Finding the right path

Earlier this year, I worked my way through Swift Playgrounds – Apple’s easy-to-use educational tool to teach you the basics of the Swift language – and to celebrate, purchased a quite adorable R2D2 that you can program with that self-same language. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite make the leap in my head from the playgrounds I had been messing about with to the more tangible efforts with a toy, and the instructions that came with that little droid were a bit more advanced than I was.

So I’ve been pondering what the next step is and that’s when Mr C suggested having a look at the courses on Ray Wenderlich’s site. The site has an iOS learning path that starts with building an app. It throws you right in at the deep end, opening up XCode and within minutes having an app that does something, however small.

I followed that first course from start to finish, and I loved it. It’s got the right mix of introducing the basics, guiding you through the more advanced sections and glossing over what you don’t need to know yet, so that you can still get the hands on feeling of making an actual product.

Unlike the playgrounds (which I still enjoyed, don’t get me wrong), you really have a sense of working towards something which makes it that much easier to join the dots in your head and solidify the learning.

I have finished the course now and have a fully-formed app that is actually a fun game. I’m not planning to submit this to the App Store considering it’s not my invention (although a quick search of the store suggests many people have), but I am diving straight into the next course on the Ray Wenderlich path to greatness – that’s what I’m calling it anyway.

The next course is more about the Swift programming language, so back to the slightly more abstract again, but I have faith that having achieved what I have so far, learning the language this time will be more meaningful. I also know that the third course on the list gets you building another app, this time a To Do app. Goodness knows I have experience of those, so I cannot wait!

Out of the shadows

When we watched the new Tomb Raider film back in July, I was quite inspired by some of the behind the scenes footage that showed Alicia Vikander getting super fit to play the role. I wanted to be super fit like that too! Get to the gym, lady, and sort it out!

It worked, for a bit. But how funny, then, that it’s also the fault of Lara Croft that my workout schedule has been interrupted in recent weeks.

I wrote some initial impressions of Shadow of the Tomb Raider and I’m glad to say that getting to the end of the game has only increased my satisfaction – obsessed is a word I would use, particularly getting through those last few levels.

To reiterate and expand on my thoughts:

  • The story was a lot more interesting than the last two, I thought. Granted, I still skipped a lot of the detail of the documents but followed all the cut scenes with interest.
  • The locations are dazzling, it’s no wonder they put in that photo mode. Gorgeous.
  • The facial expressions on these characters are amazing. Even the slightest raised eyebrow, or the crinkled nose of a thought process, very well done.
  • Great puzzles, really, really good. And some echoes of ye olde Tomb Raider too.
  • Lots of lovely running and jumping and catching and climbing. That’s my area.
  • Swimming controls are impossible. That’s not my area.
  • The physics of the overhang climbs and jumps is… questionable to my mind.
  • The animals are brutal in this – jaguars and wolves and god knows what else.
  • The Cenote level is about as disturbing as it gets, we ran through that in the quickest time possible.
  • The Hidden City though, absolutely glorious. Huge, sprawling, packed with real people with real stories doing real things. It got repetitive by the end, I’ll admit, but what a joy to run around a piece of civilisation rather than solely spending time alone in the jungle.
  • I don’t know if it’s intentional or a bug but there’s a bit where you can get attacked by piranhas and then jump out on to a raft and they’ll still be nibbling at you until gradually fading out. Nightmare-inducing..
  • Did I mention the swimming controls are hard?
  • If you are playing this now and come across the wandering merchant, buy the lock pick and the rope ascender IMMEDIATELY. You will need them both and you will never be able to find her again.

This time out, we went a bit nerdy, and kept a track of everything we could think of. In previous years, we’ve taken the route of getting as far as we can through a game and then resorting to a walkthrough of some kind (recommended) to get the coveted 100%.

For this game, with our increased enjoyment, enhanced concentration, and a Bear app full of #tombraider notes, we got to about 97% without any assistance at all. We were missing a revisit of one whole level (who knew you could go back to Cozumel?), a couple of base camps and documents, plus a challenge that I would genuinely never have found without help.

The relief at getting to the end was clear but equally, what a ride it was. And we opted for a season pass purchase so will be looking at new stuff very soon. This game really was the gift that kept on giving.

Starting a life list

My Life List needs a bit of tender loving care, having been neglected recently, but before I do that I wanted to write a quick post about starting your own list. I think Life Lists are not as in vogue as they were a year or two ago (let’s be honest, the world falling apart is probably a bit distracting), but I still think they can be useful and inspiring. I’ve talked to a few people recently who expressed a desire to start their own lists but fall back on ‘I wouldn’t really know where to start’. So, here are my five tips to getting started:

  1. First task is to write down five things you’d love to do. Just five. Big or small. It could be to finally get round to painting the spare room. Or it could be to go into space. Don’t limit yourself at all. It might seem outlandish as you sit writing it down in your pyjamas, but you never know when that asteroid is going to hurtle towards earth and your unique set of skills are required (rather than just training astronauts to do it). Five things. That’s all.
  2. Put your list aside. Mull it over, let your subconscious dwell on it. You may have found it excruciating to come up with five initial items but once you’ve started, you should start to get inspiration from just thinking on the subject and from your daily life. When you have a cup of tea, you might start to wonder about all the other varieties of tea you could try. Or perusing a magazine might encourage you to visit a new destination or try out a new craft. Capture the thoughts as they come to you.
  3. Read other lists. A quick online search will reveal multiple bucket list ideas and life list templates, and reading these can inspire you either to use some of the ideas directly, or adapt them to a similar idea that’s more applicable to your own life.
  4. Publish or don’t publish. I have my list online and I write up the results. It’s just how I roll. It’s quite nice to see your progress or to have that small inkling of guilty if you haven’t crossed anything off in a while. But equally, having a private list can work just as well, as it’s about what you’re comfortable with and what you’re aiming to do. Gather together your initial five tasks and your subsequent thoughts and put them in whatever order you like.
  5. Tackle the easy stuff first. Start small. Tidy the garden. Paint that spare room. Read that book. Then maybe go on that trip. That might lead to going to a space museum, which might lead to you meeting an astronaut which might lead to your name being on the list of go-to heroes who are required to save the world from destruction. And all because you sat down in your pyjamas and made a list.

Most of all,it’s about just being open to anything and enjoying the journey. No pressure, no judgement, the list isn’t set in stone. Adjust as you grow and change. Just remember what the Doc says: “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

In the wrong gear

You’ll have seen, no doubt, the recent news that a fresh batch of Top Gear hosts have been announced. If I’m honest, I had forgotten that Matt Le Blanc was leaving and when I saw the new names, that wave of disappointment hit me all over again. The last series of Top Gear wasn’t perfect but it was good and entertaining and had a spark of what made Top Gear great in the first place. It also had a sense of inclusion, what with the variety of people featured and the lack of divisive commentary.

The new names, competent as I’m sure they are, do not do it for me at all.

But that’s okay, because we have The Grand Tour, don’t we?

Er, no.

The first series was generally okay because it felt familiar.

But I spent all of the second series gripping the arms of the sofa in pure fear about what potentially offensive and usually disgusting thing was going to pop out of the trio’s mouths next. The films were as stunning and technically awe-inspiring as ever, but the words… the banter… ugh, that’s just not how I want to spend my time.

So we’ve reached a point where I’m not bothered about watching Top Gear or Grand Tour and actually, I’m okay with it.

I had limited amounts of petrolhead in me anyway, and now I’m so much more interested in where the automotive industry is going and wishing it would get there quickly. Arguing about which car that can get to 0-60 in zero something seconds is of little consequence.

Mr C tweeted, when the news broke:

And I agree. What I have seen of Fully Charged is exceptional. I’ll admit it doesn’t quite grab my attention for full episodes at a time, but the production is great for what must be a fraction of the BBC/Amazon’s budget. And the sentiment is exactly what I’m looking for. I might not agree with everything but enthusiasm for the future is the tone that will keep me watching.

Screen time after time

There’s quite a few neat things that have been introduced in Apple’s latest software update for iPhones and iPads, but today I’ve been thinking about the new Screen Time feature. It’s on my mind today because Sunday morning is when the report pops up and tells you just how well you’ve managed to waste your week.

As a concept, Screen Time is a really good addition. More information is always better, and when I got the very first Screen Time report, I immediately deleted an app that was clearly taking up far too much of my daily life. Since then, my reports have been pretty consistent, but I haven’t yet dug into the vast amount of detail that is available within the Screen Time pages.

I’ve always been in two minds about things like setting app limits and time out screens. I can see why that would be useful as a parent but for my own device, I have always hoped that I can make decisions like that on my own without having to set a nanny on me. However, I am starting to see the use of it, because it’s not about not being able to make decisions, it’s about allowing yourself time off but not indulging in too much of it, setting rewards and goals and just generally trying to live a more creative and less consumer lifestyle.

I’m all about that.

Books for cash

So, we were watching High Fidelity and yes, maybe had had a drink or two along the way.

This bit happened:

Which I naturally forgot about.

So this came as a surprise:

And now I have this:

It’s a real, physical book because it wasn’t available in Kindle format. And I still went and bought it, which is unusual for me and can mean only one of three things:

  • I really, really like Johnny Cash that much
  • It was a very good and persuasive film
  • I had enjoyed one more glass of wine than I’d originally thought

At this point, I suppose, we’ll never know. (But we can have a pretty good guess.)

A new design for your trophy cabinet

Apple’s recent update to iOS12 has brought with it plenty of changes, some are good, some are bad, some are genius, and some make your life better without you actually realising it needed it. I have thoughts on a few of the interesting new features but I’m kicking off with something that is a subtle change but I’m really loving it.

I’ve talked before about how much I like the Activity feature on the Apple Watch, in particular the badges that you can earn, and I’ve also talked about how frustrating it is when they don’t work. They seem to be functioning correctly for me at the moment, which is a good start, and it’s always fun to view which awards you have achieved and which you are working towards via the Activity app on the phone.

The awards tab used to be just a great big long list of badges that you have achieved, with a couple greyed out that you are probably currently working on. You could tap each to see more details, dates, times, calories, number of achievements unlocked, that kind of thing.

None of that information has changed but the subtle layout update in iOS12 has really brought this page to life for me. The awards have been split into categories, with a new competition section, limited edition badges, your monthly goals, and then individual badges further down. That helps to narrow down your gaze depending what you are focusing on this particular week.

I also really like the addition of the goal information underneath each badge. It’s either telling you how many times you’ve achieved your goal, or what you’re aiming to do in the future. For example, to get my October challenge, I need to close all three activity rings for 20 of the 31 days. You used to have to tap into the badge, read the blurb and do the maths yourself. Here, it is displayed front and centre. It’s not a big change but it just makes checking your progress more of a “glance and be inspired” moment rather than a labour of love each time.

I love when little design tweaks make a big difference.