Starting Over Today

As is frequently the case as I pursue knowledge on my own time I park it for a while until I get the urge again. I’ve got the urge again. I want to learn. I want to get this stuff so I can create. I have the brain capacity for it, it’s just a matter of setting and achieving goals. Cramming that stuff into my brain parts so it can leap from idea to fingers to workable code.

My goal when I started this journey was a both too ambitious and too vague. Learn enough Python to be able to make a game. I technically achieved that as I made a simplistic game using Python. It was really more of a hacked version of a step-by-step guide on how to create a Battleship clone using PyGame. I added win loss tracking, although I wasn’t able to figure out how to sustain that across game sessions. Every time the game was closed the wins and losses went away and restarted at zero. I tried to figure out how to export those statistics on close and import them when the game was launched, but was unsuccessful.

Through Codecademy I completed the entire jQuery track, except for the final challenge, which was to make something. I did write a bunch of code and was trying to create a simple version of Pong. I made it pretty far and was proud of what I’d done, but it was never quite complete and working. It almost worked, except the ball had a tendency to get stuck to the paddles if it hit the top or bottom edge. I couldn’t figure out why that was happening, so never submitted it as completed. It had score tracking as well, but I couldn’t get the placement or display to work correctly. The score wouldn’t update even though I did verify that the variable itself was updating on scoring. Well, I verified that if 7 points were scored the Game Over/New Game screen would appear. So, I knew it was tracking it, but couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t displaying correctly.

Anyway, that’s stuff I did. I have a lot to learn and get better at. I haven’t touched this stuff in some time, unfortunately. I started playing Dwarf Fortress again after the .40 update and it made me want to get back into learning. I want to create. I want to troubleshoot and solve problems. Part of the reason I stopped was I got busy with other life stuff. Wedding, writing, improv. Improv takes a lot out of me. I love doing improv, but my mind reels when I do a show I felt wasn’t totally successful. I hold myself to high standards and if I don’t achieve them it’s difficult for me to excuse myself.

So, I’m starting over. I’m starting at the bottom. My goal is simple and attainable. Program for 2 hours everyday. Go through each Codecademy lesson. That is my goal. I will achieve this by November 1st. In November I plan to edit the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2012. Every time I start editing I get intimidated and put it down. I’ve been editing the first chapter for two years. I mean, I haven’t sunk a lot of time into editing, but it’s time to forge through that and really edit and hone and expand where needed. I have a lot of good stuff in there, but I need to sort it out, find the weak spots and improve it.

I’m excited to get back to learning. I want to program for a living. I know I’m capable. I need to set realistic goals and achieve. It starts over today.

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An Outstanding Article on Systems Used for Learning

This essay, by Bret Victor, is excellent. I feel that I consistently hit roadblocks and humps the size of mountains when learning to program and I couldn’t quite figure out what I was butting against. Victor’s essay,  
http://worrydream.com/LearnableProgramming
 was not only interesting in its criticisms of current learning environments for programming, but also answered some questions I didn’t even know I had about programming. A great read!

A Rough Programming Month

Unfortunately, the past month has been a bit of a let down as far as programming goes. I got behind on my Codecademy lessons, mostly because they were going through the very basics of html/css and it was a bit boring. The lessons have spiced up and I’m again learning a bit more of the finer details of why certain CSS works the way it does. I really need to get the box model memorized so I’m not just fiddling with settings trying to get things to appear nice.

My biggest concern with my html/css is learning how to do pixel perfect implementations across browsers. When I look at Seoul Players in an older browser, it makes me weep a little bit. It doesn’t look awful, but there are a few minor foibles that need to be cleaned up. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do so just yet. There is some issue with displaying our mailing list sign up form. I believe I know what the issue is, but the code is being pulled from the Mailchimp server and cannot be edited, as far as I know. I’m sure there’s a way to fix it, but I haven’t found the solution yet.

Hopefully these Codecademy lessons get to some more things I didn’t understand before, so I can fix up the site better. As far my Python learning. It has been stalled. I made good progress in my Udacity course, but failed to finish. I really wish I could take a year off of work and really concentrate on working through those lessons as well as other Python tutorials. There is so much free education available, but just not enough time to make use of it.

However, I can make time. I just need to implement that schedule I was talking about last month.

Details

I’ve started a new job. I’m doing electronic discovery for law firms. It’s been going well so far. Still in the learning stages. However, I’m starting to see patterns in programming related work. It’s all about the details…and the process.

These details and processes are not limited to just computer work, but are all around the world as well. There are processes that we follow each and every day and my eyes are becoming more open to all of these processes, and I’m beginning to question the efficiency of those processes.

I follow a pattern in my day. I wake up, I make coffee. I drink coffee, I smoke a cigarette. I shower. I get in my car. I start my car. I pull forward and to the right, then reverse into the alley. I drive to work along the same path, with an occasional deviation for various reasons. Road closure, convenience store stop. I arrive at work and I read my RSS feeds. I check my email. Then I go about learning my job. This is my M-F process. Is it efficient? I’m attempting to figure that out. What will make my life more efficient and easier?

This is just one tiny process in my life and just like programming I must follow the process and the details otherwise something will error in my brain. I will feel as though I forgot something, because I did. Just as if I forget a detail in programming the program will error and I must investigate where that error came from.

This slight change in my observation in the world, I believe, will allow me to further my learning of how to interact with the computer when programming. Structure, details, process. Pay attention. Be efficient.