Some health issues.

Posted by | Posted in Life | Posted on 08-10-2016

I wasn’t going to bother posting about these but they’re dragging on for so long that it’s … well it’s just time like I feel I need to talk about them I guess.

The minor health issue is that I had a lump on my head, for a year now. It’s nothing serious just a cyst, lots of people get them, sometimes they go away but at other times they need removing or become infected.

I went to the doctors after putting up with it for about 3 months and he said to come back in 3 more months. That was October last year so when I got it removed on Friday (7/10/2016) it has been there for almost 15 months. It has annoyed me every single fucking day of that time, and night. It’d probably still be there right now but thankfully I started seeing another Doctor (about health issue number 2 below) and she actually did something about it, including the minor surgery to remove it. In the end it’s made a mess because it had not only burst and gotten infected but had done so repeatedly over those 15 months and thus had made a mess of the area.

The second issue is a little more serious but we’re hoping that it proves to be relatively minor and easy to treat, maybe even temporary! (optimism!).

I started feeling faint and having to stop some of my exercise / training sessions back in June (yes this is ongoing, yay for the NHS) so after doing the obvious stuff like taking a break and making sure I was getting enough vitamins etc I went back to exercising and … had exactly the same problem. Since then I’ve only had a few things done: Blood tests, ECG, worn a heart monitor for 7 days, but this has taken absolutely fucking forever.

  • General health check, drink, diet, glands etc health interview 10 minutes – 1 week wait for appointment.
  • Blood tests – 10 minutes – 2 week wait for appointment then 2 weeks for results (the results showed nothing amiss so they didn’t bother to phone me, idiots).
  • ECG – 10 minutes – done same day, instant results! (done at the Doctors surgery).
  • Heart Monitor – 6 weeks waiting list, 10 minute appointment (2 hours waiting), 7 days monitoring, up to 4 weeks for results.

I’m still waiting for the results of the heart monitor and probably will be until NOVEMBER! No rush anyone it’s only my HEART. There’s not even any guarantee that the heart monitor will show anything and that’s beacuse it wasn’t really “monitoring” anything.

You see the device you wear has a two sticky tabs that connect the wires to you, you must apply them correctly yourself twice a day which is pretty easy but also stupidly simple to get wrong. These sticky pads come in two forms, really itchy and “AARRRGH GET IT OFF ME!!!“, they don’t give you many of the “really itchy” kind because they cost more…

Next up is the issue that it only actually records something when you press a button it, and you only have 10 slots in the devices memory to record things, the button is very badly placed making it easy to press it by accident when for example:

  • You need to move it because it’s clipped to your belt stupidly and you can’t sit down wearing it
  • You need to move it back onto your belt because the wires are short and you can’t stand up when it’s clipped too a pocket
  • It’s fallen off your belt because the clamp is weak
  • You’ve gone to the loo and need to drop your trousers so have to either unplug it or hold somehow whilst you “go”
  • You roll over on it in your sleep and try to move it
  • a thousand and other situations that make you despair of actually having any slots left to record anything

Also this requires you to realise that you should be recording something, the device does no recording or monitoring of it’s own, just a 30 second long window of memory so that when you do press the button it *might* have caught the thing that just passed by that you wanted it to record. In total it records 1 minutes worth of data in each slot because after pressing it records that previous 30 seconds + the next 30 seconds.

Of course if you’re me you only get these problems when doing things like exercising, which I’ve been told not to do… so guess what I did?

  • The day after I got it I deliberately ran up and down the 6 flights of stairs in our building until I nearly collapsed: and pressed the button.
  • The next day we went for a long tiring walk around the nature reserve: another press although not sure that was worth it.
  • Then the first accidental press round at a friends… great.
  • Finally on the Monday I went to see my personal trainer where I used to do group sessions and exercise and we did an hour of very tough training with the result: I had to press that button 3 damned times! I count that as a positive though since that was the point.

There might have been other times that I should have pressed the button, but I’m the patient, I don’t know what my heart *should* be doing, it’s always been in here thumping away and apparently that’s not always been right so how do we know that I’m getting the correct data?

Hopefully by November (NOVEMBER FFS!) we should have an answer to whats wrong and then maybe I can get treatment and start to be more active again, I can stop feeling so tired and worn out as often.

I don’t want anyone to worry, we’re pretty sure that it’ll be some minor form of Tachycardia which will be treatable either with a short course of something, or pills forever.

 

Here finally is that point of this post though, this whole process has been a fucking joke to go through and I know for a fact that it costs peoples lives. I’ve never been worried that it would claim mine but it HAS weighed in mind just because it’s taken so long.

We’ve all seen videos / images of people wired up to ECG machines, with a mask on, running on a treadmill whilst a Doctor makes notes, yes? Well that would have been more effective than the little device I wore to monitor my heart, I know because I sat next to one such setup whilst getting that fucking device and chatting to the nurse. Apparently they don’t use those much anymore because it requires a doctor to be present.

Let me rewind briefly, to June when this started. Thankfully I started by seeing a different Doctor than usual, my usual Doctor (who I will never see again) would just have sent me away with a “come back in 3 months” which he has done for everything I have ever seen him for.

Anyway I’d been having these issues for several weeks by that appointment and it started with the health checkup/interview, then bloodtests and the resting ECG. Since then progress has been pretty glacial and in nearly 2 months I’ve only submitted the heart monitor device for analysis, by the time I get results it will be 3 months and then? Well then lets assume it shows nothing amiss … so I’ll need the next set of tests like a cardio echogram which i dread to imagine what the waiting list is like for that, after that it might be ..? I dunno an X-ray or CT scan or something?

The point is that each of these will have another waiting list, with another appointment with another wait for the results. So how many people die between “Ow my chest, I feel faint” and the diagnosis? Nevermind treatment just diagnosis.

I know someone who died on the waiting list for the very heart monitoring device that I’ve just given back and it freaks me out because I am the same age now as he was then. For what has actually been just 7 days and 30 minutes of tests I’ve had to wait 5 months and will still be waiting for another for the results meaning 6 months from that first doctors visit which was already a couple of weeks after the first problems.

Lets say that instead of the heart monitor I’d had the exercise ECG which takes about 15 minutes. The total time would be 45 minutes of tests, throw in the cardio echogram and call it 1 hour 45 minutes… why isn’t this a single appointment? You’d still have to wait 6 weeks for it but that’d be the whole thing done and dusted. Lets say instead that you need to narrow it down rather than throwing all the possible tests at people, because I’ve been simplifying and there’s a few of them. Split this into two and do the easy stuff first like blood test & resting ECG at the doctors surgery. If that shows the problem then great you’ve got out of the testing loop early, simple optimisation isn’t it :)

If you haven’t gotten a diagnosis though then you’d move onto stage 2, and a battery of non-invasive/non-surgical tests at the hospital done in a single appointment. Spend 6 weeks waiting and 2 hours being prodded and poked. That’d probably deal with 90% of patient straight away, many filtered out at stage 1 with the simple stuff like viral infections, stress, hormone issues etc. Stage 2 would get most everyone else. The remaining few though could be sent onto the specific test(s) that would help them guided by the data they just got.

 

Then there’s the piece of shite heart monitor that I just had.

I’m fucking appalled by it’s existence, there are devices which actively monitor your heart, and remember it’s just a waveform so you can analyse it easily probably in realtime to detect any issues that might be occuring.

It stores so little data, it costs so much for what is some sram, a tiny cpu, ADC and a op-amp to boost the signal totaling perhaps £10 in parts, it’s usability is somewhere between insulting and a joke, the software that they use is archaic and does absolutely no analysis of it’s own, NONE. At work we were discussing more advanced beat detection in open source audio programs! It’s shocking, even the disposable pads for the electrodes cost £30 to £50 per pack! The result is a costly piece of shit device which probably won’t capture the data needed and has resulted in them no longer using the Exercise ECG machines very much.

 

So I’m ranting because I’m pissed off by the lethargic, half-arsed process of it all. The waste, the stupidity, the time it’s taken, the rip-off costs for the piece-of-shit equipment that the NHS is using and nowhere that I look can I find an answer to the question: How many people die whilst waiting for a heart condition diagnosis?

We know that it’s non-zero, it’s at least one.

I’ll be fine, this will get diagnosed and it’ll be something simple that can be treated or it’ll be complex… but can be treated. The process to get that far though, is shite, and I bet there’s plenty in the NHS who know that but are powerless to change it.

2 weeks already?

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, Life, Pioneer | Posted on 13-09-2013

Wow time really flies when you’re … um, reading books and going to the gym more often?

Ok so I have been doing some programming on Pioneer; fixed up the solutions & projects for VS 2012 & 2013 Preview (I could do VS2010 too but am not touching 2008!) to deal with latest changes, fixed the GLEW changes to get it all building and compiling and then took up the Oculus Rift integration again – that’s a bit hairy that stuff since I’m having to modify a LOT of stuff in Pioneers rendering process.

Anyway the result so far is the following;

  • distortion shader working,
  • head tracking working,
  • rendering two cameras to a framebuffer working.

screenshot-20130911-205145

So all done huh? Nope, not by a long shot.

There’s a lot of other stuff that needs to be done to get a 3D projection + FOV + view offsets for each eye and a few other bits before we actually get a working 3D view and I haven’t worked through all of that yet since I’ve been busy with time consuming other stuff.

Unexpectedly, probably only to me, some of it is just stuff that didn’t used to take much time at all but is now quite time consuming.

Take going to the gym, this is what it used to work out like:

  • Leave work & walk to gym (11 mins)
  • Get changed (3-ish mins)
  • Exercise (30 mins)
  • Shower and get dressed (10-ish mins)
  • Hurry back to work stopping at Tescos (15 mins)

I think that in truth that used to usually take about 1 hour and 15 minutes, sometimes longer if we’d been doing leg work and I couldn’t walk as fast on the way back. Now however I’m coming in from Beeston which entails an extra train journey, and because I don’t choose when the trains run I have to catch them based on which one gets me there _before_ my session with my personal trainer. This means that I’m getting in quite a bit earlier, but that I’m travelling for much longer and due to the scheduling granularity of the trains… well, I left the house at 11:30am and got home today at 15:00pm just to do a 30 minute session. I could have gotten home earlier today, but decided that since I’d be missing one train anyway I got a haircut (I’m male, so if it takes more than 10 minutes to cut my hair then something is wrong). So I could have shaved 30 minutes off that (Train schedule) but even so it’s around the 3 hour mark to go to the gym just once.

Everything has scaled similarly though, popping out to get milk was to the nearby Tesco Express and less than 10 minutes but now involves walking across Beeston to the big 24 hour Tescos (or further for Sainsburys) because that’s the nearest one that does the Lactofree stuff. I’ve also been getting to the doctors (knee injury and anxiety attack stuff), dentists (keep flossing!!!) and the talking therapy place for an assessment (I’m not mad, might want to work on my confidence in a couple of months – quitting was the right thing to do apparently!).

At first I was worried about how this was going ot impact on two of my stated goals from the previous post:

  1. Work through some UDK tutorials – the new job is on Unreal Engine 4 so I think getting a footing in the tech’ will be good for me,
  2. Work through Frank D Luna’s D3D 11 tutorials but convert them to OpenGL 4.0 – Been meaning to do this for a while, it’s a good ramp up and parallels these SlimDX posts,

…but screw that, I’ve really really really (emphasis!!!) needed this downtime to get myself sorted and simply running into yet more challenging stuff and then freaking out about that wasn’t going to help anyone least of all me.

My plans haven’t changed, I still want to dive into the UDK stuff – I have it all installed and a selection of tutorials ready, I’ve just pushed the start of it back until this weekend or Monday. That takes the pressure off me for doing the Pioneer Oculus Rift integration which is acting like a pressure valve and gentle reentry into doing some coding again for fun.

Now though I’m going to go and tidy up downstairs before Danni gets home. She’s started at a secondment to a new primary school which is in Special Measures. It’s taking a lot of her time and mental capacity, everyone there is under tremendous pressure, so I’m trying to suck less at the housework. Of course I come from a position of sucking _utterly_ to begin with but I am getting less awful :)

 

Andy

I’ve left Crytek

Posted by | Posted in Life | Posted on 01-09-2013

Well this should probably be another post about Pioneer and it’s terrain generation / rendering, instead that’s all taken a back seat as things have gone steadily more wrong at Crytek and I’ve finally quit.

I wish I could put my finger on the “what” of went wrong but I’ve struggled to do so.

The effects however are much easier to list:

  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • no concentration at all
  • some truly terrible code (embarrasingly bad at times)
  • really struggling to implement even basic algorithms because of all the above

I finally got some medication to control the panic attacks and have been referred for other help but suffice to say that whatever the combination of things wrong with my time at Crytek it simply didn’t matter anymore, I had to get out.

Seeing that things were not right I started looking for something else and decided that I had enough strong leads – and with one offer on the table already – it was simply time to get out.

 

Friday 30th August was my last day and for that last week I didn’t need to take the anti-panic-attack medication once during the proceeding week.

I felt much better, I felt enthusiastic again, I had energy, I even started doing some coding at home and on Pioneer after months of twiddling with projects and solution updates.

 

I accepted the offer I’d had, it’s a work from home role and I’ll discuss it in another post in the future, that starts on the 30th September so I have a bit of a break to get better again.

To that end I’m going to do a few things:

  1. Work through some UDK tutorials – the new job is on Unreal Engine 4 so I think getting a footing in the tech’ will be good for me,
  2. Work through Frank D Luna’s D3D 11 tutorials but convert them to OpenGL 4.0 – Been meaning to do this for a while, it’s a good ramp up and parallels these SlimDX posts,
  3. Get back to doing Pioneer coding – I have a massive to do list for this,
  4. Cycle around the nature reserve more and in town when I go during the day,
  5. Keep going to the gym and eating healthily.

That’s a lot of things but I’m not going to fit them all into a month :D these are things I’ll simply be starting in this month, and taking slowly so as not to get overwhelmed. I suspect I’ll stop the UDK ones once I’m up to speed at the new job and I’ll be flexible with myself about all of the above, doing more or less as I see fit and when I feel fit.

 

Right now… off out for Sunday lunch with Danni and other friends :)

More “recovery” don’t ya know!

Yeti

 

PS: I should probably on reflection, add that Crytek isn’t a bad place to work, far from it, lots of people seem to really like it. All of the above is solely how *I* have found it.

My weak C++ is overkill.

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, Life | Posted on 30-07-2012

In the space of the last two weeks I’ve done a few programming tests, travelled down to Oxford for an interview + test and failed multiple times.

The feedback has been consistently inconsistent. Having failed at one test due to my approach being “overkill” and focusing too much on the technical I decided that it needed a bit more work and another approach implementing that was a little more bare bones. Then when the Oxford based studio wanted an example of some code I reused that “overkill” code for this purpose. This time apparently my C++ was “too weak“.

At this point, and over £90 down on travel expenses which will never be reimbursed, I’m feeling a little out of sorts with the whole process. Previously I’ve been head hunted by other companies, I’m still one of the first people that our old CEO approaches when he needs a coder and whilst everyone has something they don’t like about the way I code they still tell me that they’d happily work with me again.

So what’s going on?

Maybe I just don’t fit that eminently employable mold that everyone seems to be getting squeezed into lately? No, well “yes” but it’s not quite that simple. I don’t have a great range of demos to show people, or a large volume of finished projects. Mostly my spare time coding is learning about a single thing that doesn’t really add up to what you’d call “a demo“. The titles I’ve worked on are usually my demos but recently EVERYONE has insisted on seeing production quality code. By “production quality” I think they’re actually meaning some kind of aspirational coding quality that I’ve yet to see in real game code but we all know what they want anyway. I don’t have the code for a lot of projects, and even if I did it’s under NDA as far as I’m concerned. I don’t go around showing people the code from other companies projects because it’s not mine to show.

Of course there’s always the “coding test“; the ultimate independent arbiter of a programmers ability! There’s no better test than seeing how they solve the old point-is-inside-a-polygon with pen and paper to really tell you what kind of a programmer is sat before you! Maybe instead it’ll be something almost 20 or 30 lines long with a couple of functions just to see how they cope, or my new personal favourite; the whilst ski-ing with your new co-workers which route do you take semi-psychological question. Yay! Shame that “bury their corpses in the mountain snow for giving me this stupid test” wasn’t one of the possible answers.

What a fucking ball ache, plus a massive waste of time. They’re like any bloody test, they tell you how good the person sat in front of you is at that test and that test only. Not what they’re coding style is, not how quickly or well they can change that style to match your companies Byzantine preference, it doesn’t tell you how they learn, adapt or take criticism of the approach they’ve used. It doesn’t help you see why they have those recommendations on LinkedIn (Did they ask for them or were given? Who are those people to you friends or just co-workers?), what they’d like to learn more about or where they’re weak.

My personal experience is that I seem to be getting filtered out at a lot of these tests, even for companies where their whole game is less complicated than a single feature I’ve worked on for other titles. Apparently all those years of experience don’t matter because they don’t like the style I used to answer an arbitrary test question on a sub-subject that I haven’t needed to look at since the second year of University over 10 years ago… I still answered it and in the last interview I even got praised that I’d taken the correct approach to solving it!

What seems to happen is that I fall foul of these tiny tests that stretch some irrelevant scrap of knowledge or practice and that’s it, test over, interview failed. For the bigger tests, the tests you can do sat at home, I’m either going to too much effort (wtf!?!) or I’m just not hearing back from places, at all.

These places aren’t Valve, Sony, Microsoft, BioWare etc. No, I’m falling flat on my face with over a decade and a half of programming practice and 9 years in the Games Industry for companies making mobile phone games who have development teams of over 140 people. We did MotoGP 10/11 for Xbox360 and PS3 (and an internal PC version) with less than 50 and I wrote major pieces of core functionality and gameplay for those damned games.

Does that make me the best coder I know? Good grief no, I’m average, sometimes I’m better than the next guy, sometimes I’m worse, frequently it depends on the task at hand. If you want to wait on finding that super-coder-from-the-year-3001 then just say so but don’t expect to hire him for as little as you’re offering me.

The upshot?

I’m tired, I feel a little beaten up by this application and interviewing process. I wish I could hit pause, get a cuppa, tell everyone to fuck off… and quietly turn 33 years old on Saturday 4th Aug (I’d like a career change this year please!), returning renewed, ready … and tell everyone to _really_ fuck off because I’d rather go Indie than work for most of these places that I’m applying to. Sadly this on-again/off-again relationship I’ve had with contracts and work post-Monumental-Games-Ltd has meant that I have absolutely nothing left of savings, and since I haven’t even been paid for my last bit of contracting(!) I am pretty screwed this month too.

This isn’t a very satisfactory ending to this post because this isn’t some story with a conclusion, this is just my life recently.