November 12th 2015

WALL-E, Lego Ideas

In September, I purchased the latest Lego Ideas set: Disney Pixar’s Wall-E (Lego Ideas #12).

The whole premise behind Lego Ideas is that users can submit an idea for a Lego set which will be sold in shops. Wall-E was chosen as one of these designs. Surely everyone knows who Wall-E is? If you don’t, here’s a synopsis of the film from Wikipedia: “the story follows a robot named WALL-E, who is designed to clean up an abandoned, waste-covered Earth far in the future. He falls in love with another robot named EVE, who also has a programmed task, and follows her into outer space on an adventure that changes the destiny of both his kind and humanity.”.

The Lego set wasn’t too hard to build however, it did take several hours (there’s a lot of pieces and it just takes time). I was very impressed with the final product and the cute little robot now lives on my desk. You can open the door on the front of him and the geek in me is tempted to put a motor in him, allowing him to move around. He also comes with his beloved plant too.

I got some feedback when I first tweeted about the build. Some people felt that Wall-E’s neck was a bit droopy. Admittedly, I thought that 5 minutes after I’d finished building him. I just angled his neck slightly and he now sits perfectly.

Personally, I think his eyes are the best part. Whilst they’re not particularly complex structures, they are so expressive. Lego have absolutely nailed it. Brilliant work.

November 11th 2015


Me with Legofy

It’s well known that I love Lego. I also really enjoy working on my photography skills. Recently I was sent a link to a tool which allows me to combine my love of Lego and photography.

The tool in question is called Legofy and it can be downloaded from the Legofy GitHub repository. What does it do? Using a Python script (and the Pillow and click modules), it turns your picture into a 2D Lego image. That’s it.

Neat, huh?

November 11th 2015

The end of Mythbusters

In October, it was announced that after 14 seasons, Mythbusters is coming to an end. That makes me sad.

I’ve watched the show since it started airing on Discovery in the UK. Full disclosure, I started watching it when I was off school on study leave for my exams (don’t worry, I passed my exams but had a week off before I went back to school).

By the time the show started airing, I was already interested in science (an interest which continues to this day). It illustrated a practical use for some of the concepts I had learned in physics class, and introduced me to others I hadn’t yet learned. Just to give an example, until I watched Mythbusters, I had no idea what a Faraday cage was. I’m now a PhD researcher in computing and just last year when working on a system, I was able to suggest the use of a Faraday cage when there were issues with wi-fi signals. Handy knowledge gained from the show.

The show has had a large impact on STEM and I have no doubt it has encouraged a new generation of kids to explore science. In fact, the NY Times has written a great piece about this and the demise of the show.

Whilst I’m sad the show is ending, I can’t wait to see what happens next with the Tested website. If you haven’t yet looked at the site, it’s full of great videos and articles about geeky and techy subjects. I’m particularly enjoying the podcasts which I’ve recently discovered, even if they do occasionally cause me to burst out laughing on public transport.

November 11th 2015

The Enigma Machine talk

At the end of September, I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Dr Mark Baldwin in Dundee about the Enigma machine and the role of Bletchley Park during World War II.

The talk was fascinating, providing a full history of the Enigma machine, and explained the inner workings of the machine. Whilst I knew of the machine (and the great Alan Turing), I didn’t know the full details of how the machine generated a code for the day or how the team at Bletchley attempted to crack it. I also hadn’t realised 3 Polish men broke Enigma first in the early 1930’s. They knew the Germans were going to invade Poland so they shared all their intelligence with the British and the French, before destroying all evidence in their country.

I just missed the end of the talk (had to catch the last bus home). The talk has been given all over the UK so, if you get the chance, go and have a listen.

On a side note, I’ve supported the Saving Bletchley Park book by Dr Sue Black on Unbound. It should be a nice companion piece to go along with the information included in the talk.

November 11th 2015

Having a physical impairment

It’s been a while since I posted anything about my hip. How has my hip been over the last few years? I’ve been having regular injections and they’ve made a massive difference. Each injection vastly reduces my pain levels and, I’m grateful that I’m able to receive this particular type of treatment- they stave off an inevitable hip replacement. In fact, as I type this, I’m sitting at home, recovering from another round of treatment.

So why have I chosen to blog about it after a 3 year hiatus on the subject? I wanted to write about what it’s like having a physical impairment. My condition has been present since birth, and as I’ve aged, there has been an element of degenerative change. Specifically, I want to talk about my experiences and some of the attitudes I’ve witnessed. Here we go.

First of all, I get the “you look fine” attitude. I’m a young woman, I like walking and getting some exercise, I attend gigs, I enjoy travelling. I can’t possibly have anything wrong with me! What a silly assumption to make. What people can’t see is that I have to carefully consider how far I can walk on a given day. Feeling tired? Cold weather? Ice or snow on the ground? Type of terrain? Pace? Plans for the next day? Generally, if I over do it one day, the subsequent day won’t be a lot of fun. Cold weather makes my leg hurt more (yay, nerve damage). Ice and snow, whilst it’s very pretty, terrifies me. One wrong step is all it takes.

As for gigs- queuing to get a good spot at a general admission gig? Forget about it. Sometimes I’m lucky if I’m able to stand all the way through a gig without pain or stiffness in my hip or back. So why do I bother going to gigs? Well, the music makes me happy. Simple as that.

Public transport is also a huge problem. In terms of the train, standing when commuting is no good. If I get a seat, or if I sit in a disabled seat, I get the death glare and snide comments as if I shouldn’t be there. Last year, on one chilly winter evening, my train home was delayed by 40 mins, and it flashed up on the information screen saying standing room only. I asked the Scotrail staff at Dundee station for assistance (the only time I’ve asked for assistance in my 10 years of commuting). Did I get help? No, I did not. Instead, I was spoken down to. What did I expect? I don’t look like I have anything wrong with me, do I?

Sometimes people point out my limp. Just to be clear, I don’t mind if someone I know points this out (Dr. House jokes are totally acceptable), they’re just showing concern. However, when a complete stranger mentions it, it’s just rude. On one occasion, I got off the train to go home and an older man with a walking stick shouted to his wife “That lassie’s limping!”. Everyone heard. He thought I was mocking him.

Lastly, there’s those who don’t take my hip issues seriously. No, it’s not a minor thing that will just disappear. Whilst hip dysplasia is common, if you haven’t had multiple rounds of surgery and treatment all your life then no, you don’t have the same issue as me (in fact, I only know of 2 people out of all my friends and acquaintances that have the long-term complications associated with congenital hip dysplasia). My injections don’t “cure” me. Limited movement is something I have to deal with every single day.

I’m luckier than others- my impairment doesn’t compare to those with major disabilities. I’m not writing this blog to gain sympathy. I don’t need it. I have awesome friends and family who look out for me and know my limits.

People just need to be aware that not every disability is visible. Whilst someone may look healthy on the outside, they may be very unwell on the inside.