This week – Semester 1, Flight, Home

So that’s that them the end to one of the best couple months of my life with some of the best people I’ve ever met. Academically challenging, culturally new and socially rewarding would be the three terms I would use to coin the previous few months I’m San Francisco.

A farewell to some great friends is certainly in order as the majority of the people I spent time with this semester were actually internationals from Europe and Austrilasia. We had an absolute cracking time together and I can’t wait to see them wherever it is we plan to get the “family” back together.

San Francisco is an absolutely wild city and I’ve enjoyed absolutely every second of it. Even when I’ve been on the 91 Owl being shouted at for actually having the cash to pay for a ticket. Fortunately I have myself a return ticket and will be heading back some time in late January. Next semester is going to be completely different. There will be a new bunch of people, a new season and new modules to study.

My flight home was absolutely vile, I’d had three hours sleep, an exam and was now to be on a cramped Virgin aircraft in between two strangers for ten hours with next to no chance of getting sleep. There is no hope for me. I’ve tried absolutely everything to try and get to sleep on aeroplanes from whisky to ear plugs and from pillows to extra seats. Nothing. They are too noisy, too uncomfortable and too disturbing.

For now though, I am home. I am completely content right here as I sit typing up my weekly blog post on my sofa sat next to my dog with my feet up. Christmas Day was brilliant yesterday as I indulged in mothers finest cooked dinner of the year and exchanged gifts with those who mean most to me. I’ve been down to my local and repeated the same San Francisco stories to the hundreds that have asked. I’ve also got my hands on an iPad mini. A surprise gift that I’ve supprinsingly really enjoyed using thus far. I’ve actually had it in for the mini until actually owning one but I’ve needed something to read e-books on for a long time and now I have something the right size and will encourage me to read rather than waste away watching trash TV with the boys in the flat. I’ve purchased myself the Great North Road for kindle and will be reading that for now.

Why Everything Is Harder Than It Seems

I’ve been studying computer science for a year and a half now and if there is one thing I’ve learnt is that there is a lot more to very thing than it seems. I refer directly to my experience with programming for starters.

Programming is not easy. It’s a mindset, a challenge and a set of tools that takes a massive amount of time to learn. Jeff Atwood suggests that we all put ‘1000 hours’ in but I would suggest that is nowhere near enough to become the absolute minimum to consider yourself a “good” programmer. Before University my programming experience was minimal. I was fairly competent im HTML, CSS and PHP. Fast forward a year and a half and I’ve now had to start learning languages such as Java and C. Java was my first introduction to OOP and C my first introduction to the lower level of programming. I took an operating systems class this semester and that helped immensely with my understanding of what is actually going on when I use a computer. Something I thought I already knew a lot about

The more you learn, the more you realise how little you know

The above quote is so true that I wish it was one of the things people were taught almost straight away in school. The problem with a lot of people these days is they are encouraged into egoism from a young age and it doesn’t benefit them. If you are happy to tell yourself that you are a master of your trade simply for acquiring a BSc of a certain grade you are painstakingly wrong. We live in a society where it is actively encouraged to constantly big yourself up. Facebook is there to tell people how much better our lives are than others, it’s there to show pictures of yourself having a good time, paint a picture of someone who is always having a good time. Then we have Twitter, retweets and favourite functions encouraging posts of things that will impress others. 9 times out of 10 people are boasting about something they’ve achieved where as 9 times out of 10 they really haven’t achieved anything that special. If people become so content with average things they will no longer strive to improve themselves. In computer science if I say to myself after graduation, I’ve got a degree and that’s that. I know enough to get a job and this expensive document claims I am a competent computer scientist then within five years I will be redundant. My skills void, my chances of getting work minimal.

This may seem a bit dismal to think that one has never really achieved much but I’m an ever competitive job market, the more content you are with what you’ve got the less likely you are to succeed. With GCSEs your SATs become irrelevant, with A Levels, your GCSEs, with a degree, your A levels become irrelevant and finally with experience all previous education becomes practically irrelevant. It feels like the more I let myself know I’m not as good as I need to be, the better I will actually get. There is some positive light on this as well. I have probably been following this seemingly miserable approach to life for the majority of the past year and I feel ten thousands more of a person than I did before. Knowing that I know more and that I think more than I did feels great.

For me my next foray into learning will be my attempt to get into robotics from home. It has always fascinated me but I know for a fact that learning AI will be no easy feat. To replicate almost anything that we humans do is a massive task and can take thousands of lines of code to mimic even the simplest of actions. That’s where machine learning comes in but that is an equally deep topic. I have to start somewhere and that will be with some simulators and an Arduino board. Hopefully in a years time I shall be able to blog about my minor achievements into robotics!

This Week – Ready To Go Home

It seems like a long time since I’ve been home. It seems like I’ve lived in a holiday world, the money still seems alien, the legal system seems stupid and my bed is about as comfortable as sleeping on sharpened knifes. I’m literally buzzing to go home for a couple weeks.

Finals are almost here, I’m stressed out with projects due and serious amounts of revision to ensue. I fly home on Saturday and land in London on Sunday morning. If I cannot sleep on the flight, I’m going to be livid! The most of the previous week has been keeping up with the boys (the majority of them) and enjoying our last few nights before we have to work our fingers to the bone. Literally took it really easy as well, a few nights down the bars on Irving and A pretty nice pub called Yancee’s was what the majority of the nights entailed but that’s all good. I’ve always been an advocate of a quiet few beers. Especially if that involves a mid-evening Long Island Iced Tea.

After the Shootings the other day, I have to say it’s pretty scary to think that I live in this country now. I’m not really the biggest fan of guns. I sketch out so much when I’m downtown on my own (despite being told countless times I’ve nothing to worry about) because even if someone asks you for your wallet and you react what’s the chances they have a weapon that can do a lot more damage than anything you can. Besides, chances are if you react you’ll get sued anyway.

I’ve managed to do the majority of my Christmas Shopping done for the family at home. The shopping in San Francisco isn’t that bad at all but I still did most of it online. What I find fascinating about America is still that everything is big. I’m pretty sure the Christmas Tree in our local mall (Stonestown) is bigger than the biggest tree in Westfield London. Everything is bigger. There is no two ways about it.

Anyway the next time I blog under This Week, I’ll be home and quickly approaching Christmas.


This Week – Finals preparation, Tourist Day and Good Pubs

So it’s getting towards the end of semester now and I’ve got an absolute ton to do before I get my flight back to London on the 22nd. I’ve got coursework, presentations, exams, take-home exams. The lot. So I’ve been pretty busy doing all that. I’ve also had one of the last weekends with the boys before they depart to their respective countries which is pretty gutting if I’m honest. It’s been an amazing few months with everyone and it feels like it’ll all fall apart and there is a chance that next semester we might not get to live with people that are on the same level as us.

The other day a few friends of a friend came up to San Francisco for a weekend so we decided to go out and the following day head into the city and do tourist stuff. It was probably a good thing because I rarely do anything touristy because I don’t like to be considered a tourist. It’s actually a massive hindrance on my approach to San Francisco. We visited Lombard Street and went to Coit Tower. They are both pretty interesting landmarks and there are some great views from Coit Tower. In terms of Lombard Street I’m well and truly intrigued as to how much a house would cost on the windy section. It’s about $4 million around that area in general (it’s fairly nice)  but I wonder whether it would actually be that nice. I mean people were taking pictures of these houses very close up and I question the privacy that you would have in such a famous part of town. Sure it would be convenient if you had friends coming over you could just tell the taxi to take you to the most famous street in the city and you’d sure enough get there.

The other thing that I’ve enjoyed this week is a good pub. A pub called the Irish Bank just off Union Square is one of the most authentic pubs I’ve ever seen in America and it’s got a fantastic outdoor section where you can drink and get some British meals. I’ve been there twice this week, once for Bangers and Mash and the second time for a curry and a few jars of the ruby red today. It’s food is reasonably priced and consistent. I have a problem with the fact America sells Ireland as a brand. Everyone claims to be Irish, nobody in Irish bars seems to be about 4% Irish and people get involved because they think it’s cool. I understand there is a massive Irish population in the states but that doesn’t mean everyone is Irish. I’ve spoke to a few of my fellow Celts from home and they find it equally annoying. Why is it if I tell someone I’m Welsh they continue to tell me how their Grandparents once knew a guy called Steve who planted a tree that is also grown in Wales and therefore they must be Irish and they shall refer to themselves as half-Irish because of this feat. It’s an absolute joke. Stop it. That said, it was actually refreshing to see a pub that was pretty similar to home with meals that you would find at home.

It’s only 12 days before home time. Going to make the most of this next week and get as much work done as possible so I’m ready for next semester and can spend the last of my time with the boys before they head home.

Last Week – Recovery, Tahoe, Chinese

Last week pretty much started with the mass recovery required from Vegas. I was an absolute wreck on return, 3 hours sleep, 2 flights and a lot of work to do, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to getting started on the week ahead. I did however have one thing to look forward to and that was that I would be shredding the slopes of South Lake Tahoe on the weekend.

Unfortunately this was not the case. The lifts were actually closed because of the weather. Too windy they say! I’ve actually never been to a ski resort in my life where they’ve closed lifts because of weather. I’ve been to countless resorts and not seen it once. Needless to say I was absolutely livid. Instead of hitting the slopes on a snowboard I ended up going Ice skating and bowling. Not exactly my idea of an awesome winter holiday but I guess the parties were pretty good. I was doing so well at bowling for the first four frames and then all of a sudden it just became gutter ball after gutter ball. Wasn’t best pleased that’s for sure. Ice skating was actually quite fun. After watching countless videos of Ice cross on youtube and assuming I could be just as cool I was trying to go as fast as possible and even tried jumping. Zero falls which is pretty good considering how cocky I was getting.

The parties we had were absolute carnage. Everything was happening and it was great fun. We had an all but clothing party on the second night and I put on one of those god-awful transfer tattoos for a laugh and wrapped my lower half in a Welsh flag. It was pretty funny watching everyone try and create clothing or something to cover up out of something that was in fact not clothing.

The journey home from Tahoe was interesting seeing as the shocks had gone in the truck and we were just being shaken all over the place. I’d had about 3 hours sleep and was definitely going to need another week of recovery. I’d start that week of recovery by ordering a Chinese and avoid having to eat Subway. I waited for an hour after ordering the food of the most efficient grubhub website and then went to collect the food outside. It was absolutely pathetic. I have a massive problem with Chinese takeaways in that it is so hard to find a good one. For example, in some Chinese takeaways you can great food with quality ingredients for a good price. Others you will pay exactly the same get some soggy tripe and absolutely no flavor. Unfortunately this was one of them. The crispy beef was about as crispy as jelly and the chow mein was repulsive. I was so disappointed but I guess I shouldn’t go by the 5* rating system that I despise so much.

Excuse the late post. I’ve been pretty busy with university work.