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Posts from 14 November 2014

  • Week 1 Day 4 - Applied telepathy

    Today's partner: Michael C. (since there are two)

    I think I adapt to things within three days. Today just felt normal, like what I should be doing with my life. I know it's going to get much harder before we finish, and I keep pushing things onto the stack to go into more depth on over the weekend—but there is already plenty to keep me busy. Life's going to be tough enough on its own, and I should probably be getting up early Saturday morning and diving right in. I may have to work remotely to get away from distractions (although this hasn't been as big a problem as I might have thought - Facebook and reddit just aren't very interesting to me now that I have a stack of things to think about).

    I am still not getting enough sleep, and it doesn't seem to actually affect my engagement or 'awareness' during the day. It's an awesome feeling.

    The highlights of the day were working with procs and, again, the big projects toward the end of the day. We were wrestling with understanding how to write our own versions of a couple Enumerable class methods (my_each, my_select, etc) but the breakthrough on this matter came when we tried to express the same things in "normal" ruby code and then translated that work into our functions.

    For instance, normally, to double all elements in an array, you might write

    array.map { |i| i * 2 }

    When defining your own function to receive that proc, you can start with something done in the standard ruby function calls:

    def my_map(&prc)
      result = []
      self.each do |item|
        result << prc.call(item)

    Simply replace "each" with "my_each" and you've basically re-created standard ruby functionality. I assume that, even if it's not now written this way, at some point the ruby "standard library" looked something like this (albeit with more error handling).

    My partner mentioned at the beginning of the day that he didn't really understand why you'd use procs, and within a half hour we both got it.

    The work on recursion was solid practice. The first example took ten minutes, the second five, and each one after was simply an exercise in analyzing the higher-level problem. Satisfying, and excellent practice/pedagogy, but nothing earth-shattering. :)

    make_change, the recursive method for taking a list of coin values (for instance, in the US, 25, 10, 5, and 1 for quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies) as well as an amount that you're trying to target and yielding the list of coins you'd return in order to make the target amount with the minimum number of coins, was easy, then absolutely maddening. We managed to describe the core logic within a half hour - about one line every 90 seconds, go figure - and then took another half hour in order to track down a crazy edge-case bug that was killing most of our results.

    Constance looked at our code for a good ten minutes before we nailed down what was actually going wrong. We had a specific test case that broke the method quickly, a bunch of ghetto debug statements (p for the win!) and basically total awareness about the state of the internal variables, and we still struggled to find what was causing this failure.

    It turned out that there was a loop condition that this edge case was falling through, returning nil when our calling function was expecting an array. It was such a specific edge case that I should have seen earlier, but I kept looking in the wrong places for this, and the doubt caused by that sort of weakened my learning. I spent five minutes doubting each level of my knowledge, until finally I was doubting whether < actually means "less than". I'll definitely need more practice overall, and to develop more facility with debugger… and I've gained some specific respect for the challenges software maintainers face every day.

    WordChainer, today's "capstone", was a blast. The spec was thorough, and my partner and I basically spent fifteen minutes reading sections of it to one another and getting code into the editor. What a delight a properly detailed spec is! Too bad I'll probably never see one again in my life, unless I write it myself! ;)

    It took us about two hours to get a very respectable and pretty clean class for this portion, overshooting the end of class by a half hour. Remarkably, by the last hour, I wasn't sure which one of us was actually driving or navigating. Michael and I were basically on a single wavelength, and passing the keyboard back and forth was mostly a formality.

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