Giraffe Mission

New Blog Site

Hello everybody,

It's been a while since I updated anything here. I've decided since I'm making a new start on the blogging front, I'll completely start afresh, and that means running my own blog somewhere else. I don't really know who ever paid attention to this blog, but if anyone did I'm sorry if moving it away from Livejournal makes me harder to keep track of. The new site does have RSS etc, so fingers crossed its okay :)

The address is I hope the domain name doesn't put you off ;)

Take care everyone,

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Update post degree classification but pre graduation ceremony

I've waited a bit before updating this journal, longer than I anticipated I would but extra things happened and I thought I'd wait and see the outcome before saying anything.

To start with, the degree classification thing in Infolab was really nice, there was nice cheese, and as per usual they kept us hanging around waiting while they did some last minute tweaking to the results. I have no idea what it is they do, perhaps their printer had just jammed or something. Anyway the end result was that I had got a first, and that my final year project was the best in the year (86%!!) so I won the Microsoft Research Prize, £250 is not to be sniffed at, though choosing my free piece of Microsoft software was quite difficult as a Mac user.

The next day we could go back and get our breakdowns, and my results were a lot better this year than I had anticipated. I actually got a first in an exam!! I got a first in databases, and also in special topics, and my FYP was apparently really good. My supervisor has since told me that its because it was so research orientated, which isn't something most FYP students manage, most don't even read a single paper. I am a little overwhelmed to be honest, I didn't think it was that fantastically good, but I am definitely not complaining about the result, and infact I am over the moon.

Leading on from that I have received confirmation of funding to do my MSc, and had my offer letter hand delivered by the head of postgraduate admissions with a smile on her face hehe. I haven't accepted yet though, as soon after I received an email from my FYP second marker inviting me to come and discuss the possibility of going straight to PhD instead! Since that I have been wandering about trying to decide what to do. It's a big decision, the majority of my reasoning for doing the MSc was to put my in good stead for doing a PhD, so really if I could get straight onto the PhD programme, perhaps it is a bit pointless. Today I had a meeting with my FYP supervisor, and he said he would be more than happy to supervise me as a PhD student, we discussed quite a number of factors but the outcome was that I should put together some kind of proposal of research area, and he would look it over for me, whilst in the mean time investigating the funding situation. I am quite excited. Throughout that meeting though, the emphasis was on the fact that I am holding all the cards, I have a decent job for now, I have secured MSc funding for next year if everything does fall apart, and so whats to lose by attempting a PhD application. I just have to ensure I have a clear idea of the area I am wanting to spend time researching.

All in all it's been a fantastic four weeks or so, ending up much better than I could possibly have imagined. I wasn't daring to dream I'd got a first let alone that people would be inviting me to come and discuss PhD options. I'm not going to put too much stress on myself though, what will happen will happen and everything has worked out so well so far.

Graduation is on Thursday, I have been watching the multicast streams nervously trying to weigh up what its going to be like. It seems madness, at least I'll have Pete there in his silly robes too to keep me company. Also going to look at another house tomorrow, we heard that the landlord is considering selling our flat so we thought we'd pre-empt being told to move out. I have my fingers and toes crossed that it will be reasonably nice, and not horrible like the last ones :(
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Week 9

I thought I'd update as I haven't in a while. I haven't really been up to much, as I said in my last entry I have been working full time on the IT Help Desk, and it's been reasonably entertaining. The more time that passes, the more glad I am that I didn't get the job I applied for ;). I am starting to feel like I know what I'm doing up there a little better now though, I seem to get given any query which involves an OS other than Windows. It's good, there are fewer queries regarding OSs other than Windows hence I have less work to do, and then when I do have to do work it's more interesting! I did help some nice people with Outlook problems today however, I am learning that basically Outlook is one big problem.

One more day of work this week, and then I am free for the next 9 days. It does mean I'll be receiving less money at the end of next month, but I decided that it was important to make sure I had a week of being a real undergraduate student left, what I'm currently doing is anything other than normal undergraduate student behaviour. I want to be able to sit in the pub all afternoon, lounge about in the radio station, and also it gives me some time to get my hair cut and hopefully find out more about signing on at a dentists. Exciting life I know. More importantly, its exactly a week until I'll know my final degree classification. I hope I don't get called in for a viva. I got some coursework back yesterday from the 370 essay I wrote on 1984. I'm both pleased and disappointed with the grade. Of the four sections in the marking scheme I got A, A, A+, A+ (which really doesn't translate well to the percentages we were given as part of the explained breakdown, but thats a side matter) the overall mark being 70%. I'm very happy it's a first, but a little disgruntled it wasn't higher. Sounds like I'm complaining, but I thought the essay was damn good and I could have done with something at least higher than the minimum first grade to try and get a first overall in that module. I know I've done so badly in the exams is the problem, I'd been holding on to 370 as my potential saviour. I'll still keep my fingers crossed.

It's a bit strange writing this now, knowing that probably the next entry in here will be at a time when I know my degree classification. Theres such a short period of time left before that small part of my life is over, I guess thats why I wanted to write something now. Sort of a memory of "before". It's not as though knowing my class is going to change my life, its just an example of how time moves on I suppose. I'll stop pondering it now and think only of the free wine we've been promised on the day :)

In order to try and keep my brain active I've been endeavouring to learn some ruby on rails. Having never programmed any ruby before trying this, it's all a little strange to pick up. Really so far, the hardest part has been setting up the development environment on my desktop and laptop. Building mysql5 on my poor old powerbook took such a long time. I'm 100 pages into the Pragmatic Agile Web Development with Ruby book, and its looking fairly good so far, if all a bit mystical. I'm sure it'll all slot into place at some point soon.

I think I'll end here, I suppose I'll post sometime post Thursday 28th.
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No More Assessment!

I have finally got to the end of my degree. I had my last piece of assessment on Wednesday, my Final Year Project demonstration. I was incredibly nervous, not really sure what to expect. The second marker had been my supervisor for the second year project we did, and I thought perhaps he hadn't thought much of me then! The actual presentation itself was fine though, some of the looks that were crossing my supervisor's face made me think otherwise, but at the end the second marker told me that it was the best FYP demonstration he'd ever been to! All I can think is that he hasn't been to very many... I didn't quite know what to say. Of course, having given a good demo doesn't necessarily mean the project will get a great mark, so I am still in the dark about what classification I might have got. Given what I predict will be my exam results, it could be anything between 2:2 and a 1st. Just have to wait and see :)

Having finished everything means that I am now a working girl, so to speak. I will be working 9-5.30 Monday-Friday for mostly the rest of term and then summer. It's nice to have the money from it, but I do think perhaps I'm missing out a bit on the things that everyone else does when they finish university. I'll try and take some time to enjoy myself as well. Speaking of enjoying myself, my Dad is going to take me karting next week at a place he found in Preston!! I am very excited, I haven't been karting in forever. Pete was letting me play F1 on his PC using his steering wheel and pedals and it just made me want to go even more. I'm going to go with my Dad and see what its like, and then maybe take more people for my birthday :) :) Yayyyyy

I suppose I'd better get back to doing some work now, but having finished everything is exciting!
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Nearly the end of uni

Since I last updated I have taken all my exams, written my 4000 word essay and I have only my FYP demo to do before I have completely finished my undergraduate degree. I am finding it a little hard to believe that it's finally coming to an end; I have been an undergraduate student for 4 years now, life doing something else seems somewhat wrong! My exams were a bit rubbish. Well quite a lot rubbish actually. I am not built for doing well in exams, and I'll be surprised if I've got over 60% in any of them, in some cases maybe not even over 50%, but I do think (hope, pray?) that I have passed them all. I enjoyed writing the essay, quite a lot. I hope I have done somewhat better mark wise there, that can be my saving grace of a module. Hopefully my essay talks about things they wanted me to.

I haven't really been doing much else. I've started working full time on the staff help desk, and unfortunately it's not really as much fun as I had hoped it would be. I do like having my own desk again, and my own phone, and I especially like the phone headset - being able to type while talking so someone is useful. The kind of work is different however, one of the best things about being downstairs was actually hands on helping people. Going out of my way to try and find a solution for someone and knowing that you made a difference. The issue on the staff helpdesk is that most of the time, it's apparently not jobs that we can fix. Our job is to pass the work on to the right people. I feel like a secretary always forwarding things and creating tickets. I miss the fun of actually helping people. And then when people do come to ask for help, its all questions about Outlook, and I don't know anything about Outlook! I guess I'll pick it up eventually. Still the money is good and it means I'll be able to pay my rent and afford food for the summer. Hopefully I'll get my Masters and not need to work there quite as much.

What else. I went to Roses in York. URY were lovely, and we had a good time. I took some fun photos with my new camera of cricket and rugby. It was nice to get out and take photos of something other than the canal/ducks! Heather came to visit, and we watched some telly. Was nice to see her. Oh, I went to a meeting in Infolab about the Masters course, and I was the only person who turned up. So the lecturer gave his talk to me alone, and we had a little bit of a natter. He said that for the current year, there are 7 uk/eu students out of 25 in total, and for the next year there are 10 funded places available (which can only go to uk/eu students...) so I have a decent chance. Hopefully I'll get a good enough grade. The funding has gone up this year as well :) I have my fingers very tightly crossed.

I'll end here and maybe try and do something a little more productive.
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Not a lot has really happened since I last updated, I'm meant to be revising but instead I am posting to livejournal, and really that says it all. I've spent a lot of the Easter holidays at work, I need the money after having the minor camera purchasing oops! Thankfully I also get my student loan payment tomorrow, the sad part about that is its the last ever student loan installment. Next comes paying it back...
The student radio conference in York was fun, met some nice people. York uni was a bit more run down than I remembered it being, perhaps it's just that Lancaster has had so much development recently.The food was excellent anyway, and everything apart from the shambles of a general meeting was fine. I'm glad I went, even if it was expensive.

Work has been quite entertaining, we had a royal visitor except no one had told us that it was a royal visitor, just that we had to tidy up, and it took AGES. Myself and one of the people from upstairs were crushing boxes and moving toner cartridges for two solid days. I got ranted at by a member of the library staff for not having tidied up in time, but he came back to apologise later on. Then on the Monday the sniffer dogs came! They sniffed round reception, and one stood on my foot. Silly dogs. They were very cute but I didn't dare pet them as their handlers looked mean. Yesterday I had my first day working upstairs on the staff helpdesk rather than reception, I have a very nice big desk, two 20" monitors and my name in the phone system. Quite exciting! No one really knows what I'm doing up there, and I am not entirely sure myself really. Hedgehog helped me sort out permissions on most things, but I still don't have access to the shared email. Maybe I'll get some training... *tries to hold back peels of laughter*. The extra hours of work will be fantastic though, especially if it continues all summer, makes me feel a bit more secure about graduating - I should be able to pay my rent at least until September.

I've submitted my MSc application but I am not expecting to hear anything back until we have our degree classifications, so I am focussing on the exams which are in a week or so. Frightening! Better get my revision hat back on.

Oh and our sofa finally arrived today, the one we ordered in December. It is comfy.
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Excitement camera!

It's now the Easter holidays, the second term has ended. I finally got my Final Year Project finished, bound and submitted. I think that the second half could have been a little better, but it has all the component pieces to be completed so hopefully I'll do okay. I missed out on submitting a piece of coursework while concentrating on the FYP though, as the department refused to let me demo it late. This is despite the fact they let you demonstrate/submit coursework late for 10% reduction for every single other module, and infact for an earlier piece of coursework in that module, but never mind eh, its done now. I don't really mind, the marks for most of my other coursework so far has been good; 91% for another Databases assignment and 100% for the C, there was just the 19% for Formal Specification. I knew it would be terrible though. All I have left is one essay to (4000 words - the title I'll probably choose has an addendum stating "You should illustrate your discussion throughout with references to Science Fiction examples you are familiiar with". I think more coursework should be like this) and three exams. Not much really! Then my degree is finally over, sure has taken long enough, not that I'm complaining.

Anyway the main reason I wante to post here was to talk about my exciting new toy! I probably shouldn't have bought it, and it was a lot of money, but I had some money put to one side (somewhat artificially looking at my overdraft but we'll ignore that) and I decided I might as well have the camera to play with, rather than the money sat for 3 months. My intention was to buy it myself as a graduation present, and I suppose I've nearly graduated kind of. It's a black Canon 400D, I got it with two lenses and some filters, just to get me started. So far it's been great fun. Pete and I wandered round the house trying to fill the memory card with as many weird and wonderful pictures as possible, and then we went for a walk around Lancaster taking some landscape shots. I really need a tripod though as I'm useless at holding it steady. I'm going to upload pictures to my gallery when I have some decent ones - InfiniteView, but at the moment I'm getting used to how it works and learning how to use it. I've never had a "proper" camera before so everything is a little bit different. I thought I'd put a picture up here though, Pete and I wanted to take a picture for a desktop background as we realised that one photo from this camera has enough resolution to span across two 20" monitors and have some left over, here was what we came up with, though rather smaller than the full size original.

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I posted on the InfiniteView blog about my gallery rearranging but I'll mention it here, I've decided to put more of my old photos up in the archive, rather than just the pictures I think are good. It means I'll have to rearrange my entire gallery structure and its going to take a long time but when its done it will be better. Keep your eyes peeled for pictures of younger Sara findng their way up there at some point.

I'm down at my parents at the moment, my Dad wanted to see my new camera and I haven't been home in a good while. My Mum and I went for a wander around Bury and a lot of things have changed, buildings being knocked down to make the shopping centre bigger. It's going to be a different town next time I come home probably, quite a weird feeling. Still its not really where I live any more these days! I'll end here as I have to eat some lasagne, such a hardship. Bye for now.

If anyone would like a better quality version of the coffee beans for background purposes, leave a comment/send me an email and it's yours. I warn you, it might have adverse effects on your coffee consumption (or maybe you'll think its an improvement..)
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Random update whilst I should be working

Well, I thought I'd better update this since I finally now know officially I was unsuccessful in my job application. I've known unofficially for a bit, but finally last week I got a phonecall from one of the interview panel and told that whilst I was a very strong candidate and my presentation had been 'fantastic' they thought that I would get bored in a role so .. untechnical. I don't know whether it's their place to make such a decision for me but I think probably its for the best in the long run, I'm sure there will be other (more exciting) opportunities in the future. Now to concentrate on the Masters application!

In other news, its now two weeks until I have to hand in my FYP report. Eek. I have been writing like a mad thing and its currently 5500 words and 45 pages long including appendices and skeleton headings (15 pages of content or thereabouts..). I'm meant to have a full draft ready for my supervisor to look over tomorrow but realistically its not going to happen. I also have to have a completely finished product ready for the man in Cambridge to look at for probably Tuesday. Wednesday at the latest. Otherwise I wont have anything to write about in my Evaluation! I also have two more pieces of C coursework due, this week and next. We're writing Linux kernel modules oddly enough. Some more blogging to do as well. Its all go, they do like to pile on the work towards the end of term! I don't know when I'm going to find time to pester people to be my MSc references at this rate. At least its only another two weeks and then thats it.

I should have done more FYP work this week but it was the sabbatical elections and Bailrigg FM was doing it's thing. I organised a general meeting on Wednesday and we elected our new management committee for next year. I was running for Block of Six but since we were lacking an Ass. CRO I withdrew to help run the elections instead. It all went smoothly, but after Friday week 10 I am without a ManCom position for the first time in 3.5 years. What will I do with my time I wonder. Hopefully work lots on reception over Easter because I need the money if I'm going to buy myself a DSLR for my graduation. Thats the 19th July at 12 noon by the way, I've already booked tickets. Should be fun!

Overall I'm happy enough, if a bit worried about my project/report. I guess when its handed in and done I'll feel better because it's too late for worrying then. I'm doing okay in everything else, I got 100% in the last C coursework and 84% in databases. Dreading my marks for the Software Engineering though, formal specification is truly a course run by the devil. I'll just have to keep my head down and my fingers crossed for these last two weeks (though not while typing, I don't think I can type with my fingers crossed).

Farewell for now.
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FYP stuff and job interviews

That last update was a bit of a depressing thing to have left there for so long. I hadn't realised it had been so long since I updated. I guess not really too much has happened. Its now getting towards the end of week 4. Only 6 more weeks till I have to hand in my final year project. Lots to do. I went to Cambridge with my supervisor to discuss things with the parties interested in my research. Sounds odd saying that, people interested in the research I'm doing. I thought it was going to be something of a waste of time, I didn't feel I'd achieved enough to warrant going down there but having spoken to the gentleman I've been having phone conferences with for months, it all feels a bit easier. He's not as scary as he seemed. We worked through some things together and I realise he's interested in what I'm doing, and that what he wants is not unattainable. The snow down there was nice too, I thought it might be the only snow I'd see this year but seemingly theres some on the way here too.

My only other news is I applied for a job, like a real graduate job. It seemed slightly less scary than applying for a Graduate Job though because its based where I've been working as a student for so long. I don't really know why I decided to apply. I had been so intent on doing a MSc full time, and applying for funding to do so, when it suddenly struck me that if I wasn't successful in getting funding I'd be stuck and it frightened me a bit. I didn't like the potential for being without income. I was a little warey of applying for this job, because it seems to be a position requiring more managerial experience than I have, and it asked for applicants with a degree (which I wont have for another few months) but I thought I'd just apply and see what happened, and seemingly I must have done something right because they have invited me to interview. Granted its an interview of death where I have to give a presentation and take a 30 minute written test, but I guess even if I don't get the job its good character building experience.

When I originally started putting together the application, I was thinking that if I were offered the position, my acceptance would depend on whether I was given Masters funding or not. Thinking about it now, if I were offered it, I think I would be likely to take the job, and do the Masters part time. I don't want to give up on getting a Masters and hopefully doing more academically, but having a regular wage is too appealing. Settling infact. Plus after so long as a student, I could probably do with some proper 9-5 work to bring me back into the real world ;). I still think I am too inexperienced, too "fresh out of university" to get my hopes up too high, but I'll give the interview my best shot.
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Times change

An entry, at long last. Not so much an update as I can't be bothered going back and reporting on all the stuff thats gone on in the last month or so.

Christmas Eve. Well infact its actually Christmas Day (officially) as I come to write this. I can hear fireworks outside, since when have fireworks at midnight been a part of the Christmas celebrations? Anyway.. I'm at my parents house in Bury, I have been here since Friday and it is nice to see them. We didn't do very much on Saturday but today I dragged them out of the house with the aim of "finding something to take photographs of". We headed towards Stonyhurst College, then over towards Chaigley (no I'd never heard of it either) and ended up in Whalley I think. Wandered round the church yard of St Helens there, and then headed to a small picnic site near Blackburn. I liked it there are sat in the car with the window down I could get some nice shots of squirrels and robins. It was nice to get out of the house as since I arrived all I've done really is sit around with my laptop. I think my parents think its surgically attached. Whilst I know it isn't very social I am loath to put it away. For some reason I need the connection, via it, to my friends. Its silly I know, but the truth is I miss my friends. I especially miss Pete.

Its silly missing someone you see all the time when you go away for a week but I think in my heart its not just that we're apart for a period of time, its just that everything at Christmas is geared up to being about loved ones and my loved one is somewhere else :( I don't know whether I am fully ready to have a Christmas away from my parents yet, but coming here this year has emphasised to me that I really don't 'live' here anymore. I have a room, some of my belongings are here, but it isn't my home. My home is in Lancaster with Pete, our living room, our kitchen, our bedroom with my nice new mirror (Yay). Its just where feels right to me. Its a little sad I think because I love my parents dearly, and I don't like to make them sad. I'm sure they'd love to have me home again but I don't think its going to happen. I am very settled with Pete, and how I feel at the moment I can't see that changing and I hope that it never does.

Coming home always leaves me with pangs of guilt too, completely unnecessary but I feel a bit upset that my parents live in quite.. rough conditions when I am up in Lancaster with my canal side flat and my 40" television. It seems unfair. It also makes me sad that my Dad so obviously hates living where they do, and I know he'd give anything to have a house somewhere nicer but that theres very little chance it can ever happen. Maybe when I start earning I can help them out in some way, as things stand, I spend money but it comes mostly from my student loan. I'm not badly off due to various bursarys and grants but I don't have enough definite income to be able to really help.
Its the little things that bother me, like how my Mum has wrapped DVDs that she bought herself months ago, so she can unwrap them on Christmas day just to make the pile of presents look bigger and more exciting without stretching the money further. It shouldn't bother me, not really, she's content. I wonder who the illusion is for really, is she still making a Christmas for me? I hope she likes what I've got her anyway. If she does it'll make me a little less sad.

I think I'll end here. Tomorrow will come and go, I shouldn't look forward to leaving my parents because I'm sure my Dad has been looking forward to having me home for months, but being here is not how it used to be. I'll stay positive, and tomorrow I'll see my niece and nephews. They're almost grown up now (well 2/3 are) and there wont be so many Christmasses where they are the babies any more. I'll try and get a photograph of them all :)
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