Glass half-full half-way through the Junior phase at MakerSquare

Every day it is so easy to focus on the glass that is half-empty: We get hit with a new challenge and I struggle. I really, really struggle. At the end of each sprint, I always feel deflated, focusing on the things that I just don’t get. I all too often compare myself to others, particularly to the folks who just rocked it with no sweat. I always feel that I am not learning fast enough, deep enough, that I’m not going to retain what I learned. I often feel like I’ve got a CODING LOSER ticker-tape running across my forehead: One big enough it can be seen from blocks away.

Yesterday, however, I took a bit of stock. I was talking with a good friend who will be starting the Junior phase when I, hopefully, will be starting the Senior phase. He noted that he was worried about learning the ins and outs of github and I was like, oh, no worries, it is really easy and you’ll get the hang of it quick– it will be the easiest thing you’ll learn. Then I remembered how terrified I had been, and how daunting github had seemed to me, before I started.

That started me thinking, without my really being aware of it. I was doing a React.js tutorial last night to try to bolster my tenuous grasp after our React sprint ended yesterday afternoon, and I noticed that I was using the ES6 arrow functions and ternary terminology without a second thought. Even a week ago, I was totally freaked out when solution code would get slacked out and it was using this terminology and I was like what the…I can’t make heads or tails of this! It was like looking at (another!) foreign language.

So, I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down the things that immediately came to mind of, not the things that I need to work on, the things I’m lacking in, the things I ‘suck’ at, but the things that once seemed so alien and hard and that I now apply with ease — without even noticing that I’m applying them with ease. That list was pretty long! (I’ll spare you from listing them here).

Today, I’m looking at the glass that is half-full, rather than the glass that is half-empty. I am football fields ahead of where I was three weeks ago. I’m not where I want to be. I’m not where I’m determined to get. I am, however, a lot further along in this race than I’ve been giving myself credit for and that is a very good feeling.

I am still loving every minute (ok, so maybe not literally every minute) of this bootcamp experience. I love the camaraderie with the other members of my cohort. It really does feel like family. I’ve had a lot of really great experiences in my life and, so far, this is among the best of those.

An awesome day at MakerSquare

I got up dreading today. I’m sick as a dog. We were to have a self-assessment exam first thing and, because I was sick as a dog yesterday too, I wasn’t able to do the kind of studying and practice that was needed.

I aced the exam! Then, I got my very first 100% on one of the several-times daily, mini-quizzes we take immediately following a lecture on said topic.

I am having so much fun with my current partner on the sprint we started today. And, for the first time, I don’t feel like a fraud and feel that I am really pulling my own weight as part of a team solving challenges. I am finally feeling like, yes, I am getting it, I can solve it, I can do this. I’ve gotten more confidence. I’ve somehow managed to learn things I didn’t think I’d learned and the confidence to suggest trying things that I’m thinking to myself …maybe, but no, that is really stupid…and then lo and behold they work!

A mini-garden update

The veggie garden is surviving, if not thriving, with my necessitated lack of caring for it. Over the last four days, however, I did harvest 4 lbs of okra and cucumbers. Today, about 3 lbs worth of eggplant and some basil, malabar spinach, and green onion are on the list for harvesting.

Baby tomatoes are forming and the tomato plants are all flowering. We’ve got about 11 cucumbers inching toward harvest and a bunch of new baby cucumbers starting to form. The HaOgen melon is now a good bit bigger than a softball but still showing no signs of ripening yet. There are about 8 smaller melons but a couple that looked promising last week have since died on the vine.

A bunch of the lettuce seedlings died from lack of watering, as did most of the arugula seedlings. Today, I will plant new seeds and see what I can do to save the 30-odd surviving seedlings. The green beans are just starting to burst into flowers. I may harvest some poblano, gypsy, shishto, and banana peppers today or I may wait and let them get a bit bigger.

Still looking for the weather break that usually happens in September and spurs garden productivity!

Dodging astroids in bootcamp

So ends week two of tech bootcamp. I am so looking forward to having a day off tomorrow …mostly to study! We’ve done three “sprints” this week (and a boatload of other things as well). The sprint we did on Monday and Tuesday (involving a lot of jQuery and object prototype inheritance) seems like it was weeks ago. The second sprint was all about callbacks and promises, promises, promises. Yesterday and today, we were tasked with using D3.js to build a cool (but seriously a pain in the tachat to build) ‘video’ game that is not too dissimilar from the old Astroids arcade game. We had to build it completely from scratch.

My partner and I managed to get first circles, that we then replaced with astroid images, moving in a random pattern. We got the player object (we wanted it to be a space cat image but ran out of time, so it was just a circle that changed colour depending on whether it was at the start position (white) before the game began, turning yellow once the player started moving it with the mouse, and red if it couldn’t avoid the zipping astroids and got blasted). We got the ‘highest score’ and ‘current game score’ to work — but after 8 solid hours, we could not find and fix what turned out to be a single line of mangled and partially missing code that kept the count of the number of collisions and reported them to them player. More specifically, the counter was all good, we just couldn’t get the program to recognize that a collision had happened. Gah.

Even with that minor (ok, so seriously major) flaw, the game we created is pretty darn cool, if I do say so myself. We didn’t do too shabbily, given that we’d never heard of this D3 library thing* (see below for what it is) or worked with SVGs before, were told the documentation is ….sparse …and that we were going to need to use it in a way it wasn’t designed to be used: Go forth and read, Google, hack, cry, and pull your hair out.

Check mark for all of the above!

***D3.js (or just D3 for Data-Driven Documents) is a JavaScript library for producing dynamic, interactive data visualizations in web browsers. It makes use of the widely implemented SVG, HTML5, and CSS standards.

Brutal but I survived the 1st week of tech bootcamp and am loving it

They really don’t call it a bootcamp for nothing. This past week, I’ve survived on 3-4 hours of sleep a night, with stress and coding even intruding on those few hours of sleep.

I had my first introduction to the two-day coding ‘sprints’ — I’d call them 2-day coding marathons (see sleep amounts above) instead. My partner and I managed to hack (serious emphasis on the hack) out solutions for both the first and the second sprints on data structures, finishing at the 11th hour. Some teams not only finished but did the extra credit exercises and had time to spare. I was just damn happy that we got all the basic requirements completed!

Last night I slept like the dead for almost 9 hours straight. I still feel ‘punch-drunk.’ Today, I’m trying to figure out the things I’d figured out and going over the ‘best solutions’ — released last night — to our coding challenges. I’m budgeting 12 hours today to review and to re-tackle some of the challenges that I really had a problem wrapping my head around — hash tables oh dear, oh dear. Interspersed with that, I’m doing things around the house and yard (and the copious things needing to be done for the kitties). My plan is to get a full 6-hours of sleep tonight so that I can start the next marathon week at least somewhat refreshed.

I’m finding the whole experience to be whirlwind overwhelming. My stress level on any given day is mostly off the charts. I have moments of absolute despair, but am generally too busy just trying to figure out a) what the hell is this?, b) how the hell do I even start?, c) What the hell do I do next?, and d) why the hell isn’t this working?

Then come the serious highs of OHMYG-D, I can’t believe that just worked, we did it, we got it to pass the test!!!!!

Rinse and repeat.

It is overwhelming and stressful and it is seriously fun.

I feel very blessed to be in a cohort of really great folks. There are stand-out stars (I’m seriously not one of them, more like at the bottom of the pack and that is not a position I’m used to being in) but no one takes oneupmanship. Everyone is willing to help out those who are struggling to get this or understand that, if they’ve already figured it out themselves.

Our main teacher is so smart that it is scary. He’s also extremely approachable and humble and helpful. The fellows are awesome. So far, everything is hard and awesome.

I’m already stressing about the 8-hour mid-term coding exam/challenges that will take place in five weeks. It is one of two “make or break” points where you can get kicked out if you are not up to snuff. I’m definitely not up to snuff after just the first week…

A Kitty-Cat Update

In the last week, we’ve been making frantic improvements to the outdoor enclosure Gypsy is living in. Gypsy was a completely feral cat that some fellow rescuer dumped on our doorstep — we suspect the same person who dumped the two black brothers, Lucky and Liberty, on us last December. Gypsy may have started out feral but has turned into one great big 13 1/2 pound love-bug. He is a true gentle giant and one of the very rare male calico cats (99% of all calicos are female).

While Gypsy is not a fighter, there is a vicious cat in the neighbourhood that is FIV positive and he beat our Gypsy up pretty badly last year. Sure enough, Gypsy now has FIV and so needs to be in an enclosure and not loose in the backyard for his own protection and that of any other cat that decided to mess with him. Earlier this summer, we expanded his enclosure but, in doing so, left a critical flaw. The original enclosure was fully screened to keep out mosquitoes. The new portion of it had the strong plastic wire mesh (with the quarter-inch or so holes) to keep him in and raccoons and other beasties out but we were out of window-screening when it was expanded. We didn’t know that he is deathly allergic to mosquito bites.

In the last few weeks, the mosquitoes have been seriously numerous and more vicious than usual. I’ve spent my days covered in Cutter and bites the skeeters managed to make on me anyway. Last week, I went out to give him his breakfast and was horrified to find his little nose just dripping blood from numerous bites and a very enlarged lymph node in his neck (we are talking bigger than a golf ball). It was an immediate vet trip. He’s on a strong course of antibiotics. We had to take him back to the vet this Saturday, and he had a steroid shot to bring down the inflammation because the gland on the other side of his face had begun swelling as well. He also got his yearly rabies shot.

So last week we had to leap into action and get his enclosure fully screened as quickly as possible. I’ve still got to get some screen (we ran out again) and put a double layer over one portion of the original screened-in area because I found a number of small, but mosquito penetrable, holes. I’ll be doing that next Sunday. Thankfully, the fix we got up seems to be keeping them out so far.

The mystery chest congestion illness is currently hitting a number of ours hard. Whisper, Nipper, Shyla, Liberty, and Tovi have all been coughing their little heads off. Whisper is especially congested. They are all on prednisilone and Whisper just got a prescription for Orbax on Saturday.

Our other little guys are all doing well. Batya seems right as rain. Smokey Eyn Echad is doing well on her daily blood pressure medicine and just loving her nightly wet food meal. The Twisted Sisters are just as amusingly twisted and all the other little ones are doing fine.

LOL, Ema just stepped out the door and said that she was looking for Whisper to give her the Orbax dose and grabbed up who she thought was Whisper: Tovi let out her foghorn bleat of surprise and is now hiding under the bed! It is passingly hard to tell those two black beauties apart!

Garden update (1 of 2)

Today I planted about 30 arugula seeds in little pots and 1 cucumber seed in the ground. I’ve not been happy with our cucumber harvest this past month (August). In July, we harvested close to a cucumber per day. In August it was more like every 3 days and they were much smaller and deformed (though they tasted just fine) from the heat/lack of water. I am probably about a week too late in planting another cucumber from seed, but we can always hope.

Tomorrow I will be planting 3 kinds of cabbages in little pots inside the house. I’m going to plant 8 of each in the hopes at least 5 will sprout/survive later transplanting. They will go into the spot currently taken up by the green beans. The bean harvest should have hit and been over with by the 3rd week of October.

I’m very excited about our HaOgen melon. The HaOgen is an Israeli melon that gets to be between the size of a softball to a large cabbage head (3-5 lbs). It has a super sweet, slightly spicy, green flesh and will make a honeydew melon seem bland and not worth the eating in comparison. Right now, on one plant, we’ve got a melon just reaching the softball stage but showing no signs of ripening (yay, bigger melon for me!), and 8 much smaller melons on it, some just starting. A couple of weeks ago, I started another haOgen melon from seed and…again it was probably a couple weeks too late, but here’s to hoping it will produce at least a couple of melons before it gets too cold.

The tomatoes are flowering and setting fruit, thanks to the cooler nights we’ve had of late.

It is going to be really hard to keep up with the garden, given the grueling schedule I’m going to have over the next 3 months. My plan is to get up at 4 a.m. 3 days a week and do the most minimal tending I can get away with. I’ll be harvesting by flashlight. On my Sundays off, I’ll be doing a lot of yard duty — mowing the yard and keeping it in shape, and planting and transplanting veggies in the garden. Next Sunday, for instance, I’ll need to start the first set of kohlrabi and radish seeds directly into the garden and to transplant out the first 20 buttercrunch lettuce plants. It is going to be a challenge to tuck them in among the okra, pepper, and basil plants!

Tonight, Ema is making a thick soup with an Astrakom eggplant, 4 Gretel eggplants, 4 okra, a quarter lb of Malabar and New Zealand spinach, some of our hot peppers, and some basil flowers. We’ll also have a salad with a cucumber, banana pepper, shisito pepper, basil, green onion, and some cherry tomatoes — all from our garden! The only store-bought ingredients in our meal will be the tomato paste for the soup and some cabbage for the salad!