Personal sized Projects

ACT-W Portland

Back in May, I attended the ACT-W conference. It stands for a Conference to Advance the Careers of Tech Women, which “supports, empowers, and educates women in technology while creating a sense of belonging and community.” True to its mission, ACT-W is by far the most inclusive conference I’ve attended.

It’s no secret that gender bias exist in the tech industry. There has been a host of media attention paid to the topic within the last few years. I can relate my own anecdotal experience where I was compensated less for the same role, put on “busy” type work, and been the recipient of offhand comments like, “you don’t look like a developer”. Combined, over time this type of treatment slowly wears spirits down. It’s easy to see why many women abandon the field.

That’s why ACT-W is so important, particularly here in Portland where it’s supposedly the worst place in the US for women in tech. Meeting other women in the industry and hearing their experiences inspires me to keep at it. If nothing else it was nice being around others that can relate to the problems with the so called brogrammer work culture (ugh, just that typing that word makes me cringe). I’ve attended twice and come back from it feeling renewed and hopeful both times.

The highlight for me this year was an Arduino LED lantern workshop. We soldered RGB LED lights to an Adafruit trinket board and customized the bulb display through a bit of Arduino code. It was my first time working with a soldering iron and was a little nervous about screwing up. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. It was a nice change of pace to make something for the physical world versus a web application.

Here’s my light cycle in action:

If you’re a woman in tech or considering a STEM career, check out ACT-W in your city. You won’t regret it.

Why I decided to learn software development

Before I began the Learn-Verified program, I had picked up front-end web development. I was mostly self-taught, taking a few classes now and then to supplement. That was all fine and dandy for a while, but after several years, it was time for a new challenge. I wanted to understand the big picture—how all the parts play together—so I decided to take on full-stack. It was a natural move to make.

Of course I had some reservations. As someone who’s both right and left-brained, I was worried it wouldn’t be a perfect fit. I thought programming had the potential to be a logic-based activity that I might find annoyingly mechanical. I feared only vulcan-like computer people could be good at it. Turns out that’s not really the case, it is more ambiguous.

Spock yin yang salute

As I’ve gone through the curriculum, I’ve found there are many ways to reach the same end. Sure, there are established standards and patterns (and sure, it may take me a little longer to grasp some of them), but after you get those down, it’s very open-ended. To have the ability to take an idea and build it out from start to finish makes the world your imagination’s oyster. That’s pretty good motivation right there.

JYlive long and prosper

Kombucha fabric experiment: Day 1

kombucha fabric day 1

As a kombucha hobbyist, I’ve developed a fascination with the growing MOTHER in my brew, aka the SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). It’s fueled by a mix of tea and sugar, and after a few batches is several inches thick. When I have more than I need to brew the next batch, I usually throw it outside for the worms. But not before wondering what else I could do with it.

No more! This summer, I’ve decided to grow fabric with the leftovers. I got the idea perusing google image search. I somehow came across the site of an English fashion designer, Suzanne Lee, who experiments with growing living materials for clothing. She did a great TED talk about it. She even made shoes from this stuff.

I’m starting off small, with 28 quart storage containers. I drilled holes in the lids so they can breathe, and covered the containers with towels to shield them from light.

kombucha fabric day 1
Started off with two different sizes of SCOBY. Will it matter??

Because SCOBYs grow faster in warm environments, this Instructables suggests placing the brew containers on heat pads. I’m hoping heat from that summer sun will suffice.

kombucha fabric day 1 stacked
Old towels coming in handy

If this first round goes well, I might upgrade to a kiddie pool.

Sinatra assessment

When thinking of ideas for the Sinatra assessment, I wanted to make something that I could help me out personally. The idea came to me while staring at shelves of records in my living room. I built a simple RESTful app to catalog a collection of stuff, in this case, records. It could be adapted to catalog pretty much anything. 

It’s sort of like a dumbed down version of the platform, that allows users to store, rate and list the records they own. They are also able to see what other users are adding, but only edit and delete their own music. Watch a walk-through.

Beyond the obvious RESTful routes and user authentication part of it, it was an exercise in UX patterns and what goes into building them. My limited skills prevented me from adding more features that, as a user, I’d seek out in a cataloging app. Eventually, I’d like to have it be adaptable for any sort of collection be it books, comics, Magic: the Gathering cards, you get the idea. Check it out on github.


CLI Gem Lesson

This is my first ruby gem. It simply lists new DVD and streaming releases in a CLI with options to view more information about particular releases. 

I had no previous exposure to gem building and was a tad immobilized at first. Lucky for me and fellow ruby learners, I found several great resources to guide and hand-hold along the way. 

My biggest hold up was getting my brain around data distribution from third party sites. The requirement of this assignment was to scrape a webpage data using Nokogiri. I started off that route but found that the movie data was dynamically generated and wasn’t scraping. I was getting empty elements.

After some quick research I found Watir WebDrive could help grab dynamically generated data. But it had to do it by opening a browser instance. Since this doesn’t make for great UX, not to mention defeats the purpose of making command line gem, I was back to square one. After some more digging, I read that the best option most of the time is to inspect the page to grab the data feed’s url. That’s what I ended up doing. It admittedly took me a long time to find it, as the page loaded a great deal of scripts.

For next time/things I learned: Make sure the data is accessible and ready to use before starting. I wasted a lot of time setting up everything thinking the data would be just fine. It worked in the end, but not seamlessly as I first thought.

Resource list:

Here’s a quick walkthrough: