Commuter code: Day wun dun

I think I am onto something here. I will be taking the train 3 days a week, the commute is 40ish minutes each direction. Since there are two cycling legs in each direction, and the last leg is uphill and I’m carrying full panniers, I end up home and exhausted. If I get the laptop out on the train and work on only that project, that’s 80 minutes of work done. The train carriage has tables, and since I go against traffic, I get one to myself.

I’m having an “Ima jeenyis” moment: if I do nothing else—nothing—but come home so tired that I zone out and sleep, I got 80 minutes in. Granted, it’s not earth shattering code, but it’s required planning, problem-solving, and enough coding to make me happy. It is also a set time. No “Just one more …”. If I do that, I miss my stops. Another bonus for me is that before and after the train leg are cycling legs, when I can’t do anything but think, dream, and avoid motorized cages.

I hope as my body gets used to the new plan (What in slacker hell am I doing up at 5 and out on my bicycle at 6? And why does my bike suddenly weigh 25 tons?), I’ll be more productive at home IN ADDITION TO what I have done on the train. Right now I am spending some of my home-code time whining about my quads.

As I put 100 Days of Code to rest as I readjust my daily goals, this will keep me accountable for at least 3/7 days.

Train tanty & commuter coding

First, the tanty:

I’m earning a little coin doing some part-time work far away. Not quite in a galaxy, but damn near close to being one. To get there, I could drive. I have. It works. If I leave at 6am, I get there at 6:30 and workout, shower, and relax before I start working. The traffic is minimal and while it’s three times the distance from my house to Austin’s CBD, it takes less time to commute to this almost-galaxy at 6a than to the CBD at 8. But no matter how early I get up and how fast the commute is, it’s still driving. I’m also coming home in school traffic. I get nothing done. Who does? Who on earth gets anything done while driving? Oh yeah, the phone users. Let’s not start a rant about them.

I’ve sussed it out. I used to live in a city with a decent rail system (yo, Brisbane!), and have had to get used to Austin thinking it’s a city but having only one train. ONE! Two cars and running hourly on one route. I wouldn’t call this a rail system. I’d call it a functional amusement park. Austin, darling, you’re hardly weird by not embracing rail. Your hippies, hipsters, and pseudo “weirdos” are in cars (often solo) and clogging up your roads. It’s not Californians’ fault. We are backwards thanks to decisions made by people born and raised here. But go on blaming California. It’s more a sign that you’re bad at math.

Now the coding:

Now, to get to work, I cycle 30 minutes, take the train for another 30, then cycle 15 more. Coming home it’s slower due to the time of day and a serious uphill commute. I have 30 minutes in there to open up the laptop and tap tap tap. I could work on existing code and projects, but since my desk is my lap, and I have no space to write AND I have no give on the time I can unpack and pack, I thought the best thing for me to do is either read about coding, data science, and how-tos, blog about them, or do easy mini projects to keep my mind occupied on the train.

I initialised a repo on GitHub just for this. I have no general plan other than to commit whatever I’ve done. I may start and delete. I may copy something from one project over and take it back. I may just have little bitty things or one larger thing built in itty bitty steps. I think of this repo and 30 minutes (x2) as my version of train sudoku or crossword puzzles. It’s less about the final code than it is just to code. Anything.

I think my only rule will be to work on JavaScript (nilla or jQuery) bits that I can add Sketch App work to in order to balance the logic with the creativity.

And now I have spent this first chunk on a blog post that starts with a tanty ranty. Ah. Venting Tssssss. All good. My boat; my rules.

750Words day 18: The Iron Yard and boot camps

The Iron Yard announced that it is closing all of their campuses. The current cohort is the last cohort. These are my thoughts on boot camps and degrees. As before, since this is my entry for 750words.com, I do not edit. I’ll add links, but I’m not poring over and wrangling these words to better reflect what I meant. Stream-o-consciousness, baby! Swim up with the salmon and avoid the bears!


With the closing of The Iron Yard, I find myself reading tweets and threads on boot camps. They always end up addressing the boot camp v. computer science degree decision. I used to feel that this was my first boot camp experience, but in a thread, I remembered The Goethe Institut.

The Goethe Institut and a coding boot camp are similar beasts. One could attend the GI and get intensive and immersive language instruction in, but it is not the same as majoring in German. It is not better or worse. It’s just a part of the whole. If one majors in German, there’s the history, literature, and culture addressed. One could say that culture is addressed if immersed in a city in Germany, but it will be a culture gleaned. Narrow to that zone and the family one’s staying with. Some historical topics will come up in the reading, but for the most part, the subject matter is business-oriented. There is no discussion of how German has changed. There’s no class time dedicated to old German or Sturm und Drang. It’s all about the language. The code of German.

I did not get a CS degree. I majored in German, as I said. I don’t know what is involved in a CS degree, but I imagine there are classes on history and theory. The whys and the hows. The structure. The planning. Bigger stuff. Wider stuff. Broader stuff. Stuffy stuff. And I am sure there’s coding. One is not better than the other, really. Who is to say that I got a better deal majoring in German than the physics professor who attended a Goethe Institut ahead of a sabbatical? I certainly wouldn’t recommend that she enroll at a community college or four-year institution. I feel the same way about coding boot camps. Hell. I am done with university. I loved it. I went to Miami for 4 years, Central College of Iowa for my junior year abroad for a full year (plus The Goethe Institut), another two years for the Master’s (*cough* never wrote the thesis *cough*), one year Grad Cert in conservation biology, and two years Grad Dip in writing, editing, and publishing. I! Am! Done!! I’ve written essays upon essays. Group projects where we live all over the place with different schedules to come together several times to create something that isn’t chaotic is a thing of the past. No. I am done with university. … unless you want to sponsor me for 2-3 years, then I’m on it!

Places like The Goethe Institut and The Iron Yard, Dev Bootcamp, and other … dev boot camps serve a purpose. They’re not to replace a university degree at all, and they were never sold to me as being such. They are an option. They’re not cheap, but university education isn’t either. I would not want to be taught by instructors who don’t value what they do. Pay them well. Have a decent location, and there’ll be tuition to support that. I understand.

I now keep up my education with tutorials online. I can do that with German, too. Online tutorials are great. I am making my way (after months off) through Free Code Camp. I also “attend” tutorials by Wes Bos, Andrew Mead, Daniel Shiffman (Coding Train), and Maximilian Schwartzmüller. I also engage in challenges (Daily CSS Images and Daily SVG Images by The Coding Artist, 100 Days of Code, etc.) I have to vary these tutorials and challenges. To focus on one too much is like not having a schedule. I did that with Free Code Camp and became burned out. Variety.

I did not attend or leave The Iron Yard thinking I had all that I needed. No. I had now a network of people who would help me and understand my struggles. “Why won’t it runnnnnnuh!?” I have instructors one Slack channel away. I have an understanding, not expert knowledge, and with that, I teach myself more. I could not have done this on my own. I am a hermit enough. I would not have known whom to turn to for help when I got stuck. Meet Up? Yeah. No. Not for me when I’m super new. I attend many now, but I wouldn’t have known how to phrase my questions. I do my best to say “This is what I wanted to do; this is what I did; this is the result; and this is why I’m cracking the shits.” Listen to me. Talk to me. Tease it out of me. Send me back. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Thank you to everyone at The Iron Yard for giving me what I need to do to help teach myself. I don’t know what will happen to all the instructors and campus directors around the country. I hope they’re taken care of. The campuses in Dallas and Austin have been wonderful to me.

750words day 12: Kid-friendly vs Parent-friendly

A topic I care about deeply. As before, what’s below is from my 750word entry. Because it’s my sit-and-blather entry, I do not return to edit or proofread. Soz.

Stats for this entry: http://750words.com/entries/stats/6815773



Kid-friendly vs Parent-friendly. There is a difference, and that difference can make or break a space for me.
I thought about that when I read this review of Soursop, a delicious to the 10th power food truck at the St. Elmo Brewing Company in Austin: Zagat review of Soursop, Capital of Nomnomnom. The review is accurate and flattering. I do not disagree with anything; however, it is what prompted me for this entry for 750words. They mention “kid-friendly”, and I disagree. That area is “parent-friendly”. That’s better. Chuck-E-Cheese is kid-friendly. It’s also parent-hell. The difference for me is who is at the center and who should be. Chuck-E-Cheese is for children and should, therefore, be kid-friendly and focused. I would not trust any adult, parent or childless, who loves to hang out at Chuck-E-Cheese. Dodgy as all get out. And, as you can imagine, those places are chaos, and not the good kind. Not the fun chaos of a concert, festival, or the last day of school. More like the chaos of beach-goers getting out as a shark takes a kid on a raft, Black Friday at Walmart, or the first day of school.
Think about the difference between parent-friendly and kid-friendly. I think we treat it like “dog-friendly”, but even then dog-friendly places never end up in chaos. Well, mostly. A dog-friendly restaurant allows people to bring their dogs and meet with friends and have adult(ish) conversations. The dogs do not run feral. They’re not unleashed chasing each other and making it hard for servers to deliver their food or other eaters to enjoy their meals. Owners take time out to walk the dogs out to do their bidness and return. No shitting at the table, putting it in a bag, and leaving it for others do deal with because “that’s their job”. No. It isn’t. It is no one’s job to take care of your shit. Literally, shit that belongs to you: your dog’s or your child’s. Rolling up the diaper and having it tightly taped is not making it nicer for the waitstaff to pick it up. There is only one place to change a diaper, and that is the restroom. Doesn’t matter how cute your kid is, faeces is faeces and it doesn’t happen outside of a restaurant.
For me, parent-friendly is more like dog-friendly. Parents can bring their children. It’s still an adult-centered place, but there are some ways for children to be amused without interfering. This maybe the choice of seats (picnic tables are awesome), the decor isn’t such that messes are disastrous, that there’s more open space OUTSIDE to run about, and that people are happy to have you and your child there. With that, though, comes the responsibility of the parent to make sure the child or children aren’t getting underfoot. Learn about momentum, opposing forces, and gravity elsewhere. Parent-friendly is helpful and kind to the community, and in a place that sells alcohol, it’s important to remember who is the focus. Having a child should not lock a couple or an individual away until there are playdates or affordable and trust-worthy teens to take care of the child. It is also important that children learn the difference between a child-centered place and an adult-centered place where it’s an honor to be included.
I have nothing against kid-friendly but when it is the only term used to mean “the entire family can come”, it’s lumping places like St Elmo Brewery and Soursop with Chuck-E-Cheese. The are not the same. Ever. And if you love St Elmo and Soursop, then you wouldn’t want to chase customers away by treating them like Chuck-E-Cheese. And you wouldn’t go to Chuck-E-Cheese and complain about the noise. Children should be exposed to adult locales, but they are for adults. They’re also for parents wanting to leave their kids with a sitter or take advantage of a week of over-night camp. It’s no reward for them if another person’s child keeps banging into them. I said “keeps”. We all bump occasionally, but if a child keeps knocking into others, it’s unpleasant.
We were all children once. We (I hope) have become decent adults. One way of becoming an adult aware of other people’s space is experiencing being a child in an adult-centered venue and knowing or learning how to act and remembering that it’s not always about you.
I do not expect people to change their way of reviewing, but for me, I’ll continue to differentiate parent-friendly and child-friendly.

750Words day 7: teaching programming to kids

Today’s topic came easy to me as teaching programming to children is something I am doing a little of and want to do more of. Also, it is a topic that sets me off. Not the programming part, but the idea that teachers are those who cannot do.

Keep in mind that what is below is unedited and part of a 750word challenge. It’s not my attempt to enter the Great American Essay contest. Egads, no. What I’m telling you is that the paragraphs and words appear as I thought of them. Sozz.



It will come as no surprise to find that I, a former teacher, am offended by “Those who can, do; those who cannot, teach”. It is a simple way of separating those people who want to teach what they love from those who want to research what they love. I can tell you that one is significantly more selfless than the other. It is also a naive understanding of what it takes to teach. Expert knowledge in a field (something that most people are not, anyway) does not mean you can explain it to someone who has never heard of the topic, struggles with the topic, or would rather be outside than listening to you blather on about the topic. I am glad that people who do not teach are not in the classroom. I find that to be selfless. Just like I do not want to have children because I know I do not have what it takes. It’s a selfless act not to knowingly screw up a child. My physicians were those who did not choose to teach biology. Good. I needed a doctor when I broke my leg, not a biology teacher. But do you sincerely think that a surgeon could explain mitochondria to a 9th-grade biology class?
Step back. Remember that teaching it means that they start from little to no understanding and end up with a workable gist (who on earth understands cells straight off?). Maybe. The classroom will have students who are inclined towards science and others who are in the class to satisfy a requirement. Maybe there’s hormonal drama, bullying, abuse at home. Teaching biology to 9th graders or even first-year university students is not going on about your research at a med school faculty cocktail party. It. Is. Not. The. Same! So stop it. Those who can teach, teach; those who cannot teach or do not wish to teach, find another profession.
People who get into teaching from another profession without reading up on child development are in for a shocker. Teachers have to be open to being wrong. Ok. I’ll be a victim of sweepinggerneralisationus maximus, but I can’t imagine the typical surgeon being ok being wrong. In her defense, surgeons are not allowed to make mistakes by people who feel they should be allowed to make mistakes. Did you follow that? Physicians are never allowed to make a mistake. People confuse that with malpractice. There may be a mindset to a physician that would make them less than ideal in the elementary school classroom. Teachers have to deal with the different types of intelligence in a classroom of different personalities at different levels of development. But no. Go on. Tell me more that those who cannot, teach.
I thought about that moronic quotation when I was teaching Python to middle schoolers. We forget that we have already made the leap from concrete to abstract, but our students may not be there. It’s not like teaching math (which I did). People teaching coding and programming languages to middle schoolers do not have thousands of master teachers to lean on for that topic. Teachers are all over the place for advice about behaviour, but many (I’d say most) have zero to zero-est experience with Python, Java, JavaScript, HTML, CSS … Many think coding, programming, and computer classes are all the same. “We already have a computer class.” Super. Are the kids designing? Are they working with backend? Are they making buttons to hope from page to page or add or check an answer? Or are these MSOffice products? No, really. What are you saying?
In one class, I realised how much I still have to learn when I was trying to help a child get his if/elif/else tree down. While the other children understood that the first level of if/elif/else need to answer that one question or raw_input, he had the elifs as questions that would be the nested and next-level questions. ARGH! Palm to forehead. We did not see that happening when we started, but knew we had to step back and add, for that child, another element to the lesson. It is not patently obvious that the if/elif/else must be at the same level. It is to us, but not to a child who might still be at the concrete-sequential level of development.
I am not the teacher in that class. I assist. The teacher is much younger than I am. 22 years! She had no formal education in teaching but knew what to do was to step back and rethink how to teach if/elif/else to a child who doesn’t naturally see the levels. This is not what a computer science professor worries about. Her lecture hall will be full of young adults who just know that if they’re asked “Are you hungry”, the possible answers (at a basic level) are “Yes”, “No”, “Maybe”, “I don’t know”. They know that the answers are not “Yes”, “What do you want?”, and “What fridge?”.
Teaching to middle schoolers is bringing back to me what I love about teaching. It’s the problem-solving. It’s getting a group of children to understand more than they did when they entered. It’s adjusting how you teach or present a topic on the fly. It’s not about dealing with the administration. It’s not being told that a child who is a bully cannot be disciplined because the parents are wealthy and donate a lot of money. Teaching with this group also brings back that teaching comes from a passion, not a degree.
I am still looking for a full-time job; however, I hope to always keep space open for teaching or tutoring. I would think my life was darned near perfect if I could have a full-time job as a software developer and then teach it on the side.

750words Day 6: The Yard and the feelz

This post is a rambler from yesterday. Keep in mind that this is the copy-pasted entry for 750 words entry, not a thought-out post. None of the prompts turned me on or got my fingers going. I didn’t know what to write until I saw one of the Soursop people here in Spokesman. She stopped for a decent chat before going to work. There it was. The Yard and its babies. (Links added for this post.)



There is a new place in my hood. Place? I don’t know if that is the correct term for it. The Yard is a former industrial … yard in the St. Elmo district in Austin. Since I have been here, it’s been empty-ish. If the area was human, I’d say it had been ridden hard (literally) and put up wet. There are still the large trucks that haul construction and industrial materials, so it still has that rough feel, but this set of buildings that is now The Yard has become my adult Sesame Street.

The places I’ve visited are The Austin Winery, Spokesman (coffee and beeya), Still Austin Whiskey (not yet open, but the owners let us in to chat), St. Elmo’s Brewery, Soursop. These all offer drinks and food. Also in The Yard are SupATX, MADabolic, Wooly’s Beach, Enabler, Impact Hub, and heaps more. I don’t have much cause to visit the others on a daily basis, but I did a walk around on a much cooler day to find out who was here. A quick walk turned into a long one as nearly everyone came out to talk about what they were doing. I still see these people almost daily. I see Spokesman people when I am at St. Elmo’s and Soursop, and I see the good people from Soursop and St. Elmo at Spokesman. It’s a neighbourly neighbourhood spot. Everyone is nice. Everyone is kind. It has been the most wonderful thing to happen in my zone.

I live an easy 30-minute bike ride to the Capitol. It’s an uneasy 35-minute ride back, but that’s more about incline, the number of gears on my bike, and my spindly legs. I have always felt lucky to have found a place this close to the CBD. I had excellent timing. I am not far from a lot of great eateries and fun places to drop coin; however, I was never walking distance. I’ve walked from the Capitol. It takes me 75 minutes. It takes me 40-60 to get to the fun spots. I’m all about walking and cycling, but eventually, I want to arrive not looking like a mess. And while those eateries are good and SoCo is fun, it’s not neighbourly. They are not set up to be. They target the travelers and masses. That’s great and much needed. This isn’t about what is better. It’s not a competition. SoCo is a different beast than The Yard.

Where SoCo has its chaos and tourists among its loyal locals, The Yard has its chill vibe. Even on Thursdays when St. Elmo’s has Grassy Thursdays (bluegrass) and Spokesman has its free movie night with Vulcan Video and the volume is up, there’s a mellowness that comes from places where one sits and stays. There is a sense of investment of time by those who come in.

I don’t drink. Or, rather, I rarely drink. I am at The Yard almost every day and am yet to have an alcoholic drink. The bars in The Yard do not feel like bars. They are just places where adults can hang and be adulty. To drink or not to drink is up to the individual. No one cares. Come in and enjoy the music, live or vinyl, and do what you want to do. Bring your child if you want. They’re not so much child-friendly as parent-friendly. There is a difference and it shits me to no end that people want child-friendly for places that are for adults. Be parent-friendly. Leave child-friendly to putt-putt courses and places that include “family dining” in their descriptions. Parent-friendly is different. The focus is still on the adult, but accommodates them with things like nice changing tables, games, fun art. While at Spokesman, I saw a little boy leave the men’s restroom saying “It’s so cooooool!” It is. I take my phone to the restroom to pick a character to photograph. Briks Loves You is the artist behind all that you see on the walls at Spokesman. Every character has its own personality. There is even an axolotl in the women’s restroom!

I hope more neighbourhoods get their own version of The Yard. It’s nice to have a little town to visit on foot or by bike without heading into the city. It’s still very much what you think of when you think of Austin. As it gets harder to afford to be near the usual places to go out for food and music, places like The Yard become what helps Austin maintain its vibe. Note that I didn’t say “Keep Austin weird”. I hate that. “Keep” is an unfriendly word: keep off the grass; keep Amurka for Amurkins; keep your filthy paws off my silky drawers! Ok, the last one is ok. Do keep your filthy paws off other people’s drawers—silky or otherwise. “Keep”, though, is often seen on an angry and unfriendly sign. I guess “Allow people to go on about what they want to do and refrain from judging them if they are different from you” doesn’t work on a tie-dyed shirt from a sweatshop in Macau.

In times when community is hard to find and for someone who struggles to balance being a loner and wanting to see friendly faces, The Yard is my place.

750Words d5: the nomadic life (from prompt)

I started this blog ages ago. Years. It moved from Typepad and before that Blogger. It started as a blog to manage my history with the foster greyhounds I had. As my life changed, the blog did. Its subtitle is critters, coding, commuting, and chaos. As I search for a job and focus on a career change, this has been heavy on the coding side (sorry, but programming doesn’t fit my love of alliteration). Now that I’ve started my 750words challenge, I will have other topics. There are other sides to me, dammit! No. Not that side. Don’t look.

I believe this one covers commuting, chaos, critters, and coding, but more chaos and commuting:



Prompt: (not my words) If you could live a nomadic life, would you? Where would
you go? How would you decide? What would life be like without a “home base”?
I have often thought about selling my house and living in a van. I would never give up my critters, so I’d have some limitations, but isn’t a house just as limiting? I find myself struggling being anchored in Austin. I love Austin, but I know and love more people outside of Austin: Dallas, Minneapolis, Brisbane, Melbourne. Having a home means I can’t leave it without organising a petsitter or worrying about my stuff.

Stuff stuff stuff. I won’t be the hypocrite who bitches about stuff without remembering that she is encumbered with stuff herself. Thou shalt not be a twat. (By the way, I like the way Australians say it, rhyming with flat and not rot.) I have large dogs and want to continue to have them. I also have cats. I think it’s possible to have them with me. It requires discipline, but wouldn’t having a smaller place make that easier?

Where would I live and how? I think I’d use a travel trailer to allow me to drive into town or the city. Other things I would want to have and, yes, I feel are necessary:
bicycle
tent
motorcycle

I would want both a motorcycle and a bicycle. Maybe I’d have a truck to pull the trailer that would also have a place for me to haul the motorcycle. The bike would be also in the bed. Maybe not a truck but a strong SUV. I’d balance the eco hell that a truck or SUV would be with the bike and motorcycle, and also not using so much energy and water at home. I think a tent would be fun (a small one) for the times I’m where the night air is more pleasant than the trailer.

I’m too young to piss off and wander, so at this moment, I would want to be able to pick up and go to Dallas where my family is or leave Texas for other jobs that are short-term. Maybe use many addresses and be on many temp agencies and wander. I could not make this work without internet. First of all, I am trying to become a programmer. I can’t imagine being disconnected. I also would live the nomadic life to have fun, not to say “feckoff” to my friends. On a grimmer note, if I go missing, I’d want my stuff pinging like mad so that the police don’t find too gross of a Katy cadaver.

Clearly, I have no desire to go off the grid. I admire those who do, but I know my limitations. I am not skilled enough to fix things on my own. I’m also getting older and my knuckles would be furious with me.

I don’t think I have to wander to far away places just to live a nomadic life. Nomads lived together. They did not all live solo. They needed the skills the others had. I am sure I would park it as often in a metroplex as I would out west. Yes, west. I don’t see myself traveling east as often. Not never. Just not as often.

Honestly, I would be happy to live this way in Austin and not far from where I am now.

What would the inside of my trailer be like? Ok. This far into my writing, I now realise that I want to have a pick-up with four doors. I’d want my pets up with me. I’d want as much covered as possible. I’m hoping there are 4-door trucks that don’t make me look like a jackass. When moving, I’d want my pets up with me. Once hooked up, I think the cats and hounds would be fine in their little car-partment. You cannot tell me that the people in NYC don’t have cats and dogs. I have the hounds for it: greyhounds. The saluki would need more room to run, but choosing a place where a park is near is all that I’d need. They’d need walking, but so would I. Cats? They’ll be okay wherever. They have each other and lots of windows. It’d be fun to get them leash trained.

Eating is the easiest part. I keep it simple. I do not have this desire to make enviable meals nightly. I’m fine drinking my meals and going out here and there. Or keeping it simple at home with nearly ready-made salads.

These are the challenges I see:
workspace set up
crafts
books

The workplace would be solved with a decent coffee shop where I got wifi and wasn’t too far from where home was at the time.
Craft items would need to be in storage. That could help keep me focused. FINISH A DAMN PROJECT! Swap out as I do. Yarn squishes, so easy peasy.
Books are a bigger challenge. I’d have to let go of many of them. Keep ones by people I know. I’m sure I’d have a storage unit, but I’d hope one that is only 5 by 5.

I’ve thought about this a lot, not just after finding a writing prompt. My mom is now living the van life and is somewhere in New Mexico. She uses my place as a homebase. I also see that it’s a lot of work the older the van. I am not sure I’d want to go that old. If I sold my house, I wouldn’t buy a new trailer and truck, but I’d get ones that were not as old. I also think that maintaining a truck and a trailer would be easier than an all-in-one, but that’s just me talking out my ass. Or typing out of it.

I think I could and really might do this. I can’t afford the kind of house in Austin I would love (midcentury or older). I also hate leaving my pack when I travel. I hate yard work. I don’t ever want to entertain more than an individual, and even then prefer to meet at the movies or a restaurant.

So what is stopping me?