Saturday, February 16, 2013

Good day

8 hours of solid study today. Managed to stick to the DONT OPEN FACEBOOK/TWITTER rule for most of the day, only failing in the late afternoon.

I got my first M257 iCMA assignment results back this morning - only worth 7% of final grade but I got a full 100% - yay!

Spent the day on M257 (Putting Java to Work) working on Unit 4 Input, output and exceptions. Still figuring out the differences, and when to use BufferedReader, Scanner classes and the like. Not feeling fluent by any means, but  practice will cement it I'm sure.

A present from the boy! Fair Trade rose fair brightens up my study desk. I searched for ages for a vase, before remembering we have eleventy-billion of the things from our wedding...

A brief foray into updating my wireless drivers since my internet has been dipping in and out for the past few weeks, then moving onto iCMA for Unit 2. Not as confident that I have all the correct answers yet, so have done as best as I can, and left it unsubmitted for now to check again at a later date. It's not due in until the 28th anyway.

Then moved onto first M257 assignment TMA01 - first proper coding in a while, even if it is quite hand-holding in its approach. Even still I still have a couple of issues to iron out. Commented out for now and back to it another time.

Tomorrow M263 all day - finally finished the awfully difficult unit on logic and language and moving onto databases. Hopefully this will be a bit easier, or I may cry, like I almost did last week.

Anyway - off for burgers and the rest of the evening off!

Friday, February 15, 2013

All about the games...

Lately it's been all about the gaming. On a whim, to do something related to my Computing degree I went off to see the Global Game Jam a few weeks ago. This was the Glasgow Jam - one of three in Scotland. It's a 48 hours designing marathon - everyone is given a theme, and 48 hours to build a game based on this theme.

With much nervousness I peered over the edge to see everyone hard at work, and summoned up the courage to go down and be social and talk to people. Doing an Open University degree in Computing is a lonely path at times. Sure I have the forums. But I never meet most of my fellow students. At most we get 3 face-to-face meetups in a 9 month course, which isn't much chat time, and at any rate it's a teaching meetup.

No-one in my circle of friends has any idea what I'm talking about when I talk coding, and when I get stuck on some programming issue or another it can be incredibly frustrating not to be able to talk it out. Combined with my newbie status in this world of coding, it's a hard slog. I've been learning the foundations of coding since 2009, and only in the next few months am I going to get to a stage where I can actually code some of the ideas I'm convinced are going to make me millions!

At any rate, I was very glad I did venture down the stairs to the teams sitting with their finished (or almost!) games awaiting the judges. Everyone was so friendly, and took the time to chat to me about their games, and give me advice on what to download and look at. There was so much talent there! So many brilliant and clever games. I don't know anything about how a game is designed and coded, so I was surprised to find graphic designers, artists and sound people, as well as coders. I guess I never thought about the art, even though it is so fundamental to a game. So I've managed to convince my graphic designer husband that he wants to join me next year to take part in this fun game! He's a whizz at putting together drawings (and sells his own t-shirts)

Since going to the game jam I've been trying to cram all the knowledge I can about game programming (even though I haven't yet covered GUIs or how games are coded in my degree yet). Slick2D, Unity, GameMaker, Github, OpenGL, Twine and many more terms are coming together. Tutorials for this and that. Learning about init() and render(). So far, I've managed to install the Slick2D libraries on Netbeans and get a black Hello World screen to open!

This has been more fun than working on logic and boolean algebra...

This week I also went along to the Game Jam Party, where everyone had set up their games from the Jam weekend for everyone else to try. I played a few I hadn't yet played, spoke to more people and got more advice and help with how games are made. The research I'd done in the meanwhile meant that I had a teeny bit more of a clue this time, and therefore had new questions. Although I forgot to ask whether coders can form teams with other coders if they don't know the same programming language? Again - everyone was so friendly, and it really helped, as I'm not naturally at ease meeting new people.

I also discovered some great podcasts: Programming Throwdown, and (thanks to a UWS tutor Daniel) MIT and Stanford iTunes U classes in algorithms and such like. I still have to find the time to listen to the classes, but I have managed to squeeze in some time between studying and working full-time to listen to the podcasts - in stages, in the morning while making my lunch and eating my breakfast! I'll take whatever time I can find.

Other game news was going to see Wreck It Ralph for Valentine's Day. A brilliant, brilliant, highly recommended, fun film! I was so excited to see Tapper featured - a game I played furiously when I was 6. I now see how inappropriate it is for a child, but at the time I loved the smashing glasses and the (totally sexist!) dancing can-can girls.

In other news I've scored well in M263 - with 95% and 99% in assignments, and made a good start with M257. A weekend of study beckons...

Friday, November 23, 2012

What's been happening? Well it's been busy, and it's been emotional...

In cat news, everything was so very stressful it brought on my first ever cold sore... But all is well for the moment. Injection giving has become routine, and he doesn't even notice anyway as he's wolfing down his food so voraciously! I do the morning shift, and the boy the evening shift.

I've learned some important things during my trawling through the web trying to sift useful cat diabetes information from horror stories.

  • from my friend the vet: if he seems fine in himself, don't get stressed about the numbers.
  • from some forum, somewhere: if he's doing the 5 'P's then he's probably fine;
    • preening
    • playing
    • purring
    • pooing
    • peeing
There are quite a few people out there absolutely obsessed with blood glucose testing. I intend to do another curve soon, but for now I'm relying on the one I managed to get a couple of weeks ago and another fructosomine test from the vet in a couple of weeks. Yes, that's right, I got a curve. I joined the vampire club - people who've managed to get blood from their cat!

Last time you read this wasn't happening. Not to worry, said the vet, take him in and and we'll do it at the surgery. I was unsure as I've read that stress elevates the blood glucose, and my cat, adorable king of his roost at home, is an absolutely peeing himself terrified out of his little mind fearful cat outside of his domain.

So I took him in and left him there. And worried all morning at work. At lunchtime I phoned to be told they'd managed to get one first thing this morning but when they went for the second one he 'went at it' to quote the receptionist. He apparently attacked the vet and was now growling from under a covered cat box in a darkened room. Well, mama bear came to the fore. After putting the phone down and crying in the office (fortunately my colleague is a cat person, otherwise I'm quite sure people would think I'm nuts for getting this stressed about a cat) I came up with a plan. Never has my cat done anything like this. He is placid in the vets always because he is utterly frozen, rigid in fear. To attack the vet must have meant he was out of his mind with terror. Phone the boy - get him. Get him immediately and take him home. Nothing is worth this.

As soon as he was home he was totally fine and happy. He never bears a grudge, or connects his terrible time with us for taking him there. I'm so lucky. So I went to the vet the next day to discuss our options. I'd spent everyday at this point terrified I was going to come home, or wake up to, a dead cat. He could hypo at any time and as we'd not got any bloods off him, we have no way of knowing where he's at. Injecting a cat who is on low blood sugar with insulin is a death sentence.

I made the decision over a lot of tears. If a hypo death would be an awful death then we weren't going to persevere. So I said goodbye in a way. I came to terms with the fact that I could lose him. However, the vet said the process would be a little like going to sleep for him. He would get 'drunk' and disorientated, which wouldn't be great, but mostly he'd be confused, not in pain or anything. Then he'd have a seizure that he wouldn't be aware of, but if we saw, we would probably find quite distressing. If we weren't around to save him at this point then he'd fall into a coma and die. So I felt much happier with this. OK, we can carry on. If he dies, it won't be a bad death for him, and I've done my best to manage this with minimal stress and upset for him. As long as he is happy and not suffering, then I'm OK with that.

So, I relaxed a bit and decided to have a stab at (geddit?!) getting blood from his ear. I asked the vet for smaller needles and decided to take it slow for both of us. The first time I tried I had no intention of getting blood. Just practicing holding his ear and pressing a needle to it until he notices. Then loads of cuddles and his brush as a reward.

Second attempt, got the needle a tiny bit further in and lots of rewarding behaviour after. Making sure he starts and ends the process purring is always a good sign. No blood yet though.

The third time I pushed it in a tiny bit more. No blood. Massaged his ear and blood appeared! Enough for a reading! I've learned that we are not aiming for the vein (this will cause a 'gusher') but to the space between it and the outer ear, as near to the vein as you can get without hitting the vein.

Warm ears make all the difference, and will make teeny tiny pinpricks produce enough blood. Got the glucose meter reader that required minimal amount of blood and that the strip will 'suck up' the blood. The ones that need a drop to land of the top of the strip will require the cat to be turned upside down and for him to wait patiently in this position until he drips... I'm going to give that approach a miss.

So I got enough and passed the results to the vet, who said his readings look good! And just to continue as normal until a fructosamine test. I'm extremely fortunate that my cat is a food hoover, as eating all his food is core to diabetes management. I believe it is harder with cats that graze. So I hope he will always be a hoover, otherwise I'm going to have get blood off him all the time before injecting him.

Now my only stress is the cattery he's going to soon. Usually he's so scared that he won't let anyone near him. And since June he has had trouble with catteries, peed everywhere and felt threatened. Well this time he has to let the cattery owner near him twice a day to inject him. So we're hoping the new, expensive cattery I've found that's run by a vet nurse will do the trick. Seeing cats and smelling cats seems to upset him, and this cattery is set up so he can't see the other cats and it's made of that stuff front doors are made of, instead of wood so should hopefully not be carrying the scents of other cats on it. If the cattery doesn't work out then we're in a jam as we have to be able to go away sometimes, not least Christmas. But we'll cross this bridge if we come to it. In the meantime Feliway and Zyklene are my best friends. I'm going to get him there as happy as possible!

He has had no idea this whole time that there's anything wrong with him. Other than traumatic trips to the vet he is fine. It's just me that's had a near emotional breakdown. As someone said on a blog; "Don't bury your cat until he's dead". Good advice that...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A busy one

Today I managed to get tma01, my second assignment for M263 handed in 23 days early. I'm trying to get ahead as much as possible before my overlapping second course starts in February. So far M263 has been like a recap of M255 that I did last year, but a quick flick through blocks 3 and 4 show that the course has a steep curve to sudden mathematical coding that looks quite in depth.

In driving news I had a great day with lots of driving about successfully until the inevitable 45 minute mark where I suddenly and unexpectedly become a monstrously bad driver and have to stop.

In cat news, day one hasn't gone fantastically. Insulin injection one went unnoticed by my voraciously hungry cat (he's always had that rescue cat 'must eat ALL the food' appetite). So it was a bit of a surprise when I was cleaning his litter 10 minutes later to find myself weeping. And repeat again on the way to the cinema after his evening shot... I've always been terrified of needles and never look when I get them (or he gets them at the vets). Seeing one, filling it with insulin and actually administering an injection without hitting the deck is proving quite the challenge. 

Trying to get blood for the curve was a total fail. Total fail. Surprise! Cats don't like it when you try and stick a needle in their ear vein... 

Oh we'll, onwards to tomorrow... 

Friday, November 2, 2012

More cat content

Today I'm trying to find an in-house security camera that I can control remotely from work and look and see what the cat is up to and if he's OK ...

Other than that, and a vet visit this evening to learn all about diabetes, I'm looking forward to the weekend.

The boy and I are determined to get a bird-watching jaunt in at some point this weekend. The dark evening have been getting to us, and I am hunched over a PC all the live-long day what with work, studying and manically research cat diabetes...

I have found the Autumnwatch webcams to be great whilst studying though! Take a look people!

Edit: later in the day ...

Knitting; I WANT to knit this (if you're a knitter without a Ravelry account, well... you NEED one of those) and this but really, 2x2 rib is all I can handle. I'm ready for this week to be over. I want to be at the stage where stabbing my cat with a needle is so 'normal' that I'm fine with it. It's t-minus 30 minutes to the appointment. I'm spiralling into yarny projects for comfort at the moment.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


NaBloPoMo ... can I?

Ok I'll give it a shot.. The past few days have been an exercise in dealing with kitty cat's recent diabetes. Appointment tomorrow to get him (and me!) comfortable with the prospect of having to stab him twice a day with a needle... and learning all the things to watch for in case he has a hypo (too much insulin / too low blood sugar) or too high blood sugar (extreme thirst, hunger and weeing).

In other news, I have been trying to get more coding languages under my belt. To that end I've started with C. I've found a book ...

and an online compiler and I've managed to write 'Hello World!" So I'm practically finished! I also bought books for C++, and started an Amazon Christmas wishlist, and Pinterest board on useful resources for learning others, like HTML/CSS, HTML5, and the rest. I've downloaded Visual Studio 2012 (thank you Microsoft for your free resources for students!) and plan to learn .NET.

So knitting then ... ? Lots of things I really really REALLY want to knit. Unfortunately I don't appear to be able to code myself more time in the day so it's going slowly at the moment.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pet kitty

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed my wee kitty was developing a rather amazing thirst... You've probably got there as quick as me ... this is diabetes, or kidneys. I phoned my vet. My eleven year old kitten has developed diabetes. This was quite a shock to me, not least because I'm terrified of needles. Lots of positive vibes from friends and family about it being a manageable condition, and at least I still have him are only now, a week later, giving me the comfort I need.

For the last week I've been going through an emotional time trying to come to terms with the simple fact that my cat is getting old. I've had him for 11 years. I've been through a lot in those 11 years. He has licked the tears off my face when I was so lonely I simply couldn't bear it. He has caused me to literally weep with laughter when he got caught out sticking his head through a carrier bag handle trying to eat forbidden rubbish. He heard the rustle of the bag and ran, giving himself a near heart-attack as the noisy bag that he was running from wouldn't stop chasing him ... not surprising given that it was attached to him! I found him by following the trail of rubbish to behind the sofa where he was panting, with the carrier bag still on his head. Still scared of bags, but fortunately we now have a door on the kitchen!

Indoor cats become very much part of the family. They are always there when you get home, and always around. The boy and I have no children; he is our baby. The ordeal has been made tougher by the news that our dear friends have recently had to say goodbye to their wee kitty - too suddenly and unexpectedly.

As pet owners, we all know the time will come, but we all don't really believe that will either. We understand each other's pain as only those with pets can, when it can sometimes feel that that pain is down-played by some. The "it's only a cat" look that can sometimes be received. Nothing said, just a look that says, "seriously, you're going to pay how much for a pet with diabetes?!" The vet asked me how I felt about having a cat with diabetes; the implication was clear; "are we treating this, or putting him down?" It never occurred to me to do anything other than pay the bill and get on with it. He's family after all. I can't imagine how awful it must be to not have the money to pay for treatment.

We're still waiting the result of a final test, and then a day in the vets getting his blood measured every hour throughout the day, and we can begin (£200 of vet bills later) with getting insulin prescribed. I'm practically a world expert in insulin overdose signs, types of food (high protein, low carb) and so on and so forth.

I will say this; pet people - get proper life cover insurance and check your policy does not only cover the first year. I've always had for life cover, for exactly this type of expensive chronic condition. Fortunately he should be covered by Pet Plan, according to the pleasant chap I spoke to on the phone.