Two Down … 509 To Go!

“Euler calculated without apparent effort, as men breathe, or as eagles sustain themselves in the wind.” ~ François Arago

The only sound apparent was the silvery, creek-like trickle of the fish tank.

And of course the scratch of graphite on paper, the rubbery pass of the eraser, the occasional puff of breath clearing the work area, and the rapid tap of keyboard keys.

I began again.

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…

Do you recognize this sequence of numbers?

Your eye knows and loves them well, even if your brain is drawing a blank.

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If You Build It

All things are mercurial, leaving one to feel adrift.  Subject to the whims of a capricious cosmos, we each dig our makeshift trenches, erecting defenses against the vexing volatility of the universe.

My fortification against this inconstant world is information.

I am the type of person that reads everything, all the time, everywhere. Border-lining on the compulsive, my constant acquisition of data feels like a fortress between me and the persistent winds of constant change.

My thinking is, if I can just know enough, I will be prepared for any eventuality.  I will not be sucker-punched by the gods.

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Curve Ball

Long I’ve endured the gale force winds,

Tears cutting tracks upon my gritty face

Hands hard pressed, knees bent I pray

And pray and pray

For the eye of the storm.

***************************************************************************

“Hello?”

“Mom, its me. I have breaking news.”

“What is it?” “Are you ok?”

“I’m not sure. Mom, my Bootcamp is gone.”

“Gone? What do you mean…gone?” “Are you certain?”

“I’m looking at the Codeup site right now. There is no longer a link for the Night Full-Stack Bootcamp.

“Check again my daughter. I will check as well.”

We both poured over the site that night. Finally we came to the same conclusion. Codeup is no longer offering an after-hours Full Stack programming Bootcamp.

I began to hear the high-pitched whine of my dream escaping like air from a shiny red balloon.

Until that moment, I had it all figured out.

When oh when am I going to learn? When I have it all figured out, it is about to change.

I should have known.

To verify what I was seeing online, I called Codeup.  They confirmed my suspsicion.  The camp has been cancelled.  The reason? Low enrollment.

Disappointment doesn’t come close to expressing how I felt when I got the news. I didn’t realize just how much I was looking forward to starting class until now. Why is it when something is snatched away from us at a moments notice, we want it all the more?

The camp I originally signed up for was an evening full-stack course. This means that we were going to learn front-end development (like how to make a beautiful, interactive website) as well as back-end development (like how to create and maintain databases in addition to much more.) I was going to lean HTML/CSS Javascript and JQuery as well as PHP.

It was going to be quite the commitment. The camp was going to be 9 months long. We were going to meet every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evening as well as every other weekend. I was going to have to do this while working as a math teacher.

But that option no longer exits.

So here is what I have decided to do. I am going to switch camps. Instead of going to camp after work, I’m going to do the full time, full stack daytime Bootcamp. The daytime camp meets Monday – Friday from 9-4pm.

The next daytime camp begins June 8th. This works perfectly for me because the last day of school is June 5th. So I will have all summer to work on my programming skills.

The downside? Well the camp is 4 months long. This is longer than my summer vacation from school. So I will have to do some deep soul searching about my job. I can’t teach and do this daytime Bootcamp.

Decisions will have to be made.

Running The Gauntlet

Here is what I have learned.

In the pivotal moments, there are no hands to hold.

The wind blows cold and you are alone. And you must be strong.

If you have been following my humble quest, I realize that you probably have some questions. You may be wondering,

What is the name of this programming boot camp anyway? She never refers to the camp by name!”

 I contacted my program, explained the nature of my blog, and asked if it would be ok to use their name in my blog posts. You see all this time I have been uncertain about whether or not it was appropriate to single out the program by name.

To my surprise, they were thrilled with the idea of my blog and had no reservations about me using the name of the program.

So (drum roll please!) I am a proud member of Codeup, an elite professional school for computer programming!

You may also be curious about the application process.

“How does a person get accepted into a programming boot camp in the first place?” 

There are several computer programming boot camps popping up all over the country like mushrooms after a rain. Each one has its own requirements for admission.

Codeup has several phases to its application process.

First I had to fill out an online application that included an essay question. This was a herculean task for me. I am that person who will rewrite a sentence 50 million times until it sounds absolutely perfect.

I reread my essay until I had it memorized and subjected my family to countless recitations. It literally took me a week of crumpled up discarded rough drafts and late nights staring at a blinking computer cursor to write that simple essay.

Second, I endured a telephone interview. This should not have been a big deal, but I am just as bad about interviews as I am about essays.

Third I had to take an Algebra test. (Remember asking your math teacher, “When am I ever going to use this?” Well you just got the answer-The next time you want to change your life.) The test was timed and covered a wide variety of topics. As an Algebra teacher, this should not have been an issue. Accept that I am me and anxiety might as well be my middle name. I fretted over this test like one would stress over a diagnosis of cancer. “What if I fail it?” “How embarrassing would it be for an Algebra teacher to fail an Algebra test?”

I did not fail the test.

In fact I did well enough to advance to the next stage of the application process: the logic test.

By this point I was petrified! Another test? I almost went into cardiac arrest over the Algebra test and I am good at Algebra. In college I got a C in logic. To make it even more “fun” the logic test was also timed!

To this day, I don’t know how I made it through that test but I did. I thought that I had come to the end of the gauntlet. Surely they had enough information to decide if I was worthy.

Nope. There was one last obstacle: The Instructor Interview

I sat alone in my car, listening to the chill wind howling outside. By that point, I had already been through so much. I really needed to do well at the instructor interview to seal the deal.

Alone in my car on the day of the interview, I took deep breaths, mediated, counted to ten, and yes I even prayed. I remember noticing the silence of my car, but for the pounding of my heart and the rushing of my blood in my own ears.

In the moments that matter, we often have to succeed or fail, sink or swim—Alone.

I got out of my car, braved the artic blast and shivered in my suit on the way to the designated interview site. I wish I could say I was shivering because of the cold. I walked inside, took a deep breath, flashed a confident smile and firmly shook the hand of the interviewer.

Spoiler Alert!

I did just fine during the instructor interview. There was nothing to fear (except bone crushing failure.) I got a call that same day telling me that I had been accepted into Codeup.

They say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I have always had my suspicions about the veracity of this claim.

Instead, I would say whatever doesn’t kill you leaves an impression upon you. This impression can have any number of effects. It won’t necessarily make you stronger, but it just might.

For me, my Codeup journey so far has revealed my pent up anxieties, but it has also sharpened my focus.

I ran the gauntlet and I survived. Am I stronger, smarter, better, greater? I honestly don’t know.

But I am here. I am writing to you. And I am determined to see this thing through to the end.

Virgin Control

Glued by gravity to the surface of this kamikaze Earth, I spin without choice through space.

And time passes.

It is hard for me to digest that a little over two weeks ago I could not use the command line interface on my computer. At the start of this year, I would not even have been able to find it.

Today, one month into the new year, I can now effortlessly navigate on the command line using basic commands.

If you are a mac user and would like to join the CLI club, then I highly recommend the Command Line Basics series on YouTube. I am currently on video #4 out of I’m not sure how many.

I like these videos because it is very easy to pause, practice the command that was just introduced on your own computer, and then play the video to learn more. The commands evolve naturally through the short lessons and the videos go into more detail than your average command line crash course. This is a real ‘must do’ for people who want to learn how to use their computer without a mouse.

Since gaining confidence on the command line, I have moved on to my next frontier: Git and GitHub.

If you have no idea what these two things are, then you and I have at least that much in common.

One month ago, before I started any of this PreWork, I was reviewing the syllabus and I noticed that I was going to have to learn Git and GitHub. Those were the only two completely unfamiliar terms on the syllabus so I went to YouTube to find out more.

The first video I watched clearly stated that Git was a “virgin control system.” Perplexed, I stopped the video and replayed it to be sure I had heard correctly. Yep. Virgin Control. That is what Git is all about.

At this point I was understandably very confused. Why would anyone want to control virgins? More to the point, what does virginity have to do with computing?

So I selected a different video…. And there it was again. Git is a “virgin control system.”

In fact every video I watched started by saying that Git solved the complex problem of “virgin control.” I stopped each video after it said that.

“What?” I was wondering, trying to stop my imagination from running wild.

Finally I went to Google and typed in “What is Git?”

First I learned that in British informal English, a git is a contemptible, unpleasant person.

That didn’t help.

Wikipedia saved the day with the following definition: Git is a “distributed version control system.”

“Oh,” I said aloud. Git is all about version control, not virgin control.

At this point I laughed at myself until tears rolled down my face. It is so nice to cry tears of joy instead of that other kind that we all too often encounter.

I still didn’t know anything about Git or GitHub at that point, but I was glad to know that I would not be sacrificing virgins and offering their innocent blood to the computer gods.

However I did learn an important lesson. As I learn the unfamiliar skill set of a web developer, I am going to make mistakes and misunderstand. Sometimes this is going to happen A LOT.

I have to be comfortable with laughing at myself. If I am going to make it through this Bootcamp in one piece then every instance of “virgin control” cannot be the end of the world.

Rather these misunderstandings have to be invitations for me to learn more.

Comforted by my newfound knowledge that Git and GitHub have nothing to do with sexuality, I am ready to learn.

Lets “Git” on with it shall we?

Mind Map

Mind mapping is an excellent way to summarize large quantities of information.  I love it because there is no right or wrong way to mind map.  You simply begin with a concept and branch off -adding information that seems pertinent.  When you are finished, the result is a condensed, birds-eye-view of your topic.

Mind Map representing what I have learned so far while working through the pre work.

Mind Map representing what I have learned so far while working through the pre work.

As I complete the Pre Work in preparation for the start of the camp in March, I will periodically stop and summarize what I have learned on a mind map.  Above you will see the first of many.

The Gap

So there is this gap. On one side, non-techies who really want to understand computers, learn to program and potentially land a wonderful, high paying job with benefits in tech; on the other side, employers desperately searching for passionate, curious, ready-to- hire, entry level developers.   The two sides are often unaware of each other and the gap seems insurmountable.

Software boot camps act as a bridge over the gap. They are popping up all over the country like flowers in a desert after a rain. I am not exactly sure how or where it all got started, but someone took a look around and realized that there are a lot of jobs in tech, and not a lot of qualified people able to handle those jobs. The next bright observation was this: just because a person does not have the skills, it doesn’t mean that they do not want the skills. Finally someone realized that most adults willing to transition into the technology field do not have the time or the resources to go back to college and get a degree in computer science. The solution? Short programs for those willing to commit to learn the fundamentals of web development: software boot camps.

That is the good news. The not so good news? They are intense. Really intense. Most claim to be able to take a person with zero tech savvy and transform them into a junior level web developer in (on average) 4-6 months! It must be a scam you say? They are not. Graduates from these boot camps are getting hired and starting jobs as junior web developers. I do not have figures for the entire country, but for the camp that I will be attending 100% of their first graduating class have jobs or job offers.

Are these graduates perfect? I am sure they are not. I am sure the learning curve is still quite steep for them and I imagine they will do some struggling during their first couple years on the job, but they did get a job. They are developers like it or not.

So here I stand on one side of the gap. I really want to learn how to program computers. My dream is to build something useful that other people will use. To get to the other side I must take my first tentative steps onto the bridge. It is time for phase 1 of my boot camp journey. The Pre Work.