Sunday 19 May 2019

Choo Choo!

Today the Flying Scotsman went past Stirling... here are a couple of excited children enjoying it. (I just missed "bouncy Miriam" afterwards)

Esther's 2nd birthday

A few photos of Esther's birthday, including her brilliant giant bubbles!

Saturday 18 May 2019

Almost a year

It's almost a whole year since I became a lecturer, and more importantly from the family perspective, permanent. The past couple of weeks have largely been about this kind of thing...
Those are exam papers in case it's not obvious!
Yes, the marking is just about done. It's a fairly unpopular point of view but I don't really mind the marking - I wouldn't say I actively enjoy it but there is something quite satisfying about it all, and I can do lots of nice statistics at the end to see what questions worked, what didn't, what could have probably been taught better, and so on. It's just a bit of a time-sink! I still have papers to write, meetings to attend, actual research to be doing, students to supervise, presentations to prepare, and all the rest of it. A week ago I was in London enjoying this spectacular view from my hotel:
(the inside of the room was quite nice though...)
...with another bout of air travel and some dissertation marking on the plane. On the plus side it was a very good meeting, with some new collaborators (the Fixie project) and a new research use for some code I've been helping to write the past year or so.

So, as you can gather, it's busy. My diary is ludicrously full and there is rarely much down time during the day. There have been a few days (particularly the run up to the assignment deadline, then the exam) where there has been an actual queue of students at the door. I'd had a particularly hard day a few weeks back and my usual stress relief of the bike ride home helped a lot. During one of the more stressful moments that day I had a fleeting thought that maybe I wasn't cut up for this lark, despite agitating for it so long. As I turned the corner to face the mountains in the distance (yes, really a part of my commute), I realised that actually I'd really enjoyed the day - and the week - all of it. This was really what I was meant to do. I've spent the last year working with really interesting people, making small contributions to our understanding of difficult problems, I've shared with people from primary school age through interested non-experts in the public to honours and MSc students, PhD students, my peers and well established professors. I've spent long amounts of time chewing over problems; I've had time to write code and learned about new things (both so I could teach them, and because I found something interesting). The students are great to work with - and at least a couple have mentioned me by name in their feedback as being a helpful kind of chap (thanks to the one that called me "professor"! Still a little way to go for that...). Meanwhile I've had some more meetings with a PhD student I've inherited who has had a rough time of it. He's almost out of the other side and I'm sure will finally be able to graduate this year.

In among that I've been able to take random days off to coincide with school holidays, or work at home from time to time as needed. I can do things like see the school Nativity play. I can be around.

So, I really like this job. And Stirling is a great place to be doing it! Roll on year 2.

Schools visit

Not our one! Our department at the university got asked if we could talk to a couple of local primary schools about what we do with computers. A really intense day as the children - particularly the younger ones - ask so many questions! Very good fun though.

I opened with some general stuff about science and about programming, with an example I used at our nursery a few years ago and some Scratch which I've been doing with Naomi (note - this is an excellent resource for children to learn the basics of programming). Two of my colleagues Carron and Jason then talked about computing in healthcare (modelling disease spread) and brian-computer interfaces - where the children got a chance to remote control Jason's hand.

Thanks to the school too, we had a great time and hopefully the children got something out of it all.