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Posts Tagged ‘course’

  1. Loads of stuff, crammed into one blog post

    October 13, 2010 by superlative

    I have so many things I could blog about at the moment that I haven’t actually blogged about any of them. Which is a shame, because usually anything I have to say is both interesting and hilarious, and you are therefore being unfairly deprived.

    So I will have to do a very quick run down of the great shifting sands that are my life right now, and I apologise in advance for the brevity.

    Dirty thirty
    Chris turned 30 last weekend. Although he’d already had his main party for it (the pirate party a couple of weeks ago), I tried still to make his birthday a bit special for him, and I think he had a nice weekend overall. It was gloriously sunny, which was pleasant for October, and so we were able to indulge his penchant for lounging around semi-clad on the beach one last time before the winter hits. He was also able to take some nice pictures with the SLR camera he got for his birthday, even though neither of us knows how to use it properly yet. The ones of the fit man playing beach volleyball came out particularly well.

    I did some balloons for him at home (he likes balloons), and we had a few people over for champagne on Saturday night before going out for a bit of dancing at the Brighton Ballroom. Not as many people came to the champagne drinking as I would have liked, but I suppose that’s because practically everyone came to the pirate party and you can’t keep on demanding people celebrate your birthday.

    So yes, he’s 30 now and seemed to cope with it rather well. I have six months to get used to the idea before I hit the big three-o myself. Six months I’m going to cling onto defiantly. ‘Late twenties’ sounds so much better than 30 or ‘early thirties’ and so I’m reluctant to give it up. Maybe I’ll just start saying ‘very very late twenties’ once I pass the milestone.

    Open University
    My course has been going fairly well so far, although it is quite time-consuming. I’ve had my first two assignments back just a week ago; they’re only practice assignments, but they’re meant to give you an idea of whether you’re ready for the course and to give you practice at the assignment format. For the first one, a computer-marked multiple choice one, I got 100%, and for the tutor-marked written one I got 99%, so woo hoo! I guess that means I should be able to manage the course OK.  I’ve really missed the validation you feel when you get a piece of academic work back with ticks all over it and a nice comment at the end. I just hope I do so well when the assignments start actually counting towards my final mark.

    Flat hunting
    We have started flat hunting again, as we suddenly found that with a 15% deposit there are mortgages we can actually afford. And in a shocking display of speed, we saw five properties last Friday, saw the best one again on Monday, and today I’ve put in our first ever offer on a flat with the estate agent. I’m waiting to hear back at the moment.

    I have found the whole process VERY stressful and unsettling, purely because I don’t handle change very well and I’m terrified of committing to the wrong thing. I was alright up until the point where we started thinking about making an offer, and then I had a complete freakout and probably pissed Chris off a bit with my general flappiness. I’ve settled down a bit since then, and I was quite a bit happier once we had a mortgage agreement in principle sort out, as that gave me more confidence as a buyer.

    We’ve gone in a bit under the asking price for the flat we like, and the estate agent indicated afterwards that it will probably be turned down, as the seller has received an offer for that price before. We are in a strong position to buy and move quickly though, so you never know. And the fact he’s been offered that price before made me think actually it may not have been that cheeky an offer; people obviously think it’s worth about that much.

    So anyway, I’ll wait to hear back I guess, and then we’ll see if we want to increase our offer or look elsewhere if the man says no. It’s very exciting, but very scary, and I have to not think about it too hard or I start feeling sick.

    Other bits and bobs
    The X Factor has started its live shows at last (bam bam bam, bam bam b’naa naa), and has picked a right motley crew for the final 16. Well, final 14, because two of them have gone already. I hate loads of them, I’m indifferent about the majority of them, and I only like about two or three acts. Still, it was nice to scream at the screen again for a while on Saturday night, and Twitter always comes alive during X Factor and that adds to the fun. My current favourite is probably Treyc despite the fact she cannot spell Tracy correctly, but I also quite like the fitty twink boyband (because they are fitty twinks), and Rebecca is alright, and even the made-up girl band seemed OK to me. Who knows who we’ll end up with by the series finale. It isn’t the strongest year, but I shall watch for a giggle nonetheless.

    Oh yes, and Smash EDO is conducting one of its idiotic protests in Brighton again today. I’ve written previously about how ridiculous and pointless their protests are, so I’m not sure I can be bothered to get into it again. All I will say is that they’ve dubbed their protest ‘Hammertime’ (hmm, peaceful protest, or MC Hammer tribute?), one person was arrested for carrying a blade in about the first hour, they’ve covered their faces again (always a sign of good intentions), and they’ve probably cost the police hundreds of thousands of pounds.

    I’m sure the protest will be entirely successful at achieving the permanent closure of the EDO factory. I’m going to hold my breath. Ready? Holding it. Still not closed? Still even now not closed? Not even remotely bothered by the protesters you say? And nor is Israel? Or the Palestinians? Oh right. Well fuck that then, I was turning purple anyway.

    Smash EDO supporters often like to leave abusive comments on my blog if I dare to question the motive, method or efficacy of their ‘protest’. I wonder if I’ll get any today? Let’s see shall we….


  2. Courses, cats and catering

    August 18, 2010 by superlative

    My first box of stuff from the Open University arrived a week ago, filled with lots of revision work for me to look at before the course proper starts in October. It’s quite a good idea really, as lots of people like me would take the maths module I’m doing as their first ever OU module, and it makes sure you’re all up to the same sort of level before it starts.

    I spent several days doing the Diagnostic Quiz, which showed me that I remember some things really quite well from my A Level in maths, but also that I had completely forgotten some other things and am generally quite rusty. That’s the point though, and when you mark the quiz the answers are all linked to a chapter in the revision book so you know what sections to study.

    So far I have re-learnt prime factors and logarithms (easy stuff really), and I’ve got a whole list of other things to look at over the next couple of weeks, including circle geometry and functions and whatnot. It has been quite nice to have something to do in the evening, and nice because it’s fairly challenging for me mentally. It’s a bit tiring trying to study in the evening, and I still have no idea how much of my time the course is going to take up, but I won’t know that until it starts properly I think.

    Generally I’m quite impressed so far though, as the materials all seem quite good, and they have a very good student website with a discussion forum for each module where you can talk to fellow students and get support and things. I hope I enjoy it and don’t resent having to work in my free time. I think I will enjoy it though. And Chris has signed up to do the next bit of his MA, so he’ll be busy doing his own study anyway, so it’s just as well I’ve got stuff to do.

    Aside from the course stuff, the last week has been a bit horrible because Mum had to have her cat Cleo put to sleep last Wednesday. She’d been generally winding down for the last couple of weeks, not eating any more and sleeping all the time, and Mum had been stressing about what to do with her. But then she took a turn for the worse and was starting to be properly suffering, so Mum decided she had to do something about it.

    Oddly and rather surprisingly, she took the decision to take Cleo to the vet last Wednesday morning, called a cab and went there on her own (didn’t want to wait for Dad to get home), dealt with the whole horrible thing of saying goodbye to her, and then WALKED back from the vets to our house. Now, it’s only about half a mile, but honestly that’s about three times further than she’s walked in years and years. I can understand why, because she’s been so upset by it all, and immediately afterwards she didn’t want to be near anyone else so she just walked it. But unfortunately that’s hit her with a full whammy of uber-exhaustion as well as her grief over the cat.

    And grief it has been. She cried for about two days straight, and a week later she’s still all over the place. As is always the case with Mum, everything is a catastrophe (no pun intended), everything affects her in the most severe way possible, and she just doesn’t deal well with anything any more. Any pet owner I’m sure can sympathise with what it must feel like to lose a cat, but Mum’s gone completely off the rails with it. I feel very sorry for her, because now she is completely on her own all day while Dad’s out, but I’m also powerless to do much for her apart from listen. Lots of people have waded in with helpful suggestions of getting a kitten, which has NOT gone down well with Mum who now says she never wants another cat ever again and has made my Dad cover the catflap up with plastic so she doesn’t see it. I’m fairly sure that at some point she should get another cat, because she needs the company and she loves cats, but it’s not going to be for a good while yet.

    So yeah, that’s been horrible. I don’t like it when she cries, it makes me cry, and although I’m sad to have lost our cat (we’d had her since I was 13), I could do without crying while I’m on the phone at work. She wants to move out of the whole house now, she says, because she can’t bear to be there without Cleo, but she knows that’s not realistic because she’s not well enough to move. So I don’t know, there’s nothing I can say to her really.

    On a lighter note, we had another gorrrrgeous dinner at Blanch House at the weekend. Sort of on a whim, because it wasn’t a special occasion or anything, and sort of as a late second anniversary dinner. I had seared king scallops with garden pea velouté and grilled pancetta for my starter (very Masterchef), and then pan-fried fillets of sea bream with buttered samphire, tomato confit, brown shrimps and lemon buerre blanc for my main. It was SO nice, and easily one of the best meals I’ve ever had. It’s just so lovely there, and although it’s posh it’s really friendly and the staff are lovely too. I want to eat there every day, but then I’d be a massive Billy Bunter with butter running down my chin and I think I would regret it.

    It was nice to do something normal and pleasant though, and be out of the house for a bit where Mum can’t ring me for support. I love her, but you can only lean on a crutch so much before you break it and I’m really flagging at the moment.


  3. A lovely weekend in sunny Braestawl

    August 3, 2010 by superlative

    Chris and I have been saying for a while that we should try to go on more weekends away, and last weekend for the first time we actually managed to do it. It was sort of spur of the moment, but having looked at our calendar for the summer holidays it became apparent that practically every weekend of it is already booked up with something (mostly nice things, to be fair), and that if we wanted to go away it would have to be soon.

    So having trawled through Trip Advisor, I booked us two nights at the City Inn in Bristol. We went to Bristol earlier in the year but only got to see a little bit of it, and it has a fair sized gay scene and lots of shops, so it seemed to be just what we were looking for.

    And it was LOVELY. We had such a nice weekend!

    OK, the journey there was absolutely appalling and took four and a half hours instead of three, and we therefore arrived all hot and sweaty and really frustrated and angry with the traffic, but after that little bumpy start it was really, really good.

    The City Inn was really nice and only actually cost about the same as the Travelodge or Premier Inn wanted. It was much nicer than either of those though, and they even give you an iMac computer in your room, free toiletries, AND the rate included breakfast.

    Bristol is a really pretty city with lots of waterways and bridges, and an unbelieeevable number of very pretty boys. There were far more than we normally see on our letching missions, sorry ‘walks’, leading me to think that the West Country has been hoarding them.

    And the shops were amazing! Fine, if you don’t like high street shops it might not be your thing, but if you do (we do) then it just had everything, all in one place, in two big shopping centres that are bizarrely located next to each other. They even had a Hollisters, of which there aren’t very many in this country, and we spent about five hours on Saturday buying t shirts, shoes and books.

    We managed to try two different gay clubs and one of the bigger bars, and the gay scene there seemed pretty good really. The first club, Club Wonky, was an ‘alternative’ gay night that was meant to be more indie music than the regular house and dance stuff, and it was quiiiiiite good. The music was still fairly housey in my opinion, and it was insanely hot in there, but it was very full. On the second night we went to Flamingos, which is one of the bigger clubs, and I’d say we had as good a time there as we do in Brighton normally. The drinks were pretty cheap, the music was quite good (better later on), and the dancefloor was full. It was quite mixed too, which is nice because I find it a bit weird when there are only gay men in a club, and Chris had lots of fun in the queue outside getting West Country girls to ask for pints of cider in their West Country accents. They were very obliging to us patronising South Easterners.

    I would definitely go again, maybe with friends or something next time. Admittedly there isn’t much there that you can’t get in Brighton: we have plenty of restaurants and shops and clubs too, but it was just nice to be somewhere else, and to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights.

    I don’t know where we might try next, if we get around to another weekend away. Birmingham again maybe? Or Manchester (bit far), or one of the other cities in that dark middle bit of the country like Sheffield.

    My weekend ended a little sourly yesterday when HSBC decided to COMPLETELY fuck me over, yet again, but I might blog about that separately. My other exciting news is that I’ve signed up today for the first Maths module of the Open University course I was thinking about. Mum nudged me into it a bit, because she knew I’d just put it off otherwise, but it’s done now anyway and I shall wait for my welcome pack in the post.

    Oh yes, and Mum’s cat might die soon (she’s really old and is obviously winding down), so that’s going to be a barrel of laughs when it happens.

    That’s all my news for now. Will try to spew bile everywhere about HSBC tomorrow, and finish my last post about my social media marketing course which I have now completed.


  4. Social media marketing course #3

    July 23, 2010 by superlative

    The third session of my social media marketing course was a bit more useful to me than last week, as it was all about marketing your social media presence in order to grow your audience and achieve whatever your marketing goals are. Essentially this meant how you can build up your followers on Twitter, although we did look briefly at Facebook Pages too and how you set up adverts on Facebook to drive people to you.

    Lots of the general Twitter stuff I was already familiar with, as obviously I use it all the time. So things like building relationships, responding to people and following back were all quite natural to me. We looked at a couple of good listings websites though, such as http://tweepml.org which holds lists of people grouped by category (i.e. their interests or fields of expertise). That might be quite useful, and I’ve already found a few people that I want to follow myself after using it. I’m a bit hesitant about it as a tool though, as often the lists are more than 100 people long, and you can bulk follow them via the TweepML website. On a new Twitter account, that quickly gives you a suspicious ratio of 400+ following to practically zero followers. Whenever I get followed by an account that looks like that, particularly one that has only tweeted a dozen times, I normally just block it as a matter of course. So I think you need to be a bit careful not to over-use list websites like these.

    Other than that, the only stuff that was useful to me in the session was the 10 minutes we spent looking at LinkedIn. I’ve never really used it before, although I registered on it ages ago, and from what our tutor said that’s pretty typical of many of the accounts on there: people register then never go back to it.

    I’ve had a more thorough look at it now, and it certainly does seem to have some potential for professional networking and certainly for job hunting. It is much, much more of a professional environment though, so I certainly won’t be linking my Twitter or this blog to it. I’m not sure either would make me look particularly good to prospective employers, and from what I’ve seen many employers are now looking up job applicants and even head-hunting people via LinkedIn.

    It seems to be more well-used within the private sector than the public sector, and at the moment I’ve found hardly any people I can ‘connect’ with on there, but I have at least filled out my profile properly now. One website I looked at also suggested using LinkedIn when job hunting in the reverse way to what you’d normally expect: yes an employer might look you up on there, but equally you can look up the profile of the manager for a post you’re applying for on there too, find out more about them, and you might even find you’ve got common interests that you can casually exploit at interview.

    This week’s session was partly spoilt for me by a boy I’ll call Yappy Talkerson. As I mentioned after the first session, the group is composed of people who know nothing about social media or computers, and then a couple of people who won’t shut the hell up trying to show off what they do know. It’s probably fairly obvious which group Yappy Talkerson belongs to.

    “Can you filter out individual people on Twitter so you don’t see their tweets in your timeline?” asks Yappy Talkerson.

    “No,” says tutor, “you can’t do that, but you can set up lists of your followers and limit what you see that way if you want to.”

    “Or you could use a tool like TweetDeck,” replies Yappy smugly.

    So, if he’s familiar enough with Twitter to know about TweetDeck and to know how TweetDeck works, then of course he knows that you can’t filter people on the basic Twitter site. So why the FUCK ask the question? Just to hear the sound of his own voice and show off what he knows about TweetDeck, presumably. Cockhead.

    In the other camp of people who don’t know anything about Twitter or computers or the world in general, I was amused to watch a sweet lady type “Twitter log in” into her address bar, squint at the Bing search results which appeared on the screen for a few moments, then carefully click on ‘Log in’ at the top of page and try to enter her Twitter username and password into the Bing log in screen. Bless.

    So that was my third session. Last one next week, and I’m actually quite pleased as the train journeys to Hastings are really rather long and boring. Will I be applying my new social media marketing knowledge to my work after that? In all likelihood, no. But it’s been interesting nonetheless.


  5. Social media marketing course #2

    July 16, 2010 by superlative

    Yesterday was the second session of my social media marketing course over in Hastings. Once again it was quite good, but I probably found this week a bit less interesting than last.

    In this session we had a look at the practicalities of creating your presence on social media, focusing in particular on setting up a Facebook Page. While it was good to be shown that, I only really needed about five minutes of instruction for it, and could probably have worked even that out for myself. It was relevant for quite a few of the other people though, as they really aren’t very techy and managed to fail abysmally at the task of ‘Find the “Create a Page for your business” link and click on it’. They seemed to need intensive personal coaching for that bit.

    Some of them also had considerable difficulty understanding the distinction between a Profile and a Page, and the fact that yes your profile technically is a webpage but that doesn’t make it a Page with a P. We did get there in the end. Eventually.

    Anyway, one of the more useful parts of the session was looking through some good (and bad) examples of Pages on Facebook, and some of the innovative ideas companies have come up with. One of the ones I like particularly is the Coca Cola Page, and the clever thing they’ve done with their image:

    By matching the background of the image to the page background, the bottle appears to sit seamlessly on the page. It is somewhat disappointing that the alignment is out by about 3 pixels no matter what browser I use, which negates a large part of the effect, but the idea is a good one and I might steal it for my own use in the future.

    Looking at some examples and then creating our own Facebook Pages was pretty much all we did in two hours, so I did feel like I hadn’t learnt a lot, but that’s OK. Next week we’ll focus more on how you start marketing your social media presence once you’ve set it up, so I think that will be more useful.


  6. Social media marketing course #1

    July 9, 2010 by superlative

    I went on the first part of a social media marketing course yesterday, and it was actually quite good. When I asked my boss if I could go on it I wasn’t quite sure how useful it would be, as I feel like I know a fair amount about Facebook and Twitter already. However, I don’t know all that much about marketing, and the course seems to take a very good, practical approach to what social media can do for your organisation. I only really asked to go on it so I could get some time out of the office, as I’ve basically got no work at all to do at the moment, but actually I think it’ll be very useful knowledge for me to have (and you never know, it might even help me to get a better job than this stupid potato-patch one*).

    In the first session we had a short discussion about all the millions of different social media tools there are out there and what they are used for, before returning to the fact that most companies are basically only going to be interested in Facebook and Twitter (and possibly YouTube).

    We then had a look at some case studies on companies that use social media well (e.g. Dell, who give away coupons via Twitter and claim to have generated $3m of sales through it), and those that have had fairly spectacular disasters with it (does anyone remember Habitat hijacking Twitter hashtags about the Iran elections to promote their goods? Very naughty indeed).

    The group of people on the course seem alright, but fall into two broad categories:

    • people who know nothing about social media and who go a bit glassy-eyed when you mention things like hashtags or more niche services like Gowalla
    • people who know a bit about marketing and/or computers and who won’t shut the hell up showing off their knowledge regardless of whether it’s relevant.

    There’s one guy, in the first category, who is into veganism and animal rights campaigning and who I think would be possibly the worst dinner party guest ever. I quite like animals, but they really are very tasty and I don’t want to hear someone banging on about why we shouldn’t chop them up and put them into delicious burgers.

    Another guy made the fairly sweeping statement of “No one with any morals would buy anything made by Nestlé anyway.” I might have to keep an eye on that one, and push my Kitkats down to the bottom of my bag.

    Of course there was no one fit there, despite my hopes that there would be. Why is there never any boy candy at any of the work things I go to? There must be some somewhere, surely? But apparently not.

    There are three more sessions to go on the course, one each Thursday morning. I hope it will be useful. I know of course that I’ll never get to use any of it in this job, because when I suggested we have a Twitter account here I was told in an aghast tone “but we already have a website!” No amount of explaining would convince them they aren’t the same thing, or reassure them that Twitter doesn’t cost any money, so in the end I thought fuck ’em. If they don’t want to be on the ball with new communications media we can just go back to fucking morse code.

    * I refer to it as such because it is rapidly turning me into a vegetable.