October 2012: Computer Science, Teaching, and Cats

Look, ma, I’m programming

I’m taking an online classs through edX – a collaboration between Harvard and MIT to bring their classes to the public in a form that specifically works for the web (i.e. that supports interactive learning). Along with offering classes, edX will let them study how people learn and how technology can transform education, which is a topic near to my heart.

The class is CS50x – Intro to Computer Science. I tried taking CS classes in college but was incredibly intimidated. This class is fun, the lectures and problem sets are the same as for the real Harvard class, and they accomodate different learning styles and levels of comfort. It’s very well done. The first week’s project was to make something interesting in Scratch, a programming tool built for kids and beginning programmers that makes it very easy to put together programming constructs like variables, loops, etc, using drag-and-drop graphical elements. I built this fishtank sim, check it out!

This is part of my recent obsession to learn programming. A few months ago I created a plan to make a variety of related projects in WordPress. After jumping in, I was quickly overwhelmed with the degree of expertise I didn’t have in making WordPress do Real Programming Stuff. I went through an exhaustive list of plugin and theme frameworks that promised to provide some of the functionality I needed, when I realized I was going to have to code what I wanted myself. GUI frameworks are great, but they don’t give you the kind of precision and control that I want. Plus, it means even more is stored in the database and not in a version control system.

So, I cried a little. Cause real programming is pretty scary to me. But then I decided to tackle what seemed like an easier problem–redoing a different website in WordPress, one that needed some of the same functionality, but was smaller in scope (I thought) and I felt less pressure around.

It turned out to be a bigger project than I thought and I’m still in the middle of it, but it’s been fun and the existing website badly needs a refresh. I built it before Facebook existed! Here is a screenshot of what I’m working on:

Yup, it’s kind of Pinterist-like, with infinite scroll and everything. There’s still a lot to do, and I’m plugging away at it. It’s a fun project to work on because the site already gets a lot of traffic so I know people will be using it right away.

Getting into teaching

For the past few weeks I’ve been helping my teacher LaShelle in one of her NVC classes. Teaching is another area that is scary for me but is also rewarding and fun. It’s been great both because I want to get more into teaching, and also it’s really upped my game as far as NVC goes. I started learning NVC many years ago, but I had gotten out of the habit of actually practicing it, and so it had become more intellectual knowledge than an actual tool I was using. Becoming re-acquainted has been helpful in a variety of interpersonal areas.

I’m taking an intro workshop┬ánext weekend from Matrix Leadership Institute which is offering classes in Portland now — they are based on Hakomi but teach leadership and group-work skills rather than therapy skills. I think I’ve maxed out on what I can get from META trainings as I’m not really wanting to become a therapist, so I’m excited to have this new direction to go in that involves Hakomi principles but applied to an arena I find more relevant to my own aspirations.

Speaking of which, I finally came up with a branding for EggSpace that I like. I’m not sure when or how that project will happen, but a logo is some movement at least!

Emma, cat-lady

It happened without my planning it, but I now have three (!) cats. (“Now” being the past few months.)

GinaMoo GooMaria

It turns out I really enjoy being a steward to a group of animals. It reminds me of growing up on the farm and always having animals to take care of. There’s something about the daily rhythm of tracking and responding to the needs of creatures in my care that is soothing and meets needs for connection and coziness.

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