750 words: Stop with the tech-is-bad bs!

Possible ageism trigger warning.
I’m going to complain about older people. By older people, I also include people my age (50). It’s not about their age, but the generation and exposure to tech those generations had.

In 1987, I got my first Macintosh. At the time, I thought there’s be other apples to choose from. I was hoping I’d upgrade to a Granny Smith or Honey Crisp; however, Apple did not have my fabulous idea in mind. I was 19. I already knew how to touch type because my high school teachers made me take typing in order for them to read my essays. Some people were up in arms, thinking I’d head down the secretary path. First off, don’t be sexist. If I had become a carpenter, I’d have been praised for being tough, but a secretary? I think nothing is tougher than a secretary that has to put up with a sexist boss. I digress.

All through university, I used the computer and computer lab to print out my work. I have never gone back to pen and paper except for correspondences. I still write letters and postcards because I love stamps. I was not in a mass of people embracing the Mac and PC. Some refused. I think they had the same genes of those who thought that horseless carriage was craaaazy. The ratio of those who accept, embrace, and understand tech to those who are resistant change every year. Every year, younger people and more families get computers at home. I am thankful that the person who pushed tech on me was my mom, who is now 75 and killing it on social media, using reply all when CC-ed on conservative, scare-mongering emails, and changing her passwords frequently. She has had a mac every year since 1987, too. So the ageism here is a mindset ageism.

I am getting exhausted defending tech to older (mindset) people. Yesterday, I was paying with Oculus at a demo and enjoying going through a house to change the floors, cabinets, lamps. An older man (older than me by far) shook his head. “I don’t know. I just …” You know how this ends. I demoed a hands-free rubbish bin.
Our mini conversations:
“I would just use my hands”.
“Because you can, sir. Not everyone has both arms. Immunosuppressed people need to avoid germs as much as possible. A parent with hands full could use some help.”
“There’s a man at UT who has the code to 3D print a gun.”
“People are making affordable prosthetics in a tiny fraction of the time.”
I showed him the AR available with some companies’ apps where they can see their products in their home.
“Why not save time by knowing what will look good? Why buy something only to return it? Who has time for that? No one wants to go to a big box store more than once in a week.”

Darling, you can toss your TECH IS BAD at me, and I’ll fire back with tech is now and good. Keyhole surgery? How do they practice? AR and VR to train physicians? Yes, please! Programs to help Alexa understand sign language? Um. Yes! And truthfully, even older tech helped us. Did accountants really prefer pencil to paper over the speed of electronic spreadsheets? I am one who likes to handwrite letters, but that is another way of spending time with my friends. Handwriting out ledgers takes so much time, when Excel or Numbers could speed that up, save and edit without wasting time or paper so you could go outside with your family?

Look. Listen. Look and listen. Tech is no different than anything else:
TV. On all day or watch exactly what you want for the hour then turn it off. Watch fear and hate mongering news shows or watch a science show?
Books. Read hateful rhetoric or a playful fantasy novel?
Books, magazines, TV, movies, and tech are just those. Nothing more. They are good or bad, beneficial or harmful, a waste of time or great fun. They are made and used by humans. They are as good or bad as those who create and use them. To lump anything that is new as something bad is foolish, silly, and short-sighted. What is old and familiar to you was once craaaazy new. Germ theory? If you expect your surgeon to wash and scrub up before surgery, you’re embracing something that was once scoffed as new and crazy. Washing your hands before you eat? See above. Pretty much anytime you enter a hospital or doctor’s/dentist’s office, you need to shut up about tech.

It’s ok if it gets harder to learn. I get that. It sucks to get older. Our minds aren’t as sharp. Age gets everyone until death comes in. But our choices are to keep our minds sharp and open or to just close it and turn away. Maybe this is a message to me. Never be that person, Katy. As you get older and your mind gets duller, don’t repackage any wistfulness into jealousy. I hope to enjoy tech until I die and to use it for good. The only time I don’t want tech is after death. Just toss me into the woods for the wolves. I’m cool with that.


750 Words: Practice, Habits, Learning

(750words.com entry for today: 911 words, including metadata list,  stats)

To learn something (anything), one has to practice. The comic artist Sarah Andersen of Sarah’s Scribbles has a widely shared strip about what makes her great. It’s practice. No matter what anyone tells you, it’s practice. Practice is closely related to habit.

If I want to improve upon a skill, I need to practice often and then that becomes a habit. A good one. With ADHD, it is hard to get a habit going. Unlike what some people assume, the distraction for me is not TV—it is other skills. Let’s reference another wonderful comic artist: Allie Brosh, the genius behind Hyperbole and a Half and the much-memed “All the things!” drawing. I’m not distracted by bad things. I’m distracted by other skills and topics within skills. I’m distracted by the newsletters that inform me of new tutorials and tutorials that teach me new frameworks. If I’m trying to break into web development, I’m working on HTML5, CSS3, preprocessors, JavaScript, JS frameworks and libraries, Node, etc. I’ll be focusing on one when an idea for another pops up. That is, while making an HTML/CSS technical document page for a FreeCodeCamp project, an idea for a fullstack app comes to mind. It takes incredible will not to change focus. This little blog post was started when I was thinking about what topic to write about for that technical document assignment.

I should add that this is a problem when flying solo. It’s another reason I love having a boss. I may have ADHD, but I also have anxiety about not doing my job and doing right by my team and manager. Not a sycophant in anyway, but I don’t slack if it means another person will look bad. Right now, I’m flying solo. I am my worst boss. Now, to give myself a break, as I look up job postings and read about what I have to know to be considered, I can’t help but add to my “Learn all the things” list. And to learn all the things, I have to practice. Practice and practice. Lather and repeat. Forget rinsing. I don’t think that works when I want to retain skills. No rinsing. Just keep lathering.

Here are the skills and habits I need to build. There’s no order. I’m writing this as they come to me. There’s never any order!
Skill: HTML5 + CSS3 mobile-first responsive web design.
Skill: JavaScript frontend fun—focusing on ReactJS, not forgetting little jQuery, and getting to know VueJS.
Skill: JavaScript backend with Node—getting endpoints and routing down pat, getting comfy with noSQL as well as SQL, ExpressJS myself.
Habit: Planning app in advance vs creating on the fly.
Habit: Addressing build/Gulp and testing/Mocha-Chai in every project.
Skill: Python—make more of a priority
Skill: Game Maker Language—for fun and for OOP practice.
Habit: GitHub—not working on the master, branches for every new thing.
Habit: Jobs—apply daily!
Habit: Own up—Tweet daily the #100daysofcode and blog the process (do not blog daily)
Skill: German—Refresh it. Listen to a YouTube video every day.
Skill: Art—Doodle on Sketch App to illustrate my own apps or just do my own doodles. Wacom, paper?
Habit: Read—Read before bed. Read fiction! Escape.
Habit: Craft—Attack the fiber stash.
Habit: Exercise—C25k, gym, and/or cycle. August is awful.
Habit: Healthy eating—This would be better labeled “Don’t let ADHD’s impulsivity affect your food choices”, but that is too long.
Skill: Writing—I don’t care if it’s handwriting and dealing with my illegible script or getting a postcard out. Just write.

If I kept track of the above with a bar graph, there’d be tall bars on the tech skills and smaller bars on skills and habits that have some distance from the laptop. I blame the job situation. Hard to put down the laptop and tech learning to read or attack the yarn stash when I am underemployed. I am ok with that. I can’t have this even. Once employed, I know the other things will get more attention. Right? Yes. Right … RIGHT!

What about the ethics? This gets me a lot. To learn, I watch tutorials, but if I just do their projects, it’s just follow the leader. I have to do my own. Tutorials, therefore, take a lot of time for me. I watch, rewind, then do. I do this until my own idea that applies this skill comes to my head. I create my own repo for a new app. For example, I’m doing Brad Traversy’s fullstack social media tutorial. I watch and listen, I do what he does. On my own, I’m applying what I’m learning to make a social media app for adoption groups so that they don’t have to always rely on Facebook for their volunteers to connect. I’m writing down other ideas for social media apps with the hope of every new social media app I do, I’ll refer less and less to the tutorial. Is it ok to do this? Am I plagiarising? Or is this like taking various illustrations to trace and trace and trace, then build your own style doing your own thing? I do not know. I just know that I have to practice. I need to copy someone. I’m by myself. I am not in a classroom or workspace where I can flesh things out with instructors and senior devs.

I’m winging it.

I’m still learning how I learn, Vern.

AMPM: am


Egads, woman. Stop.

I have not written a word (here) since January? I can say that I haven’t blogged since I was 49. No excuse. Not for a chatty Kathy like myself. I know that blogging my problems, processes, solutions has been helpful in the past, but I still won’t do it because I won’t stop coding. I need to remember that it’s okay—good, even—to stop coding.

Here is what happens when I do not stop coding:

  • I do not run.
  • I do not knit.
  • I do not put my Raspberry Pi together.
  • I do not go to movies or watch movies.
  • I do not read for fun.
  • I do not walk the dogs.

Basically, I become a boring cow. (No offense to cows with awesome personalities.) I’m full of do-nots instead of do-nuts. (Mmmm. Donuts.)

There really is no benefit to doing nothing but coding. We convince ourselves as newbies to code every day (cool, do that), but that doesn’t mean every hour of every day. It’s not good to deny ourselves our other passions. I can love JavaScript as I love reading, running, and rknitting. When I want to practice what I have learned with React, Vue, Node, etc., I’ll probably want to make something that supports another passion, but if I let those passions fizzle or think they cannot be nurtured alongside coding, I find myself doing nothing more than making another fkn to-do list.

Egads, woman. Stop. It’s not forever. Just stop coding to let yourself do some other things.

Things that happen when I do these so-called “other things”:

  • I think of solutions to the problems I encountered.
  • I come up with ideas for new projects.
  • I feel good about myself physically.
  • I have other things to talk about other than passing state down as props or mapping.
  • I attend Meetups.
  • I see movies.
  • I ride my motorcycle.
  • I start Couch-to-5k.
  • I start 750 Words.
  • I rest one part of my brain.
  • I exercise other parts of my brain.

I become more interesting. I return to being the person who, when asked “What do you do?”, returns with “What don’t I do?”

Today? I’ve prepared for teaching Python to a youngster, but I’m also starting my Couch-to-5K plan … again. A plan I keep quitting because I wouldn’t quit coding. Today I start with day 1 and will come home after that 30 minutes to work on my MERN HomeChecker app and a smaller React project. I can give up that time. Yes, I want to be a paid developer, but I do not want to become a boring blob.


750 Words: The challenge of challenges

This will be interesting. I could not sleep and started stressing about getting up in time to ride to the train station for the 7a train, so I gave up the ghost at 4a and just got myself ready for the 4:54a bus. I am not sure how coding on the bus will go. It’s not as smooth a ride. Jiggly lap => jiggly laptop => rando typos.

I have no problem coding every day. I do not need the 100-days-of-code challenge to get me to do it. All I do differently when I decide on doing it is owning up to my contributions on Twitter. I also become a more active Twitter participant when I start a challenge. I also make sure that I commit every day when I am on the challenge. For some reason, once I announce to the anonymous world that I am committing to 100DoC, I feel the “pics or it didn’t happen” threat is taken care of with the little green GitHub square.

So no. My problem is not coding every day; my problem is staying focused on one or two projects. That’s the ADHD without a boss or teacher issue. When the boss looks at me in the mirror, I’m less focused. MeAsMyBoss should never have hired me:
Me: I want to do a little CSS grid in between Node tutorials.
MeAsMyBoss: Don’t forget that you need to fix your portfolio, apply for jobs, do your homework, and correct or improve past homework.
Me: And maybe even plan a bigger full-stack project since I’ll be asked to do one soon.
Me: RIGHT?! Let’s deal with our excitement and stress by eating all the things!

MeAsMyBoss also is more of a delegator. She’s not someone I could go to when I get stuck. She doesn’t ask me what I think I should do. I also don’t have this desire to do right by her. I don’t care if she’s proud of me or impressed with anything I’ve done. In fact, when she is impressed, she makes me come off as a needy narcissist. Don’t get me wrong. I love MeAsMyBoss’s twin sister MeAsMyRoommate. I can do solo living. I don’t just talk to myself; I orate. I’d rather have OtherAsMyBoss. I love a good boss—one I respect and look up to. When I have OtherAsMyBoss, I procrastinate less and stay on task more.

Alas, I do not have OtherAsMyBoss. Or I don’t for coding and web development.

Until then, I have to stick with MeAsMyBoss. Maybe we can teach each other. Maybe she’ll keep me from going with a new idea: “Katy, let that one rest in your journal. GitHub can wait.” And maybe I’ll remind her that I need different projects to satisfy the different—OH CRAP! BUS TRANSFER POINT!
(and who is the boss of “shove everything in the pannier get off the bus get the bike find the next bay load the bike get on the bus and carry on”? ME! Fueled by Spokesman coffee and a jolt of adrenalin.)
See? I have to have different projects for the different time chunks available to me. I cannot do tutorials on the bus because I can’t hear the announcement. Tutorials are better for the train when every stop is predictable. I prefer longer tasks like homework for when I can have a second monitor set up. My available times do not suit one project. What can you do? I don’t care. What can I do? That’s better. I can find a happy middle between one project that I can’t do during some of my free time and too many projects that just mean I get nothing done. I also give myself a break. There’s a difference between having unfinished projects because I dislike them and having unfinished projects because I want to learn all the things.

But I do think I am done with adding more challenges. I have 100 Days of Code (very disciplined with), 750 Words a Day (medium as it is second to 100Doc), and getting back to the gym (necessary as I’m a stress eater and am pursuing a career that puts many people in 90-degree angles for hours at a time). I think I’ve maxed out I can’t even satisfy my “get to bed before 10p” challenge even once a week.


Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 6.08.21 AM

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 6.09.02 AM


Meta data:

LOCATION: on the bus
AMPM: am

Even boot camps have busy work

I am not going to throw anyone under the bus. What a cliché and totally irrelevant in Austin. No one here rides the bus or the one train. The most I can do here is throw someone under the car driven by someone texting or posting to social media. No matter who is behind the wheel and what those wheels are carrying, I am not throwing anyone under it.

Yes, I got my first lot of busy work from my boot camp, but I’ve given out busy work (I am sure of it) as has everyone who has ever taught or been in charge of curricula.

Busywork is mostly caused by laziness on the side of the teacher or curriculum team, but it’s sometimes caused by lack of time or even the challenge to make an exercise to practice a new skill relevant. It’s not always easy to do and instructors have to both teach the skill, make sure most of the students have a working grasp before they’re set off to be assessed. Sometimes teachers come up with a great way to enforce the new skill or show where it’s used. Other times the ideas just do not come, and they don’t get to pause time to let the ideas come. That is teaching life.

I remember coming up with the best ideas ever. So much ever that I should write everrrrrrr. Other times, I just was stuck. They need to practice this, but I am just forcing some silly situation where this new skill would be used.

I just had my first busywork homework assignment. I didn’t have time to do the more challenging “rock, paper, scissors” game. That is another blog post about defensive driving online classes interfering with coding, but LET US NOT GO THERE, PEOPLE! After trying the RPS game and writing the pseudocode, I realized that I could not complete that to my liking. (Do not speed, people. The consequences pop up everywhere.) I switched to the train scheduler, and immediately regretted it.

The idea behind the train scheduler is to practice using Firebase and also MomentJS. Perhaps the two should not have been combined. Just practice with a little in-class work for MomentJS and then come up with your own way to use it however. Let the Firebase practice be however the student wants to make it. As it is, I am turning in the most unrealistic project ever. No one who has used a departure board would believe this. We are required to use Military time (not 24-hour time, but Military). I’ve lived in cities with a thriving public transportation system in the US and overseas. None uses military time. All in the US have used 12-hour time with am/pm. I offered a screenshot of Penn Station’s departure board. The old one and the screens that replaced it use the 12-hour system (Old and new Penn Station Departure Boards). The stations I used in Europe and in Australia use the 24-hour time with colons. Military time does not use colons. So there’s that.

Another thing that bothered me was that the basic assignment was to use input forms. Who would do this? No one would build a program that would have people type in names such as Waxahachie, Poughkeepsie, or Chattanooga. Destination stations would be set and either typeahead or a drop-down would be available. Typeahead I got to work but struggled with capturing the value when I had only Pen written and wanted Pensacola. That’s ok. I am cool with that challenge, but not in a short time. So I started to disconnect. I could not stand making a train scheduler so unrealistic. The other issue I had was writing down the train line names. They’d also already be in. Three disconnects (time, destination, line names).

I did enjoy the challenge of using MomentJS, which is not intuitive to me. Not yet. In struggling with the will to do the homework at all and the desire to learn Firebase and MomentJS, I thought that the better idea would have been to admit that both skills are better learned practicing à la worksheet. Forcing them together in a short assignment was just that — forced.

I have not permanently set it aside. I’d like to return to it either after the boot camp has finished or over the winter break to deal with typeahead or a dropdown and then edit. I do not think that the average station master would be adding these lines. They’d have been added months ago. Lines do not change that often. If anything, I’d like to know how to edit the arrival time without changing the original. I’d also rather deal with the styling to warn people when there are less than 5 minutes before the next train. I’d also take out the Boo’strap. I use it to practice it, but, to me, Bootstrap is for those who don’t like to style. I lerve it.

So yeah. It was busy work and totally unrealistic, and I put the effort I saw my own students do when I did that to them. Empathy goes a long way. I get that students will get bored or disconnected, but educators also get stuck for ideas.

Now, about that online defensive driving course …


(This was today’s 750words challenge. today’s stats)

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:

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

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?