Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

Month: July 2015 (page 2 of 2)

rails for robots

Look, I made a thing!

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 4.45.53 PM

I took a giant leap this week in my knowledge base, learning and launching my first Rails application. It tracks robots that you would like to build. If you don’t build robots, it has no real practical purpose other than meeting the objectives of the assignment.

For those who don’t know, Rails is… how to describe this. It’s frequently paired with Ruby and it’s a thing you stick your Ruby code into to make it a lot more complicated. Kinda. I still don’t really see the point. It connects your code to a database so you and other people can store things. In theory you could design and run a weblog from a Ruby on Rails app instead of using, say, WordPress (hey that’s not a bad idea). (Except that any entry would probably take 50 hours and like 17 file updates.)

Suffice it to say, I have a lot to learn still about Rails.

But my app works! Go add a robot! This completes the three application assignments, so I’ll tinker this weekend and submit on Monday. I am hoping to gain official acceptance before August 10th, which is the scholarship application deadline.

Some thoughts on Rails:

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protest bots

I have to share this great new tool from dream team Darius Kazemi and DeRay Mckesson:

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 1.58.22 PM

If you follow, it will say something aspirational about you. Later, it will become a tool for prominent social activists to respond to onslaughts of people asking the same questions, trolling, or parroting misinformation.

I’ve been pretty sad the past few days following the Sandra Bland story, so I’m thrilled to see this marriage of technology and activism as something somewhat “in my wheelhouse” and hope it will lead to more projects and collaborations.

Also notable:

  • Block Together — required for intermediate+ Twitter users. Share your blocked accounts with trusted contacts and follow theirs for automatic blocks of hateful, misogynistic accounts (see this tweet to get started).

two down, one to go


View from the plane over Greenland.

Now I remember.

After I spent an intense month learning about html/css/javascript/jquery the plan was to keep working on so I’d have an opportunity to keep practicing with it. Remember that? The plan? The plan to look out for Future Mary?

Right, so, that didn’t happen, and consequentially I spent a lot of time this weekend re-learning (googling) how to do stuff with jquery. But readers, *I MADE A THING.*

I made two things for you, actually.

First, my very favorite thing: books! I made you a library in Ruby. It needs a bunch of work still, but if you know what you’re doing, you can add books to your library and put them on shelves by genre (or whatever). Given more time and resources I would go ALL OUT with this assignment (alphabetizing is my favorite meditation technique), but I am trying to keep it simple. If I have more time before it needs to get submitted, I’ll add authors and ID #s to the books to increase sorting abilities and functionality. I’ll also add a “librarian” function to walk you through all the stuff you can do in the library. What’s holding me back from the latter is figuring out how to generate and keep track of new Class instances within a function when I need it to be able to do stuff before knowing what the instance variables are going to be. Clear as mud?

And second, I dredged up enough knowledge about html/css/javascript/jquery (why hasn’t anyone come up with a catchy nickname for this language crew yet. HCJJ?) to make a simple to-do list. Here you can go play with it if you’d like: simple html to-do list. It is certainly the worst to-do list I’ve ever encountered, and has all sorts of usability issues, but it does meet the stated criteria and I think it’s probably best to keep expectations low in this category. Lower. Lower. There you go.

The last mini-project I’m working on is a Rails application. I’ve yet to tackle the Rails part of Ruby on Rails, so this will be an adventure. Last week I got everything installed, so I’ll probably re-start my Treehouse subscription for a tutorial this week, and focus on getting that done and tweaking everything else.

Stuff is starting to come together in exciting ways.

Some links! Not code related, sorry!

  • #blacklivesmatter protestors go to Chicago and film the Mike Brown gallery exhibit. Must watch. Curious what my legit artsy friends think about this (what you will probably say is there are bad galleries and bad artists and this is both, and then some).
  • “F*ck that,” a guided meditation for our times. <–you need this. I need this. The world needs this.
  • I’m generally wary of “I did TFA and it sucked so TFA sucks” stories, so I wasn’t putting much stock in “Teach For America: Counter-Narratives” until the organization went and published a “response” to the alumni authors of the book before the dang thing has even been published. So now of course I want to buy 10 copies. Their response, which I will not link to, says “In particular, a small group of former corps members involved in the book have chosen to focus on past experiences that are not in line with how we operate. … It’s not productive to address in this space every critique in this book, but here’s what we have to say about some of the contributors’ bigger misconceptions.” I repeat: the book. is not. out. yet. They have not been provided an advance copy. (UPDATE: on July 27 TFA clarified that they received a copy from the publisher on July 8. Why they couldn’t just say that when first questioned…) The editor of the book doesn’t even have his copy yet. Just more PR spin and refusal to listen (read) from an org whose #1 critical feedback from alumni is that they are too focused on PR and they don’t listen.
  • Uhhh… I am probably hella guilty of this, but I’m trying (from xkcd). 

when you have to use javascript again after ignoring it for five months


on motivation and timing

Hey folks, this is a short, feel-good post.

I’m halfway through my Ruby II class and I’ve completed all the homework exercises.

_All of them._ Two weeks ahead.

I’m now working on the development accelerator (DA) application challenges, which are going to be challenging, but seem entirely doable.

I’m light years ahead of where I was halfway through the Python II class. If you’re considering taking a Code Fellows Foundations II class (or any coding class), you might be interested to know WHY this one is going so much better than the last. So here are a few of the contributing factors, as far as I can tell:

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chris pine appreciation post

I’ve been quiet about my first couple weeks of Ruby class, but not because of anything having to do with the class itself. It’s been hot in Seattle: the inside thermostat has been regularly clocking in at 90, and the last thing I want touching me is a laptop. Or a cat. Or any item of fabric. I’ve also been sidelined by a nasty cold.

I am going to class and doing my homework though, because, priorities.

We’re using Chris Pine’s Learn to Program book, and I really like it. It’s a great teaching companion. For one, the book has great examples and challenge problems — they’re fun, whimsical, not too easy or difficult, and reinforce key ideas from the chapters. What’s more, they’re the type of programing challenges that a more advanced student could take and build on (make it better, make it live on the web, etc).

But the BIG thing he does and why this is a Chris Pine appreciation post is how he handles recursive programing.

In many programing classes, recursion is treated as A Big Deal and sometimes the instructor will make you go back and solve problems you already solved, but recursively this time. You’ll probably have to do a factorial. Through the course of trying to understand how a program can call itself, you may or may not get stuck in a brain loop that ends in expletives and alcohol.

But not Chris Pine.

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