Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Smart people learning to program...

This post is about taking on challenges. Here is a photo of my cucumber plant ready to take on any challenges. See that? He's holding a fucking hat pin. Don't mess with him or he'll fuck you up. Take that, challenge!

My sister (the middle one) has embarked down the respectable path of acquiring a PhD in the field of... bio-chem-ish-something... She's over out at U of Madison which is nice because that means she's living near our father's side of the family. Nice people, them.

Anyway, dear sister K and I don't talk much, which is fine. We're rather different folks... but just last week (or so) ago I got an email out of the blue notifying me that sister dearest has signed up for a class on Perl! Oh joy! Never before has she shown the slightest interest in programming and now she is (rather unprompted) elected to take a class on it. Unfortunately it's an intense summer course with classes every day and it failed to notify her of several pre-reqs that are kinda' required. Or at least suggested... and oh my how she should have taken them. I've been talking her through a couple subjects... it's been a while since I've "taught" programming and it's... different with A) a sibling B) someone who isn't a child/dumb AND isn't really into it. It means she's bright enough to get it but doesn't quite... go out there and try to learn. No- she is trying to learn. But she's not trying to.. really dig in and grasp everything?

Subjects that have confused her so far :
  • Hashes. Somehow her professor phrased something in such a way that she basically thought hashes were a collection of key & value pairs where *every* pair you gave it was stored. She thought she could add several sets of pairs all with the same key and then request the set of pairs that matched a given key and iterate over them. I feel bad because I can totally see how that could make sense... and yet she really, really had to struggle to get back onto the right track. You know, the whole "keys are unique" idea...
  • Debugging. She gets stuck and then... I don't know what... I told her that she really should be printing out the values of things to "check" them but it just... it doesn't seem to click with her. She prints some now but without additional comments (so the spew is a really confusing jumbled mess) and not all the information. Also, walking through the code. I can't tell if it doesn't occur to her or she can't do it herself. When we do it together she can quickly spot the problems...
  • Initializing values. Several times now when discussing a problem with her I realize she's initializing some value inside a while loop and over-writing the existing data she was hoping to collect. We had a long conversation about the idea of conditionally initializing something and it... didn't go well. This is the most fascinating problem of them all to me because I cannot figure out what her brain is thinking...
Anyway... have been having several (of my first!) video conferences with her. Talking about programming is fun but I'm severely out of practice. And an even worse word-garbler then before.
In the theme of things over-coming obstacles, here is a photo of my cucumber plant from last week. Notice that it has a baby cucumber on it. Fuck yeah! Take that you tiny-container doubters!! (to be fair I've no reason to believe it will actually make it to maturity yet...) Also- all 3 of my edamame plants of popped out pods... even the severely retarded/bonsi one. All pods scaled to the appropriate size so far.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Crafting is sooo like Coding...

More progress on the Settlers of Catan quilt. Have the "ocean" tiles all put together. The whole thing is a little larger then 5'x5'. I do believe there's enough space at each corner for people to sit and not obscure the tiles.

Cut the tiles out and laid them down. Am angry at myself for not planning ahead better- I totally over-purchased tile fabric. Next step is to get some double sided bias tape and afix the backing to each tile. So, yeah, that's probably going to take some time... (the thought of making my own bias tape was quickly discarded).

After/as the tiles are backed I need to find something lovely to be the back of the quilt. Also need to find bias tape for the edging of the quilt-- I may make my own for this segment. Also aquire batting. Then it's the painful pinning and sewing of quilt front and back together... Ick. And then there's the whole actual 'quilting' bit! Double ick! Only at the very end do I sew down the snaps... so, yeah. That's a while away.

Have several clever ideas for further embellishments on the quilt/game but am trying to focus on the "now" and not get distracted by the "later". Am already kicking around another quilt idea- not good.

The title of this post is not sarcasm. Planning out the quilt and planning out projects at work feels very similar. There's all this pre-planning that you *should* do... but you can easily be foolish enough not to do it and just dive in. There's the same potential for sloppiness in process. The end product is a nice idea but secretly all the real fun is at the beginning during the planning/hypothetical stages. Perhaps this idea could be applied to more things then just crafts and code, but for me that's where I see the strongest similarities. There's certainly nothing like that in sketching for me. Or writing, or talking to people, exercise/sports, or what minuscule cooking I've ever done. Working with crochet in fact lacks the strong similarities-- it's primarily when dealing with fabric. Measure twice, cut once. Write the damn tests before you write the code. Same thing.

You can see how unfortunately similar the "desert" (swiggle lines) is to the "fields" (squares in squares)... I'm still grumpy that my green fields fabric was so completely shot down by everyone...

Also, have I mentioned yet how utterly stupid 1/4' seam allowance is? Just so ya'll know...

Monday, July 18, 2011

It's a creature so cute, it shits marshmellows

One of the really awesome things about making crafts and not code is that I've got something real, something tangible to show for my efforts. The down side is that these little effort-proving results are, you know, real and take up more space then a pinch of area on some harddrive's surface. I've only been crafting a couple years and already my shelf is getting kinda' crowded with the results.

So, what to do? Well stopping isn't really an option... and as much as I think "golly wouldn't it be nice if I learned to cook" in order to transfer my creative efforts into a more ephemeral product, the idea just doesn't take. The solution that I've settled on is "get ride of them". Trashing them seems too wasteful... and there's only so many ugly monsters I can push off onto my friends.

Which leads me to my conclusion : selling them. It's a motivator to improve quality and it's perhaps a way to cover costs. I don't need the money, which means hopefully I can price them low enough to actually trick someone into buying them. This calls for an overall improvement in the quality of construction them I'm used to and probably an improvement in the quality of materials themselves-- no more rice or batteries to weigh down body parts...

Here is the first creature I made that I was mindful of the possibility of selling. Despite my best efforts finishing it proved to be too painful and so I rushed through the eyes and hair... but whatever. I don't care what anyone says- it's a fucking unicorn. Don't say a word about any of the miss-numbered components. I don't want to hear it. It's a unicorn.

I don't really remember when/where I got the obnoxious candy-colored yarn. Pinks and purples, how unlike me... but it was super soft! Put some lead weights in the hind legs to keep him level. Yes, definitely the male gender... He's about a hand an half in length. A little floppy around the neck, but able to stand upright.

Knowing I wanted to sell it meant I went for the most marketable thing I could think of- really fucking cute. So cute that it looks like it would shit marshmellows. May add more to it over time (more pink roving for the mane? fixing the GOD DAMN EYES?!?) but I got it to a point that I can actually call it done this weekend. Trying to figure out how much to price it for... am thinking somewhere between $20 and $30... not sure who would buy it though... but the world/Internet is full of crazy people...

Still have not figured out how to over-come the 'blob' like effect of crochetted monsters... tried size and color variation on this one and it still looks like a big pile of yarn- at least in the photos. I guess that's another thing the "Sell!" idea requires- improved photography skills. I think I'll have to pester Mel for help...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Generics Suck

Never before have I experienced such rage and failure with Java as I did this week at work. Blah.

Not only did I find finding documentation about it difficult but talking to someone about it proved almost too much. I suck more at knowing the vocabulary then I normally do.

I'm having difficulty articulating what exactly one of the problems was... It had to do with the fact that :
List<subclass> extends List<superclass>
doesn't really work, you need:
List<subclass> extends List<? extends superclass>

All my method and class signatures got super bloated and became obnoxious to read.

Also, while this didn't really factor into how I was fixing the problem, I was boggled to learn something new about the Java language. I may not be great at a lot of things, but to find something totally new after a couple years working with it is... surprising. And perhaps sad.

Anyway, did you know that you can pass type parameters to a method? Like:
Woaaaah! Crazy! I'm used to only seeing instance variables and constructors use the <>s when declaring something...

In other news, in other areas where I suck less, I still haven't killed any of my bottled plants. In fact, several seem to be thriving.

Sadly the lettuce (not pictured) is getting rather wilty... so that'll probably be my second failure-- the first being that the catnip NEVER SPROUTED. Everything else I've grown from seed just fine, but the catnip refuses to wake up. Damn.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ambitious projects

Other people have already thought of and created excellent Settlers of Catan quilts. I've thought of making my own off and on for several years but am finally buckling down to do it. The key goals of my quilt however are:
  • A: make it large enough that you can sit on it and play on it at the same time
  • B: make it an actually nice quilt to snuggle with since it will no doubt see more use as a quilt then a game board
  • C: make the tiles shuffle-able! I haven't seen any quilts that do this yet and the random-ness of the game is such an important part!

    I'm excited about the colors I picked-- bright colors aren't normally my thing...

    From top to bottom on the left it goes desert, forest, pasture (sheep), field (wheat), mountain (ore), and hills (brick). I've received negative feedback about my choice of field fabric-- people claim it should be more yellow. I'm taking it under consideration... it'll be quite a while till I have to settle on that.

    Also picked up one of those rolly cutters for the first time- makes a *huge* difference with ease of cutting!! Washed and cut all the water pieces and started piecing them together.

    My sewing skills are rather "rusty" if you're being nice- "shitty" if you're being honest. Pieced together the top half of the quilt and laid out the colors for the other half...

    It's... simple work. Doesn't require constant thought or continuous creativity. Great for working on when watching TV...

    So, yeah... I'm over here, worken' on that.