On learning how to program a snake

I’m not particularly keen on snakes.

I don’t have anything in particular against them, but I have less for them. I have no desire to be bitten and/or poisoned and possibly even less desire to be squeezed to death.

This isn’t about that kind of snake.

***

Recently I started learning Python. That’s a programming language. One of many.

Luckily for me, my brother is a multilingual programmer.

He’s teaching me how to write python.

Or trying to.

He’s very knowledgeable and mostly incredibly patient.

I am not knowledgeable. At all. And I’m not patient enough when it comes to listening, testing and understanding. I feel like I’m not progressing fast enough but simultaneously not going slowly enough for it to really sink in.

He keeps trying to tell me I’m not totally rubbish, but my head keeps telling me otherwise.

There are so many opportunities to get completely and utterly lost. There are so many commands and functions and strings and lists and dictionaries and tuples and maps and syntax and arguments and types and loops and iterators and keys and indexes and classes and sets and definitions and numbers and ranges and braces and brackets and immutable things and sums and and….

… I don’t even know some of the words in ordinary daily use (and have forgotten them already) and have to have them explained before I stand a chance of understanding their role in the program.

The guy sitting across from us on a train home heard us talking, and watched us tapping away on my laptop. When he got to his station he stood up, gathered his things together, took a step towards the doors, paused, turned back and told me it’s fun when you get the hang of it. That makes sense. Most things get better as you get better.

I don’t give up easily, and I know it’s ridiculous to want to learn a language in a few days, but it’s frustrating floundering about in the simplest instructions.

We’ll see how I get on between now and next year/decade/century/millennium…

Wish me luck!

On soldering on

Once upon a time, I soldered something together in school. At some point between then and now I made some stained glass windows and some small Tiffany style pieces. That kind of involves soldering, but with a huge soldering iron and a reel of lead/tin you could probably knock someone out with.
Since then, my life has been almost entirely solder-free, with any necessary soldering being done by other people.

Turns out becoming the owner of a raspberry pi involves not only learning how to speak ‘programming’ (;)), but also how to melt tiny things together.

***

My colleague offered to lend me a soldering iron which was very kind of him, but I decided, on reflection, that maybe soldering =/= soldering. Plumbing and pi-ing seem to be on different ends of a scale, or at least far enough apart to need to step back a bit to see both at the same time.

I went to look at new ones in DIY shops, but even the ones marked ‘suitable for electronics’ seemed huge compared to the pins I needed to connect.

In the end, my brother bought me one online.

This one is a bit longer and fatter than a biro, is fairly lightweight and has a set of changeable tips, almost, but not quite, as tiny as the pins that need soldering!
***

A couple of days’ mental build up, and a couple of hours later, I am proud (ish) to present (dum-dum-dah!) the results of my first electronic soldering:

It’s not a work of art, and it won’t win any prizes, but the pins are all attached to the board, and are recognisably separate from each other and not all melted together. I consider that a success..

Having let it all cool down, I inspected my labours… It seems I melted the plastic casing enough to push a few of the pins through towards the other side :(.

Here’s hoping it won’t matter! 🙂

On ice cream and no spoon

My younger self spent many (MANY) hours sitting on benches in various parks and town squares, eating icecream. Sometimes by myself, sometimes with friends, sometimes (and probably most often) with my siblings.

This was such a common occurrence, that we each kept an emergency spoon in our bags or wallets.

Yesterday I found myself alone in a new town, with a couple of hours to kill. It was incredibly warm, I had my luggage with me so I couldn’t do much easy sight seeing,  and to be honest, I really couldn’t be bothered to go anywhere or do anything. Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing to spend time doing.

On the other hand, I hadn’t drunk anything since early in the morning, and dehydration isn’t fun. 

I walked from the train station to the nearest supermarket and looked at all the ice creams on offer. Then I remembered that I no longer carry my spoon with me.

It’s been years since I had opportunity to use it… That was extraordinarily upsetting. I don’t know how I let such an integral part of my identity slide so far without even realising it.

In the end, I bought a packet of mini-milks. They have wooden sticks and taste like walking home from school as a little kid.

That was an adequate substitute, but I intend to find my spoon when I get back, and put it back in its rightful place in my purse.

🙂

On eyesight and hindsight

My brother says hindsight is a wonderful thing. I think eyesight is better. Which doesn’t at all negate the wonderfulness of hindsight..

I am currently in the joyous position of having both.

The hole in my eye has healed itself (with help from the drops and gel), and I have survived the exams. Both of which are Good Things, even if the waiting, both for the check up and the results was and is (respectively) a nuisance.

In future, I will aim (as I routinely promise myself after almost every exam) to start revising earlier, and to actually learn the parts I want to (and unfortunately usually do) flip past, dismissing as, “not exam-worthy”.

I will also orientate myself around the questions we work on in class. I don’t appreciate rote learning, but it seems thats what’s expected here. When in Rome and all that…
Here’s to 4 schoolfree weeks! 🙂

On choosing

(From late January…)

Some people know exactly what they want, what they like. When they have to choose something, anything, they make their choices based on pre-decided ideas.

Say they like strawberry ice cream. If they want ice cream they will find an ice cream shop or van or stand or other vendor (probably the first one they see, or one they already know) and buy one. It doesn’t matter if they’re faced with a full range of ice cream flavours, they will choose strawberry. They won’t bother paying much attention to the mint choc chip or the coconut or the pineapple (or all the rest) because they already know that they want strawberry. They will walk away from the ice cream stand, enjoying their strawberry ice cream, totally satisfied with their choice. The rest of the day is free for new thoughts and new choices.

I am not that person (and this post isn’t really about icecream).

I probably won’t think about ice cream until I see someone eating one. Then I have to choose where to go, which of the many salespeople to support. Is it better to pay more for the person who makes it herself, but has chosen the warmest place for her stand (increasing the electricity consumption, and probably the rent, but who already has people queueing up along the pavement and is unlikely to go out of business, and maybe she doesn’t actually make it herself anyway), or to make the effort to walk that bit further to the one in the shade which looks like it could do with a paint job (but may be unable to afford the scaffolding, because everyone else is going to the new, brightly coloured place which might put them out of business completely soon, which would make the paintwork even less worthwhile. Although they might have better ice cream, because they’ve been there for ages and they wouldn’t have lasted so long otherwise, would they?) or would the newly opened frozen yoghurt place be a better option? Maybe I should wait until I go to the supermarket later? That’s better value. But then it’s not supporting anyone personally, they won’t even notice, and they aren’t environmentally friendly or efficient with their freezer lorries. But making icecream en masse is bound to be more efficient than in small batches. Except they will use preservatives and food colourings and sweeteners and…. Oh look! There’s another ice cream stand!

And that’s before I’ve even got round to looking at the flavours…

You get the idea. I won’t elaborate further.

Once I buy my icecream and walk out of the shop, all the flavours I didn’t choose start running through my head. I start wondering if I made the best choice. Maybe the peach would’ve been a good choice after all. They had sorbet, I haven’t had a sorbet for ages. Perhaps lemon would’ve been more refreshing than the coconut? Maybe they have the most amazing chocolate icecream in the whole world and I missed it because I decided I can get chocolate icecream everywhere and went for something uncommon instead. I tend to do that. If I know most of the flavours on offer (or most of the meals on the menu) I will choose something I don’t know.*

I will still be wondering if it was the best choice when I finish eating. Especially if the people I’m with are busy enthusing about how awesome their’s is/was.

***

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see talk to my favourite optician. (Told you it wasn’t a post about icecream)

I’d been to the German eye-doctor, and she’d given me the go ahead to get glasses made up and a sick note to let me off work until the end of the month.

DB was at work.
The electrician wasn’t due until the next day.

I had time on my hands.

Luckily.

***

Usually sight tests begin with the optician trying to blind you with bright lights.

My optician skipped that part because, as she said, I’d “had more than [my] fair share of bright lights shone in [my] eyes recently”. Did I mention that she’s my favourite optician?

The first test lenses brought back the outlines – exhilarating, after almost a month of blur. After the initial leap towards sight, we started fine tuning and the world, my world, slowly came [back] into focus. A couple of degrees more or less, a quarter of a dioptre here or there, B is suddenly better than A and you can look across the street and read the adverts in the shop windows. The ones you only knew were there because all shops have windows and most of them advertise something. Incredible really.

After witnessing the world become clearer and clearer, I was reluctant to take the test glasses off.

(A side note for anyone who has perfect eyesight and never had need of an eye test: the test glasses are bulky, heavy, uncomfortable things. They slot various lenses in and out of the chunky frame, asking whether A is better or worse than B. Usually it’s tedious and you want to take them off as soon as possible. This time it was amazing and I wanted to keep them on.)

I did though, hard as it was, when she promised to get my glasses made up as soon as possible.

***

Turns out that was the easy part.

The hard part was choosing a pair of glasses that I liked, that I could wear everywhere and with everything, that didn’t block my view, but that didn’t dig into my cheeks. A pair that would be strong enough to cope with nights next to the tissue box on my bedside table, and being squished every time I pull a jumper over my head without thinking about it, without being too heavy. I don’t like seeing the frame when I’m trying to look at the world, although to be honest, I don’t really like seeing ANYthing get in the way of what I’m looking at. I don’t like it when the lenses are so tiny that you end up peering at things, and yet I also don’t like the HUGE lenses that make you look like a fly. I don’t want the corners to turn upwards or downwards. I don’t want Harry Potter style round ones.

(Yes, I’m a fusspot, tell me something new..).

Why don’t they only stock 3 frames?! There could be a range of colours, the same for each design.. but it would make it easier to choose. 🙂

***

The optician is amazingly patient, in a way I can only dream of imitating. She handed me pair after pair of glasses, alternately held the mirror or the next pair, suggesting this or that and guiding me slowly towards a final choice.

2 hours later (see? there’s a reason for my favouritism!) I left the shop with a small collection-reminder-card, not that I really needed it. She knows me and my prescription (and presumeably) most of her other customers, by heart. She had my contact lenses, back when I wore them, in her hand ready for me between seeing me walk through the gate and actually entering the shop.. And she’d promised to phone me when they were ready to collect, so I didn’t even need it for the date.

But anyway. There I was with the card.

The card that meant I’d made a choice, and that in a couple of minutes when she’d phoned the order through, it would be too late to change my mind.

I walked home in a fuzzy haze. You miss seeing so much more when you’ve just been shown how much you’d see if you could see. If that makes sense.

Weather was good though 🙂

***

A niggly thought crept up to me on the way home and ran round my head for the next couple of days.

“What if they look really stupid? Maybe I should have chosen those other ones. Maybe I should have taken DB in with me after all. Maybe they’re meant to be for old people and I’ll age 40 years when I put them on. Maybe the colour’s wrong, there were some other colours in the same style, maybe I should have gone for them instead? Maybe maybe maybe…..

Argh.

Sometimes I could do with an off-switch in my head.

******

They turned out to be 3 parts of perfect 🙂

– not that they could have been anything else really, my optician would never let me out with something she couldn’t be proud of –

Now I just need to work on being happy with my choices at the time I make them! 🙂

******

 

* Note to other adventurous icecream eaters: Indian “sugar apple” is not a good flavour for icecream (nor, according to my one real, born-and-grown-up-in-India, Indian friend, for anything else). That was the first and only time I have ever been unable to eat more than a couple of teaspoons of icecream. Ever. And I am a pretty good icecream eater 😉 Luckily, on that rare occasion, my brother was here to stay. Even though we’d agreed to buy two unknown flavours and go halves he came to my rescue and ate my half for me. He even forfeited most of his half of the lychee icecream (which I also won’t order again, but which was a whole lot more edible than sugar apple) AND he still speaks to me 🙂 Isn’t he awesome?! Obviously, he’s awesome for a million reasons, but saving me from the horrors of sugar apple icecream is a very important factor ;).

On Christmas Jigsaws – day 1

image

Every Christmas, my family does a jigsaw puzzle.

This year they’re doing one without me, so I’m doing one without them… 🙂

DB is helping, but hasn’t had nearly as much practice…

image

On Advent decorations – part 1

Once upon a time I lived in a house where we didn’t think about Christmas until all the birthdays were over (mid December). We had a huge (to a small child) box in the attic marked “Christmas”. It was brought downstairs a few days in advance, so we could walk round it and my parents could write and send cards. We spent Christmas Eve, or occasionally the day before, decorating the tree and the house. Decorations – baubles, wooden figures, birds, fircones, fairy lights, tinsel, strings of miniature bells – were chosen from the box because we liked them, and were mainly confined to the sitting and dining rooms.

Then I moved out.

 

Part 2 ->

On shopping successfully

I don’t much like shopping.

Food-shopping is bearable, clothes-shopping generally isn’t, although it is marginally better than shoe-shopping, and a whole lot better than bra-shopping.

I tend to avoid it if at all possible.

However.

Sometimes life strikes, and I get invited somewhere that calls for something other than jeans.

It seems life has struck.

I have been invited to not one but THREE weddings in the next 2 months.

I have a dress I wear to everything; graduations, parties.. everything. It’s long and dark chocolatey brown and fits and I would have worn it to all the weddings. Luckily none of them know each other, so I can get away with wearing the same outfit if I want. Except after consulting with H and A it became apparent that brown isn’t a good wedding colour. It seems ankle/floor length isn’t a good wedding-watching-dress length either.

Well that sucks.

I’m at home with my folks at the moment.

When I asked my mother for her opinion on what one wears to weddings and told her I was going to wear my brown dress, she suggested we went shopping.

The ensuing groaning noises were ignored, and I was whisked away to a rather lovely city to find something suitable.

3 hours later my brother was considerably more bored and my wallet would have been considerably lighter if I hadn’t paid with plastic.

In the past year I have been on 3 memorable shopping trips, for new things other than food. There may have been other trips, but I don’t remember them.

Each time I have surpassed all expectations and been awed by my success.

Last summer I bought 4 pairs of ‘shoes’ (= 2 pairs of going-out sandals, 1 pair of everyday sandals and 1 pair of summer shoes), last month I bought 4 bras (in just over half an hour before they kicked me out of the shop), and today I bought 4* dresses.

They are all delightful in their own way. If someone had asked me to describe the sort of thing I was looking for I wouldn’t have described any of them, but they are really really pretty and they fit and they weren’t even horrendously expensive.

Sometimes I amaze myself.

I’m going to need more invitations to dress up now.

*no idea what’s going on with all the 4s…

On fighting suitcases…

(-The story behind yesterday’s walk home-)

Over the years I’ve had a fair bit of practice at this. As a kid we went on holiday incredibly regularly. Mostly camping, or visiting grandparents, but nevertheless ‘going away’. This almost always calls for packing and carrying some kind of luggage. The folks packed the tent and other useful stuffages so I only had to pack MY things. Usually a backpack is enough for a short trip, but since we almost invariably drove to our final destination it didn’t really matter if things didn’t fit. We had the sort of suitcases you can sit on to do up, ones with buckles and locks. Later, ones with zips. When the family took up flying and hostelling, backpacking moved more into focus. We seemed to fly to the most distant airport from where we wanted to end up, and walk. Walking from an airport equates to carrying your backpack. We also spent considerable time travelling between towns and beaches and generally being on the move. Over time it became normal to have a really good think about whether something made the grade to stay packed, BEFORE setting out. When I started DofE I realised just how important it was to get everything into one backpack, including all the important stuff like tents, sleeping bags and stoves.. (Having a bag with decent straps is also sensible, but that’s a different story). Doing the Offa’s Dyke walk a couple of years later I was surprised to find that not everyone had had the same experience. We (as a group, so as not to name names) sent approximately 25 kg of ‘excess baggage’  home from a remote post office en route.

At some point in [my] history, suitcases with wheels became more common. I don’t know why they hadn’t been thought of before, but they’re a brilliant invention. Anyone who has tried travelling with 30kg of anything will back me up on this.

I moved to Germany 7 and a bit years ago and since then have had a lot of opportunity to fly, move house, visit people a long way off and go sightseeing. I have got through about 4 suitcases, with and without wheels, and have been known to pack my things in washing baskets. As a rule I have too much stuff and, despite all the warnings, still carry too much on a regular basis. Especially when coming back from shopping 😉

Considering all this, I don’t seem to have made a lot of progress when it comes to actually fighting the silly things.

My folks were here recently and left me a ‘broken’ suitcase which I think originally belonged to my sister. I don’t really know where or how it’s broken, so I’ve been using it since to go shopping. I had a party at work (will probably make its own post soon) which I needed to cater for and this meant lugging drinks and food from town to my house, and from my house to work. When I usually go foodshopping, I take cloth bags with me, pick up an empty box while perusing the isles and therefore know how much more I can buy before my arms drop off. Once everything’s paid for it makes its way into my rucksack and/or my cloth bags and I go home. Easy. Ish. I live by myself, so most of the time I only have to feed one person. I eat enough, but there’s only so much food a person [of normal build] can get through so I don’t often have to carry THAT much home – unless Aldi has a good deal on huge plastic tubs or duvets or papercutting devices that is..

This time I knew I was feeding most of the people I spend time with at work and had come prepared. I had my sisters ex-suitcase with me.  I felt ready to take on the world. I got a trolley. WHOO!! – No more juggling with halffilled boxes while bending down to get something off the bottom shelf. No more onehanded unpacking. No more looking for a bigger empty box when the original becomes too full. Bliss.

The bliss lasted until I reached the other side of the till and realised I was going to have to give my trolley back.

Damn.

Then I remembered I had my suitcase.. So all was not lost.

While I don’t have anything very much against alcohol, I don’t see why I should buy it for other people when I don’t drink it myself. This doesn’t go down well in Germany. But anyway. My party, my rules. I bought enough for everyone to comfortably drink their usual fill, except I didn’t buy beer, I bought I bought fizzy water and fruit juice. This would be largely irrelevant, if it wasn’t for the fact that liquid is heavy. Very heavy. Heavier, in fact, than I’m guessing the suitcase had ever been subjected to previously. 18 bottles of water a 1.5L plus 16 L of fruitjuice = 43L. Assuming the packaging weighs nothing (which blatantly isn’t true) and that water and juice both weigh 1kg/L that’s 43kg. And I didn’t only buy drinks. I also bought crisps and other frivolities like onions and lettuce.

Having got myself and my shopping out of both the trolley and the shop, I realised I had left my buspass at home with my previous pile of shopping (even I don’t try to buy real food at the same time as drinks). I phoned a friend. No luck – when faced between going out for dinner and lugging the best part of 50kg up a hill I know what I would choose. They chose it too. The other people I tried phoning – the people I know have a car – were out. Walking it is then – YAY!! And then I found a bus ticket in my pocket. Not my buspass, where I can travel for ‘free’ (as long as I pay the monthly subscription), but a proper ticket which needs stamping. Better than nothing, and certainly better than walking the “long miles” (/4km) home (thanks RT).

Once on the bus I decided that my original idea was a very silly one, and that it made no sense to take anything home which was going to be needed for the party. I got off the bus at the stop closest to where I work (luckily on the same busroute) and tried to persuade the suitcase it wanted to come with me. It took more persuasion than I care to write about, but we both ended up on the pavement so it was okay. So far so good. Now to go about getting from the busstop to the party room. It is a stretch of maybe 150m. It usually takes about 2-3 minutes to get there, including the time you have to wait for the lights to go green. For this trip I think I needed something more in the region of 23 minutes. I stopped every few metres to let the blood back into my fingers and to get my breath back. I’d swap hands and tackle the next couple of metres and then stop again. I don’t remember the last time I made such slow and painfull progress.

When we finally got there, I unloaded everything liquid out of the bag and went home.
The next day (after a remarkably short night) I packed the 3 deep trays of freshly prepared lasagne into my trusty suitcase and trudged into work. They too were heavy, but nothing compared to the ordeal of the evening before.

The party happened, or didn’t as the case may be, and the leftovers were left for the next day. The next day came and went without making much of a mark on anything, which is why I came to once more be dragging my suitcase on and off busses and fighting for blood in my fingertips. However, I did leave the juice at work, to be collected at a later date. I might be a little overenthusiastic when packing but I don’t have a death wish.

The handle is made of plastic coated cloth sewn onto the end of the case, which I guess is pretty handy, but it does mean you have to either stoop or hold the case at about 45 degrees to the floor.

It bit me. Repeatedly.

For some reason I can only really pull suitcases or trolleys with my right hand as my left one stays too close to my body and so makes whatever I’m pulling bash my ankles. I’m used to having a telescope handle on my suitcases, which helps on the ankle-bashing front, but which this particular case doesn’t have. When you take a step the re-enforced end bashes into the back of your leg, and the handle digs into your hand and pinches the skin at the joints. Even when dragging with my right hand it bashed me. It might not have been an entirely fair fight, given that I still weigh more than it does, but I don’t think that gave me any advantages over it. I didn’t give up, but it didn’t either..  I suppose I must have won overall, since both I and it made it back in one piece, but I think I have to give it points for effort. It also appears to have suffered no damage at all, whereas my leg is decidedly more bruised than it was when I started.

On not sleeping…

Explain this:

  • Pausing to admire the sun

    This morning, as on many others, I had to fight myself to get out of bed. It was so cold everywhere but under the duvet, and I snoozed and I faffed about and ended up running halfway to work, so as to be marginally less late. (My minutes of lateness seem to add tens of decibels to my collegue’s vocal utterings. There are mornings on which my ears just aren’t up for that kind of treatment).

  • I spent the entire [work]day waiting more-or-less patiently to go home in order to get back to bed where I can begin the wonderful task of paying back my horrendous sleep debt.
  • evidence of a misspent night (Weds)

    Having just about made it home via an agonising process of “c’mon, you can make it to the next lamppost…and to that tree…just that staircase then you’re there…”*, I then had a bath instead of a quick shower and proceeded to completely miss the turning to my room, making a beeline for my computer desk and spending the evening reading other peoples’ blogs instead of actually going to bed (or eating or clearing up my kitchen or doing any of a number of productive things).

I got home at about 4pm. It’s now half past 1 in the morning. WHAT HAPPENED??

I have a wonderful bed

It’s not like I don’t have a bed. Or that the bed I have is in any way uncomfortable or uninviting. It’s a fantastic bed. The sheet’s clean and I even have a new duvet. I had about 6 hours sleep last night, and not quite 4 the night before that. The few nights before that were also shorter than optimal.. So by rights – or at least by my reckoning – I’m owed at the very least 4 hours extra sleep tonight. Tomorrow (today) I’m going to sell lunch tokens to people. That means dealing with money and giving the correct change, and that means mental maffs and would be much better accomplished with the ability to think vaguely straight. This is generally achieved by getting enough sleep.

If I know this AND am tired, WHY ON EARTH don’t I just go to bed?

The answer is I haven’t the faintest idea.

Or at least, none that would hold any water if it happened to have any poured on it.

My theory is that there must be some kind of magic woven into the words. Magic isn’t really one of my big themes, what with being Christian and all, but I can’t think of a better word to describe it. If I’m not actively choosing to stay awake (and if I am I’m not aware of it) what am I doing still up? There must be some kind of something keeping me here.

So just what kind of ‘magic’ (for want of a better word) do these blog-writers create? How does it work? And more importantly, at least for me right now, is “why am I not producing my own trail of sleep-deprived people?”

And that, dear readers, is why I made this blog. You are my guinea pigs. I want to find out what causes readers to read against their better judgement.

I also want to give some of the more restless thoughts and wonderings in my head space to run about and play, and give the others space to grow. And besides. If my brother can become a successfull blog-writer, why shouldn’t I be able to?

Dragged not carried

*in my defense, I WAS heaving/dragging 21 Litres of water and something like 6kg of Lasagne in a cloth trolley-suitcase behind me at the time…