The Tortoise and ActionScript 3.0

Written on October 31, 2009 – 12:36 am by Ding

HU-logoA while ago, I mentioned that I had written up a syllabus for my own course in programming which centred largely around C++ and then later on elements of ActionScript 2.0.  Needless to say this was a dismal failure and never quite got off the ground.

Whenever I’m studying something or have something quasi-professional that needs doing, pretty much anything else in the world becomes more interesting and appealing to me.  I understand this is not a phenomenon unique to me and it was an ongoing joke in a previous house that I lived in that you could tell when a lot of us had essay or project deadlines because the place was spotlessly clean.  This instinct to do something other than what my brain things it SHOULD be doing triggered around about the time I had something in my hands that looked vaguely like a course syllabus.

Of course, in this case, I had the last laugh over my bloody minded brain, as the poor thing jumped on to something different but that is in the same field and has instead for the last few days been trapped in a prison made of Flash and ActionScript 3.0, one of the programming languages that powers flash.

When I have something worthy of publication I will of course share, but for now I shall just have to state how much I’m enjoying finally getting some programming knowledge under my belt.  Up until now, it’s been like my dutch:  I understand more than I can speak, but I don’t understand much.  Now, my programming is at the level whereby I could probably reliably ask for directions to the railway station, even if I won’t necessarily understand the answer given to me.

Inspiration and Projects

Written on October 27, 2009 – 6:17 pm by Ding

If you’ve noticed that I’ve been away from the blog for a few days, I have a couple of things to say to you:

  1. You must be my readership.  Tell me who you are so I can cater to you.
  2. There are two reasons why this has happened:
  1. A repeated failure of my Writer’s Quest
  2. Working on a few sporadic projects.

I think in life I draw inspiration from what other people around me are doing.  If you are ever down in the dumps about a project of some description, find some people that are doing the same sort of thing and find out what they’re working on.  I know that whenever I’ve been to the UK Web and Mini Comix thing that’s held each year, I come back geared up to work on comics after seeing all the weird and wonderful (and sometimes poor, but still inspiring) things that people have created in their spare time.

I recently represented myself as somebody who likes making things.  I don’t think this is strictly accurate.  I’m somebody who likes the feeling of having made something.  The actual process I find frustrating, but I’m willing to go through it if I see someone else doing something that I think I’d enjoy doing too.  Some might say this displays a lack of imagination, but I prefer to think of it as a short attention span.


Snakral the Goblin

The project that I have finally got around to starting is something that’s been stuck in my head for several months.  Allow me to introduce you to Snakral.

Snakral is the protagonist of a comic that I’m working on called “Paladin”, about a young adult goblin who wants to rebel against the tradition of his species and train to be a knight protector of the realm, despite being rather weedy even by goblin standards.

Once I’ve finished a substantial amount, I’ll make it available in some way.

A friend of mine offered me some advice with this, namely to “not make it like Warcraft”, which was never the intention, despite my desire to start a comic about goblins and paladins whilst in the throes of online-game-addiction, but I am taking a page from the book of Warcraft developers Blizzard by saying this will be done when it’s done.  In other words, don’t hold your breath for new comics (which I hope nobody has done for my comics in the past anyway: I just wouldn’t want that on my conscience) as I have no idea how long this will take me to fully flesh out.  I’ve decided to take a much more ordered approach to this comic than my previous efforts with the Student Squad, which is very much a “ready, fire, aim” approach, without so much of the aim part, or if I’m being honest, the ready part.

Additional Notes:

Is it a bad sign that I really struggled to spell conscience?

Everyone Has a Novel In Them

Written on October 22, 2009 – 2:02 pm by Ding

There’s a saying that everyone has a novel inside them. I think it doesn’t necessarily have to be a novel, but the sentiment is probably true and that even the most unlikely people have a lot of creativity inside them that they can’t get out. Everyone has something. A lot of people secretly work on little personal projects or just daydream about working on little projects but everyone has these little ideas that they want to get out.

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Time Travel the Wrong Way

Written on October 14, 2009 – 7:59 pm by Ding

That last choose your own adventure style post was a little self deprecating, slightly exaggerated and probably made me come off like a pathetic alcoholic, which just isn’t true.  I’m not an alcoholic.

However, the point that’s there is that time very quickly slips away without you noticing it.  I suppose my only real comparison that I can make is school life contrasting with working life  (University doesn’t count.  I had very few contact hours which meant the time could be divided between time spent awake and time spent asleep, but the hours with which each were happening were not consistent).  Whereas I get home from work most days around 5:30, during my time at school, I could have been home for an hour and a half by that point.  With this in mind, it’s clear that I already have less time in the evenings.

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Writer’s Quest

Written on October 9, 2009 – 6:09 pm by Ding

The cape is obviously optional.

Today, brings you a “choose your own adventure” post.

Your name is <yourname> and you are a struggling writer.  This is a very true statement, as you are truly struggling to write.  You currently hold down a pedestrian 9-5 job in an office which demands nothing of you but your time and occasionally semi-conscious thought.  However, when you get home, you often find that you are unable to do what you want to do.
Your quest is simple, <yourname>, you must write something by the end of the day.  Prepare to embark on your Writer’s Quest!  Start at section 1.


  1. You have been at work all day.  At lunch time you had a sandwich with chicken in it.  It made you feel stuffy, but full.  In the afternoon, your mind drifted off and you started day dreaming about what you were going to write when you got home.  You have decided that you will work on <yourproject> this evening.  It gets to 5’O’Clock and it’s time to go home.  If you chose to walk home, go to section 2.  If you choose the bus, go to section 3.
  2. The walk home passes without incident and takes you about half an hour.  As you walk up the stairs, approaching your flat, you feel a little out of breath.  Upon opening and walking through the front door, you are unable to feel the enthusiasm for your project that you initially felt.  If you chose to fight through the apathy and go to your computer, go to section 4.  If you decide to sit on the sofa and watch some television, go to section 5.
  3. The bus journey takes about half an hour.  The high street is busy and the bus has to repeatedly stop and start.  Some “intelligent individuals” attempt to argue their way onto the bus without buying a ticket, apparently finding the concept of public transport too low for their tastes.  The journey makes you feel grumpy and resentful that you didn’t walk.  As you walk through the front door of your flat,  your enthusiasm for <yourproject> has been significantly compromised.  You decide to sit on the sofa and watch some television.  Go to section 5.
  4. You enter your newly acquired office-room and throw your bag and jacket off on to the bed.  Stalking over to your computer, you hit the power button with your toe and hear the beast roar in to life.  The computer is fast becoming an uncooperative Frankenstein of a machine and so take a long time to start up.  If you chose to go and get a glass of water whilst you wait, go to section 6.  If you chose to sit it out and wait for the machine to boot up, go to section 7.
  5. You fall on to the sofa and jab the remote until the picture shows on the screen.  You find a show to watch on your magical watch-what-you-missed-last-week box that you missed last week.  It makes you laugh.  You decide to catch up on a few other things as well, reasoning that you need to chill out and you’ll get around to <yourproject> later.  You’ve only just got back from work anyway.  You realise that you’re thirsty and should probably get on with <yourproject> after all, but you’re not sure.  If you continue to watch TV shows that make you laugh, go to section 8.  If you chose to get a glass of water, go to section 6.
  6. As you go to the sink to pour yourself a glass of water, you glance over at the television.  You remember that there was a show that you wanted to watch last week that you missed.  You really wanted to see it, and if you don’t, that bloke at work that talks all the time will probably ruin it for you.  If you chose to watch the show, go back to section 5.  If you proceed in satiating your thirst, go to section 9.
  7. The computer has finished starting up.  As you look around your workspace you notice a few unfinished projects on your drawing board but pay it no further attention at this time.  You look at your desktop and find one particular icon in the middle triggering off an instinctive drive for you to click it.  If you click the icon, go to section 11.  If you do not click the icon, go to section 13.
  8. You watch another show, and then another show, and then you find yourself watching repeats of Mock the Week on Dave, which is odd because most of the news-relevant material has long since lost it’s humour value or relevance.  You are confused as to why you are so hungry until you realise that it is actually getting rather late.  Go to section 12.
  9. You start to pour yourself a glass of water, and then you remember there’s beer in the fridge.  You would quite like a beer, but you’re not sure.  If you chose the glass of water, go to section 7.  If you chose the beer go to section 10.
  10. The beer goes down well and with can in hand, you say to yourself “screw it.  I’m going to get on with <yourproject> right now” and storm out of the kitchen and into your office.  Go to section 11.
  11. You start up World of Warcraft.  Your mouse hand flew to the icon and you finger shot down in two sharp movements as if drawn by some dark force.  After playing for a while, you quit the game and you decide that a beer would be a good idea, to get you going on <yourproject>.  Go to section 10.  If you have already had five beers, go to section 12.
  12. It is now midnight and your evening has finished.  It’s time to start thinking about going to bed as you have work in the morning.  You Have Failed Your Writer’s Quest.
  13. You resist clicking on the icon and instead find Microsoft Word so that you can work on <yourproject>.  You open up the program and are greeted with that really annoying paperclip.  If you ignore the paperclip, go to section 15.  If you chose to attempt to destroy the paperclip, go to section 14.
  14. You right click on the paperclip assistant to send him to oblivion but before you chose to get rid of him, you notice that you can chose a different assistant.  You spend a long time cycling through the options and even longer agonizing between the cat and the robot.  You finally settle on the cat and ask it the question “does anyone actually chose the windows logo?”  but the feline is unable to sufficiently answer your query.  After this rather major distraction, you realise that you are thirsty.  You remember that there is beer in the fridge and that would be just what you need to help you get on with <yourproject>.  Go to section 10.
  15. Ignoring any distractions, you finally start writing.  You get a sentence done when your phone rings.  It is a friend of yours that you haven’t seen for a while inviting you out for a drink down the road.  If you go out for a drink, go to section 16, if you decide to carry on with <yourproject>, go to section 17.
  16. You have a good time at the pub, but one drink very quickly becomes two and then you go and find a pub with a pool table and then end up marching off towards central London before realising that it’s getting late and you should be getting home.  You say farewell and head home.  Go to section 12.
  17. You feel guilty for turning your friend down and resolve that you’ll make it up to him in good time.  To soften the blow, you decide that you’ll have a beer from the fridge, so that you can say “I was drinking with you in spirit” when you meet him again at a later date.  Go to section 10.

TV: Hanging Your Disbelief

Written on October 6, 2009 – 8:09 pm by Ding

Any form of television requires you to suspend your disbelief on some level, even if it’s something as simple as Eastenders or Coronation Street asking you to believe that they are filming inside a house when it’s actually just a couple of walls of a set, but sometimes it asks just a little bit too much.

I have a habit of coming in late to the party with various television shows, so it’s only natural that I’ve recently started watching the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, a critically acclaimed space opera that plays on themes highly relevant to the age of the war on terrorism.  It is worth noting that it is well deserving of this praise and is absolutely fantastic television.  There is just one bit at the begninning of season two that has caused me to perform a quick double take.

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Computer Programming at Hing University

Written on October 5, 2009 – 11:30 am by Ding

HU-logoAs mentioned in a previous post a few days ago, I am not a student and I am not starting a course this academic year, but I do have several friends who are students and are starting courses this year and it appears to have triggered off some sort of jealousy and bitterness about the fact that I’m not starting anything new (not even an NVQ in going-to-work).  Although I’m sure that this longing, jealous, self pitying feeling will rapidly evaporate around December or at the latest around Easter once the exams and deadlines start to fall from the sky, I’ve decided to take a different approach and write my own course outline to try and finally get to grips with my programming that I talk so much about learning.

Starting tomorrow is my module in fundamental C++, using the made-available-online “Teach Yourself C++ in 21 Days” which I hope will do roughly what it says on the tin, and in a few weeks time I will also be starting to grapple a little more with Action Script 2.0, although I haven’t found a decent course text for this yet.  I’m also taking some secondary modules in Photoshop, something that I’ve been neglecting for far too long, and Game Design Mechanics and Theory (which will be a nice excuse to play some old games whilst playing very close attention to how exactly they work).  Also, even though it has no real connection to programming, I might even throw in a little Dutch vocabulary, depending on how ambitious I feel.  I always feel guilty when I meet my girlfriend’s family and my Dutch has not improved since the last time I’ve seen them.

I intend to keep a running record on how well this works out for me.  I’m fascinated by how I will put time aside to learn something, such as the majority of my law course, but seemingly only if I’ve paid an inordinate amount of money and I have someone with some sort of vague authority suggesting that it might be a good idea to hand something in.  If I can manage to motivate myself to learn this under my own steam, then the world is my oyster, or study-appropriate-metaphor-that’s-not-an-oyster.

The first update on this venture should land at some point on Friday, so if you see nothing around about that time, feel free to assume that the experiment has failed or been otherwise postponed.

Additional Notes:

Sadly enough, I actually intended to start this course at “Hing University” last week, but the lecturer was indisposed because he had forgotten his keys, thus locking himself out of the lecture theatre.

When Training is Not Training

Written on October 4, 2009 – 6:04 pm by Ding

This fish has been recently upskilled.

Last week I turned down an opportunity to do a government funded NVQ Business Administration training programme.  My reasons for this stretch beyond laziness and arrogance.

First of all, weighing in rather close to the arrogance side of things, I would feel sorry for the NVQ level 2 when it had to hang around with some of my other qualifications that are bigger and meaner and would pick on the poor thing.  However, this was not my only reason.  Any qualification is at least a qualification, it could look ok on a CV, and free training is after all free training.  Of course, in this case, it wasn’t really training.

I did sign up for the programme after seeing the list of modules that were available.  Some of them were ridiculous affairs like a module in “complying with health and safety” or “Being punctual:  Getting up that five minutes earlier”, but some of them looked quite useful, such as modules on the more advanced features of Microsoft Word or Excel, with which I sometimes find I have gaps in my knowledge.  However, the main reason for me deciding to abandon the venture was that I’d misunderstood what was meant by “optional units”.  What happens is that an assessor comes and follows you for a few days whilst you’re doing your job, works out what you do, and then signs you up for the modules most relevant for your work, or rather, signs you up for modules that you can not learn anything from as you do the content on a daily basis.  This to me sounds like a reversal of the basic premise of education.

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10 Different Ways to Play the World of Warcraft

Written on October 3, 2009 – 10:30 am by Ding

As a point of argument to suggest that this game is probably considered mainstream by now, I picked up this image from the website of the Daily Telegraph.

I’m writing this post for three different reasons.

1)  I want to put another post up.

2)  I love Warcraft unconditionally despite the abuse it puts me through.

3)  I hear lists are fun.

It is no surprise to anyone who has played any game of any type, be it on a computer, with a deck of cards, or on a board, that everyone has different ways of playing games.  Just as Monopoly can range from a light hearted exercise in casual sparring using passive business acumen to a three-day friendship breaker ending in somebody having to call an ambulance, any Massively Multiplayer Online Game can be played in many different ways.

I’m going to look a little closer at some of the ways I’ve witnessed my own particular online poison of choice being played.

If you have absolutely no interest in online games, or in Warcraft in particular, feel free to skip this post.

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First Episodes and Pilots

Written on October 2, 2009 – 5:40 pm by Ding

Writing is harder than it looks.

I’m almost tempted to just leave this post there to prove a point.

I’m fairly easy to please when it comes to television and film and I actually struggle to identify bad writing.  I know this because of those awkward moments where everyone around me will be laying into the film crying foul at its poor structure, heavy handed exposition and forced dialogue when all I can really think is “…but it was great…right?” and so I know that I’m not a critic.  However, sometimes I’ll see something on television that I’ll think was awful and that I just can’t watch, and I’ll make my mind up that it’s due to bad writing and that I could do better.

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