Recurse Center: week 4, day 3

High temperature + air quality warning = actually took the subway again, instead of biking.

Half-napped during sitting time, which was just what I needed.

Check-ins felt fruitful — my group this week is working on interesting things, and Alice offered to help me with my Pebble C code if I’d like (and then she explained structs and some other relevant things to me!).

Also a headache, which wasn’t as helpful.

Took that as a sign that joining the hoomoos-seeking lunch trip was a good idea, and had a delicious falafel sandwich. Also the cheapest lunch I’ve yet had in New York (about five bucks).


And then I got a number of messages asking me if I wanted to talk, if I was doing alright, and I got suspicious and asked what was up, and then I learned that one of the brightest stars of a friend I have ever, ever known had passed away, and then I did not try to do anything else for the rest of the day. I went out with friends. Nathan came to join us. And even if I am far away from home, even if I am far away from most of the people who also knew Noirin, my amazing partner is here, and my incredible peers at RC are perhaps the most supportive community I could conceive of. And, at the very least, we are in a place where there’s a high value placed on doing what you need, on doing what is important and necessary for you right now. And that is making the whole grieving process just the tiniest bit less awful. And I will persevere — we will all need to pick up the batons that Noirin can’t carry anymore — but it’s going to take a little time.

Recurse Center: week 4, day 2

Holy cats. How is it already week four, though?!

Got here nice and early again, read The Giant Python book a bit, was here for all of sitting group (yay), and spied The Healthy Programmer on the bookshelf, so that’s where my first piece of the day went. I actually skimmed through a whole book! Would love to go back and read it in more detail at some point; it’s not that it’s not relevant right now, but there’s other stuff I (perhaps paradoxically) want to be focusing on more actively right now. But maybe I’ll finally get a laptop stand for when I’m standing, and a separate keyboard so I can still type…

Wrote a lot about the essence (or part of the suspected essence) of Recurse Center today in my 750words, working through the ebb and flow of my “am I doing this right?” fears:

There is so much I could do, and as what I could do narrows to what I am doing, and what I have done, there is a certain kind of panic that sets in. […]

The big thing is just time, though. It’s just time. It’s just having a lot of time, so that not all the time has to be used perfectly. This is part of how so much CAN be accomplished here. In the rest of my life, all my free time has to be used well to be effective.

Actually got my blog added so our internal bot can be like, “hey, Liene wrote this!” It really was as easy as I thought, and even if I’d messed it up, no one would have actually cared. Yay!

Remembered to go outside multiple times today (once for lunch, once for a “get up and walk around the block” break, and once to head to the curious and fascinating DOOB pop-up a few blocks from here). Now I want action figures of actual people.

Started to read about finite state machines, and fell down a Turing-inspired Wikipedia hole instead, which took up most of the end of the day. “Whoops.”

Spent pretty much all day flailing around vim — I keep thinking that Ben Orenstein’s “you’ll get frustrated enough to find better ways!” (my words, not his) will kick in, but mostly I just fling myself against the walls and occasionally get a different tone, if you’ll excuse the absurd metaphor.

But! Vim. We hadn’t hung out much in about a year. It’s nice to be practicing these things again.

Stuck around surprisingly long after I intended to go home, discovering more and more ways in which Ann and I are twins, talking about the culture of technology companies and different kinds of diversity and nonsense behaviors and rad engineers that have encouraged us both and “how do I know if I’m doing learning right” and why I get that square on my Pebble watchface at certain times and and and. I’m going to get her to teach me things, and it sounds like that will probably be Mischief (capitalized for fun, not for branding).

Recurse Center: week 4, day 1

Woke up after a night of atrocious sleep, so I bravely got myself out of bed, got dressed, ate breakfast, and recognized that I was indeed exhausted (not just grumpy about getting up). Talked it over with Nathan a bit, and realized I’d probably be useless at RC in that state, so I went back to bed.

This is so simple as to be boring, and yet I almost cried when I told Ann about it this morning, because it represents a really tangible piece of how RC enables me to take care of myself. I have a work ethic that is often so strong as to be unhealthy (ask me about the time I got off the lightrail to throw up, then got back on in the same direction), and I’m used to working jobs that don’t have a lot of give, anyway. For me to say, “I’m not going in right now, because I’m tired and I need to sleep some more,” some huge shifts had to happen. Not that they’re one-and-done kinds of things, but this is part of my general “why I need to go to the Recurse Center” thinking.

Worked through more LPTHW — I’m now into exercise 43, which is even more beastly than previously beastly-seeming exercises — and took breaks and mostly was pretty focused when I intended on being focused.

Kate Heddleston is in residence this week (and next week!), and she’s giving a talk on Human-Computer Interaction tonight, which I’m psyched about. I am a human! And I like computers! And I like it when these two kinds of things interact with one another, because I think it CAN be totally awesome.

Recurse Center: week 3, day 4

Didn’t do a lick of my own thing (except make tea) before 12:30. Had sitting group (I’ve been every day, often late, often on time), had morning check-ins, went to Ben‘s “Ask Me Anything” talk, which was actually super useful. (There is such a tricky balance here between “INTERESTING THINGS ARE GOING ON” and “I ONLY HAVE THESE THREE PRECIOUS UNINTERRUPTED MONTHS TO WORK ON MY OWN STUFF.”) I took sorta sketch notes (no pictures, only words):

scribbled notes from an ask-me-anything talk with Ben Orenstein at Recurse Center
AMA notes from Recurse Center talk with Ben Orenstein

Also experimented switching my little Pomodoro counter. It defaults to ticks (or tocks; I can’t remember which is which, because I am not a strict adherent) of 25 minutes (during which you focus), with breaks of five minutes in between. After four ticks of 25 min, you get a break of 15 minutes. I’m experimenting with a 52 on/17 off structure, inspired by this post my coworker sent to me months ago, which I quite liked, even though I only got to try it out one day a week.

Today’s LPTHW quotations include the following:

Now I have to hurt you with another container you can use, because once you learn this container a massive world of ultra-cool will be yours.

Skipped Ben’s “care and feeding of dotfiles” talk, and maybe I shouldn’t’ve, but I’ve also become confident that I could literally just ask him (or any of the other people I know with strong vim opinions, including my partner), and they would probably be happy to share the thing they’re excited about. Also skipped Raquel’s “Life outside of the bubble” talk (i.e. what is some awesome stuff to do outside of tech?), although I did not avoid getting the inspiration-song stuck in my head.

Really liking the longer “tocks” of 52 minutes. It feels long enough to get something done in. Being able to take regular real breaks also feels REALLY conducive to being a happy, productive human being.

Played around with Python’s hash function a bit after encountering it in LPTHW exercise 39.  This is the first thing in here in a while (like, much of this exercise) that’s kinda blown my mind. And lo, there is a walkthrough of the functions (but I got plenty lost before then, which I’m glad about).

Sent off another email (I’m skipping all typos, but emailing about the two code errors I’ve seen so far) regarding exercise 39’s last “you should see” example — the PDF I pulled down earlier this month has an ImportError, and nothing else. The code itself works just fine, and in fact it’s fine on the website as well.

Worked some more on dictionaries and modules (<3 <3 <3), and eventually got cut off by the appearance of presentations (which, fortunately, I love).

Now headed out to an outdoor free movie and takeout with Nathan and Nora, who’s in town for the weekend (we’re heading up to Vermont to visit/meet family; they’re doing the former, I’m doing both). I want to spend more time with my code, so I’m smuggling (read: transporting) my giant Learning Python book home with me for the weekend. Eeeeee.

Recurse Center: week 3, day 3

Did a little light code review of my slug game with Liz, and learned about cases and something else that she was hoping to see — until she learned Python doesn’t have them. Aha! Talked about what makes for good and bad learning from resources.

Also, I accidentally fell into a data science hole, signing up for an in-progress iteration of the first part of Coursera’s Data Science specialization. I’m not sure whether I’ll commit to more of these, but this first one is already going over things I know (I already have a GitHub account! I already know how to use the command line! yay!). So, hey. Did one of the quizzes (late), too late to do the other one, but whatever.

Did a bit more LPTHW, and while I don’t so much remember the afternoon, I know I did some review of operators and escape sequences and and and. I learned about lambda functions and they weren’t as scary as they’ve seemed before! Just a little funny-shaped.

Ended the day feeling not terrifically accomplished, but headed over to a Write/Speak/Code meetup for women in (or aspiring to be in) tech. They had a panel of five women who got into tech without CS degrees (three of whom went to bootcamps, one of whom said she would have had she not gotten into tech decades ago, and one of whom learned as she went). It was kind of encouraging to be around a group of women who found the much-less-talked-about route into this industry.

I also met (by surprise!) Erin, who I recognized by her Twitter handle, and who I’d thought was Jess (who also has pink hair, and is a current Recurser) several blocks back. I attempted to restrain my enthusiasm and only half-succeeded. She is probably one of the people whose voices and opinions I most respect on the web, and — like the rest of the people in that group in my head — she turns out to be a perfectly normal, modest person.

Recurse Center: week 3, day 2

Yesterday still feels like nonsense in retrospect. Some things I have already learned from it:

  • Maybe don’t have two drinks on a blazingly hot and muggy day wherein you didn’t drink enough water, even if it’s awesome to sip Brooklyns and watch Mad Men. (That was Sunday night; we skipped going to the movies after realizing we could have air-conditioning and screen-time at home, and also not wear shoes.)
  • Take a nap if you want to take a nap. Even if almost no one else ever does this. I think a nap would have helped yesterday’s prospects immensely.
  • Going for a walk is not “doing nothing.” I think going for a walk may have helped.

did start sketching out a little Python game I’m going to make, though, and it feels nice to draw something (also, Paper is still probably my favorite app ever). To be shared once it’s done. Or at least working.

Went to Raquel’s short and fun Nodebots workshop. Agh, I want to play with hardware stuff so much. One or two (or maaaaybe three) things at a time, though. I also get overwhelmed by what I could do, even though I know I’d be delighted with blinky lights and robots that draw pictures.

Had lunch from home, thanks to Nathan’s good planning (I’m not so awesome on this, still).

And, whee — I finished my Python game! I’m hoping to maybe do some code review with someone tomorrow (eeeeeeeeeeek; just have to get brave enough to ask), but for now, voilà: it’s a text adventure (and you’re a slug).

Recurse Center: week 3, day 1

Postscript to last week: ended up working more on my Pebble watchface on Friday, which was awesome, and made me never want to leave the coffeeshop.

Now I have a watchface that

  • has a background (!), which I made (!)
  • accurately displays the time (!)
  • displays the weather (temp in C and a tiny text description) from OpenWeatherMap, but I am DEEPLY suspicious of it, because it seems like 80% of the time it says “Clouds,” which is not true, given my observations of the sky.

When a time ends with 40 (or 04, I think), however, it displays the Unicode failsquare instead (so, like, 08:◻︎). This is interesting! It also does this when there are “Thunders◻︎” in the area. I have no idea why this happens, but I want to find out, which makes twoPebble mysteries to solve.

On to this week, though! Man, I have just NOT been able to focus today. I didn’t feel awesome this morning, the weather is super hot, and there is an air quality advisory in effect, so I skipped the biking in favor of the subway.

We do have a couple awesome residents this week, though — Ben Orenstein and Raquel Vélez. Already went to Ben’s beginner-ish vim talk this afternoon, and am all jazzed about vim again.

Trying to figure out how best to balance “ALL THIS AWESOME STUFF IS HAPPENING” with “work on your things, Liene!” This is a challenge I’ve heard a lot of alums talk about — my current plan is just to not throw myself into extraordinarily deep ends (e.g. I did not go to the prototypical inheritance talk this morning), but be okay with rabbit holes.

Read a lot of blog posts, some of them about programming. Kind of thinking that “success” today might just be staying present in this space and being kind to myself about it.

Went to Ben’s Monday night talk about concrete advice for OO programming (in which we learned that he prefers functional programming, but I digress), which was fast-paced but accessible and engaging. I continue to suspect that learning may often involve being exposed to the same information from a few different angles at a few different times.

Recurse Center: week 2, day 4

How is it the end of the standard week already?

Started in on LPTHW exercise 27, which starts with the darling phrase “Today is the day you start learning about logic.” It also includes the demand “I want you to do this exercise for an entire week. Do not falter,” which, again, I am gleefully ignoring.

Used Distract-O-Vision to get through all of several exercises. I can’t quite do them in my sleep anymore, but I’m not really getting tripped up by anything yet, which is a nice feeling.

Realized I was bored, and remembered that I’ve wanted to see how hard it is to make a Pebble app/watchface (I really, really love my Pebble Time, and I loved my first-gen Pebble before it, too). They’ve even got Cloudpebble, a Pebble development environment in the cloud, so I didn’t have to hassle with ANYTHING on my machine. They’ve also got a terrific tutorial, so I jumped right in.

Things that were true about this experience:

  • By the time I got a blank screen successfully loading on my watch, I had an unstoppable grin stuck on my face.
  • I have now technically written some C(++? I’m not sure which it is).
  • That’s my first non-interpreted language code ever!
  • I half-regret taking lunch partway through this — food is important to continue thinking, but it kinda wrecked my flow.
  • I went way down the “look at fonts” rabbit hole, but eventually found some that I liked.
  • I made silly art for the background.
  • I now have a very simple watchface that I built myself: 


I kinda want to make it more awesome (unanswered questions: why does 20:00 appear as 20:□? Why does 20:40 do the same thing?), and I also want to keep up on my Python, so I’m thinking this might give me some productive things that can each distract from each other.

Whee! I would be surprised if the weekend goes by without any further play with this.

Recurse Center: week 2, day 3

It’s Wednesday! Flash flood warning day, which came with the awesome supplementary note that follows:


On the ride in, it was just muggy, though. An emergency-broadcast sound rippled through the office when the warning came in (on everyone’s devices).

Slow going on LPTHW, but maybe that’s because things are getting longer. I went back and found my old files from this: the first time, I apparently got through exercise 2 (?? did I do it on another computer, or did I just go over everything with an extremely fine-toothed comb), but the second, I got through exercise 21.

Had a quick brought-from-home lunch, then went to Alice’s tmux workshop,  where I went from “oh cool, I totally get this!” to “omg my brain is overflowing, and not only because Terminal is not keen on supporting mouse enabling.” Sam did teach me some things (apparently one has to “source” the .tmux.conf file to get it to do things?), and showed me z (a tool she uses a ton), which was all rad. And I learned how to set non-temporary non-git aliases (in my .bashrc file!).

The rest of the afternoon was peppered with distractions that I welcomed (perhaps unwisely), but I did indeed break through the previous furthest point on LPTHW: turns out exercises 22 and 23 are “make these lists, study these things, look at code, and come back in a week or two.” I made text files for those lessons instead and editorialized in them. It feels kinda awesome to be disobedient, suddenly.

Always remember, too:

AttributeError: ‘list’ object has no attribute ‘poop’

Finished off exercise 25 (“Let’s take a test,” which is where we get the above error), which was satisfying.  It’s basically just crushing someone else’s bugs. And you know what? Crushing bugs is satisfying!

Decided that was a fine point to stop for the day, since there’s this magic thing going on at Summerstage tonight, and April, one of my neighbor batchlings is going (& Nathan and I thought it sounded way too cool to miss). That is, assuming it’s not all rained out…

Recurse Center: week 2, day 2

Got in even earlier and spent some time reading Learning Python. That book is a beast, but I don’t feel as threatened as I usually do by gigantic books.

Meditation group is the best.

I think I spent almost an hour post-check-in spinning my wheels, but I did make a couple cups of green tea & got my Pinhead key registered (that kind of “important, not urgent” thing that’s so easy to put off forever). I’m blaming this on my check-in statement that “yesterday was a day of really good focus, so I want to just continue that today.” Welp.

Went back to LPTHW (went through exercise 3 yesterday), got interrupted by (i.e. interrupted myself with) everything (including this excellent article that came up in chat:

Had a short lunch (I had leftovers! I brought bonus food from home!) followed by an unintentionally long visit to Muji downstairs, which is downright magical. Whoops! On the plus side, I finally have some good little paper flags, which was what I originally went in for. On the downside, I now covet a bunch of beautiful functional things I don’t technically need…

Went to Tom’s terminal whispering talk, and took several moments to notice that something seemed familiar, and a lot longer to realize I had actually literally been to his talk at PyCon on, uh, terminal whispering. Regrettably, this meant I spent most of his talk falling down internet rabbit holes, but I did ask for some help resolving an error afterwards. Turns out something has to be running for a socket to connect to it.

Described a whole lot of Trip Island to Sam after she, well, tripped on a bunch of cords that are around the couches/one of the standing tables. It’s actually a metaphor that extends beautifully. There’s a beach. There’s a snake meadow.

Got through LPTHW exercise 14, swapping in `.format` stuff (still) instead of the older %s or %r formatters. (If you’re curious, you can dig around here:

Then headed out to Puzzled Pint in Brooklyn, which I knew sounded familiar, and it turns out it was because a friend used to be involved (see the very bottom). Of course Matthew was the puzzler. I will always wish I’d gotten to know him better, but I like doing little things to keep people’s spirits close at hand.