Is this the future?

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I wonder what the world will be like when programming is as basic a skill as reading and writing?  Will it truly be a world of brogrammers, hipstergrammers, gothgrammers, etc?  

Will there be anything left to do?  Will it become a world of white collar slavery, as already experienced by China?

Then, will the only high paying jobs available be for those of true artistic genius?  Or only coveted jobs for people with rare artisan skills that cannot be reproduced by machinery?

Nerd Wars: Rise of the hogrammers

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In case you’ve been hiding under a rock this year, there’s an emerging class warfare raging in the ghastly, pale underbelly of computer-nerd culture.  Even the most robotic or downright indifferent among us have become alarmed by the borderline sociopathic narcissism encouraged in our profession.

Am I an incredibly hot guru, a Kunoichi, or a rockstar?  But I’m all three!  What should I say on my resume/ LinkedIn/Twitter/G+/Facebook?  What will I tell the girls on our girls’ night out?  How do I know it’ll be the right fit when I choose a job that only has one of these titles to give me?

While it may be true that there have been historically few female programmers, and it is somewhat difficult to estimate whether these mythical female programmers have the smelly and barbaric reputation of their stereotypical male peers to begin with, but we will ignore all these facts.  Because there is a new identity blossoming among females in Computer Science.

This identity is the Hogrammer.

Much has been written already about the philosophy and promise of the Brogrammer (see above). But much, much less is written about the Hogrammer.  Luckily, this will be changed very soon.

Why?

Why, there is a revolution happening, and because those of you not on the front-lines may have trouble differentiating between your bitching female programmer and your bitchy female programmer, I’ve explained some of the differences below:

1. Hogrammer’s focus on the hippest possible web development technologies: Ruby on Rails, Scala, Node.js, SASS, HAML and CSS3 are all acceptable.

2. Exercise: Usually in the form of running or yoga. The latter is usually done between bouts of coding.

3. Caffeine: Lots of it, all day. This possibly a Starbucks or artisan latte, rather than a Mountain Dew.

4. “I don’t often test my code, but when I do it I prefer to do it in production:”  Ship code to the live site before going to Zumba class.

5. Lady Gaga: an absolute must. Nothing puts you in the dev zone quite like a little fabulous.

6. Continuous deployment: pushing code on every single commit without even losing a fake eyelash.

7. Moral fiber optional: ignoring the boys and coding in those $200 skinny jeans and low cut tee.

8. Standing desks and yoga poses

9. Shakes & Veggies: every good hogrammer starts of her day off well hydrated to keep the skin looking fresh and young.

10. Spa o’clock is any time after noon: It’s always time to look beautiful.  It’s time for a mani-pedi and facial.  However, if an all-nighter is pulled, schedule an appointment with the finest masseuse immediately.

There are a handful of other elements that make up a hogrammer (the most expensive yoga track suit from Lululemon by day, large purses filled with small puppies, and “Hogrammer” written on the back of the sweat pants).  If you follow the above 10 commandments, you’ll be hogramming in no time.

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Word of the Day: Bivouac

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I first learned this word bivouac from Vocabulary.com, my favorite gamification of the verbal section of the SATs.  From their site, boasting of the fastest dictionary online, I am more inclined to love their etymology section:

Bivouac comes from the eighteenth-century German word biwacht, and originally meant a patrol of ordinary citizens who helped the town’s night watchmen. Nowadays, you’ll most often see it used as a noun, but it can be a verb too––and it’s often associated with soldiers, though that’s not essential. You might not want to bivouac at the edge of that cliff when you sleepwalk every night. Make your bivouac in the meadow instead.

At first, the word sounded so alien to me.  I can’t recall a single time that this word’s been uttered.  Apparently it’s somewhat more common than I had originally thought, when I heard it used once in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

According to Google N-grams, the usage of bivouac peaked roughly towards the end of the American Civil War.

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Although the usage of the bivouac has been in steady decline since the 1900’s, it’s managed to cling on to even pop culture!

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Review: Jawbone UP after one month

Jawbone UP in action

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Jawbone UP is the latest in fitness and sleep monitoring technology.  It’s an inconspicuous band worn around the wrist that is both comfortable and elegant.  I like that it is waterproof and can be worn even into the shower.

The feature that I love about Jawbone UP is that it monitors my sleep patterns and wakes me within a timeframe that is least disruptive to my light/heavy sleep cycles.  However, for the snooze-button-hitting person, this device is easily circumvented with a simple button press.  There’s no snooze-button equivalent, so the gentle waker is not always effective at waking a heavy sleeper.

Jawbone’s advice is to set the band into Sleep mode before bed, but I’ve found that the device will simple “know” that you are sleeping and then wake you up in the designated time frame.  It seems the device is sensitive enough to distinguish between not being worn and the wearer being asleep.  You can also set the days of the week you’d like to be woken up and the latest time you’d like that to occur.

The other mode, fitness mode, can also be set to track time at the gym.  Like sleep mode, I am finding this to be a bit redundant, except perhaps to track specific workout progresses over time in the iphone app.  

The iphone app that comes with this device is fairly low-tech considering how seemingly high-tech the Jawbone UP device is.  There some statistics include “steps made”, calorie counts, and sleep quality.  There’s no other way to drill down on statistics or visualize beyond the limited scope of the app.  There is also a fully featured social aspect of the device that I’m simply ignoring.  This app could use a lot more work for the info-geek!

I haven’t had any hardware problems with the device as indicated by some other reviewers.  I do find myself having to charge the device about once a week.  

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MIT Sloan’s Platform Wars is a Cute Game, I guess

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MIT Sloan business school just released a web game called Platform Wars that simulates the console business.  I’d skip the introductory video in the link below as it’s very pendantic and doesn’t provide much news.  Go straight to the game and you can play without any registration hassles.

The game itself is reminiscent of Galactic Civilizations and other “excel games”.  It comes with a nice set of charts to plot your progress as you make turn-based choices.  On the default setting, it seems like the game can be won in just a few turns.  Overall this is a cute game, but doesn’t carry much weight as either an educational device or something for a serious gamer.

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How Lazymeter enables getting stuff done

Lazymeter is at first glance a very simple task tracking tool that has some bells and whistles.  So what is the benefit of using Lazymeter over just notepad or the spartan To-Do list built into Gmail?  

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I find that I have many non-trivial, unwieldy goals and similar goals being added every few days, so it’s difficult to track and prioritize goals in a flattened list.  Lazymeter gives me just the few extra features I need, so that task management does give me better efficiency rather than becoming a needless bureacracy in itself.  

There are three task breakdowns, which I have relabelled for myself as: do it now (the play list), do it later (pause list), and too-big-to-swallow goals (stopped list).

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So for example, I’ll put a bigger task like “learn arbitrary programming language” in the stop list, then break it down into consumable chunks for the appropriate play and pause lists.   I’ve especially noticed the benefits of this type of tracking when my goals change or when I need to make some diversion to fill a knowledge/skill gap.  Thus, I no longer feel as if I am potentially abandoning a larger goal with some unforseen context switch.  Rather, I’ve tracked the chunks I’ve accomplished and simply deferred tasks later between pause and stop lists.

Then Lazymeter also feeds my infographic desires, by giving me some indication on how well I’m doing according to my plans.  So you can see that I tend to be overly ambitious compared to what I can actually accomplish.  So Lazymeter might be for you if you are the over-ambitious, time-constrained person who needs some help getting things into bite-size pieces.

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Learning Python Online for (mostly) Free and for Fun

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I’ve spent the past few months learning Python independently, but I found so many free and friendly online resources that the task of learning could not have been easier.

At first I was discouraged by the spartan IDLE interactive environment, but luckily Microsft released their Python Tools for Visual Studio for either Cpython or IronPython! Having been spoiled by the niceties of the VS IDE, this much needed Python support was the whole package for me: adding debugging, intellisense, interactive environment, project creation support.

Starting from a clean slate free of any Pythonic knowledge, I began month one going over the chapters on the now-defunct Diveintopython3.org site and doing all practice problems on CodingBat.com, which cover some language basics.  I supplemented these with 25 problems from ProjectEuler.net, which is of course language agnostic.  

Since Diveintopython3.org doesn’t exist anymore, I’d say the next best equivalent is learnpython.org (still incomplete for the advanced topics at this time) and LearnPythonTheHardWay.  

In the next month, I did all practice problems on Pyschools.com which gives some practice in a bit more depth to Python language features.  I also found that doing all of the problems on CodeEval.com make for great practice in any language, but I have thus far used them exclusively to practice Python.

I’ve also read the book Data Structures and Algorithms with Python, which takes advantage of Python to create a most practical and beginner friendly introduction to this subject area.  I found these examples to be very educational, except for the very last chapter on trees.  It seemed as if the author got a bit sloppy towards the end with the sample code and didn’t quite finish the last chapter for complexity discussion.  Although this book is not free, it’s highly recommended to programming beginners looking to get more tools under their belt.

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