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Posts tagged 'self'

  • Hangups.

    I never quite accomplish what I wish to. There is a long list of stuff in my head that I can never seem to get out. I know this doesn't make me unique in any way, but so much of my identity is tied up in the belief that I have a lot to offer the world, and I just need to get it out, so it's frustrating to constantly hit the wall.

    A core problem seems to hit when I regress. I start down what should be a productive train of thought, and find myself thinking about bigger and bigger ideas, or at least more and more abstract ones, until I get to a point that I'm trying to solve all the problems of the world at once.

    People don't really care about big ideas if they can't see a solution. The same reaction I give students when they tell me they know the material, but they just can't solve the exercises, is what others rightfully give me. In the meantime, I recognize that doing is more important to me than thinking, at least from an emotional perspective, but I also find myself questioning the merit of the things I do when I simply act. When actions don't fit into a larger context, they don't seem to make me better or lead to anything. This is how I believe people waste their lives.

  • Week 8 Day 4 - The most committed person at appacademy

    I'm trying to take git very seriously, which means that every time I wrap up some context, I'll try to stage it separately and commit just that portion of the project. I was joking with someone today that others' commit messages consist of "Monday", "Tuesday", etc. I've made 55 commits (according to github) in the past two days, which is something. party horn

    So, what'd I do today? Well, there was a bit of yak shaving today, although admittedly not as much as yesterday—I'm making a lot of progress learning the details I need to know to accomplish what I want to do—but there's always more to learn. Some time around lunch, I broke down and started trying to hammer out as much as I could as quickly as possible, and damn the looks… for the most part.

    So, in terms of physics, my position is way behind where it could be—I'm jealous of the guy who's got robust rspec unit tests running—my velocity is just about what it should be, and my acceleration is going really well. I think… I have a hard time perceiving the struggles of the people around me, and seeing which things I'm doing better than them, but every time someone transitions from Rails to Backbone I get a bit more self-conscious.

    This seems to be a theme with me.

    It's not that bad. Honestly, most of the pressure I'm feeling comes from the instructors. I know they mean well, and I know I should work faster and get over some of my hangups, but … I guess I'm overcoming my baggage in terms of how I attack problems. This is my problem and I'm personally invested in it, as opposed to some of the "toy" work we'd done, and I'm much more certain of the architecture and layout of all the tiny pieces. When I want to add something, I know which three files I need to tweak to make it happen (most of the time…), I open those windows, make those tweaks, commit, and am off to the races.

    Contrast that with the general befuddlement I'd often experience when following along with some of the projects' specs. It's kind of nice.

    Oh, I neglected to comment on my actual workflow. So, among the panes that I keep open are a small set of text files for "overall TODOs" (e.g. architecture and styling), for "upcoming TODOs", which are tasks that are a bit less ambitious than the first set but don't fit nicely into a smaller context (generally, I have 5-8 of these at a time), and then individual TODO: comments inside the source files. These last identify places where my code is broken but I can't do anything about it (I don't have the skills/time to fix it) or where there's an edge case that's known and I know how to address it, but it's not a priority at the moment.

    This seems to be working pretty well for me, at least today. It certainly helps me shed the weight of tangential thoughts (helping me maintain focus on the matter at hand) and have a good place to go to feed me when I hit one of those transitional lulls.

    They told us to try to finish our rails apps tonight. I got all my models composed, and have a lot of headway on my controllers; my views are sparse… and I need sleep. There's only so much that can be done in a day, although I could keep working.

  • Week 7 Day 2 - If an event is triggered in the woods, and there's no handler, does it cause a callback?

    Today's partner: Mark

    A lot to absorb today.

    We rounded out the pokedex app, starting from a standardized skeleton again (but this time incorporating a "clean" version of what we accomplished yesterday), and templated the hell out of it, then separated what was once a single Backbone.View into individual views for each task.

    I can't say that it was the most interesting lesson we've had here; I was kind of done with this project yesterday, and refactoring a somewhat broken initial model just wasn't that engaging. I'd rather do it right from the beginning, and actually split out the modules into what should have rightfully been separate files in the first place. Further, since the plural of Pokemon is… Pokemon, it was often difficult to figure out which renderPokemon method we were calling—the one attached to the index, or the one attached to the show route.

    That said, we certainly learned a lot about how Views and (eventually) Routers work on the client side, but it felt like we spent most of our time wrestling with callbacks. I thought I understood them pretty well, but when you have a related view (display requires index to be loaded beforehand) figuring out just how much of your render method needs to live in the callback can be challenging.

    Nonetheless, we figured it out eventually. It's done and behind us… I'll probably want to read the assigned book cover to cover over the holiday break, just to solidify what we saw, so I don't trip over my feet come Monday.

    Speaking of Monday, that's when Jonathan has asked we have our project proposals ready. I won't have as much time as I thought, but since we're required to make a clone of something it'll be easier (and harder) than I thought.

    I would still like to make a clone of something that's at least a bit socially conscious, but then I think of Freshman English class and how some of my best essays were the ones I was least invested in. That is to say, when I can think logically about a problem, without letting my passion cloud my vision, it's often easier for me to make something I can admire.

    Maybe, though, I've changed since I was 13. I'd like to think so.

  • Week 6 Day 3 - Measure once...

    Today's partner: Wes

    Thank god for Jonathan's CSS lectures.

    We skipped the W6D2 content, which was supposed to be on CSS, but last week JT held lectures on CSS at the end of the day each day. Today, we took pre-baked JS solutions for the Tic-Tac-Toe game and Towers of Hanoi and made "visual" versions of them in the browser by using CSS selectors enabled by JQuery.

    Holy crap, that paragraph was a mouthful. Basically, instead of using (e.g.) Canvas (which, it turns out, is a difficult term to Google), or a text-only terminal to represent our game state and to select pieces/grid squares, we contrived to capture mouse clicks on a simple webpage, and then to draw game states using document properties of the webpage.

    The most important things we learned were the varied uses of JQuery selectors, and how to do basic styling with CSS. By the end of the day, the most we were struggling with were edge-cases in the implementation of our final project, Snake; JQuery and CSS were well under our belts.

    I've mentioned before that my memory is one of my best character traits. Well, after this week, I'm realizing that (syntax?) debugging is also another skill I have that others don't always. It's not entirely clear to me whether this is because of my deliberate pace when learning (and the consequent, presumably, deeper understanding that I can achieve), or if I just have more practice/skill than others—or if it's just because I only try the right thing after I've tried all the wrong things. No matter the root cause, I've been happy with my ability to read a stack trace or error message and smash the bug in question, most of the time.

    Wes, on the other hand, is much better than I am at identifying a minimum testable product. There were a couple times he had me tie something off and open it in the browser, and while I wasn't immediately certain what he was doing, as soon as we nipped a problem in the bud, I understood. I'd like to add this to my toolbox, too.

    Storytime: So it turns out that I'm not very good at games such as chess. My friend tells me that I have a comet-sized ego, and this was nowhere more visible than how I'd play games, especially when I was younger. At the time, I would play a move that could only be considered good if my opponent had no skill whatsoever… but my opponents were never were so bad as I wanted them to be, and inevitably they'd paint the floor with me.

    Typically, I want to code for a couple hours, and then run my code and have it be perfect. It is, perhaps, a skill to have the humility to know that you're not as good as you want to be, and (especially when testing carries low overhead) to test your assumptions at good breakpoints. "Measure twice, cut once."

    Or, in my case, measure three times, take a break, measure again, and cut once.

  • Week 5 Day 1 - Making my peace

    Today's partner: Ben

    The project today was sort of forgettable, like the last couple days. It's been good to get so much practice with Rails, and today was fun - we used Capybara to write integration tests, then wrote code to build the appropriate elements and views to pass those tests, learning a lot about how Capybara and integration testing work in general - but it was another one of those days where ultimately I'll forget what, specifically, we did.

    Everything is just forming into a big ball of stuff in my head called "rails knowledge". It's kind of cool in one way, but in another: we're halfway through the curriculum, and a lot of it is a blur.

    Story time. When I was in AP Calculus, I had a hard time keeping up with the class, but the AP test was a solid wall in front of me that was a) well-defined, b) had plenty of information available and c) had important consequences. So, the week leading up to the test, I gathered as much practice material I could, and then in the two nights before the test, I cherry-picked the problems I was having the most trouble with and did them over and over until I could do them easily.

    The repetition drove the ideas into my memory, and to this day I can understand the concepts of calculus due largely to the intentional practice with a clear goal provided by that exam.

    In the past year or so, I've come to understand that my primary advantage compared to others is my memory. When I have sufficient context and sufficient reason, I can remember just about anything quickly. When I don't have reason, context, or practice, I'm just an average person, sort of.

    So with this rails stuff, I spent most of last night—the parts where I wasn't doing readings or tumblr posts or whatever—doing parts of the practice assessment, and came in this morning ready to graft more knowledge onto what I had been getting comfortable with. We were still slower than others today, but the difference is I didn't really care. We worked well together, our tests worked well, we wrote the auth model in under an hour (give or take), and we got a lot of knowledge, both core and ancillary, out of the lesson.

    Sure, I can look at the bonus work and look into "completing" this project perhaps over the weekend, but really what will I gain? If I am able to do the things that these projects ask in a more synthetic context - creating polymorphic associations, writing tests with good coverage, etc - then what am I really missing? It would be like going back to try to re-do the test you failed in the third grade… of course you'll be able to pass it now.

    This program, and TDD in general, really make me consider some things about how we educate in this country. You don't generally test every possible route through your application; instead, you perform unit tests on individual models, then you perform integration tests on inter-related structures. The former model would involve something like n^m tests, whereas the latter demands n+m tests - where n is the number of "objects" and m is the number of "relations".

    When educating, you don't need to test to see if someone knows how to multiply on a boat, how to multiply with a goat, how to multiply nine digit numbers and ten digit numbers and eleven digit numbers… you need to see if they know how to multiply digits, then to perform carry rules, then to do more complex operations… perhaps curricula should involve unit and integration testing, like TDD. It certainly feels like a/A is doing this with us.

    Tomorrow's another solo day, but more importantly it's the day of the assessment. I plan on doing it at least once end-to-end, and maybe focusing in on re-doing a couple hotspots before 9 am, but I'm feeling remarkably comfortable with myself at the moment. Let's see if it lasts.

    Two more days until the weekend, and more studying. :)

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