Book Review: The Diamond Queen: Elizabeth II and Her People. Andrew Marr

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I’m starting to really make time in my life to actually do some more reading. With the summer finally starting to look like it’s not fa away, I’m able to make use of my garden bench and enjoy the morning sun. Cup of tea and a good book are a great way to start the day!

This was another my my charity shop book finds. I’m pretty sure there was a buy one get one free offer and I picked this up as my freebie… anyhow, it’s been sat looking dispondant my bookshelf for years and on my bedside table for months.

Some good news! I have finally finished it.

Written by Andrew Marr, this book is seriously not a page turner. But if, like me, you have an interest/fascination with the British royal family, this book is really worth a read.

It contains a really interesting narrative about how the definition of being ‘Queen for Britain’ has slowly changed over the last century. He also describes how the Windor’s have learnt to cope with these changes, in order to stay relevant to a modern age.

Although a bit ‘stuffy’ (the total opposite to the style of, say, Phillapa Gregory) this book is worth perusing if you have an interest as the content is really fascinating.

So what are you lovely lot reading at the moment?

Mrs Kirsty Holl

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BBC Micro:bit – Row counter

So, I really like learning how to code…. and I really like knitting… So I thought I’d mush the 2 together

The original plan was to make it tell me just the row that I was knitting. I quickly realised that the screen was a little small for this…

 

 

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In addition, I would also have to input all the lines manually… so I gave up and went with figuring out how to produce a counter with a reset button instead. Essentially, I’ve made it so pressing A counts up and pressing B resets it back to 0. So that’s pretty cool I think and I’m rather pleased with myself.

Row Counter

 

This isn’t the cheapest way to get a row counter (you can buy them for about £3 on Ebay) and it does reset every time you turn it off … but at least it has multiple  uses if you can come up with some different program ideas 🙂 Currently, I still need to get myself a battery back… so I need this connected to a computer in order to give it any charge…

I’m going to have a go at knitting these warm looking socks. They are on straight needles… so hopefully a gentle introduction 🙂

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Another awesome point about this project? The wool actually comes from my stash!! Check out the colour!

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Happy knitting!

MrsKirstyHoll

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Update 4: The Tower of London is Very Photogenic

The day after the EGX conference my hubby and I thought we’d go and explore the Tower of London (because we were staying about 15 minutes from it in the Premier inn). We’d both heard a lot about the history of the place (me primarily through the novels of Phillipa Gregory) and really wanted to go and have an explore.

What I really enjoyed about it, as well as the history, was the opportunities for photography.

This is the historic Traitor’s gate. Mainly used for bringing in resources for the tower, it was also the entry way for many prisoners into the Tower of London.

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This was a cushion in a small chapel off one of the royal bedrooms. I just loved the coloured light (caused by the stained glass windows) in combination with the pattern on the cushion.

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What I really love about this shot is how you can have the most modern parts of London and the oldest in the same frame.

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Coming away from the history for a minute, there was a tree in front of the restaurant that was fully in bloom. It looked stunning. But I got a few weird looks from a group of French students when I went to get this picture….

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For my final picture of the day, this was taken about 6:30 that evening. I love how the brickwork catches the light.

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Many thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the pictures!

All the best,

MrsKirstyHoll

Update 3: EGX Rezzed – Gaming

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So the other weekend the husband and I wondered up to London to see EGX Rezzed Gaming show. It was filled with some really fun games – both big names and independent designers. They were sprawled over a series of rooms with stalls mixed in – the food was expensive – but fantastic.

We came back with some rather cool baseball hats!

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These are some of our most memorable games:

Prison Architect – A puzzle game where you have a build a prison, complete challenges and ensure you don’t end up with a prison riot! The preview is already up on the XBOX one, but I’m looking forward to the full version going up. This game has been on Steam for ages, so it’s a well tested and well played game.

Unbox – Another puzzle game where parcels deliver themselves. We got to try the tutorial level, which was very good fun. This is another one I want to try out on the Xbox One.

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Warhammer: The End Times. – When I was a kid I had a brief phase of wanting to try and paint these little figures, primarily because my brothers were and I wanted a go. But anyway, this battle strategy game was surprisingly good fun and I’m looking forward to having a laptop that has enough power to run a game without crashing!

Worms W.M.D. – I’ve never played worms. I really don’t understand it – although I think it could be worth having a serious go at it. It’s a puzzle/strategy game where you kill other worms (either the computer or other players).

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Orcs must die: Unchained (Beta) – This was a group game where (as the only female of the group) I was sat at the screen with the female character – but she had fire as her main weapon so that was pretty cool. Strategy/battle again v the computer or other player. Essentially you kill as many orcs as you can to stop them coming into your fort.

So here ends my summary of my most memorable games from the 2016 EGX Rezzed conference. I look forward to future ones, but I will try multiple days next time – one day was very exhausting! There was also some games we didn’t have time to play, purely because of the queues.

Update part 2: Playing with the Micro:bit

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Ok, you might not know what the thing in this picture actually is. The answer is a Micro:bit and it is a really cool programmable bit of kit – with Bluetooth, a compass and accelerometer built in. I’ve joined the Barclays Digital Eagles through work and I’m really excited about being part of this amazing initiative.

It’s been developed by 29 different partners (including: the BBC, Barclays Bank, Microsoft and Samsung). Although the project has been delayed (it was meant to be released in September 2015), in 2016 this project is full steam ahead. The plan now is that all year 7’s in the UK (over 1 millions kids) will have one of these for free by the end of this school year. After this it should then be available to the wider general public fairly soon afterwards through a not-for-profit BBC organisation.

For those of you who know a little something about this industry, the closest thing to this on the market at the moment is the Raspberry Pi. Both have the same purpose – to attempt to bridge the ever widening skills gap in the coding industry – and are both seriously affordable for everyone. There is no official price out for Micro:bit yet (the rumours are that it will be less than £30) but the most up to date Pi is currently available for about £30 – with the older models even cheaper.

The prominent difference between the two – in my opinion – is that the Pi has more project options long term, but the Micro:bit can make something actually happen a whole lot faster. So in terms of creating that initial ‘inspiration moment’, I think that the Micro:bit really has that extra bit of zing as a result – especially if, like me, you are a complete novice at coding.

One really cool thing about the Micro:bit – because it’s meant to be something that can be taught to kids in school – is that there is already a huge collection of free online resources available on the BBC. This tiny bit of kit is also being backed by some huge stars and Will.I.am (who does actually have a huge interest in tech) has also added some of his ideas into the mix of what you can do with it.

In the last few years, the easiest way kids (and adults) could start to learn to code was through a platform called Scratch. It’s a drag and drop block platform that’s great for quickly putting a game together. In the long term, it is great for learning more complex theories of coding without having to worry about typos and weird characters. But the issue is you can’t really do anything that isn’t within the Scratch environment. Which does become limiting and can lead to boredom. The basic Micro:bit environment is very similar to the Scratch platform. However, it also scales up to Python and Javascript. In addition, unlike Scratch, simple coding can make stuff happen on the Micro:bit and you can program and link it to your phone (particularly Samsung phones as they created the app) really easily.

The theory is that this will inspire a generation of kids to want to fill the skills shortage of coders we currently have in the global jobs market. However, if you’re an adult (like me) who want’s to get ahead of the curve, then this is the thing you have been waiting for.

 

Resources

Hardware of the microbit

Accessories you can by for the microbit

Free Quick Start guide for teacher – amazon

Live Lesson – Micro:bit

Project Ideas BBC

Music Buzzer

Ping Pong Game

Other Game Ideas

Hello world – Python

Safety 

10 things you need to know – Tech Radar

1 million ways to inspire a generation – Youtube video (Microsoft)

Update part 1: Photography/Experimenting with Buttons

I’ve had a bit of a chance the last few weeks to start experimenting with one of the DSLR cameras my Dad’s lent me until I can decide afford a camera body and lens set. On the hunt for new or second hand…? (Yes that was a hint!!)

So, back from camera fantasies, photography is awesome.

During the Easter weekend the husband and I went over to Beaulieu house in Hampshire, UK. Of course, the camera came with me….

This was a close up shot of a tree using the macro. It was made to celebrate the wedding of the Lord’s son. The guests did padlocks and attached them to the tree. Which is all super cute.

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The weather on this outing was absolutely perfect. We were also out early enough that none of the daffodils had died yet – creating this awesome picture opportunity.

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This was trying out the super macro function…. pretty flowers.IMG_0064

This is a picture my husband took of me. I couldn’t resist…

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Hello…? Is anybody out there?

Hello all. I’m back!

Sorry for going quiet on you all. I had a presentation to put together at work (Social Media Marketing for Beginners) – which you can watch below if you like. Anyhow, it has meant that knitting has taken a bit of a break.

But I have been up to a few other things though…. I’ll update you over the next few days.

 

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