indisputable need for a business to save costs seems to point at a death knell for the tabloids and broadsheets.

I can’t see ebooks killing off the paperback any time soon, but with the uptake in smartphones, netbooks, tablets and internet TV, it could well be bye bye newspapers and sunday supplements as people opt to find out what’s happening in the world their own way on their preferred medium.

Even in Africa – one of the most poverty stricken continents on the planet has a mobile penetration of up to 52% and though I would guess few of the mobile phones in use over there are web enabled right now; think what a decades worth of technological innovation could bring.

We already have scientists working on batteries made from cloth, cameras that can shoot around corners, and a possible breakthrough in memory devices. with all that happening NOW, who is to say what will happen in 10 years time?

I envisage a home where a wireless box connects the tv and various handheld devices to the internet and all news and entertainment is routed through those – something that already happens in several households that I know of now..

..In a decade a paperback book may be the only sign of times gone by – but even that may not be in evidence if drm issues can be resolved and rfid tech may be one of the ways in which that happens; but i’ll leave the whys and wherefores of that to your imagination, this post is long enough and I haven’t even gotten to my tv vision yet!

In 10 years I see a large flat screen led tv with internet/ wifi/ hd/ 3d that is fully immersible smell-o-vision ready (you may need to buy replaceable ‘smell cannisters’ for the scent infusions – Glade will have a tv channel that sends a signal to the tv at certain points of the day to release a different mixture into the room, the heat of the tv is what activates it and cookery shows will have a device to ‘scan’ the dish and transmit the same aroma to you – press the red button NOW to sample it..)

..all tvs will have an ipad-like controller that also acts as a channel previewer, it will likely be programmable so it can also be used as a games controller and video phone with a thumb print lock to stop the kids accessing services and channels you don’t want them to.

..I’ll leave it there for now while you imagine what cookery shows with smell-o-vision will be like and just how popular farming shows will really be when you can tell what working with livestock will do to your personal aroma..

Female obsession with love and marriage

I have a slightly guilty pleasure; don’t tell the bride and a constantly changing selection of mills and boon. This combined with the not so guilty but just as pleasurable collection of rom-com chick flicks on my shelves would make an alien observer use the word ‘obsessed’ to describe my relationship with love and relationships – and I’m not alone.

Every girl I know has at least one chick-lit paperback on her shelves, several films of the rom-com persuasion and a delight in discussing and dissecting relationships – their own and other peoples. Which is why very few relationships stand the test of time; everyone is searching for perfect as opposed to perfectly acceptable.

I’ve just watched ‘The accidental husband‘ (again) and while I truly enjoy the film it does show just why a lot of relationships are doomed to failure and why some people hardly stand a chance even before the thought of a relationship can take place.

Uma Thurman (oddly gorgeous) is a radio ‘love doctor’ offering one-sided advice based upon the snippets of information provided about a relationship by her listeners. Colin Firth is the the intelligent, dependable and handsome man she’s engaged to marry. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is the ruggedly gorgeous fly in her otherwise perfect future.

Now, right there – before telling you about the plot of the film you can see the problem for most people; ‘gorgeous’ and ‘handsome’.

About 10% of the population fall into the gorgeous category the rest of us have to middle along with descriptions like pretty, cute, plain or downright ugly – the occasional ‘striking’ may feature but on the whole we’re average and worried about it; which is why we bankrupt ourselves to overcompensate with balms, lotions, hairstyles, clothing, accessories, fancy cars, the latest tech and other mainly meaningless trappings.

So every day from birth we’re bombarded with the message that to find true happiness with another you have to be gorgeous or at the very least good looking – and good looking all depends on the latest crop of models and celebrities on show; people who have a stable of helpers to make them look the way they do practically every day of the week. Who has that kind of help in real life?

I mean.. Good looking is subjective really; look at the guy playing Edward Cullen in the Twilight films; people are going gaga over him but for me he does nothing. I can’t understand how he got picked for a part that calls for ‘unearthly beauty’ but there you go – I don’t bother with potions, lotions, hairstyles and accessories to try and look good 90% of the time either so perhaps there’s a link.

..Anyway – back to my point (I do have a point, stick with me)

In the film Uma dumps her solid, dependable, perfectly acceptable, attractive fiancee at the alter (well, actually he does the intelligent thing and bows out amicably because he is, after all, almost perfect) and goes for the impulsive, sensitive,reliable, fun-loving, family oriented, misunderstood hero instead. The GORGEOUS impulsive, sensitive, reliable, fun-loving, family oriented, misunderstood hero.

Thereby reinforcing the ‘fact’ that every woman deserves to find the fairytale man. Who doesn’t exist. (..and the rich gorgeous, vulnerable yet strong, fun-loving female stereotype for the guys is just as rare)

I’m guessing if she’d been poor then he’d have been rich as well but because she makes a good living it’s ok for him to be poor; I can’t recall a rom-com where both hero and heroine are poor and struggling to make ends meet without some kind of lottery win easing the way for true love.

This is what makes ‘Dont tell the bride’ such compelling watching; the main reason most of these couples apply to the show is because they can’t afford to get married without the £12,000 injection the show gives them.

None of the women trust the guy to do a good job because they’re either terrible with money, planning or just plain lazy (or all three) but they love the guy and really want him to prove them wrong – to rise to the occasion and show that they can be relied on; otherwise it’s an omen for the rest of their lives and confirmation that they have to really think about what they’re planning to do.

From watching this show I can say no man will ever pass the test with flying colours – at best they’ll scrape through on emotion and the brides ability to accept and work around perceived faults; because, lets face it, if you can’t do that you’re not really in love with the other person are you? ..and this works both ways; it’s not always the man who’s at fault you know.

No-one is perfect, no-one will ever tick all the boxes for you. You just have to decide which qualities are the deal breaker for you and work around the rest. This was really evident in the latest episode of the show, Kayliegh very nearly broke off the relationship completely because Simon failed SPECTACULARLY. It was edge of seat viewing I assure you. I’ve never seen a more clueless groom (he trusted the budget to a roulette wheel ffs!) That’s the first time I’ve honestly thought the wedding wouldn’t go ahead.

What was interesting to me was Stef’s view of the show; he’d not looked at it as a test of the man by the bride – he saw it as all about the money and being on TV and any woman who broke off the relationship because he screwed up the wedding was shallow and didn’t value the sanctity of marriage – a good show was more important to her than the relationship.

He seemed just as stunned with my view as I was his – which highlights how difficult maintaining a relationship is for anyone because no viewpoint will ever mesh unless it’s discussed and both sides understood.

The deal breakers for me are an inability to communicate, gambling and mind games; which is why Stef is perfect for me – none of the above apply but the qualities I admire the most; intelligence, humour, sensitivity and affection, do.

(..and yes dear – MANLY too; sensitivity does not detract from your machismo I assure you *kisses the guns*)

In remembrance

Am I crying because its expected?
or do I really feel this grief?
How can they think they know how im feeling?
when they dont know whats underneath.

Its strange the way you think you know someone –
but then you barely know them at all,
We shared so much we knew each other well
…but that was all so long ago.

we grew up and then we grew apart
I should’ve kept much more in touch!
There’s surely something more I could’ve done
I guess I didnt care enough…

I didnt know you were in hospital –
I havent seen you now for years.
I dont want to see you like this now,
a wooden cask obscured by tears.

Tamsin Luke was my best friend in school; juniors and seniors – she liked to spell her name Tamsyn even though that isn’t how it went on her birth certificate; kids are funny like that.

I ran away from home when I was about 9 or so, I had just had a fight with my brother (another one) and mum had sent us both to bed; grounded.

I was indignant because HE started it, and it meant I couldn’t watch the film we’d been promised that was on TV… some science fiction thing (even then I liked that kind of stuff)
After sulking in my room and feeling much abused and hard done by I decided I’d had enough – a neighbour, Dianne, had come round to visit mum and I could hear them talking and laughing.

I put my trainers on (the pink ones with the velcro fastening) and stood on my bed looking out of my bedroom window, Ricky McCormick who was my age and lived dead opposite had told me about his cousins jumping out of their window when they’d been grounded, I decided I could do it too. I managed to lower myself onto the porch.. The whole time I was glancing around nervously expecting to be seen and grassed on, but for once the road was clear – it was an incredibly sunny day – the kind you hear about now but think of as a figment of your imagination (in manchester anyhow) and suddenly the drop looked too far, I tried to climb back up into my room but couldn’t.

I was stuck.

All I could think of was the trouble I’d be in if I was found like this, so steeling myself, I jumped, trying to aim for the grass and hoping the curtains were still closed in the front room to shield the TV from the sun, my luck on that front held, was not so good on the other though – I landed awkwardly and cried out in pain then curled in a ball hoping no-one had seen or heard me..

I then limped across the main road (forbidden territory) to my best friends house.

After lying convincingly to Maureen (Tamsyns mum) that my mum had walked me just up to the bollards separating her estate from the main road (you could just see their drive from there) Tamsyn and I went into the den to watch the film my brother had stopped me from seeing (at least that’s how my mind saw it) afterwards we went out to our secret hidey and I told Tam everything and said I was never going back – we made a plan, I was going to stay for tea then when everyone had gone to bed, I’d be let into the house by Tam and she’d sneak me into their loft – it was a converted one that we had spent many an afternoon playing games and talking about nothing in – as well as reading the books we sneaked from her older brothers room (my older cousin, Lorraine, was in the same year as him and when she babysat for us we’d tease her unmercifully claiming she fancied him…)

About 2 hours later I was starting to feel guilty and decided I wanted to go home and try to sneak back into the house before mum noticed I’d gone.

We crossed the road again – I was still limping and in great pain when I saw Edna and Dianne (our next door neighbours) walking towards us, we hid behind a car and snuck around the back so they wouldn’t see us, sadly Edna caught sight of me and shouted, Tamsyn hid and Edna grabbed me and shook me all the while shouting that my “poor mother was worried sick and what did I think I’d been doing” etc. etc. etc.

By this point the whole neighbourhood knew I’d been found (it turned out mum had decided that we could watch the film after all, she’d gone to tell Richard who’d cried himself to sleep then when she came to get me, found my room empty and the window wide open, the entire neighbourhood had turned out to comb the area for me – no one thought I’d be brave enough to cross the busy main road) I remember being dragged up to my room being soundly beaten and put to bed.
I shouted through the door that she’d always hated me and buried my head under my pillows and then cried myself to sleep. I was taken to the Doctors the next day because my foot had swollen to about 3 times its natural size, I had a hairline fracture right the way across. It still bothers me now in cold weather.

For weeks after that I avoided Tamsyn – I still don’t know why, shame possibly – she finally cornered me and asked if I was upset with her for being caught, we made friends and did everything together again for a while.

Sadly we lost touch when we were at college – unforgivably through a boy.

She’d always fancied my first boyfriend and never tried to hide this from me – I always felt she liked him more than I did but it hurt that he used to call her a slag and all sorts – I have this habit of worshipping my closest friends and it was hard being in the middle..

Anyway – long story short, he and I split up, he asked her out. my mum took great offense to this and basically made it so uncomfortable for Tamsyn that she stopped coming round and I stopped going round to hers.

She went off the rails and left Daventry when they split up, a few years later I moved to Manchester.

I was living with my dad and attending college (performing arts) Mum called me up when I got home from a rehearsal… Dad had already warned me she’d rang 3 times previously so I was prepared to deal with her, (at the time I had many ‘issues’) what I wasn’t prepared for was the blunt “Vicky – Tamsyns dead” I got when I answered the phone. apparently all the blood drained from my face and I dropped the receiver as I sank to the floor, praying I hadn’t heard her correctly…

I managed to get myself together enough to pick the phone up again – Eileen (my step-mum) had jumped up to try and catch me as I fell and she was making all kinds of sympathetic noises while my mum explained that Tamsyn had come home after the new years eve drinking session and had felt ill so had taken paracetamol, she took some more when she got up because she hadn’t felt any better – then got rushed to hospital when she collapsed. apparently it was liver failure.

I went back to Daventry for the funeral – I think dad paid the fare for me, and I was just disgusted that my mum planned to accompany me there – In my irrational state of mind, I felt that Tamsyn and I had lost touch in the first place because of the way ‘mommy dearest’ had treated her.

Anyway, we get there – I’m wracked with grief just like everyone else, We stayed a bit back from the family and watched the coffin buried… as Maureen walked past she saw me and stopped to give me a big hug, we both started crying and she begged me to go back to the house for a private family wake. I said goodbye to my friends and joined everyone at the Luke house, only to discover I was literally the only non family member there.

Maureen took me upstairs to show me Tams room, on the wall by the bed, just underneath the hundred or so photographs she had pinned to the wall was a scrap of paper I’d completely forgotten about – in my handwriting was the date, the place, and the words
“this should be worth a fortune when I’m famous… for my bestest friend Tamsyn Luke”
and I’d even signed it… she wanted me to know that Tam did still think of me as a friend despite the whole Steve fiasco.

We had a cry and a laugh, reminisced about all kinds of things – the abortive running away from home for one… then we went back downstairs, where I was treated by everyone as though I were a member of the family and it dawned on me just how much of my childhood had been spent with them, I’d even gone on visits to the branch in Cannock – they all remembered me and we spent time reminding each other of various exploits… I didn’t want to go home.

In true Luke family tradition the wake became a party – much drunken singing – many tears but almost equal amounts of laughter… everything seemed changed when I got back to Manchester.

I hadn’t seen Tamsyn for the best part of 2 years, but I missed her – so badly, I still do now sometimes… it sounds stupid but I sometimes write her letters and I talk to her, like we used to – I especially missed her when I split up with Ian; he was a little like Steve; only in looks but that was enough to remind me of her and the things we missed out on sharing.

This is a kind of re-post as I’ve preciously mentioned Tamsyn and shared that poem but this is the full story as I remember it; warts and all.

Still miss you Tam.

Against all odds..

Principles and applications of web Services (technology): A3
Digital Entertainment Systems: A1
Web Application development (design): A3
Professional Issues in computing: A3

You see those grades? they’re mine they are *grin* ok, ok so what if it took me an entire academic year to do it!
..Considering I’ve had 75 days of it (that’s right, just over 2 months) bedridden by fatigue (and that’s not counting any crashes prior to the diary count starting mid January else it’d probably be at least 3 or 4 months lost because I had to defer the above modules due to an uncounted relapse in November that lasted right through December)

..and god knows how many other days of productivity I’ve lost to the joys of brain fog (I’m never mentally aware enough on those days to think of keeping count!)

To be honest I’d say I did really bloody well.

Lets put it this way – I’m on track for a first class honours in my specialist degree subject so it’s worth the blood sweat and tears of studying with ME/CFS (and a toddler)

As Chris said on my Facebook page: Vicky rocks!

So, what now you ask? Well, on top of actually being a mum again instead of a snappy, stressed out work beast;

  • I’m re-designing and updating several websites (mine and other peoples)
  • updating and improving my knowledge of wordpress for this very reason (so a fair bit of reading)
  • researching and organising ideas for my final year project (which funnily enough involves the need to understand wordpress VERY well)
  • creating several ‘how to’ videos for the ESCAPE project at uni using Camtasia.
  • making time to re-read my notes and try to keep what I learned to get those A grades fresh in my mind (important to do when you have CFS memory to contend with)

I know, you’d think I’d kick back and relax wouldn’t you – but I really don’t dare to. One thing I learned this year is that I can pace, but I can’t stop; If I stop I lose any headway I’ve made.

So, gotta keep the momentum going (without over doing it) because I REALLY, really want to be able to get a job at the end of all this.

Oh.. and for those of you interested, here’s the video part of the DES assignment that netted me the top mark:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdCVfmqsbTE[/youtube]

Who needs a sidebar?

I know that folks check out sites in an ‘F’ fashion, I know about SEO basics and understand some advertising strategy, I know my site is a little less than accessible (one of the main reasons it’s due an overhaul) but this is my PERSONAL site and most folks use the RSS feed to access it anyhow.

I don’t want to have several sidebars overrun with advertisements and reciprocal links, I don’t want every other word in my content underlined to trick the unwary into looking at something unrelated to my thoughts and even though some extra cash would be nice; I like having this space as a place free from marketing.

I get emails on a weekly basis from people wanting to pay me to advertise for them (part of the territory when you hit the Google top spot for your real name AND your pseudonym) But I won’t do it. This is where I play and I’ll keep it as a playground for as long as I can.

I think sometimes folk forget that there’s more to life than wringing every penny they can from it. If all you ever think about is monetisation then I feel for you m’love, I really do.

This is why I have just thrown up another theme that was literally created in 5 minutes over at cool template and I think I may keep it for a while until I’ve learned how to scribble the code needed to throw one together myself from scratch (I have more than enough books and tutorials now so if it isn’t done by this time next year I’ll quit talking about it) creating is fun and I should really take the time to get back to loving my own site as much as I do other peoples.

Modest life ambitions

I didn’t choose to do an IT degree with a view to becoming any kind of hotshot programmer/ web designer, despite my love of html and most things web;  my first choice would have been any number of the jewellery/ crafting courses on offer even though most are not of a degree standard.

But I’m practical. I chose IT because it allows a career that (hopefully) pays well and will work around my illness and family life.

Jewellery making and web design were the 2 ‘skills’ I had to choose from when I was planning out how to escape the benefits trap of the long term sick; the web seemed the likeliest method of gaining a decent income without a large financial layout.

I know that in the current climate having those benefits offers a type of security that working may not – especially in view of my health (the whole reason I’m on ’em in the first place) some healthy folks even question why I’d bother since I’ve ‘got it good’ right now – I’m lucky they say.

..and I agree, in comparison to some families we’re doing well and ticking by.

But I’m fed up of always ticking by. I’m sick of the uncertainty of renting a pokey flat that we’re getting too large for by the day. I’m sick of not having the cash for a decent holiday or to buy the gifts I’d like or to make the things I sketch out and put in the ‘someday’ file.

Unlike a healthy person, being long term sick offers you no hope of improvement, no hope of progressing up the food chain, you’re stuck living on handouts and state charity and that SUCKS!

I dream of having a decent sized 3 bedroom house (all doubles of course) I want an office/ workshop at the bottom of the garden and a garage. I want the space to be able to grow my own food – not on a self-sufficiency level, but enough to supplement the odd dish. I’ll never be able to get that on state benefits.

I listed all the things I wanted from my ideal lifestyle and showed it to Stef; he laughed.

Apparently I want to be his parents – but with hobbies.

To be honest I don’t know why that was a cause for laughter; his folks are great – they work too hard in my opinion and could use some hobbies for downtime, but otherwise sure; I’d be them. Just more up to date *grin*

..and I’d be able to do any of this with my daughter;

  • start a small craft club and have monthly meetings/ workshops
  • create and sell tutorials from my own e-learning site
  • create websites for small businesses and families
  • have time and materials for serious crafting
  • maintain a small kitchen garden
  • throw parties

(assuming she wanted to)

Doesn’t that sound like the life to you? THAT’S how I envisage someone who’s ‘got it good’, I’m just trying to get there the best I can.

I propose a ban on sex

..but only for three months a year – every year. I know, enforcing such a ban would be impossible – but if it were a possibility..

When I suggested this on Facebook, the very first response I got was ‘Don’t be hasty’. Now while i’ll admit this was a throwaway comment initially but throwing the idea away completely may actually be the hasty thing.

Let us consider this..

My initial dea was to ban sex in the months September, October and November so as to avoid the result of another poor child doomed to sit an academic exam on his or her birthday like i have practically every year I’ve been a student – but I was thinking small, there are far more reasons why this is a good idea!

May, June and July are not only exam times, they are perfect holiday times – they are also (usually) hot and being in late stage pregnancy in hot weather is no fun at all, I know this from experience!

So banning sex 9 months previously immediately removes that possibility.

It would enable the maternity services to organise their departments and train their staff while allowing a decent holiday rotation as there would be a three month cessation on the actual delivery front (obviously pre-natal care, emergency and premature deliveries would need to be catered for) it also means there would definitely be time to show prospective parents around the wards and answer any questions in full.

It removes the stress/competition aspect, if you know there is no hope of sex after a date then you can relax and just be yourself instead of having that at the back of your mind – and if you like the person then waiting 3 months will just heighten the anticipation and improve the sex when it happens (theoretically)

..It also gives you three months in a year to concentrate on building and mending relationships without sex muddying the waters – something that would work wonders for the Kelly, Terry and Tigers of this world.

Ok, so there are holes in all of this – August and September are fairly hot these days as well; but we could remedy that hole by adding an extra month or so to the ban – perhaps even radically add to the initial suggestion by banning sex for 6 months a year..

We could then plan our population and healthcare services a lot more efficiently as those resources could be shared across departments – I’m sure there are some patients for whom an hour in a birthing pool would do wonders, not to mention the extra beds/ ward availability.

I know that we’d probably have an explosion of births during the other 6 months but the previous 6 would have prepared for that – and there’s likely to be a reduction overall in birth rate if we can only procreate for half of the usual time.

Which would result in more resources saved for the planet! Less landfill, less energy waste = Win!

It’s an idea worth thinking about – but I know every single man on the planet would vote against the adoption of such a scheme and a least a third of the women would agree so.. *sigh* once again my brilliance is condemned to the scrapheap.

..But it’s good to dream of a better world isn’t it? just a shame none of us will ever agree on how to create it.

(Now, feel free to leave your scorn and hole pokery in the comments – I’m already expecting an onrush of spam after the numerous usage of the word sex in this post.)

Like Social networking? Want to meet Kylie Minogue?

In best meercat voice:

SIMPLES! All you need to do is become a student and sign up to social networking site Studyvox.co.uk.

As the lovely lady is the site patron you too could wind up having a cheque or a music award passed into your sweaty grasp – it happened to me; it could happen to you.

Kylie minogue presenting me with my cheque

This time around there were 3 things each of the winners of the inaugural bursary awards had in common:

  1. we were all students
  2. we were all female
  3. we all thought this was some kind of a hoax or scam.

I kid you not, I mean; C’mon! Kylie Minogue handing out cash for nothing more than signing up to a social networking site?

It sounded insane! So much so that Stef and I even organised a house sitter ‘just in case’ while we travelled down to the event..  *blushes* paranoid much?

It’s taken me a while to recover from the exertion of travelling and being sociable which is why the date of the cheque is 25th of February but this blog post is happening in March – the joys of living with ME/CFS I’m afraid ( but this was an event that was definitely worth the health fall-out!)

Both Stef and I have been converted to the view of the studyvoxfoundation crew, we really want them to make of the studyvox.co.uk site everything they dream of. The people behind the charity are wonderful, caring passionate people not lacking in intelligence and their ideas are ambitious; they want to take on every big social networking site out there and as Kev the CEO put it “we want to take everything they’ve got horribly wrong and do it RIGHT!”

They want to create an online home for students, a place where;

  • their profiles will not be held up out of context during a job interview as evidence of lying and debauchery
  • they have representation and help with social needs (things supposedly catered for by the NUS)
  • where they can talk freely about their courses and the towns in which they live
  • a marketplace for them to sell anything from textbooks to clothes and furniture
  • a one-stop shop for all their financial needs and concerns
  • somewhere safe to upload their music, imagery and video footage

In short they are taking on Facebook, myspace, MP3unsigned, Youtube, directgov and any other site you can think of that can hold some kind of benefit to students.

It’s audacious, it’s ambitious, it’s totally nuts – but they are so passionate about their vision that you cannot help but be swept along by it.

The bursary awards are to be a regular thing, any student who signs up to StudyVox is in with a chance of winning – it’s definitely on the up and up, it’s legit and I have the pictures to prove it. If you don’t believe me then just look at some of the news coverage of the event on the BBC and in the Telegraph and obviously the foundations own news site the StudyVox echo (I have several times just to remind myself that I didn’t dream the whole thing)

They want to ‘put their money where their mouths are’ and show in a real way that they are there to help support the student community.

At present I will admit to a lot of teething problems with the social networking website – but that is less down to the vision of the group and more to do with the company paid to do the coding and design; I think, given time and a lot of tweaking this site could well be a force to contend with, the NUS would be well advised to take note and learn a few things.

Nothing of interest, just me being me.

I should be writing a follow up about my experience at #mcl3, or completing any one of the numerous draft posts I have lined up in the blog back room..

But I’m not. I’m on my blog writing whatever pours forth – because I can.

I know all the theory on what I’m ‘supposed’ to be writing (and how) but to be honest, I don’t think I care any more.
Copyblogger is one of my favourite reads and I’ve soaked up a great deal of knowledge from his generous offerings but I’m not a marketer and I’m not a product – not yet anyway.

Until my course is over and I’m in the job market I really am just rosevibe here and I once had a fair few blog friends who came around to visit purely because I was me and not some one-dimensional tweeter.
I miss that, a lot.

Over the last 2-3 years I’ve amassed quite a bit of knowledge about the web, social media, writing, conversation, e-learning, project managing, marketing, programming and jewellery making, but because I’m aware of how much I still need to learn to be as good as I want to be I never seem to find the time to put any of it into practice (coursework excepted that is) and it’s been remarked on by a few of my twitter friends (*cough* @PhilWoodMusic, @crashbox *cough*) that I talk about things but never seem to share my work..

A link tweeted by the aforementioned copyblogger for a post by Rajesh Setty explains my lack of sharing better than I could – even if saying so assumes that I think of myself as smart.

(..and we all know by now that I don’t, if I was it wouldn’t be taking me so long to figure out how xml, xslt, wsdl, soap etc work! never mind installing php on my laptop.. still haven’t done that *shame*)

I have so many ideas and half-formed projects in my mind that I need to become immortal just to see half of them through – it frustrates the hell out of me that I don’t have the energy or health to get even one off the ground. All my energies are directed into my course and my family right now – perhaps if I didn’t have ME/CFS to contend with things would be different, but as it stands – I’ll be lucky to come away with the degree I want.

..but if I get less than a 2-1 I’ll be screaming the C-B words, muchly!

I get annoyed so easily these days – mainly by people who needlessly mock others; who take delight in the misfortune of folk in the limelight and seem to have lost any semblance of nobility, civility, honour and conscience.

I’m not a saint by any means; but constant finger pointing and mob rule alongside the ‘reality shows’ and our rotten society as a whole.. it sickens me and makes me want to grab the face of the self satisfied wanker behind it all and ram it full force through the nearest window into a rusty spike.

I know.. a tad graphic – but I can’t convey the depth of Grrrrrrr! and Arrgggggh! that I feel when looking at what the people of this country have turned into in the name of multi-culturalism and political correctness when things like that are condoned and in some circles elevated to the height of fashion, wit and branded entertainment.

Now the beloved is pointing at the clock and ordering me to bed so I guess it’s probably for the best if I leave this here before I get truly riled and kiss off any chance of sleep.

..But, even after the revamp – don’t expect this blog to fully reflect my knowledge and experience, its a personal space and so will more likely reflect my feelings and opinions with the odd sprinkling of ‘professionalism’. I’m not focussed enough on one area to create something professional for myself, I’ll leave the professional stuff at work where it belongs – or create a section of the site for it ;0)

G’night all – if you love me, do me a favour and tell me something wonderful about the world, after the tv viewing and general crapness of our world on the surface, I could do with a glint of glory about this year to carry into the next.

love y’all

Vics Xx

Social media in education #mcl3

I’m obviously at a loose end what with uni being so slow and my course load so light [/sarcasm] so I’ve agreed to take a session at the forthcoming MediaCamp London 3 (twitter tag #mcl3)

There are still tickets left so if you can get into london, come down and either show your support or heckle – either way, come down *grin* there are some cracking folks going with a wealth of experience happy to give advice or insight into whatever may be troubling you (on the tech/ internet/ social media front that it)

So.. My session:

‘social media in higher education’

Sounds fairly broad doesn’t it?
Basically you’ll be taking a look at my experiences both with the CABLE project and (time permitting) my current role as student proctor.

(sounds awful doesn’t it – that’s the official title payroll have given me for the work I’ve done recently offering advice and guidance on using Studynet [The UH virtual learning environment] for e-assessment and group work purposes)

So to help ward off some possible misconceptions, here’s a little background to the project and a taster as to the type of thing I’ll be discussing.

The aim of the Continuing Education Partnerships (CEP) CABLE group project:

Hertford virtual college rich picture

Hertfordshire virtual college rich picture

Create a Hertfordshire Virtual College:

  • A virtual community of staff and students
  • Overcomes the geographical remoteness of the colleges
  • Responds to issues of management and coordination across institutional boundaries
  • Builds on the existing evolving cooperative framework

The Hertfordshire HE consortium comprises four HE Colleges across Hertfordshire

  • Consortium coordinated by the university of Hertfordshire (UH)
  • Colleges are geographically remote from each other and from UH
  • UH campus is venue for large number of centralised meetings
  • Raises issues of staff and student communication and time commitment

The vehicle chosen for the virtual learning community was the HCI module taught to the FDsc IT Business pathway groups:

  • Module delivered in mixed mode day and evening classes
  • all 4 colleges during the second semester of their final year.
  • 100 students both full time and part time across all four colleges

The idea:

  • Have 4 virtual groups led by a student from each of the consortium colleges
  • Give them 3 tasks to encourage co-operative and collaborative learning
  • keep staff participation to a minimum; the project was to be student led as much as possible
  • make inclusion to the project voluntary, this was to be a supplement to the module not an integral part.

As well as running studynet group one, I was the student steering group leader which meant I was the main point of contact for the project leader (Dominic Bygate) and other staff involved.

A summation of the interaction between students in my group:

• 14 student members representing 3 colleges
• 14 discussions included introductions and greetings, the proposed group tasks, football, HCI and programming with one discussion centred around the course in general; specifically favourite modules.
• 5 polls were used, only 2 of which were centred on the cable project tasks – the others were focussed on specific modules and the university progression event which linked into the discussions.
• The blog was found to be a useful way of disseminating information and prompting discussion – but folks had to be informed of a new blog post via the studynet news/ facebook/ personal email.
• When it came to the proposed task of sharing questionnaires (part of the official HCI assignment not the original group task) people moved away from studynet to personal email as it was not an intuitive process to upload files to the groups whereas attaching to email is a simple known method of file sharing.

I plan to give a quick run down on what we did, how we did it, what social media tools we used (and why) and my personal evaluation as to what we could do to make similar projects even better.

..If there’s time I’ll then talk about the use of the uh studynet environment for group work and e-assessment.

You aren’t what you own

My immediate family have always been amazed at my ability to live quite happily on very little income – in fact the most miserable I ever was was when I tried to keep 2 jobs going to garner more disposable income. I know this as recently I’ve been culling old posts from this blog and 5 years ago I was miserable, stressed, run down and incredibly overworked and as a result developed ME/CFS.

Now I have far less income yet I and my family manage to survive quite happily on it – we don’t own a great deal but what we do own adds value to our lives and centres those lives around the home.

I think that’s the problem with most folk today, they want to own things for the sake of owning them; designer labels, the latest toy, flashy car.. Where they live tends to be more storage space than home; there’s no need for all this.

Even cigarettes and alcohol are unnecessary expenses; they add little to your life but ill health in certain cases, I know many would disagree with that but I ask you – what do they truly do for you? Do they make you happy or is it just an expensive addiction, an escape from a life you don’t really like very much?

I say: don’t pay to escape your life; save to change it.

The only thing I want to own is my own home – not for financial reasons; I don’t see it as an investment, I see it as somewhere to put down roots and raise my daughter, somewhere I can change and decorate and do to as I please.

..But most importantly I want my own home because it is somewhere that I won’t be forced to leave at the whim of the owner.

If people put more importance on the things filling the home than the home itself then in my opinion they have very skewed priorities, a home is not a base of operations, it isn’t somewhere you eat and sleep before going away to live your life – that’s a hotel or a bed and breakfast.

A home, to me at least, is the place you wish you were when you’re somewhere else, a place you want to get back to, that you want to invite others to.

More than anything in this world I want a home for me and my family. That’s why I’m pushing myself to do this degree and why I’m trying as hard as I can to make myself employable despite my health issues – I don’t want to live in storage for the rest of my life and I refuse to subject my daughter to that; even if we can’t move on, she will be able to – I’ll make sure of it.

Motherhood and college

I’ve managed to complete my foundation degree with flying colours and yes I’m damned proud of myself.

But it hasn’t been easy, I’ve had sleepless nights about bonding fears, illness, coursework and thoughts of the future – but I’ve made it through mainly because of my man. He’s been a stay at home dad and while he’s mainly enjoyed it I know it’s not been easy for him either.

Ha! Who are we kidding?
If I thought this year was hard then I know next year may well kill me on the stress front; next year I’ll be undertaking a final year project that will determine whether I get a first class honours degree or something a bit ‘less’. I’m thinking of something along the lines of e-learning, I want to mix in my interest in online social media and if I could just find a way of shoehorning in karaoke and jewellery making then I’d be as happy as the proverbial pig ;0)

Whatever the project though I’ll still be involved in the CABLE group and will be even busier than last year *gulp*

With that in mind we’ve discussed our options and decided that it’s better if Stef continues to stay at home with Isabella, she’s a happy, secure child and we want her to stay that way; the reassurance of a constantly available parent can only help her feeling of security.

If I get as stressed as we think I will (going off this year it’s almost a certainty) then we need to be prepared to deal with the inevitable relapses on the ME/CFS front when I’ll need Stef at home to care for both me and Izzy for a few days until I can function again – he wouldn’t be able to drop work for that purpose very often and retain the job; besides which we both agree that it’s better to care for her ourselves than for him to work just to pay for a stranger to – which, after tax and petrol costs etc is what would happen given the current work climate and the few suitable jobs on offer.

I’m just thankful that we’re in the position to be able to do this, that we have a roof over our heads, funds for food and bills and little need for anything else – my how things will change once our little cherub discovers brands and peer pressure *sigh* I’m dreading it..

She’s adorable though, with a single giggle, clap or her current attempts to convey her adoration of all things dog (‘BOOF!’) she lightens my heart and makes the day seem less hard – no matter what. I never knew it was possible to love something like this, the fierceness of it, how I still find myself watching her sleep with a tight happy feeling in my chest and tears threatening to overspill at the wonder of her.

Corny eh? but truer than true.

That kid has completely changed my world – for the better! because of her I’m determined to do the best I possibly can, I want to be the best role model for her I can be, I want to teach her to put her all into everything and to go for whatever she wants all guns blazing.

But mostly I want to teach her that she is loved unconditionally and that just by being in the world she makes me a better person – a bit like her dad if I’m honest.

I have the best family in the world – feel free to envy me.
Go on,  won’t blame you at all *grin*

Stuff to do, things to buy..

I really can’t wait for this next month or so to be over – on the one hand YEY I’ll have completed a foundation degree in IT for Multimedia and I’ll be hopping stright onto the third year of a Bsc (hons) IT (entertainment systems) degree in September because my grades are high enough that even failing my current crop of assignments won’t affect automatic acceptance.

..On the other hand, I’ve ONLY got a month or so left to finish my current crop of assignments and sit my exams.

Scary.

But hey, that’s why I’ve been so sparse on the blog front and twitter/ facebook activity has been of the dip in/ dip out variety, I’m a busy gal with a lot on her plate (but then if you follow this blog you know that about me already)

I handed in my game description and program design last night and decided that even though I have several other assignments to do I needed to wind down; my pacing schedule is non-existant these days which has led to a recent ME/CFS relapse.. C’est la vie I guess!

..Anyhow, my wind down entailed of watching season 2 of Veronica Mars (great series, recommended viewing in my book!) and creating a couple more of what I refer to as ‘t-shirt necklaces’, they’re the ones that are beads threaded on wire to create a loose choker – practically baby proof! Izzy has pulled and tugged at mine for hours and all they do is bend; not an issue since you can bend ’em back!

I can make a decent one in about 30 -40 minutes depending on what beads I’m using so I’m thinking that once my course is over I’ll start putting a few on eBay to see how they go – they’re perfect day wear for mums with babies/ toddlers and I can make beaded pendants to dress ’em up for ‘fancy wear’.

I figure that selling what I make is the only way I’ll subsidise the purchases I want to make in the future – I really want a rock tumbler, a jump ring maker and to try my hand at fusing glass to make pendants and beads with a microwave kiln. I also want to experiment with resin to create pendants and charms and I’d like to have a go at making lampwork beads – all of which is beyond my current price range in the justification stakes – my ambition is to eventually create gorgeous jewellery that is 100% handmade, from the beads to the findings.

..I’d also like it to be of a sturdiness and quality I feel comfortable with selling to somebody, so far only the t-shirt necklaces are; the prettier pieces are too flimsy as I don’t solder the links (don’t have a soldering iron suitable for fine work and my main material is plated wire, not real gold or silver – they’re also on the list of things to buy..)

I do wonder sometimes though; what do you guys do away from the computer? What hobbies or pastimes do you have that come with a very pricey wishlist? For example, I know that Loudmouthman gets out and about playing mister twinkletoes with the ladies, I know that Master K loves his manga and (like me) Littlebead is more than a we bit into her jewellery making..

But what about the rest of you? What don’t we know about your offline life?

A meme

It’s been soooo long since I’ve done something this bloggy (as in community of bloggers type bloggy) I saw this on the LittleBead blog (which I found following through from her twitter page) who got it from Swirly and despite not knowing the lass (though I’m now following on twitter, gotta love the fellow beaders on the web when you find ’em) I’m going to do a meme.

So.. if you love me (and I know you do) why not take part as well, get back to the old blogger within you, the one who used to care about technorati ratings and link love *grin*

Things you’ve already done: bold
Things you want to do: italicize
Things you haven’t done and don’t want to – leave in plain font

1. started your own blog
2. slept under the stars
3. played in a band
4. visited Hawaii
5. watched a meteor shower
6. given more to charity than you could afford
7. been to disneyland/world
8. climbed a mountain
9. held a praying mantis
10. sang a solo
11.bungee jumped
12.visited paris
13. watched a lightning storm at sea
14. taught yourself an art from scratch
15. adopted a child
16. had food poisoning (who hasn’t???)
17.walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. grown your own vegetables (nope, just eat the ones grown by my MIL *yum*)
19. seen the mona lisa in france
20. slept on an overnight train
21. had a pillow fight (and I WON!)
22. hitch hiked (From Manchester to Bristol and back with Aminatta way back when..)
23. taken a sick day when you’re not ill(again.. who hasn’t??)
24. built a snow fort
25. held a lamb – and bottle fed it (i’ll stick with my daughter thanks..)
26. gone skinny dipping
27. run a marathon ( *shudders* )
28. ridden a gondola in venice (definitely on my list – blow the cost!)
29. seen a total eclipse –
30. watched a sunrise or sunset –
31. hit a home run
32. been on a cruise
33. seen niagara falls in person
34. visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. taught yourself a new language (I don’t think just ‘hello/ goodbye’ ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’ count)
37. had enough money to be truly satisfied (it’ll never happen *sigh*)
38. seen the leaning tower of pisa in person
39. gone rock climbing
40. seen Michael Angelo’s David in real life
41. sung karaoke (Me?! Karoke LOL nooooo.. *grin*)
42. seen old faithful geyser erupt
43. bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. visited Africa
45. walked on a beach by moonlight (more creepy than romantic I found)
46. been transported in an ambulance (sadly twice gotta love motorbikes eh?)
47. had your portrait painted (if I had the money this guy would be doing it)
48. gone deep sea fishing
49. seen the Sistine chapel in person (On our tour of the vatican – amazing place!)
50. been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. gone scuba diving or snorkelling (if only I didn’t have menieres disease *sigh*)
52. kissed in the rain
53. played in the mud
54. gone to a drive-in theatre
55. been in a movie
56. visited the great wall of china
57. started a business
58. taken a martial arts class (Kendo, aido, jiujitsu and wing chun)
59. visited Russia
60. served at a soup kitchen
61. sold girl guide cookies
62. gone whale watching (A friend did and his pics were amazing, I was so jealous!)
63. gotten flowers for no reason (AND they were off Stef!)
64. donated blood (medically exempt)
65. gone sky-diving
66. visited a nazi concentration camp
67. bounced a cheque (never deliberately)
68. flown in a helicopter (I know.. but surely my footprint is small enough for ONE ride?)
69. saved a favorite childhood toy (sore subject, mother has never been forgiven)
70. visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. eaten caviar (foul stuff, wildly overrated)
72. pieced a quilt
73.stood in times square and watched the ball fall at New Year
74. toured the everglades
75. been fired from a job (nope, but taken great satisfaction from quitting!)
76. seen the changing of the guard in london
77. broken a bone
78. been on a speeding motorcycle (see the ambulance question above LOL)
79. seen the grand canyon in person
80. published a book
81. visited the vatican
82. bought a brand new car If I could only get a license..
83. walked in Jerusalem
84. had your picture in the newspaper (Many times in the Daventry express as a kid)
85. read the entire bible
86.visited the White House
87. killed and prepared an animal for eating (nope, but i did watch Stefs aunt do a chicken when we were in Italy..)
88. had chickenpox
89. saved someone’s life
90. sat on a jury
91. met someone famous (Every other day when I worked at Manchester Academy)
92. joined a bookclub
93. lost a loved one
94. had a baby
95. seen the Alamo in person
96. swum in the great salt lake.
97. been involved in a law suit (divorce counts, right?)
98. owned a cell phone (well, a mobile..)
99. been stung by a bee

What.. no 100? In that case I’ll add one I want to do

100. <em>Have one room set aside as a library in your house</em>

#MCL2 – the write up.

I know, it’s taken me quite a while but to be fair I’ve been snowed under with work between now and then..

Anyhow, Media Camp London #2 was quite a different animal in comparison to #1.
Ok, so it still rained on the way there – this time however it was still raining on the way back, possibly in commiseration since we had to leave after the last session to go and collect The Child – but I digress..

For those of you not in the know, Media Camp is a place for people interested in social media, the web and internet ‘stuff’ in general to meet up and discuss ideas, projects and anything  else of mutual interest – so basically heaven for me; the only way it could be improved were if a karaoke were thrown in for good measure *grin* still, since I appear to be in the minority on the karaoke front I guess it’s just as well they don’t have that (although as it has been hosted both times at the SAE institute I’m guessing I could have found somewhere to sing if I’d looked hard enough..)

Unfortunately this time around, the weather managed to combine with a nasty bout of man flu so the turn out was a tad sparser than anticipated. I missed chatting once more to @Jof Arnold, @Adi, @Melinda, @Vero and Chris Garret because they were all unable to attend and 2 of the sessions were cancelled due to the presenters twittering in sick. That being said however, the enthusiasm of the remaining population remained undampened.

The day began well with a number of us congregating in the lounge as we awaited the start of the sessions, we twittered and bemoaned the lack of hot beverages and found ourselves united in the longing for refreshment – which is how I met Amanda aka Hedgewitch, a cracking lass despite her love of the Mac (yes,  despite it’s many faults I’m still a PC gal..) she’s pretty without being vacant; has an awesome personality, great taste in jewellery and a fine mind full of knowledge that I wish I could download for myself.

Despite the weather, the first sessions began on time.  ‘A taxonomy of social media’ was presented by Benjamin Ellis whom I remember meeting at #1, I learned about Dunbars number, agreed with the fact that visible conversations are self regulating and that self regulation/ feedback helps stop a social media platform from collapsing through disintegrating relationships – more of which can be read on his own blog post on the subject.

It was interesting to reflect on the differences in information dissemination – Video, being linear is more time consuming  whereas text is skimmable and the points relevant to the reader can be picked up in less time, I’m a skimmer and, I thought at the time of his talk, a bridger; that is, a person who bridges several networks.

But as Ann Wittbrock commented at the time; we all think of ourselves as bridgers, how can a network ‘work’ if it’s made up entirely of bridgers? It certainly gave me pause and made me evaluate my knee jerk ‘that’s me’ reaction to the talk, I’m not a bridger; I barely participate never mind connect – but I’m working on it ;0p

It was in here that the quote of the day was heard  “On the internet pigs CAN fly” I guess you had to be there but it made me chuckle. The basic thought behind the phrase was that you could have an absolute sow of an application but with a good enough network it WILL take wing and fly – just look at twitter.  (Not that I’m saying it’s a sow but..)

Sadly we missed the next session because refreshments showed up and the need to drink and feed overtook any other consideration, during this respite we learned that geek girls love Kipling, the colour purple and cake, and I found the Italian guy sold Chino so promptly bought up his stock (I”m selfish like that, he only had 3 cans..) and got to catch up with @Asha2 who finally joined the twitter crowd just before the event.

The next session I attended proved to be confusing, in hindsight I should probably have hopped over to  the DIY online monitoring one with Stef but I like to learn and so persevered on in an attempt to understand what the people around me were discussing. It’s likely that all I did was muddy the waters in my feeble attempts at contributing and so for that I do apologise to my fellow attendees – sometimes, I forget to engage the ‘shut up’ portion of my brain – as the folks in Chris Hamblys session may well have noticed *blush*

Chris was talking about a virtual  learning environment and as this is quite similar to the Cable project I’m part of at Hatfield uni I kind of *ahem* spoke up – A LOT.

I would like to take this opportunity to apologise profusely to the American gent I kept speaking over – I just have this nervous energy that runs my mouth into overdrive when I finally feel as though I know what I’m talking about; it’s so rare that I get a tad carried away when it happens.. So, sorry.. *blush*

I did enjoy the Judith Lewis (aka deCabbit) session about online reputation management, there I learned about Gorkana, a media portal for journalists and PRs which will be looked into as soon as I have some time, she also very kindly sent a copy of her slides to those of us who expressed an interest; many thanks and much kudos to that leather clad SEO goddess! It was a good day all in all, it’s just unfortunate that I didn’t get the opportunity to speak more with CJ (again) or with any of the other interesting folks these events abound with, advice to anyone attending is:

Don’t rush off after the last session, the best networking conversations happen in the pub!