# Week 2 @ Launch Academy: Taming Data Structures
At this point, I’m feeling fairly confident working around complex data structures. Unlike my first week, there has been less head-bashing this time around, and more investigating.
We’ve played a lot with Sinatra. If you’ve heard of Ruby on Rails, Sinatra is its minimalistic younger sibling. I’ve been enjoying my time with it thus far: learning a lot about routes, post requests, and generating data from files into information on a webpage.
We created a clone of Y Combinator’s Hacker News, and in the last version of this challenge, we used HTML forms to send article links and descriptions via a POST request. I deployed a final version up on Heroku using Redis cloud and JSON to handle the data.
In another challenge, we made a dynamic web page hosting a list of movies, and each generated movie title would be a link that would provide specific info about that movie. For the last part of that challenge, I worked on pagination so only 20 movies would be shown at a time. It took a bit of math, and I had a brief bug where you can get NEGATIVE pages, but I fixed that and got it working.
# IRB, PRY, .grep, .zip, & .sort_by
Two things that were great debugging and learning tools were both IRB (Interactive Ruby) and the Pry REPL. Allowing me to type code line by line and dig into my data, these were singlehandedly the best tools to help me learn my way around complex arrays and hashes.
In working on some of my recent projects, I learned three new methods: .grep, .zip, and .sort_by.

# .grep
frequent_name = [ ]names = [“voldemort”,”bobjoe”,”harry”,”sandra”,”harry”]names.each do |name|    frequent_name « {name => names.grep(name).size}end
—-
Using .grep in conjunction with other methods like .size, I could find and count the most frequent word. The result from this would be a hash:frequent_name=> {“harry” => 2}

#.zip
names = [“chris”, “henry”]moar_names = [“meredith”, “agatha”]names.zip(moar_names).flatten!
—-
Zip works like it sounds like. Like a zipper, it weaves the teeth of the zipper together, creating something new. Used with .flatten, we create a merged version of the array:
names=> [“chris”, "meredith", "henry", "agatha"]

# .sort_by
wizard_rank = [ ]
wizards = [{:name => “Voldemort”, :score => 4}, {:name => “Harry”, :score => 8}, {:name => “Hermione”, :score => 10}]wizard_rank = wizards.sort_by { |wizard| [-wizard[:score]] }
——
.sort_by is really great. It allows me to sort out hashes using the key value I want. The minus before “wizard” allows the highest number to come up first in the new compound data structure:
wizard_rank=> [{:name=>”Hermione”, :score=>10},      {:name=>”Harry”, :score=>8},     {:name=>”Voldemort”, :score=>4}]
Like the first week, I’ve learned a lot. Next week we’ll start playing with SQL, and I’m looking forward to working with it!

# Week 2 @ Launch Academy: Taming Data Structures

At this point, I’m feeling fairly confident working around complex data structures. Unlike my first week, there has been less head-bashing this time around, and more investigating.

We’ve played a lot with Sinatra. If you’ve heard of Ruby on Rails, Sinatra is its minimalistic younger sibling. I’ve been enjoying my time with it thus far: learning a lot about routes, post requests, and generating data from files into information on a webpage.

We created a clone of Y Combinator’s Hacker News, and in the last version of this challenge, we used HTML forms to send article links and descriptions via a POST request. I deployed a final version up on Heroku using Redis cloud and JSON to handle the data.

In another challenge, we made a dynamic web page hosting a list of movies, and each generated movie title would be a link that would provide specific info about that movie. For the last part of that challenge, I worked on pagination so only 20 movies would be shown at a time. It took a bit of math, and I had a brief bug where you can get NEGATIVE pages, but I fixed that and got it working.

# IRB, PRY, .grep, .zip, & .sort_by

Two things that were great debugging and learning tools were both IRB (Interactive Ruby) and the Pry REPL. Allowing me to type code line by line and dig into my data, these were singlehandedly the best tools to help me learn my way around complex arrays and hashes.

In working on some of my recent projects, I learned three new methods: .grep, .zip, and .sort_by.

# .grep

frequent_name = [ ]
names = [“voldemort”,”bobjoe”,”harry”,”sandra”,”harry”]

names.each do |name|
    frequent_name « {name => names.grep(name).size}
end

—-

Using .grep in conjunction with other methods like .size, I could find and count the most frequent word. The result from this would be a hash:

frequent_name
=> {“harry” => 2}

#.zip

names = [“chris”, “henry”]
moar_names = [“meredith”, “agatha”]

names.zip(moar_names).flatten!

—-

Zip works like it sounds like. Like a zipper, it weaves the teeth of the zipper together, creating something new. Used with .flatten, we create a merged version of the array:

names
=> [“chris”, "meredith", "henry", "agatha"]

# .sort_by

wizard_rank = [ ]

wizards = [{:name => “Voldemort”, :score => 4},
{:name => “Harry”, :score => 8},
{:name => “Hermione”, :score => 10}]

wizard_rank = wizards.sort_by { |wizard| [-wizard[:score]] }

——

.sort_by is really great. It allows me to sort out hashes using the key value I want. The minus before “wizard” allows the highest number to come up first in the new compound data structure:

wizard_rank
=> [{:name=>”Hermione”, :score=>10}, 
     {:name=>”Harry”, :score=>8},
     {:name=>”Voldemort”, :score=>4}]

Like the first week, I’ve learned a lot. Next week we’ll start playing with SQL, and I’m looking forward to working with it!

# The First Week @ Launch Academy & Pivoting the Bootcamped Comic
I’ve survived my first week at Launch Academy.
When asked about my experiences thus far, I’ve replied to friends that “Every day is like solving an intense mind puzzle. I’m engaged, excited, mentally tired, but I want to keep on programming at the end of the day because it’s fun.”
So far, what have I learned? We’ve been diving deep into Ruby and have learned flow control, arrays, methods, hashes, working with CSV and JSON files, compound data structures, and a bit of Git. We’ve created more than a dozen programs. There are always extra challenges to complete, to keep me out of my comfort zone and to keep on learning something.
Sometimes solving a challenge comes easy, and other times it is head-bashingly difficult. When working on the 3rd iteration of the cash register program, I spent two and a half days really tying to understand hashes.
Thanks to our learnings on “how to learn”, I know that I am capable of overcoming these short-term problems. I either seek the solution on my own, with others in my cohort, or with the help of an experience engineer. I always end up being more wiser, more enlightened, and more satisfied with what I am capable of doing with each passing day.
I’ve also made some test programs unrelated to our workshops and challenges, to reinforce my knowledge. I spent half a day converting one of my programs to use methods, to be more familiar with them and to not face problems in the long run when we get into object-oriented programming.
The thing I have enjoyed the most about the learning experience here is that it’s so different than anything I’ve experienced in the past. I’ve always been a hands on person, and had trouble retaining information during long lectures in college. I like to be highly involved in the search for answers and the discovery of knowledge, and the program at Launch Academy rewards me for doing so.
I’ve learned more about programming than my random dabbling in the past decade, and I’m at the point where I can look at other programming languages and see the many similarities between them. I’m excited, and I can’t wait to see what we make next week as we start interacting with the web.

# Bootcamped
Last week, I mentioned a comic side project that I would be working on during the cohort. I am still going to work on it, however I am scaling it down a bit as I had no idea on the amount of work I was going to experience at Launch.
No site will be launched (yet), but I will be posting my drawings and comics here once a week. I also have been jotting down the many experiences I’ve had, so I have a backlog of material to work through.
I intend to tie this into my future “Breakable Toy” project, so hopefully you all will see something cool towards the end of the cohort.
See you all soon.

# The First Week @ Launch Academy & Pivoting the Bootcamped Comic

I’ve survived my first week at Launch Academy.

When asked about my experiences thus far, I’ve replied to friends that “Every day is like solving an intense mind puzzle. I’m engaged, excited, mentally tired, but I want to keep on programming at the end of the day because it’s fun.”

So far, what have I learned? We’ve been diving deep into Ruby and have learned flow control, arrays, methods, hashes, working with CSV and JSON files, compound data structures, and a bit of Git. We’ve created more than a dozen programs. There are always extra challenges to complete, to keep me out of my comfort zone and to keep on learning something.

Sometimes solving a challenge comes easy, and other times it is head-bashingly difficult. When working on the 3rd iteration of the cash register program, I spent two and a half days really tying to understand hashes.

Thanks to our learnings on “how to learn”, I know that I am capable of overcoming these short-term problems. I either seek the solution on my own, with others in my cohort, or with the help of an experience engineer. I always end up being more wiser, more enlightened, and more satisfied with what I am capable of doing with each passing day.

I’ve also made some test programs unrelated to our workshops and challenges, to reinforce my knowledge. I spent half a day converting one of my programs to use methods, to be more familiar with them and to not face problems in the long run when we get into object-oriented programming.

The thing I have enjoyed the most about the learning experience here is that it’s so different than anything I’ve experienced in the past. I’ve always been a hands on person, and had trouble retaining information during long lectures in college. I like to be highly involved in the search for answers and the discovery of knowledge, and the program at Launch Academy rewards me for doing so.

I’ve learned more about programming than my random dabbling in the past decade, and I’m at the point where I can look at other programming languages and see the many similarities between them. I’m excited, and I can’t wait to see what we make next week as we start interacting with the web.

# Bootcamped

Last week, I mentioned a comic side project that I would be working on during the cohort. I am still going to work on it, however I am scaling it down a bit as I had no idea on the amount of work I was going to experience at Launch.

No site will be launched (yet), but I will be posting my drawings and comics here once a week. I also have been jotting down the many experiences I’ve had, so I have a backlog of material to work through.

I intend to tie this into my future “Breakable Toy” project, so hopefully you all will see something cool towards the end of the cohort.

See you all soon.

Reflecting on Pre-Learning & A New Drawing Project

#Pre-Learning

The beginning of my 10-week bootcamp journey starts tomorrow. It’s becoming harder to contain my excitement.

Regardless of how much energy I can spend re-reviewing all the pre-launch material for Launch Academy, I know that energy is better spent getting my things ready, reflecting on my experience thus far, and relaxing for the big day tomorrow.

Thinking over the dozen weeks of Launch Academy’s pre-learning material, all the basic coding (Ruby/HTML/CSS) goals were fairly easy to pick up for me.

I am nowhere near being an expert or experienced programmer yet. The extent of my programming knowledge currently only allows me to count down 99 bottles of beer via flow control loops, or allow a user to be sent insults that are randomly selected from an array.

The first two books I read, “Pragmatic Thinking & Learning” by Andy Hunt, and “Learn to Program” by Chris Pine were very fun and enjoyable books that I learned a lot from. Pragmatic Thinking was my favorite book out of our required reading, because it felt like I found the missing puzzle piece in my thought process. After reading it, my methods for taking notes and remembering things has evolved as I now draw pictures along with the words in my notes.

I also read a large chunk of “Your Brain at Work” by David Rock before I realized it was not required reading, but I wanted to note here it was a really fascinating compliment to Pragmatic Thinking. It goes into further scientific explanation on how the human mind works.

Learn to Program was a very fun book, and you can tell that Chris Pine is a passionate programmer. He even named his kids after programming languages! My only criticism is that the last part of the book is a bit all over the place.

Towards the near end of the pre-learning material, I hit some challenges.

When I began reading “Beginning Database Design” by Claire Churcher, it was a pain to read. The format of the book is written much like an academic paper, and I tried to be creative in retaining the material.

In order to get though the book, I portioned my reading to one chapter a day, and to draw some silly doodle notes about the material while reading. Halfway through the book though, I got more lost and I decided to put it aside to review later and work on my other goals.

Learning version control with Git and GitHub was very eye opening, and it now sparks new questions in my mind. The next time I attend a video game convention like PAX East, I’m now going to go up to every game developer and ask what their version control is like.

I only read the required first three chapters of “Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby” by Sandi Metz, but I can tell it’s a really helpful and enjoyable book to read. Some of the material is above me in understanding at this point, but I am sure we are going to be digging back into this book later in the cohort.

Overall, the pre-learning material was a great resource, and help was given by the staff at Launch as well as my fellow Launchers. Thanks guys!

#Drawing

Starting with the beginning of the cohort tomorrow, to keep a steady routine of self-reflection, I will be starting a minor drawing project during the cohort:

BOOTCAMPED will be a daily journal comic about my experiences at Launch Academy. I plan on creating a basic site at the end of this week, and uploading notable experiences from each day by the end of every week. I’m pondering ways to incorporate this into my future “Breakable Toy” project, and a few ideas are bubbling in my head.

As always, I’ll be continuing the blog posts here to keep everyone updated on my growth and experiences. I have this feeling that amazing things are going to happen.

The Blog & More Has Been Updated

Greetings friends,

I’ve updated this blog with some design tweaks, new links, and the portfolio section has been updated and redesigned.

I’ll be making a post later this week about my pre-learning experiences leading up to the start of Launch Academy, as well as announcing a new comic related project that I’m sure that will interest you.

See you soon!

Jerra Axismauler - July 2014 - Painted in PaintTool SAI / Edited in Photoshop CC 2014
I finished this in time for a friend’s birthday, and I worked on this project on and off for about a year, spending a day or two on it every couple of months.
It’s a painting of one of my friend’s Guild Wars 2 characters, and here’s a screenshot for reference:

While this project was time consuming, I learned a lot about depth, coloring, and lighting from the experience. There were many times where I almost started from scratch to get things right.
While I won’t be making any long term drawings like this one for a while, I’m sure the next time I work on something this detailed, it’s going to be great.
I’ll be making another blog post soon about my progress with Launch Academy's pre-work. My cohort starts in about a month!

Jerra Axismauler - July 2014 - Painted in PaintTool SAI / Edited in Photoshop CC 2014

I finished this in time for a friend’s birthday, and I worked on this project on and off for about a year, spending a day or two on it every couple of months.

It’s a painting of one of my friend’s Guild Wars 2 characters, and here’s a screenshot for reference:

While this project was time consuming, I learned a lot about depth, coloring, and lighting from the experience. There were many times where I almost started from scratch to get things right.

While I won’t be making any long term drawings like this one for a while, I’m sure the next time I work on something this detailed, it’s going to be great.

I’ll be making another blog post soon about my progress with Launch Academy's pre-work. My cohort starts in about a month!

A Card With Thanks
With my last day at work quickly approaching (tomorrow), I decided to be a little creative with giving my thanks to all the people I’ve met in the past year. I’ve been handing out my new business card over the past few days to regulars and coworkers alike.
The QR code on the card leads to a hidden “Thank You” page on this site.
Just in case: if you did not get a card yet or don’t have a way to scan the QR code, don’t fret. You can go to to www.alacritystudios.com/thanks to view the letter.
Thank you to all the people I’ve met in the past year. Each encounter has meant a lot to me, no matter how long or brief that encounter may have been.
Your friend, Andy

A Card With Thanks

With my last day at work quickly approaching (tomorrow), I decided to be a little creative with giving my thanks to all the people I’ve met in the past year. I’ve been handing out my new business card over the past few days to regulars and coworkers alike.

The QR code on the card leads to a hidden “Thank You” page on this site.

Just in case: if you did not get a card yet or don’t have a way to scan the QR code, don’t fret. You can go to to www.alacritystudios.com/thanks to view the letter.

Thank you to all the people I’ve met in the past year. Each encounter has meant a lot to me, no matter how long or brief that encounter may have been.

Your friend,
Andy

Wandering Sword - 06/21/1460 min sketch, using PaintTool SAI with a Wacom Intuous4
With Tumblr working again, I can finally post this. It’s likely I will make a finished art version of this in the future.
More updates to come, and I want to note that a redesign/rebranding of my blog/website and portfolio will happen in the coming weeks. I also have a thank you letter to link to this coming Monday (or sooner).

Wandering Sword - 06/21/14
60 min sketch, using PaintTool SAI with a Wacom Intuous4

With Tumblr working again, I can finally post this. It’s likely I will make a finished art version of this in the future.

More updates to come, and I want to note that a redesign/rebranding of my blog/website and portfolio will happen in the coming weeks. I also have a thank you letter to link to this coming Monday (or sooner).

The Year of Code, and Getting Into Launch Academy

image

In my last written blog post, I detailed an experience that did not go as well as I expected. For almost a whole year afterwards, I could barely draw. It was during this rough period of time though, that I collected myself, gained new insight, and headed into a better direction.

While I got paid for the concept artwork I did for for the small indie game company, I was nearing the end of my one year freelancing adventure. My backup funds were drying up, and there wasn’t any further work lined up. I needed to pick up something to pay the bills.

Even though the recession was over in 2009, in 2012 the job market still had a tough time recovering. I contacted all the job agencies I used to be in touch with years ago, looking for office work or similar work to what I did before I went freelance. What used to be a couple days response time from these agencies turned out to be no response at all.

As weeks and then months passed by without any answers, I decided to look for any work directly. I started considering working at cafes or restaurants, and minimum wage jobs.

That eventually led to my current job at Panera. I started there on July 2013.

Knowing that this wouldn’t be a career path I would be set on in the long run, I began drafting a basic plan:

1) Get a job to cover rent and bills.
2) Work hard at that job and take any growth opportunities that appear.
3) Conduct research into a future career in an in-demand industry that is connected to my interests, knowledge, and skills.
4) Learn what it takes to get into said industry, and gain new skills related to it. Build some things with those skills. Start broadcasting and promoting what you’ve created.
5) Get a career in said industry, and keep on creating some amazing things.

With this plan in mind, I started drawing a Venn diagram of my interests and searched for something that connected to all of them.

I listed a lot of things I loved, ranging from drawing to video games, but I knew I had to look even broader. What were the kind of skills I could apply everywhere, and could help me no matter what I did?

It was then that I pinned down the thing that would set me on my new course: web & software development.

I came to this conclusion because there were so many times where I wanted to create something (be it a custom CMS system for comics, or an app to manage my ideas) and I knew the solution to it would be to code it myself. Coding is also a very creative skill that connects between the world of art and science, and with my creative skills I could apply it in ways that others haven’t before.

I am no stranger to code, I wrote programs in BASIC when I was 5 years old, and made webpages using text editors when I was 12. Apart from that however, my knowledge was still rusty. It would come and go, and I would refresh the basic concepts every couple of years by making a website with HTML and CSS or writing a simple Python program.

I needed guidance. Where would I learn these skills? Should I go back to college or to a trade school? Should I take some courses? Should I teach myself using just books and online resources? How could I best allocate my time and see the most improvement?

I asked two distant friends who work in Silicon Valley, Maggie and Julia. They mentioned the benefits of each of the different paths towards web development, but they said I should just get my feet wet first and head over to Codecademy and see if I enjoyed coding.

I also found another resource, called Treehouse, which was rich with up-to-date lessons on everything you needed to know about creating things on the web and mobile.

I then privately declared the year of 2014 the “Year of Code”, and started learning from the two resources. I went silent on all my social media outlets while I worked at my day job and learned in my spare time on nights and weekends.

I planned to eventually rebrand and redesign all my sites and promote myself again once I created a few things with the knowledge I learned.

The learning took longer than I thought though. It wasn’t because of difficulty, I found most of the material easy to understand and absorb.

I thought that after a few months I would be able to start working on some projects, but what happened was that my day job demanded a lot from me. I worked 40-50+ hour weeks, and when I began training to become an associate trainer, I worked six day work weeks for about two months.

I would be physically and mentally exhausted at the end of each day, unable to retain or hold information in my head for very long. I could only reserve about one day a week to really learn something from my online courses.

Because my learning was progressing at such a slow pace, I started researching different avenues of learning. At the rate I was going, my progress could have taken multiple years. I wanted something more efficient, perhaps a more involved and immersive experience. I needed expert advice from mentors that could guide me on the right path.

I contacted my friend Maggie again asking for further advice. She then mentioned that her company hired a graduate from App Academy, a three month web-development bootcamp in the San Francisco area. Prior to App Academy, this person worked in the humanities with no experience in code.

As I did research on App Academy, I stumbled onto all the other bootcamps that have been springing up across the US. The earliest coding bootcamp, Dev Bootcamp, started in 2012.

Excited by the idea of joining such an immersive learning experience, I started comparing all of them. I looked at the success and hire rates from each bootcamp and started messaging grads from these programs on their experiences.

I would look up responses by staff and grads on Reddit and Quora. I also made sure to check out any stories from anyone who attended but didn’t graduate from them.

I wanted to pick the bootcamp with the right culture and support structure for me. Location also played a part in that decision too. That led me to Launch Academy, right here in Boston.

In mid-May, I went through the application process, which applied a little pressure on me. I had to create a website on “why I was a good candidate” in two days before my Skype interview. Creating the website was a fun code refresher, and I went crazy with it by drawing many images and even making a video with me speaking over it.

The live interview consisted of me talking about myself, how I worked with others, experiences I’ve had, and some coding quizzes.

A few days later, I got a response that I got accepted for the Fall 2014 cohort. It was noted to me that Launch Academy’s acceptance rate is 18%, which is close to the acceptance rate of Tufts University. I got in!

I will be ending my job at Panera on the 27th of this month, so I can spend my time in July preparing and moving. I want to thank my coworkers and the management at the Panera at Harvard Square for their support during my year there. Without it, I don’t think I would have pushed as hard in everything I did there.

The pre-learning phase has begun a few days ago and I’ve started to get to know my fellow launchers. I’m excited for the days ahead, and the things we’ll learn and create.

I plan to update frequently here with my progress, as well as with any drawings I do in-between. Thanks goes to everyone (family, friends, work, and the BCR) for your encouragement and support.

See you soon!

Here’s the image version of the 30m drawing warmup.

Here’s the image version of the 30m drawing warmup.

Here’s a time-lapse video of a 30m drawing warmup I did today. Drawn on an iPad Air with Procreate.

There’s some background music, so turn your speakers off if you’re watching this at work.