Category Archives: General

iOS Shortcuts: Personal soundtrack

Over on Reddit I posted three ‘soundtrack’ shortcuts that I run on my Apple Watch and play through the watch’s speaker.

🔗 What a blockhead!: Plays a snippet from ‘Christmas Time is Here’ by the Vince Guaraldi Trio – also known as the ‘sad Charlie Brown music’ used in Arrested Development. Use when you need to leave a room in a dejected manner.

🔗 Horsey ride!: Plays the theme music from ‘Bonanza!’. Use when, like me, you need to give one of your children a horsey ride.

🔗 Theme from Police Squad!: Plays the intro to ‘Police Squad!’ by the Tom Kubis Big Band. Use for when you really need to make an entrance.


You’ll need to make sure you know how to allow untrusted shortcuts on your iOS device before adding these.

Book Aid International “Book of the Month” – How to Think Like a Coder Without Even Trying!

I’m incredibly delighted and proud that Book Aid International has chosen “How to Think Like a Coder: Without Even Trying!” as their Book of the Month:

“The fun exercises it includes can easily be done at home, in the library or the classroom without the need for a computer. As a result, this book will be an invaluable resource for community libraries and schools that do not have ICT facilities (or even electricity) but which want to give young readers and learners the opportunity to keep up with their counterparts across the world.”

Copies of “How to Think Like a Coder…” will be distributed to many of their partners with community library networks including the Uganda Community Library Association’s libraries.
Book Aid International works with public, community and prison libraries to ensure the books they provide are available to all without discrimination. They also work to increase the support available to people as they begin to read by training librarians and teachers.
More information on “How to Think Like a Coder: Without Even Trying!” is available here and here.

Speaking at the Bradford Literature Festival 2019

I will be taking part in the Bradford Literature Festival next month, and speaking about How to Think Like a Coder and some other coding-related topics:

Bradford Literature Festival was formed in 2014 to create a cultural and literary extravaganza celebrating the written and spoken word. The festival curates an atmospheric blend of voices, combining the work of leading writers, performers and poets with emerging talent. In 2017, over 350 events took place across 10 days, capturing the hearts and imaginations of more than 50,000 people.

We are passionate about education; inspiring a love affair with words and boosting literacy is at the heart of all our public and schools events. The festival’s schools initiative, which runs alongside the general programme, holds free events for students throughout the Bradford District. In 2017 our events engaged and inspired more than 12,000 young people.

It promises to be a great opportunity – really looking forward to it!

Cooking With Link

Since introducing my son to the Nintendo Switch, he’s taken an interest in more than Mario Kart. He likes to navigate the user interface on the Switch (and most other devices he has access to), and has found the Mii creator to his liking.

When I first brought home the Switch, I also had The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which I tested playing at the table. Tanooki took one of the Joy-Con controllers and was helping to push buttons as we went along through the world of Hyrule for five minutes or so. However, after we encountered some monsters to fight, I soon changed my mind about him having access to age-appropriate titles. As a three-year-old, he doesn’t understand his own emotions and how to express them yet, let alone comic/fantasy violence.

He’s allowed to look at an older Zelda (Wind Waker, originally a Game Boy game) on the 3DS, purely because of its simpler interface and inability to really convey violence or scary enemies, but I digress.

However, one day I had my Switch out on the counter, and had been collecting various food stuffs in-game to craft food and potions for my Zelda adventures later on. Different combinations of the varied ingredients available in-game grant the player various status-augments (such as stealth) as well as replenishing hearts and stamina. The player has to go through the motions of selecting up to five ingredients from inventory and combining them in a pot (the fire which they may have to find a way to light themselves). It’s not overly-complicated nor tedious, and the mechanic has real in-game benefits for the player. My son was naturally curious to what was on the Switch so I switched it on to show him.

Making Apple Pies

To make something like an apple pie in-game, you need the following ingredients:

  • Tabantha Wheat
  • Sugar Cane
  • Goat’s Butter
  • Apples (up to 2)
Cooking with Link 07
The shop in Rito Village where we buy our ingredients

A little short of ingredients, we travelled to the village of Rito, where we could purchase what was missing.

Now, I’m not “every moment has to be a teaching moment” Papa, but I figured this was probably an opportunistic moment to show the little guy how much things cost. In the game, to purchase items in shops, you simply approach them at a table and select them. Your display changes to show more details about your choice, including how much in-game money you have (in rupees), the price of the item, and how many are in stock.

Cooking with Link 01
Each item has a price and stock quantity

Looking at the display I can ask him what ingredient we are buying, how much it costs, and how much money we have left. If anything, he’s getting a sense for what the number represents in essence, and definitely not what the mathematical (or financial) impact is, but I think it’s good exposure.

After collecting our ingredients, we warp back to Link’s house in Hateno Village.Cooking with Link 05

My son sometimes likes to have a look inside the house, but what we’re really looking for is the big cooking pot outside the house (side note, we can technically cook at a stable or town etc but there’s something familiar about going back to the house at the end of the day and doing it there).

Cooking with Link 06

He helps me go through the (extensive) inventory, then presses the button on the correct ingredients to hold them in Link’s arms.

Cooking with Link 04

After that, we put it all in the pot to cook…

Cooking with Link 03… and then nom!

Now at the weekends we kick off the gaming half hour by spending a little time cooking with Link! It’s great fun to watch him experiment and I’m never quite sure what dishes I’m going to end up with in my inventory.