Recurse Center: Six Weeks, Half A Batch (Not Even Two Months) - Part 1, Programming

I've not actually used Tumblr in like, 2 months, and it's because I've had no time for it (as much as I've cut down on people I follow). It's cause I've moved to New York City for a few months, and am now half-way through my batch (like, a semester, kind of) at Recurse Center, an environment for learning programming. I think they do a better job of explaining what it is than I could, so I'll not attempt that. I am going to talk about what my life has been like.

I'm pretty sure Recurse Center suggests people to write weekly blog posts, or I heard that suggestion from somebody else. But well, I thought about doing that on the first week, the second (and big) week, and then my 4th (a real wrap-up) week. Now I'm at my 6th week and either I write a post now (and at the end of my 12 weeks), or I don't. At all. I know I can't commit to something well after missing it the first time. I'd be unhappy if I had only a final post to think about, so this is my chance. Here goes!

So like, as I mentioned, I wanted to write three times previously. The first week was just cause it was my first week at Recurse Center. Why not write about my initial feelings and where I thought I'd be going, right? Didn't happen, and I'm not sure what to say about it now. The second time was mostly because at the end of that week, I was going to finally move into my permanent residence for the rest of the stay, where decky would move in with me. It made sense as a time to write about my thoughts at the moment because I was shifting my living situation dramatically- but that's why it didn't happen then either, because of how busy I was with moving. And moving in also took up the next week, with having to buy temporary furniture and totally arrange the living situation for us. I don't recommend having to move from sublet to sublet, and especially not two weeks into Recurse Center! The stress of it really clouded my ability to work well, and it took up all of my free time.

The third time I wanted to write was when I felt like moving on from learning C. I had gone through more than enough of Learn C The Hard Way to not want to continue (Zed Shaw writes in such an off-putting and casually ableist way), and the rant he put at the end of the book gave me weird vibes. I had also read most of The C Programming Language (2nd Edition) by the people who like, basically made C, and I felt that gave me a broad overview of what C has in store. Most of my fourth week was doing Project Euler problems in C to practice my quickly growing C skills but like, I realized I can't just do increasingly difficult mathematical problems for my entire stay at Recurse Center. Spending hours on those problems became much more about understanding the math behind it than about building my actual programming skills, which is not the point of Recurse Center.

So, those were my thoughts at the end of each big moment for me. The past two weeks were an awesome respite from that slowdown I felt I was running into. One morning I forgot my laptop at the apartment, so I pushed hard to pair program with *anybody* on anything- as long as it was Python, my favourite programming language. I ended up helping Claire Treyz on her Zulip bot- Zulip being the internal messaging client Recurse Center uses. It's kind of like a cross between IRC and what internet forums should be. Debugging the bot with her gave me the idea to write a bot that simply sends you a message of all the meta-data that made up the message you sent *it*, mostly with the intent of saving other programmers time on trying to parse it themselves.

This quickly produced InfoBot, which I'm pretty happy with. I made it on one day by myself, and I learned a fair bit about making Zulip bots in the process, so it was a perfect project for me to start with. Between that and pairing on more bots, I had the idea to make a DelayBot, which you would give a time and a message, and then it'd repeat your message at that specified time. The main goal was for it to interact with other bots on a timer, or planning announcements, or whatever. I spent the next week and a half, up to last Thursday, working on making that happen with Eric Hambro. And hey, DelayBot totally works!

I couldn't have made DelayBot without having somebody else to bounce off of- ever since I had half a semester of pair programming, I've been wanting to do it more, but until Recurse Center I've never had such opportunity for it. I hope I can keep it up for the rest of my life, because it makes programming dramatically better. I get the feeling that this isn't the standard in most any programming jobs, though. It certainly wasn't in my college courses- working together would have counted as cheating, and the only time I got to do any pair programming was in an off-degree course I took in my first year. I'm sure I'll figure something out about it, anyways...

I know this is a long post, but I've had a lot to write about and I haven't had the time to really do so yet. But there's still plenty more ground to cover, so I'm going to split from here. Thanks for reading so far! I'll link the two posts together after they're both up.

- written and posted March 29, 2015

Part 2 is here!

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