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A look at my last decade

31 Dec 2019 at 11:09
A look at 2010 to 2019 in my life, from highs to lows. This article is more for personal reasons than for others to read, but some of my friends might find it interesting.

With less than an hour to go until the world enters 2020 (although 13 hours for me), a new and exciting new decade, I am looking back at my previous decade. 

Let's go back to 2009.

The last decade for me has been very eventful.

At the start of the decade, I was only 18 years old. I only had just got Facebook and Twitter one month before this decade.

This article will be all about the decade from 2010 to 2019.

2010

At the end of the previous decade in October 2009, I began to feel thirsty all the time. In late 2009 and early 2010, I started seeing a doctor about it. No diagnosis was even given just that it was most likely since my nana had passed away and that I was struggling with that. I had two doctors in particular who were both useless. Doctor Hutton and Doctor Clark. Clark was worse since I remember being sent to the hospital after getting a pain in my leg as she believed it was likely to be a blood clot. 

In April 2010, I opened a website, which is kind of what you are looking at just now. jamiebalfour.co.uk was my first real attempt at a website - but I didn't know HTML, CSS and JavaScript at that time, so I used a template from my host to build my website. I still have my 2010 website hosted here on this exact domain. My website originally acted as a hub about me and a portal to download my software. It also contained a blog and links to my new YouTube videos. My very first blog post is also on my website but is actually from the previous decade.

In May 2010 we had an election and the first election that I could vote in. I was not only a proud supporter of the Liberal Democrats but I was a member of the party and did a lot of campaigning to try and get as many votes as I could at the time.

In August 2010 I was starting university - and what a disaster that was. I was only there for three weeks before having to leave on medical grounds (however, the university was amazing about this, particularly Lorraine Vallance who took excellent care of me throughout my whole time at university). 

Just after this, one of my favourite games of the decade was released - Halo: Reach. This game was an amazing refinement of its predecessor. 

In October 2010 things got so bad that my speech was slurred and I was picked up in an ambulance and on October 25th I was in the hospital for another week.  On November 3rd 2010 I was diagnosed with a germ-cell brain tumour. I remember being told that they could not say whether or not it was treatable or not. My oldest friend was at the hospital to see me at the time when I was given the diagnosis too. Treatment began and ran until April 2011 with a dose of chemotherapy and then radiotherapy. I noticed significant cognitive gains for me after my radiotherapy, as well as my reaction times, which were also improved, particularly in Halo: Reach where I could have a game of SWAT and obtain more than 30 out of the 50 kills to win, game after game. 

Winter 2010 was another long winter with lots of snow, up to about 6 inches of it to be exact. I remember one time in hospital when I was meant to be returning home the snow was so bad that they said it would be unlikely that they would be able to release me in case I did not get home. My mum phoned the council who said they would get someone to clear the road home for me and so they did, they asked the local farmers who turned up in numbers to clear the road just for me - what amazing people they were.

In November 2010 I also got my first solid-state drive which was the start of a new route for me in buying computer drives - I never bought another hard disk drive again. 

2011

Whilst in hospital in 2011, I also conceived and theorised BlackRabbit Script which is now a part of another project (more later). BlackRabbit Script's formal specification was written and a document known as Operation Foghorn was written and released (I still have this document). At the same time as this, I remember all the interesting news that was around the Intel Sandy Bridge microarchitecture - something that has changed computers significantly. I also remember Intel releasing Socket 2011 for the enthusiast market and feeling like I had missed out. 

Again in 2011, I was still working on my .NET applications and in particular, Painter Pro which got significantly more powerful. Also in 2011 the release of games like Skyward Sword and the Halo Anniversary games in November of that year. 

In October 2011, I also replaced my very first gaming PC, the Platypus, with my next gaming PC, the Zebra. The Zebra was powered by an Intel Sandy Bridge Core i7 2600K which was a beast for its time. It was also my first PC to feature USB 3.0. 

Another thing I remember was an old connection being remade. I became friends again with Raymond for a short period before not seeing him for a while. Those were good times. We saw a lot of each other for a few weeks then it was gone again.

I also got my first Mac computer on an impulse buy, which also moved me down another path altogether, one which I am still on and will probably never leave now. At first, my MacBook Pro 2011 13" was used for both Windows 7 and Mac OS X, but mainly for Windows, but as time went on I used Mac OS X more and more and got more used to it.

2012

2012 was a great year. I was a strong supporter of the Union and it was a big year to be British with the Diamond Jubilee. Towards the end of the year was the remarkable London 2012 Olympic games. It was a brilliant year to be British. 

2012 was also the year of my 21st birthday and the year of the 50th anniversary of James Bond, which also tied in with the fact I had always wanted to get an Omega Seamaster for my 21st birthday so ended up with the Limited Edition James Bond 50th Anniversary Seamaster - I still have it but do not wear it often anymore.

2012 was also the start of my university education. I started at Heriot-Watt University studying Computer Science in September 2012. I had some of the best lecturers I could imagine - well-educated individuals who you could talk to on a one to one basis. One of the most significant things about my lecturers was that you didn't have to refer to any of them as Dr or Professor when addressing them, they all were very approachable human beings who just accepted you calling them by their first name. So lovely. Three of my first lecturers were particularly good to me, Rob Pooley, Judy Robertson and Greg Michaelson. All three of these lecturers had taught me in the past when I attended either Summer School in 2009 or university in 2010 and all three of them remembered me. 

Another thing about starting university in 2012 was meeting several really good friends, particularly Jonathan Craig, who was a pain in the *** but a brilliant friend who I absolutely miss now. He quickly became my buddy in crime at uni and we were rarely apart from each other - an absolute legendary friend. I passed all courses at university bar one with As. My average was above 75% brought down only by one mathematical course. 

I also launched my first complete version of Painter Pro this year, with Dundee launch available in October. 

Also released this year was the Wii U, a significantly important games console in my opinion because it nearly destroyed Nintendo, yet in my eyes had some of the most significant games of the decade on it.

At the end of 2012, I also redeveloped my website launching my first hardcoded website in December of that year. The 2012 edition of my website was more of a trial, but I also taught myself server-side coding based on one very short tutorial on it and implemented my first database subscribe system. One of my lecturers donated money to my website which paid for my website for a year too, which was very kind.

2013

At the start of the year, I was asked if I could build a website for someone else. I was not quite at the stages of being a web developer by this point and wouldn't consider myself a seasoned web developer until about October of this year but I took the challenge on, and thank goodness I did because it gave me skills I never had before.

At the start of 2013 till the middle of 2014, I decided to stay in the university halls. This was extremely exciting and I got one of the new halls of residence at the time which were stunning. I feel this helped me deal with the stresses of university life and I also got a few nights out here and there down at the union and learned to cook a few things. Both sessions (the latter part of the first year and the whole of second year) helped me as a person integrate and I met some really lovely people on both occasions. 

When I finished first year I finished with 6 As and two Bs and an average of above 70%. 

In June 2013 I rewrote my website from scratch again. Releasing what was known as version 3 (aka Perthshire: Pitlochry). This version included a bunch of plugins, CSS and JavaScript (including jQuery) and HTML5. Eventually, I made the website responsive too.

In late 2013, I started my second year at university hoping to continue on the streak of good marks I had obtained in the first year but I became lazy and the second year version of Jamie wasn't going to do as well. In fact, I became smug the way I did in my final years of school and started to become more confident in myself, questioning lecturers and arguing things. In my second year, I was asked to stand for class representative and a whole bunch of the class egged me on to do it, I refused.  I became friends with Mohammed and Sharang who were both really great university friends who I wish I was still in touch with. My interest in web development saw a huge spike in interest as my grades reflected I was now more interested in web design and development obtaining my highest mark this academic year in the Web Development module. 

In October 2013, I built a new gaming PC to replace the Zebra. Since this wasn't a whole system rebuild and the case stayed the same with only the motherboard and CPU changing, it was only a minor upgrade, and therefore the name reflected that as it was known as the Zebra X2. The new model featured a Haswell i7 4770K overclocked at 4.5GHz. 

Towards the end of the year, I began to rewrite my tutorials on my website in HTML and CSS. I also now considered myself to be a web developer primarily and was considering it as a profession. I was also now well into the process of making my website responsive. 

2014

In 2014 I made new friends at university, particularly my buddies Mark Young and Merlin and Connor. Connor was the first of these three friends that I made, in the second half of my second year at university (early 2014). I took a real interest in web development and started to develop websites for others as a freelance web developer and gained some traction on my own website. I even got advertising on my own website which was valued at just over £120 a month based on the number of users I received each month. My website actually made more from donations than this ended up giving me due to changes to the way I advertised on my website.

In February of this year, my website surpassed my YouTube channel for views receiving around 500 views a month and I decided to focus on building my website more than my YouTube channel. 

On April 8th 2014, I lost my beloved Petro. This was devastating, after nearly seven years of him to just lose him like that.

Petro's last week was tough for him, but we didn't see it at first

As a result of everything with Petro, I began to go through depression which I thought was going to have a negative impact on my exams. I notified my university mentor. I sat my exams. I got my results back and yes they weren't brilliant but they were enough to pass and I hadn't expected all As since I was lazy this year. 

I started my third year of university, perhaps my favourite year, and met two more awesome friends, Mark Young and Merlin, this year. They perhaps made it so awesome because we spent a lot of time just mucking about and having a laugh. What really made this year a laugh was the very first thing that I said was said to the class was roughly:

We are picking your groups for the third year group project so that each group gets an even balance based on grades, which will mean you will not be in with people you are likely to know and you will not be with your friends.

I then spoke to Merlin and said how good it would be if we were in a group together. I said to Jonathan something about how we will not be together for this project.

My group consisted of:

  • Me
  • Merlin
  • Jonathan
  • Mark
  • Yibo
  • Alex

Not only was I was with Merlin like I'd hoped for, but they had also put me in with my best mate. Merlin was our top dog I would guess and I was down the middle since my second year had let my grades slip. Yibo and Alex had just started at the university and had come straight from college. We were the best possible combination. 

In December 2014, on the 24th, we got Sweep who was our second rabbit. She came in a box and was a very scared and nervous thing. She was adorable. Within a few days of having her, she had bitten nearly everyone - so different to Petro who avoided biting altogether and only ever nibbled to get attention. We also got Henry who was utterly adorable and very friendly. 

Sweep

Henry

2015

2015 was the start of my second semester in my third year of university. This was one of the best semesters for two reasons, I suppose the group project meant spending more time with both Mark and Merlin which meant everything was a laugh but also because I was beginning a new project in the form of a language parser based on something I had been reading for university. In February of this year, ZPE was born, four years following BRS. It was rewritten with a much faster (around about 100 times faster) parser in May. ZPE has become one of my main projects since then.

I finally got the opportunity to work in a school this year too! This was the most interesting experience I had ever had. This was all through a university course called Computing In The Classroom which got me PVG clearance. I got in touch with my old school and immediately recognised the name of the person who I was emailing as one of my former teachers. 

I also started my fourth and final year at university in 2015. I began my honours thesis which was originally on the redevelopment of Heriot Watt's Scholar programme but eventually I changed to a much better-suited, educationally themed, project in researching the ways in which schools were teaching pupils web development (a changing landscape that I had a major interest in) and how it can be improved. This eventually became ClickIt. 

2016

In 2016 things started off quite nicely. My honours thesis was coming along very well and I was expected to get a first-class honours degree at the end of the course. 

In March, however, I was given a diagnosis that my brain tumour had returned. The first scan showed this and they immediately suggested a second scan which I got just a week later. However, they also took the decision before awaiting the results to perform a biopsy which after the results came through from that and the second scan, showed there was nothing. At this point, however, I had no energy after getting a biopsy. At this point, I thought my degree was not going to be completed this year and I would need another year to finish it. 

However, I got back into university and had extra support that meant that the university could take away two of my courses that I was expected to do well in and give me an evidence-based grade (I got an A and a B for those two courses based on what I had done already in those courses). I then could focus on my remaining two courses and my honours thesis. Eventually, I finished my fourth year and got 7 As and 1 B, ultimately getting the fourth-highest grade in my year group. I won the Watt Club Prize - the highest award given at Heriot-Watt University, the Andrew Stewart Prize for my work and I also got first-class honours. 

In August I took on a research PhD researching methods to keep children with autism safe when they are online. Ultimately I was also looking to move out this year or next, the only issue with being on a PhD was that I could not even afford the smallest mortgage available (since I was on 14K). I met some really nice people, particularly Ana and Lewis. 

I initially loved doing this as I could see that research was enjoyable to me and that I also enjoyed the whole experience. The experience included me getting to be a lab assistant in two courses with lecturers I really enjoyed working with. This continued my teaching dream whilst allowed me to keep on researching.

At the same time, some insidious things were happening to a friend of mine who was also doing a PhD and he fell out with his supervisor in a horrible way. This meant that much of my time was spent listening to him talking about how badly treated he was.

2017

At the start of the year, we lost little Henry, our hamster. This was very distressing as we only knew that he had cancer at the start of the year and then he was gone within a few weeks of us knowing. 

I eventually got sick of not having any money and living at home so I decided to leave my PhD. It wasn't pleasant as I fell out with my supervisor over the fact that I wasn't happy. She left on the note that I wouldn't find a job easily and especially with the way I was acting. Ultimately I ended up leaving a feeling very sad after what she had said. I left on the 17th of January. 

I started applying for jobs and found several. Luckily for me, I was interviewed for a few jobs precisely one week later. There were several I liked the looks of, particularly a design company who was most impressed with me. I was also offered a job at MagLabs which I ended up taking despite the fact that I thought I performed very poorly at the interview for that job. A few days in I got a phone call from one of the other jobs, in fact, it was the job I wanted to take, asking me if I wanted to take the job. I had already accepted MagLabs and decided that even though I probably would have liked the job very much that I could not go back on my word. I liked MagLabs very much but I was going through a very hard time in life. I applied to college to get my Higher English qualification to get into university for teacher training that summer and then also applied for teacher training but was told I was a day or so late in my application. This pushed me over the edge and I ended up in the Samaritans for most of the afternoon because I had a nervous breakdown. I'm not proud of this moment in my life but 2017 was a hard year because I didn't think my life was going anywhere. I postponed my college course from the summer since I was working.

However, I enjoyed working at MagLabs and loved going for lunch at the Au Bar every day and made several good friends. I learned a ton too. My Bash skills were good but not as good as they could have been. I also spent a lot of time on object-oriented PHP and considered changing my own practices more and more. I also developed Dash whilst I was on my lunch breaks at the Au Bar. Each and every day, Dash got more and more features to the point that it became something quite incredible. Whilst I look at Dash now as a finished product, I still feel that I want to rebuild it with the skills I have obtained since it's initial development. 

Unfortunately, our cat, Gismo, also passed away after a short battle with cancer in May of this year. We were all very upset by this as she had been with us for some 18 years. I think, however, we were ready for this as she had been deteriorating for several months. Gismo is very missed. 

I wasn't actively looking but I came across a job when I was browsing the job market. The job paid me more than what I was making and looked better suited to my talents. I thought about it and decided to go for the interview anyway. I met a really nice person, Scott, whilst I waited there for the interview. Scott was very chatty whilst I waited for my interview. I was asked to come into the interview by Steve, who I really liked - he was very friendly and very on the same page with me. I was given a task to complete. I was by far the best programmer who applied and completed the tasks in the interview the fastest and to the best quality. I was told that the job was mine if I wanted it. Steve explained that I would be a mentor/training someone else as well as being a developer. Steve offered me an extra £1,000 if I accepted the job that day. I decided to go ahead and accept it. I left MagLabs at the end of July and started at DH Systems in August 2017. 

DH Systems was great but due to the distance travelled each and every day I was finishing at 17.00 and getting home at about 20.00. It wasn't doing me any good. I left DH Systems at the end of October in 2017. I felt like life was going the wrong way still. 

I reapplied for my college course and for teacher training and this time I was approved for both. The college course would start in January 2018 and teacher training, on the condition I passed the college course, would begin in August 2018.

I then also began laying the foundations for Jambour Digital ltd by preparing a business plan that I took to the bank as well as moving from shared hosting to setting up my own virtual private server (initially with A2 Hosting, who were absolutely fantastic).

2018

As previously mentioned 2018 started with me starting my college course in Higher English (actually Communication 4 and Literature 1). This was a highly enjoyable course that covered a lot of areas where my skills were very strong. I passed the course with flying colours and was finished in May 2018. I met some really nice people on this course, some of which were actually doing teacher training with me too. 

In July I registered Jambour Digital and took on our first three clients. My brother and mother also became involved and became shareholders in the company, taking on their own remits. Since then Jambour Digital has grown several-fold and continues to double in size each year.

In August whilst we were on our week up in Perthshire, I started again at university, this time for teacher training. I had to get the train across from Perth to Glasgow to get to university for this. My lecturer was fairly useless and lacked any real knowledge, so I often ended up assisting my friends at university and became friends with some really nice people (Beth and Campbell) as well as Carol who ended up being nothing but a user (she immediately disconnected from me when we finished teacher training after using me to help her where she needed it). I passed all of my assignments at university but the university itself was a joke. There were some really great people in the department for education but there was a lack of organisation elsewhere in the university. I started working at Preston Lodge High school in October and loved it. It wasn't the perfect experience and I remember being told "if I didn't like doing it I should reconsider" which I ignored and continued (and here I am, a newly qualified teacher a year later).

2018 was a good year, and it ended on a high. 

2019

The last year of the decade has to be one of the best. I was given my next school for teacher training as Queensferry High School, which was at least a few hours away from home. I requested this was changed and I was given Musselburgh Grammar School (MGS). I was initially really worried that I wouldn't fit in since as a pupil of a school not far from Musselburgh and I had heard things when I was a kid. This was all nonsense of course and just simple school rivalry. I started at MGS in February where I was greeted by a teacher who knew me. When I met Moira I was so happy, she had just started there a week before me. She was so nice to me throughout my time at Musselburgh and I'll never forget this. Everyone here was brilliant. Daragh and I became friends and I made friends with another lovely person, Grant. One of the former deputies of my high school was also the headteacher of this school, so I made a thing of saying hello to him. 

I enjoyed working at MGS and in about March, just before my final observation to pass teacher training I was offered my NQT year at MGS.

I graduated as a newly qualified teacher (NQT) in June 2019. I was very happy with the result of this as I was going back to MGS. I loved working at MGS and felt right at home, and I loved all the people around me, who were all very supportive and friendly. One of my former teachers moved from another school in the area (Newbattle High School) to MGS in December. I became quite friendly with him and we had a few great conversations about my days at school on one or two of the nights out.

Sadly, towards the end of 2019, we lost Sweep. She had been battling cancer and she stopped eating towards the end of September. For the last few weeks, we continued to spoon-feed her but it wasn't enough. The main issue was that her teeth weren't being knawed down enough and her mouth began to close. Eventually, we spent the last few hours in the conservatory making her comfortable until suddenly she just made a little pop and she was gone. It was very sad. 

To round off the year, I got myself a rabbit after the loss of little Sweep. I named her Charlie. Charlie is a lovely rabbit who I absolutely adore.