Telling Your Computer What To Do: Learn to Program

As my blog title probably makes clear, I’ve always been ‘into’ computers. I like them, I like what they can do, and I’ve always been fascinated with them. During my degree program, though, I decided to switch a Windows class for a Linux admin class, and I’m extremely glad I did. I learned so much about what goes on inside an operating system that makes me feel much more confident about using my computers in ways that help me.

And curiosity usually begets curiosity, so I decided I needed to learn to code more than simple shell scripts. I searched out resources, and I’ve started learning Python, a fairly simple (to learn) coding language often called a scripting language.

What’s great is that you can learn this language for free from resources all around the internet. Me, I wanted to be able to make simple games, and the two resources I went to made that really easy.

Invent With Python

The first I used was the Invent With Python series, the first book of which is called Invent Your Own Computer Games With Python. I actually skipped this book because I had a foundation in programming logic and was mostly wanting to learn some meat of the pygame module. I started with Making Games With Python and Pygame.

These books are mostly a ‘follow the pattern’ books that will get you familiar with looking at code, and it helps learn Python syntax, but I don’t feel this teaches you the language very well. For complete newbies, though, it’s not a bad start.

Learn Python The Hard Way

I discovered this book after I finished Making Games because I wanted a more fundamental understanding of the language, and this book has definition provided that.

It starts you off with the classic ‘hello’ program and works you through more complex concepts like importing modules, writing functions and classes, and programming logic including a basic Boolean algebra (Though fair warning, Python changes the rules a bit). After that, it sets you off to produce your own programs for scratch using the basics you learned through the book.

If you’d like something more than a book, they offer the video course for $29.

The last few months of learning more robust coding has been a blast, and I hope someone finds these two resources useful. Have you ever considered learning to code?

ROW8013-R1 Fourth Check-in

ROW80BadgePlotting

I have an idea, and I’ve spent this week throwing words at it to expand it. I’ve got a character that I begin to understand, I’m seeing a handful of themes coming to light, and I’m getting very close to a concept. Yay for me.

Writing

This week was amazing, except I only wrote about 35 words Friday. Something about those Fridays. But I more than beat my weekly goal, and beat last week’s output!

Week Goal Word Count
Week 1 500 1278
Week 2 750 1475

Job Search

Put in for a good looking position. Hope they call. Looking for more tomorrow.

Reading

Finished Blackbirds, moved on to my reread of Story Engineering.

ROW80-13-R1: Third Check-In

ROW80BadgeI’ve always found getting back into creative pursuits is the hardest part. When you’ve gotten past that stage where you’ve built the habit, it’s natural to just create every day. But then you miss a day. Then another project gets in the way. And suddenly going back is like pushing over a brick wall without any tools.

Of course, there’s a cool rush when you really do get past that.

Plotting

I may have finally stumbled upon a plot bunny worth it thanks to something I was writing just to have said I was writing during a #ROW80 sprint. No details yet, but it’s picking up an older project from a slightly different perspective. I kind of like the concept.

Writing

I’m on target for the last two days. Actually, last night I quadrupled my daily goal and have already beaten my weekly goal! Hopefully I get to keep things up.

Job Search

Haven’t had a chance to get out this week, but the plan is to head out today to check local jobs for the ‘meantime.’ Here’s hoping!

Reading

Only did a little reading since Sunday.

Oh, and I don’t think I’ve broken through the wall yet, but it’s definitely getting easier.

 

ROW80-13-R1: Second Check-In

ROW80BadgeSo this week was a mix, we ended up sick halfway through the week which through my schedule off, but I’d say a good week otherwise.

Planning

I’m still looking through my very large list of ideas and concepts and trying to decide what I have enough drive to work on. In the mean time I’m doing short stories and fleshing out some of those scenes I had sitting around in a fast draft form.

Writing

I missed a day. Didn’t write anything on Friday at all. But it’s not all bad news. I wrote more than my goal the other four days, and even put in some writing last night in a bout of insomnia. Altogether, my writing total for the week is 1278 versus the week’s goal of 500. So huge success even with a missed day!

Job search

I didn’t get out an application or email this week. Will need to fix that.

Reading

I’m 75% of the way through Blackbirds. Liking it so far.

 

ROW80-13-R1: First Check-in

I’m going to admit, I always find the Wednesday check-ins to be the most difficult because I’m always in the middle of things. I’m sure there’s some reason why that Wednesday check-in is good, but I haven’t noticed it yet.

Report

I’m meeting my week one writing quota, thus far. I know, it’s not much, but it’s about building a habit, and so, here I go.

As for blogging, I haven’t starting writing my tutorials, so I’m either going to be kicking myself on Sunday or I’m going to be working some long hours to get it done by Friday.

I’m doing fairly well on reading, I’m 45% of the way through Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds, and seriously getting into it. Chuck’s characters always have great (And unique) voices, and Miriam is no exception.

Job search I didn’t put in an official application, but I did touch base with a local business so I’ll consider that complete. Need another by Sunday.

I still haven’t played Torchlight II, yet, but Runic Games gave away the soundtrack a while ago and it’s made its way into my standard rotation for writing. While listening one day, this piece, Echo Pass, came on and I was blown away by how powerful it was. It’s definitely sweeping and epic and I hope it finds a home in your listening as well.

I’m Back

Hello, readers!

We're Back movie poster

Does anyone else have fond memories of this movie, or is it just me?

So, I said I shut down except for ROW80 because of school. I’m glad I did, because I came out of it with a 4.0 semester! Better than that, my transcript is updated and I graduated summa cum laude!

I do plan on joining ROW80 again this season, so I guess I should talk about goals. How about some targets, first?

I want a novel self-published or in the pipe for traditional publishing by the end of the year.

I want to be in a job that puts me on the path to a career in technology.

I want my blog to beat out last years traffic.

Now none of those I can guarantee, obviously, but I can definitely do things to work towards them.

I need to be writing again, and right now, I struggle with even small word counts for writing. So my first goal is going to be a muscle building program for my fiction. In addition to doing a full planning document for one of my story ideas, I’m going to start a writing regiment.

The Snowflake

My planning method combines Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method with Larry Brook’s Story Engineering. What I mean by that is I do the high level to focused planning of the Snowflake, but inform each step with Story Engineering.

I’ve found this method really makes it clear where I’m going with a story and makes it much easier to write at the end. The Snowflake has 10 steps:

Snowflake fractal

Taken from Ingermanson’s blog

  1. One Sentence Summary
  2. One Paragraph Summary
  3. Major Character Motivations
  4. One Page Summary
  5. Character Summaries
  6. Four Page Summary
  7. Character Charts
  8. Scene Spreadsheet
  9. Scene Pre-write
  10. First Draft

The key parts where I add Story Engineering is to the plot summaries, where I use tent-pole scenes for the paragraph summary, expand from them to major events (And pinch points) for the one page, and slowly expand from those key scenes as I expand the summary. I also use the Story Engineering Beat Sheet for step 8. In order to hit my goal of a finished novel, I need to be ready to begin step 10 by the end of ROW80 Round 1. So the quick and dirty schedule: One step of the Snowflake per week. Check-in on Sundays.

Writing Muscles

So short version, I’m going to push my limits a little at a time to make sure I can find time and build up to writing at a respectable pace. Novels are the writing marathon, after all.

penSo over the course of Round 1, I’ll start really low, and build up to a much faster pace.

Week 1: 100 words of fiction Mon to Fri. Week Count: 500 Total Count: 500
Week 2: 150 words of fiction Mon to Fri. Week Count: 750 Total Count: 1250
Week 3: 250 words of fiction Mon to Fri. Week Count: 1250 Total Count: 2500
Week 4: 400 words of fiction Mon to Fri. Week Count: 2000 Total Count: 4500
Week 5: 600 words of fiction Mon to Fri. Week Count: 3000 Total Count: 7500
Week 6: 850 words of fiction Mon to Fri. Week Count: 4350 Total Count: 11750
Week 7: 1150 words of fiction Mon to Fri. Week Count: 5750 Total Count: 17500
Week 8: 1500 words of fiction Mon to Fri. Week Count: 7500 Total Count: 25000
Week 9: 1900 words of fiction Mon to Fri. Week Count: 9500 Total Count: 34500
Week 10: 2350 words of fiction Mon to Fri. Week Count: 11750 Total Count: 46250
Week 11: 2850 words of fiction Mon to Fri. Week Count: 14250 Total Count: 60500

That feels fast, but I’ll know by the end how to fix this regiment for next round!

Job Search

This one is more complex, because the job market is obviously questionable. I’ll put in at least one resume for a job I definitely qualify for between each check-in. Beyond that, I’ll start emailing various HR departments about unlisted openings both locally and further afield. I’ll say one a week for this one.

At some point during this round, I need to put together and spruce up a LinkedIn profile.

Blog

Saving the best for last, of course. There are two things I want to do with this blog: More tutorials about things that interest me, and more posting about things I care about in general. That means my topics are going to go wider, but it’ll be a lot more interesting (At least I hope so!). I’ll start that out by developing an updated TweetDeck guide for the new TweetDeck. By new, I mean the Blue one. If you’re still using the Yellow, just check out the current guide!

Primary ButtonsFrom there, I really want to talk about my experiences with Linux OS and maybe convince a few more people to try it out. I’ll start that with a primer on building Virtual Machines and get into the fun things I like to do on my machine. I am tempted to write a newbies guide to Arch so all of you can get to claim you built a working Arch installation. (Seriously, this is a cool thing to tell people.)

Because ROW80 asks for updates Wednesday and Sunday, I’ll leave Monday and Friday to doing tutorials and other things. So how about Monday I write what I like, and Friday I’ll post a new piece of a tutorial. That gives me four posting days a week which should support my goal to build my readership.

Reading

This is kind of that thing I throw on there just to say I’ve done it, and since I joined the GoodReads challenge for 2013, I’ve got a lot of books to read. The short list right now:

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
Illusions: Confessions of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

When I read these ones down, I’ll pick out a few more and update my to be read list.

ROW80Badge

ROW-80

As for school, I’ve wound up all the out of class work for my Linux class, have a final and a single chapter left in Database Programming, meaning I only have my group project and a handful of tests in Systems Analysis and Design and I’m done with my degree. Scary.

ROW80 Check-In

So, I waited to do this today until after I did my Linux final. I got 90/100, missing an A by 2 points. So far it looks like I’ve got an A overall in the class thanks to labwork, but still upset at missing an A by one question. Especially since I only missed one question due to a selection error.

Still reading Infinite Jest. It takes effort to make it through some of those chapters.

ROW80

I mentioned it yesterday, but today is going to redefine my goals a bit.

I’m mostly shuttering the blog. I’ve not been happy with the quality of the content, but going daily for six weeks definitely got me interested again. So that’s good! I’ll be making my ROW80 posts and there’s a guest post coming soon, then it’ll be quality pieces I’ve put real effort in to. One day ‘away’ and I already have a few ideas.

As for school, that’s where I’m shifting my primary focus. Finals are coming up, and I’ve got a couple of big projects to get done in the next five weeks or so. Yay, yay, yay.

Still reading around everything else, I’m about 2% of the way through Infinite Jest.

Writing, I’m getting back to being open to ideas, and hopefully soon I’ll get the words flowing again.

Finals

So, I’ve got my Linux final early next week, and a group project to focus on. As such, I’m going quiet, except for my ROW80 posts, until I’ve gotten all of that caught up. When I come back, I’ll figure out what my new blogging schedule will be.

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