DD303 residential school – number crunching day

Good morning from Bath University – or do I mean Kirke University? There’s been a film crew around all week working on a new Channel 4 comedy that uses the university as a set. Currently outside the library are five enormous letters that look as if they’re stone but are (of course) painted polystyrene. Tomorrow, they’re filming real actors in the Claverton Rooms, which is where we’ve been having breakfast and dinner. Not sure who’s in it, but we’ll get to see whether it’s any good or not early next year apparently.

Meanwhile, OU residential school ticks on, with today being number crunching and poster creation day. We’ve managed to test around 32 participants for the experiment I’m working on and so far I’ve resisted the temptation to throw the data we have at SPSS to see if it ‘works’ or not. We won’t be able to put if off for too much longer though.

It’s been a good week, the evening lectures have been interesting and some have been very funny too. But I’m definitely tired. However, the project report (TMA05) shouldn’t be too difficult to write provided I manage to get the bulk of it sorted next week. It’s only really the discussion and abstract that I won’t have complete once we finish on Friday morning.

DD303 residential school here I come!

I’m back home, feeling particularly jet-lagged after my trip to Reston VA this week. I put the finishing touches to my TMA04 essay on the plane and I’m just about to submit it, after I’ve read it through one last time. I’m still not totally happy with it, but it’s got to the point where playing with it further will either necessitate a complete rewrite which I don’t have time for or it will simply be a case of trimming or adding the odd word here or there. At 1,495 words (from around 100 or so more than that before I made my final sets of tweaks) it suggests to me that I’m probably ok. My main concern is that there was so much material to chose from that I’m worried I’ve left something important out that would have supported my argument, rather than the argument I’m making itself.

Time to stop procrastinating and hit the ‘submit’ button!

This time tomorrow I should be getting into the swing of Residential School at Bath University. I’m looking forward to it and meeting other DD303 inmates students there. I had a play with E-Prime for the first time in weeks on the plane too – I’ve forgotten nearly all of it, it seems. When I chose my project (T4), I had grandiose plans of trying to put together a skeleton E-Prime application based on my proposal before I arrived. How naive those plans seem now! Fortunately, it looks as if there’s plenty of support in both the form of tutors and coffee to keep me awake if it turns into an all-night programming session! I’ve not done one of those for a few years.

Not related to Residential School at all is that I’ve noticed that a number of people find this blog while searching for information on coins. Not surprising, given the title of the blog I suppose. It reminded me of an Alan Coren book I read years ago called ‘Golfing for Cats‘. In the introduction to the book he explained that his publishers seemed unable to promote his books properly and that he had determined that as the best selling books were on Golf, Cats and Nazis he could influence the market. The cover of the book had a large swastika on it, which combined with the title he argued would give him the best chance of selling more books as retailers would now put it in the pets, sport and history sections as well as in humour.

Now, how do I give this blog a subtitle?!

DD303 Week 21 – TMA04

I’m very relieved as I now have a first complete draft of TMA04. Even though the submission date isn’t until 20th July, I have a couple of very busy weeks ahead of me which means that I could do with having it finished properly by the end of tomorrow. Next week I’m off to our US offices in Reston, Virginia; I arrive back on Friday morning at Heathrow (and knowing me, very, very jet lagged); and then have to drive back up to Derby and re-pack for residential school in Bath the following day. So I figure I need to have TMA04 pretty much finished by tomorrow evening to take some of the pressure off me.

I chose option 2 for TMA04  in the end – a discussion on whether or not research into formal judgements indicates that human decision-making is fundamentally irrational. The problem is that there is so much research in this area provided in both the chapter and the offprint that it’s been very difficult to (a) be selective and (b) fit it all into 1,500 words (and I’m currently sat at 1,594 words as I write this). I’m not particularly happy with what I’ve written, but hopefully another couple of drafts will sort it out into something worth submitting. I can at least take heart that my score on TMA01 was way beyond my expectations, which means that I should benefit from the substitution rules on this assignment if it’s not so good.

As I won’t have much time between arriving back from Reston and travelling back down to Bath for the residential school I’ve also been putting the final touches to my project proposal form revisions and have created my acetate for the 5 minute presentation we have to do on them at our first session on Saturday evening. Having survived the DXR222 residential school two years ago, I’m quite looking forward to this one now it come around. I can’t believe I’m 2/3rds of the way through the course already – where has 2010 gone?

All this, and meeting Emily’s boyfriend’s parents for the first time today and having lunch with them. I managed to get through that experience ok – so the next couple of weeks ought to be a breeze 🙂


DD303 Week 19 – Reasons to be cheerful (part 3)

Things I’ve done this week to avoid my brain exploding while trying to get through chapter 12 on reasoning.

  1. Completed by hand my 2009-10 self-assessment tax return, made a trip to the post office to buy a 1st class large letter stamp and then posted it. That’s several months ahead of the deadline and if I’d chosen to do it electronically it’s even more months ahead of the deadline. (There’s a long and boring story as to why I refuse to file electronically which if you catch me in the bar at Residential School I’ll tell you all about if you really, really need to get to sleep.)
  2. Taken Archie, our house rabbit, to the vets to have his … ahem, bunny-bits removed and put up with his accusing looks ever since. I think he was expecting a bit of male solidarity from me, rather than the abrupt curtailing his amorous overtures to licky-duck. In Archie’s case, it’s the bunny that gorps the duck.
  3. Spent lots of time thinking about my Residential School projects since the return of the TMA03 project proposal form, without actually doing anything particularly constructive about it.
  4. Accidently spent Wednesday evening watching that tennis match, even though I care little about the game.
  5. Chatted to fellow DD303 students online about how horrible chapter 12 is and got involved in other skirmishes.
  6. Re-acquainted myself, courtesy of 4Music, with the genius that is Trigger Happy TV (Are you sure you haven’t been pushing anyone in the lake, sir?) and spent time wondering how Dom Joly’s never quite managed to reach the same heights since.
  7. Got excited about my forthcoming trip to our US offices, changed my airline seat (in economy:-() several times and have checked the exchange rate constantly (it’s at $1.5065 to £1 this morning, folks.)

… in short, I’ve done everything I can to ensure that I got through it without wanting to take the chapter and ram it up parts of the author’s anatomy should I ever run across him. I’ve concluded, rationally or otherwise, it must be something to do with him being called Mike. The last time I studied something quite so impenetrable was the Numerical Algorithms module of my Computer Science degree back in the dim and distant days of 1983. (Sorry Limes, I still haven’t found the photograph of me wearing yellow legwarmers yet.) The author of that module was called Mike as well. If the author is called Mike, then you know you’re in for a hard time trying to understand him. Probably.

Anyway, at least the chapter is over with until exam revision time. I might choose to avoid a question on it though if I can.

I’m hoping everyone called Mike will agree that it’s the only truly rational course of action.

DD303 – Week 18 – Decision time

This week I’ve been working my way through chapter 11 on judgement and decision making. I’m glad to say that the horrors of chapter 9 on working memory are now fading into the distance. It’s a good thing that working memory is so short-term otherwise I’d still be being haunted by the gloop, gloop, gloop feeling I had as my brain turned to mush when trying to get through that week. Both chapters 10 and 11 have been a lot more interesting. After reading through all of the material on subjective expected utility (SEU) and Bayes’ Theorem, I was relieved to find that ‘gut feel’ (or ‘fast and frugal’ decision-making as they call it in the chapter) often gives as good, if not better results than all of the more normative and prescriptive methods that are available.

Gigerenzer et al. have therefore given me a whole new justification, backed up by evidence from their studies, that simply picking the first option that looks about right is all I ever need to do. Simples! And there I was getting all worried about taking all of the evidence into consideration, assigning values to potential outcomes, churning through formulae and all of the rest of the stuff that business and management textbooks suggest is necessary. Well, I now know differently!

I’ve also had the mark back for TMA03 (the project proposal) today and I’m kicking myself that I made a typo in it that made it look as if I didn’t understand the design I’d proposed.  I *knew* I had a 2×2 design, honestly, not a 2x2x2. Wretched and stupid project proposal form … grrrr. Still, my overall average is very good indeed for the first three TMAs – comfortably good enough I think to see me through the torture that will be TMA04 and TMA06 – essays – yuk!

I haven’t yet picked up enough courage to look at the options for TMA04 as yet … that’s for later next week, once I’ve broken the back of chapter 12 on reasoning.

It’s been a weekend of mystifying television too so far. I didn’t get what was happening in the England v Algeria game (and Wayne Rooney’s breathtakingly stupid comments to camera at the end of it made me resolve never to waste 90+ minutes of my life watching any game he’s playing in again … well, at least until they get to the final, that is) and I certainly didn’t get Dr. Who earlier on this evening either. This series has had far too much of a tendency to disappear up its own space-time continuum for my liking and as far as I’m concerned, the new actor playing the doctor is totally unconvincing.

If I start a campaign to bring back Tom Baker, will anyone else join me?

DD303 – week 15

I’ve finally managed to finish my notes for chapter 10 today, although I have read on into chapters 11 and 12 so I’m not quite as far behind the schedule as that might imply. In fact, I think I’m still pretty much on schedule at the moment, largely thanks to last week proper (17) having been a review week. I did think at the start of the course the number of review and ‘holiday’ weeks was very generous compared to those given on the level 2 OU courses I’ve done previously – but I’ve found I’ve needed them to stay on track so far this year.

Chapter 10 was useful background when preparing the project proposal for TMA03 too. It wasn’t until I’d read the chapter that the different between internal and external representations became clear enough for me to properly understand the offprints for the project I’ve chosen – T4, on the representation of numerical information.

As is my custom, I’m now checking my OU homepage hourly to see if my TMA has been marked. Knowing that there’s really no point in doing so until I get the email saying it’s ready to collect doesn’t deter me in the least from still checking regularly. You can never tell, can you?  I suspect that the OU have had to invest in a whole roomful of servers just to cope with the demand from students who, like me, also have this bad habit!

Somehow, collecting eTMAs just isn’t dramatic enough. When TMAs were returned by post, first of all you had to nerve yourself up to open the envelope. I found that it was possible to open them up so you could look at your tutor’s comments before you looked at your mark. Now, you get to see the mark (whether you want to or not) straight away. I’d really like an alert to come up first – something along the lines of ‘Are you sure?’, followed by another one saying ‘Are you really sure?’, followed by ‘OK then – but don’t say I didn’t warn you’ would be perfect.

A suitable musical accompaniment needs to be provided as well. May I suggest “Thunder and Rain”, by Graham Parker and the Rumour, which has been playing in my head all week and I still can’t quite dislodge it even though it’s late on Saturday night. “… give me the strength to go out there”.

DD303 – I procrastinate so you don’t have to!

Tonight’s procrastination (instead of doing more work on chapter 10): searching YouTube to find versions of the greatest song ever written using two chords – Whole Wide World, by Wreckless Eric.

An amazing live performance from “What’s On”:

The original single version, with a rather nice cartoon accompaniment (though I’m not quite sure the creator of it has quite got the meaning of the lyrics around 2:05 to 2:15)

A not very good professional cover by the Proclaimers:

… and one of many, many weird and wonderful amateur versions.

DD303 week 14 – making connections

A couple of weeks behind the official schedule and I’ve managed to get through the chapter in the methods book on connectionism today. It’s quite interesting, particularly as there are a number of sample networks provided to help make sense of the examples they provide in the chapter.

All in all, a much better experience of teaching software than some of the other interactive learning aids the OU have provided on other courses. fOCUS II from ED209 still brings back memories of enormous frustration trying to code videos in a tiny little postage stamp sized window using a software package that, despite the award it won a decade ago, was probably never that easy or productive to use.

So for the remainder of this week it’s back to the main course text and Chapter 10 on problem solving as I now have a project proposal for TMA03 that I will be happy to submit. Well, once I’ve tweaked my dreadful title again, that is.

DD303 TMA03 – the perils of protected Word documents

It took a lot longer to finish the project proposal form than I thought it was going to do this time last week. In fact, I’ve only just finished tweaking it. Even now I’ve still got a couple of things I want to add (a table of the experimental conditions and a figure showing the interaction I’m expecting) which I can’t appear to do. The reason for this is that the project proposal form is a password protected document that doesn’t seem to want to accept me either cutting and pasting tables or images into it. Grrr. I understand why the OU need the proposals in a standard format, but I can’t even appear to add these vital pieces of information to the end of the form.

Zipping them with the proposal form in a separate document won’t work either – as we’ve been specifically asked to send the form through the eTMA system as a single document with a defined filename, so they can be made available electronically to the residential school team at the right location and time.

So, I’ve done what everyone else does – and I’ve asked the DD303 regional forum to see if anyone has any bright ideas on how achieve this.

Time for a quick coffee and then some more work on the connectionism chapter to round off the afternoon. Eurovision tonight – I can’t wait!

DD303 – Breaking the back of TMA03

I’ve been up since 7.30am with the intention of writing my TMA03 project proposal.

First the good news – I’d already decided on the project I wanted to do at residential school (T4 – on the representation of numerical information), done the background reading plus some more besides and had found something interesting to tweak in one of the numerous experiments that have been done in this area over the last 20 years.

Now the bad news. My original design was way to complicated to analyse. So I’ve been back to the project booklet to see what hints it gives – and sure enough, there’s a pretty large one in the ‘design issues’ section. This has just given me one of those ‘ahhhh’ moments, where you slap yourself hard on the forehead and then smile (after having rubbed the affected patch vigourously to get rid of the self-inflicted pain), so maybe today won’t be so bad after all.

Update: 9.45pm and the back of the project proposal form is definitely broken. I’ve written the background and rationale section of the form, coming in exactly on the limit of 500 words and completed a few of the other smaller sections (like the aims and objectives) as they then fell into place quite readily afterwards. I also truly understand how I’m going to analyse the data now – it’s just that as it’s getting late I’m now having trouble describing it! Time for a coffee – and then bed. Tomorrow is another day, as they say.