Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lecturers who just happen to sign – British Sign Language (BSL)

I was in the unusual position yesterday of having my 1to1 with a Deaf student – “S”, who I’m supporting through his first year – in the presence of one of his interpreters – “M”, who was new to the campus, having not worked for USW before – because they are normally only contracted to cover lectures and scheduled tutorials. Level 6 (extremely fluent) interpreters are often quite strict about their hours, only doing what they are contracted to do. This is understandable, given they usually work in pairs, doing 15-20 minute stints, but at university frequently work alone, translating for an hour or more in a lecture; I’ve only once this academic year had dual interpreters in my class, for a day of student presentations, which might reasonably be more of a strain.

Communication Support Workers (CSWs) are usually Level 4 qualified in BSL – for clarification I’m currently studying Signature Level 3, having qualified Level 2 sixteen years ago, in the CACDP days; assessment if not teaching practices have changed a lot in that time! – and from experience tend to forge greater links with Deaf students, often hanging around to help in (probably unpaid) informal settings like coffee breaks. Again, this is understandable, and to some degree recommends them over more highly qualified (and costlier) translators, although this relies on their good will, and shouldn’t be taken for granted. In technical subjects like mine, the level of qualifications are somewhat irrelevant as well, due to the complex (often inaccessible) language, with frequent use of impenetrable jargon that can only easily be finger spelled; but without the concept being understood, spelling a word doesn’t do much. Computer Science needs digital literacy to a high standard as well as competence in BSL. It also needs time to rephrase and reform language to get the idea across. Something there isn’t time for in a Software Engineering lecture, especially when there are more slides than minutes as some of my colleagues seem to use. (So much for ‘reasonable adjustment’ as having these in advance isn’t that much help to a Deaf student.) I’ve noticed that lecturers often don’t grasp how much of a barrier their use of English is to the Deaf, for whom English is often an alien second language; grammar and meaning are radically different even though BSL (and other regional sign languages) are heavily influenced by the native oral tongue. Deaf Awareness classes can only do so much, and many lecturers haven’t attended these anyway. I try to go to all the ones that run on my campus, and it is 99% student support (i.e. admin) staff who come, mostly female and rarely academics; this might be anecdotal though.

When an interpreter has cancelled on S last minute, which sadly happens regularly, it is very hard to find substitutes at short notice. Therefore, I’ve had to stand in on a few occasions, when my teaching or other duties have allowed. It’s hard work, given my understanding of BSL is an order of magnitude below CSWs, let alone interpreters. However, I do have the technical knowledge 🙂 and a few decades practice at making complex information accessible; it isn’t only the Deaf who struggle with jargon! Something for us all to remember: if we make our language simpler, we make the content of our teaching more accessible to everybody, not just students with Individual Support Packages (ISPs).

Talking with M, he asked me was it easier or harder working with an interpreter. As a typical programmer, I said “Yes.” 😀 However, I did explain: the pressure is off trying to get the syntax, semantics and grammar right, and I’m just fluent enough to be able to spot problems in the translation – Interpreters often say something a few times, with examples, which is why translating complex items takes time [Although not as bad as this, specifically at 1:35 

] – but the loss of direct communication can also be an issue, because not being able to see comprehension directly could mean an idea being incorrectly translated; in that respect I’m more fortunate, I suppose.
Are there other lecturers out there, who just happen to speak BSL, rather than it being their official role? What are your expectations of reasonable adjustment? Personally, mine is having done enough for the students to actually pass, but this view doesn’t seem to be shared by many others 🙁 

I’ve had a few occasions when I’ve been asked why I give up a few hours a week to help this student. I’m thinking “because he needs it,” but they seem to understand my desire for BSL practice more readily. Acting as emergency, if unofficial and barely adequate interpreter has forged stronger links with sympathetic colleagues, and allowed me to raise the issue of English being a barrier to learning. How do I spread that to the wider academic community?

Trump Wave – a game for #ggj17 using #Sifteo cubes

I’m making a game using Sifteo Cubes for the Global Game Jam 2017. Here are some random notes, which will may get neatened up into a sensible post-mortem.

I am using v1 cubes and software, which means the dev environment is a little flaky. For example, adding image assets involves using the SiftDev image helper tool, then reloading the code with the Load Apps tool, then refreshing the Siftulator simulation, which needs to be done, or the new graphics won’t appear. All this is very time consuming, so get your art assets sorted early.

Also peculiar with the image helper tool, is the siftbundle of image references, used to load graphics into the game, doesn’t honour file names, but seems to do something consistent, but random, which i think is creation date. This has meant I had to ‘hack’ the image loader to allow me control over asset naming in game.

Other stuff happened. Here is the Global Game Jam entry for the “finished” game:

#FiveSentenceFiction – Abandon “”

Lillie McFerrin Writes

Lillie McFerrin hosts a Five Sentence Fiction competition on her blog. This week’s theme is Abandon. Here is my entry, which is inspired by the picture this week:

by Dr. Mike Reddy (@doctormikereddy)
“Ooh, heaven is a place on Earth…” a distorted Belinda Carlisle squawked, “They say in Heaven love comes first, Ooh Heaven is a…”. Ellen removed the Walkman’s thin metal framed, rather grubby orange headphones, and absently hung them round her neck while she took in the scene. An abandoned church, as many were now in the South Wales valleys, sold now, but clearly in need of more love and attention than she could possibly give.

Hidden demons dined on the strange depression of this particular corner of Hell, which Ellen had conjured up to be her eternal, never ending loop of torture. After a few seconds, it started again, “Ooh, Heaven is a place on Earth…”

Nonsense and Adsense

You may have noticed, oh you lucky few who subscribe to this blog, that some adverts have discretely appeared (way down on the side and the bottom of pages and posts). I’ve taken the plunge, inspired by my middle daughter’s aspirations to become a YouTube “channeler” like many of her contemporary heroes, and decided to try to work out the mine field that is Google Adsense. I hold no false pretentions that this site will generate much (if any) revenue, and all of that will go to my excellent mentor and patron Paco, over at, who has been paying for this site to exist for a while now; he’s an excellent fellow, who just wants to boost the number of people writing intelligently about board and card games, etc. So, this isn’t about planting moneytree seeds, or a desire to wear moneyhats. It’s an experiment and an adventure.

For example, there are several “do”s and “don’ts” in using Google Adsense:

  • Firstly, to get Adsense approval in the first place, you must have content. Fortunately, I have blog posts going back ten years, and a good few YouTube videos on my channel. Nothing groundbreaking, but enough to show that I’ve been around for a while and am likely to be so in future. Imagine what this must feel like to a new and enthusiastic teenager; Sorry, daughter, but you are going to have to consistently make content for a while before you can think of these ways to even try to break even, let alone make a self-sustaining blog.
  • Secondly, you must never, ever click on one of your own ads – it’s the fastest way to get your Adsense account banned forever; and unless you remove ads from your site, Google will continue to post them there long after they have decided that you will not get paid. Google has a LOT of excellent material for helping you out, such as the Chrome plugin “Google Publisher Toolbar, which can overlay Adsense ads on your site, preventing accidental clicks.
  • Finally, expect the whole process to be a steep learning curve. All of a sudden I need a privacy policy, probably a disclaimer of some sort, and Terms & Conditions for using the site. This is all heavy stuff for a blogger, especially a first timer like my daughter. This is, apparently, one of the easiest ways to fall foul of Google’s T&Cs meaning that you might miss out on ad revenue, because you didn’t abide by those long conditions you agreed to when you applied for an Adsense account.

So, it’s already been fruitful. I know that I need to actually read the T&Cs to make sure that this site is all set up in the next few days. I am, after all, doing this to aid my daughter in her quest for Social Media stardom. Remember who will be footing the server bills otherwise!

What money can’t buy

I saw this story on Quora today:

Joseph Heller wrote the massive bestseller, Catch-22 about World War II…

Later in his life Heller went to a party in the Hamptons. Mostly young hedge fund guys at the party.

While he was at the party, someone came up to him and pointed out some 25 year old guy. “You see that guy over there?” the someone said. “That guy made more money last year than all of your books will make in your entire lifetime, times ten.”

Joseph Heller looked at the 25 year old guy then said. “But I have one thing that that man will never have.”

His friend gave a sort of scoff and said, “What could that possibly be?”

And Joseph Heller said, “Enough.”

This reminds me of something my Grand Dad used to say: “We’re not short of what we’ve got.” He also regularly commented, “It’ll either rain or go dark before morning.” So, we can’t hold much store in his philosophy. Those two family sayings were broadcast on BBC Radio Four’s “Quote Unquote” a few weeks ago. It made me smile to think that his wisdom lives on. He always knew that enough was enough, even though he once when hearing someone say “That’ll do.” interrupted them, saying “There’s no such thing as ‘That will do.’ Let me have a look… That’ll do!”

#fivesentencefiction – Moments “Oh well”

Lillie McFerrin Writes

Lillie McFerrin hosts a Five Sentence Fiction competition on her blog. This week’s theme is Moments.


Here is my entry, which is inspired by the picture this week:


“Oh well”
by Dr. Mike Reddy (@doctormikereddy)

“No, look,” Bill said smugly. “It’s a reflex action from birth, but it don’t last long, so ya have to help me now!”

“You’re serious, aren’t ya?” his best mate asked. “You want me to video you suspending your sister’s baby over the old wishing well… for a YouTube video…?”

“Totally, Ted! It will be VIRAL!” he said, pointing repeatedly at the camera.

Ted grudgingly started recording, his one visible eye seeking reassurance that it was going to be ok.

“Holly shit,” he said “The little bugger is totally hanging from your fin… Oh!”

#TicckleTuesday “Mechanical Quirk” #flashfiction

“You’ve heard of the Mechanical Turk, right?”

“The thing that played chess and answered all your questions?”

“Right. I’m the Mechanical Quirk. I solve your problems. I ‘fix’ the ‘Dispossessed’.”

“The dis…”

” Ok… God… Screw up… Universal glitch…. Everything built ’11 inches to the North’… Some can ‘feel’ it… Makes ’em ‘different’. I fix.”

“Different? How?”

“Sadder. Madder. Badder. Usually sadder. Creative though. Driven cos NOTHING fits.”

“What if I don’t want to be fixed?”

#FiveSentenceFiction – Travel “Maiden Ticket” #flashfiction

Lillie McFerrin Writes

Lillie McFerrin hosts a Five Sentence Fiction competition on her blog. This week’s theme is Travel.

Here is my entry, which is heavily inspired by the Jungfrau Railway in the picture this week:


“Maiden Ticket”
by Dr. Mike Reddy (@doctormikereddy)
We pulled out of Kleine Scheidegg, and as we passed Eigerwand and Eismeer stations, I settled down to a predictable but fascinating nostalgic narrative from the old lady opposite, who claimed in broken English that she had been on the maiden trip in 1912.

“Darling Adolf, who the railway for me built and named, it to go to the summit wanted, with an elevator to make the magic stronger, but the Great War to that saw.

I the first ever passenger to arrive at the summit was, with a ‘maiden ticket’ that free passage to Jungfrau entitles for as long as me coming enjoy unchanged to this place continue to, which Adolf his TRUE gift was, you see.”

At the 3454m summit, the highest in the World according to my guidebook, the jungfrau, the now young woman who stepped off the train, turned to me, put a finger to her lips to seal me in the secret, then blew a kiss before hopping straight on the downward train, stopping only to purchase a return fare from the rather surprised conductor. This last action confused me, as I made my slower way out of the compartment, until I saw the tattered ticket sticking out of my guidebook, with a little note that read “For as long as you can, my dear, to enjoy, but no longer.”

#ThursThreads – “Down Town in the Valleys” #flashfiction

#ThursThreads is an odd flash fiction compo, because a line chosen from the previous winner is chosen as the prompt for the next competition. This week, the phrase “In and out with a swipe of alcohol.” is it.

Here is my entry, if you don’t want to see the original piece:

“Down Town in the Valleys”
by Dr. Mike Reddy (@doctormikereddy)
[250 words]

It was a typical Saturday night in a post-Industrial Welsh town. Some twoccing. Drive to some more trusting neighbourhood. Choose an Offy that didn’t look too secure. Park this week’s joyfully donated vehicle in a quiet side street. Then in and out with a quick swipe of alcohol – whatever was nearest the shop door – and run like Hell back to the car. Then a safe spot to get plastered. Random!

Cigarettes were usually harder to steal, because they were often behind the counter. So. we’d send Billy the Kid – so called because he had a ‘butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth’ face – in to buy some fags first, and to suss out the place. There was a risk he’d get IDed, but he was too lard brained to really get that. Twp ‘ead.

So, Billy had come back with a few packs of Marlboros, and Rizzlas and Golden Virginia for Tony, who liked to roll his own ‘special blend’. We’d had the all clear. Mostly cider, which was shit but it was accessible and a few large bottles would be sufficient for our needs. We’d rolled the place speedily – something of a record in fact – and legged it. Even when the car stalled we hadn’t panicked. Tony’s special blend kept us too mellow for that. Then we were off, screaming through the streets and into the secluded hills.

We laughed our skulls hollow. What a storming night! Only I started thinking did we really have to do it again?


Author’s notes for those not familiar with UK colloquialisms:

twoccing is derived from Taking Without Concent (TWOC)
Offy = Off Licence or Liquor Store, usually selling tobacco products as well
Random is the word for cool/wicked/bad/etc
Twp = Welsh for stupid
‘joyfully donated’ is a play on joyriding, a euphemism for the stealing of cars by young people.