Monthly Archives: November 2013

Launch Academy Report: How to ketchup when you fall behind.

In the course of drafting my code, I often find myself wondering how I could have possibly raveled myself into such a sloppy cesspool of incomprehensible Ruby.

It’s early in the course and the instructors have been emphasizing the importance of breaking your code into small methods that can be altered and duplicated and played with. The idea, from my view, is that a separation of powers makes for simple alterations.

The first week we were here, I wrote a cash register application that didn’t contain a single method. This code was horrible. I have no idea how I’d build on to it or use any part of it in some sort of practical context. So naturally, when they asked us to add more functionality to our program, I started from scratch.

This is not uncommon. We’re encouraged to rebuild programs from scratch. It helps solidify the concepts we learn, and organize our code more efficiently.

Proof of my progress came to me this morning. Friday afternoon, we were given an assigment that that began as a simple script that repeats the users input. The assignment then mandated progressively more complex iterations that would have been difficult to implement without using methods.

As I mentioned in last night’s post, I spent my weekend working on my breakable toy, so I never got around to working on this little gem. I got to class this morning and realized I was behind, because everyone else had finished the assignment.

I asked around, most people took an hour or two to complete the assignment.

I burnt through it in about half an hour.

Not only did I finish the small project in record time. I was so methodical in my production, that I never felt out of my element. Even when I wasn’t sure, I just kept typing whatever I thought made sense.

This small accomplishment is the sort of validation that keeps me working every day. It’s proof of concept for Launch Academy. If I had tried to do this two weeks ago, it would have taken me a whole day. Maybe longer.

My skills are growing at an exponential pace, and it feels great.

Launch Academy Report: Getting started on my breakable toy

Friday night after Week 2 of Launch Academy

Friday night after a challenging(but fun) week 2.

At Launch Academy we’ve been tasked with the long term assignment of designing and executing a “breakable toy.”

The toy should be built using the Ruby on Rails framework and accomplish some sort of function. The assignment is very open-ended, which I assume was a deliberate attempt to stress us out.

It didn’t work. My cohort is cool like a cucumber and we’re all quite excited to get building.

So excited in fact, a few of us have already gotten started. Yeah, that means me.

Maybe I dove in a bit. This Rails architecture is confounding me. I want it to click but it won’t. So many errors. It’s incredibly frustrating at times.

Right now I’m working on core feature functionality. I’m about halfway done with buggy code. I’m thinking I should have learned more about TDD before getting so deep in the muck. I’ve been committing fairly often though so maybe its salvageable. If not, I’ll start over! I’m on attempt number three or four at this point anyway.

It’s all part of the process. I think I’m falling behind on these blog posts. I need to step my game up on multiple fronts.

You should never be satisfied. I want to do better and better every time.

I have another app idea I want to work on. But the time is not right.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Week three (of ten) at Launch Academy. I’m going to turn it up this week. Stay ahead on my assignments and break this toy until it’s an unbreakable toy. If that even makes sense. I don’t care.

And the holiday only serves to fuel my fire. I’m gonna crush my studies Monday through Wednesday, then Thursday I’m gonna shoot some trap and eat some poultry.

If I don’t post again until after then, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Launch Academy Report: Week One

The first week at Launch Academy has blown by and I have so many positive things to say about the experience. Boston in general has been spectacularly welcoming, and for that I am quite grateful.

I don’t want to spoil any surprises for future cohorts, but I’ll speak briefly about my first impressions of different aspects of the program.

Lectures

I’ll start with my least favorite part of the course.

Let me begin by saying, I by no means dislike the lectures at Launch Academy. The instructors are engaging and witty. Their talks are often short and easy to digest. The truth is: lectures are my least favorite part of the program because I’m so anxious to get building.

I think that’s a good thing.

The first week of lectures has mostly been review of material we learned in pre-work, so perhaps that plays a role in my perception of the talks.

There have been a few lectures that I enjoyed quite a bit. The talented Steve Hickey from Fresh Tilled Soil came in on Thursday to teach us the basics of SASS. I really enjoyed his talk and getting to meet him. But there is always the voice in the back of my head whispering “Great, now go use it!”

Group activity

Ah, my beloved small group, The Werewolf Mafia (yes, we named our group, we keep it G like that). Every day I have the privilege of gathering with these wonderful individuals to assess our progress and get organized for the day. I’ve found this to be my favorite part of the program, even when they put me in front of the whiteboard to solve problems. I’m brown skinned but my ears turn red fast.

So we’ve had some laughs at my expense. It was my honor.

Seriously though, these people are the highlight of my day. They’re all here to learn, and they’re all tenacious as shepherds chasing squirrels. It won’t take long for them to catch one. I can go to anyone of them with help with a number of problems.

The best part though, is our group mentor, Eric. Dude is a straight-faced, dry-humored, full-bearded Ruby Wizard. He is an excellent one-on-one instructor and has worked me through my most difficult coding dilemmas. The beauty of his method though, lies in his focus on drawing the answer from me, rather than just telling me the right way. I’ve already learned quite a few useful tricks from Eric, and I can’t wait to make him proud with some wicked Rails projects.

Cohort Camaraderie

The members of my cohort come from diverse backgrounds. Many are fresh out of college, some are successful entrepreneurs, and others are just regular people fed up with boring work experiences. Regardless of where you came from, there is a tangible camaraderie steadily developing in the group. Many members of the class stay together in shared living spaces such as Krashpad. Others are from the Boston area and commute to Mission Control every day. A few, like myself, came to Boston from far away.

This week, I’ve met people I admire greatly. This week, I’ve met people whom I hope to work with long after I graduate from Launch Academy. This week, I’ve met people whom I hope will stay in touch for the rest of my life.

I want to call out a few people in my cohort whom I’ve grown a bit attached to, but I’m sure they’re writing their own blogs this weekend, so I’ll wait to see those.

What’s important to take away, for those of you considering the class, is that friendship with your cohort will be a primary part of finding success at Launch. Already, my group members (and members outside my group), have helped me work through problems on numerous occasions. Possibly even more so than the instructors.

Everyone brings different levels of expertise to the experience. Everyone has a different perspective.

Anyway, I’ll keep writing blog posts about my experiences in Boston. Please enjoy.

An initial reaction to Boston: A Class Act

Boston Commons near Beacon Hill

This past Friday was mostly beautiful, the seven hour drive from Bel Air to Boston was mostly pleasant, and I am mostly impressed by this iconic American city.

Firstly, the vast majority of people I’ve encountered here are extraordinarily kind.

Lastly, the tap water is really delicious.

If you’ve had the privilege of reading my last piece, you know that tomorrow (Monday) is my first day of learning at Mission Control as a part of Launch  Academy. You’d also know that Launch Academy is a 10-week web development boot camp.

What you might not know, are the specifics of my living arrangement, which turn out to be pretty sweet.

I’ll be staying in the beautiful and historic neighborhood of Beacon Hill, at a Quaker meeting house that doubles as housing for more than 20 individuals from diverse backgrounds. I’ve only been here two full days, but I’m certain I will like it.

My parents and I actually arrived in Boston Friday afternoon. We stopped at Mission Control in Chinatown for a quick peek at the Launch Academy location, then we headed to the Beacon Hill Friends House. Firstly, I was taken on a tour of the gigantic, four (5?) story Victorian. Ben, our host, was incredibly gracious and welcoming. In fact, every single person I spoke that day was most courteous, including more than a dozen people visiting different residents of the house.

We didn’t have much time to visit though, because Launch Academy was throwing the cohort a kickoff mixer, and none of us had had dinner. We walked over to Chinatown and had  a fine meal at the Gourmet Dumpling House (aka: The Chinese Restaurant that Michael Douglas frequents).

On a busy street, in a city like Boston, you’re unlikely to interact with everybody you meet. But you will inevitably find a driver who tactfully waves you across the street. I’ve sniffed out more than a few random acts of kindness. Visiting a CVS and a Wholefoods revealed polite and helpful staff. Holding a door open for ladies tends to earn you a thank you.

All of these behaviors do not go unnoticed.

Dinner at the restaurant ran a little late, then walking my parents back to their vehicles, and kissing them goodbye; it all took a bit longer than I expected. I wasn’t able to return to Mission Control until about half an hour into the party.

This didn’t pose a problem in any case, because guess what, EVERYBODY THERE WAS NICE TOO.

I expected this, but it still bears mentioning. I’ve yet to meet someone in Boston that I didn’t like.

The cashier at Whole Foods had an awesome accent. The lady in front of me in line smiled at me.

And yes, the tap water is incredible. Really amazing. How do they make it like that?

Boston, this is coming from a Giants and a Yankees fan:

Touché.