My One Day Experience with Coding

Coding is fucking hard. 

Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Personally, I would look over ‘said individual’ and wonder if their next words might be, “In addition, I have great deals on purses in the back of this van over here…”

So, imagine my surprise when this start-up company, Makers Academy, decided to offer a free one day course to give a sample of what coding FEELS like.

First let me clear something up. When I say coding I’m not talking about medical coding, as a few of my friendly comically suggested. I mean software development coding. Ruby on Rails, HTML, CSS, Javascript, Heroku. Website development.

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Myth No. 1: I know nothing, can I learn?

What I love about Makers Academy is their honesty. Right away we’re told the exact opposite of what we’ve learned in school from the beginning.

“You’re going to fail. You’re going to fail a lot. Only after you fail do you learn.” – Jedi Master aka Makers Academy Instructor

Sound discouraging? At first yes, and this was a huge eye-opener. We’re always expected to exceed, excel in everything. Society looks down upon failure. How many lectures have I received in a work environment if something didn’t work out exactly? Failure is indeed an option. It is the ONLY option. Why? Because making mistakes is part of the learning process. It’s all so simplistic and yet complicated at the same time.  It’s all about asking loads of questions, questions and more questions. Then testing, testing and more testing.

I’m an English major working in brand and communications. Guess what, I wasn’t the only brand person in the one day course. Nor the only FEMALE (ladies, take note). That said a lot in my opinion! Creative minds, analytical minds work across a broad spectrum of different fields not limited to only computer science. It boils down to a) personality b) analytical abilities and c) motivation. Men and women are both on an even playing field with coding.

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Myth No. 2: Is Learning is a Waste of Time?

No, being a Kardashian is a waste of time. Learning to code is AMAZING. Aside from learning the language of computers, you’re able to actually create useful things in the world. I can’t express how many times I’ve said, “Gee, wouldn’t it great if I could just make this app to do X and help with Y” or, at work, “If I could create this web program/database/SharePoint centre for our global teams it would make life SO MUCH EASIER.” Instead of hiring someone to do it, we can do it ourselves.

Coding provides skills for DOERS who want to create. 

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Myth No. 3: Coding is solitary work

I pictured techie geeks in their solitary corners, plugged in, typing away at macs for hours with hardly any social interaction. And yes, there are times where this is necessary in trying to finish projects. But coding actually works BETTER in pairs. That is, two people coding together on one computer. I really like this concept. Not only does it provide human/computer/human interaction, but promotes that age-old expression “two heads are better than one.” It’s absolutely true. While we worked on coding our own websites there were certain CSS things I remember reading previously and other things my partner remembered, which I completely forgot. Together, as a team, it just WORKED.

Not to mention, there was crazy good energy with everyone in the team environment. I dig that.

Myth No. 4: Coding takes years to learn

Makers Academy, again, floored me with their honesty. “After 10 weeks you will NOT be a pro, but you’ll be a proficient entry-level software coder.” Going back to my “Coding is fucking hard” statement, this does take time to develop. You’re learning a language, computer language. Did I leave the one day course feeling more confused than ever? Absolutely. But you know what, I enjoyed every freaking minute of it. The day went so quickly, I was eager to learn more.

Lastly, Myth No. 5: There will be no jobs for entry-level coders

Not only is coding in extremely high demand but it’s only going to keep increasing each year.

Here’s a video: 

My Take Away From the One Day Course

I had an extremely positive experience with Makers Academy. I found the staff and CEO very friendly and approachable. They are a start up I’ll be watching closely in 2013. Ideally, I’d love to sign up for their 10 week course given the opportunity. Their initial tuition is a bit steep though, which is probably turning a lot of people off.

It’s full-time, which makes sense, but it’s difficult to manage if people are already working full-time, or have monthly expenses.

I’m leaving the door open and seeing what happens. It would be a fantastic opportunity.

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own. I was not paid nor asked to blog/post anything about Makers Academy. 

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Star Trek is almost here, folks…

Light Years

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

Will the Mars rover Curiosity catch a glimpse of a manned spaceship in this decade? That could be even more exciting than the gray powder it found by drilling.

A nonprofit organization called the Inspiration Mars Foundation is hosting a press conference next week in which plans for a trip to Mars and back will be revealed. The proposed launch date is January 2018, and the venture is called “Mission for America.”

The press release doesn’t explicitly state that the mission is manned, but it does say that the organization “is committed to accelerating America’s human exploration of space as a critical catalyst for future growth, national prosperity, new knowledge and global leadership.”

The leader of this effort is millionaire Dennis Tito, who’s no stranger to space travel. He spent $20 million to jaunt up to the International Space Station in 2001, making him the first…

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Gorging in London with a Side of Geek

Hard to believe that only last week I was in London for AstroFest 2013! It’s been a loooong week.

London is a harsh mistress. Whilst I love walking the city, enjoying the night life, and finding yummy places to eat, the heavy congestion is draining. And there is so much noise!!

I do enjoy the ebb and flow, my odd little London love affair. I typically enjoy my time, but feel a sense of relief living in a smaller community. Maybe that’s from my upbringing.

This was a different experience though. It came as a surprise, I didn’t want to leave at all! I felt the visit was much too short. Kensington is absolutely lovely and very central. Hell, I even found a WHOLE FOODS! WOW! As a native Californian I have been missing carnitas and burritos. Tears of happiness streamed down my face as I engorged myself with fish tacos and soft taco carnitas. 😀

But enough about me, let’s talk geek! AstroFest is truly a rockstar affair now; it’s absolutely brilliant! As a first time visitor the visit did overwhelm the senses. Sooo much to see, sooo much to do! I’m glad it’s spread into two days.

Here’s a condensed recap of the weekend!

VARIETY OF ASTRONOMY VENDORS

Walking around, I felt at home among my other nerdy peers. Astronomy NOW magazine had a fabulous booth set up: new issues, new books, and back issues for a few quid. An energetic lady at the University of Central Lancashire introduced me to distance learning astronomy courses. I purchased a few astrobiology books from Cambridge University Press, chatted with a few science editors. And, of course, I marveled at the expansive variety of telescopes for novice and advanced explorers. Truly, there was something for everyone to enjoy – child to silver-haired academic.

VARIETY OF LECTURE CONTENT

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Great Hall … Balcony viewing was by FAR the best!

I purchased tickets to all the events so we had quite the itinerary to sort through. I did miss a couple of lectures but for the most part I sat through almost all! NASA engineers discussed their lives as scientists living 14,000 feet above sea level at remote telescopes in Maui. Academics captured pictures of super massive stars, gave a preview of, what they believe, black holes sound like when colliding, and even explained plate tectonics on Mars in comparison to Earth!

It’s NERDY, but it was absolutely fascinating. Great subject variety! My brain totally hurt afterwards, haha!

EXCELLENT CENTRAL LOCATION

London may drive me crazy, but Kensington is absolutely brilliant. It was close to the tube line, and I loved shopping on the High Street for clothes. Much better variety of clothing instead of in Leamington. There was also a HUUUUGE Tescos within walking distance. We stopped there for breakfast and brought lunch with us into the convention.

SPEAKERS! SOME GREAT, SOME NOT SO GREAT

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The only fault I found was with the speakers. Some, like Lucy Hawking, were natural, talented orators. Herself and a few others made some compelling lectures, with exciting content using videos and pictures.

Others … not so good. I can understand that the academics were quite busy, I get it, but speaking 45 minutes about galaxies in the ultraviolet to the public could be shown with pictures, not extensive graphs. Touch upon math, but keep it simple! Hopefully next year the academics will make some presentations a bit more visual and less wordy.

REMEMBERING PATRICK MOORE

558007_484441584945756_672236678_nAstroFest closed out with this session. It ended extremely well. Everyone wanted to see the LEGENDS, like Dr. Brian May, discuss his fondest memories of Patrick Moore and how he touched upon so many lives with his enthusiasm in astronomy. There wasn’t ONE SEAT left in the auditorium, it was jam-packed!! I hope they continue it each year, it’s a fantastic way to honor Patrick, as well as, end the conference on a light-hearted and FUN note.

Will I be attending Astrofest 2014? ABSOLUTELY!

10 more days until Astrofest!

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Astrofest posted the exhibition map today on FaceBook. Only 10 more days! Great to finally see the layout of the conference. It’s about what I expected: not too big, not too small. Goldilocks size 😉

I really hoped this would be the year for a telescope. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately!) this year we decided pay off the majority of our debt. That means no telescope. Maybe next year! In theory, we shouldn’t even be attending Astrofest, but these tickets were part of our Christmas nerdy presents for each other.

Either way, it’s a great opportunity to speak with other novice and professional astronomers. And get lots of telescope advice!

We’re attending all the sessions, anyone else doing the same?

AstroFest in London! Who’s going?

European AstroFest 2013

In a few weeks, AstroFest will here! This will be my first Astronomy conference, ever. I’m OVER THE MOON with excitement. Okay, that was bad, my apologies…

Bad puns aside, over the last month I’ve been voraciously devouring astronomy at a vigorous pace. Once I get going it is hard to let go. Astronomy NOW, BBC and National Geographic have all written fantastic articles. I’ve spread my research with both print and online (thanks Twitter!). I’m feeling engaged and focused!

Is anyone else attending? I’m going to visit all sessions. I just hope to have enough time to walk the floor and look at telescopes. I’m still a complete newbie, but I hope to find good advice for amateurs. My plan is to pay off all my debt and look into purchasing one late this year. I’ll be asking loads of questions at the conference, too. After all, when else do you get the opportunity to speak with some of the most brilliant minds in astronomy?!

263250-stargazers-almanac-2013I recently purchased the Stargazers 2013 Almanac. We have it hanging in our living room next to our large window, where we can see the North sky fairly vividly. Of course, the weather has been cloudy lately from all the snow (see previous post!) so it hasn’t been used QUITE as much as I hoped, but it’s a very informative and fun read. I also liked that Ethical Superstore has them on clearance right now, on the cheap! I do love finding a bargin.

Are there any astronomy events you’re looking forward to? I’ve also heard about some local astronomy camping adventures in the Brecon Beacons, in Wales. I’m sincerely interested, but having a difficult time convincing anyone else to join me in some camping adventures!

Traipsing between full-on-nerd and somewhat obsession…

Andromeda Galaxy. Eventually, our galaxies will collide! 😀

When I was a wee lass of eight or nine, astronomy and stamp collecting and my little ponies were my latest obsessions. My mom brought home hard cover kid books that said things like THE SOLAR SYSTEM or THE SUN: OUR NEAREST STAR. My eyes popped out of my head. It was the pictures. I could NOT wrap my tiny mind around it. We had probes flying into SPACE. You know, that mysteriously dark, cold place that I only saw on television. We now had actual photographs of Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Neptune. We could discuss and argue over things like, air quality on Titan or Mars. Science postitively blew my mind.

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Beautiful Sun

Fast forward years later. I’m still fascinated by astronomy. I catch myself reading Astronomy Now, Sarcastic Rover, Discovery News on Twitter. I’ll roam the magazine section of grocery stores just to pick up the latest Astronomy issues. Hell, just recently I watched Stargazing Live on BBC. I find that I cannot, will not, and don’t want to stop. I want to absorb and continue learning.

Should obsession have its boundaries?

Although it doesn’t interfere with my personal life or professional (hushhush, I do sneak quick reads at work) I do seriously wonder why I never went into astronomy as a career. Why, oh why, didn’t I major in astrobiology? What good is obsessing over something if you can never give back in any way?

My boyfriend and I want to have kids eventually, and we talked about how nerdy fun they will be. It’s definitely too late for me to go back to college, but I am thrilled to teach my kids about astronomy and take them to the Academy of Sciences. Maybe expanding my own child’s mind will be the ultimate way I give back.