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.

COFFEE: 2
ENERGY: 6
FOCUS: 4
HAPPINESS: 7
LOCATION: home
STRESS: 6
AMPM: am
NONFICTION: t

 

Tenacity

Almost nine months ago, I completed a (week) daily coding challenge called Daily CSS Images. I am about to embark on round 2. I say “about to” because I do not know if I am going to redo the challenge and stick to the old prompts or find others. If I decide to do my own prompts, I need to have 50 ready. I don’t want to spend half of the day deciding.

It is no surprise that I learned a lot about Pug/Jade and Sass in this challenge, but what I learned (or realised) the most was how daily practice improves a skill. I knew that, but that knowledge had become dusty. What I love is seeing the change.

Day 1: Bear Cub

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 12.43.00 PM

See the Pen DailyCSSimages Day 1: bear cub by Katy Cassidy (@ihatetoast) on CodePen.

Day 49: Dance Dance Revolution pad

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 12.45.23 PM

See the Pen Daily CSS Images Day 49: Dance Dance Revolution pad by Katy Cassidy (@ihatetoast) on CodePen.

Day 50 was Party City. It was ok. I’m not ashamed of it, but I think day 49 shows more of what I learned:  Daily CSS Images Day 50 – Party City by Katy Cassidy (@ihatetoast) on CodePen.

I code every day. That is not hard to do. Harder is not coding, getting up, stepping back, going outside. Oh, I love the outside. I’d code there if I could and if mosquitos left me alone. I’d moto to the hill country if I could trust reception or remembering to pack up and return home before sundown. Coding every day is not a problem. Harder is keeping a track going. Using my tenacity and my ADHD (which I call KatyHD) hyperfocus to stick to one or two themes. Depth over breadth. Do the thing, not do all the things. Do the thing and do it every day. Hard when one has a breadth of interests. Sigh. Sadly, this requires the S-word.

SCHEDULE

I know! Sent shivers down my back, too. Following a schedule is not the hard part. I can do that. Making it. Ugh. Making one will require me to let some interests come before others. How can I choose? It’s like choosing sad critter over all the others in the shelter. Alas, my tenacity requires such discipline.

 

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.
MeAsMyBoss: I KNOW, RIGHT!?
Me: RIGHT?! Let’s deal with our excitement and stress by eating all the things!
MeAsMyBoss: EAT 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.

Stats:


Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 6.08.21 AM

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 6.09.02 AM

 

Meta data:

COFFEE: 1
ENERGY: 5
FOCUS: 5
HAPPINESS: 4
LOCATION: on the bus
STRESS: 7
AMPM: am
NONFICTION: t

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 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?

Must remember to get bored

Pressure is on always.

I need to apply for jobs. I look at job postings. Employers want lots of skills.

I need to get more skills. I take online tutorials and follow blog how-tos. I do what they say.

I need to commit to GitHub every day. I need to commit something amazing that I have done on my own without a support group that looks like the next big thing.*

I have to make time to learn and do my own stuff. Do I focus on little skills (do this one thing) or bigger ones (libraries and frameworks)?

I decide to make something biggish. I want it to be mobile first and need to sketch it out. I need pen and paper. But I need to code. If I don’t code and prove it on GitHub, I can’t possibly be improving anything. So I wing it. I don’t like what I make. Looks unplanned. It is unplanned. It’s ugly, but the jQuery works or the component shows up. Whoo hoo!

I do this; I do that. I’m busy busy busy. Mornings with CSS. Afternoons with front and backend. Read best practices for UI. Read “The Art of Readable Code”. Ignore that lovely escapist novel you wanted to read. Again.

But where is the much-needed void? Where is the time I spend on the couch staring at the ceiling thinking of nothing until an idea enters? Where is my GitHub repo for that? No. I didn’t code today. I let my mind wander, and I got this great idea …

This is my problem. No one makes me do what I am doing. I am doing a great job working on getting (and remembering) new things, but I am not doing a good job of doing nothing and letting my mind go. I can’t combine this with running. I can’t stop and write ideas down by scraping notes in the sweat and sunscreen on my arms.

It’s time to let myself get bored. Do very minor code changes (make ES5 functions fat arrow functions, alter style, did I really want that colour?) and then do nothing impressive. Get bored. Wonder “what if …”. Think back to my classroom and what I wish I had an app for. Come up with a story for a VueJS book. Be unbusy and let ideas enter my brain.

Then write that shit down, woman!

Get over yourself. You love to code. You’re new, you need to learn more. But you love it. And you know you’ll love it even more when you’re building what you’ve thought of, so let that happen. Not typing div or this.sumpin=this.sumpin.bind(this) or transform: rotate(-45deg) every day does not mean I’m not a developer. Planning. Drawing. Designing. They count.

The pressure is on from people I don’t know, so why am I adding to it? I am my project manager (micro managing and stubborn), UI designer (clearly drinks too much), front-end developer (tenacious but a bit high strung at the mo), and backend developer (very green, might get the boot). I am also the janitor, cook, pet carer, housekeeper.

I’m not even close to being Mr. Torrence, but I’ve been staying away from the water heater.

 

*I know that isn’t true, but you know that this is how it feels.

My inner toddler

Until I have a full-time job, my job is finding that job, and my day is broken into looking for it and preparing for it. In some ways, looking is easier. Writing a cover letter and fretting over a typo I may have missed exhausts me, but I am limited to the résumé and the cover letter. When those are done for the day, I look at a number of things I need to learn to back up those documents I send out.

To-do:

  1. Improve upon my current skills
  2. Learn more frameworks and libraries
  3. Learn more languages
  4. Don’t forget how to do the old stuff while you’re acquiring new stuff.
  5. Repeat this loop until 2090.

I’m no longer in a boot camp, so I do most of my learning, relearning, and refreshing with tutorials. I have a list of tutorial class names on graph paper. I colour in a square for every new lesson. These tutorials cover languages, frameworks, updates (ES6), UI to backend. As I watch the progress bars grow stall grow, I notice that my tutorial pattern is a lot like the eating habits of a finicky toddler: Nothing but ES6 except bite of HTML5 for a while, then vanilla JavaScript only with maybe a bite of ES6, then ONLY REACTJS!!!, then Python and node, BACK TO ES6!!, oooh, Flexbox. Nom nom nom …

This used to stress me out, but as long as I circle back, I’m good. If I never want to see a topic again, that’s also good. That language or framework is not for me. I need to know this. If I’m on a roll, why stop just to have balance? If I’m in a ReactJS mood, why deny myself that and force PHP on me because I should?

We are incredibly lucky to have the internet and the means to have online-tutorials, blogs, and challenges. We can sample and choose our style and pace. There is no right way to consume these new skills except what works for yourself. So if all you want to do are ReactJS tutorials, go for it, shuggatoots. The others will be there for you when you’re ready.