Gadget men

I’m sat on the 0603 train from Derby to London. I managed to finish my preparation for this morning’s meeting just as the train pulled into Kettering at 7. I was looking forward to dozing off for the remainder of the journey. Some hope. Gadget man and his friend came and sat at the same table and proceeded to talk solidly and loudly about pc’s, macs, bose sound systems, plasma tv’s and the like endlessly. I know I’m a technologist, but I hope I’m never quite as irritating and boring as this pair … Grrr.

TMA05 – it's the thinking that takes the time … I think!

Yesterday, following on from my tutorial on Saturday morning, I spent quite a lot of time thinking about how to approach TMA05 and not really making very much progress in getting it written. It’s definitely going to be option 2, I do know how I want to write the essay and the content I want to put into it, but it’s getting down to the actual writing of it that’s the problem at the moment. Every time I start to commit my initial thoughts into words, I seem to have to go through yet more rounds of thinking before I can write the next few hundred words.

Looking back at my previous essays on this course and on DSE212, I seem to write around 5 or 6 drafts before I make final tweaks and decide to send it in. I resolve every time to write just a couple of drafts – and every time I fail!

I’ve noticed this at work too. Any documents I produce (particularly if they’re for a client) seem to go through the same process. I spend ages thinking about what should be in them, make a couple of tentative starts, think through it all again and then finally, after a few attempts get something I’m happy with.

Maybe I really do have a problem with procrastination – but then again, it can’t be so bad as I do manage to get things finished on time, most of the time. But I can’t help wonder how effective I might be if I didn’t have to go through this ritual every time I try to write something. Or is it the ritual that makes me effective in the first place?

The duck is gorping the bunny – ED209 week 21

I’ve gone with the plan I was thinking about a few days ago to skip chapter 3 and go straight onto chapter 4, with an eye on doing option 2 for TMA05. Saturday is tutorial day, so between then and now I will start to read chapter 3 anyway, but I doubt I’ll be making notes on it this week. My aim is to make sure I finish TMA05 around a week or so ahead of schedule so I can submit it before my holiday and then do some consolidation, as the schedule suggests. It looks like book 3 will be making the trip to Portugal with me after all …

Anyway, chapter 4 was very rewarding indeed, in that it stimulated me to re-research why Chomsky was important to us computer scientists 25 years ago (answer: it was his concept of Universal Grammar and how that can be applied to the kinds of formal grammars you see in mathematics and computer programming languages).

I also spent most of Saturday afternoon grinning childishly about the duck gorping the bunny (see pages 178-9 of book 3 if you’ve no idea what I’m rabbiting on about:-)) and coming up with lots of inappropriate images as to what gorping could involve. Still, if it is relevant to an examination question, I’ll have no difficulty in remembering all about it…

Citizencard rewrites the laws of physics

Seen at Oakwood Community Centre last night – an advertisement for citizencard – slogan:  “Everyone who’s anyone has one … Be someone!”

Citizencard Poster

Citizencard Poster

Which on closer inspection reveals just how extraordinary an anyone you can be if you get one:

Add 18 years to 23 Apr 1990 and you get ...

Add 18 years to 23 Apr 1990 and you get ...

This all seems a bit embarassing for the organisation that proclaims itself to be “The UK’s leading proof-of-age scheme”. I hope the scheme is better than their marketing material suggests.

Marylebone Station

Now I don’t want people to think I’m becoming a bit of a train spotter (or a train station spotter to be strictly accurate), but I had reason to go through Marylebone station yesterday evening and this morning. It’s lovely. There are places to sit, it looks cared for, there are a nice range of shops inside it, its clean and inviting, the taxi rank works properly. Everything you’d want in a station, including trains! The next time I play monopoly I’m definitely going to buy it if I get the chance, just on principle.

People of Cardiff take note – there’s absolutely no reason why your train station couldn’t be as good as this one.

TMA05 – first thoughts

I’m now sat on my train back from Cardiff looking at the options for TMA05 and the course book, feeling nervous!

I think option 2 is going to be more interesting for me as it avoids having to deal with too much biology and it re-introduces me to Chomsky, which is about all I can remember from the option I took on neural networks in my computer science degree 25 years ago!

This means I’ll probably skip chapter 3 of book three next week and do chapter 4 instead. That way I should stand a fighting chance of getting the assignment in before I go on holiday.

I hate doing things like that as I figure there must be a good reason for the book to be written in a particular order, but the instructions do suggest that the main content for the essay will come from chapter 2, this week’s chapter, and chapter 4.

So option 2 it is then.

One further observation on Cardiff Central Station – it needs a really good clean! The foyer could be made to look very lovely indeed with a minuscule amount of tlc. I suppose that like so many things in the UK today, unless and until the dirt becomes a real health hazard, nothing will be done as we’ll buy our tickets anyway.

Update: 23/06/2009

I’m still thinking this way, so I’ll be going straight to chapter 4 next and will go back to chapter 3 later. In the meantime, I’ve now finished note making on chapter 2, so only the media kit left to deal with this week … phew!

ED209 – Week 19 (Honest)

After the slog that was TMA04, I’m now no longer ahead of the course schedule, but actually working to it. So, this really is week 19!

I’ve managed to read chapter 2 this weekend and I’ve a couple of long train journeys during the week, so I’m hoping to get my notes written up during them. It’s Derby -> Cardiff -> Derby tomorrow and then a return trip to London on Wednesday/Thursday for the Gartner SOA & Application Development and integration summit.

Much of what’s in this week’s text seems pretty much like common sense – children learn the meaning of a number of words before they start speaking, at first, they understand more than they can say, they listen to the shape and rhythm of the sounds that others make as a way to achieving their initial understanding … that sort of stuff. I guess the trick will be learning what the individual studies are that back these common sense ideas up.

I got quite interested in the idea of the vocabulary spurt and in particular the finding that neural networks (connectionist models) trained to recognise words show a similar development trajectory. If I get a chance this week I’m going to look up some of the research on this in the OU library. A quick internet search has shown up quite a number of interesting looking papers, that may have some relevance to the day job as well.

I’m also going to be having a look at the options for TMA05 this week. I’m going to be on holiday when the assignment is due, so it’s one of two choices: get it sorted before going away or asking my tutor for an extension. I’d prefer to complete it before my holiday if I can, so I may have to do some of the coming weeks out of order to make that possible.

There’s been lots of talk on the OU forums as to whether or not people like the course we’re studying; I haven’t really made my mind up yet. I think I’m enjoying it, but it’s certainly a lot of work compared to DSE212 and I really don’t like the idea of the seen question for the exam. Somehow, that seems to heap a bit more pressure on as surely more is going to be expected than for the unseen questions. It’s almost like having a seventh TMA to do, which you then have to memorise and then regurgitate.

TMAs should be TMAs, and exams should be exams in my view. This strange combination of the two for one of the examination questions is just, well, strange.

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