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Posts tagged 'goals'

  • Dry Spell

    I don't know why this title made sense to me, except in that I haven't written in a couple days. It's been interesting, for sure—I've had a couple phone screens, which have been all over the map, but tremendously useful for learning how to better present myself—but I haven't felt like doing major work for a while.

    Is this bad? The projects I'd like to do are hard to wrap my mind around at the moment; part of me wants to learn a systems language in more detail, but I know that it's not a close synergy to anything that's going to get me work, now. The only places that want systems languages want Java for the backend (or C#); learning C would definitely be a stretch in terms of immediate utility. Is that so bad?

    Maybe statistical programming would be better. I don't know; there are so many things to learn out there, so many projects that could be useful to someone, and I could devote myself to them, but which? Will doing that make employers look on me more fairly? Do I want to work at a company where a single week of working in Angular would be the difference between me getting the job and not? (Probably not. A competent engineer could figure out what needs learned pretty quickly, and I don't know if I'd want to work for a company that would disagree.)

    I want to have a job, so I can worry about more granular things, instead of whether I'll run out of money before this process finishes. I want to be learning a ton of new things about production code, and making my own projects on the side. I want to write a couple books and learn TeX and not feel guilty that I'm not working on finding work. Soon.

  • The Matthew Effect

    For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath. (Matthew 25:29)

    Yesterday I was looking up an old contact (who is a lot like me, but much further along, and with enough money to not have to care), and the memories came back in a rush. It's hard to sum up what anything is, what any experience is like to people who aren't you, but I can mention one thing, the thing that I needed to read.

    In this essay, he talks about how he writes. He has an easy writing style, and apparently people come to him and ask him how he writes so well. His response is that he deliberately writes what is easy and approachable (e.g. that which he knows a lot about), and in time the other things he wants to write get easier. He tackles those in their own time, once he has enough practice/warm up/etc. under his belt for those to be easy to write.

    Like others, I write darlings, and it's hard for me to kill my darlings. It's pleasing to me that when others proofread my work, they point out problem points in the same places I see them ("Oh, this is no good… I'll leave it in for now, though…" "Yeah, this is no good, you should change this/take it out/jump in a lake"). That's not to say that I always know how something needs to be changed, only that I recognize weak spots.

    Anyway, all this comes together into some thoughts about skill generation in general. Writing and graphic design and programming aren't so different in many ways, ways that could fill a book, which is not particularly surprising given my philosophy of "everything is everything". In keeping with the spirit of this entry, though, I'll point out that when you stumble in your craft, the best thing to do is keep working on something.

    Admittedly, you will need time to let your brain process. When you make a typo and overlook it for an hour straight, that's usually a sign that you need to do something else, like run on the treadmill for an hour, drink heavily, and pass out. (By morning, all your problems will be much shallower.) There is a route to maximal learning and maximal skill development, and it doesn't typically involve doing the same dumb thing until you're too tired to do anything right, and by the way, you've just spent an hour anti-training by practicing bad habits.

    It's been a long couple days, for no particularly good reason. I've actually made a lot of important progress—note here that I'm not saying a lot of progress, in an absolute sense—in getting my head screwed on straight and doing important work. I talked to a lot of people, in different contexts, and these low time, high value conversations are really great for figuring out what I want, and need.

    I started sketching out a book that I want to write in parallel with the book I need to write (because my battery died and I had a long train trip, oddly). I think this book will feed into the book I've been trying to write for the better part of three years, if I can make some headway on it. Meanwhile, I have my eyes on a half dozen pet projects that can help strengthen my portfolio. None of them are small enough to sink my teeth into at the moment, and none of them are dire, but like writing, the act of thinking of pet projects leads to thinking of more pet projects. I still need to figure out how to have a brainstorming repository, since every time I start something it all just gets more fragmented, but that should come in time.

    Ugh. In other news, I'm wrestling with some asset pipeline issues with heroku, and I'm about to tear my hair out. It's distracting me, and thus I'm not able to give enough attention to writing this. I know there's more I wanted to write, but I have a hard deadline tonight so I'll have to pick this up later, if I can find the track again.

  • Can't stop; won't stop

    Well, we officially don't have to blog, do progress reports, or (presumably) even show up at 9 am anymore.<

    Just try to stop me.

    Interesting thing of the day: the new class arrived. Did we look so adorable and naive on our first day? It really does feel like basic in a lot of ways, again notably in the way that a person (or group) can so markedly change in a few short weeks. It feels like forever ago that I was writing nonsense ruby code, like everything is a for loop! Huzzah!, and now I get mildly angry every time I have to write a for loop in JS.

    Another interesting thing I noticed today: I just don't give a damn about reddit. It's been a while now that I haven't found it so interesting, but today there was absolutely. nothing. I cared about. I guess I've transitioned, and it's now time to start reading HN regularly?

    There's so many things I could be doing now that it can be hard to know where to start. I've been doing meta-work: getting my hosting set up (it turns out Dreamhost has a lot of the same restrictions as Heroku, viz. spinning down server instances if they haven't been accessed in a while, so I guess I will have to get a pingdom account regardless), getting some documents together, etc. Planning is a big thing; I think I'm going to have to live by a routine over the next three weeks+, moreso than even before, which means identifying overarching tasks that deserve attention and then tending to them at regimented times.

    One thing that was made abundantly clear last week is that I can't keep not working out. I have the damn bike setup right here! But… I have no motivation to deal with it in the morning, and that's no excuse at all, especially with a) how much my back hurts by the end of the evening and b) how bad for your health sitting, in any shape, is supposed to be.

    A fun part of today: I pulled my resume from dropbox, then rendered it in HTML + CSS, and explored a lot of sub-topics that had tickled my fancy during this course that I hadn't yet had time to look into. I have a whole list of things that I've learned, and a whole list of things that I could spend time learning (pandoc anyone?), but what I learned today is that flexible styling knocks the pants off document-based styling, as in Word or InDesign. I'm sure they have their strengths, but when all you have is JavaScript, every problem looks like it calls for selectors.

    One funny though from today: there are so many different file formats for presenting structured text. I wonder if it would be possible to extract a universal grammar for them all.

    Tonight calls for more meta-planning; I am going to try to slice my day up into hour-long chunks and see about tending to many things each day. We're supposed to have applied to jobs by next Monday, preferably earlier, and I know I have my work cut out for me.

  • Week 9 Day 5 - Presentation Day

    Well, not much to say… Today was presentation day, and I spent most of the day bug chasing, trying to get core features to work the way they needed to work and not the broken ways they had been. I feel like Javascript has more instances of dodgy edge behavior than any other language that I've worked in…

    Afterward, my peers and I spent a good amount of time talking about previous classes' projects. We thought, two weeks ago, that other people's projects weren't very good, but we came out today understanding just how hard it is to produce production-quality code in a short time period.

    I pretty much faceplanted on the presentation portion of the day. I want to go back to this project, to finish it up, but I know it can take as much time as I'm willing to give it over the next three weeks, or I can find other projects to also work on… time management will become even more important over this last period. Thankfully, we don't have to go in until 10:30 Monday, and this weekend will be a much appreciated break from the slog that was the project week(s), but … what will my portfolio look like? The pace doesn't ever end. What next? I have a book on Objective C, and an Arduino kit here, and I know that my portfolio might be able to say a lot about me, but what do I want it to say.

    Back to work Monday.

  • Week 1 Day 2: The only winning move is not to play

    Today's partner: Zach

    Well, we didn't write Global Thermonuclear War today, but we did write a tic-tac-toe game, and the way we set it up we were able to have the computer play against itself. Fitting.

    First, meta-stuff: Not having caffeine in the morning is brutal. I need to leave the house a half hour earlier in order to make sure I can hit the coffee place before 8:45. I'm thinking it will probably be a good idea to get to aA around 8:00—first, to avoid peak commuting hours, and second to be able to settle in and find my bearings and re-read the day's assignments before class starts.

    I still haven't settled into the apartment, which is just killer. Every night this week, I've come home and there's been another issue (tonight, the cable company un-provisioned my router. Yay). If I were talking to a student who was accepted to aA but hadn't started yet, I would suggest they leave at least a week (preferably two) between the end of their previous job/the beginning of their lease and the beginning of the program. I have a workspace set up at home, but not much else—I haven't even had time to get groceries, which is playing havoc with my blood sugar.

    Because the progress page was down last night, we got started 20 minutes late (hence my lack of progress report for yesterday—by the time I signed in today, the report was locked out), and in turn lunch started at 12:45. With no coffee and limited breakfast this morning, and my partner in a similar condition, we were struggling all the way to lunch. We progressed at about half the speed we should have been because our brains just weren't cooperating: we were dropping state and getting destroyed by simple tasks all morning.

    The period after lunch was a completely different story. With a full belly and an equatorial nation's worth of caffeine streaming through my system, I was on point from 2 pm until 7. Much different than yesterday!

    So, lessons learned: do everything you need to to get ready for the course well in advance, so you have no other concerns distracting you; eat breakfast every day; make sure you have what you need (i.e. coffee) to stay focused; get plenty of sleep every night… and I'm sure I'll want to be exercising regularly in a bit here. I can see all this focus on eating to maintain energy being a big blow to my health in even the medium term.

    I think my life is going to get very regimented out of necessity.

    As for the coding: I kind of appreciated that we didn't see much of the instructors today. We sat down, logged in, had our little lecture until 10:20 (Sennacy is a good name for a cat, it seems), and then just worked.

    It's a revelation, really: pair programming continues to be amazing, and I can't say I understand the ire it draws in certain corners on the 'webs. Having a partner with you makes sure you're not going down a rabbit hole of stupid, allows you to rubber duck constantly, and helps you circumvent really stupid errors, like forgetting that you named your instance variable @foos and not @foo.

    I can't even really say what we worked on, for the most part. I have it all here beside me, but Tic-Tac-Toe was the part of the day I was most focused on and for, and the rest of the assignments are just a bunch of tiny vignettes in retrospect. I know more than I did this morning, but it's the kind of thing where I don't know if I'll be able to look back and point to a certain moment that I learned X.

    Certainly, I've been filling in a ton of details in how the language behaves, and sharing what I've learned from one person with the next partner, but it's already disappearing into the background in favor of high-level design principles.

    The readings on coding style were really good, and one topic that I'm sure made an impact. There's a world of difference between my coding style from a week ago and my coding style today, and in six months I'm sure I'll think me today is total crap. Breaking functions into really small chunks and treating DRY as religious dogma has turned my coding style on its head. It physically pains me when I can't figure out a way to get a function under 20 lines, and when the best way to solve a problem appears to be a five-position case statement I want to cry (a little bit).

    I've had a lot of thoughts on pedagogy related to the course, but I'm still kind of digesting them and waiting to put them together in a separate post. Maybe over the weekend.

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