Hello and welcome to the personal site of James Spurin, those of you here may know me for a variety of different reasons. I’ve created this site as a soundboard for different areas that are of interest and of importance in my life.
Since being in single digits, I’ve been into technology and my older brother’s rule of not being allowed to touch the ZX Spectrum was soon bypassed with the use of my grandmothers fingers as a ‘proxy’ to the keyboard. This passion continued throughout my youth, building computers at a young age and exploring all aspects of computing that I could find.
In 1997, I started my professional career at Virgin Internet. Since then I’ve worked in a multitude of companies including Nomura, Goldman Sachs and even Lehman Brothers (leaving weeks before the collapse).
I missed the University venture whilst I was young and instead, invested my time in a working career and the opportunities that were available within my vicinity, mostly professional courses and professional qualifications. This approach served me well and during which, I achieved the highest of certifications from companies such as Dell EMC, Sun Microsystems, HP and IBM.
I still however, had a yearn for a University education.
In 2007, I contacted the University of Liverpool after seeing an online advert for an online Masters programme that they were offering. My gut instinct was that this wouldn’t go too far given that my highest academic qualification at the time was a humble 8 GCSE’s.
After a lengthy discussion I was asked to summarise my work qualifications and it was put to the board of Liverpool University for review. A few weeks went by and I was fortunate to be accepted onto the programme under a caveat that my progress would be reviewed for the first three modules, essentially, I was on probation.
In 2010, I graduated with an MSc with Distinction in Computer Science - Software Engineering and was one of a handful to achieve the highest level for the programme.
After learning a respectable means of software development than the self taught approach that I previously relied on, I became more involved in Open Source development and contribution. I developed an XML parser in Perl which was featured on perl.com -
I’ve contributed to other Open Source projects ranging from Synergy to ActiveMQ.
Personally, I’m passionate about technology, whether its Software Development, Cryptocurrency, Automation, Storage, Cloud Computing, Kubernetes, Containers or anything else.
More recently, wanting to pass on the benefit of knowledge and education, at the start of 2018 I created my first online course with ‘Packt Publishing’ called ‘Mastering Ansible’. It went on to become a best seller, has had over 5000 students and brought about a network of new friends. The course took me 3 months to write and is 11.5 hours, I’ll be talking about this both from a technical viewpoint and from a course development perspective.
‘I am Disabled’, a quote which for years I struggled with but have now got to grips with. It took a long time but eventually I managed to follow the motto of Henry Fraser and embrace his mantra of ‘Accept and Adapt’. I was moved by his resilience and motto and even bought the T-Shirt.
For me the disability path was very difficult having experienced Disability Discrimination from a young age. I have an older brother as mentioned who’s disability started at 5 years old. With kids being kids, the use of Spastic and our surname was ingeniously put together on many occasions as an unsophisticated taunt.
At the time I didn’t have a disability but that doesn’t mitigate this abuse.
I was fine up until I was about 30 years old and then, I started catching my legs more and more often. I had, unfortunately injured my ankle after being too merry with friends and expected this to be a simple injury.
You don’t really expect to be told that you have a type of Motor Neurone Disease called Hereditary Spastic Paraparesis. The condition I had seen in my brother turned out to be Hereditary. Whilst his diagnosis was Cerebral Palsy, my Neurologists believed that it was more likely to be HSP like my own. As time progressed, the disability progressed from the point where I would receive a question such as ‘have you hurt your leg’ to ‘do you have a limp’, then, to ‘have you had polio’ and ‘whats your disability’. At present I walk with a difficult gait.
For years I studied this disease and learnt every aspect I could about it, mostly in the hope for a cure or some way out of this predicament. Unfortunately, with this disease it is something that you manage, there is no ‘cure’.
On these pages I’ll be writing about this experience, how individuals in the same predicament can effectively manage their diagnosis, steps to ensure they get the most accurate diagnosis and options for managing the condition.
There will be topics such as Disability Discrimination and the lighter side, of how to actually communicate with people effectively about disabilities (hint, humour is a great tool!).
This is one of the areas outside of technology that I am most passionate about in life and relates heavily to the topic of disability that I’ve detailed above. As highlighted, there is no cure at present for HSP (Hereditary Spastic Paraparesis) or conditions with similar pathologies such as Cerebral Palsy, but, the treatment of SDR (Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy) is a fantastic option and brings much benefit to the overall life quality of those disabled with either HSP or CP.
Whilst the treatment has been available for Cerebral Palsy for a long time, it is now available also to those with the Pure form of Hereditary Spastic Paraparesis. I am the 22nd person in the world to receive this treatment for HSP in St Louis and am not aware, of any other hospitals that currently facilitate this, for HSP.
Working in IT, I have a number of friends who have been diagnosed with a type of Autism Spectrum Disorder (formerly referred to as Aspergers). In an effort to be the best for them, I’ve researched and learnt about this and in time, have helped some overcome difficulties they faced in both general life and work.
I also, have a daughter who has a rare type of ASD known as Sensory Processing Disorder, a subtype that is well researched and recognised in America but less so here in the UK. Through both research and time spent in America, we’ve learnt some valuable lessons and approaches for supporting the condition.
Lastly, my wife, the real expert on this is undergoing her PhD in Child Psychology with an emphasis on Autism Spectrum Disorders so am regularly discussing a variety of areas in this space.
Prior to my disability and still somewhat, I have always had an eye and passion for footwear. In my younger years as an avid Oliver Sweeney fan, I would on most weekends, visit their lesser known Hammersmith shop looking to snap up pairs at a discount price.
One day, whilst eating a Katsu Curry with a good friend, I saw a statue of a Cordweiner with a description plaque.
It caught my attention and I wondered if there was anywhere in London that you could still learn this trade. I came across Paul Thomas Shoes and signed up for classes.
Fearful of stepping into the world of elite fashion designers, I went along to a class to see how I faired (an IT person with zero fashion skills) … I loved it. After four years of part time work (2 hours per week), listening to Paul Thomas’s amazing music collection and interacting with a great crowd (an ex professional boxer who now has his own line of shoes - Tom Kilgallon, and a young lady featured in London Fashion Week - Gemma Roe).
I designed and created from scratch, two pairs of shoes, which in itself was remarkable, giving the difficulties I faced with the sewing machines and my shaking legs (owing to clonus caused through spasticity from HSP).
The result was these beauties. A pair of boots that I created for myself -
And a pair I created for my wife, a twist on a pair that she had seen at an Edwardian museum with buttons that were taken from an old Edwardian Teddy Bear -
I hope you enjoy the site and for whatever reason you came here, find it useful.
- James Spurin