Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Coding and a Cuppa: the similar flavors of programming and tea

Today started with a Taiwanese black tea to smooth over a too-early morning, steeped twice, and progressed into a gentle pomelo oolong to ease a brewing headache. I've been a lover of teas since my teens, and like many tea-drinkers, my tastes have changed over time, with both my palate and my knowledge expanding over the years.

Coding is much newer to my life. Though I first learned HTML and some CSS as a teen, I began learning Javascript last fall, and graduated a coding bootcamp (the Grace Hopper program at Fullstack Academy) last month. During the process of learning to code, I found many parallels between my tea journey and my coding journey.

Tea requires patience, and some degree of precision. Steeping doesn’t hurry just because you are in need of a caffeine fix! It’s like waiting for your code to compile; the wisest course of action is to just wait. Compiling can’t be rushed, but like how tea steeped too long or with too-hot water becomes bitter, errors can make your code unpalatable to the compiler. But both are surprisingly flexible, too--code can be written many different ways, just as tea can be brewed hot, cold-brewed, brewed stronger with more leaves, re-steeped many times, made with milk and sugar or lemon and honey, or more! 

Speaking of a multitude of choices, programming comes in a variety of languages and libraries, just as tea comes in different forms. Java or Javascript, Kotlin or C#; React or React Native, Firebase or Postgres--the oolongs and green teas and black teas, the fruits and flowers and spices we add--some people love them all and try many; others have a favorite they specialize in. 

CSS and React working together

In teas I tend towards diversity: I love oolong and black and green and pu-erh and white and herbal. However, I am not usually a huge lover of rooibos. At least, not to drink plain. I have a special love for Harney & Sons rooibos chai, of which I always keep a tin for my cinnamon-chip chai cookies! In the same way, there are parts of coding I’m less a fan of than others--but as I gave rooibos a chance and found a place I loved it in, I find I really appreciate ‘the chores’ of coding as they enhance the project as a whole. Writing API routes, for example, is less fun to me than crafting the user experience with a beautiful and responsive frontend; but without routes, there couldn’t even be a frontend! And it’s the many routes that let a user interact with a site, bringing it to life and giving substance to the app. On their own, API routes are not my cuppa; but with the butter and cinnamon chips of a full stack web app, they’re an essential ingredient of something I love, and therefore something I want to invest in.

I might find more fun in UIs than APIs, but that doesn’t mean everyone is the same. And I’m glad of it! I’m not afraid to pair-program with a teammate whose enthusiasm for routes turns the process from an important task to something a little more fun. And if they’re less than happy to be digging into the details of flexbox, I won’t judge, even if I could use a little more flexbox time myself. Everyone has different tastes, and there’s nothing wrong with having preferences. I never liked Lipton’s sweet tea--but for some people it’s a heaping teaspoon of sweet memories, or just lands on the right tastebud. 

For that matter, if I’m trying to get someone to try tea, and the only tea they’ve liked so far is Lipton’s sweet tea--you better believe I’m glad they liked it, even if I don’t myself, because getting into any tea is an entry point from which people can learn to love other teas! Maybe in a couple years, I’ll have helped them grow their tastes to include Cinnamon Spice, or a sweet chai, or a boba tea, or anything else that we can enjoy together. Meanwhile, drawing people into coding may start with taking something they’ve enjoyed before--like designing print layout or routing calls to the right people--and helping them see the similarities until they understand the coding challenge, and then appreciate it, and then love it for itself.

Growing an appreciation of new teas takes time, and so does learning new parts of coding, but both are worth it. I’m always eager to try a new tea, and I can’t wait to dig into new languages and new libraries. Whether I’d love coding as much as I do without first learning to love tea is up for debate, but one thing’s for sure--a good day’s code starts with a good cup of tea close at hand!

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Hour a Day

 It's been a while since my last post, hasn't it? Oops!

I've been up to a lot in the meantime. One thing I have learned in the meantime is the power of an hour a day.

Last spring I had a baby. Then, last fall, when she was 6 months old and started having a regular bedtime before mine, I found I had an hour a day in the evenings. So, during my bedtime pumping session, I began learning JavaScript with free online classes.

You may have guessed I enjoy website design, between this blog and me having an author website. I first taught myself HTML and some (basic) CSS as a teen, back in my fanfiction-writing days. So I thought I might software engineering, too, and figured I'd start these free classes to see if I was right.

In spring, I applied to a coding bootcamp, and was accepted.

Last week, I graduated from the Grace Hopper program at Fullstack Academy, as a full stack software engineer!

It started with an hour a day. 

An hour doesn't seem long--but that's half the point. If you can steal an hour of your day to learn, or produce, you can do a lot.

It didn't end with an hour a day (the Grace Hopper program took about 50-60 hours a week of time for the junior and senior phases, and I couldn't have done it without childcare and support from my family), but three months of an hour a day was enough to get into the program. An hour a day for a few months opened up a world of possibilities.

Can you write 500 words in an hour? Then you can write a 100K words in under a year--and you can spend an hour of editing for the rest of the year for a story you're ready to shop.

Can you make a pair of earrings in an hour? Then you can 365 pairs in a year, and have an inventory ready to sell. 

An hour is powerful. 

Have faith in yourself and what you can accomplish. It might not be easy, it might not be quick, but consistency, determination, and belief in your own abilities can open a world of opportunities.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Flower Rainbow

After checking my Google album, I realized I had collected over 1000 flower pictures for my #floweraday posts on G+. So in celebration of exceeding 1k flowers, here's a flower rainbow!

May your day be colorful, and touched by joy and beauty.  

Friday, May 26, 2017

Beautiful places

 Publishing news will be late this week.

I find myself thinking about beautiful mosaics this week, such as this one in Praiano, Italy:

Don't know why that's on my mind, just a piece of interesting artistry seen on my honeymoon that has stuck with me.  

Of course, the natural artistry of the town (i.e. its view) is also spectacular.

Speaking of gorgeous natural and man-made scenery, there's a place much closer to home with a view, in Edenton, NC.

It's a lovely little town, full of kind people (who are willing to help a bride and groom on the way to their wedding with a broken-down car!), and has a beautiful salt marsh lighthouse. If you ever go through there near sunset, head out onto the boardwalk and see the lighthouse lit gold under an umber sky. If you're early, check out the Soda Shoppe and get yourself some ice cream.

What's something beautiful you've seen, or always wanted to see?

Hope you have a good Friday! 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news covers 4/28-5/11/17.

Publishing News

 The new Amazon "feature" that allows third parties to "win" the buy box draws ire from publishers, booksellers, authors, and more. Parties who "win" the box become the default purchase option (the books must be offered in "new condition" to qualify, and usually are lower prices than the publishers retail); other sellers are still present but get pushed further down the list, sometimes not automatically shown without clicking for more options. 

The Authors Guild and the Independent Book Publishers Association issue statements against the new Buy-Box policy, pointing out that as customers become by default more likely to buy from third-party sources, authors and publishers lose revenue if the books are obtained from suspect sources (and many parties worry this is likely the case). There are worries that the move also cuts deeply into authors' backlist profits, and the AG and the IBPA speculate (albeit without evidence) about possible future preferential treatment for Amazon's print-on-demand services.

A bookseller sues the state of California over a new law that requires all autographed items sold and valued over $5 to have a certificate of authenticity, with the paperwork backing it, or face liability of substantial penalties, on the grounds that the law makes selling autographed books a substantial burden and violates the First Amendment.

The European Commission introduces new laws on e-book sales in the EU. Amazon must drop its "most favored nation" clause from European contracts; countries can set VAT for e-books to lower levels; geo-blocking is banned (which prevented a customer from buying an e-book from another country to get around licensing restrictions). The first two are lauded by booksellers, while the latter is being considered a matter of concern.

The latest proposed U.S. budget includes increases in the budgets for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities--a complete reversal of the previous proposed budget to eliminate them.

Industry Blogs

More coverage, analysis, speculation, and reactions about the Amazon Buy-Box policy from Huffington PostPublishing Perspectives, Books & Such,(which all decry the move as being bad for authors and worse), and the Digital Reader (which blasts the other articles and offers a counter perspective that the move is pro-consumer and pro-competition).

On Writer Beware, Strauss covers the felony charges brought against the CEO and founder of Tate Publishing & Enterprises, a known vanity publisher, for fraud, extortion, and more. Authors who have complaints with Tate who have not been contacted yet or submitted complaints can still do so.

Agent Nephele Tempest posts writing links for 4/28 and 5/5. Of particular suggestion is Aerogramme Writers' Studio opportunities for writers for May and June. Oh, and a reminder that writers write, but published authors finish.

Author Nathan Bransford posts a This Week in Books for 4/30 and 5/5. He also posts some interesting analysis of query acceptance stats.

Agent Jessica Faust defines synopses and blurbs. She also asks if you really need that prologue--and why there are books still get sold with prologues, even though agents all claim to hate them (hint: it's because yes, they really needed the prologue; and also the prologue really worked).

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives advice. If an agent requests a pitch for a book they've previously turned down, should you send it? (Yes.) You've got an offer and you're at the point of asking clients about the agent to see if you'd get along--what do you ask and how do you ask it? (Ask agent for best contact info, but probably e-mail; and how agent is to work with.)

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch talks branding.

On QueryTracker, the difference between "And then!" plots and "And therefore" plots, and why to avoid the first.

Writing a medical romance (or a novel of any genre in a medical setting)? On the FF&P, suggestions for getting your details right and writing a hospital setting correctly.

Publishers Weekly looks at the success of women in the indie publishing industry, compared to traditional publishing.

What other major publishing news have you encountered in the past couple of weeks?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Busy, Vibrant Spring

Something about May calls busy-ness and calendar claustrophobia, the sensation in which one looks at the calendar and sees so many of the dates filled that it brings a sense of time closing in like falling cavern walls.

But after the cold has locked away the winter, and drudging through the early spring rains has left everyone locking themselves away to avoid the damp, the warm flowery touch of spring evokes a socializing frenzy. People burst free of their isolation and want to greet and play. And of course spring comes with bittersweet goodbyes as the end of a college year leads to masses of motion, followed by joyful hellos at returning friends.

It's meet-and-greet-and-farewell strawberry season, with sweet sunshine lingering through the evening, making days seem longer and giving the illusion that time is eternal. Stagnated bikes and hiking boots see new light and winter weight gets thrashed by the energy of 9 o'clock sunsets. Bright sundresses one would not dare expose in harsh cold get donned again, and cute outfits beg for the see-and-be-seen, bright colors and cheerful fabrics echoing the cheer of flower-strewn sidewalks and trees and cracks in the pavement. Everyone has more verve and more vibrancy, and not using it would be like encouraging stale cheesecake and rotten mangoes, curdled milk and moldy filet mignon.

Spring is a march of hectic energy, a wild free-for-all of things that suddenly can be done again. And yet, it's also the lashing storms and winds of too-much, the deluge of things-to-do. It's vibrant celebration dogged by exhausted collapse, wild flowing rivers a little too close to the banks of human limit for comfort.

Some people thrive on it, and others enjoy it but yearn for the slower pace of sedate summer. Do your springs tremble on the edge of too much, or is it just right, the perfect soil to bring out your best blooms?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 4/14-4/27/17.

Publishing News

The Register of Copyrights bill passes in the House, and heads to the Senate. This bill, if passed, would allow the president to appoint the next Register of Copyrights, with Senate confirmation, instead of the current structure of the Librarian of Congress appointing the Register; and would enact a 10 year term on the office.

Industry Blogs

Agent Rachelle Gardner explains what's in a publishing contract, and points out the clauses she usually negotiates

Got an offer from one agent, and need to let another know? Agent Jessica Faust explains good and bad ways to phrase your notice-of-offer letter. If an agent hasn't responded to a notification of offer with yea or nay or maybe, should you resend? (Probably; it might have gotten eaten). If you're about to face a time crunch, is okay to shop your novel? (Only if you're really, really good at time management and life juggling; otherwise you're asking to bit off more than you could chew, b/c publishing is a time suck.)

 Agent Kristin Nelson offers Story Openings to Avoid (part 7).

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives advice. Don't drive yourself nuts over rejection letters. 

Author Nathan Bransford gives advice on how to set your price when self-publishing. He also offers a This Week in Books for 4/21/17.

On the Editor's Blog, an explanation of using quotes within quotes.

On Publishers Weekly, Laura Dawson talks metadata keywords.

What other major publishing news have you encountered in the past couple of weeks?