|Cornwall again, day 1
||[Monday 30th January 2012 at 10:09 pm]
So here I am, once again in a holiday cottage (the same one as last time) in Falmouth, Cornwall. This time it's only 3 years since I was last here.
The biggest thing that's struck me about being here is just how quiet it is. Growing up in Horsham there was always the distant sound of traffic on the A24. In Brighton there was more traffic, and in Fareham I live next to both a major road junction and a train line (though it's amazing how good the brain is at filtering it all out). Here, it's almost completely silent. There's just the whirr of the laptop hard disk, some gentle Jazz on the radio, and the odd ping from the heaters. If I turned that lot off then all that's left would be the faint noise of the wind (unlike last time it's not stormy, merely damp).
Let's go slightly off-topic for a moment here (it'll make sense). Some of you may know that I have a grand plan: to get a Master's and a PhD. The reason for doing so is largely "because", but I consider that a sufficiently good reason for a grand plan. Actually, there's a bit more to it than that - I did enjoy the time I spent at university and the people there, and would love to go back to it. The plan's also come on a bit since it originally came into being five years ago. I recently looked at doing a masters via the open university, and decided that it actually wasn't what I wanted. Almost all the modules I already know to some extent, and the ones I didn't I looked at and went "is that actually any use to me?". I think what I really want to do is a research degree rather than a taught one, something where I can come out at the end with having actually done something. I've got enough ideas for potentially cool things (some practical, some less so) that I'm sure there's something I could do a research project on.
Besides, actually working for a few years gives you a better work ethic and I'd probably do a lot better with the project this time (there's something to be said for doing a course with a sandwich year - while university gives you the knowledge and skills, it doesn't really prepare you for the world of work). Then again as my grandfather always says if you got a first or a third you spent too much or too little time studying, so I think I did quite well with my 2:1. Certainly it was good enough for the job I got straight out of university.
Anyway, back on topic: the reason I'm writing about my grand plan is I've decided I now have a second grand plan: to live in Falmouth (though I'll settle for seaside Cornwall in general). Of course it's completely impractical due to a total lack of software jobs in the area, but no-one ever said grand plans have to be practical. Merely that they should be possible. Then again in this day and age all you actually need for a software business is good connectivity. The people behind World of Goo, for example, describe their office as being whichever coffee shop with free Wi-Fi they're in today.
Neither of these plans is going to happen tomorrow - they're several years away at least. The first plan has been in a perpetual state of "in a couple of years" ever since leaving Sussex due to the money required for a Master's/PhD constantly increasing. The second plan has only just come into being as an actual plan rather than a vague answer to the "if you could live anywhere where would it be" question. But in five years time, who knows?
Time to throw my two pence in the water....
Speaking as someone who did a short spell in industry to come back to education, I have come to realise the complete pointlessness of things like degree's. I realised having talked with some staff at the university that my idea of a weekend project was their idea of a masters. That saddened me but it didn't surprise me having spent my sandwich year doing smart things with smart people. In our industry the education system is out of touch and given the drop in admissions this time round and their increased prices I hope they realise they need to add value to their courses, not just waste people's time for a few years.
Personally I would do the Masters and the PhD on my own time for my own enjoyment. They will give you nothing you don't already get from the workplace in terms of education so don't expect them to further your career. Unless of course you wish to go into research then go ahead.
I realise I sound negative about this... Personally I want the same as you, to go back to uni one way or another and get the qualifications to match the experience.
As for the quiet down here, I don't consider that much different to my parents house. However what Horsham can't compete with is the light or the lack of it. I love that round here you can see the stars.
Tuesday 31st January 2012 at 8:40 pm (UTC)
I've mixed views on degrees. The Bachelor's was useful, both for the material covered (while some of it is completely unrelated to my current work, other parts have turned out to be useful) and for starting to shift your mindset away from school and towards actually doing stuff yourself. Indeed, a lot of employers are less interested in the actual content of a degree and more in the fact that you've actually stuck with it and achieved one. So I think the Bachelor's was worth it, though it depends a lot on what your future plans are.
For postgrad it all gets a bit murkier. The field I'm in is computer science (with some AI as well), and for taught CompSci degrees there's not much that I haven't learnt myself at some time or other. Really, I'd be paying several thousand pounds and doing a vast amount of coursework to get a qualification that most software employers aren't actually interested in, and that would contain very little that's actually new to me. That's why I said I want to do a research degree - again, the actual qualification isn't worth much if I then go back into software development, but I'll come out of it having actually achieved something. And if I do change tack and head into research, then a Master's/PhD suddenly becomes worth a lot more.
Plus it means I get to call myself Doctor boggyb
. Admit it, you really just want the PhD for the "Doctor" honorific.
On the other part of your comment: I think Falmouth certainly would be quieter than Horsham. Remember, where you are is still near a major road. Being able to look up and see the stars is another strong point, though I didn't think Horsham was that bad. Again I suppose it depends on location, both on the large-scale "this part of the country has less light pollution" and the small-scale "this house isn't next to a well-lit road network".
As for the remarks regarding a education, I think we have an agreement. And "Doctor" is always cool, if only for the "last lecture" quote of "he's a doctor, but not the kind that helps people".
As for the noise, actually road noise was never an issue at my parents, it was always dead quiet. As for light pollution, trust me as someone who has tried taking long exposure photos round here and in Horsham. Round here I get the same view above my house that I do in the middle of the Rusper area in Sussex.
Thursday 5th April 2012 at 12:36 am (UTC)
I had a different experience with my Master's degree: I'd say that it was even more valuable than my Bachelor's. I took a wide variety of courses, so I still got a "breadth" CS education (e.g. Neural Networks, Computer Architecture, OS, Reliability), but I distinctly remember each course requiring more effort, and training me to be a better programmer, than did courses at my undergraduate university.
Example: as an undergrad, I had to implement a client-server network application; as a grad student I had read a bunch of RFCs and implemented a software router. Guess which one made a more lasting memory about TCP/IP? :-)
It also made me realise that I don't have any interest in pursuing a PhD. I got bored with my project after 6 months; I suspect that I would feel more relief than accomplishment if I were to finish a PhD.